Koa's Baby Babbles

My favorite part is my elder son in the second video: "say Ikaika, Koa!"

Did I mention that Koa got his first tooth last week?!


Baby Einstein and TV Morality

I have a library of Baby Einstein videos that were given to me by my aunt.  When Ikaika was younger, he watched them when we visited my parents and occasionally when we were at home, but he never really "got into" them.  I even thought about passing the videos along now that he's older. 

But the other day, when Koa was fussy and I was looking for a distraction, I popped a Baby E DVD in and, to my surprise, Ikaika was thrilled!  He was totally captivated.  Lately, he's been requesting Baby Einstein in the evenings and I'm all too happy to oblige him.  In fact, as I type this, Koa and Ikaika are sitting quietly in the living room, snuggled under blankets, watching Baby Neptune (the one about water). 

It surprises me that my 2 1/2 year old would be so into these videos.  There's no plot, no dialogue.  It's just nice music with colorful pictures.  At first, I thought this was strange but I'm starting to grasp how great this is.
We've been watching "kids movies" and "kids shows" with Ikaika.  There are plots, characters, jokes, etc.  He likes Cars and Toy Story and the Incredibles.  But when he's watching them, I can't help but notice how he's absorbing the behaviors, dialogues, and values of these movies - whether I like them or not.  My friend doesn't let her kids watch the Incredibles because of the suicide attempt in the beginning ("suicide should not be in my 5 year olds vocabulary") and I was perturbed by Babe, where I felt like the message it was sending about domestic violence was totally not okay.

My 2 year old is old enough to hear and repeat.  He's old enough to absorb and act out.  But he's not old enough to process, to understand, to filter the good from the bad.  I can't be so naive to think that he's enjoying the action/animation while overlooking the violence and/or subtle moral undertones.  Even TV shows are sometimes annoyingly influential.

So, we still watch PBS, Disney Jr., Go Diego Go, etc.  We watch Disney movies together on family movie night.  I'm not going to die on this mountain.  But, I'm happy to let him watch morally neutral Baby Einstein and, frankly, I hope it holds his interest for years to come!


Baby in the Trunk

I have nothing to say about this - it's just funny.


Pulling Up to a Stand

Here is a video of Koa pulling himself up to a stand (we used the remote as bait).  Way to go Koa!!!


Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station

Spring Break 2011 continued today (Mr A took the day off work - "you don't use em, you lose em") and we capped off our adventure filled week with one last exploration: we finally checked out Mauna Kea.

We've lived here over 2 years now and this is the first time we have attempted this.  The deterrent was that I didn't think the boys could go up that high in elevation and we don't have a 4WD vehicle.  Well, come to find out they can go to the VIS (website here) - they just can't go to the summit, where all the large international telescopes are.  Ditto for the car.

But there is plenty to check out at the Information Station.  We made it right at sunset (although we didn't actually see the sunset because it's about a five minute hike to the lookout point).  The above picture is looking toward Hilo and the pic below is facing Kona side where the sun is setting.

The reason we got to thinking about this today is because we spent the morning at the beach with Kanani and we were talking about all the things she wants to do before she moves back to Oregon in May.  So the real goal is to get a babysitter and go up here with her - check out the summit and do the whole shebang.  But I'm glad we went now because I learned some very valuable lessons that will make our big Mauna Kea adventure more comfortable (wear shoes, bring hot soup/cocoa, gloves are a must, etc).
Since Mr A works tomorrow and the boys were restless, we had to leave somewhat early (730) before all the telescopes got fired up.  I heard that later in the night they were going to be viewing Saturn.  Like 'all the rings and you can see the shadow of the rings on the actual planet' Saturn.  I am practically crawling out of my skin looking forward to going back and seeing that!!!

As a side note: all of this stuff is free but the ride up will eat your gas.


Saint Patricks Day Party

 There was a St Pattys Day party at Jills house complete with green food...

...green kids...
...and green friends!  

I don't remember my parents being friends with my friend's parents (in fact, I hardly remember my parents having friends at all because by the time I was old enough to remember they had isolated themselves from all things except sports...although my mom swears she took me to the pumpkin patch), so this was totally beyond me.  But isn't this what small town life is supposed to be like?  I relish in the quaintness.


Koa "6 month" Check Up


This morning Mr A and I had a serious talk about switching Koa to formula.  I've been breastfeeding lady all the way - but lately, Koa has been fussy and not wanting to nurse.  Tearing at me, pinching, fussing.  I'll nurse him and 30 minutes later someone is saying "I think he's hungry".  So what's the deal?  I was suspecting that I'm not making enough milk.  I've lost a lot of weight quickly with him (with Ikaika the lbs stayed around longer) and maybe the that's contributing to my dry spell.  I would prefer to breastfeed him - but is it worth trying to bring up my milk production when he's only going to nurse for another 3 months?

So today at the doctor my suspicions were confirmed.  Koa has lost 4oz (now 15lbs 11oz) and hes only 26".  His head is still growing normally, so that's good because that means his brain is growing.  But his weight is only in the 5th percentile and that is alarming to me.  He's been eating solid food 2-3 times a day but now I am going to start giving him a bottle 3-4 times a day, too.  I might continue to try nursing him in the morning and at night and he can just get out of it whatever is in there.

He also got two immunizations this morning.  I applied for the boys to attend Tutu & Me, a twice weekly "preschool" that meets for two hours at a church in town.  It's more like a play group because I would be with them the whole time, but it sounded like a lot of fun.  I just need to get them somewhat caught up on their shots before we can start.


Hiking in Volcanoes National Park

Yesterday the entire ohana went hiking in Volcanoes National Park.  We did the 4 mile hike around Kiluea Iki Crater (its not the "main" crater - Halema'uma'u - but the smaller one right next to it).  The hike takes you into the rain-forest and then down 400 ft into the actual crater.

The volcanic rocks are light and porous, which is strange.  Plus, there was hot steam coming out of vents in the floor of the crater.  It was really amazing to be able to walk through it.  The sign at the trail-head said that in 1959 there was a huge eruption here and the entire thing was a massive "lake of lava" 400ft deep!

Kanani is moving back to Oregon in May so I was really happy to be able to spend some time and do something fun with her - she's an excellent hiker.  But aren't most Oregonians "outdoorsy" people?

It was super windy :) 
I was very surprised how much of the actual hiking Ikaika did by himself.  We brought two Ergos, but only packed Ikaika for the steep decline and incline up and down the crater wall.  He probably walked a good 2-3 miles.  And I don't feel like he slowed us down because he were only in the park for about 4-5 hours total.

We also went to the Thurston Lava Tube.  And this time I made sure to bring a flashlight so we could explore the undeveloped lava tube at the end (you know, family, the one with the gate).  It was so cool.  Lexi packed Ikaika and I packed Koa.  Unfortunately, we didn't have the flashlight - I left it in the car - so we just used the light on Lexi's iPhone (shockingly, it worked out).  We turned the light off half way through the tunnel and it was pitch pitch dark.  Couldn't see your own hand in front of your face.  Creeeepy.  Ikaika, again surprisingly, wasn't freaked out by this at all.

Then we pretended to be cave monsters.  The Hills Have Eyes came up more than once.

All in all, it was a spectacular day!  We drove around the dial (back home through Kona) and stopped in South Point. So I have now officially been to the southern-most part of the US/Hawaii.  Didn't get to see the green sand beach (we got lost) but I am so going back with a 4W drive and finding it next time!


Movie Review: 127 Hours

Last night we watched the movie 127 hours.  It's true story about a guy who gets trapped alone while climbing in Utah and it takes him 5 days to get out and get himself rescued. 

I was skeptical about watching a movie that is mainly about a guy being alone.  This could spell crazy cheesy or worse.  But, it turned out to be creepy, eerie, insightful, tragic, inspirational, and funny all at the same time. 

The reason I am blogging about it is that the end just drove me to tears.  Spoiler: he ends up having to break and cut off his arm in order to get out.  Would I be able to do that?  I guess it's impossible to say what we would do after 5 days of facing certain death...and it helps that he was a trained rescuer.

During those days, he reflected on his life, thought about his parents (whom he didn't call often enough and didn't appreciate enough), his sister, relationships, etc.  He wasn't down there thinking about his job, awards, places he traveled, etc.  What finally compelled him to cut his own arm off (more like hack it off with a blunt object) was a premonition he saw of himself and his future son. 

Maybe that's why this movie touched me so deeply.  How we have the will to live - but living for ourselves isn't enough.  Am I doing enough to appreciate the people who are in my life everyday, especially my kids?  Children give us the motivation to live.  Even for people who don't have them yet!  It's like an innate human instinct to love.  Seeing, even writing about it now, that love he had for a child he didn't even know (and really, our kids are perfect strangers to us when they come out - it probably takes a lifetime to get to know them) is so moving.  It's so powerful and yet totally unexplainable.  I guess I feel like, because I have sons, I can understand why that image would have been the driving motivation for him to do something that is otherwise unthinkable.


Kona Brewfest 5K Run for Hops 2011

One of my goals for this year was to run in a 5K, which I did on New Years (along with a polar bear dive!).  But it was just so darn fun, that I had to do it again.  This morning the entire ohana woke up early, headed down to Kona, and ran in the Kona Brewfest "Run for Hops" 5K!

Mr A's coworker, big-man Jamie brought all 6'9" of himself and his daughter, too!

It was tough, but we stayed together the whole time.  Again, my strategy of picking a running partner who paces just slightly faster than me paid off - we came in at 32:22!  We finished 102 out of 262 runners and I got 9th in my division!!!  I'm happy with that because, if you factor in pushing a stroller, I probably ran faster than the last race :)  Mr A says we were the first stroller to cross the finish line but I can't verify that.

I was so exhausted after the race.  Bleh.  Mr A could probably have ran 5 more.  It's so unfair how good of shape he is in!

We asked Ikaika to take a picture of us...

And to the victor go the spoils!  There was a keg of free Longboard Lager from Kona Brewing Co. (the after race was held in the parking lot of the brewery) along with pupus and music, etc.  I even ran into a friend from MOPS who is 8 months preggo and was pushing her other kid in a stroller - now THAT is a road warrior!

But then it was becoming obvious that the boys had been awake since 530am and we thought it was probably a good idea to head out.

Mr A has now caught the racing bug, too.  I foresee another family 5K before the end of the year.

BTW: I didn't notice any destruction from the tsunami while we were down there. But you couldn't pay me money to swim in the ocean today (who knows what those waves churned up).


Hawaii Tsunami Warning (part 2)

After the devastating earthquake that hit northern Japan earlier, a tsunami warning has now been issued for the Pacific - including Hawaii.  It's supposed to hit around 3am.

Last year we had a major tsunami scare after the earthquake in Chile and it turned out to be less than nothing.  Crazy panic and nothing happened.  Praise God!  But seriously, CRAZY PANIC... and nothing happened.  I'm hoping that is what this will turn out to be.

It's 11pm and the sirens have already gone off three time.  I admit, I'm starting to feel the rush of adrenaline.  I have never seen so many cars on the street in Waimea past sunset.  Mr A was in Kona earlier playing basketball and he said people are literally running around - a true madhouse.  He couldn't even get gas because it was basically impossible.  They are in the process of evacuating the hotels and I'm in the process of being glued to my facebook instead of my midterm paper.

Last time I sent Mr A out to get emergency rations he came home with four bags of chips, a gallon of water and some bread pudding.  I haven't been grocery shopping this week so I'm a little nervous about being so unprepared, food-wise.  Other than that, I think we could manage in an emergency.  We would probably just go crash at a friend's (more well stocked) house anyway.

So, no panic.  I put my faith in God and just wait for the craziness to subside.  And, in the meantime, Im staying glued to facebook and KHNL news.  


Mothers of Preschoolers Steering Team

I remember when we first moved over here and Mr A was working 2 or 3 jobs on any given day.  It was just me and the baby, by ourselves for hours and hours.  To make matters worse, we lived in a 400 square foot garage.  Mr A needed the car for work and we were too far away from town to walk anywhere.  It got very lonely.

But then I found MOPS and after two years I have made some amazing girlfriends and my kids have made friends, too.  Unfortunately, a lot of these moms eventually will move off the island.  That probably won't hamper our friendship and there are some moms, like myself, who are here for good.  At any rate, MOPS is just what I have been wanting since college - a group of friends to call my own!

This year I took on some leadership in the group by joining the steering team as (brace yourselves) finance director!  Haha!  Anyone who even sort of knows me and is reading this probably just choked on their beverage of choice.  Seriously, I took over the money handling.  I did this because I want to be better at managing my own finances and there's no substitute for practical experience.  It's been going really well - helps that I use Quickbooks, which is super simple.

The exciting news now is that next year I am taking on even more responsibility, I am going to be a "table leader"!  MOPS is great - there is friendship, support, two hours without children, etc.  But it's also great because I have an opportunity to volunteer my talents to help others.  Without the steering team, there would be no group, and without groups like this, moms like me would still be at home in their 400 sq foot garage wondering are there any other people on this island?


Waimea: The Town of Brotherly Love

This one's for you, Beth.

Save Money DIY Vanilla Extract

It's been a week of simple yet profound discoveries.

Today I started some homemade vanilla extract.  I bake a lot, so I end up using a ton of this stuff and it's not cheap (around $5 for a 2oz bottle).  The solution: make your own.  And, like many things, it's so much simpler than I would have imagined.

Step 1: buy some whole vanilla beans in a jar (usually come 2 or 4 to a jar).  This will run you about $12 but it's worth it in the long run.

Step 2: take the beans out and slice them lengthwise over a sheet of wax paper.  Don't cut them in half, just slice them open to expose the vanilla bean goodness within. 

Step 3: put the open beans back into the jar, chopping them so they fit.  Make sure to scrape all the little seeds that might have fallen out onto the wax paper into the jar as well. 

Step 4: fill the jar with vodka.  Bottom shelf is fine here.

Step 5: let it sit in a dark cupboard for 2 weeks, shaking it up every day or two. 

The great part about this is that the longer it sits in there, the stronger the flavor will be.  And as you use it up, just keep adding new vodka.  Replace the vanilla beans every 6 months or so to keep it potent and fresh.

Mmm..homemade DIY cheap and good-for-you vanilla extract.


Date Night at Keauhou Bay Sheraton

Mr A and I were able to escape our children for the night and headed to the Keauhou Bay Resort (Sheraton) for an all-you-can-eat Prime Rib buffet.  My lovely husband won this dinner at a golf tournament last January and it's taken us this long to find a babysitter/save up enough gas money for the drive to south Kona.
In fact, we were going to go the other weekend, but Ikaika broke his head open so we had to cancel.  Thankfully, Keauhou extended the expiration date of our voucher...


I'm pretty sure this is the back of Hualalai (mountain) overlooking Keauhou Bay.  I want to snorkel down here sometime.  There was a storm watch last night, but it never rained.  I think a torrential downpour would have been cool, but that's just me.

This guy ended up catching nothing.  Fishing with a lure seems like a lot of work.

During dinner, as I went back for my second plate of sweet potato/haupia pie, I reflected on how special Hawaii is.  For a lot of people (many of them in the buffet line), it's probably just a nice vacation or a realization of some idyllic postcard scenery.  Hawaii is a very powerful place.  There are so many meanings behind all the small actions, all the seemingly insignificant details.
I think this all came to mind because the entertainer was singing with his ukulele and they were all songs that were from or about this island.  It could be heard as just background "elevator" music, but there were people in this exact place 50, 100 years ago who were writing these songs and playing them on the ranches.  Ooo, I got chicken skin!   

I ended up wearing the same dress I wore to the Shaklee convention in San Francisco 5 years ago.  Italian silk never goes out of style.  I wore different shoes and spent more than a minute being sad about how they weren't heels (I have no heels, zero.  how crazy).  My husband wore the shirt he wore to our wedding.  At first he complained that the pin-tucks were too fancy, but when I pointed out that he didn't need to wear a tie, he was stoked!

We digested our 4 plates of food with a roarin' game of ping pong.  The competition wasn't exactly fierce but I choose to blame the dim lighting.


Time Saving Breakfast Tips

Sometimes the simplest ideas take the longest to be realized.  Last night, as I stared an enormous bowl of butternut squash puree*, I started thinking about making some breakfast muffins.  But it was already 930 and I didn't want to wait around for them to bake.  I thought, eh, I'll just make them in the morning.  Then I started thinking about how early I would have to wake up for them to be ready by 630 when Mr A eats his breakfast (what is the fun of having morning muffins if no one is home to praise them?!) and that didn't sound like a very smart idea either. 

Then I got the brilliant notion of preparing it all ahead of time and just baking it first thing in the morning!  So I mixed all the dry ingredients in a ziplock bag, I mixed all the wet ingredients in a bowl and the strussel topping in another bowl.  I laid out the muffin tin and the spray oil on top of the stove and went to bed. 

First thing in the morning, I turned on the oven, mixed the wet with dry (30 seconds of work), greased the muffin tin (10 second), poured the batter (1 minute) and sprinkled the topping over the muffins (1 minute), then I popped it all into the oven.  Less than 30 minutes from the time I got out of bed, we were enjoying warm apple cinnamon muffins!  The other bonus was the entire house smelled like a bakery.  The super bonus was that the oven warmed the house up slightly (not all hawaii is like "hawaii" but none of the houses have central heating)

Premaking batters and then baking in the morning.  A simple idea that took me awhile to figure out.  I'm totally doing this with pancake batter over the weekend :)