Maui in a ’88 VW

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Meet Ruby! She is a 1988 Volkswagon Vanagon! She will take us around Maui for a few days! Our adventure will be documented here!

aloha hawai’i

what a time to be alive

Rainbow Falls, Hilo, HI

Buying a one-way ticket to Hawaii is mind-blowing. However, being here now absolutely takes the cake. You guys, this place is everything you see in every picture. The photos that look edited, color-enhanced, and ‘look at me-esque’, ARE REAL. The geography of this island is INSANE and I’ve only seen about 20 square miles of it so far. There are about 4-5 bridges between our house and town, and I clap and lose my mind over EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. every time. I am a walking, breathing, exclamation point with adrenaline that is probably making my blood pressure elevate to unsafe levels. Let’s get to it, though. Here, I plan to document nearly every detail of our trip LIFE for the next two months. Here is what you need to know to to get yourself a one-way ticket into our loop:

  • “Us/We/Our” refers to Mara & I.
  • We live on the East side of the Big Island in Hilo.
  • We are living in an airbnb until the mid-second week of August (the whole freaking summer. what.) It’s a one-floor, wide-open, wooden-heaven, windows-open-24/7, travelers’ dream home.
  • Because employees here are often travelers, we haven’t had many issues finding resources. A nice man named Peter, rented us a car (2005 Ford Escape) for the time we are here. He also lets us use snorkeling gear, lawn chairs, boogie boards, etc. anytime, for however long, ever. wow.
  • Mara is a travel nurse working 40 hours a week at the Hilo Medical Center on a Med-Surg Unit. (travel tip: find yourself a nurse and travel with them. #walkingpharmacy)
  • I am in the process of beginning my job doing behavior therapy for tots with Autism Spectrum Disorder in their home. I’ve been doing online training the past few weeks, and meeting every tiny requirement to become a Registered Behavior Technician. This is actually a credential I can tack onto my special ed title. (I have to fly to Oahu to take an exam next week for it. bum-mer. #lifeisrough)
  • Rainbows are an hourly occurrence here. It’s literally the rainbow state.
  • Wild-hogs are a thing and are everywhere. They run at the speed of light.
  • My heart is racing just typing this because I want every person to experience the bliss of Hawaii right now in this very moment.
  • ANY suggestions, tips, dude-you-have-to bucket list items are WELCOME. However, we consider ourselves native Hawaiians so nothing cheesy. LOL. I’m a pasty white girl wearing Chacos and a backpack filled with all essentials in it at all times. But, native.
  • My plan is to return a forever-bronze, island girl who just happens to live majority of her life in Wisconsin/Minnesota.

Stay tuned – SO much more to come!!!

|| Update June 11, 2018 ||

I come writing to you from a beach chair on a lava beach after hanging out with a loggerhead turtle!!!

Here are some fun things – enjoy!

  1. EVERYTHING in Hawaii starts with an H or a K – pull up google maps, it’s a real thing.
  2. Get this – Target has the cheapest groceries… what an excuse to go to Target ;)
  3. The cheapest gas price at the moment is $3.64 (when you pay cash)
  4. The cheapest gallon of milk is $4.97 at Target. I KNOW BUT I NEED IT.
  5. Our kind property manager’s assistant brought in baby goats so now we have new members of our little neighborhood! (They are not named yet)
  6. We live about 20 steps from a Lychee Orchard. Okay, we’ve decided that lychee looks like a giant raspberry, has a pit like a cherry, you peel it like an orange, and it’s the texture of a grape. They’re amazing and I can’t believe I’ve been alive for 23 years without knowing this delicacy exists.lychee.jpg
  7. Speaking of delicacies – Subway is the bomb here.
  8. Everything (meaning most things) are closed on Mondays. Just a Hawaiian thang.
  9. There is such thing as Hula Ministries at New Hope Church. 5 Hula dancers graced us with their talents at church yesterday to Danny Gokey’s song Rise!
  10. PSA: we now know where Yankee Candles get their ‘Ocean Mist’ scent from… Wai’olena Park & Beach in Hilo, Hawaii. It’s a real scent!carl smith selfie
  11. We experienced our first cockroach, pray for us. Mara put a Tupperware container on it and slid a piece of paper under it and I took it outside. We immediately went to Target to buy Raid and Mara covered every possible roach entrance of our house (every window sill and baseboard). Future visitors, don’t worry we got this.
  12. We also learned the hard way to take trash out very often. I opened the trash to throw something away and felt like I was being punished by a plague of flies. GROSS. You should have saw it, I ran outside with the trash can at the speed of light.
  13. Speaking of delicacies… HAWAIIAN SHAVE ICE (It can be Scandinavian or Italian, it’s just ice with sugar flavor in it)IMG_2765
  14. We went across the island to Kona this past weekend to celebrate King Kamehameha (Hawaiian Holiday honoring the King who united the 8 islands) and watched a parade. It was awesome – no candy, no big crazy advertisement gigs, just each Island’s representatives riding horses in IMMACULATE attire.20180609_103107
  15. Hawaiian tip #243 – listen to the lifeguards when they toot their horn and warn you of a big wave. You may not see it coming, but I PROMISE it’s coming and they don’t calm down for one frightened Katie.20180609_164038
  16. Hawaiian tip #186 – TAKE THE SCENIC ROUTE and hike down some hidden path, you may just end up in the Hawaiian Botanical Gardens after hours and witness beauty you never thought was real. You guys, we LIVE in Pinterest.
  17. Spending all afternoon at a beach in beach chairs and hammocks is good for the soul. And ordering pizza.














Miss Deiss’ Earth & Arbor Projects

Miss Deiss’ Earth & Arbor Projects

The past two weeks I have been swimming in plastic bags! To celebrate Earth Day & Arbor Day, we (5 students & I) hosted a Plastic Bag Drive! We designated a small space in my classroom where students kept busy collect, counting, sorting, grouping, and stuffing plastic bags!!! (Some “looked” like they had poop on them so I had a couple gaggers – lol) It got pretty competitive – especially once Dilly Bars were involved. The class with the most plastic bags collected won a dilly bar party! Our winning class had over 1,100 bags.

Grand total: over 7,900 plastic bags!


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On Arbor Day, we loaded a van FULL of our bags & took a trip to the Pierce County Recycling Center where we toured the facility, saw some serious recycling action, & dropped off our bags! What an AWESOME opportunity for my kids to learn goal making, predicting, organization skills, team work, dedication, communication skills, and leadership. These kids are rockstars! #luckiestteacherever

PS – if Room 231’s walls could talk, the past two weeks they’d have stories to tell… :)

Bookworm Nook 2018

Podcaster, author, & speaker – Shauna writes with conviction from a rare perspective in our rooted-mindset-generation. Every chapter will have you wowing & totally inspired. READ IT!

Nina Laurin’s first ever book & it’s a criminal-minds, thriller with a big twist. I couldn’t put it down & now I’m borrowing it to everyone I know. You won’t be disappointed.

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Reading People was a book full of information. If you’re interested in finding out more about how people are hardwired, this is a great read. It’s a boxed in book, so I found it hard to connect with. I did discover that I am enneagram type #3.

Pending – let’s be honest, I probably won’t finish it… Awesome book for a history buff, FULL of rich language and interesting, rare information about a city’s discovery!

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In – progress as of June 12, 2018 :)


Caribbean Paradise

Caribbean Paradise

Spring break 2018 || March 2-11 || Adventure of the Seas
||Puerto Rico, Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, St. Maarten||

Day 1: Travel

To avoid a lengthly layover somewhere in the Northeast overnight, we hopped a flight to Chicago where we (Mara) slept on the airport floor for 7 hours! Right near Southwest Airline’s baggage drop. We made a nook on the floor with our 3,738 bags we brought (4). I experienced sour gummy worms that tasted like something you’d find under your bathroom sink at 2:30am. I also used the bathroom at 3:00am and directed a very peppy family of 6 toward the closed baggage drop where they quickly learned that you don’t have to show up 2 hours before boarding like you used to in the 1900’s. Let’s be real – almost missing a flight is way more fun… we will get to that part.

Day 2: At sea

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL OUR TIME? All day on a ship and we had no idea what to do or where to go. It wouldn’t be until Day 3 or 4 that we found the SELF-SERVE ICE CREAM MACHINE by the pool. Guess how many we ate. Guess. Although the ship was laced with jewelry stores, we enjoyed free pizza from the snack restaurant, buying candy/snacks and mouthwash from the liquor store, and laying pool side to get a base tan. Music all day long, Zumba, trivia, reading a good book, and thinking about nothing we’re a few of our favorites.

Day 3: Curacao

 Curaçao has a bridge that is straight out of a Dr. Seuss movie. Run with your imagination. In Curaçao we jumped in a taxi and went to a beach where we had to pay to rent a beach chair for the day. Lazy. Day. We learned the (sort of) equivalent of the USD$ and ANG quickly. We also found a mini mart and stocked up on snacks like a bag of Cheetos puffs and an 85¢ eFruitti Pizza Gummi Candy. Please tell me you remember. I flipped, hadn’t seen them in years!

Day 3: Bonaire

18-square-mile-Bonaire was so fun! We rented a moped for the day for $32. We didn’t know it was the crappiest one they had, we just knew it was the last one. We snagged it and rode all day around the entire island! Wild flamingos, beach stops, lunch, icees – whatever we wanted because you can do whatever you want when you have a moped. Our 2nd favorite island.

Day 4: Aruba

Anticipated to be our favorite island, we were excited to see it called “One Happy Island.” Plot twist. We walked a mile inland to a place we thought was our Jetpack Excursion starting point. It turned out to be a nutrition store with a nice lady who called a taxi for us. Two taxi rides, a public transit ride, and a walk in the rain later, we arrived at the world’s smallest, hidden Excursion counter IN a Hyatt Hotel. Our Excursion has been cancelled and I was praying to get my $200 back. We did, and went impromptu Jet Skiing instead! Cheers to Aruba!

Day 5: At Sea

I would say around day 5 I learned I had a fine art obsession. I found these INSANE 3D paintings of trees that were so colorful and vibrant and I had to have them. At $2,000 a piece, they offered me two pieces of art for one low payment of $1,450 with free shipping! Hold your pants, I didn’t buy them. We also got to be great friends with your waiter, Artan, and waitress, Dinah. We sat at the same window seat every night. Dinah remembered lemons for my water, real butter bricks, and the buns we preferred. Artan memorized our orders (mine): Caesar Salad, New York Strip, and Strawberry Cheesecake for desert. He also got confused when we switched sides of the table one night. He asked us nicely to stay where we were. :) by day 5 we were BRONZE.

Day 6: St. Maarten

Our favorite island! St. Maarten is STUNNING. The only island we didn’t explore to it’s depths, it was the one we could live on! After finding beach chairs to sit on, letting the waves sweep our bags away, getting my childhood dream islander braids, and losing the jet ski key in the middle of the cove, we had THE best meal of our entire trip. The nice gentleman working is the island’s best shot maker. Obviously we had a shot. Or 3. We could have stayed in St. Maarten for days!

Day 8: Puerto Rico

Docked at 7am with a flight at 8pm calls for a rental car exploring San Juan! We spent the morning zip-lining and ventured the coast – the damage from the hurricanes lingers reminding us that returning home is soon to follow. We enjoyed a nice ocean bath, took a snooze in the fanciest mall parking lot I’ve ever been to, and accidentally got 4 4-piece chicken nugget orders before heading to the airport for one last pit stop.


$1,500 per person. (Not including flights because I’m awesome and have a
Southwest card that gave me 50,000 points! Wig.)


  • Pay whatever it takes to get a room with a port hole. Or if you’re made of gold, a patio. Accidentally sleeping in until noon is fine, unless your missing daylight on the most beautiful islands ever! Also, I wished I could fix my eyes on the horizon to compensate for the swaying of the ship. Get a window, man!
  • Bring lots of cash. You never know how many taxi rides & public transit rides you’ll take to get to a beach you thought was on the other side of the island.
  • Don’t pre-buy excursions. Our 2 fell through and we ended up doing 2 impromptu ones and saved $275! When you get off the ship, locals are waiting to take you anywhere you want to go & give you the means to do so (& will negotiate).
  • Buy a drink package prior to the trip. Even if you don’t need the alcohol, get a soda/juice package so you can have lemonade, & such. It’s SO much cheaper buying it ahead of time.
  • Prepay gratuity. We got charged $14.50 per day, per person, for gratuity. Kind of a slap in the face after thinking it was all included with the cruise price. Make sure you pay it before you go!
  • Do karaoke. Seriously a blast & you make friends instantly. Ignition Remix if you want a couple extra bonus points.


On January 1, 2017, I started saving $5 bills. I wanted to see if those “savings” pinterest plans worked – would I cave and use the money mid-June, or would I stick it out and have a nice wad of cash at the end of the year?
Now, I probably used about 6 $5 bills in 2017 due to emergency situations (probably ice cream that costed $4.96) Also, take into consideration how seldom we use cash compared to our cards now. Swiping or the chip-reader guy is quicker (less effort, let’s be real) than pulling out cash, waiting for change, putting away the change, holding up the check out line, etc. Not to mention, you save 5% with your Target RED card, so cash is out of the question there. So, I went through phases in 2017 of using cash.
Regardless – Every $5 bill I found in pockets, received in change, earned, exchanged, etc. went into a box. After a while, I started to put dollar bills in there, some big bills, and soon I was putting any spare cash I had in the box, hoping by December 31st, I’d have something substantial.
WELL, yesterday I counted it!
Here were the results of a 1 year long $5 bill savings experiment:
I saved 126 $5 bills. various $1 bills, some $100’s, a couple $50’s and $10’s, and some $20’s coming in above of $2,000. YO. 2k! Just for putting some cash in a box throughout the year that I didn’t even miss!
I wonder what it would’ve been spent on if I hadn’t saved it – God knows there wouldn’t be a significant increase in the number on my savings account. Now that I know it does work, I think I’ll keep it going!
Saving $5 bills is a habit of mine now. One thing I noticed during this experiment was the lack of $10 bills. I had only saved 4, but they are also less common among the other dollar bills in general.
So, I think I’ll start saving those, too!

Save something this coming year!
Maybe $1’s, maybe coins!
Whatever it is, I promise it’s a treat on December 31st :)

A Miss Deiss Sneak Peak

Well, that’s a wrap! My first 1/2 year of teaching at Hillcrest Elementary is dunzo and Ellsworth Elementary is in the works of being a fully functioning, nearly 800 student school! On Wednesday, December 20th the entire gang came over to EES for a few hours. It took longer than planned, but we managed to get every single student and staff member into one giant panoramic photo.

As we prepare for January 5th (first day with students), I’ve witnessed and felt many emotions – stress, excitement, anticipation, sadness, and overwhelm. Above all, though, there is a massive sense of oneness. Whether we like it or not, many are becoming one. Many schools, many people, and many offices now reside in EES. The same hallways kindergarteners and 4th graders walk, the superintendent walks. Breakfast and lunch is prepared, toilet paper and paper towels are refilled, lesson plans are made, wifi is being fixed, fires are being put out, and phones are being answered all under the same (giant) roof! It is going to be organized chaos and AWESOME.

A view from inside the room! To the left in the door to the hallway, student seating, & I opened my storage wardrobes to show the fun stuff! Lots of sensory items, documents, student resources, & Legos. LOL. The far right wardrobe is for my 3 wonderful aides & any other staff  who needs a place to call home. :)

Instead of SMARTboards, we now have interactive projector boards.
*Fun Fact: we can only hang things on magnetic surfaces in the room.
Studies show that less stimulation in the classroom increases student performance!

The two far doors lead into Safe space/Sensory rooms for students to utilize when their bodies are unable to be in their classroom. The door to the right leads into a Motor/Sensory room with a large spin chair, bean bags, a trampoline, pillows and very low lighting.

Here is a panoramic view if you were to walk into my room right now! (Missing some furniture)
It will be a (hopefully) quiet, low lighting, and low stimulation space with multiple tools to help students who are not able to learn in their classroom for various reasons. :)

As the Behavioral Special Education teacher, it’s so important to make my space not only physically safe, but feel safe. Whether a student needs to cool off, take break, blow off some steam, do some academic work in a quiet space, receive low sensory input, or needs a place with a caring adult to process through something, this space is designed for it. It will adapt to the culture of the students soon enough – but for now, this is Room 231! WELCOME!

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