Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Boys Meet Beach

On the day I moved to Hawaii, the neighbor girl came by to invite my daughter to go to the beach.

It sounded fun, but, "What beach are you going to?  How are you getting there? Who will you be going with?"

My daughter threw her hands up. "I don't know. You can talk to her if you like."

The neighbor girl seemed surprised that I had so many questions. I guess "going to the beach" is something the teenagers just do in Hawaii. They were going to Hukilau beach (I had no idea where that was), they were walking, and they would meet two other friends there.

Too many unknowns. This paranoid mother from the mainland had to go along, just for a little while, so I could check things out. And also because I was hot and tired from unpacking and wanted to see the beach.

When my boys heard about this expedition, they clamored to join up. I said we weren't going swimming. We were just walking to the beach so we could see where it was. We'd look around, then come back home and do some more unpacking.

Ha ha.

We walked a block or two, took a little path between houses to get to the beach, then took our sandals off and stepped into the sand. My boys had only been to the ocean once, on a windy December day in Los Angeles. This was nothing like that!  Here was warm sun, a pleasant breeze, and gentle waves of inviting waters. At first the boys just got their feet wet.

But then a big wave came by and knocked the smaller boy down. Of course he didn't mind that a bit.
Before long, the other one got "knocked down" too, and since they were already wet they thought they might as well play in the surf for a while.

I can't believe I didn't see that coming.

I called the boys in before they got their fill of the waves, but not before their pockets got their fill of sand. My daughter stayed behind to build sandcastles with her new friends while the boys and I walked home. The boys collected some souvenirs from their first trip to the beach--a coconut, some wild almonds, and a strange black nut that made a big blob of grease on the back patio table.

I shook about five pounds of sand out of those clothes, and had to throw the cargo pants away because the sand got in the liner. No way was I going to put that much sand in the washing machine. I scraped another handful of sand out of the bathtub after the boys got cleaned up. From now on, we wear swimsuits to the beach.

Friday, July 23, 2010


When I arrived in Hawaii last Monday night, my husband and three of my children had already been there for a week. I followed them around as they proudly showed off our new little house. When we got to the kitchen I opened the refrigerator and saw this:

My husband said, as if it was no big deal, "It's a breadfruit. The kids picked it off the neighbor's tree."
The kids chimed in:
"They said we could!" 
"We had to hit it down with a stick!"
"They said we could eat it!"
Sure. Whatever.
The big green breadfruit lurked in the fridge for several days. I was tempted to throw it out.
Yesterday another mother in the neighborhood gave me a ride to the high school so I could register my older children for classes. I told her, "The neighbors gave us a breadfruit, but I don't know what to do with it."
She laughed. "You peel it and boil it, or you can wrap it in foil and bake it in the oven. Then just cut it up in chunks, like a pineapple. We call it 'ulu. It's very good."
So today I tried cooking an 'ulu. First I sawed off the scaly skin. After peeling it half-way I rested my sore hands and thought, "You'd have to be pretty desperate to want to work this hard to eat this thing."

Then I plunked it in the pressure-cooker pot and boiled it for half an hour.

It smelled good, sort of like baked acorn squash, but how would it taste?
I pulled it out with a fork and tried not to burn my fingers as I chopped up the starchy, spongy mass. Then I sampled a little bit. Wow! It was delicious! Just barely sweet and very satisfying. I had to eat my words - that thing was definitely worth peeling. It made a whole lot of good food.
Want to try some?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Inexperienced Traveler

My family is still here in Las Vegas. Yes, we told you we were going to Hawaii yesterday, but that's not what happened.

We got to the airport in plenty of time to get on the plane, or so we thought. Our wonderful neighbor who gave us a ride offered to park his car and help us carry our luggage into the terminal rather than dropping us off at the curb. We gladly accepted this kind offer.

We should have insisted on being dropped off at the curb. Instead, we had to walk from parking into the terminal, and then when we got there we were nowhere close to ticketing and check-in. We collapsed on the floor in a heap and decided we needed a luggage cart. After thanking our neighbor we sent him home, then I sat on the floor with the kids and waited for dad to come rescue us with the cart.

Things were getting tight, but still okay. Once we had our cart we crossed the airport and found the ticketing area. Then we went and stood in line.

It was a long line. It was a slow line. Only one agent was seeing people. I couldn't believe it. Forty minutes went by, and we were still in line. Our flight would leave in only fifteen minutes! We were going to miss it. What happens when you miss your flight? I didn't know. It had never happened to me before. I imagined having to buy new tickets. To Hawaii. We were dead.

It wasn't like this was some kind of vacation. We were moving!

All this time something strange was going on. People were not stopping to stand in line, they were going up to these rows of computer screens, typing things in, and then dropping off their luggage at the counter. It slowly dawned on me that WE WERE STANDING IN THE WRONG LINE! In fact, IT WAS WRONG TO BE STANDING IN A LINE AT ALL! I just assumed we were supposed to get in line. When there's a line, get in it, right? I hadn't seen any signs that said, "Don't bother to stand in line, go check yourself in on the computers." There were no agents standing around to tell us what to do. Somehow, all those other people already knew what to do. We didn't have to be standing in this line at all.

Too late now.

"I think we've missed our flight," I told the smiling Polynesian girl at the counter as I handed her our itinerary.

She typed on her keyboard and her smile disappeared. "Shoot. You did."

"What do we do?" I asked.

"And that's our last flight to Honolulu for today," she sighed at the screen. "I can put you on another flight tomorrow."

"How much will that cost?" I asked.

She curled up her lip and shook her head, "I'm not charging you for that."

"Thank-you!" She was my new best friend.

"Here, let me put you on the earlier connection so you have a longer layover in Phoenix. With all these little kids, you're going to want some more time."

She was the most wonderful ticket agent ever. She got us seats on the plane so everyone could sit together, and even checked us in so that when we came back all we had to do was drop off the luggage.

So we called another neighbor who came and picked us up from the airport, and we all trooped home and spent the day sitting around, watching Lord of the Rings. Yesterday was only a dress rehearsal. Today we are leaving for the airport three hours early. We will be dropped off at the curb. We will not get in the long, slow line. We will drop off our luggage, go to the gate, and then get on the plane and get out of here!

We've learned from experience.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

This Is My House

Yes, this is how it looks. Nearly everything wrapped up in brown paper, ready to be loaded in a shipping container and sent to Hawaii. I won't see this stuff again for over three weeks.
This is my room.
And this is Jerry, my packing guy. When he saw me with the camera he said, "Are you taking pictures of my beautiful work? Here, get me in the picture too!" So there he is. He was the best packing guy ever. If you need to ship 8000 pounds of stuff to Hawaii, he's the one to call.
This is my kitchen. Nothing in the cupboard. Everything on the counter and soon to be in a box. We're happy we have several friends who have invited us over for dinner for the next few days so I don't have to cook any more.
And THESE are all the boxes I packed when I thought I was the one who would be doing the packing. I knew my husband's new employer was paying for our shipping container and for movers to load up 8000 pounds of stuff, but I didn't know they were paying for packing as well.

If I had known they were doing the packing, would I have sorted everything so well? Probably not. The big question was, did we get in under our weight limit? We had to pay for anything over 8000 pounds. We knew that after the truck left for the scales, there would be no way for us to have them bring it back and unload things. We asked Jerry to call us as soon as they weighed the truck and give us the news.

After the truck pulled away, we went to pick up our five-year-old from his friend's house. While we were there, we got a phone call. It was Jerry.
"Well, guys, bad news. We went over," Jerry said.
"How much?" my husband asked.
"It's 12,000 pounds."
My mouth dropped open. What had gone wrong? I'd sorted everything so carefully, given away so much. 12,000 pounds! How much was that going to cost us?
"Gotcha," Jerry said.
My husband laughed.
I moaned and collapsed on the nearest couch, "He got me! He got me! I believed him!"
"It was 8400. You're good," Jerry said.
Hooray! Seven people living in a four bedroom house for six years, and I got all our junk down to 8400 pounds.
See you in Hawaii!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Griffith Observatory

I love this place

As a last fling before we leave mainland shores, we drove to Los Angeles to visit some of my favorite childhood vacation places. My grandparents always took us to museums when we'd spend a week with them each summer, and this was one of my favorites. Now I'm sharing the memories with the next generation.

The Griffith Observatory had some old familiar exhibits, like the purple-lighting shooting Van Der Graaf generator:

And the earthquake detector:

But I also saw some fun new exhibits, like the infrared camera. 
And best of all, the Big Picture, a Hubble Space Telescope image of a tiny sliver of sky, magnified and spread across the length of the whole exhibit hall. I could just sit there and stare at it all day.
Admission to this amazing place is absolutely free. If you are ever in LA, don't miss it!

P.S. Check out this billboard we saw on the way home:
Why don't they have billboards like that in Las Vegas?

Friday, July 2, 2010

995 Pounds of Books

In case you haven't heard, I'm moving to Hawaii in a couple of weeks. The people who hired my husband recommended that we send our books by media mail instead of putting them in a shipping container. Saves money. So today we boxed up the last of the books and took them all to the post office. The back tires were bulging and my husband had a hard time handling the van.

You may wonder how we got all those boxes from the back of the van to the post office counter. Well, when we got to the post office we asked them for a cart. I was thinking of one of those big flat-bedded things they have at hardware stores. The postal worker went back in the back and came out with something that looked more like a shopping-cart.

"That won't be enough," I said.

"We're moving to Hawaii and we're shipping our entire library," my husband explained.

"Oh," said the postal worker. "I'll go get you a bin, then."

She came out again, this time with a huge thing like a plastic-sided mine cart.

"That should work," I said.

I was wrong. We needed two of them. Here's my son wheeling half of the load into the post office:

Back at the counter, the postal workers weighed, stamped, and took away all twenty five boxes, then handed us a receipt six feet long. The grand total? 995 pounds of books. Aloha, my books! See you in Hawaii!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The MP3 Player

My son asked for an MP3 player for his 13th birthday. At first I resisted. I believe that music is a gift to be shared with everyone around us, not to be kept to ourselves. Besides, as a concerned parent, I want to know exactly what my kid is listening to.

But then I realized it could be a way to feed his blossoming musical skills. Maybe we could give him some piano concertos to listen to, some classics to stimulate his music mind.

So the birthday came. Overjoyed by his new MP3 player, my son immediately loaded it up with Weird Al songs. So much for my piano concerto idea. At least my son would be happy with his music while I wouldn't have to listen to Weird Al for hours on end.

Or so I thought.

My son sings along with his MP3 player.

As we drove home from Los Angeles yesterday my son treated us to hours of "The Rye or the Kaiser," "The Spiderman," and "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota." I thought it was charming. I don't want to explain to him that the idea of an MP3 player is so you can listen to music without bothering the people around you.

After all, I want to know what he's listening to!