Friday, January 30, 2009

Wake Up Call

"Ben, it's time to start waking up."



Grumbling, shifting nosies come from beneath the sheet. Ben wakes up in stages.



Ten minutes later I go back in his room. "Come on, Ben. Time to get up."



He shifts around and manages to unpin himself from between the dogs and lies there blinking owlishly at the light.



Ten more minutes later I go back in again. "All right Ben, it's time to get up."



"I am up."



"No. You are awake. You are not up. There's a difference."



"Well, I'm not comfortable, so that should count."

Marriott Ko Olina

The week before Kerry deployed, we had some friends come to Hawaii from their home in Alaska. They were staying at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club and they asked us to come swim with them one afternoon while they were here.

Wow! This is one amazing hotel! I think this is my favorite hotel in the world now, and I didn't even make it inside to see what the rooms are like! I'm thinking that when Kerry comes home, we may make this our "second honeymoon" location!

This is the view from the pool to the beach. You can walk to the beach in about thirty seconds or you can swim in the pool and still be able to see the ocean.

The pool is not like any rectangular, ordinary pool you've ever been in. The entire thing looks like a lagoon with separate pools connected by waterfalls, tunnels and slides, all formed to look like natural rock outcroppings.

This is one of three hot tubs in the area we were in. The waterfall splashing into it made it seem like we were on a tropical island somewhere.......oh wait. We are.

This is the slide that the kids enjoyed going through.

There are great little areas of rock that the kids could hang on to. They had some great play time in these pools!

Katie and Kerry coming out of a tunnel through a waterfall.

The Marriott's web site says they have seven hot tubs. I only found three of them because once I was in one, I refused to get back out.



This is the beach. It is a man-made bay which provides very calm water perfect for smooth swimming.


Happy Family.
When I asked Katie why she posed like this she said, "I was trying to look like, 'Ahhhhhhhh. We're in Hawaii!'"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ace of Cakes

Any one who knows me well, knows I love Ace of Cakes. In fact, when I started this blog, my third post ever was about how much we all love Ace of Cakes. It is such a wonderful show! It's clean, it's artistic, it's funny. It's amazing to see what they can do with cake! To check out some of their cakes, look at their Charm City Cakes website! You'll be amazed!

Imagine then, my surprise when my neighbor told me that the Ace of Cakes crew is here right now, on this base, two blocks from my house, making a cake for their show! She asked me if I wanted to go.

Uh.............Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!!

The Ace of Cakes crew came to Hawaii to film two shows. They made a cake for the cast and crew of the television show "Lost" which is filmed here. And they made a cake to honor the soldiers here.



It looked like most of the cast/bakers/decorators of the show came. I had thought maybe just one or two of them would come, so it was great to see so many of our favorites!

There was a spotlight shining from behind them that was messing up my camera focus!

Time for the unveiling!

The cake was smaller than I expected, but VERY, VERY cool! The propeller on top actually rotated and it had colored lights on it that turned on and off. They officially cut the cake, but other cakes were served to the crowd. No one wanted to see that cool cake get chopped up and eaten!

Duff, Geoff, Mary Alice, and Erica all sat at a table to sign autographs. We waited for two hours to get up to where they were. I was worried that an announcement would be made any moment that they had to leave, but they stayed and signed and smiled for photos and were very nice to all these people who were burning out their retinas with flash after flash.



Duff and Mary Alice were particularly nice to Katie. She told them that her Daddy was in Afghanistan and they both stopped what they were doing and talked to her as if she were someone really special.

I told them that my husband had just sent me a text message and that he said to tell them they were awesome and he loves their show. Mary Alice said, "Tell him HE'S awesome and we love him too!"

Katie told them she'd been watching their show "ever since she was a little kid". They got a big kick out of that.

Ben got them to sign his tennis shoe! That's much cooler than a piece of paper.
Ben told Duff not to inhale around those shoes.
He's pleased that he got to hear Duff's legendary laugh.


Geoff, who is the funniest person on the show, was very nice but quiet.
I didn't recognize Erica actually. I don't think I've seen her on the show.
But everyone was incredibly nice and patient.


I don't know if I could be that nice to a bunch of strangers if I had to sit there signing my name over and over and over for hours. It was such a wonderful feeling to have these people, who are so well known and well liked, showing their support for our soldiers.

Of course, now Ben had to have a new pair of tennis shoes. He certainly isn't going to wear these again!

Tomorrow

*****************************************
The furniture will come
Tomorrow!
Bet your bottom dollar
that Tomorrow!
I'll have a chair!

Just thinkin' about
Tomorrow!
I'll have all my stuff
Tomorrow!
It won't be so bare!

When I think of my house
With my bed
and my sofa
I just shake my broom
At the empty room
And I saaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy
OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH!

My coffee pot will come
Tomorrow!
My TV and towels arrive
Tomorrow!
Didn't have to wait 'til May!
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
My household goods
Tomorrow!
They're only a day away!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

First Email from Kerry!

I have a few moments (and 15 minutes of Internet use that I just bought!) to write. I am unable to navigate the international phones so I will try at our next stop. I knew it was going to be tough on Katie. I was good until she started crying. Then it hit me. Then we were all crying. However, I told the kids that it is fine to be sad and show emotion. Of course, Ben and Emily are stoic!

Bangor, Maine was really neat. We arrived at around midnight and I was surprised by the reception. There were about 30 people lined up to meet us once we entered the airport. This group was made up of retires, spouses of active duty military, and normal citizens of the area. They had set up a reception area with free food and drinks and free cell phone use for service members. It was really nice and refreshing. I spoke to an older gentleman named Gaynor who has been doing this since 2005. He informed me that over 800,000 service members heading to or returning from both Iraq and Afghanistan have cycled through that airport since 2003, and his group has been there from the beginning to thank them and make them feel welcome. It was a unique and reciprocal experience. These people, a cross section of our country, were there to thank us for our sacrifices and service. We in turn were reminded vividly of who we are defending and why we do what we do. I talked to Gaynor for almost an hour and we discussed the wildlife and beauty of Maine (he had spent his entire life except for three years in that area), as well as life in general. The conversation did not dwell on politics or ideologies, and was just a friendly and genuine conversation of two strangers brought together by a deployment. I hope to see him in a few months when I return for mid-tour and then upon my re-deployment.

Oops...I just got the warning that my time is expiring. I love you and will talk to you soon. You are my Goddess! Tell the kids I love them and will talk to all of you soon.

Love, Me
********************************************************************
The group he mentions is at http://mainetroopgreeters.com/Site/Home-1.html. They greet all soldiers who are passing through. This is a wonderful group of volunteers! It is awesome that people will spend their time doing something like this. It means so much to those of us who have soldiers stopping there!

Then amazingly, I got a second email! (Actually I got this one first and the Maine one second, although the Maine one was sent hours before the Germany one. All hail the inner workings of the Internet!)
********************************************************************
Hello Goddess!

I am in Germany and the local time is 1445 (0245) in the afternoon. Of course, it is 0345 in the morning for you. I am trying to navigate this German keyboard, but it is different. The Y is in the lower left hand corner and nothing is marked. The alt key is also different.

The flight has gone well so far. We arrived in Maine and stayed there for two hours (it was a nine hour flight) and then flew here to Germany (six hours). We have a two hour lay over and then a 6 hour flight to one of the "stans" near Afghanistan. I am not sure which country. We then will have another small layover and a 3 hour flight into Afghanistan. My bottom is sore from sitting so long, and we have hours to go. It was 5 degrees below zero in Maine and it is 30 degrees here in Germany.

I do not know how the internet or phone situation will be for the next two or three days. I miss all of you already. How are the kids? I hope the Teddy Bears (and Koala) helped. I Love all of you. I will talk to you soon. Please hug the kids for me and pet the dogs.

I hope you are doing OK. I know we have done this before...but it does not make it any easier. You are my soul mate and I hate being separated from you. Just remember I am thinking about all of you. I love you and cherish you. I will talk to you soon.

Kerry

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deployment Day

Kerry should be on the plane now. I haven't heard anything to the contrary. He doesn't have his cell phone any more (it's been given to Emily) so if there was a hold up of some sort, I don't know about it.

He had to report in at midnight. We told everyone to take a nap so that they wouldn't be as tired and grouchy since we would be out way past our bedtime.

Katie really took to that idea and slept for three hours.

Emily, who can usually nap every day, was only able to sleep an hour. I tried to nap, but was too keyed up to sleep. Ben flatly refused to try (and yes, he was the grouchiest of us all at 2:00 this morning).

Kerry brushed the girls hair for them since he won't be able to do it for a while.

This was really a job that I pawned off on him because I was busy,
but they all enjoyed it.

As I said, he had to report for formation at midnight. Being the "Type A" personality that he is, we arrived 45 minutes early. No one else was there.

Surprise!


He said, "I was sure other people would be here already."


So, we sat in the car and waited for midnight to roll around. It was raining buckets, so we couldn't get out and walk around.


Midnight finally arrived and he left to go find out what the plan was. The plan turned out to be that they weren't supposed to be there until 1:00 AM.


We went to the shopette and got snacks and then sat in the car some more.


At 1:00, Kerry had to go to formation and then draw weapons. We sat in the car and waited until around 2:00 AM until he got done. Ben and Emily fell asleep, but Katie, being nap-fortified, read a book.
We finally joined Kerry under an overhang. It was chilly and wet.

We took a lot of last photos while we waited.











Finally, we just had to leave.

Katie had the hardest time. She cried all the way home.


When we got to the house, we found our Build-A-Bear animals on our beds. Kerry had hidden them after we made them so we hadn't seen them in a while. He had recorded two voice messages for each bear and had them put inside their paws. When we squeeze their paws we hear Kerry talking to us.


I expected the messages to be sweet, but he outdid himself. He did one sweet message and one funny message for each of us. It was wonderful because we had been crying and there we were all standing in the hallway listening to each others bears and laughing. We really needed that.


The girl's funny messages are the things he won't be able to tell them to do this year, "Hey you! Eat your broccoli! Do your homework! Stop growing!"


My funny message says, "Put some socks on Woman! Your feet are like ice cubes!"


It's almost like having him here........*sigh*

Monday, January 26, 2009

Epic Fail

I was singing the song "She's Gone" by Hall & Oates today. Katie was listening to me and she said, "I don't really understand that song."

I tried to explain. "Well, it's a guy singing that his girlfriend left him."

"Why did she leave him?" Katie wanted to know.

"The song doesn't say."

"Maybe it says something at the beginning of the song about why she left him," Katie offered.

"No, honey. I've heard that song lots of times, and it never says why she left. But he must have done something wrong for her to leave him that way."

Katie mulled this over a bit and then decided, "I think at the beginning of that song they should have a girl's voice saying, 'You....have....failed.'"

Up A Tree Without A Paddle

The two Emilys went wandering around the neighborhood to talk and explore without all the icky grownups around. Kerry had gone to Lowe's when he got a call on his cell from The Other Emily.

"Your Emily is stuck in a tree and can't get down," The Other Emily told him.

"I'm at Lowe's. I can't do anything to help," he told her.

"We don't know your new home phone number yet so we couldn't call our moms."

So I'm at home and I get a call from Kerry telling me Emily is stuck in a tree one block over from the house and I need to go help her.

Of course I grabbed the camera.

She had gotten a boost from The Other Emily to get up into the tree in the first place and then discovered she was a little too high to just jump down. There were no branches to step on, they had all been cut off by our friendly neighborhood gardeners who hate all things that are green and grow.

It took a little maneuvering, but we finally got her down.

"You may NOT blog about this," she ordered as I snapped photos.

Unfortunately, she had already used one "get out of blogging free" pass earlier in the day so she would have had to cough up money to keep me from posting on this one!

Year of the Ox

Monday is the Chinese New Year. This year will be the Year of the Ox. There were big celebrations going on in Chinatown so we headed down there this weekend to check it out.


The streets were really, really crowded. There were many vendors selling food and souvenirs, but we couldn't get to them without fear of losing each other in the crush. We just glanced at everything as we went by. I want to go back down there on a normal day when it isn't so crowded and check out the stores and markets.


We found a spot to watch the parade and it happened to be right in front of a produce market. The prices were excellent, I just wasn't in a produce purchasing mood. I can't usually watch a parade while hanging on to my carrots and green onions. The food they were selling smelled heavenly, so we broke down and bought some grilled corn on the cob and egg rolls.

The parade got started with with firecrackers and confetti showers and one obnoxious teen girl near us who felt the need to scream shrilly every so often.

One of the most entertaining (and colorful) parts of the parade was the dancing dragons. They were interspersed throughout the entire parade. They were usually accompanied by drums and cymbals. The person in the dragon's head would dance, and the person in the dragon's rear would just walk bent over. I kept thinking about how bad my back would hurt if I were walking like that for the whole parade!


As the dragons walked along, people would throw little Snap 'N Pops at their feet to scare away devils and keep the dragons awake (since dragons normally hibernate in wintertime). They would also stick dollar bills into the dragon's mouths. The dragons at the beginning of the parade made lots of money as everyone was excited to feed a dragon. The dragons at the end of the parade probably didn't get as much, because everyone had already handed out their money.


There were also dancing dragons on poles carried by ten or so men. They did very intricate moves - jumping over the center of the dragon like a jump rope and nearly tying him in knots. Very entertaining to watch!


Most of the parade consisted of people in matching tee shirts who just walked along and waved. Not terribly entertaining for a parade. This group in yellow was made up of senior citizens who stopped and did stretching exercises.


Another very entertaining aspect was the groups of martial arts students who stopped and did demonstrations. Some of those were really fun to watch.


We liked the ones who used weapons in their demonstrations the best.

There were also some pretty girls strolling along. They didn't have tiaras, or sashes, or a banner telling who they were. But I guess if you just want to dress up and walk in a parade, you can.

There were quite a number of beauty queens in the parade. Not only did the winner of each pageant get to ride in a car and wave, but so did the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd runners up. The parade kept grinding to a halt and these gals would sit in front of us, smiling and waving. After a while they had smiled and waved at everyone in sight, and they still weren't moving forward. What do you do when no one wants to smile and wave back at you any more? Most of them still sat there with their smiles frozen on their faces but stopped waving. One gal quit pretending entirely and slumped down, unsmiling, staring at her knee caps. As soon as the car started forward, she snapped her head back up, slapped on a smile and started waving.
Katie, bless her heart, waved enthusiastically at every single person who came by. She was smiled at and waved to by all the politicians and beauty queens who seemed relieved to have someone specific to direct their attention to for a few moments. One woman in a tee shirt group ran over and gave Katie a pencil with their logo on it. A little boy next to Katie yelled, "Hey! No fair!" The woman turned back around and told him, "You should have waved at me." And she marched away.


Even Ronald McDonald came to Chinatown. Poor thing had to sit there and listen to people yell, "I'll take a Big Mac with fries!" at him and act like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard over and over and over.

Amazingly, we didn't see any traditional Chinese costumes. This was of the few I saw which was even close.
After the parade was over, it was getting dark and we decided to go find a restaurant and eat. We had two other families with us but none of us had ever been to Chinatown before and we weren't sure where we were. We turned down one street that had graffiti all over the walls and bars on the windows. As we got about halfway down the street a little old Asian woman screamed at some youths who were lounging around, "I've called the police! You people are selling drugs!" We skittered past the group trying not to make eye contact and finally found a wonderful restaurant in a nice area.

Quite enough excitement for one day!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cooking Burgers 101

Emily is not the only child in our family who can cook.

Ben made hamburgers for lunch today!

Friday, January 23, 2009

And Yet Another Comment.............

From someone "in the know" -

To those neighbors who are thinking they need help... RUN! Run fast and far away... until Monday.
Signed,
A former neighbor who's futon was never the same...

Response From My Husband

Kerry read my blog post about building the shed and wrote this response:

I must protest! The shed looks fantastic (if I may say so myself) and the flooring is expertly built and solid. I actually used both a power drill and a power saw during the construction of this shed and the flooring. No small children or pets were injured and the pieces fit together nicely. The neighbors all flocked around and stared in awe as I wielded the power tools with panache and grace. They actually wanted me to come build stuff for them, but alas, I have to take a long trip on Monday and will be unavailable for a while. I asked them to e-mail me their requests and I would carefully consider which ones to complete upon my return.

Cheers,

The much maligned but manly, power tools trained husband

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Our Shed

One of our more pressing problems in our new house is a lack of storage space. We have tiny closets, and no garage. There is no place to put Christmas decorations, winter clothes, baby clothes that I can't bear to get rid of, the lawnmower, bicycles, etc. So we got permission to put up a shed in our backyard.

The shed we bought came in four very large boxes which we (meaning Kerry) had to pick up and bring home in four separate trips since our little Honda couldn't hold more than one at a time.



It looked like it would be really easy to put together. Sort of like giant Legos.

Alas, this was not the case.


First, a base had to be built. Now I'm the first to admit - Kerry is an amazing husband, remarkable father, and incredible soldier. I could sing his praises all day long in all these areas.

But handy with a hammer? Not so much.

We have a standing joke that every bookshelf in our house has at least one shelf on it upside down. And it's not just a joke, it's really true. Somehow when Kerry assembles furniture a piece always goes on backwards.

When we lived in Alaska, he once helped a neighbor assemble a new grill. After a while, he came over to get a hacksaw because "one of the pieces was too long" and they were just going to saw it off to the right length. I broke out into a sweat at the thought of us having to buy the neighbor a new grill, ran over to read the instructions, and figured out where two pieces had been switched. We got it assembled with no sawing needed.

Another time he went to help the same neighbor with a project at their house. A little later the neighbor's wife came back with Kerry's drill and said, "Take this! And don't ever let him come over with it again!"

Kerry with power tools is a scary Kerry.

I once asked him why he has such an impressive array of tools when he so rarely has the ability to use them.

He replied, "Other men will see that I have these tools and they will then assume that I know how to use them, and I win points for being cool and manly."


So it is with great relief and pride that I report that our shed was completed in one day (with the help of a cool, manly friend who also knows how to read instructions).

And if we have both windows on one side of the shed instead of one window on each side, who am I to complain? It's part of our standard operating procedure around here.

Public Service Announcement

We interrupt this winter to bring you greetings from today in Hawaii:










We now return you to your regularly scheduled January, already in progress.