Thursday, September 30, 2010

Driving Lessons

He's totally freaking me out.

The first time I let Ben drive, we went out to a fairly unpopulated place (hard to find on Oahu, let me tell you). There's a long hill that I had him drive up and down, up and down for an hour so that he could get the hang of how firmly to push the pedals and how to turn around. Fortunately for him, I just learned to drive a stick shift and now I remember how hard it can be to take on this new skill, and just how much practice is required before he can be released onto roads where other people may actually be in our field of vision.

About fifteen minutes after we arrived, a white truck passed by us, then stopped at the bottom of the hill and stayed there. After thirty-minutes of watching us, the driver drove up toward us and headed toward us as if he was going to T-bone us. I calmly told Ben to just stop and the other driver swerved and came up beside us.

"Are you learning how to drive?" the man asked us.

"Yes," I replied politely. "This is his first day ever."

"Oh, I was watching, and I wasn't sure if you were some sort of environmentalist or something," he said and left us there.

We would be pretty crappy environmentalists if we were driving up and down spewing exhaust and wasting gas for an hour, but whatever.

Now, Ben has graduated to driving around our neighborhood in circles. There are lots of stop signs, and the speed limit varies between 10 mph and 25 mph so it's a fairly safe journey. The finer points of not pulling out across two lanes and not driving up over the curb are being slowly mastered.

Ben feels that he is a good driver because he spent lots of time playing "Mario Kart" on the Wii when we first got it. He learned to drive up and down the escalator in a mall and jump the decorative fountain all while throwing bombs at the other cars in the race. He feels supremely confident.

I'm not so sure.

Ben was yammering at me about how wonderful his life is when we turned onto a very narrow street with cars parked down both sides.

"Ben, I think you should stop and let me get us through here," I told him.

"Relax mom, I can do this. It's like a giant video game. If I crash I've still got two lives left, right?"

I don't know how many times I sharply said, "BEN!" as we eased between the cars with less than a foot of space between us and the cars on either side. That is one narrow street.

As we cleared the last car Ben said, "See? We made it! Not as fast as I wanted to, but still. What was I saying before you interrupted me?"

When we got home, I immediately fixed myself some food to make my knees stop shaking.

Ben bounded into the kitchen, "Driving makes me hungry too!"

Then he updated his status on his Facebook - "More driving today. My mom's white knuckles, heavy breathing, and random screams were beginning to unnerve me, but then I remembered....I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING! We are alive and no cars were harmed. I wish I could say the same about that stupid biker who swerved in front of me. Imagud driver!!!


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vegemite

Kerry hasn't gotten to finish his posts about Australia; hopefully he will have time one of these days.

In the mean time though, I really want to post this video.

Kerry brought back with him, an Australian delicacy called Vegemite. The first time I ever heard of Vegemite was in the Men At Work song "Down Under". There's a line in there which says, "He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich". I remember wondering what Vegemite was.

In later years, I heard an Australian man say that they love to spread Vegemite very thinly on toast and crackers but when Americans come to visit, they always try to get them to eat a big spoonful of it because it's fun to watch.

With this in mind, we all tried the tiniest bit of Vegemite on crackers. For a few seconds you think, "Oh, that's not too bad." Then suddenly it stomps on your tongue.

Oddly enough, there were two people in our group who were unaffected by the taste. They didn't like it, but they could still eat a big glop of it without their heads exploding.

After we had all tried a very tiny bit, the three teen boys decided they could handle eating a teaspoon sized dab of it on a cracker. Christoffer went first, and he's one who was not bothered by the taste. Then Nate and Ben tried it.


I haven't laughed this hard in years.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Adventures In Babysitting

Emily had a babysitting job Friday night. She has babysat for this particular neighbor several times before. The neighbor's husband is deployed and she has two kids. She pays Emily very well so that she can go to dinner and a movie with friends.

The neighbor's house is behind ours and one to the left. When Emily comes home, it's usually very dark, so I tell her to always call and I will walk out back and meet her. It's only a few yards, but there have been several break-ins in our neighborhood, and one sexual assault, so I'm not taking any chances.

I stayed up late, waiting for Emily to call. Around 12:30 she called to let me know that the mom had called to say she would be home around 1:00 a.m. I told Emily I was going to lay down, but to still call and wake me up so I could meet her out back.

I went to bed, with both the house phone and the cell phone on the bedside table. I did not wake up until my cell phone made it's "You Have A Text Message" sound at 4:45 a.m.

It was a text from Emily saying, "Do you think something happened to her?"

I called Emily back to confirm that the mom had not come home and that I wasn't dreaming. I asked Emily to check and see if maybe she had come home and gone to bed. Emily said, "Her bedroom door is open so I've already checked; there's no one in there." She and I both tried calling the mom's cell phone, but it went straight to voice mail.

I debated going over to sit with Emily, but Kerry and Ben were leaving for a camping trip, and I didn't want to leave Katie home alone, and I really didn't want to wake her up and make her go to the neighbor's house with me.

I told Emily to just sit tight while Kerry and I brainstormed. Our first thought was that she'd been in an accident. But wouldn't the emergency staff be answering her phone? Wouldn't they have already determined where she lived and be notifying her family? We debated the possibility of calling around to emergency rooms to see if possibly she was there.

The problem with this idea is that Hawaii has a really bad law in place (in my opinion). If one spouse is deployed, and something happens to the remaining spouse, the children can not stay with friends or neighbors until the deployed spouse returns unless it's in writing and notarized. The state takes the kids and puts them in the foster care system (because that's so much better than staying with people the kids know and are comfortable with - *snort*).

So we were afraid to possibly draw the authorities into the situation until we had more info.

We debated the possibility that she had gone to a friend's house and fell asleep on the sofa while watching a movie.

We discussed the idea that maybe she was having an affair and fell asleep. (We don't know her that well.)

I finally realized that if she was having an affair, she'd need a babysitter WAY more than once every two or three weeks.

I decided to call Emily again and see if maybe they had a list of phone numbers somewhere and maybe we could call some friends or family to see if they knew where she might be.

I called Emily's cell phone, but it went to voice mail. I called their house, but it was forwarded to the mom's cell phone which was already not being answered.

Then I panicked with the thought that maybe the mom had been kidnapped, and the kidnappers had just forced her to drive back home and now they were all there in the house.

I ran over to their house and rang the doorbell and knocked and knocked and knocked.

No answer.

I ran around to the back door, and hammered the heck out of it while yelling Emily's name. Kerry called on my cell phone at that moment and I was about to tell him to run over there too when suddenly the door opened, and there stood the mom.

I nearly collapsed into a puddle.

"I'm so sorry!" And she really looked sorry too. I could tell she was horrified by what had happened.

Apparently, she had come home at 1:00 as promised. Emily was asleep on the sofa so she decided to just quickly check on the kids before waking up Emily and sending her home. When she walked into her son's room he woke up and saw her, so she lay down with him to get him back to sleep.

But she fell asleep too.

When Emily checked to see if the mom had come home, she skipped the little boy's room because he is such a light sleeper. He had woken up a couple of times earlier, and Emily didn't want to risk waking him up again.

I walked Emily home, and we both collapsed into bed and slept until lunchtime.

But all is well and we have a whole new set of rules and ideas about babysitting!

And The Blue Angels Flew

We went on a field trip today to an air show.

I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking I finally let my kids out of that giant homeschoolers safety bubble I have around our house and took them out in public.

The kids were pleased.

Actually, just Ben was pleased. Emily and Katie decided to stay home.

So just one kid got some socialization.

Emily and Katie don't like loud noises and standing in the sun for several hours.

Darn kids. Can't teach them anything.

We got to ride these go-cart bicycle things.

When Ben realized he was about to be beaten by a girl, he crashed into her so she wouldn't win.

I was so proud.

And the Blue Angels flew.

And they were cool.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

'Cause Clearly It Was One Person's Fault

So. Emily and I took a few days off and went to Waikiki. More about that later.

Since Kerry was going to be at work most of the time, Ben was in charge. Before I left, I bought plenty of groceries and instructed him thoroughly.

"You can not just wait for Katie to say she's hungry. You have to make breakfast and lunch. If your Dad isn't home, you have to make dinner. I bought hamburgers, sandwich stuff, chicken sandwiches, pulled pork, and chicken strips for lunches. You can not assume that since you haven't heard a peep out of her that she is fine. Check on her. Ask her if she needs anything. Tell her to do her school work. It's okay for her to call me any time she wants. Don't let her watch television all day and don't you stay on the computer all day."

I had arranged for rides to Katie's various activities, did all the laundry before we left, and left fresh fruits and vegetables for them to snack on.

When I got home today the house looked like it had imploded. There was popcorn all over the living room floor and dishes in front of the TV. Two days worth of newspaper were spread about. The counters in the kitchen were covered with dishes and a cheesecake which had apparently been left out overnight. There were markers and scissors and scraps of paper all over the dining room floor.

I had to sit down immediately and let Katie talk herself out. Someone had given her a belated birthday gift while I was gone and she had to tell me all about it as well as tell me all about Awana.

When she slowed down, I asked, "So what did you have for lunch today?"

"Umm....popcorn," she told me.

"Ben!" I bellowed. "Why didn't you make lunch?"

"She wasn't hungry!"

"Katie, get up all those markers and scissors, and clean up all those scraps of paper and bring your dishes to the kitchen."

"Well, Daddy's the one who left the cheesecake out," she tattled.

"Ben, vacuum the living room and take the trash out and change the dog's water. Emily get all this newspaper up."

Kerry came home about that time and helped me clean the kitchen.

I sent Katie to the bathroom, "Katie, all the wrapping of your gift is laying in the bathroom floor, the wet wipes are on the floor, and three of your books are laying around the commode. I swear, I leave for three days and it looks like a pig's been living here."

"Well, you married him," Katie retorted.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trailer Talk

I was at a ladies Bible study at my church this weekend. We played an ice breaker game called "Human Bingo". The Bingo Board, instead of having numbers on it, had things people had done. One square would say, "Has attended an Olympic event". Another square might say, "Has built a snowman". One of the squares said, "Has lived in a trailer".

The idea was to get to know people by walking up to them and asking them if they had done any of the things on your Bingo card. If they had, you got them to initial that square. The first person to get five squares in a row initialed won a prize.

One of the ladies walked up to me and said, "You're from Georgia, right? So, I'll bet you've lived in a trailer!"

Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Twits

We were on our way into the house this week when Ben's cell phone rang. He answered and sounded really puzzled about who was calling.

A few minutes later, he came and told me that three teen girls were going through the list of boy scouts just calling random scouts to see how they would react.

Ben listened to them giggle and twitter for a moment, and then told them he had to go do homework.

I'm so glad he can spot vapidity quickly. I've trained him well.

Pictures I Found In The Computer



She's not afraid of cameras.

Vampires Are Taking Over

Vampires are everywhere,

...............thanks to the horror Stephanie Meyer has unleashed upon us.

I can not imagine many things less sexy than a teenage girl falling in love with a 104-year old vampire whose skin is as cold and hard as marble.

And yes, I have read them, so I do feel I have the right to offer my opinion on them. Or, more correctly, I read the first two books, and then half of the third book, and then my brain threw up and refused to read any more.

I honestly don't understand why these books are so popular.

But mostly, I don't understand how this book has reproduced and spawned babies.......

In the "Romance" section of our local bookstore, you can actually find Twilight copycats.


There's also the historical twist of adding vampires to King Henry VIII's court.

For teens, you could buy "Twilight" in Manga form or just start on any one of a dozen other vampire romances. (Why are they all romances? Do teens seriously need to look to the undead for dates?)

Or, if you just can't wait until the teen years...............

..............you can give nightmares to your beginning reader with this little gem.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Baby Is Ten

Ten years ago this week, this little girl entered the world.

If I had known then what I know now, her blanket would have had sequins and feathers on it.

I had a C-section and had to wait quite a while before they would let me hold her. The nurses had whisked her out of the surgery room while they sewed me up. Kerry took pictures of her then brought them to me so I could see her being cleaned up.

When I was finally out of recovery, they took me to my room and finally, finally brought my baby to me.

I looked into those beautiful, dark eyes, held her tiny fingers........and threw up all over the top of her head.

True story.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Some Minor Human Trafficking

Aloun Farms is the most productive farm in Hawaii. It is 3,000 acres of cantaloupe, lettuce, zucchini, apples, bananas, parsley, onions, watermelon, beans, eggplant, cabbage, and pumpkins. We were planning to go there in October on a field trip to pick out pumpkins, but said field trip has now been cancelled.

Why? Because the two brothers who own it have been convicted of human trafficking. They shipped 44 farm laborers from Thailand and then once they were here, took their passports and used them as cheap slave labor with threats of sending them back to Thailand where they would have to face the money lenders who helped them get here.

The kicker? One-hundred and twenty letters have been written on behalf of the two brothers asking for leniency with "little or no jail time" because their farm is too important to the agriculture industry and because the brothers really have excellent character (other than the fact that they own slaves, apparently).

Those who support the brothers include Former Democratic Governor Ben Cayetano, Former Democratic Governor John Waihee, the former head of the State Land Board, the state Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Foodbank, and many others.

Seriously?? They want these men to have a lenient sentence because they are nice guys?

Let me tell you something.....nice guys don't own slaves. They don't engage in human trafficking. They don't ruin other people's lives in order to make a higher profit and increase their business. The fact that these men are pleasant to those whom they do not own does not make them men of great character. Making political contributions and advocating for the homeless does not make you a good person if you are holding hostages at your business and forcing them to work for you. Being able to shake hands and smile and go to dinner and laugh and joke and make people like you while you are secretly buying slaves does not mean you have a high moral character. It means you are slick, and dirty, and really, really creepy.

And anyone who thinks otherwise has been sucked in and fooled.

Like all those people who thought Charles Manson had a great personality.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Smarty Pants

Miss Smarty-Pants

was inducted into the National Honor Society today!

We are proud of you, Emily!