I am so glad you can be a part of our Hawaiian adventure.
Enjoy! --Kristine

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sand Bucket List

Okay, I think I finally have enough content to merit a blog post. I've had to accumulate material for this whole week to keep the reading exciting. I just can't keep telling tales of the playground, Tag's turtle trapping, and my yoga classes. But those activities continue, and I'm getting much better at my one-armed sideways tree pose, I swear. It's probably not really called that, but, om, whatever.  Anyway, here is an overview of the newsworthy stuff:

We're building a pinata for Alice's 2nd birthday-- it's coming up on July 15th. Right now we call the pinata-in-progress the dinosaur egg because it's just a large balloon with two coatings of paper mache. Today I successfully sealed up a major fissure caused by some heat-related balloon expansion.  It was touch-and-go there for a little while, but the egg looks almost normal again. We've been getting all kinds of crafty lately because the kids' weekly gymnastics classes happen right next to a Ben Franklin store. There is a lot of pipe cleaner artwork hanging about the place. We even made shrinky-dink pirates in our toaster oven this morning. Maybe that makes you think about how you are under utilizing your own toaster oven. Did your bagel come out and say "Ahoy, Matey" and wield a sword? Probably not.

A good egg.

In other news, I sustained my second beach-related injury but nothing nearly as impressive as a staph infection. The funny thing is I was taking a long walk and I was actually caught up in thinking about the perfection of the setting, and feeling a sense of peace and gratitude for this whole Hawaii experience. It was nice to have a quiet break from the kids and to be at the ocean without any responsibilities. And then... Ouch! I stepped right on a bee. It has been a while since I've been stung, and let me be the first to inform you that salt water doesn't do diddly to salve the pain. Ice, on the other hand (or foot, as the case may be), does work wonders. My swollen and itching foot hampered our ability to go on major excursions this weekend, and so did my indulgence in wine later that night.

Friday was special because Tag and I got a chance to go out again while the kids went to My Gym for Parents' Night Out. We ate at a little Italian place called Baci and were excited that our bottle of Chianti came from the place we stayed in Italy (Greve! The town name must be announced with gusto to honor the way our family friend Fred said it during our visit). Like last time we finished the night with a trip to the beach, but opted to sit and listen to the waves instead of taking a walk (bee sting + pasta dinner + desserts + wine = too encumbered for movement). The kids were totally hyped up when we retrieved them at 9:00 pm, and the change in routine altered their inner clocks causing "mass confusion and delay" (I'm quoting Thomas the Tank Engine with that one, so you can get a sense of my most recent intellectual stimulation). The next morning was not pretty for any of us, especially because the kids woke up before 6:00 am.

Our big adventure today was a trip to Georgia's house. She is a retired zoologist, and has lots of turtles and tortoises in her yard. She gave us a guided tour and then hosted us for appetizers and iced tea on her pontoon boat in the canal behind her home. It was all very lovely until Benjamin-- on his wild appetizer rampage-- barfed up the watermelon slices and crackers and brie because his rapid chowing temporarily got the better of him. This led Tag and I to quickly address the situation with as little "to-do" as possible, because Benjamin seemed totally fine afterwards. We laughed really hard during the car ride home, thinking about our question for Miss Manners: "What is the proper way to handle a child spitting up while aboard a moored vessel-- hoist them over the edge aiming the ralph in the canal, or a swift bile catch in a cocktail napkin?"

Georgia shows off a turtle.
Benji pets a baby turtle and Alice hunts for her own to hold. 
Wait! That's not a turtle!
Alice and I pet Buttercup, the chilled out rooster.

Now that the end of June is getting closer we are becoming more aware that our trip to Hawaii will eventually come to an end (on July 31st, to be exact). It seems like we've been here for a while, and it also feels like time slips by so quickly. With just five weeks left on Oahu we decided we need to get more serious about our outings to be sure we see and do all of the things we want to "accomplish." Tag and I discussed this the other day and thought a list might be in order.  This documentation is intended to hold us accountable to pursuing these adventures... and to share them all with you via the blog. You get to see the pretty pictures, but don't need to wipe up the barf after the appetizers. A delightful way to travel with toddlers.

Things left to do:
(1) Stroll through Honolulu's Chinatown and eat some dim sum
(2) Visit Pearl Harbor
(3) See July 4th fireworks from the beach
(4) Check out the Waikiki Aquarium
(5) Go the Childrens' Discovery Center
(6) Hike in Kaena Point State Park to look for albatross and monk seals
(7) Visit the Kualoa Ranch in Kaaawa to go for horse rides. Sounds like fuuun, huh?

We are open to your suggestions if our list is lacking a must-do experience. Let us know... we'd hate to disappoint!  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fathers' Day Retrospective

We had an awesome time today celebrating Tag (also known as "dada" by some in our bunch). Benjamin agreed with me that Tag is the best dad around, and then Benji insisted that he was part of the selection process. When I dug into the details and asked when he made his choice between all of the available fatherly options he said, "on Saturday." Benji is fond of mixing fact and fiction, but he had one thing straight-- we got a great pick for Dad in this family. We had to show our appreciation in style. The best way to share our Fathers' Day island adventures is with pictures because they tell a much better story than I can manage at this point. Fathers' Day wiped this mama out.

My somewhat fictional caption to this photo:
"Dad, in honor of your special day let's knock out a half-dozen malasadas."
"Sounds like a deal to me, Son."
Note the hot family van in the background. Jealous of how hip we are, yet?

It's 9:00am. Time for some father and son bonding time under the shears at SuperCuts.

The whole family took a tractor-pulled wagon tour of Kahuku Farms on the north shore. This 3rd generation farm has 100+ acres of tropical fruits and a yummy farm stand for lunch.

All of us riding through the bananas. 

The kids play ball with Tag in the field behind the farm stand. 

Benjamin found some "headlights."

The kids fell asleep on the ride back from the farm, so Tag and I decided to continue driving past Kailua to the east side to check it out. As you can see, this was not a bad idea. 

When the kiddos woke up we took an impromptu family hike up to Makapu'u Point, the easternmost point of Oahu. The path was steep but paved, so if you were small enough to ride in a stroller you could hitch a ride. If you were large enough to push a stroller, well... you got to work off the lilikoi ice cream from the farm stand. 
Tag helping the littlest hiker get to the lookout cage at the tippy top of the mountain.  The binky really completes her rugged look. 

The view towards the lighthouse. Water, water everywhere!

Looking back towards Kailua.

Alice and I ate a big pile of cold lychee at the top of the mountain.  Yum.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Horses & Dolphins

Kings, horses and dolphins... oh my!

We celebrated King Kamehameha Day this past weekend with a trip to Honolulu for the annual parade, which features many traditional Pa'u horseback riders. The riders represent each of the Hawaiian islands, and include a Queen and Princesses for each location.  You may not be aware that King Kam is responsible for uniting the Hawaiian kingdom in 1810, and is the only royal figure to have an official holiday in the United States. Plus, if you're lucky he may be hanging out in your pocket (if you happen to have the state quarter from Hawaii).

Tag and I are amused with the fact that we spent much longer on the parade route than at the actual parade itself. We chose a viewing spot in Waikiki that was next to a beach. This was a great move because the kids could play in the sand while we waited. This was also a bad move because we were at the tail end of the parade's marching tour of Oahu and most of the participants had lost steam by the time they reached us.  While the marching bands did the marching part of their routine, that was about it. One of the classic "bugs" in the VW Club lineup was literally being pushed by four people in order to make it across the finish line. Nonetheless, the kids loved their first parade experience. Benji and Alice enjoyed seeing so many Pa'u horses. Tag and I enjoyed laughing about how our one hour parade plan turned into an epic viewing and waiting experience, requiring us to make punchy jokes to keep ourselves from deflating. Tag rose to the occasion and had me cry-laughing at some moments.

Pa'u riders wearing traditional outfits.

Tag's comment: "Do you think that shirt belonged to Iz?" 

After the weekend parade excitement our week began with all the usual stuff. And then today we petted dolphins. Yes! It was awesome! Our neighbors both work for Dolphin Quest on Oahu-- Gregg is a vet who specializes on marine mammals and Julie is the Director and lead dolphin trainer there. Julie invited us to come today and gave us a private session with Lono, the biggest of the five dolphins on site. We had the pleasure of feeding, petting and making hand signals for Lono to do tricks for us. Benji was fantastic at making the hand motions, and was only mildly startled when Lono snorted on command after he tickled his snout. The whole experience was a super special gift from Julie. Their family has been a real representation of the spirit of aloha ever since we've been here.    

Julie introduces us to Lono (meaning "God of Peace and Prosperity"), and we pet him from the dock. 

Julie shows the kids how to feed a dolphin. 

Lono does a big jump for us. 

He comes back and Benji raises his hand with a command. 

Lono follows his command and waves his tail. 

Lono shows us his belly button (or, "piko" in Hawaiian)

Another trick from Lono.

Lastly, Lono jumped onto the dock for us to take some final photos and say good-bye.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


The other day while I was driving Benji somewhere he announced something funny that I've never heard him say before, and it was so out of context I had to laugh out loud.

"It's donut time. I can feel it in my bones."

I immediately guessed this was something he heard from my dad while he was here, so we started talking about Benji's beloved grandpa J.D. and his inordinate fondness for donuts. When someone makes a proclamation like Benji's, my heritage compels me to honor his heartfelt need for some fried dough. That afternoon I began researching our options, knowing that in Hawaii the most esteemed "local" donut is a malasada, emerging on the scene in the late 1800's when Portuguese laborers came to work the plantations. I discovered a place called Agnes' Portuguese Bake Shop, checked out the address, and figured I'd save the trip for some special occasion.

And then today happened. Tag and I were discussing our plans at 7:00 am.  He mentioned that he needed to find a hardware store to get some turtle marking supplies (sounds crude, I know). We hadn't noticed a hardware store in Kailua yet, so we had to look one up and map it online. And lo and behold... it is directly across the street from dear Agnes. Seeing as it was still very early and we had all just been bumbling around in our pajamas and hadn't made it to the kitchen... Well, you know what happened. I drew a line between two dots that were destined to be connected. We kicked off our day with warm malasadas right from the fryer, and then bought a circular file at the hardware store. Viola!

Behold! The malasada. Partially eaten to show texture. 
It's donut time. I can feel it in my mouth. 

No time for smiling for photos. There was work to be done here.

Agnes' handiwork.

So the next time you see me you might want to say... "It's donut time. I can feel it in my bones." I have a track record for success with this genre of wish fulfillment.

Benji and Tyler using the lawn sprinklers to irrigate themselves after a PB&J and fresh pineapple lunch date. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Week in Review

Some things have happened since I last reported on the Hula Press. You may recall a large storm from the previous post... well that led to some mild flooding of one side of our bedroom later that night and that was pretty exciting. It involved moving some bags and piles of things, mopping puddles up with towels, and speculating about peak depth (2 inches by the wall). We also had another quick trip to the ER because Tag caught a staph infection in his foot (that sh*t is after us!). Fortunately we knew the signs this time around and he went in right away, thus avoiding the IV antibiotics and appendage butchering that I had the pleasure of experiencing on Maui. Now Tag has ten days of pills and a much happier foot. 

Pardon my negative blog post introduction but I have to lead with inclement weather and bodily harm, because that is what sells. 

Anyway, the week was also full of plenty of pleasantness, and even some new love (romance sells, too). Benjamin has developed a deep fondness for our neighbor's daughter, Tyler. She is six years old and seems to genuinely enjoy hanging out with Benji, despite the age gap. They go on lizard hunts, make forts in the back of Gregg's pickup truck, eat popsicles, play chase and ride bikes. We hear her name all day, every day. "Do you think Tyler wants to play now?" "Is Tyler home?" "Why is Tyler not home?" It can even be hard to go to the beach because Benji hates to miss any opportunity to be with his first crush. He works very hard to impress her with various physical stunts and not-true stories, most of which are amusing to witness. In romantic pursuit Benji has equal doses of earnest dorkiness and blind bravado. I recognize these traits because I fell for them twelve years ago.     

Speaking of my love, Tag caught piles of turtles today (for real-- there are about 25 of them). But they were not the RIGHT turtles. Nonetheless, they are all hanging out in buckets in our yard because they are still worth gathering samples from for other scientific reasons. In other research-related news, Tyler's chubby bulldog managed to dig through Tag's traps and eat some rotten chicken bait yesterday. After being forced to sleep al fresco for a night, Lei Lei fortunately showed no signs of stomach trouble. 

Today's adventures involved a trip to the beach. The highlight was capturing Alice's signature stunt on film. She has perfected her form, and amuses many a beach walker with her circus trick. The kids also found a lovely sand castle to explore and destroy, which made for some good entertainment before leaving the beach to go to the farmers' market. I must say that having cocoa as one of the area's crops makes me even more compelled to show my support for local farmers. Purchasing gourmet chocolate bars never felt so justified. 

This is the beach that is 100 steps from our house, looking towards the right.

This is our beach view to the left side. It was a windy day so there were lots of kite surfers getting out on the water. 

This is what I see right in front of me!

Alice performs her trick. This move is inspired by a photo Tag's grandpa Engstrom doing the same thing with one of his kids (but in the front yard!).

Outrigger canoes on the water. Kite surfer in the background.

Alice leaps into the pit, and Benji checks out the tunnel. 

Cleaning off the sand is part of the fun, too. 

Regarding correspondence... we got two lovely pieces of mail yesterday at 267 South Kalaheo Avenue (by the way Kailua's zip code is 96734, just in case you want to send mail to a loved one here). One letter from Grandma Engstrom with the news from Paw Paw, IL. Plus we got a list of highly amusing Hawaii remembrances from Mr. Tommy Spofford (featuring sea urchin spines, sea sickness, and food poisoning, oh my!).  We got two not-so-friendly letters, too. One from the Franchise Tax Board regarding their recent discovery of our unintentional underpayment in 2008 (has no one told California that it is now 2011 and we should leave the past behind us?) and one insurance notice about Alice's hospital visit (apparently repairing nursemaid's elbow with a tug and twist is worth $1,800 of surgical time). These two pieces of mail prompted Tag to ask, "remind me... why did we set up the mail forwarding?" Too many more letters like that and we might just have to change our identities and stay here for the long haul... 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thunder and lightening, without any strikes

Alice shows off her new Crocs.  
We've had some amazing storms here the past couple of days. At one point the thunder was roaring so loudly last night I could feel the house and bed shaking. It was wild, yet the kids slept through all of it. The wet weather has forced us to get creative with how we use our time with the kids. Yesterday we did some craft projects-- making some bracelets with glow-in-the dark beads. Thank goodness they glow because more than a couple of them escaped the "workspace" (also known as our king sized bed).  You can only imagine how far beads can travel when a 30-pound princess decides to interrupt the activity with some wild leaping across the mattress.   

Doing legos on the multi-functional workspace.
On a whim we decided that we should go bowling after dinner last night, just so the kids could move around a bit and we could leave our tiny house for a while. Benjamin was very enthusiastic about the whole experience, and especially thrilled about his rental bowling shoes. It must be some of his Midwestern DNA shining through. Our form and our scores were pathetic, but we had fun nonetheless. I have learned that one round is plenty when you're relying on tidal forces to attract a barely moving bowling ball towards the pins. 

Watch out, Gutters... here comes your Boss. 
Nice moves, nice tush. 
Do you see those two pins trembling? Alice gets on the score board with some help from Daddy.
Today we ventured out during the wet morning to see a free magic show at the Kailua Library. Alice seemed interested for the first part of the show, but then turned her attention to raiding the table of magic-themed books before any of the other audience members. Benjamin was enthralled with the act and kept trying very earnestly to be picked as the magician's special assistant. Sadly this never happened, but we did enjoy seeing many birds, silk scarves, and flowers emerge from boxes, hats, and velvet bags. My favorite was the rabbit named Oreo who popped out of a cooking pot. While I could unscramble many of the other illusions, the bunny's appearance really mystified me!     

Once again it is starting to thunder this evening and the lights just flicked off for a second. I am enjoying the sounds of the storm and the flashes of lightening, made all the more real because half of our house is a wall of sliding glass windows. It will certainly make the sunny days ahead seem even warmer and more special. I was beginning to take the whole perfect weather thing for granted. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day

Our nine steps for having a memorable Memorial Day:

Step 1: Start the day with a fantastic brunch with the Jensen-Burian family at their lovely home in the mountains near Kailua. Tag's friend Brenda is an Associate Dean at Hawaii Pacific University and a big reason why we were able to make our trip here possible. We sat on the patio for several hours, soaking up some sun and gobbling up everything from scrambled eggs to waffles, Portuguese sausage and fruit salad.

Side note: Our brunch contribution was a coffee cake creation from, courtesy of Paula Dean. It involved five ingredients and was warm, gooey, nutty goodness. Check it out: Ultimate Coffee Cake (with a name like that and 300+ positive reviews, how can you go wrong?). Tag and I were amused by the process and contents the whole time we assembled it (a rigorous five minutes).

Step 2: Nap, of course. The kids slept while Tag and I chilled out and then figured out our plans for the rest of the day. At this point the leftovers of the coffee cake went missing. I can't say anything more about that, but it makes you wonder doesn't it?

Step 3: Pack up the kids, some animal crackers, and catch a bus from Kailua to Honolulu. Bus rides are great adventures with Benjamin. He was thrilled to be in the tallest passenger vehicle on the road, climbing the mountains, traversing the tunnels, and navigating busy downtown streets.

Step 4: Depart bus at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. Ala Moana is a four-story outdoor shopping extravaganza. I think this place rivals the scale of Mall of America in Minnesota, with a more international clientele and the added bonus of warm, fresh air. Our main goal was to hit the Apple store and replace Tag's defunct iPhone (phone in pocket + turtle trapping on a wet day = no ringing). We also bought each of the kids a new pair of summer shoes.

This is the very first picture Tag took with his new iPhone 4. The kids and I were watching and feeding the koi in the middle of the mall while we waited for him. The koi loved the animal crackers! Benji is modeling his new sandals.

Step 5: Eat a quick dinner in the "Food Court of Too Many Options," and then head across the street to the Ala Moana Beach Park. Our primary goal for coming to Honolulu on Memorial Day was to attend the Lantern Floating Ceremony that evening. Forty-thousand other people thought this would be a good way to spend the holiday, too. The ceremony was led by Her Holiness Keishu Shinso, the spiritual head of the Buddhist path called Shinnyo-en. The lighted lanterns floating in the ocean remember those who gave their lives in conflict, allow for reflection on the memories of loved ones and dedicate prayers for a peaceful and harmonious future. 
The crowd gathered for the event. We were pretty close to the stage compared to others along the far sides of the beach.

Watching Japanese-style musicians and hula performances before sunset. 

Tag and Alice take a self portrait with the new phone, and Brenda is captured in the background, too.

Thousands of lanterns floating in the sea.
Step 6: Return to the Ala Moana Center and give kids their first Bubble Teas (watermelon and coconut) to quench their thirst. Bubble Tea originated in Taiwan, but quickly spread to other Asian countries and Chinatowns around the globe. I'm a fan and thought it was time to share the fun of munching on chewy tapioca pearls while drinking a sweet blended beverage. 

Alice sucking up a tapioca "bubble" through her extra wide straw. She LOVED this.      
Step 7: Pass time waiting for the last bus by visiting the Lego Store. Yes, a whole store dedicated to legos, and it was full-on awesome. This made the end of the night way cool for the little ones because we bought a couple of special lego kits for our well-behaved ceremony attendees. 

Step 8: Hang out with a hippy Hawaiian surfer dude at the bus stop and "talk story," as the locals would say.  Benjamin's unending questions kept the young guy amused for the whole 30-minute ride back to Kailua. He had friends in Chico (really not all that surprising considering his demographic: college-aged outdoorsy hippy), and he made it seem like we had an instant karmic connection (very flattering). He was a nice UH dropout to spend a bus ride with. Alice rode with Tag, surveying the scene inside and beyond the number 57.

Standing on the seat is not advised. We know this because Alice introduced her nose to the handle in front of her after losing her balance. A parenting tip: reduce the face-planting-into-seat-handle problem by making your child assume the proper sitting position and avoiding mass transit after 9:30 pm. Just a thought. 
Step 9: Get home, brush teeth and go to bed. Really, that's all we did and it felt great.