Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ben, The Human Jungle Gym

Impressive, isn't it?

Trip To The Water Park

Kerry was only on the island for six weeks before he deployed. We went to a few beaches and museums before he left, but most of our explorations and discoveries have taken place since then. With his joyful return to the island we set out to show him the beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, and rich cultural heritage of Hawaii.

So, of course, our first stop was the water park.

Hawaiian Waters was recently bought out by Wet 'N Wild. It's a small water park but has some truly fabulous rides. I hear they are planning to expand into the surrounding eight acres but haven't officially confirmed it, so don't quote me.

One of the first things we tried was the FlowRider. It shoots out jets of water that you can surf or boogie board on. There are many, many people who clearly spend a large portion of their lives on this ride. We watched in awe as young men surfed back and forth across the waves, tilting their boards so that they zoomed from one side to the other, spraying all the bystanders with a wave of water every so often. You have to pay extra for this, it is not included in your admission price. It's only $3 to ride it once or $5 for a wristband which allows you to go on it as many times as you want.

Katie and Emily were the only ones who wanted to try it. (Okay, I wanted to, but didn't want to embarrass myself. I'll try it one day when there are less people around.)

Katie had a hilariously good time. Even with a few spectacular wipeouts she thought it was a blast.

Emily tried it, hated it with a passion, and tried to rip her wristband off the minute she was done.

The most fun ride (in my opinion) was the Tornado. It's a short, quick ride, but very fun and they snap your picture while you are on it. Emily flatly refused to ride this one.

We were busy talking while we waited in line to ride this one, so we weren't paying much attention to what the ride looked like other than that there was a giant red funnel involved. When we got on the big yellow float (which you have to tote to the top yourself - or in this case - Kerry's self) we were pushed into a tunnel and floated along peacefully for a moment. I was floating backwards and couldn't see what was coming. I did, however, see the look on Ben's face as he saw what was coming, and frankly I was rather alarmed by his expression.

I twisted around to try to see what he was looking at just as we took a two story drop into the funnel.

That was exhilarating.

Emily eventually decided she would ride this one, hated it with a passion, and didn't get on it again.

The most terrifying (and most popular) ride is The Shaka. If you hold up your fist and then point your pinky and thumb at the ceiling, this is the shape of The Shaka.

They shove you off the top and you take a five and a half story nearly vertical drop down one side and up the other. You are not seatbelted in. The raft is not attached to anything which would control its speed, spin, or ability to flip.

Five and a half stories.

Nearly vertical.

Kerry and Katie rode this several times.

Ben rode it once. Emily said no.

I looked at it and thought, "Well, clearly no one had died or it wouldn't still be operational. I'll do it."

Kerry and I hiked to the top (he carried the heavy yellow float). We got up to the top and I looked down from up there and said, "Nope."

On the way back down Kerry was patting me on the back saying, "It's okay, honey. There's no shame in not being able to do it. A lot of people probably can't."

I looked at him and said, "You think I'm embarrassed??? Trust me, I'd be a lot more bothered by going down that thing."

Five and a half stories!

Nearly vertical.


She Was Talking About The Jelly Bean

We decided to play a round of Cranium one night since Kerry is home. Katie and I were on a team together and Kerry and Emily were on a team together.

Katie had drawn a card which said she had to sculpt a molar out of playdoh. I had to guess what it was. The only clue I had was that it was a thing. We had done this same type of thing earlier in the game when Katie had to sculpt a pizza and I guessed it correctly. My clue that time had been food. So this time I at least knew that the thing would not be a food.

So Katie pulled off a hunk of playdoh and starts molding it into a small blob. I couldn't tell what it was. It was small and oval-ish and she was making little points on top of it and I wasn't getting it. I started calling out random small round objects.


"Jelly Bean!"


"No!" Emily yelled helpfully. "It's not a food!"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In Which Odysseus Returns And Is Welcomed By His Faithful Hounds

Dogs don't really have a sense of time. They don't know it's been over six months since they've seen him. They only know it's been a long time, and boy have they missed him!

Kerry's Version of His Trip

Well...I finally made it home after 31 hours on a plane! The trip was long and exhausting...but I am finally here enjoying the Hawaii that I have been hearing so much about while I have been gone. (Remember...I was only here for 6 weeks before I deployed).

I was scheduled to leave on a Saturday and a large group of us arrived for our briefing/flight information and were informed that our flight had been cancelled. Not delayed. Cancelled. Not a good thing to hear. Actually, the airman who told us asked us if we wanted to good news or the bad news first. We said the bad news and he told us that the flight was cancelled. He then smugly informed us that the good news was that there was always tomorrow. I would have chosen another method of delivery because this poor airman was almost mugged on the spot.

We finally left our base and flew four hours to Kuwait. There we waited a total of 28 hours in a sweltering tent with no phones or Internet until we finally boarded a contracted airline for our flight to the US. There was not an empty seat and the amazing thing about this aircraft was that my eight year old would have been cramped. The seats were minuscule. I barely had room to maneuver my arms in order to eat my in flight food. But, 18 hours later we arrived in the US.

I had been unable to call Amy and let her know we have been delayed and had planned on doing so when we re-fueled (after the first nine hours) in Europe. However, the phones only took international calls and would not take my credit card. No problem. I had already given Amy my flight schedule and we were still expected to arrive on time. Well...nine hours later we arrived in the US and we were over two hours late. Needless to say, I missed my connecting flight (it had left for Hawaii one hour earlier) and I was scrambling to get a connecting flight. Delta was able to hook me up, but I only had 15 minutes to catch my flight. I dashed through the airport like a mad man and got on the aircraft just as they were shutting to doors. Obviously, I was unable to call Amy and let her know of my new arrival time. I was still arriving (believe it or not) at almost the same time as previously planned.

The flight to Hawaii was crowded, but the seats were much roomier and I knew I was about to see my family in a matter of hours. I slept as much as possible and looked forward to the reunion. I arrived at the airport and rushed to the baggage claim. I quickly looked for Amy and the kids but could not find them. In a panic I called her from a pay phone and she told me that Delta had told her I missed my connecting flight. Ouch! Amy and the kids had just left the airport and she whipped the car back around and made it back in less than 15 minutes. She rarely speeds or drives recklessly, and the kids have not told me how the trip back to the airport went....but I imagine it was quite a rapid event. As soon as I saw them I forgot about the frustration of the trip and my heart melted. Here were my anchors, my reason for being, the most important people in my life. I swept them up in my arms and we all cried a little as we embraced. I breathed them in and was swept away with love. just can't appreciate it until you have been away from them.

We have had an incredible time so far and I am looking forward to many idyllic days before I climb back into the tiny, cramped seats of an overcrowded airplane and head back over. However, it is worth it because my batteries are being re-charged and I will be heading back home for good in a short time. This too shall pass and we will all look back on the deployment and marvel at how fast it passed. Aloha!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

R&R Baby!

We've been counting the months, the weeks, the days and the hours and finally, R&R has arrived!

It wasn't easy though.

Soldiers do not just get on a plane and fly home for a two week vacation. They have to take a series of flights because they are coming from so far away and in some areas there are no operating airlines. They must rely on military aircraft part of the way.

For security purposes, they are not told their flight schedule until the last possible minute. We had a rough idea of when he might be arriving, but nothing specific. And by "rough idea" I don't mean we weren't sure if he was arriving at 3:00 or 4:00. I mean we had a five day window in which we knew he should probably arrive.

The first setback came when he called to say his first flight was cancelled. Not delayed. Cancelled. He was still at his home base and had to go on into work since he was there anyway.

Then, hallelujah, he called a day later to say he was on his way and he knew exactly when he would be arriving! He had exact flight times, and we were ready to roll! And not only did we know when he would be arriving here, he was also going to have a long layover at an airport near his family! The plan was for him to call them when he arrived, and some of his relatives would head to the airport to spend a few hours with him.


We didn't hear from him again. Three days went by with no word from Kerry. Not a peep. His flight into the airport near his family came and went and no one heard from him. I started making frantic phone calls trying to find out where he was. I knew if he'd made it to the airport near his family he would have called them - and me. No one I spoke to knew anything of his whereabouts.

I warned the kids that there was every possibility that he had gotten hung up somewhere and hadn't even made it to the United States. I didn't want them to be standing at the airport holding up the "Welcome Home" signs we had made and waiting.....and waiting.....and waiting..... Still, hope springs eternal, and we headed off to the airport at the time he had initially planned to be here just in case. On the way to the airport, I became convinced that he would be there despite evidence to the contrary and the excitement began to build.

At the airport, I explained to an airline agent that we didn't know if Kerry had made the flight and that I absolutely did not want to stand there with our signs and have him not get off that plane. The agent very quickly checked, and then quietly informed me that Kerry was not on the flight. He was listed as a "no-show".

Oh, that was a crushing moment. I told the kids, and we slumped out of the airport back to the car. Katie and I were both trying not to cry. I told the kids that the only thing we could do was go back home and wait to hear from him. Surely he would contact us soon and let us know where he was.

The drop from hopeful excitement to crushing disappointment left us all starving, and we stopped at a Wendy's to get something to eat and pull ourselves together.

As we sat down at a table with our food I wailed, "I wish he would call right now and tell us he really is here after all!"

My cell phone rang.

Ben said, "I'll bet that's him!"

I snatched it up and answered it to hear Kerry say, "Where are you? I'm here at the airport!"

"They told me you missed your flight!" I shrieked as the kids and I snatched our food off the table and ran out the door with it.

We flew (well, drove very fast) back to the airport, skidded into a parking place, and piled out of the car like it was on fire. We ran down a moving escalator, across a street, and ran up another escalator to get to the pick up area.

When Kerry returned from deployment five years ago, I had intended to let the kids run to him first, ahead of me. I wanted to stay back a step where I could see them get to him and hug him. But when I saw him coming towards us through the crowd that time, all thoughts of letting the kids hug him first flew out of my head and I took off toward him, leaving them in the dust.

This time, I wanted to make sure they got to him first. It was the number one thought in my head as we ran toward the building where he was.

And then.....I saw him. And I launched myself toward him like there was no one else with me. I'm not proud to say that I once again left the kids in the dust with no thought except to get to him. Granted, they are really fast now and thudded into him only a second after I did.

I had a ton of questions running through my head - "Where were you?" "Why didn't you call during your layover?" "Why did they say you missed your flight?" But for the moment, nothing else matters except:

He is home.

He is home.

He is home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Homeschoolers Do When They're Bored

Ben is at the upper left in the white tee shirt. The moms were having a meeting and the kids just decided to make their own entertainment.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Room Makeover (Part Two)

So, if you haven't read my previous post about re-decorating Ben's room while he was at camp, you need to go read it now or this post won't make as much sense.

My friend Kim and I worked hard all week, making the girls rooms fit for habitation.

This is Katie's room before the make over:

Not the best picture, I know. When I took this picture, I wasn't intending to put it on the blog, I was just sending pictures to Kerry of what our house looks like with furniture in it.

This is the same corner of her room as seen in the previous picture. I found an ocean themed play tent and made her an "ocean corner".

New shelves gave her a LOT more storage space.

A palm tree on one wall for some ambiance.

She also got a new comforter and pillows, as well as the princess hanging over her bed which is draped with flowers which light up when plugged in.

This isn't the comforter I wanted originally. I found one on line which was exactly what I wanted; it was $39.99 on sale. But shipping was $42.00! thank you.

Now this is the before picture of Emily's room:
And here is the after photo:

We moved her bed to an entirely different area of the room, added matching pillows and also curtains.

Teddy Bear Corner. That girl does love her bears.

She also got new shelves, I just picked storage baskets in colors that would compliment her room.

She also got a new lamp and some geese.

Those geese are cool.

Her shelves stayed pretty much the same, except we actually organized everything on them.

Okay, now here is the part where you need to have read the previous post to get the joke. When the girls came home from camp, they also did not head to their rooms immediately. I had to coerce them to come out of the TV room. I thought when I said, "Go see how much sand is in your shower" that they would immediately figure out their rooms had been redecorated, but they actually headed to the bathroom to see how much sand was in the shower!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Room Makeover

While Ben was gone to camp for two weeks, I decided to "spruce up" his room a bit. Poor Ben is stuck in what used to be the "maid's quarters". It is two 6x6 rooms with a shower in between them and no closet.

We made one of the small rooms his actual bedroom, with a bed and a wardrobe so he would have a place to hang clothes.

I giggle when say that because Ben doesn't put anything on a clothes hanger unless threatened.

The other room is his "TV room".

I knew he wouldn't like anything "girly" or (heaven forbid) pretty in his room, so I tried to stick to an ocean theme and didn't add anything Chuck Norris would be opposed to. I added a poster of a scuba diver and a poster of sharks. Very non-girly.

I found these cool weathered looking letters at Pier 1. I was just going to spell out "Ben", but my friend Kim came up with the idea to spell "Surf". I so lack that kind of vision when it comes to decorating.

I got this large trunk for Ben to put all his mean, miscellaneous items in. I didn't know this trunk was multi-functional though - turns out it also can be used as a coaster for your drink!

Then, the best thing I added to Ben's room......a papasan chair. He had been sitting on the floor with his back against the wall when he wanted to watch TV. I knew a comfy chair would be something he would really enjoy and appreciate.

He had no idea I was doing any of this and I had sworn the girls to secrecy.

We picked him up from camp and on the way home I mentioned to him that there was a lot of sand in his shower from the last time we had been to the beach. He said he would clean it up as soon as he could. He also mentioned that he had dibs on the computer since he had no Internet access for the past two weeks.

Two weeks without Facebook is a nightmare for a fifteen year old.

When we got home, Ben made a beeline for the computer. He didn't even take his bags to his room. The girls and I excitedly milled around for a bit waiting for him to go to his room and see his surprise.

Emily finally said, "Ben, you should see how much sand is in your shower! It's really a lot."

"I will," said Ben, not looking away from his email account.

A little later Katie said, "Ben, you really have to see how much sand is in your shower! You won't believe it!"

"Okay, but not right now," Ben said, not looking up from his Facebook account.

I told the girls to go change and get ready for bed, and that I would call them as soon as Ben started heading back to his room.

Thirty minutes after we arrived home, the girls and I marched up to Ben at the computer and I said, "BEN! You should REALLY see HOW much SAND is in your SHOWER!"

Ben looked at us like we were bananas, but he got up and walked back to his shower. He pulled the curtain aside and said, "Wow. Look at the sand." The he gave us the "are you happy now" look that teens throughout history have perfected so well.

"Open your door!" I exclaimed.

He walked into his bedroom, "Wow! Is that a new bedspread?"

"Yes!" I exclaimed. "And look at the poster of the scuba diver I put in here!"

He walked into his other room and noted the papasan and the new trunk.

Then he turned to me and said, "Mom, I promise I will be really excited about this tomorrow. Can I please finish checking my email now!?"

Emily looked at me and said, "Wow. If you had done that for me, I would be jumping up and down screaming."

Hold that thought Emily....................

To be continued......................

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Spelling City

One of the best spelling resources I've found recently is a site called Spelling City. My kids each have a spelling and vocabulary list they have to work on each week. At they can type in their list on Monday and then play games on the site using the words in their word list each day. By Friday, they've had enough practice spelling the words and are ready to test.

One of the games is a fill-in-the-blank type chart. This helps with vocabulary as well as using the word in a sentence.

Spelling City can also may a crossword puzzle, or a word search out of your spelling list.

My favorite game is "Hang Mouse" which is a variation of the "Hangman" game we used to play when I was a kid. In this version you pick letters until you've figured out the spelling word. When you pick a correct letter, the mouse sneaks over and takes a piece of cheese. If you pick an incorrect letter, the cat wakes up a little more each time until he finally captures the mouse.
There are a number of other games on the site as well.
At the end of the week there is also a "test me" feature on the web site. It will actually say the spelling word out loud, and your child has to type in the correct spelling.
I am finding this to be an excellent way to add entertainment to our spelling lesson! The kids are learning their spelling and vocabulary words, but they are enjoying it and remembering more while they are doing it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

How To Cleanse The Palate

There is nothing, nothing, like taking a swig of your child's drink at the movies only to discover it is an equal parts combo of Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Sprite, lemonade, and fruit punch.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

How To Bathe A Mastiff

First, get him in the tub.


Take him to Petco and let them bathe him, trim his nails, and brush his teeth.

They will even put a nifty little bow on his collar.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ben's First Week of Teaching Bible Camp

For week two, we would be teaching the kids under the supervision of supervisors (that's a mouthful). My group was supposed to be me, Matt, Travis, and Colby under the supervision of Brinton but one of the girls groups had their clubs canceled. So, we had a combined group of me, Matt, Colby, Travis, Karese, Dana, and Kayla, under the supervision of Brinton and Sarah. Yay! More helpers! Less work!

Our group had the most interesting day club.... homeless children! The weird thing was, out of all the kids I taught this summer, these were the most well behaved of them all; the older kids even reminded the younger ones to behave. Awesome! I only had to teach a lesson once, since we had so many kids, but I was put in charge of games almost every day - fine with me!

I think I was more of the "friend" than the "boss", because the kids called us Mr. Matt, Mr. Travis, Uncle Colby, Miss Karese, Mrs. Dana, Auntie Kayla, and.... Ben. We also had the largest group of kids; we had 33 enrolled and 24 show up in one day.

Everything went well and we didn't have any big problems. Brinton had to leave and Sarah was put in charge but she's a good supervisor. The most memorable experience for me was a painful one, all 24 kids tackled me, tied me down with Hula Hoops, "pantsed" me, and dragged me through a thorn bush. After I pulled my pants back on and made sure Karese and Sarah didn't take any pictures, I laughed it off. It was very funny.

Lots of awesome things happened on my first week, and I learned a good bit about teaching so it's all good :)

Ben <><

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Okay, you seriously have to wonder about a teenage boy when he puts on his pants Sunday morning and does not realize until after we are at church that he is wearing the jeans he fantastically ripped while jumping off a roof at summer camp.

Thank goodness he had on a shirt long enough to cover it.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Inner Beauty

Katie loves to be called "cute". She lives and breathes for someone to say how cute she is. She will often ask me to recall events such as, "Mama, remember that time we were in the store and a lady said I was the cutest thing she'd ever seen? Tell me that story."

I'm often telling her I would much rather have someone tell me that she's kind, or smart, or polite than cute.

This morning I told her to go brush her hair because we needed to leave for Bible study. Ten minutes later I can look at her and tell a brush has not even been waved in her direction.

"But Mama," she tells me when I start to fuss, "I want people to notice my inner beauty, not my outer beauty!"

Great. Now I've apparently given her an excuse to look like white trash.