Saturday, August 28, 2010

A New Driver In My House

I have a new driver in my house. It's a scary thought.

In Hawaii, you have to be 15 1/2 to get your learner's permit. Unfortunately for Ben, he's been so busy with school and mission work, he didn't have time to study the driver's manual until this month. He finally squeezed in the time and I took him to the DMV to get his learner's permit.

It turned out to be just as difficult as getting my license. They don't like to make it easy for you.

Someone had warned me ahead of time that both parents have to be present in order for a teen to get his license. I checked the rule book (I never believe anything anyone tells me) and it turned out that is actually a rule. Both parents have to be there.

I called the DMV to double-check (I never believe the rule book either). Yes, both parents have to be there.

I asked Kerry if he could go with us.

"Not likely," he told me. "I'm crazy busy at work right now."


I called the DMV again and pretended I was someone else.

"What if my son's father involved........and is no longer on the island?"

I would have to bring in the divorce decree and legal documents showing I was the custodial parent. I told her we weren't divorced. She said I would have to have documents sent to him on the mainland and he would have to sign them, have them notarized, and overnight them back. I knew if I asked, "What if his dad is no longer alive?" they would just tell me to bring in the death certificate. Notarized of course.

I wondered what they would do if I said, "I don't know who is father is." I'm sure I would have to produce some sort of document.

So, we took the best solution we could think of, which was to wait in the DMV line (for an hour this time), let Ben take his test, and then call Kerry and see if he could drive over, sign the papers and leave.

It didn't work.

As soon as Ben passed the test (with flying colors, I might add), I called Kerry, and he was heading into a meeting.

I explained the situation to the lady behind the counter.

She gave me some papers, said that Kerry would have to sign them in front of a notary public, have it officially notarized and bring it back within forty-eight hours or Ben's test would be null and void.

So I called the bank on post and found out their notary services stop at 3:00 on the dot. I called Kerry and told him that if he had five minutes at any point in the day, to call me and we would meet there and Ben and I would still have time to make it back to the DMV before the day was up.

It didn't work.

Kerry did actually call me at 2:55 and we converged on the bank from different directions. I walked in the door, explained what I needed and the teller looked at me with wide eyes and said, "We stop notary services at 2:00."

"What?? I called this morning! I asked! I was told the notary person would be here until 3:00. Three o'clock! That's what I was told!"

I stomped out in a huff.

I realized later I was not at the bank I had called.

Sorry about that, bank teller. My bad.

Anyway, the next day, Kerry got the form notarized, Ben and I waited in the DMV line again, and he officially got his learner's permit.

You have been warned.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Deacon and Deaconess

Kerry and I have been asked to become a Deacon and Deaconess in our church. We were brought up to the front of the church during the service and presented to the congregation for their approval.

While Kerry and I knew that we would be standing in front of the church, we didn't realize the kids would be brought up to the front of the church with us.

They thought we were moving off-island for a moment, as that is usually the reason people are called to the front.

But once we were all up there, they found out we were being nominated as Deacon and Deaconess.

Emily looked at me and asked, "Does that mean your kids are Deaconlings?"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Butt Head

Katie and Emily were going to watch a movie yesterday but Katie had to go to the bathroom first. After waiting, and waiting, and waiting, Emily finally yelled, "Katie! Wipe your stupid butt and come on!!"

Katie yelled back, "My stupid butt is smarter than your stupid head!"

I wonder what her SAT scores would be like if I.................nah.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Little Lizard

Australia has some fearsome critters. One of the deadliest (because he is at the top of the food chain) is the Saltwater Crocodile. We visited a small wild life preserve in Sydney and I had the opportunity to see one of the largest salt water crocodiles in captivity. The crocodile in these pictures measured over 18 feet long. How absolutely terrifying is that?? And how cool! (As long as he is in the cage!)

Those teeth are impressive. The pictures do not do justice to how large and powerful he was. I can only imagine how bad your day would be if he got hold of you. Of course, I can also imagine that your day would be over very quickly.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Peni Beanies

OK...Australia is a very unique country with a lot of different climates. We were in an area called Rockhampton in Queensland and we stopped at a small store/restaurant for coffee. This was a neat little store and the area we were in was very isolated. As such, the store reminded me of an old trading post in pioneer days and had a little bit of everything. Clothes, batteries, groceries, tools, panty hose, name it and it was there. However, I did discover a rather interesting item of clothing that was meant to offer protection during the cold Australian Winters. Peni Beanies!!

Yes...I discovered Mrs. Picklebottom's locally made Peni Beanies. These warm and snuggly items of clothing are just the thing for the local men to use in order to ward off the biting chill of winter. Of course, they are not meant to be worn on your head or hands or even your feet. They are uniquely manufactured and shaped to "keep the mongrel snuggly." I leave it up to your imagination to decide what body part you can keep warm with this piece of clothing. Look at the picture below and consider carefully. Thanks Heavens for Mrs. Pickelbottom. These items might not catch on here in Hawaii....but if I ever get back to Alaska I am going to begin importing these and retire off the profits. I am sure they will be a hit:)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

G' Day Mates!

This week, I'm letting my handsome groom take over the blog to tell about his recent trip to Australia!

I recently was able to take a trip of a lifetime at the expense of of Uncle Sam. I attended a planning conference for an upcoming military exercise in Australia. It was bloody great. The trip lasted 23 days and I went to several different locations in Australia and tried several of the local flavors to include Vegemite, Kangaroo, and Crocodile (I do not recommend the first two...the crocodile, of course, tasted like chicken). I flew for 13 hours and landed in Sydney and remained there overnight and then flew to a small town called Townsville. This town was on the coast and was actually only a few hours away from the Great Barrier Reef. One of the first things I noticed was that it was Winter in Australia. Yes...the weather is a little askew there in the land down under. I was coming from sunny and tropical Hawaii and walked right into 50 degree weather. Now this does not sound too cold, but I was used to 80 degree weather year round and did not have a single long sleeve shirt or, heaven forbid, a jacket with me. Needless to say, I had to quickly supplement the local economy and buy a jacket. But...the landscape was beautiful and the people were very friendly and relaxed.

Now I will admit that I was quite challenged on certain things. Here were two countries and peoples separated by one language. I would talk to the locals and they would look at me like I had a horn growing out of my head. Conversely, they would say something to me in the Queen's language and I would just smile because I did not know what they were saying. I did learn that a "besty" was a best friend and a "roundy" was taking a trip around the block. "Bingo Wings" were the flabby part(i.e the triceps) of an overweight woman's arms. The language was a barrier....but I did not risk my life during my conversations. Driving was another thing altogether. It seems that I had entered the twilight zone and everyone drove on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel was placed incorrectly in the vehicle. I cannot tell you how many times I turned on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signals. I had to try and trick my brain into driving on the wrong side of the road. It took some getting used to. I almost died on a few occasions and I drove past several right turns because, heck, it just felt weird to turn right from the wrong lane. But...I did overcome the driving challenges and managed to drive decently after a week of practice.

As I said...the scenery was gorgeous. We were in the Queensland district in the town of Townsville. Townsville was a port city and the locals took us up to an overwatch that was several hundred feet up so we could "take in the view". The view, as evidenced by the pictures, was breathtaking. The town was located on one one the better ports in the country and was busy but quiet. The pictures above and below do not do justice to the real thing. it was simply amazing.

However, the climb up was not a pleasant thing. It was very steep and we walked up over 1,500 steps to get to the top. I was winded and was happy to get to the top as much for the view as for the opportunity to let my heart stop pounding and catch my breath. The view was great and you could see for miles.

I made a lot of new friends while I was there. This is John, my new "besty." John is a contracting officer and is stationed in Alaska. We hit it off because we had been stationed at the same post he is at now and could swap stories and knew the same places. John and I are sharing a glass of Kool Aid at one of the Australian dining facilities. We were both impressed with the country and amazed by the language. I definitely have more to discuss on my trip...but this is my first installment so be prepared for more.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

An Easy Hike

"Let's go hiking," everyone at church says to me.

"I'm not much of a hiker," I tell them.

"Oh, this is an EASY hike," they assure me. "Not like the last one, at all."

"The last one" was three hours of hiking in the rain, swimming in really cold water, and three hours of hiking back out. Somewhere in there, our youth director fell off a ledge and tumbled head over heels sixty feet down a ravine and cracked several ribs.

So, I agreed to go on the easy hike since it was nothing like the last hike. Everyone told me it would be a thirty minute hike to a river where we would blow up some inflatable rings and float down a river and have lunch, then hike back out. I was assured that even Katie could do it - that's how easy of a hike it is.

We met up with everyone in the parking lot of our church. There were more teens than adults so we had a nice sized group. It was at this point that I heard my friend Lisa say to someone else, "Oh, don't worry. There are plenty of roots and things to use and handholds and toeholds."



I turned to Ben (who has been on this hike before), "Are we going to be climbing up a cliff or something?"

"No, mom," he assured me. "It just a hill, a slight incline, not a cliff."

So we set off. It was muddy and slippery in places but it wasn't a terribly difficult hike. We were such a large group that I couldn't see my kids most of the time. They were either well ahead of me, or well behind me. But they knew to stay with the group and not go off by themselves, so I wasn't worried.

Ben had to carry Katie's backpack.

Then we came to the "slight incline". It was forty feet high. Not quite vertical, but almost. I took one look at it and said, "There's no way Katie can make it up that."

I was really thinking, "There's no way I can make it up that."

"She's already at the top of it," someone said.


When you are a kid, you look at a forty foot wall in front of you and think, "That looks like fun!"

When you're my age, you look at a forty foot wall and think, "I could twist a knee or my back bad enough that I won't be able to walk out of here. They'd have to carry me all the way back and I don't know if anyone in this group can make it with me draped over their shoulders. I'd be in a lot of pain the whole way. How long would I be in the hospital? What if I had a compound fracture? A concussion? How much damage can I do to myself if I attempt this? How good is my insurance?" kids were at the top so I kind of had to.

I watched several others go up first. One of the men in our group froze halfway up and it took him a while to finally get all the way to the top.

When it was my turn, I didn't look down, not once. I concentrated on exactly what was in front of me and on finding the next toehold and handhold. Unlike rock climbing, we weren't attached to anything so if we fell, we fell.

That's me, right behind the teen at the very top. You can see the water at the very bottom.

When I finally made it to the top I was shaking like a leaf. The man who had frozen half way up was still sitting just at the top trying to catch his breath.

We were close to the river at that point. We had to wade out into it ankle-deep and walk down it to an area where there was a river bank. Despite the fact that Hawaii is warm year-round, water that comes straight out of a mountain is cold year-round. We waded down to a clear spot and put our lunches and floats down. Most of us needed to eat at that point. I figured food would make me stop shaking.

After lunch we blew up the floats. I had to blow up three of them and was ready to hyperventilate.

We got in the floats and started floating down the lazy river. My butt was cold.

Katie started complaining because her float wasn't holding her up out of the water enough and she was cold and the cold water was touching her and she wanted to get on my float with me and she didn't like her float and my float could hold both of us and I got up, handed her my float, took her float and started wading back to base camp.

"Aren't you going with us," everyone chorused at me.

"No, I am not," I snarled.

I made it back to where our backpacks and lunches were. I took Katie's float, laid it out on the bank and used it as a bed. I kicked my wet shoes and socks off lay back and listened to the birds sing and tried to nap.

It started to rain.

After about an hour, I heard the merry sounds of the group paddling back up the river to me. We managed to deflate all the floats, pack up the remains of the lunch, and start the hike back out.

And then we came back to the forty foot wall.

What had seemed like a blast to climb while standing at the bottom, looked totally different from the top. Katie went into a near state of panic at the thought of going backwards down that thing.

Luckily my friend Lisa said she knew there was a way around it. She, Katie and I decided to try to find the path that went around. We continued down the trail a ways.

The trail forked.

We took one trail, went down it for a while, decided maybe that hadn't been the right trail after all, went back and tried the other trail, and still couldn't decide which way we should go. We finally became more concerned about being lost than about falling forty feet and went back to the wall. Luckily some of the others were still there and they helped Katie down. One of the teen boys stayed right behind her the entire way so that he could catch her if she slipped.

The rest of the hike was mostly uphill. At one point, I thought I heard native drums beating. I realized when I stopped to listen that it was the sound of my heart drumming in my ears.

When I finally caught up to Ben I said, "You told me it was a 'hill'! A 'slight incline'! Not a cliff!"

"Mom," Ben said patiently. "A cliff is straight up and down like this." He held up his hand in a vertical position simulating the face of a cliff. Then he inclined his hand a quarter inch to the right, "That hill was like this."

At least I am forewarned for the future. If they ever tell me a hike is "a little difficult" I'll know it's life threatening beyond belief. And if they every tell me a hike is hard, I'll have the ambulance waiting at the trailhead when they come out.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Meeting Jack Sparrow

One of the cool things about living in Hawaii is that they are always filming a movie or a television show here. There are various celebrities working or at the very least, vacationing, here. There's a section of the newspaper dedicated entirely to reporting who has been sighted where.

I'm not one of those people who gets star struck (usually). I don't go chasing down the movie stars to get my picture made with them. They are just regular people and probably would like to not be hounded all the time by complete strangers following them around and blinding them with flashbulbs.

Nevertheless, when we found out that Johnny Depp had been coming out to greet his fans every evening for a few minutes while filming "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" we thought it would be fun to go check it out. I thought we might get to see some of the action being filmed and it just seemed like something different to do.

We went early and, following the advice of friends who had already been, staked out a spot right up against the fence. We brought games and snacks, books and cards. We made certain we had enough stuff to keep the kids entertained so we wouldn't have to listen to bored whining. He's come out at different times each night, so we didn't know how long we would have to wait.

Fortunately, it was only about 9:30 P.M. when he made his appearance. The crowd had been very civil and calm. We had all sat around and chit chatted for several hours.

When Johnny Depp arrived it was like a shot of electricity ran through the crowd. Everyone was suddenly up on their feet and surging forward.

Because we had positioned ourselves up front early on, we were nearly pinned against the fence by the crowd behind us. Emily was standing right behind Katie and had to brace her arms on the fence to keep from being smushed up against her. Some of the women were shrieking and every person had a camera flashing as fast as it could go.

They had warned us ahead of time that there would be no time for autographs, or posing with him for photos. He would just come down the line to shake hands and we could snap photos as he did that. When he got to us, he squatted down in front of Katie, put his hands on her shoulders, and said in his Jack Sparrow accent, "How are you, love? No squishy-squishy?" She told him she was only being squished a little, and he said something else (for the life of me I can't remember what!) and then shook our hands and moved on.

We also got to see the director, Jerry Bruckheimer.

And we did get to see a little of the action taking place during filming. I don't want to spoil the plot of the movie for you, but I managed to capture this video while they were filming on the ship behind us.

I wonder if I can sell the rights to this to Entertainment Tonight?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Adventures At The DMV

As a military spouse, I know that legally I am supposed to get a new driver's license within thirty days of moving to a new state.

As a military spouse, I know that I never get a new license until my old one is about to expire. My most recent license has been with me as I moved from North Carolina to Virginia to Kansas to Hawaii.

I hate having to get a new license. I hate having to take the test. I avoid it at all cost. And the picture of me on my license was really sucky and I still didn't go get a new license, that tells you how much I hate having to take the test.

When we moved to North Carolina and I had to take the written driving exam, I didn't study the manual. I had been driving for about twenty years at that point and knew what all the signs and symbols on the road mean so I wasn't the least bit concerned about having to take the written exam.

I failed.

Can you believe it?!?! They asked questions like, "If you got a DUI how many points would you lose off your license?"

I don't know! I don't ever intend to get a DUI! I'm a homeschooling mom! And when did they start using a point system anyway? Ask me what a stop sign means - that, I know.

So I had to go home, study the manual, and go back a week later to take the test again. I couldn't drive for a week and I've been traumatized ever since. I break out in a sweat whenever we pass the DMV.

So of course, I put it off until the last minute. My license expires this Saturday. I have plans for tomorrow and the DMV is closed on Friday. Today was literally the last day I could take the test.

I got my friend Kim to take me to the DMV in case I failed and they confiscated my license. The last time I had to take the test (in North Carolina) it took about 30 minutes. So I didn't mind asking Kim to do this favor for me and waste 30 minutes of her day at the DMV.

It took three hours.

And not just waiting in line. Oh no.

When I finally got up to the counter and they got my information, the DMV lady - who was really very nice, thank goodness - realized my married name on my license did not match my name in the social security system, which still shows my maiden name.

I needed proof that I've been married for 19 years.

But I didn't bring my marriage certificate with me. (I stopped gazing lovingly at it and carrying it with me every where I went after the first year.)

It was 3:10 and the DMV lady told me if I could get home and get the marriage certificate before 3:30, and not one second later, she would let me take it without making me wait in line again. Otherwise, I would have to come back tomorrow and wait in line for two and a half hours again.

I flew out to Kim's car and we raced to my house. I called ahead, told Emily exactly where the marriage certificate was and told her to meet us at the curb with it. As we were coming through the gate to get on post, Kim handed our IDs to the gate guard and said, "We're in a hurry!"

The guard gate apparently doesn't like to be told that you are in a hurry.

He took our IDs and then walked to the back of the car with them to look at the license plates and inspect all stickers.

I've been coming through that gate at least once a day, and sometimes six times a day, for a year and a half, and they have never once wanted to look at the tags on the car. Not once.

Kim threatened to spank him and he laughed and finally let us go.

We slowed down in front of my house just long enough for Emily to toss in the marriage license and took off back to the DMV. After stewing in some mild traffic we screeched up to the DMV building at 3:29.

I ran back into the office but the nice lady who had helped me before was helping someone else and didn't see me. I stood to the side and held up my marriage license like an olympic judge holding up a score card and waited for her to notice me.

She was taking too long, and the clock was ticking. As soon as a customer left one of the other windows, I charged over to the available clerk and explained my mission while gesticulating wildly at the clerk who said I could do this. She never once looked up at me.

Fortunately, nice DMV lady number 2 was just as helpful and found my application and began entering my info into the computer. Then she stopped. "Uh-oh," she said. "Your marriage license isn't notarized. It doesn't have the bumpy seal, it just has a flat seal."

"I swear I'm married," I panted.

She had to check with a couple of people and fortunately nice DMV lady number 1 stepped in and said, "It looks official, just accept it."

I finally got my test and skittered over to the grade-school desks in the "testing area". There was an older gentleman and a teen boy both already working on their tests. I plunked down and, frantic that someone might tell me it was now past 3:30 and my time was up, raced through the test.

When I stood up to go turn it in, I realized the man and teen were still working on their tests. I immediately assumed I had done something wrong. I must have missed some questions. I checked the back. No questions there. I probably wrote all the answers in the wrong spaces. Quick double check. No. I couldn't figure out what I was missing and I was starting to smell my own armpits so I decided to just turn it in and deal with the consequences if I had messed it all up.

Wonder of wonders, I didn't miss a single question!

The older gentleman finished his test shortly after me and did well. The teen boy failed miserably and left with his head hanging.

Go study, boy. I did, and look at me now! I got my li-cense! I got my li-cense!