Staycation Starbuck Style

This last week we had planned to take our annual camping trip, but we ended up with a very wet forecast. We decided to postpone our camping trip and instead have a staycation at home. A few months ago in the Family Fun magazine I had seen some ideas for family vacations on a budget. The idea behind  a staycation is to “stay” close to home and take advantage of the fun things right in our own little neck of the woods-museums, libraries, small day trips, things along those lines.  With a little creative brain power the Starbuck staycation was born. I must say, if I would have thought that the kids would have praised it so high I would have done it years ago.  There really is nothing like hearing your kids say, “This is so fun, how did you guys get so cool!”  to bolster our precious parent egos now and then.

We sent the kids an itinerary in the mail from Starbuck Travel that had pretend plane tickets for each person for every part of the trip as well as instructions on what to wear and bring with them. They were to meet Thursday morning in the Starbuck Travel Lobby to start their trip. We chose a theme for this staycation of “Around the World in 80 hours”.

On Thursday morning everyone met with their suitcases in hand. We had a little craft time and made passports for each person to have to keep track of the countries they visited. Each plane ride we would staple the ticket to that page, and they would get a date stamp and some sort of sticker that represented that country. There was also a space to write a bit of journaling after visiting each country. We let the kids dress up for their passport pictures,and that had so much fun. Aaron and I took our pictures too, but decided those would be better kept in the digital camera computer vault. There’s a reason you show your passport to strangers that you’ll most likely never see again.  Just imagine French berets, floppy sun hats, funny face glasses, the works.


Brianna       AustinBrookeErikaAbbyScott


Mexico was the first country we visited. We had the dining room made up like the airplane for the staycation, with peanuts and drinks readily accessible, and we watched clips of movies on the plane rides. Mexico’s movie was Bob the Builder in Spanish.  After a short plane ride, we took the kids to their hotel room (their room, just transformed a bit). Room 1234 was decked out with fluffy towels, trial size accessories, and even a little chocolate mint on their pillows. We went out to eat at Taco Bell for lunch, ate churros, and played indoor soccer. When we got back from playing soccer, the kids ordered room service from their hotel room from the cell phone. They got to eat nachos in their room and watch a movie on the portable DVD player in there-both of which they are never allowed  to do, so they thought that was so cool. Daddy and Scott enjoyed the best part of visiting Mexico, taking a siesta on the couch.


That night we took a flight to Hawaii.  We ate at a Hawaiian Luau having Hawaiian haystacks, pineapple, smoothies, and we even got a coconut to try. We had a limbo contest, and enjoyed festive Hawaiian music in the background. When I went to buy the coconut, the cashier asked if I had bought a lime to go with it. A little confused I said no I hadn’t. He then proceeded to sing to me this whole song “The Lime in the coconut”. It became our theme song for the whole vacation after that. It didn’t matter what country we were in, someone would inevitably start singing it and then we would all sing it and the laughter would begin. The answer to any problem became, “Just put a lime in the coconut!”

Each morning  the kids got to fill out breakfast request papers in their room. They circled the items they wanted-main entree, drink, and fruit, and then took them to the hotel staff to fill. This morning they each got their own mini box of cereal with a little toy in it. This was a big hit with them. 25 cent toys go a long way when they are paired with a mini box of cereal and ordered via room service.

Hawaii on planeHawaii luau


The trip to Antarctica was a short trip to pick up a special package. In their hotel room we had a new snow cone maker. The idea was to enjoy a nice cool treat before heading off to the hot lands of Africa, but it ended up being broken, so we just had to imagine that part. You get what you pay for-lesson learned.


Our African adventure for the day was a trip to the Pine Mountain Animal Safari Park. In the last few years of living here we had yet to go visit it, and this turned out to be the perfect occasion. It was so much fun. They had a smaller walk through part to see some of the caged animals, and then a drive through part to see the bigger animals.

   Family picture blog

Brianna aligator

Erika Safari hat blogScott looking out window blog Austin looking out bus window blog

We walked through and saw the monkeys, black bears, alligators, peacocks, baby pigs, and ligers-half lion/half tiger. We were feeling a bit Napoleon Dynamite at that point. After that, we boarded a zebra striped bus to take the tour of the wild safari animals. We bought bags of food to feed them, and were prepared to be slobbered on. We were at the front of the bus, which turned out to be a great location. The driver would tell us all sorts of tricks to get the animals to eat out of our hands. The kids were in heaven. The got to feed giraffes, ostriches, huge bull type animals (I don’t remember their official  names), zebras, deer of all sorts, pigs, an elk, llamas, and a camel.

Giraffe blog Ostrich blog  Turtle blog

The driver told us to put the food on the edge of the window ledge and the ostriches would come and eat it off. They came and stuck their heads in the window looking for the food and then would quickly knock it off the window to eat. The were so tall! We were in the bus and in this picture they are right up to the window. I don’t know why, but I think I had imagined them smaller. Seeing one up close is so different than from far off.

Cow horns blogCow nose blog  Cow tongue eating blog

Cow tongue blog

Check out this tongue!! This was some sort of bull animal, and man could that thing slobber. We would put the food on the window for him and he would use his long curly tongue to scoop it in his mouth. The kids thought it was so funny because he  kept sticking his tongue up his nose. So gross! 

Elk mouth blog

The kids got to hand feed this elk. Abby was right there putting her hands in his mouth! I was so surprised that all of the kids were so eager to feed the animals. I thought for sure we might have one or two that would be too scared or think it was too gross. We also got to pet the elk’s antlers which were soft and furry, not rough like I thought they might be.

Rhino blog

 Zebra blog

This baby zebra was born just last week, and the driver said he had  taken his first steps the day before. We were able to wait for a while trying to get him to stand again and walk over by us. He finally did, and the kids were ooing and ahhing over him the whole time.

Austin holding Scott blog

And my little baby that we are always oohing and ahhing over too!


We rounded out the day with a trip to China that night. We ate Chinese take out sitting on pillows around the coffee table. We tried eating with chopsticks, and all eventually ended up using forks. We all had fun trying it out though. We had fortune cooking and pocky sticks while watching our traditional Friday night movie.


The great thing about staycations is that really there is no strict schedule. If you want to miss the plane and sleep in, then by all means do so. We had a late start Saturday morning, but after yummy muffins for breakfast we made our way to England. We explored the great literature of England by attending the summer reading kick off at the local library. They had popcorn and drinks, fun games for the kids, blowups to jump on, and we all left with an armful of books to start our summer off right.

We returned home to have our 4 o’clock tea. Brooke, Erika, and Abby served us at their tea party complete with little sandwiches, fruit and cheese on toothpicks, and tiny little cakes for desert. We all said darling and had to eat with our pinkies up. So much fun.


An afternoon in Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics, had us swimming in a not-quite-so-Olympic size pool. The weather was great, and the kids had fun with their friends who just happened to be touring Greece the same day as us.  I wished I had brought my camera to the pool, Scott was having so much fun just sitting in the water splashing. I have vowed to be better about always bringing my camera everywhere we go now.

Rhode Island, USA

In route back home we made a pit stop in Rhode Island for some great sea food. We had crab sandwiches and then caught the next flight home.

I was glad that we made the effort to do this. We all had such a fun time. At first Erika wasn’t getting the whole idea, and was saying, “You mean we aren’t really going on a plane? We are just going to be here? That’s not any fun.” By the end of our staycation though, everyone was a little sad to have to come home. No more room service, no more maid service, and I guess we’ll have to stop eating out for a little while, which I think we are all okay with too. Home Sweet Home.


Summer Points Kickoff

My windows are clean and shiny, my coffee table in polished to perfection, my laundry in folded and put away, beds are made, rooms are picked up, dishes are done, kids are quietly reading books. Ah, it must be summer points time again. Lisa, I would be an ungrateful friends if I didn't thank you again for this genius idea. My kids love summer points time, and by the looks of my house, I quite enjoy it too.
Summer points is a novel idea where the kids gets points for doing chores, reading books, helping out, having good manners, being nice to each other, working on Scout awards, and anything else I can think for them to earn points.
They can then spend their points on various rewards like earning wii playing time, watching tv, inviting a friend over to play, a pick of restuarant to go out to eat, earning special time with mom and dad, etc. They have been busily working around the house accumulating points and making grand plans for how they are going to spend them. The best part of it is not once have I heard the dreaded phrase, "I'm bored!"

I love summer point season!


Elvis Lives

Brianna’s class has been studying the 50’s in school, and as part of an end of the year project each student had to decorate a cereal box in a 50’s style. They had to make up their own name for the cereal and design it with certain things about the 50’s on it. Since Scott’s hair is so wild, we used him as our little model for her cereal box. It was a hit! She had fun decorating it with my scrapbooking stuff to add a little Elvis bling on his outfit. On the sides she had pictures of 50’s hair do’s, 10 facts about the 50’s, a crossword puzzle on the back, and small pictures of Grandma and Grandpa when they were little in their 50’s attire. They used the boxes to decorate their gym for a 50’s sock hop they had on the last day of school.

Scott Elvis boxScott Elvis blog

Maybe a few too many fairytales around here

We have been in toad heaven here lately. The kids have caught a couple and made a home for them in the wagon complete with mud, a leaf shaded porch, and a swimming pool. They usually have someone on lookout for when one decides to jump ship and then they all run after him frantically trying to catch him again.


So, the other day we were driving in the car and Erika and I had a cute little conversation.

Mom, what’s a toad?

Erika, you know what a toad is.

Oh yeah, it’s like a frog. Well, I can’t marry a frog because the “Marryier-incharger [person]” will get mad. I can only marry a person.

I guess we won’t be kissing any toads in hopes a finding our prince charming anytime soon. It’s good to know she was at least keeping her options open though.


Happy Birthday Austin

Austin 9 years old 1

Turning 9 for Austin seems to have crept up on us. Brianna said, “It seems like he has been 9 for awhile, not 8.” I guess he is mature beyond his years. Here are a few things about Austin at 9:

  • Austin is one of the most easy going people I know. He reminds me of this each night when I say what we are having for dinner and he reply, “That sounds good.” I could say mud with worms and he would say, I’ll try it.
  • He loves to climb trees.
  • He loves playing outside. If he doesn’t get outside at least once a day to play he tends to have withdrawal symptoms. He was a little sick a week ago and that night had his last soccer game. He said he was feeling better so I agreed to let him play. After the game I asked if he felt tokay. He said,”Oh yeah. I feel much better. I think I was sick because I had been inside for too long. I just needed some fresh air.”
  • He likes to read (Notice he loves to play outside and just likes to read. When he is in the mood he really enjoys it).
  • He is a collector of things. He had jars full of little treasures he had collected. Every time I do the laundry his pockets are always full of little things he has found.
  • He has earned his Wolf award in Cub Scouts.
  • He can stand on his bike seat while riding his bike.
  • He loves to eat broccoli.
  • He gives the best hugs.
  • He loves his little brother so much!!!
  • He plays soccer goalie.
  • He goes barefoot almost all the time. He comes home from school and his shoes immediately come off and don’t come back on until the next morning when he goes back to school.
  • He read the whole Book of Mormon this last year by himself

A Golden Birthday

This year was Austin’s  Golden Birthday and we celebrated in a fun golden way. A Golden Birthday is when you turn the age of the day that your birthday falls on.  Austin’s birthday is on the 9th, so this year turning 9 was a special one for him. We let him open one present first and in it was a cell phone to borrow and a clue leading him on a treasure hunt to look for his gold (his other presents). It was so much fun. We have done smaller treasure hunts in the past just for fun, and they were always too easy. We wanted to make sure this one kept them guessing, and that it did. That had to figure out clues sending them all over the yard, and finally finding the treasure. With the help of some of the neighbor kids they did finally find the treasure. It’s a bit long, but here are the clues we used in case anyone wants to use the idea.

Today is the day of your GOLDEN BIRTHDAY-May 9 you turn 9 years OLD. 
And so to celebrate this event, you are going to hunt for your GOLD.

One clue at a time, and sometimes a GIFT,
You will have to solve, and to climb, and to LIFT.

Though not to keep-you may need this PHONE,
To solve some clues you will have to call HOME.

With four other siblings to help YOU,
I hope you will finish before the days THROUGH.

If they help you and don't talk BACK,
A small treasure for them will be in the SACK.

Pirates search for their treasure by using a MAP,
I hope you find yours where a fish takes a NAP.

We had a map we made along with the next clue rolled up in an old glass bottle and hidden back in our small creek. We tied it with some fishing line so it wouldn’t float away and tied the other end to a branch.  At first when they read the clue they looked around the garden hose, then someone suggested the creek. When they got back there they looked in and said, “oh, it’s not there.” Aaron (who had hid it) reminded them that pirates didn’t just look for gold, they searched for it. They were glad they went back for a second look and found it. Even just after this first clue, they all kept saying, “This is so fun!!!” Here is what the next clue said:

Your map you have FOUND,
A picture of the GROUND,
It will help you find your TREASURE.

Look at it closely, and notice the pictures,
They will help you solve your CLUE.
With their help and your brain, and a little work,
you will know just what to DO.

Start at the back plank and take 20 steps to the RIGHT,
then turn and face  the jumping DEVICE.

Your clue is another 25 steps up AHEAD,
Climb straight up don't look down with your HEAD.

Every pirate needs a special bag to hold all of his found GOLD.
You will find yours hidden a top of a tree, that is up as many branches as you are OLD.

This one was a little hard because they couldn’t decide on what the back plank was. One of the rules we gave them was that 3 people had to be in agreement to go to the next place. The idea was that we wanted everyone involved and not just Austin and Brianna running off leaving the other kids behind. They thought it was part of the swing set (we had planned it to be the back door, but they ended up getting there anyways). Austin LOVES to climb trees..barefoot. He really probably should have been born in Hawaii or something. Well, the other day he climbed this tree in the back yard really high! Like scary high. We had him come down and advised him that may not be the best idea. I know we are fun spoilers, but I really wasn’t in the mood for a trip to the ER with a broken arm or leg. He was bummed we had ended his fun, so for part of this clue we let him climb the tree. He was supervised this time, so we let it slide. I had found this cool velvet drawstring bag at the party store that we hid up in the tree. In the bag was the next clue and a dollar.

With your map and your bag you are ready to search
You need to gather some NUMBERS.
For in the locked box will be your reward,
For you and all of your family MEMBERS.

In your bag is a small paper of worth,
on it are hidden some clues.

Now at your feet underneath a FLOWER,
Is a compass-face it towards the look out TOWER.

The direction to go now that's the TRICK,
Your brain we surely will PICK.

The worth of your paper written out at the BOTTOM
Take away the first letter and your direction you've GOTTEN.

Look to the direction that Washington FACES,
A two digit number is how many PACES.

When you get there you aren't quite DONE,
The next number it, starts with a ONE.

It's a two digit number, written in GREEN,
It may just be a TEEN.

Take that many paces and STOP.

Look at your money, three numbers you need all in a ROW,
Your first number of paces, it is just BELOW.

That is the number of degrees you NEED.
Face that way and take paces with SPEED.

You age times two is the paces to TAKE,
When you get there you may need to take a BRAKE.

Go the paces you FOUND,
look at the GROUND.
Something golden should catch your EYE.

That one was by far the hardest for them to figure out. They really had to put their heads together to figure it out. Austin had a goal this year from when he turned 8 years old until today that he wanted to read the whole Book of Mormon, so this next clue went along with that. Hidden under the leaves was some gold covered papers that we had “engraven” on a couple years ago with our testimonies and we use for  a FHE lesson. On them was this clue:

For a year you have searched something GOLDEN like these,
Trying to receive an answer.

If you look where they came from long ago,
Deep in the UNDERGROUND.
You're answer you've been searching for, mostly assuredly can be FOUND.

The promise is sure if you're up to the TASK,
The Lord told one of long AGO.

Find where he told it, uncover the clue,
It will tell you where to GO.

Under where the plates were laying in the leaves, buried in the ground was a Book of Mormon in a ziplock bag. They had to figure out that the next clue was hidden in Moroni chapter 10 where the promise is to read the Book of Mormon and pray. This clue turned out to be a great little mission experience for the neighbors. They thought it was a Bible and the kids quickly corrected them it was a The Book of Mormon. We briefly told them the story of Joseph Smith as we explained what The Book of Mormon was. It was pretty neat. In Moroni was a five dollar bill and the next clue.

The answer from reading this is worth more than money, or any earthly WEALTH,
To find your next clue you'll need strength and maybe a bit of some STEALTH.

You have to fly high to find your CLUE
Make sure no snakes try to bite at YOU.

You'll know where to fly when you remember our CLEANING,
Complete the CIRCLE is what I am MEANING.

It’s funny what clues they struggled with and which ones they figured out right away. Complete the circle is one of our family mottos-it has to do with cleaning and I got if from a organization book I have been  reading lately. They figured out right away it had to do something with the tire swing back by the creek. Up in a tree Aaron had put a small plastic sand bucket. They had to swing up high and try to get it down. It was interesting to see how they went about doing this. In the most scientific  way they choice the lightest person (Erika) to swing because they could push her the easiest. They soon figured out her arms were too small to reach it. They tried to next person with the same results. The found this stick back there and then had the idea to throw the stick at the bucket to get it to fall down. Why they didn’t just hit it down with the stick was what was entertaining to us. I guess throwing a spear it much more pirate like. The clue inside the bucket read:

Pirates like to hide their GOLD deep in the sandy BEACHES.
Take this pail and search for yours, everyone using their HANDS.

The coins you are looking for is ten times the last number in our address.
When you've found them, call home and get the next PLANS.

In the sand box was hidden a bunch of plastic coins. The last ten were the hardest. It was so hot we finally had pity on them and they didn’t find the last one. Aaron joked that that one was a real ten dollar coin. He told the neighbor boy he could keep it if he found it. When everyone else came in he stayed out there looking for it. Poor gullible little kid. They came in for cupcakes next and a break to get cooled off. Inside the cupcakes were baked the next clue. Each piece was a part of a bigger ripped piece of paper. It said:

It’s time to open a present. It is hidden in a place that keeps your head safe while you ride.

This one was pretty easy-it was hidden in his bike helmet. It was a small hymn book that matched his scriptures. My feeble attempt to encourage him to sing during sacrament meeting. I must be pretty smart because it worked and on Sunday he sang all the songs.

This book is great, it is filled with SONGS,
But also a clue to help you ALONG.

To find what page you NEED,
Go to a place very cold with great SPEED.

When you get there I hope you won't FREEZE,
But find something frozen to help you with EASE.

The trick is to melt what you find, in it is hidden a CLUE,
You have to use your own hands to melt it, you and only YOU.

No other water, or heat will DO,
When it melts you will have your CLUE.

Rearrange the numbers you get, you may need to add or SUBTRACT,
We careful not to rip them, keep them all INTACT.

The number you find will be a song, one you've been learning to SING.
Sing the fifth verse, the six word will out your clue RING.

When you get there call home,
We will guide you THROUGH.
We will help you know just what to DO.

In the freezer we had frozen some dollar bills. They had to get them melted and try to do a little math to figure out page 85- How Firm a Foundation, a song they have been learning this year in primary. The word is ‘pathway’. We had a bunch of math problems written on the driveway that they had to all work together doing to get a final number which was the number of paces to the next clue which was this huge bouncy ball with this clue:

This ball is big and bouncy, it can shoot right up to the SKY.
The next balls you use will be little but can fly just as HIGH.

Your gun that holds them can brake things,
The things they will brake will be WET.
But when you do, you will find your treasure, it will be the best YET.

This final clue involved them shooting water balloons with his BB gun. Inside one of the clues had written where the treasure was hidden-in the attic. This was a lot of work, but I am so glad that Aaron and I were able to put our heads together and do it. I think it will be one of the most memorable birthdays Austin will have.


Little Joseph


The other day Erika and Abby were keeping Scott happy while he was in his exercauser. The next time I looked over he was all decked out with a a little blanket on his head. Erika informed me they were playing “Mary and Joseph”. In front of him were his stable animals to keep him company. I think we just cast our parts for this years Nativity already.