Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dr. Seus Grooming

Arden is a little bibliophile. Dora has been redecorating the nursery for the new baby, and Arden found this new little basket meant for toys. She promptly climbed in, settled herself down, and began reading.

Little shaggy-head. I cut her bangs the other day, but hair from the back of her head constantly flops all the way forward, and we don't want to trim it in hopes it will eventually grow long enough to be weighed down toward the back instead.

Because of this, tiny little rubber bands are strewn all over the house. We put them in, she takes them out.

Yes, I know you think you see three pigtails... but just wait...

Deanna-the-Dexterous has been taking charge of Arden's hair recently. The result has been at least one more pigtail per day, until this morning, when I finished grinding the coffee beans and looked toward the living room (where grooming had been taking place) I found this:

When we counted (she enjoys the slight pull on each tail as I say the number), it was up to SIX!

We had some fun playing around with the new hairstyle, which makes it easy to keep the stacking cups on top of the head (one of our favorite games). At least, easy for her. Not so much for me. Maybe I should get Deanna to do my hair too.

All in all, with the recent multi-pigtail fad, Arden often looks like a Dr. Seus character (author of many of her favorite books). It's time to rhyme!

Free to roam
Around the home...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sheepish Victory

On a recent very long hike....

...I had the odd feeling of unlimited energy. Up, up we went into the mountains behind our house, passing this view...

And this view...

And even this view...

We hit a 3-way split in the path. One went level to the left. One went down straight ahead. And one went up to the right. "Let's keep going up!" I insisted, while Deanna groaned. My reasoning, which I thought impeccable at the time, was that if we went down, we'd have to come back up again, and I didn't want to do that at the end of a hike. And if we stayed level, what was the point of all the effort we'd already been making by climbing so long? So, ever agreeable, Deanna acquiesced and we began the ascent...up...up...up a path that quickly proved itself NOT the official path, nor even the SEMI-official path. By the time we were practically on our bellies, grasping tree roots to pull ourselves up the next foot, I was verbally repenting and Deanna was insisting that we at least finish what we'd started and see what was at the top. Something gorgeous, hopefully. The path was way to steep to show up well in a photo, but here is one of Deanna sliding back down on her rear (which was the only way to do it). (I'm not giving away too much to reveal that we survived and made it down again, as you should already be clued in to that fact.)

And what did we emerge to find? Not a gorgeous view, not a spectacular mountaintop.


We had climbed to the tunnels of the Pali Highway, which crosses the mountains on the peak behind our house. Sheepish victory indeed.

I'm just sorry for the motorists who were probably wondering what on earth two extremely red, sweaty girls were doing on the side of the highway, and for the police helicopter that so concernedly flew low over us a few moments later when we'd hiked over to an actual lookout. We attempted to look nonchalant and relaxed, and they continued their sweep without a rescue attempt. Happily.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Bird Squealer

My open window is just under Arden's. This morning when I woke I heard her entertaining herself in her bed with some high-pitched squeals. They were on one sustained note. At first I thought she was doing repeated, short bursts, but then realized that several birds were answering back on almost the same note as she was squealing. It turned into a regular cacophony. One of the birds even flew over my window to perch near hers. How many children induce birds to shriek and squeal? This one does!

To Kill Some Skin Cells

Deanna and I decided to head off to the beach a week ago while Dora was out with Arden. Lanikai beach is one of the prettiest places on earth. A little sea turtle came and hung out in the water near us. We had to explain to a few very eager tourists that it was illegal to harass them. In spite of our efforts he was chased off several times, and several times returned after the coast seemed clear.

Unfortunately, a place can be seductively least, seductive to those of us with Swedish and Irish skin who shouldn't be outdoors at all, it seems. I had to sleep with an ice-pack that night. Mind you, tons of sunscreen had been applied before we went, but Michael Phelps had so inspired us that we spent the first hour floundering around in the water trying all his strokes. It was the butterfly that sent us into hysterics. I'm surprised the people in kayaks didn't come ask us if we were drowning, for we certainly looked like it.

It seems that we forgot about the principle of re-application, instead spreading ourselves out on the sand, chomping down on cheetos and grapes, and reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I've learned my lesson, though. It won't happen again. From now on I shall be obsessed with sunscreen (in a very healthy way, of course), and if any of you come visit me, I shall be your personal sunscreen conscience.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Aunt Amy's Heels

Remember my high-heels night? Arden's favorite thing to do is get my shoes - I don't know why mine in particular - and tromp around. She found my heels upstairs early in the morning after I discarded them. The girl has amazing balance. See for yourself :)


Her feet don't seem to be as tortured as mine were. I guess if you start young...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Racewalking for our own amusement (and yours)

I often wonder what the neighbors think goes on in our house. The windows are always open, so the laughter must float across to them frequently. Deanna and Dora are usually the instigators, but I happily join in.

Last night we discovered a new Olympic sport (actually, not so new). Racewalking. Scores of men with starvation-sized bodies were walking around and around a track, swinging their hips just as fast as they could. After we convinced Deanna (whose objections were quite loud) that it wasn't an SNL spoof, she decided that she and I must race. I won those initial heats, probably due to my long legs, but once the camera started rolling I seem to have lost my concentration and pace. The final product is posted on her blog... please have as much fun watching it as we had making it!!

RACEWALKING in HAWAII (Competitors: Deanna and Amy)

What next?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shrimp Shrack et al.

There’s a fine, pretty rain falling. Or, there was. For about half an hour the sky gradually became more and more obscured by gray, until we couldn’t even see the mountains that usually fill our windows. I thought to myself, “Now’s a good time to start a blog.” I turned on my computer. I looked up. The skies were mysteriously clear blue all around except against the mountain, where billowing white clouds seemed to be rising from the ground a few blocks away and floating up toward its heights. Now all the white has disappeared over their tops and the pure sun is making them brilliantly green.

A few days ago I realized I’d been holing myself up at home for far too long trying to finish some rewriting. I suggested a hike to Deanna, who readily agreed—she’s so spunky, always up for an adventure. After some searching around on a hiking site we settled on the Hauula Loop, which would take us on a 2.5 mile journey through pine forests and along a mountain ridge, all the while keeping us within hearing distance of the surf far below.

“Wait! Stop!” you say. Yes, pine forests. There are several different sorts here. Odd, I know, to think of Hawaii riddled with pines. At least South Carolina prepared me for it, somewhat, with its incongruous mixture of pines and humidity.

Sadly, we forgot Deanna’s digital in the car, so we have no proof of the following:

Spongy-Paper Trees. Layer upon layer of paper-thin rings, each soft and spongy in itself, form a tree which squishes in when pressed. It reminded me of my sister’s memory-foam mattress. Not only would the layers be heaven to sleep on, they were already perfect for writing on (though our pen nibs tore the “parchment” if we pressed to hard). We scrounged for scraps on the forest floor and gleefully wrote away. (Yes, I’m one of those dorky writers who always happen to have several pens on them, even on long hikes.) My piece of bark ended up proclaiming “God made me!” for the benefit of the next curious hiker. This tree also had bottle scrubbers for flowers and little washer-shaped fruit pod thingys (to borrow a word from Annie). Some research has just turned up the fact that it’s a Melaleuca tree, already famous in my family for the anti-viral properties of its oil!
  • Pine Forests straight out of the Pacific Northwest. I’m serious, I could have been marching up Mount Rainier. These guys were tall and majestic, standing in ramrod, perfectly-spaced order, offering springy evergreenish bushes to brush us clean along the path. It was a veritable cathedral of the woods, including the hushed, breathable quality of the air such places birth.
  • Dead Boars. That’s what I said. Three Hawaiian men, sitting happily on the back of their pickup on either side of a dead boar. When we began hunting, we passed the same boys, sans boar, sitting in said same pickup. When we returned, we discovered an addition among them. Namely, a very dead boar, lying with its legs splayed out and snout hanging off the edge of the truck. Deanna claims she saw a bullet hole in the middle of its forehead. I could only smell, smell, smell…and to avoid looking at the boar, instead made friendly comments to the hunters as we passed, without ever once meeting their eyes. Do you ever have that feeling that you’ve behaved as if you’re a wanted criminal? It happens accidentally when you don’t want to look at people because they scare you. Scooting by, head ducked, eyes averted, not wanting to see their faces watching you pass… This is how I passed by that truck, all the while calling in a friendly way, “J’you just get that?” And it didn’t take long to wonder why they asked in return which side of the mountain we’d been hiking on. Luckily, Deanna had been wearing her Dole Plantation tourist shirt, which is neon yellow. We had to pass them again on our way out, as their pickup had moved and was blocking the road. They scooted over so we could get through (luckily for them I’m from Chicago and used to navigating with only 3 inches clearance on either side). As we did, the driver blew out his last puff of cigarette smoke and called out something familiar-sounding. I think it was an invitation to help them eat it, but I kept my stony eyes on the road and roared full steam ahead. No thanks. Out of pity for you, I have included here a stock shot of a boar. When they’re dead they’re much sleeker, greasier, and smellier. In general, not-so-cute.

  • We survived the hike, although barely. It wasn't so much the physical exertion as the mental anguish of parking in what looked like a junkyard, following the directions of unknown and unsavory-seeming fellow hikers, being convinced by Deanna that I had all the privacy in the world only to finally finish answering nature and discover that two other hikers had been bearing down on us on the path all along (I believe the bend in the trail worked in my favor, though once again I did not meet their eyes as we passed, for I don't really want to know), and returning to the welcome of long stares from four sets of eyes - three alive, one dead.

    In celebration of this survival we headed to the beach to wash off the sweat, only to find it was the worst garbage-filled place I've seen in all of Hawaii. The "Garbage Beach" we call it. No bathing suits were donned and the celebration immediately turned to ideas of lunch. Plate lunch, specifically.

    The plate lunch is a unique Hawaiian phenomenon. Little booths or tents or wagons are set up near the highway offering a variety of plate lunches, which usually consist of some sort of meat and two scoops of a side (like rice). Huli-huli chicken is what I wanted, but Deanna was in the mood for the Shrimp Shack, which we had tried to eat at before but found closed. To the Shrimp Shack we headed (pronounced by all of us now, "Shrimp ShRack" in honor of the fact that I seem to find it impossible to twist my tongue around those two words in order). I was sure I could not twist my tongue around any shrimp either, and was planning to wait for a chicken shack, but then we spied one non-seafood item: Fried Coconut. Fried coconut?? I had to try it, so we ordered one to split and happily sat down.

    I suppose we should have assumed it, should have figured it, based on the rest of the day ...
    "Fried Coconut", which still sounds like a very yummy thing, turned out to be simply a description of what sort of SHRIMP we would be getting. "Fried Coconut Shrimp," it should have read. I steeled myself and dug in, helped along by the coconut, which was fresh and fried and well battered onto the shrimp, masking much of its taste. Here is a photo of my sweaty, steeled self, half-crazed already from the day's adventures. (I haven't even told you about the lisping, singing shop-owner, as you'd have to hear a recording to believe me.)

    Anyway, it all ended well. Deanna even kissed the shrimp painted on our road-side table.

    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    Diamond Heads

    Today we got up early and drove to Diamond Head, which is a crater near Honolulu. You drive through a tunnel, park inside the crater, then hike up a bunch of steep switchbacks and several series of stairs until you reach the top, which has a view of Honolulu and the ocean. It's beautiful up there, but with Arden strapped to my back, it was a hard hike. Having inherited the genetic predisposition of her parents toward sweat, she is essentially a 25 pound portable heater--one that occasionally screams in the ears of her bearer. (Being hot and stuck to the back of your aunt is not necessarily the happiest place for an active girl like her.) We used the ergo baby carrier, which is way lighter than the hiking pack. She can use the metal support bars and climb out of the hiking pack even while it is strapped to your back. IF you're going to have a screaming baby back there, it might as well be an immobilized screaming baby, or the hike turns from ear-piercing to nerve-wracking.
    The pictures make it look easy, but let me tell you, about half-way up the section of stairs that boasted 99 steps I began wondering if I (who never use weights when I work out) and my personal 25 pound heater were going to make it all the way up. We did, by a lot of sweat and the skin of our teeth (actually, the skin of my teeth and two very light bonks on Arden's head as I crawled and squeezed through the last bunker's slit openings onto the hillside. Diamond Head used to be a military artillery post.)
    We did make it up and back in just over an hour, during which time I decided how very glad I am to not be a man. The girls reminded me that if I had been one, my body would have been better designed to carry little 25 pound heaters up sheer cliffs, but it didn't change my decision. I'm glad I'm not one. Men are perfectly designed for carrying heavy things up hills, and in the future I think I shall try to leave it to them.

    Saturday, August 02, 2008

    An Injustice Observed

    When men want to go out looking nice, they put on shoes that are just as comfortable as everyday ones but have an extra shiny polish (or so I've observed). When women want to go out looking nice, they put on instruments of torture that will materially damage their chances of walking comfortably during the next several days. Being already quite tall, I've never felt the need of extra height and so am not used to the rigors of heels. But I found the prettiest pair of black satin ones on an extra clearance price a few months ago, and thought that at some point I'd be sure to use them. Last night was that "some point" when Sam took Dora, Deanna and I went out to celebrate (unfortunately, Sam himself was absent, of course, floating around the Pacific somewhere unmentionable). We made reservations at Duke's (which is on the water in Waikiki), gussied ourselves up, and then to save on valet parking decided to opt for the metered zoo lot, which is at the southern end of Waikiki. It's a beautiful walk, especially just before sunset...provided one is wearing comfortable shoes. (Here are some photos to help you appreciate just how pretty my torture was.)

    Other people seemed to think so too. I believe the shoes made me at least 6'1" or 6'2", and I have never been so stared at in my life. They weren't the sort of stares to make one uncomfortable (I was dressed quite modestly), nor were they the sort spent on freaks (I believe I still looked proportionate). I don't know exactly what they were, except that when I appeared on the sidewalk I simply became one of those objects one has to look at as you go by...rather like a car crash on the side of the road, or a homeless man's cardboard sign, or a wedding party taking photos outside a church, or the bearded woman at a carnival. Um, scratch that last one. In any case, it was a relief to sit down and enjoy the colors of the sunset on the water and the tastes of an extremely good meal. It was a delightful evening, and I'm determined I shall wear my pretty shoes again (though perhaps with some judiciously placed padding around the area of the baby toe :). Luckily, I had done an hour-long P90X stretching video earlier in the afternoon, which is the only reason my calves were able to sustain walking in such a position for any length of time. To all you women who wear these sorts of shoes every day, my hat is off. I've discovered one of the benefits of being naturally tall, and (unfortunately) one of those built-in disparities between the experiences of men and women.