Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We May Have a Tsunami Headed Our Way

There was a massive 8.3 earthquake in the Pacific this morning which may mean there is a tsunami (tidal wave) headed our way.

I know what a tsunami is because I learned it from Gilligan's Island many years ago. Isn't it amazing what sticks in your brain?

Here's the current report.

I need less excitement in my life.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Memorial For A Soldier

Earlier this week Kerry and I were talking on Skype when a missile hit his base. We both jumped and he said, "Wow that was close, I'd better go see what's happening!"

I made him promise to call back as soon as he could, it was scary knowing he was under fire at that very moment.

He wasn't able to call, but he did email to let me know he was all right.

Unfortunately, not everyone was. One soldier was killed and six others were wounded.

Kerry wrote me yesterday to tell me about the memorial service they held for the soldier who was killed:


All gave some……some gave all.

I attended our unit’s first memorial this afternoon for one of our soldiers. This was the unit’s first casualty. We have had several soldiers wounded, but we have not lost anyone until this week.

I did not know the soldier. I knew his unit. I knew his name and rank. I knew his military specialty. These things I gathered from the hand-out that was provided to me at the memorial service. I also gathered other pertinent facts from listening to the speakers that described this soldier. He was a loving, married father with six children. His children were 8, 7, 6, 4, 3 and 1 years old. He was scheduled to go on leave in two days. He was thrilled to be going home to be with his family and was looking forward to sitting on the floor of his den with all of his children surrounding him. One of his primary desires was to go home and cook a meal for his children.

The ceremony was so very hard. Each of us was shaken to the core. This had happened, was happening every day across Afghanistan…but now it had happened to us and we as a unit had lost one of our own for the first time. None of us really knew him except for the soldiers in his platoon. But we knew what he had done during his brief career, where he had trained, what he had experienced thus far as a soldier. All of us were soldiers, no matter what our rank and we had all walked in his footsteps in one way or another. He was one of us. Everyone in the in the chapel today knew what he stood for, what he had sacrificed. He had sacrificed himself for all of us, for his country and for his buddies on his left and right. In combat the macro becomes the micro. The big, overall objectives disintegrate and the focus crystallizes on the soldier to your left and the soldier to you right. I heard the glowing descriptions of this soldier, father, husband, and son. I ached for his family, for the children and his wife that would grieve for him, that would never really know their father. Each one of us in the chapel felt the knot in our throats grow as his commander and fellow soldiers each stood up and spoke of him, each of us felt the stinging in our eyes, felt the tears run down our face unashamedly. We all grieved for him and his family. His loss was our loss, his sacrifice our burden to bear, our risk to take because of what we do and who we are. Each of us was overcome with sadness. Everyone felt a strong sense of pride as we slowly and silently made our way through the crowded chapel and marched by to salute his picture and pay our respects to him. An M-16 rifle was placed upright at the front of the chapel next to a pair of his boots. His photograph was placed in the middle of the boots and his dog tags hung from the handle of the rifle. Each soldier walked by, stood at attention, rendered a perfect salute, and then knelt down for a moment in front of his picture. Some bowed their heads in grief and murmured a few quiet words of farewell. Many reached out and touched his dog tags. Almost to a soldier everyone quietly pulled their name tapes or patches from their uniforms and reverently placed them in a small, neat pile by his picture. Then each soldier stood up, saluted him for the last time and walked out of the chapel.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's All In The Ear Of The Listener

We really enjoy going to the beach. Living in Hawaii would be very bad if we didn't. But now that school is in session, the only time most people can go to the beach is on the weekend. The weekend is now our least favorite time to go to the beach because it's so crowded.

This morning I told the kids that we could go to the beach on a Monday if they get Monday's school work done over the weekend. They can do school on a Saturday and then take Monday off if they want.

Emily (who had the iPod blasting away in her ears) looked at me and said, "You-tome?"

I, not understanding this word, looked back at her and repeated, "You-tome?"

Emily said, "You said we'll go to the you-tome on a Monday. What is a you-tome?"

I replied, "I said we'd go to the beach on a Monday."

"Well, I heard you-tome." She hates to admit being wrong.

I looked at Katie who had been sitting there the entire time and said, "You heard me. Did I say beach or you-tome?"

Katie looked at both of us and said, "I heard Water Park."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Boys Do

Boys do odd things. I can usually take one look at my girls and know what is going on with them. One glance at Emily and I can tell something is upsetting her, or she's tired, or she's in a silly mood and close to exploding with it.

I have no idea what's going on in Ben's head at any given time.

It's like trying to raise an alien.

When Kerry's here, he gets Ben. He can explain to me why Ben is acting the way he is. Many times, there is not much of an explanation beyond, "That's just what boys do." But at least if Kerry seems unperturbed by it, I know it is part of "normal" boy behavior.

This week, Ben and three of his buddies decided to get buzz cuts. It was partially a dare, and partially an "if you do it, I'll do it" sort of ritual. No one wanted to be the one who didn't do it. To be fair, one boy regularly cuts his hair like this. The other three had more of a challenge in doing this.

Ben literally does not care if his head gets shaved. His attitude is, "It'll grow." I have never once felt that way about my hair. My attitude is, "My hair is not curly/straight/sleek/smooth/blond enough. I must do something about that."

He doesn't love it but it doesn't matter to him. He's not going to wear a hat or hide at home until it grows out. I think he forgot his hair was short by the next day. I once got a bad perm and wore a hat for a week straight and then pulled it up into a bun for three months.

Four newly shorn teen boys in eerily similar dark tee shirts.

Now Emily on the other hand............

......pin curled her hair to see what it would look like curly.

It was a very Shirley Temple-esque look when she first got up.

But after a while it softened into beautiful waves that framed her face and lasted for two days.

Now this I understand.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

He Had To Go

Some days are more difficult than others.........

Letting Kerry go back to war was one of those really bad days.

We miss him.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hobbits Have Second Breakfast Don't They?

We decided to go out to lunch before taking Kerry back to the airport. We picked Ben up from his Human Anatomy class and he mentioned that they had eaten a pizzza while they worked.

"Oh man!" I exclaimed. "We were going to eat, but you've already had lunch!"

"Just once," replied Ben.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Polynesian Cultural Center

I can not believe we have not visited the Polynesian Cultural Center before now.

This has been my favorite tourist attraction so far. We bought annual passes so we can go often.

If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, this is a must see!

The Polynesian Cultural Center consists of eight villages representing Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Easter Island, Tahiti and the Marquesas. Each village has crafts, music, houses, games, and natives in traditional dress to give you an idea of what these Polynesian islands are like.

Granted, these villages don't have pigs and chickens running around in them. And the "natives" smell clean and have all their teeth, so it's probably a Disney-esque version of Polynesia.

And for this we are truly grateful.

I put most of the pictures in a slideshow at the top of this post. I took so many, this post would run on for days if I tried to describe everything.

We saw dances, listened to concerts, watched ancient rituals, tried fresh poi, took a canoe ride, watched an Imax film on coral reefs, and just generally enjoyed the heck out of our day.

I can hardly wait to go back!

We even got temporary tattoos in one of the villages!

So cool. And so temporary. I'll let her get a permanent tattoo when she finds a hairstyle she wants to keep forever. Or a shirt she can happily wear every day for the rest of her life.
One look back at the disco era ought to strike fear into her heart about being stuck with the same look forever.

As usual, there was the same Hawaiian scourge that spoiled the day:

Shave Ice and a white tee shirt.

When will they learn???

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Katie Turns Nine!

I can hardly believe it...............

But Katie is nine years old.

How can the years go by so fast when the days go by so slow?

Nine years ago today I was offering to arm wrestle the lady in the next hospital bed to see which of us would go to the operating room first. They only had one OR room for c-sections that day so we had to go one after the other. The person who went second was not only going to have to wait for the first baby to be delivered, but was also going to have to wait for the room to be completely cleaned and sanitized. I really wanted to go first. I still don't know why they picked her. An arm wrestling match would have been so much more fair.

Katie wanted a party with some science experiments. We had been to one at another child's house not too long ago but when I asked the mom about it, she said they paid $400 to have someone come put on that science party.

Uh, no.

I knew we could come up with plenty of science experiments that we could do for a lot less which we be just as exciting to the guests. I bought a scientist's lab coat for about $10 (see, there is a good reason Halloween costumes are out in August) and hired Ben to be our scientist.

By "hired" I mean "told him he would do it".

Then I turned to Steve Spangler Science, our trusty guide to all things science related. I watched tons of videos at this site and came up with a bunch of things we could pull off.

We had a great time doing all this! I bought two flasks and we put colored water and dry ice in them to make them bubble like they were boiling. Ben put a stopper in one, and then acted surprised every time the stopper would pop off and accused the kids of sabotage. They thought he was hilarious.

He put a balloon over the top of the flask and let it blow up the balloon. He used the filter flask to blow the carbon dioxide into everyone's mouths. Then, and this was really cool, he put some dish detergent in the flask and bubbles boiled out of the top. When the kids each took a scoop of the bubbles and popped them, smoke came out of the bubbles. Talk about a show stopper!

He explained to the kids all about dry ice and told them about ten times not to touch it. Then he dropped a big block of dry ice into a bucket of hot water and made clouds of smoke.

He then did the mentos geyser - twice. And we made rockets out of film canisters and used Alka Seltzer and water to shoot them up in the air. That one made me very anxious, because I was so afraid someone would get hit in the eye with an exploding film canister.

We ended when Ben had everyone sit back down and he told them, "I have one more thing I need you to do...............RUN!" And he pulled out two cans of Silly String and chased the kids all over the yard with it. Just when they thought he was done, he pulled out two more cans and chased them again. Much screaming ensued.

There is nothing like having free teen labor in the house.

And it doesn't hurt if he's a total ham and enjoys it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

And The Winner Is.............

Emily P said...
Oooo ! Pick me Pick me! Does this enter me in the drawing? Hope so!

Congratulations Emily P! Please contact me!

*Winner was chosen by random.org

Friday, September 4, 2009

SpellQuizzer Give Away!

Do you remember this spelling rule?

I before E
except after C,
or when sounded like A
as in neighbor and weigh.

This week I've been checking out software for a spelling program called SpellQuizzer. SpellQuizzer is a spelling program for helping children master their spelling and vocabulary. The kids and I tried this one out and have found it to be an excellent resource for helping them practice their spelling words.

Frankly, I really hate calling out my kids spelling words to them every day. You have to do it every day or they don't learn their words well enough. But I have trouble keeping my eyes open listening to the same words over and over and over. I tried pawning it off on the kids and having them call out their words to each other but that usually wound up with accusations of mispronunciation and deliberate sabotage. If we run out of time to get all our schoolwork finished, spelling is the first thing to be shelved for the day. And spelling always winds up being their lowest score on their end of the year tests.

SpellQuizzer makes spelling practice a lot easier! I only have to call out the words one time - to the computer - and then the kids can take it from there. With SpellQuizzer, you enter in the spelling word and then record yourself saying the word with a sentence. For example, for the word "siege" I recorded myself saying, "Siege. The castle came under siege. Siege." When Ben needs to study his spelling, he listens to my melodious voice calling out his spelling words and then just types in the correct spelling. If he misspells it, a woman's scream of terror rings out (it's pretty funny to watch their expressions the first time that happens). If they get all the words correct, they get a round of applause.

The fun part is recording all the words. Ben has forty words in his weekly spelling list. The girls and I recorded them for him while he was sleeping. We made some pretty funny sentences that we knew would get his goat. Katie recorded, "Aggressor. Ben is usually the aggressor when we argue. Aggressor." Of course, with words like hygiene, conceit, and irritable in his list, it would have been too easy for the girls to fall into a Ben-bashing fest, so we kept it fairly nice. We did try to make the sentences fun and silly. Sometimes we talked in funny voices and sometimes we were laughing so hard we couldn't understand the sentences when we were through. Luckily they are easy to re-record.

You can upload your own spelling lists, or there are pre-made spelling lists you can download and use from the SpellQuizzer website. It was not designed to go along with any one spelling program, so it can be used with any curriculum. They have Community Forums where you can ask questions and talk with other parents of students. The spell checker even warns you if you enter a word incorrectly when you are creating a list. The SpellQuizzer website also gives instructions on how to boost your microphone's capabilities.

Dan Hite, the creator of SpellQuizzer has offered to give away SpellQuizzer for free to one random person who reads my blog. Just leave a comment and I will random.org to choose a lucky winner this weekend!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Another thing everyone should do while they are in Hawaii:

Rent a pontoon boat and head out to the sandbar in Kaneohe Bay.

The view is just incredible.

Of course, it will rain on you for five or ten minutes. It pretty much does this every day, no matter where you are on the island.

Bring an umbrella.

And don't complain. You're in Hawaii.

But then it clears up quickly and the glorious skies are visible once again.

We had twenty-eight people in our group. The kids all had a blast playing on floats and running around on the sandbar.

Katie swam around with a life jacket that was entirely too big for her.

You have to check the tide charts before you reserve a boat. The sandbar is only exposed when the tide is really low. Some days it is the size of a football field, some days it is a little smaller. If you don't read the charts, you will arrive to find there is no sandbar at all.

This is Coconut Island, although you may know it as "Gilligan's Island". Remember in the opening credits of Gilligan's Island when they showed the USS Minnow beached in a little cove? This is where that scene was filmed. Now it's part of a military base and there's a big, ugly building there. But it's still pretty cool. I saw every episode of Gilligan's Island ever made when I was a kid.

I'll bet my children don't even know who Gilligan was.

Maybe I'll do a unit study on it with them and call it retro-homeschooling day.

It's pretty cool how parts of the sandbar are covered in water that is only ankle deep. It looks like you are just walking out into the ocean.

The teens played ultimate frisbee for quite a while. How many people do you know who can say they played frisbee on a sandbar out in the ocean? I mean, well, I know a lot of people who can say that, but do you?

This is the sandbar!

This is the life!