Category Archives: Bug

Worthington Glacier : Valdez, Alaska Part Four


When we were making our way down to Valdez we were stopped for quite a while for construction with a view of the Worthington Glacier. It is absolutely stunning. When we finally continued on our journey we noticed there was a park for it and with some additional research we decided it seemed like a great place for exploration. So, on our way out of town, later that weekend we decided to make a stop and do just that. The time we spent here may very well have been my favorite of the entire trip. There were no expectations, no rush, and no crowd. We got to explore, be silly, and just enjoy nature before making our long trek home.

This one is definitely in the running for Hays Christmas Card 2017.

And this is a prime example of why it takes me approximately 162 pictures to get one that is Christmas Card worthy!

Being kids and getting messy!

VERY messy.

To see more pictures from our time at Worthington Glacier, click HERE.


Columbia Glacier Cruise – Valdez, Alaska Part Three


If you missed out on the first two parts of our Valdez adventure you can catch up HERE and HERE.

Per the request of Grandma Judi Lunchbox (yes, that is precisely what my children call her) I wanted to share a little bit about the campground we stayed in. It is operated by the MWR and you can book a trailer to stay in that is already down there which is super convenient. It is closer to the Valdez Glacier than Valdez itself, but we loved how quiet and secluded it was in comparison to the campgrounds in town.

This is a view standing at our camper door. Not a bad sight to wake up to. The next photo is a  picture from  the campground of the view we had of the Valdez glacier. So pretty!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, our original wildlife/glacier cruise plans were thwarted because of a boat engine not working, however, we were able to get tickets for a different cruise for the next day. The girls were so excited we weren’t going to miss out on the chance to see a whale after all! We ended up being out on the boat for nearly 9 hours, but it was absolutely incredible. The views were breath taking. I barely sat down the entire day and drank insane amounts of hot coffee at hours of the day I shouldn’t have in attempt to warm up! It is quite chilly out on the water!

The girls ready to head out on our adventure!

We started out on the outside portion of the upper deck. We wound up migrating downstairs to the inside area of the inner deck, though. It was a lot easier to sneak out for pictures — and a lot warmer!

Away we go!

Here are some of the amazing views of scenery that we took in as we first headed out:


This is where the pipeline comes to an end!

Commercial fishing boat at work!

We got to see a variety of wild life on our journey, too! Right out of the gate we saw some sea otters:

We also got to see a bunch — and I mean a bunch — of sea lions!

This was just one of the gathers on the coast of the sea lions if that gives you an idea of how many there were!

We also were fortunate to see a humpback whale as we were heading back at the end of the day. I didn’t get any pictures because it all happened so fast and I was holding baby, but it was truly one of the most incredible experiences in my life. Mr. went on a fishing charter the following day and was able to see a lot more whales — including orcas! I was really hoping we’d see an orca (and Baby will tell you we did — we didn’t), but there is always next year, right?

After a while we began to get closer to the glacier and the landscape of the water began to change. At first you’d see little baby pieces of ice floating around and all of a sudden they were getting bigger and bigger. Fun fact of the day, only 10% of the ice is above water. So the bigger chunks of ice you see are actually A LOT bigger than they appear.

At this point, when we first started seeing some ice floating around, I believe we were still about 40 miles away from the glacier itself!

The girls loved being at the bow when the boat was cruising along really fast. It was frigid and I about lost 3 fingers due to the cold, but it was totally worth it! They had a blast!

The one to watch in this picture is Baby…

Yup, that’s Baby dancing on the Bow of the boat. Just shaking her little tushy like she just doesn’t care… oh and those are windows behind her with a boat full of people. Always an entertainer, that one!

We finally arrived at the glacier and it was spectacular. When we were first within sight my initial thoughts were, “Oh that is a lot smaller than I thought it would be.” The captain mentioned the fact that we were still over TWO miles away at that point. As we got closer the magnanimity of the glacier began it set in. We couldn’t get another closer than a 1/2 mile away for safety reasons since the ice tends to break off unexpectedly all the time and yet still the glacier loomed. I can only imagine how tiny we would have felt right up next to it!

Hays Girls with the Columbia Glacier!

I’ll just leave it here. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? I am so glad we were able to go visit. If you want to see more of our Columbia Glacier cruise, you can view the entire photo album HERE.


Valdez, Alaska Part Two


Our first morning in Valdez was a perfect first morning of vacation. We didn’t have any pressing engagements and so we slept in, took things slow, and made a special breakfast:

Everyone brings their Princess Waffle maker (thanks Mollie for giving it to the girls!) with them camping, right? To be fair, the waffles were delicious and I absolutely do not regret making space for a waffle maker among all the other things I probably could have done without but decided I needed anyways.

As we were finishing up breakfast the girls started hollering at us that there was a bear outside. Before I go any further, let me fill you in on two things. First, the Hays girls are known to be both dramatic and irrational about wild life and camping in general. Two summers ago we went camping with my folks and Bug insisted on staying in the truck to guard it from bandits — if that gives you any idea of how cut out we are for camping. The whole trip down to Valdez and the whole first day the talk was all about one thing — bears. We insisted that we wouldn’t see any because bears don’t like people, etc. etc. etc. Secondly, Alaska isn’t an episode of National Geographic. Yes, there is plenty of wild life and yes, you do see it. However, Alaska is huge and you don’t see said wild life constantly or even very often. Anyways, Andy went over to look out the window where they were insisting that they could see a bear out of and I was taken a little off guard when, instead of telling them not to ‘cry bear’, he asked me, “Hey, did you leave the car doors open all night?” I thought it was a joke. Car doors? My initial reaction was, “Shoot, did someone break into our car?” I had already been up and out earlier that morning and the car doors had been closed. So, either someone broke into my car or he was pulling my leg. I brushed him off, but quickly regrouped when he said, “Get your camera and come over here right now — I’m serious.” So I hopped over and what do ya know…

Sure enough…. apparently bears can open car doors. When I looked out the window I saw both of my car doors wide open and there was our friend (who the girls later named Robberro for his attempt at car jacking) sitting in the driver’s seat of my shiny, new SUV. Thankfully we didn’t have any food or trash inside and thankfully once he noticed us watching from the window and he took off. Extra thankfully, he didn’t do any real damage to the car. I have two tiny scratches below the driver’s side door where he tried to climb in and I’m actually kind of okay with that. It’s not every day you can say, “Yeah, those scratches came from a bear climbing into my car.” What a start to our adventure in Valdez!

After our morning bear encounter we headed off to the harbor to catch a boat to go see more wild life! The girls we most excited about this part of our trip in the hope that we would see some whales!

As we were waiting for boarding along came a plot twist — the captain informed the waiting crowd that the engine of the boat wasn’t working and the trip was cancelled. The girls were super disappointed and we had no Plan B. So we hopped over to a gift shop to look around while we brain stormed ideas. I have come to believe that in order for something to truly be an adventure it can’t go completely according to plan. Since we didn’t really know what there was to do in the town we decided to head to something we did know which was the Valdez glacier by our camp site. It ended up being a very beautiful and very fun way to spend a morning. Lots of skipping rocks, taking in beautiful sites, climbing, and just being kids!

In this last one, Bug is holding a piece of ice from the Valdez Glacier — pretty cool! We had so much fun at the lake! If you want to see more pictures from the Valdez Glacier Lake you can see them HERE.

After our morning at the lake we decided to head back into town for some lunch and exploring.

We opted for lunch at a restaurant called the Fat Mermaid. The girls learned some new words thanks to a belligerent drunk seated at the restaurant bar and it was quite literally the worst fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life, but at least we got these silly pictures:

After lunch we decided to check out the museum!

My goobers with a life boat from a cruise ship that had to be used for some reason I don’t  remember. I do remember that it was a cool story, but obviously it didn’t stick.

I love the zeal that Bug has for learning. It is so much fun! She is constantly coming up to me and telling me about something new that she learned! My personal favorite part of the museum was this gem though:

Meet the North Pacific Fur Fish! You can read all about this unique specimen here:

We also visited the Whitney Museum which was a bigger hit with the girls. I called it the Valdez Zoo. It only took Princess about 10 minutes to realize and then be equally traumatized that all these animals had been killed and were stuffed. Thankfully it was post-picture taking. I have priorities, obviously. If there aren’t any pictures of crying, it didn’t happen, right?

These kids are clearly no fun what so ever. I’m pretty sure they kept all the other grown-ups visiting quite entertained.

Bug had been reading a lot about wolves before/during this trip — so this was definitely a fan favorite!

The girls with the moose gives you an idea of why in addition to the “don’t talk to strangers” spiel that we give the girls before walking to school like any normal parent, we also have to give the “turn around and run the other way if you see a moose” spiel.

I had to include this last one simply because of Baby. This is her in a nut shell. She always has a joke, always a silly story, always some sort of antic. She is, hands down, the most hilarious and witty little kid I know. She is basically her Daddy in little girl form. You’re welcome, world.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though! We also spent some time playing at the park which was pure torture with all the beautiful views.

Posing like happy little tourists with the Fairbanks street sign because that’s how we roll.

Before heading back to our campsite for the evening we decided to drive around the old town site that got wiped out by a tsunami. There is nothing left except land and signs explaining where things once were, which was cool, but I think the views were cooler. So, here are some more pretty things to look at:

We ended our day with good news — we got a spot on a different wild life and glacier cruise that was headed out the next morning! We celebrated by having a campfire, roasting hot dogs for dinner, and making s’mores! Thankfully Robberro decided not to join us for dinner.

To see more pictures from our time exploring Valdez you can do that HERE!

If you missed Part One of this adventure, you can catch up on that HERE!

Valdez, Alaska Part ONE


As I was going through the pictures that I took on our trip to Valdez last week I knew that they would need to be shared through a blog post. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but some pictures just need the words to go along with them. There are just too many moments I want to preserve and share.

With that said, I logged on to start writing this post and realized that I haven’t posted a blog since our first Alaska snow … last October! My apologies! The Hays Family has been up to quite a lot since those first snow flakes fell. We successfully survived our first Alaskan winter that included temps into the -40’s, never ending months of darkness and temps being generally below 0, a year of abnormally large amounts of snow, and so much beauty that words can’t even begin to describe it. Alaska is truly beautiful covered in snow. More recently, though, we have been enjoying another amazing summer in the land of never-ending sun! The girls have been enjoying some fun camps, we’ve done some hiking, fishing, swimming, and just have been enjoying the sunshine and being able to be outside in this beautiful frontier we call home. Have I mentioned that we absolutely love Alaska? Because we do.

Also of significance is the fact that we have added a new member to our family! He is quite furry and quite adorable and I can’t imagine how we ever lived without him. We adopted our Retriever/Lab/Husky mix, Bo, from the local shelter in May and we couldn’t have gotten more lucky. He may just very well be the perfect dog and we love him to pieces. He has been the perfect fit for our family!

Bug finished up 2nd grade in May and is getting ready to start third grade here in a couple weeks. She also turns 8 a week from tomorrow. Yes, you read that correctly. EIGHT. I don’t really know how it is possible, but apparently it is perfectly legal and acceptable for your baby to grow up and do things like turn 8. If that wasn’t enough for this emotional Mama, Princess is gearing up to start Kindergarten in a couple weeks and the Littles will be turning 5 and 6, respectively, this fall. In all honesty, as sad as it is to have them growing up so quickly, I am completely in love with this stage of our lives. I love their silly antics and imaginations. I love that they are learning to play games more complicated and interesting than Candy Land. I love that they can make themselves breakfast — they even make me coffee sometimes, too. I miss my chubby babies, but these beautiful girls that I have now are equally awesome.

Without further to do, though, let me share with you a little taste of the absolutely amazing family vacation we took to Valdez last weekend (with more to come!). Valdez peaked our interest because there is a MWR campground there with trailers on site that you can rent. We aren’t exactly outdoorsy people. We are getting there slowly but surely, but we aren’t quite there yet. We don’t own much in the form of camping gear and, quite frankly, I think that all camping in Alaska will probably be trailer camping for this family — mostly due to the abundance of wildlife I’d rather not get eaten by in this beautiful state.

The drive took us about 7 hours from our lovely little home in the Interior. I was very thankful that my new, pretty little SUV has a rear camera because, as you can see, I most definitely over packed. The girls did great on the drive there and back. If you have been following our adventures for a while you will be able to share in my excitement to announce that NO ONE threw up! We may have *finally* outgrown that lovely stage of life/travel finally (knock on wood).

Baby rocking the “Princess Leia” hair. We recently watched  all the Star Wars movies with the girls. They had seen some of the newer ones, but never the original ones. They fell absolutely in love with the originals. The Littles have been asking for Princess Leia hair on a regular basis and Bug now has a crush on Luke Skywalker, naturally.

I will post again, soon, to share about some of the adventures we had on the actual trip, but for now I’ll just flood you with the absolutely amazing views we had on the drive down (and back, obviously). It was simply breathtaking. To be completely honest, though, you can’t go far in Alaska without encountering beautiful things.

The Pipeline runs through Fairbanks and we enjoyed getting to follow it down to where it ultimately comes to an end in Valdez. It is pretty amazing to see how far the pipeline runs — especially since Fairbanks isn’t even where it starts!

Please don’t judge my dirty windshield. Some (read a lot) of these pictures were taken in motion because if we were to stop to take pictures of every view we found picture worthy on the way to Valdez we’d still be driving there. So, just ignore the bird poop and dead bugs and enjoy the view. If nothing else, it adds some realism to the experience of the drive, right?

As a girl who grew up in the PNW in the shadow of, in my opinion, the most beautiful mountain in the whole world, I was absolutely loving being surrounded by all these peaks. Fairbanks has “the hills,” but no mountains near by. On a good, clear day, we can catch a glimpse of Denali in the distance. I miss being so close and being forced to accept just how small I am in the grand scheme of things. It is so humbling — especially when I think about how small these peaks are compared to my Creator. As we were driving and I was soaking in the beautiful views and glorious peaks I told Andy that this is what I imagine Heaven will be like someday.

“The mountains shake before Him, the demons run and flee at the mention of the name, King of Majesty! There is no power in Hell, or any who can stand, before the power and the presence of the Great I Am! Hallelujah! Holy, Holy! God Almighty, the Great I Am! Who is worthy? None beside thee! God Almighty, The Great I Am.” — Great I Am by New Life Worship

We just had to pull over for a shot of our sweet girls with this particular peak behind them. As we were approaching it one of the girls commented that it looked like a giant chair. Another suggested maybe it was a throne. Then our sweet Princess said, “I bet that is God’s throne!” It was so precious and I knew we just had to stop for a picture to encase that memory — our sweet, Jesus-loving girls and a majestic peak that they deemed only God was worthy of a place upon. I love them so.

To view more pictures of our journey (and get a sneak peak of Valdez and some of the pictures and memories I’ll share soon) feel free to check out the entire album HERE.

Our First Alaskan Snow


We have had quite the exciting end to our week this week as we finally got to experience our first Alaskan snow. We had flakes fall from the sky previously, but nothing has stuck yet. Snow is here to stay for the winter now. Let me just say, if it is going to be this cold I definitely appreciate at least having the pretty white stuff to look at while I freeze. The other morning I was walking Bug to school and it was 9 degrees. N-I-N-E.

The girls were so excited to finally have snow to play in. From what I gather our snow came rather late this year. I am pretty sure I read that this was the latest in the year the first snowfall has happened since the 80’s or something crazy like that. It is finally here though and I am slightly in love. This is exactly what I dreamed Alaska would look like… and I am thoroughly enjoying it all from the warm, comfort of my house with a good book and some tea!

The girls played outside for hours yesterday afternoon. I found it rather humorous that it was 20 degrees, snowing, and there were still about a dozen kids at the park playing. Only in Alaska, right? The came inside thoroughly tired and cold, but it was nothing a little cup of cocoa couldn’t fix! Oh the memories. My Mom could always be counted on for cocoa, tomato soup, and grilled cheese on our long snowy play days growing up.

Bug didn’t even come in after she got home from school… she just went straight to playing! I hardly even could get her to pause for a picture!

We did have to have a chat about how we don’t need to lay down and lick snow off the ground…. we have some learning to do when it comes to this white stuff.

Okay, but seriously, there is nothing cuter than a bundled up Baby!

I might have overdone it. The girls came in complaining they were too hot outside. I just can’t help all the German running through my veins — more layers!

I seriously cannot get over these cute kiddos all bundled up in the amazingly beautiful Alaskan winter scenery!

I am so thankful that Baby loved the snow. We were kind of wondering what we were thinking moving to Alaska considering this was her the last time we encountered snow:

Side note, looking through that album of our last snow in Deutschland was very bad, bad idea. We have  been so homesick for Germany lately. Seriously, Germany ruined us for Christmas. And seeing my favorite place in the world covered in beautiful snow… it is taking all myself control to not look up plane tickets right now.

This nearly five-year-old is pretty stinkin’ cute in the snow, too!

Seriously though, this was here in our last snow in Germany almost two years ago… how does time pass so quickly?!?

Well, that is all the snow pictures for now. Being that winter will last about the next six months, though, I am sure there will be many more to come.

Baby, its cold outside!


Happy National Taco Day! The Hays family religiously celebrates Taco Tuesday every single week. However, I am totally failing this week because not only are we not celebrating Taco Tuesday, but also completely failing at National Taco Day. Attempting to celebrate Taco Tuesday would require me to leave my house to get ingredients, but that is not happening. Nope. It is too cold and it is only October. I’d just like to formally announce that Annual Winter Hibernation has officially begun and I probably won’t be leaving my house unless I absolutely need to. So, if you need me, you will know where to find me. Hint: Inside where it is WARM.

I’m not even exaggerating. Okay, maybe a little bit. But I nearly died yesterday walking Bug to school. It was 25 degrees. I realize that isn’t even close to cold for Alaska, but for this lady who is always cold, it was a sign that I need to pull out my wool socks already. Did I mention it is October 4th?!? Welcome to the land of endless Winter! To be fair, Mister walked Bug to school today and I’m pretty sure he came home with snot-sickles. His words to me were, “Wow, it really is cold out there. You’re going to die this winter.” He knows me well. Did I mention that our forecast for next week is showing highs only in the low 30’s. In October. One of these days the shock will wear off, right?

Alaska is truly bringing us new adventures. One of the less-fun adventures this month has been Mister’s insane work schedule. We haven’t gotten to see a lot of him. We are pretty selfish. I think we would really only be content if he never had to work. The craziness of life has just forced us to get creative with our time together. We have broken the rules and stayed up late on school nights, snuck in a few extra moments in the mornings, and most definitely taken advantage of any of his few days off.

Naturally, being the time of year that it is, there has been lots of football watching. How about those Dawgs and Seahawks!? Its been a great start to football season this year!

We read a lot of books in our house. It might be one of our favorite family past times. I am so glad to be raising little book worms because, for real, we aren’t leaving the house except for food and Jesus until May.

Okay, we might leave for the Great Harvest Bread Co. too. It is one of our favorite pit stops while our running errands. And oh my, what a handsome guy I have.

Stealing precious moments with Daddy. And yes, Baby is totally passed out.

Probably the biggest news and bit of excitement as of late is that our Bug got baptized! Mister got to do it and it was seriously such a special moment. We are so thankful for such a wonderful church family.

And, oh, the shenanigans. I cannot even begin to describe the silliness that the Irish Twins get away with during the day…

Seriously, two peas in a pod. I think another favorite Hays Family activity is nap time! That and this past month it was catching every.single. strand of the stomach bug known to man-kind. My adventures have gone from carsick kids puking their way around Europe to this. It all involves puke. Being a Mom is clearly the most glamorous job on the earth.

Oh, and we are actively working on building a time machine. My Baby turned 4. FOUR. It needs to stop. I told Mister it is more babies or a time machine. For whatever reason he thought a time machine was a better option. I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t want to live with any more little ladies!
Its not like we are dramatic, emotional, or wanting all his time and attention or anything….

And we got to decorate for FALL this month. I love it. Baby really, really wanted a light up pumpkin for her room. She might be a little spoiled.

And all the fall baking and recipes. Mm! Might be my favorite time of the year. And, naturally, my little shadow is always there to help!

Sneaking in those late night snuggles and loves with Daddy!

My Dad came for a weekend visit for Baby’s birthday and so we prepared a couple surprises for him! This is the most beautiful apron in the world for der Grillmeister and his new Grillhutte!

So, we were really living on the edge one night, and went grocery shopping as a family a half hour before bed time on a school night! Mister was not quite as amused or entertained by my spontaneity as I was. I’m not really sure why he’d be so tired after all the long hours he has been working?! Anyways. He and the Bigs went to look for a birthday gift for Baby while she and I got food. Well, a few days later this following picture was produced. I think we can all agree that Mister enjoyed the trip a little more than he led on….

These were my very last 3-year-old snuggles… sniff sniff

Special lunch out with Papa on his visit with us!

Papa brought some sunshine and warm-ish weather with him! We saw 55 the weekend he visited! So, naturally, my kids decided it was summer and didn’t wear a coat at the park. Also, some things never change. Baby has always been our dare devil.

Someday when the girls are grown I am sure there will be much discussion about how Baby was clearly the favorite because all the picture are of me and her. To be clear, I base my favorite based on the size of their dirty laundry piles, so this varies day to day. However, when you are Mommy’s little shadow and taking selfies are one of your favorite past times, well, there is lots of photographic evidence in your favor towards a claim for favorite child.

Oh, and being October, I let the girls have their Halloween shirts/socks. It may only be October 4th, but they could.not.wait. And they are oh so adorable so I don’t even care if it is too early.

Sassy Kitty!

In about 10 years when they are fighting over who gets to wear what shoes and boys and all things nonsense I am going to pull out this picture and remind them that once upon a time they really did love each other and that shoes and boys should never come between such an adorable set of sisters….

So, our adventures may not be taking us to see beautiful beaches or cathedrals that take our breath away, but trying not to freeze to death in October is certainly a new adventure for us and all adventures are with experiencing when it means I get to do it with this lovely bunch!



Bug Tuns SEVEN!


Okay, so I’m a little behind over here. With another Birthday coming up this weekend I figured I needed to at least catch up on birthdays because birthdays most definitely deserve their own blog post! I wish I hadn’t waited so incredibly long to post about Bug’s birthday! — She has been 7 for nearly two months now! One of these days I’ll be all caught up.

So Bug turned SEVEN which is just insane to me. I remember when she was first born my Dad told me to treasure every moment because before I knew it she’d be in her 20’s and having kids of her own. I also remember during those long months of little sleep and mountains of poopy diapers thinking to myself, “I really am okay if this part goes by fast.” It seemed like an eternity. Now, though, I have a seven year old and I realize that my old man was right! I think somewhere along the lines we must have skipped an age or two. And then I realize that Baby is going to be FOUR this year which means it has literally been years since I’ve had sleepless nights and poopy diapers! Well, the diapers part anyway!

As much as I hate my girls getting older and older, I really do love it and love celebrating another wonderful year of their life! It is such a joy to be their Mom!

Bug’s birthday was extra special this year because my parents and sister timed their visit in order to be here to celebrate with her! Despite living SO far apart for SO many years, they’ve managed to celebrate with her on her actual birthday 4 out of her 7 birthdays — 5 if you count her actual BIRTH day. I think that is pretty impressive if I do say so myself!

Here is a fun little side-by-side we did. What a difference 7 years can make!

One of the most exciting parts of Bug’s birthday was that she got her ears pierced this year! She had been asking and asking. Towards the end she was having second thoughts and decided she didn’t want to, but then somehow my sister convinced her it wasn’t so bad and she decided she wanted to do it!

My amazingly talented friend, Deanna, made her the coolest Jurassic Park cake! Oh my soul. She was so surprised and was on cloud nine!

Amazing, right? Did I mention it was the best chocolate cake of all time?! It was. Bug made out like a bandit gift-wise too! Grandma Lunchbox renewed her Highlights subscription which is a highly coveted magazine in our household! My Dad (and mom technically) got her an awesome pink tool belt with real tools and so she got to help Papa do some projects while he visited. My sister got her an adorable fashion scarf and earrings — what else are Aunties for? And Andy and I surprised her with a WWE championship belt and her two favorite wrestler action figures. So, yes, we have a very unique child was an eclectic taste.


We simply love our sweet Bug to pieces! She is such a fun kid whose heart is so full of kindness and love for all those around her. She is a reading machine who is so excited about learning and going to school! Did I mention she loves Jesus? That is probably my favorite part! Our little independent Bug had been inquiring a lot about what it means to be saved and then one day, out of the blue, let us know that she had prayed and asked Jesus to be her Savior — All. by. Herself. In true Bug fashion, of course. It has been so fun to watch her appetite for learning more about God and reading his word grow these past few months! I know that He has big plans for her little life!