Big Island Vacation

I’ve recently been trying to learn a few things about landscape photography. I figure it’s a requirement being a photographer living in Hawaii, it would be sad to leave here without a couple fairly impressive images. I haven’t learned a lot; I have so much more to learn. This is exposing how new I am in this field. To be honest, it wasn’t something that interested me for a long time.. partly because a lot of people do it, and partly because it’s very much unappreciated as everyone has a camera with an auto button. But the more I am here and realizing that what I see is not what I capture, I’ve been driven to learn more so we can take a little Hawaii with us when we go.

Recently we took a vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii and I made a mission of trying to hone in this craft a bit. Again, I have a ton still to learn as you will see (I made it through maybe 3 chapters of the book I bought to learn more about this). But these are a few of the images in the end. Hopefully I’ll finish the book before we move in June.



_MG_7956This is from Mauna Kea, a beautiful view of the Milky Way. This was shot with a 30 second exposure and was not something we could see otherwise.




_MG_7689Volcanic rock beginning to grow vegetation, with a little patch of imported trees from a concerned local many years ago.

_MG_7578I think this one may be my favorite. I happen to love sun spots and spewing water.


Thanks, God, for some pretty awesome things to photograph!


Up and Down

Last Monday we found out we are having a baby girl in December. Blew me off my feet, I don’t know why I did not expect this at all. We are completely thrilled and a little nervous about the new challenges a little girl will bring to the table. I can’t wait to see Malachi be a big brother and see little baby girl Adriana try to put bows in his hair.


A few days later we received news of this terrible accident where a friend from my home church and her husband and unborn baby girl were killed in a bus accident, leaving their precious baby boy (almost 2) behind. Courtney was 4 years younger than me and so we were never super close friends but she still deeply affected me with her contagious and constant joy. We worked together in Spanish church for a short time and then she jumped in whole-heartedly to take on the task of completely coordinating all of my wedding music and being our pianist, while getting together to practice with the other instrumentalists and vocalists. I am also just now remembering that she played the piano for a song Nate and I recorded together to play on the big day, which meant coming with us to the studio and playing it over and over until it was right (not on her end, she had no trouble), never checking the time or giving any complaints. We were so greatly thankful for her. Then two years later it was her turn and she was calling me for pictures! I got to travel back down from Chicago to shoot their beautiful wedding. Here’s a few of my favorite shots from that day, but check out my blog post here for some other fun ones. ImageImagePhelps-388

Three years later, this past Saturday, God called them home. The questions are many. Reading other people’s blogs and facebook posts, seeing how many people (and especially significant, how many sweet children) they touched and are visibly feeling pain brings sadness. To see their parents and family members grieve but so very clearly rejoice that God’s promises are true and that they got to experience heaven together and meet their baby girl at the same time is overwhelming. Questions about why God gives good things and then takes them away come to mind, about how heaven could really be wonderful when you know you’ve left your sweet boy behind.. but immediately I was reminded that looking into the face of Jesus and sitting at his feet and letting him answer all your questions and worshiping him while actually being able to SEE him, all that must throw any fear and doubt and misunderstanding and confusion out the window. They are not worried about their little boy, they have faith that has been made sight, they KNOW who is in control, in a way the rest of us never will until it’s our turn. And we take comfort that the same Jesus who is now comforting them has given us so many words of hope in his word to let us know that we have been taken care of, that he has provided for us, and that his way is perfect even when we don’t understand. This morning I woke up at 4:45am so I could tune into the live webcast of the funeral from 6 time zones away. How do you take a tragedy and make it beautiful? We don’t, but Jesus does. Over and over his promises brought comfort and his name was lifted up. Then to hear that literally people from all over the world in several different continents had heard their story and trusted Jesus, just puts me in awe of how much good God can do with a few people, and he does it in ways we don’t understand so many times. It really is “sweet” to trust in Jesus.

After the “ups” of finding out about sweet baby Adriana (Audrey for short), and then the immediate “down” of losing a friend, we found out a couple days later that God’s plans for our next step with the Army were not the same as ours. We hoped to stay on an additional year here in Hawaii, but it’s been decided that we will be moving on with the rest of the class around June of this upcoming year. It was not something we had completely set our hearts on; I had decided I was happy either way, Nate was mostly looking forward to the position and not getting it just meant we really had to come up with a plan for the next step fast (and up until this point nothing seemed to fit). We were also disappointed to leave our church behind, with several other people moving and Nate having a better schedule with the new position we hoped to be able to jump in even more. But when we got the news it was a relief to have an answer and move forward, we were both completely settled with the decision and happy to move on, convinced that God had something better in mind. I am so thankful he didn’t make us wait long. I won’t go into details here in case things don’t work out but yesterday we learned about an opportunity that seems completely tailor-made to fit Nate, covering basically all the areas he has talked about for his future as a doctor, and it looks promising that it may work out. We won’t know for several more months but to have something exciting to push towards has given us a huge relief. (Side note, we are really excited for the upcoming chief and his wife who will be filling that position/staying on an extra year, you very much deserve it and we think you will make a great chief, Brian!)


And the ups and downs continued, finishing off with a perfect 5-year anniversary celebration with my awesome husband, followed by a 5am funeral this morning, then a fun 4-year-old birthday party (complete with pool, ice cream cake, pizza and keiki dancing). We kicked off our anniversary with furniture shopping and a dresser purchase (finally!). It’s made of pure mango wood and is currently riding across the Pacific Ocean on their next shipment. A pretty beast:


Followed by a Skype date with the lovely birthday girl, Grace Copeland, who turned 14 yesterday! (still in shock that she will be a freshman this year! Thankful for the beautiful girl God gave to be Nate’s little sister).


Then we were able to have a date night at a restaurant on the water in Waikiki and some dessert elsewhere, while little man was with some of his other favorite people (thanks, Joel and Lela!). Thankful for God’s blessings to us, our lives have changed dramatically since we got married (three moves, two states, two children, two church families that have really been family to us, medical school, 2/3 residency, and now making plans to move again). Thankful that my husband still puts up with me and still makes me laugh!

I feel like we are at the end of two very emotional weeks, good and bad. I hope it’s the end and things settle for a bit, but I guess that’s what I’ve learned from this, is that God’s ways are bigger than mine and it’s really okay to completely trust him.. in fact it’s awesome to do so. He’s kept up his promises from the beginning of time, even though we don’t keep ours. We have so many good friends that we love who disagree with us on that point, usually because of circumstances that don’t make sense or a world that seems messed up or people letting them down or just a different idea of what God means when he says things happen a certain way. It’s okay to disagree but I will say it’s so much easier to just rest in him than to try to be the mastermind behind his ways.

I didn’t write this to be shared or really even read, I just wrote for my own clarity of thought and decided posting it would help me say it more clearly. There’s a lot more to be said on the hard stuff, I’ve thought about writing it out many times before. I’d love to hear feedback if you have any, and I’m happy if no one reads this at all. I guess I just wanted to thank God for being good all the time, and this felt like a good way to do that.

“Little Man” Welcome Party for Baby Zachary

Yesterday we hosted a party in honor of baby Zachary Ollila due to arrive early May. We grilled up some veggies and meats and had some awesome leftover food from Easter Sunday’s outdoor party cooked up by Kiba Cafe and frozen for us for the week, plus lots of awesome food our guests brought. This was followed up by awesome desserts, including root beer floats (seemed to go with the “little man” theme).



The kids were busy chasing each other with mini squirt guns, kicking soccer balls, coloring, blowing bubbles, riding in the kiddie car or on the bike, sliding on the slide, playing with the toy grill and “feeding” everyone, and just running wild.


The adults were busy sticking mustaches on anyone and everything. Mostly children.

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We ate good food, opened some fun gifts for baby boy, and had a great time! Welcome Baby Zachary!

AND, here are some other pics from friends. I stole them off their Facebook pages. They were too fun not to share!

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Here we are again, returning from a long hiatus of not blogging. I love to do it, but I think of a million things I want to talk about and then don’t do any. In the meantime, I’ve missed blogging about my trip home for two months, several birthdays, special events, and tons of new recipes I’ve been wanting to post about. But then today I took some pictures of my kiddo playing in the sprinkler and I couldn’t NOT post it.

Let’s also include some pictures of Easter. Our church threw a great bash in honor of celebrating the most important event in the history of the world, Christ’s resurrection. We had an outdoor service, followed by incredible food by Kiba Cafe (so ono), live local music, bounce house, Easter egg hunt, and lots of guests and new faces. Here’s some of the fun times that were had:

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And we can’t leave out fun in the sprinkler. With a broom. And sagging pants. Oh, and a cat who apparently nagged a bird… how do you not snap a picture of that when you have a camera in your hand? It was still wiggling… gross.

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Happy Easter!

Travel Frenzies

Hi all, we’re still here.

So the military has a special program for service members where they allow passengers to fly along on their flight missions for free if there’s extra room, and this is available for dependents as a respite if they are stationed overseas. I’ve been planning to take advantage of this for months now, researching to ask all questions possible. There are tons of advantages, one of course is that it’s free, which coincides greatly with our current budget/paying off debt goals. Another is that Malachi doesn’t have to ride in my lap for 12+ hours of flight time, so we really save the price on two tickets, even though he’s still technically lap-child age. In addition, typically the planes are the military cargo or infantry planes, so they say once you’re in the air, everyone walks around, lays out blankets to sleep, etc. Sounds like a dream come true when you have a toddler!

These are some pictures I stole from the internet to give you an idea…

I’ll add my own pictures once I have them. We were available to leave Monday, now it is Friday and we’re really hoping for a flight tomorrow morning. So far they’ve gotten us ready to go and then cancelled the passenger space on the flights. Oh well, we are learning patience!

In the meantime, I made Malachi a few fun things for the flight:



Ok, so the creativity was wearing thin by the end, but it’s something. I put this and a few coloring books, crayons, fold-up chalk board, and sticker books in a small tray that becomes a desk (thanks to Kate Yeager for that suggestion) so he should have plenty of coloring time. We have iPad games and movies, books, and a bazillion snacks (dried fruits, crackers, cookies, raisins, fruit snacks, granola bars). Then as I was sitting here extra days going nuts, I took a hard wipes case and a few miscellaneous puzzle pieces and made a travel puzzle:



Another project was taking care of my husband while we’re gone.. we even made a calendar so he knows what’s available and gives an idea of what’s good to eat when. haha. Is that overkill? :) He was pretty happy to not have to make any decisions.


Hopefully it’s enough!

Then while we wait to not go crazy, we’ve been having a little fun..


Yesterday we took a picnic lunch to the botanical gardens and then went for a swim at the Hale Koa pool and a little dip in Waikiki beach. Good way to be distracted, and it has been awesome having my husband off (that’s a whole ‘nother story!)

Oh yeah, and I made luggage tags–I love Mod Podge!


And we can’t forget Halloween! We were here unexpectedly so I ran to the store and bought felt and a cord for a belt and used a little hot glue, scissors and a tiny bit of hand sewing, took about 30 minutes to make this Yoda costume. Unfortunately I gave up before I figured out the round head. And in the end, we were hoping for a flight where we had to leave the house at 2am, so we ended up going to bed instead of trick-or-treating. So we just took a picture and then put the costume away. Kinda pitiful! At least the felt was cheap. :)


Ok, I think that’s it. Maybe being bored and antsy and nervous is a good thing for this house! Except for cleaning.. I still haven’t cleaned. I need a maid.. or a kick in the pants..!

A Crazy Week

A week from now I hope to be on my way or already in SC, can’t believe it’s coming up so quickly. In the meantime, there has been a lot going on, of course. Lots of cooking, lots of hanging with people, lots of taking pictures for friends. I will save all the chaos of the week from this blog and just talk about pictures, since that’s always my favorite in the end anyway. This week has had four photo shoots in five days. (I am holding to this break in my business, these are gifts or shoots arranged months ago). I can’t resist a few sneak peeks, the first being of a sweet baby boy, third in line of some pretty awesome boys:Image


Then of course we followed up sweet boy shots with sweet girl shots, nine days old here:


Which had to be followed up by a couple shots of adorable big sister just playing away (and maybe one of equally adorable son of mine who is friends with said adorable sister):


And what better fun shoot to do while in the theme of babies than a sunrise maternity shoot on the beach! I’ll start with just two so the rest are a surprise. :) But thank you, Bruce and Amber for getting up early for me so we could play with such awesome lighting as this!!

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I have one more shoot scheduled for tomorrow but I was up editing tonight and couldn’t wait. I hope these make other people as happy as they make me! This is why I do pictures, the art at the end. The business part bogs me down. So maybe one day I’ll figure everything out and get back on track, but in the meantime, here’s to having fun!


This weekend was really our last “normal” weekend together until January… I’m leaving for SC and later Chicago for about two months in a couple weeks, and today Nate started ICU, which means he lives outside of work or sleep for about an hour or two every day, enough time to eat dinner and brush his teeth. So we took advantage of the weekend, and it helped that Sunday was his birthday.

Friday Nate and a couple guys went to the cheap theater to see the Bourne Legacy for $5.. we LOVE that theater, you can’t be $1 popcorn! (..even if the movies have left the other theaters already, who cares!) Saturday we determined what we wanted for our joint Christmas gift, researched it, and went to the store to buy.. came home with a new blue ray player. (I should clarify, this is not normal, we had money set aside for this and decided since we wouldn’t be together for Christmas here anyway, we might as well get it before I leave). We came back home, got it set up, did some relaxing and cleaning, and then headed back out to use our Groupon for a brand new restaurant making Chicago pizza! I really hope this catches on and the business does well so we continue to have this. It was really a great pie.. not QUITE Giordano’s, but close enough for being so many miles away. We were satisfied.

Here’s my pizza endorsement–Go! Check it out, it’s not expensive, and I want to continue to have the chance to get a taste of home. :) It’s right across the street from the Hawaii Theater. We were even offered free tickets to see the electric guitarrist who was going on that night just by nature of being in the right place at the right time but passed it along since we had Malachi with us. Check out their facebook page here. Just know that they are not open on Sundays, but they are open for dinner every other day.

We got back home from pizza and an unsuccessful attempt at finding a public restroom (seriously, what’s the deal with not letting people use your bathroom? Are people really that afraid of loosing money on toilet paper and having to wipe it down a couple times a day?) so Nate dropped off a full-bladdered wife and a super silly/been-awake-too-long toddler, and he went to get a new Blu-Ray DVD from RedBox to try out our new player (“Safe”–good movie!). I tell ya, bath time with a hyper one-year-old can be so much fun. :) Chasing him down to put clothes on him.. that can be just exhausting! But it’s always fun, he can be so silly. I just love this age.

Sunday several friends came together to make breakfast and bring a pretty awesome spread to share at church for Nate. He was thoroughly surprised and we have such awesome friends to go to all that trouble! We had chocolate chip coffee cake, pound cake, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, among other things.. lots of sweets and breads. I made his favorite sweet potato casserole, which is not normally a breakfast deal, but it’s for birthday, right? Mmm.. after getting stuffed at church and having an awesome worship/sermon, we were filled up with goodness. I have really been appreciating Sean’s messages through the book of Mark, mostly because I’m seeing Jesus to be just a twinge different than I thought before.. or maybe the questions I had about the gospels are making a lot more sense. I want to process through that one of these days on here but I will save it for another post.

After church was FPU. Some friends of ours are hosting/teaching a class lead by Dave Ramsey, financial guru and guide to managing money. Most of the things we are learning are things we know, but it is making us be a little more focused about our money and not just taking it as it comes.

Yesterday the topic was insurance, what’s important and what’s not, what’s a gimmick or scheme to get your money and what’s not. These are the things we just don’t want to think through and keep putting it off, so it’s good to kinda have the shove to get our act together.There's a Story in Every Box.

Nate got so many phone calls and texts and Facebook messages, I think he really had a great day. We finished out the day on Facetime with Justin and Katelyn, which really made our nights! So thankful we can do such a cool thing, and for free!

Hostings, part 2

Third Saturday:

Brian and Sarah’s wedding celebration! We had an outdoor potluck-style open-grill party for local friends, to celebrate their recent wedding back in D.C. Kristie and I planned for a while, and she came up with some pretty awesome table decorations and helped set up and clean. My husband was incredibly motivated to basically spring clean everything, it was awesome. Then he fired up the grill for some pretty incredible chicken and sausage. We marinated the chicken wings in Goya for two days.. man, that stuff is good.


The kids immediately found Malachi’s toys inside and the fun plants and the cat outside. Malachi wasn’t too sure about big boys finding his toys. Uncle Emilio spent the evening testing out the fact that kids will believe anything you say. :)Image

Our landlord was awesome enough to let us borrow their tent and tables, and another friend loaned us some Christmas lights, and suddenly the yard was transformed.


The kids had a blast in our big open living room tacking the furniture and each other.


And bring on the food, we had to pull out an extra table at the last minute to make room.


Take in the view, I’m pretty excited that that’s my back yard! Well, in a renter’s sort of way. :) This was before all the guests got there so it filled up nicely.


This picture is noteworthy for the Daddy-daughter dip tickles going on.. :)


Then the night was totally highlighted by an incredible 7 minute video collaboration of Brian and Sarah’s wedding from their videographer, Lee Morton.


Everyone gathered close to watch, we read a special note from Lee, and it was visibly so special to share with everyone. I can’t describe what an awesome video highlight it was. Nate said it best, “Wow, you guys are movie stars!”. Thanks so much, Lee, for cramming so many hours together to put this video out in less than two weeks, it’s unheard of. They were so surprised and really loved it. The rest of us loved having a little part in their day.


(Apparently Malachi was not interested).. ;)


Probably a half hour later, poor Nolan was struggling to keep alive with all the excitement.


I thought this picture was perfect.


His sister was slightly smarter by finding the couch. :)


The rest of the evening was a group of friends who hang out all day most every day at work hanging out again until almost midnight, telling hospital stories and debating over clinical trials. As much as the rest of us don’t get what’s going on, there’s always enough funny stories to keep us entertained, too. We think it’s awesome this class has gotten to be friends, it’s a pretty great group! Congrats, again, Brian and Sarah!

Hostings, part 1

3 Saturdays.

The first was a multi-family garage sale. I really had no idea how much work it takes to but one on. My landlord approached me about hosting one together, then we invited friends along, and out came this beautiful mess (excuse the phone pics) which made me $126 and a cleaner house!


We set up my Keurig and a cooler outside and sold coffee and canned drinks for $1, which was a hit for the early-goers especially. I even made some cinnamon rolls for the people selling, but the shoppers apparently wanted them too, so we set a price and gave up breakfast!




Then the following Saturday we hosted a baby shower. The shower was unique in that almost everyone who came was already good friends, so we could skip the get-to-know-you games. Instead we ate, hung out, opened gifts, and crafted onesies! Thanks to Jenna who loaned us the chocolate fountain, Kate who helped brainstorm and tie streamers together for balloon decorations and buy supplies, and the amazing Malin for so many creative touches, including incredible homemade pink cupcakes, cute Mason jar straw combos for drinking, and an amazing banner that our new Mama got to take home with her for baby Leia’s room.


And of course, these two lovelies enjoyed chocolate and balloons. Is it possible to have two greater things?ImageImage

Stay tuned for the third Saturday’s successful event, which happened last night. It was perfect!

The Scariest Moment of My Life

I debated writing about this. I mean, who wants to tell the world you’re a bad mother? Even worse, how do you tell your child’s grandparents that you may have accidentally caused those stitches they got last week? (hypothetical). I win the “Poor Parenting” award this week.. ok, this year. But I feel a bit relieved because I’ve heard similar stories. Usually you hear that something like this happens once in a kid’s life, or maybe once in a parent’s life. I hope that’s the case. I’m a little worried since it’s already happened and I’ve been a parent for less than 20 months.


Yesterday, my husband was working outside and invited my toddler to come outside with him, while I fixed some lunch for the three of us. Thankfully my kitchen window faces the street because a few minutes later I see my wandering child sans daddy wandering towards the empty road. Of course, I panic, drop everything, and run out the front door after him, grab him up and bring him back to his father while chiding him for not watching Malachi. I decide since Daddy was focused, little boy needed to stay inside with Mommy. I came back inside, closed the back door, and went back to fixing lunch. Here’s where it gets bad. But let me clarify first, my son is typically a quiet player. He lines up cars and stacks blocks and generally sits quietly to play often. So to not have him in my sight for a few minutes and to not hear anything is really ok, usually for 2-3 minutes or so. I don’t know how long it had been until my brain triggered that I hadn’t heard anything at all. But as soon as I did, I’m guessing it had been three minutes probably, suddenly I discovered that as I ran out in panic before… I never closed the front door!


My heart is starting to beat fast just writing this down. It was like every emotion just was waiting to break through if he wasn’t standing right outside that door. I ran outside, ran to my husband who had not seen him, and both of us started frantically running up and down the street back inside the house in the rooms and under things and through the front and back yard. I asked the neighbor up the street who was working in her yard if she’d seen a little boy.. I felt like we were in a horror movie, although I’m sure it was not so dramatic. When she said no, all emotions broke loose and I started sobbing like a baby. My baby was gone! We started running up in people’s driveways and looking in their bushes. I was looking in cars, not like he can open car doors.


I am so grateful our next door neighbors were home, and I am suddenly grateful for these slatted windows where every sound comes though. Our neighbor, Casey, came outside to help us out and found out little man playing in his 4 year old son’s toy car they had out in their carport. His wife went for Malachi and he went for us, got to me first and when he called out, “He’s right here!” I just wanted to melt down. I barely know him but I gave him a huge hug and he just hung onto me while I cried even harder. His wife brought Malachi to me, who was so sweet to just hug me and not say a word for a good five minutes straight. He didn’t have a clue why I was upset. But he knew I needed baby snuggling and he gave it to me.


This whole episode probably lasted about five minutes, and there’s really nothing scary in my neighborhood to be freaked out about. But I’ve never been so afraid, imagining someone with good intentions finding a lost boy and taking him somewhere, or him getting stuck under something and hurt and not being able to find him. I’m not sure this was an experience I wanted to be able to empathize with other moms about, but now I do and I will always feel even more pain for lost children. I came in and sat on the couch just holding my little buddy for several minutes sobbing. He seemed content to hang with me so he got to stay there a long time. It’s amazing what a little lapse in memory can cause.


My husband and I decided that God must have let it happen after I left the door open so I didn’t blame it entirely on my husband and beat him up too much about it. ;) Apparently we’re both human. Now we’re both paranoid parent-humans. “Did you shut that door?”


Man, was I ever thankful at that moment for a God who hears my prayers. He is so good.