Archive for the ‘family’ Category

A piece of art only a mother could love

April 29th, 2016

Parenting, as you know, is so totally subjective. Everyone thinks their child is the best, smartest, funniest, most talented, etc, in the world. ...Well, Claus and I know Olivia's not a prodigy, but we do rank her #1 in many superlative categories.

From the start, every little artistic creation she has brought home from school meets with a shower of compliments. We love that she made it with her own two little hands, and that she gives it to us with all of her heart. She's the sweetest.

The other day, she brought home a glazed ceramic the art class had been working on for a few weeks. They molded the clay, designed their sculptures, painted it, and then brought it home after it was fired in the kiln.

"Here, Mommy," she said as she nonchalantly plopped a rat-unicorn hybrid ("a raticorn" I was informed) on the counter. She's eight now, so sometimes it's not such a big deal to give your parents gifts.

I turned around to receive it. "Oh! That's nice, Dear! What is it?"

She said what it was, which I think is weird- but I rationalized it within seconds that it's just her brilliant expression of creativity. It's actually odd looking but if Olivia made it, I love it.

And then she said she didn't make it! "It came from one of the other girls in class. She didn't want it. She gave it to me."

Duh, she didn't want it. It's ugly.

"Oh. Where is yours?" I asked. "You should give this back to that girl. Her parents probably want it."

"Mine's in the art show," Olivia explained. "And I like this. She gave it to me, she doesn't want it back, and I'm going to keep it. Let's put it here on the counter."

"Actually, no. Put it in your room if you insist on having it. A rat with a horn is kind of scary," I admitted.

Olivia stopped to put it together. "So... why'd you say you liked it when you thought it was mine?"

"Because it's special when it comes from you. You're my kid," I explained.

Later, Claus and I compared notes and apparently, he had a very similar conversation with her about the raticorn.

Funny, isn't it, that within seconds one's whole perspective on something can change based on a little piece of knowledge? It's still the same sculpture!

By the way, I lost that fight. Somehow the dang uni-mouse found its way to my bedroom nightstand where Olivia likes to play with it before she tucks me in.

Expert at ignoring

April 6th, 2016

Now and then, because this is somewhat of a jujitsu household, I practice some of the arts on my husband. Sometimes I sneak up on him and put him in a chokehold. I'm not that spectacular at it, but I try.

He became a second degree black belt while I hung up my brown when I started my current early morning schedule. Everything is so calm for him.

When I try to foot sweep him or surprise choke him from behind, he brushes me aside or keeps reading his iPad as if swatting away a fly. If it weren't so amusing it would be defeating.

One afternoon, right after I failed again at my subterfuge, Olivia then started nagging away about wanting a playdate or some such (though she'd already been told no.) He casually ignored her, too, reading on as if nobody were in the room.

I laughed at this spectacle of Claus sitting oblivious in the middle of all this agitation around him. "Where do you think you honed this skill of ignoring annoying things around you?" I asked. "Husbandhood or fatherhood?"

He actually paused, looked up from his table, and smiled, "Yes."

College tuition scares me

April 4th, 2016

In just ten years, my daughter will be (hopefully) headed to college. It's something we want and expect for her, as my husband and I both have university degrees. Actually, my mother and I both have a master's degree, and my father and Claus both have a bachelor's degree.

I remember university being expensive when I was 18, but it sure is heart-stopping now. A November 2015 TIME magazine article found four years of private college with room and board costs, on average, $176,000. By contrast, it says four years of public college is $38,000.

The concept of paying for university is, well, foreign to my husband, a Danish national. The government of Denmark pays for all citizens'  education, even advanced degrees.

This is actually why one of his compatriots is moving away from Hawaii this summer and back to Denmark with his family. It's a similar setup as us: Danish husband (Keld Christensen), American wife (Sandy), dual citizenship children (Viggo, Danika). Keld is tired of paying for private high schools and balks at the idea of paying for eight more years for his children's college education.

The Christensens. Courtesy: Sandy Christensen

The Christensens. Courtesy: Sandy Christensen

(You can follow their adventures in Denmark at Sandy's blog,

I would love for Olivia to have the quintessential university experience romanticized by movies in which a young adult goes off to college out of his or her home state, enjoys a personal journey towards adulthood and independence, and is able to forge lasting friendships and memories. I think of The Social Network and Legally Blonde.

I left home at a young age and lived in other states, and know the satisfaction of evolution beyond comfortable boundaries. I appreciate how that's shaped me into the person I am today. I would like Olivia to have a broader world view.

But will it be affordable? With more Americans suffocating under crushing student loans, and the current crop of politicians once again bringing education reform to the fore, I wonder if the educational entitlement of my generation is shifting into past tense.

When I was in high school, it was cool to think about going away for college and having some freedom from one's parents. I wonder if many in Olivia's generation will have a different vision of college: simply being able to pay for it; gratitude if they can get through four years of public university without repaying loans until their middle ages.

(By the way, Claus adds, this dream of college as a defining moment is uniquely American, because in liberal Denmark, a lot of that wild and crazy stuff is done in high school. "By the time people go to university in Denmark, people are very serious students. It's competitive to get in even though it's free, and the master's degree is generally the norm, not just a bachelor's." It's very possible we might move to Denmark before the decade is up.)

With this in mind, coupled with that fact that I am, admittedly, deeply attached to my little girl, I suggested to her she stay here in Hawaii and attend UH Manoa. That way, I cajoled, you can see Mommy all the time. (I only half mean this. The other half of me wants her to spread her wings.)

"Unless you do something amazing and get into Harvard University," I said. "Then Mommy and Daddy will pay out the nose for you." I'll probably have to sell a few organs. I'd sell some eggs, too, if I had any left, which I won't.

"Where is Harvard?" she inquired.

"Far, far away, on the East Coast," I answered.

I really thought that would be a deterrent. Right now, she misses me when she sleeps at any friend's house which is more than five miles away from home. Her separation anxiety is proportional to the distance from me.

Imagine my surprise when she exclaimed, "OOH! Yeah! I'm in!"

I silently pouted, though my husband knows me all too well. "It's OK. We will go up there all the time. Monthly," he chuckled.

"Olivia, I could buy you a car if you want to stay home and go to UH," I bribed.

"YEAH! A car? Can it be a red one?" she asked.

"Sure!" I said, and looked smugly at Claus.

"Way to negotiate with an eight year old," he congratulated.

Empty nest and empty bank account. What a downer. Think happy thoughts: She's cute and she's all mine for another decade.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Centennial Events for April

March 31st, 2016

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016, and continues its tradition of sharing Hawaiian culture and After Dark in the Park (ADIP) programs with the public in April. All ADIP and Hawaiian cultural programs are free, but park entrance fees apply. Programs are co-sponsored by the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. They are:

Ranger Noah Gomes and ‘ukulele. Courtesy: NPS

Ranger Noah Gomes and ‘ukulele. Courtesy: NPS


‘Ukulele Basics. Park rangers show the basics of how to play the ‘ukulele as part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing ‘Ike Hana No‘eau “Experience the Skillful Work” workshops. Free.
When: Wed., April 6 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai


‘Alalā at Keauhou Bird Conservation Center. Courtesy: San Diego Zoo/R.Kohley

‘Alalā at Keauhou Bird Conservation Center. Courtesy: San Diego Zoo/R.Kohley

The Return of the ‘Alalā. ʻAlalā, the native Hawaiian crow, once lived across Hawaiʻi Island. Now, due to a variety of threats in the wild, these birds are found only in captivity. Successful captive breeding and conservation efforts have helped to rescue this native Hawaiian species from the brink of extinction. This fall, ʻalalā will be returned home to the wild, and these very intelligent birds will take their place once again in our Hawaiian forests. Come learn more about the release and recovery of the ʻalalā, a beloved and unique bird found nowhere else on earth. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing After Dark in the Park series. Free.
When: Tues., April 12 at 7 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium

Free Entry During National Park Week. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service this year, all fee-charging national parks in the U.S. will offer nine fee-free days to commemorate the centennial during National Park Week– including Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Come and Find Your Park at no charge! Hawai‘i Volcanoes is open 24 hours a day.
When: April 16-24, 2016
Where: All fee-charging national parks

Kahuku ‘Ohana Day. Calling keiki 17 and younger to join park rangers for a fun day of discovery in the park’s Kahuku Unit on Sat., April 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants will hike the historic lower Palm Trail, and learn to make traditional string figures called hei. Call (808) 985-6019 to register and sign up for a free lunch by March 31. Bring water, a re-usable water bottle, sunscreen, hat, long pants and shoes. Sponsored by the park and Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center. Enter the Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on the mauka (inland) side of Highway 11 near mile marker 70.5, and meet near the parking area. Free.

Hula Performance by Haunani’s Aloha Expressions. This popular, award-winning hula hālau is comprised of an all-Hawaiian volunteer group of kāne and wāhine kūpuna (elders) 70 to over 90 years old, singing and dancing hapa-haole mele and hula. They share the aloha spirit with malihini (visitors) on visiting cruise ships, and at the Hilo International Airport. The kūpuna also entertain patients at many of Hilo’s senior kōkua (caring) organizations, and have performed at the park’s annual cultural festival on several occasions. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing Nā Leo Manu “Heavenly Voices” presentations. Free.
When: Wed., April 20 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium

Centennial Series After Dark in the Park: What Makes a Species Invasive? Invasive species are introduced organisms that negatively impact our economy, environment and/or our health. They are a leading threat to the world’s biodiversity, contributing to extinctions and the alteration of entire ecosystems, and cost billions of dollars annually. Hawai‘i has been notoriously and negatively impacted by invasives, but no environment is unaffected. Join Park Ecologist David Benitez to learn what makes a species invasive, hear about some of the most unwanted invasive species in the park, Hawai‘i and around the world, and learn what you can do to stop their spread.
When: Tues., April 26, 2016 at 7 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium


Will on ohe hano ihu. Courtesy: NPS

Will on ohe hano ihu. Courtesy: NPS


Hawaiian Arts & Crafts. Staff from the park’s nonprofit partner, the Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association, will make, and demonstrate how to play, the ‘ohe hano ihu (Hawaiian nose flute). In addition, visitors can learn to create beautiful designs on a bamboo stamp, or ‘ohe kāpala. Part of Hawai‘i Volcanoes’ ongoing ‘Ike Hana No‘eau “Experience the Skillful Work” workshops. Free.
When: Wed., April 27 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Where: Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai

Centennial Hike: Save the Summit Understory. Join Park Volunteers Paul & Jane Field and lop invasive Himalayan ginger from the native Hawaiian rainforest at the summit of Kīlauea. Bring a hat, raingear, day pack, snacks and water. Gloves and tools are provided.
When: Sat., April 30, 2016 at 9 a.m.
Where: Meet near the flagpole outside Kīlauea Visitor Center

2016 is the centennial anniversary for Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, and the year-long Centennial After Dark in the Park & Hike Series. To find out what’s happening throughout 2016, visit the park website. It’s also the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. To find centennial events at other national parks, visit

The jellybean jar

March 30th, 2016

The myriad number of ways my life has changed since I welcomed a child into my life is mind-boggling. Sometimes it's not good or bad, but it's just eye-rolllingly ridiculous.

Olivia had jellybeans in a jar. I am not a jellybean person, but it's all we had left in the house and I had a mean sweets craving.


I know I take my chances when I eat anything she's taken responsibility for. It could have been dropped in the yard first, generously sniffed by the dog, handed by very dirty hands, or most likely, left exposed for longer than it should have been.

I peered at the jellybeans as if my naked eye would actually discern bad bacteria. They looked OK, they smelled OK, so I tenuously bit one. It was tasty, so I ate another, then another, then another.

I probably had a whole fistful of jellybeans by the time I hit the bottom of the jar. And you know what I saw? Oval shaped, small brown crumbs rolling around on the bottom. About a dozen.

Panicky thought process:

Is it... roach poop? Did she leave this uncapped overnight? Think, think... in my Swiss cheese brain, do I remember seeing it opened at night on the counter? How much does one cockroach poop, anyway?

No, it's sprinkles. She likes to put sprinkles in everything. Yeah, it's cake decorating chocolate jimmies. Whew.

No, it's not sprinkles. I don't own brown sprinkles.

Wait, there's one chocolate chip in there. She likes to mix her candies. It's probably just pieces of chocolate. Yes. You didn't just eat jellybeans marinating in cockroach poo.

No, it doesn't seem likely that it's chocolate chip flakes. How would chocolate chips flake into all perfectly similar oval loaf  shapes?

What was that crash? Oh, just the sound of my heart sinking as I realize I just ate turd-dusted jellybeans. Oh my God. I feel disgusting.

I couldn't even bring myself to look in the jar again. I wasn't even sure I wanted to ask my husband for a second opinion. I just wanted to forget this ever happened (after telling the world about it first, because I need your sympathy to get through this dark time.)

That night, I had a dinner party at my house and I told my friends what happened; showed them the jar in hopes of being told it was not poop. They all, unfortunately, thought it was.

My husband said, "There's only one way to know for sure," he laughed. "Eat one and see if it tastes like chocolate. If it doesn't, it's poop."

Darin said, "It's not going to kill you. If you've eaten a hot dog, you've probably already eaten rat doo doo."

Maile said, "If it's the cockroaches in your own house, it's cleaner than the cockroaches from outside. At least the ones living with you are only crawling on your own stuff."

Paul suggested I float this as a new flavor idea to Jelly Belly, the company that has a line of gross flavors it calls BeanBoozled. I searched it and see it does not appear to have Roach Dung as an offering. I could make money off my pain?

Everyone had a laugh at my expense.

Helpful, Friends.

I'll just dump the jar and pretend this never happened, thank you.