This Year’s Thanksgiving Post Brought To You By A Man Named Carlos

squirrels-with-pumpkin-pie(I feel like It’s worth mentioning that this photo downloaded to my computer with the title “Squirrels with pumpkin pie.” I’m sure SOME squirrels prefer pumpkin pie. Most, though, seeing as how squirrels are big fans of nuts, probably prefer what this pie actually is… pecan. I’m also not convinced these aren’t chipmunks. Oh, internet.)

Most days my husband comes home and says, “How was your day?”

This is usually a more difficult question to answer than one might think. Do I go with “Fine,” and leave it at that? During the course of a day, there are good things and bad things that happen. There are also a whole lot of neutral things that don’t justify a good or bad rating. They just are. So what’s the tipping point of good to bad that makes one day good, the next day not? No one ever has a 100% perfectly amazing day where not one thing goes wrong. No one has a 100% terrible day where EVERYTHING is wrong and there is no good.

Last night as I drifted off to sleep I thought about the day and how if someone were to say “hey, was this a good day or a bad day?” the answer could be either.

This is where perspective comes in. Yeah, yeah, the clichés about gratitude and half empty cups get overused. There’s a reason for that, though. There are some things that are inherently great- a new baby, winning the lottery, falling in love. There are others that are bad- death, cancer, heartbreak.

Yet even in those seemingly clear moments, the attitude of the person can change what’s good or bad into something very different.

I have seen people find the negative in the midst of total blessing, and I have seen others shine a light of hope and faith in the depths of sorrow.

Here’s how yesterday went:

It’s so cold! This is going to be a loooong winter if it’s this cold and it’s not even December yet.

I got a text from a friend cancelling lunch plans.

I went to the UPS store to mail off a box filled with Zoe’s old Barbie toys including her Barbie motorhome to the woman in Nebraska who bought it off of me from Ebay. She had paid $11 for the items. UPS told me it would cost me $160 to ship it. This was going to kill my perfect seller rating and I was going to have to deal with an irate customer.

All the stores I checked were already out of the extra Christmas lights I needed.

Parker was misbehaving so badly on the way home from school that I had to ground him from the computer for a day.

When I got home I almost stepped on dog poop because one of my neighbors let their dog poop on my lawn and didn’t clean it up.

My husband spilled an entire glass of water on Zoe’s homework and our brand new carpet.

Later Zoe spilled her ice tea all over the kitchen table.

She also disregarded our command to get off the counter and knocked sugar all over the newly refinished kitchen floor.

Parker commandeered the remote and we all had to suffer through “Adventure Time.”

During dinner we got a knock on our back door. One of the guys putting up our Christmas lights had discovered large amounts of natural gas shooting out of the side of the house from the meter area.

Our house was in danger of exploding with our entire family in it.

The fire dept showed up and the cutest one wasn’t there.

They turned off our gas which meant no stove, no heat, no hot water.

The guy from the gas company showed up with a van that had no equipment on it to repair the leak. He informed us that the guys weren’t answering his calls because they were in the middle of a contract vote, no one was happy. We were second on the list  for repairs, but if they voted to strike and the repairman with the parts couldn’t get to our house before midnight, we were out of luck.

Our house got colder and colder as I waited up for the second repairman. I couldn’t even take a bath because Nathan had used up all the hot water in his 20 minute shower.

It was almost midnight when they finally arrived to fix the problem.

It turns out the leak is from cracking because our house is settling- great. How many thousands of dollars is THAT going to cost?

I went out to greet them in bare feet and stepped on a slug.

What a rotten day!


Here’s how yesterday went:

I woke up in the morning to sunshine and frost of the rooftops. It was beautiful.

I went in to get Parker up and he snuggled up to me as I carried him downstairs.

After getting the kids off to school, I drank my coffee, took a warm bath and read my new Janet Evanovich book.

I got a text from my friend cancelling our lunch date, which meant I was to avoid the humiliation of having to wear a Washington State University t-shirt in public as a result of the Apple cup bet I lost last year when the Cougars upset the Washington Huskies.

I went to the UPS store where a very nice guy had to break the news to me that my package was going to be absurdly expensive to ship to my buyer. Thankfully, my quick refund of her money and heartfelt apology was graciously accepted.

I was able to locate 2 boxes of Christmas lights that weren’t exactly what I needed, but they were hidden in the back and they were the very last 2- how lucky is that?

I came home to find that the guys we were able to hire to put up our lights for us were already halfway done. They always do such a great job.

I got a message from my husband that a man named Bill was on his way to purchase the four-wheeler someone gave us for free 6 years ago- for $200! Now I have so much more space in my garage and an extra $200 dollars in my pocket. (Oh and they’re the new bills that look crazy. Since he got them out of the ATM, they were sequential. I’ve never had two sequential brand new hundred dollar bills before)

Thankfully Zoe noticed there was dog poop on the grass before I stepped in it, and I was able to clean it up before anyone else did.

I really love my new floors and carpet. And even though it was stressful having it done, they turned out so nice and the insurance company paid for everything!

Dinner turned out great, and I was fortunate to have just finished sautéing the green beans when one of the guys putting up the lights- Carlos- knocked on the door and let us know he had discovered a gas leak. We are so grateful that he was there and realized it. We are lucky our house is still in one piece and so are we!

The fire dept showed up so fast! They were able to turn off the gas so that we were no longer in danger. Fire fighters are so great- always there when you need them.

I called the gas company, and the fire dept had already alerted them and had a technician on the way to our house. What amazing customer service and rapid response time!

The technician was unable to fix the problem, but he got us on the repair list so we were second in line.

Thankfully the gas co employees approved their new contract and avoided the strike! What a relief for them and their families- especially this close to the holidays.

These guys showed up to repair our gas line  at nearly midnight- their dedication and willingness to come out and make the repairs so we would have heat and hot water saved us from a very cold night. It’s so great to know that they are willing to do whatever it takes. Hope their contract pays them well.

My husband said, “The leak happened due to settling under the house. The good news is at this rate eventually the driveway won’t seem so steep.”

I drifted off to sleep with a roof over my head and heat flowing through our vents.

What a great day!

My wish for all of us this Thanksgiving is that we are able to see the blessings for what they are and the trials for what we can learn from them. When we focus on the positive or the negative, we usually find exactly what we’re looking for.

Happy Thanksgiving!








A Viewers Guide To The Fa-La-La-La-Lifetime And Hallmark Christmas Movie Marathons

falala_621x2001 (Formerly “It’s a wonderful Lifetime”)

It’s that time of year again. When jingle bells chime, the ground gets blanketed with snow, and romance is in the air. Not in real life, of course. In real life it’s 40 degrees and raining, romance is sharing a jar of mentholatum and the only thing ringing is my ears; Which is probably why I find myself drawn each holiday season to the romantic holiday movies of the Hallmark and Lifetime channels.

I don’t normally watch either of these channels. During the rest of the year Lifetime seems to be filled with stressful movies about abusive husbands or psycho mistresses. Hallmark isn’t on my radar at all. But come the first weekend of November, you will find me glued to the TV.

As a seasoned (pun intended- nearly every movie title has a pun or a play on words. All part of the fun!) viewer of these movies, I have a few tips for the newbie.

1. As with any contrived romance, you must suspend any scintilla of disbelief. If you go into watching these movies thinking you will get a dose of reality, you are barking up the wrong Christmas tree. (See what I did there? ) Everything must work together to make a happy ending. There will be twists… oh yes. But the twists will always lead to the final climactic scene. As Parker said the other night when the show went to a commercial, “Oh yeah. They’re totally gonna make out at the end.”

snow bride He’s rich. She’s a tabloid reporter… hijinx in the snow and love.(Look at how pissy Mrs. Home Improvement looks)

2. There will be a giant snowstorm. (See above photo)This facilitates our protagonists being stranded together.

3. Often, our PROtagonists will start off with ANtagonism. After all, what makes a better romance story than two people who hate each other so much that they fall madly in love? (Once, of course, they’ve been stranded alone together long enough to determine the other person is really lovely and has simply been misunderstood the whole time) Also, there is usually a jerky boyfriend or girlfriend who makes their rival suddenly look sweet.

The thanksgiving houseHe’s a historian who believes her house is sitting on the site of the first Thanksgiving. She thinks he’s trying to tear down her family home. He is. But he’s still nicer than her work-obsessed sleazy city boyfriend.

4. There is a good chance that our heroine is named Holly or Carol. They were born to have something interesting happen to them at Christmas time because of their names. Occasionally someone will have the last name Kringle. (Have you ever known anyone in real life with the name Kringle? Me either. )


5. When you spend an entire weekend watching these movies, you will likely see the same actors and actresses in different roles. I believe the pool from which these roles are cast is very selective. There is an unusual amount of redheaded women. Once you have finished one movie, you must completely let it go before moving on to the next, otherwise you might get confused like my husband who kept saying, “And then he’s going to close down the library.” To which I would respond, “No, that was two movies ago.”

5. I would not advise watching two Billy Ray Cyrus movies in a row, even if the second is a sequel to the first. Pace yourself. DVR the second Billy Ray movie and switch to the Lifetime channel where you can cleanse your palate with a nice “I’m bringing home a fake fiance’ so everyone will stop bugging me to get married” movie.

imagesCA3NCS29 He’s a widower living in Texas in the 60’s and 70’s. He doesn’t age, and he is the only non racist in his town.

6. Wine is the preferred accompaniment to Christmas romance movies. You will get inebriated more slowly than if you take shots when playing the Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas movie drinking game.

Oh, so you’ve never played?

Here are the rules:

One sip every time a Christmas ghost appears.

One for every silly misunderstanding.

Take one sip every time someone is about to lose their home or job right before Christmas.

One chug for each time a couple goes ice skating in Central Park.

Finally, one tiny sip for each “almost kiss.” This should have you good and schnockered by the time the real one happens.

7. Don’t let them mislead you: The majority of these movies, regardless of where they say they are taking place, are filmed in Utah. I lived in Utah for 5 years. Utah in no way looks like Chicago. I’m not sure who they think they’re fooling, but it ain’t me. And now, it ain’t you either. (This is also probably another reason the plots tend to be so wholesome.)

8. These movies are usually a stepping stone for unknown actors and an attempt to breathe life into dying careers for C and D list actors. I don’t know what favors Shannon Elizabeth had to call in to sing her own songs in “Catch a Christmas Star” (She plays a pop star… play on words. But you knew that, right?) but her version of “I heard the bells on Christmas day.” was not great. She’s beautiful, and I liked the movie ok, but the singing… good Lawd. She’s beautiful (Remember, she played Nadia in the American Pie Movies) and her acting isn’t awful. While I haven’t officially confirmed it’s her singing, it sounds like her speaking voice and I can’t imagine them hiring someone that sings that flat to do a voice over.

imagesCAW4LKS1 Falalalala I can’t hear you because I am plugging my ears

9. There WILL be a grand gesture- and it will probably be the man making it. In “Christmas Star,” our man a) realizes he’s going to lose the best thing that has ever happened to him b) drags his extended family to the concert where he c) bribes an employee to give him his hat so he can d) sneak backstage and finally e) go on stage in front of thousands of fans to declare his undying love for the woman of his dreams, where they will make out in front of everyone with no thought to privacy. Or the fact it’s making everyone uncomfortable. The grand gesture can also come in the form of changing his mind about destroying something that our heroine has been fighting for, dressing up in a Santa suit to save the parade, or actually deciding to marry the fake fiancée … right there, on Christmas day, in her parents’ living room. (He brought his own minister, who apparently had nothing better to do on Christmas morning.)

brideforchristmas What guy hasn’t placed a bet with his buddies that he could get a random girl to agree to marry him by Christmas? Spoiler- they fall in love and marry on Christmas Day. In her parents’ living room. Told you.

955782LoveattheThanksgivingDayParadePostersmHe’s a rich developer who once was an orphan. She is obsessed with the Thanksgiving parade in “Chicago” (Utah) that he wants to shut down because financially it’s not feasible for the city. Bonus: She likes to wear only vintage clothing in the hopes one day she will be wearing an item that belonged to the mother she lost as a young child.

10. Our heroes will either be rich, frozen-hearted businessmen who only need the love of a good woman, or widowers; Never divorced- that would be too messy. Our female lead must be able to swoop in with her natural mothering instincts and make the kids fall in love with her first, so that  they can then manipulate situations to bring the two together. And the kids are ALWAYS cool with the soon-to-be stepmom.

As cynical as I may sound, it certainly won’t stop me from watching. I may make snarky comments throughout, but deep down the idea of happily ever after is certainly an appealing one. So it’s not realistic- it’s not meant to be. It’s fantasy. I’m willing to suspend reality for a few hours in anticipation of that long-awaited kiss. And it usually is long-awaited. There is wooing, and effort made. The women are never desperate, they know their value, and they expect the man to prove to her that he’s worthy of her. The men then live up to her standards. Unrealistic? Maybe. Probably.

But a girl can dream, can’t she?





A Mongoose Isn’t A Bird- The Trip That Keeps On Giving (Hawaii Part 4)


I have a confession to make. I’m getting senile. It’s only been a month since our trip to Hawaii and already many of the stories and events are fading. I wrote myself some notes and I found myself staring at them this morning trying to decipher what in the world I was talking about. Honestly, they look like the ramblings of a mad woman.

So, I will do my best today to remember what the heck it all means.

Way back in Zoe’s birthday post I failed to mention something that happened at dinner that night.

We were seated at a long table, Zoe of course at the head. I was next to Zoe, and my brother and sister in-law were at the other end, so I often had to strain to hear the conversations going on. At one point Brooke, my sister-in-law, was telling a story about a mongoose.

Over Parker’s head I said to Jeff, “What’s she talking about?”

He said, “A mongoose.”

I said, “You know a mongoose is a bird, right?”

He gave me a strange look, but said nothing.

The next day the topic of the mongoose came up again. Jeff said, “You know a mongoose isn’t a bird.”

“Yes it is. I think it’s a white bird with a long neck.”

“No. It isn’t. A mongoose is a rodent.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. Google it.”

And so I did.

This is a mongoose:


I have no idea what I was thinking is a mongoose, but this wasn’t it.

Of course, because I am RARELY ever wrong about ANYTHING, this became great fodder for my family.

The day after we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center Jeff stayed back at the hotel with Parker and Nathan, while Toni, Sydney, Zoe and I went back up to Kualoa Ranch.

Sydney was a big fan of “Lost” and one of her birthday requests while we were there was to do a “Lost” site tour.

It turns out that our tour guide wasn’t a big fan of “Lost” and therefore didn’t focus a lot on it. There are a ton of shows and movies that have been filmed on this property, and in fact the other day while I was in bed sick and catching up on “Hawaii 5-0” Zoe and I noticed that they were showing scenes filmed in the World War 2 bunkers we had gone into on the tour.

219Zoe in a bunker

sydneylostSydney gets “Lost” in the bunker (He looks pretty annoyed with her)

During the tour, our guide talked about the history of the ranch, its WW2 occupation by the Navy, and how it became a popular location site for filming.

She also brought up the mongoose. I could see Sydney smiling out of the corner of my eye as the guide told us how the mongoose came to be in Hawaii. I tried not to make eye contact.

Hawaii has a rat problem. Some time back some dude thought he would solve the rat problem by bringing in a predator- the mongoose. The trouble was, the rats come out at night and the mongoose (mongeese?) come out in the day time. And never the twain shall meet. Now Hawaii has a rat problem AND a mongoose problem. And now I know more about the mongoose than I ever hoped to know. At this point it’s in contention for my least favorite animal.

When we got back from the bus tour we noticed the hundred and one had arrived- but they were all going on the horseback riding tour. Trying to navigate that crowd was like a salmon swimming upstream.

We headed back down into Waikiki and made plans for dinner. We decided to take the trolley, which is pretty convenient and only $2/person. Unfortunately it was a busy night because 2 full trolleys came by before we were able to squeeze onto what would turn out to be the greatest bus ride any of us have ever taken. About 5 minutes into the ride, our driver said that he thought we needed a little spark to get us going. He turned up the volume and began playing “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang. As we drove he would start and stop to make the trolley “dance.” At one point, he started calling out people who weren’t singing. Parker thought this was all terrifying, while Zoe thought it was the greatest thing ever.

Once “Celebration” was done, he moved on to “YMCA.” Most of the trolley was doing the hand motions. Even people on the street were doing it as we waited at a stop light. At one point, a woman on a bus next to us seemed to have some sort of breakdown because she was angrily pointing and yelling at us in Japanese.

There is video of this fun ride, however Sydney’s privacy settings on her Facebook account won’t allow me to show it. I attempted to screen shot the driver and although these pictures are hazy, you get the gist.

image Our driver clapping and dancing

image The light turned but he still managed to make the Y in YMCA

We rode the trolley several times during the course of the trip. Every other time the driver stayed silent except to announce stops. Which just goes to show- Your attitude about life can turn an ordinary bus ride into an event to remember.

The next day we drove out to Hanauma Bay to go snorkeling. All the pamphlets said “get there early,” but we had no idea that meant like 8am. We arrived around 930, only to be told we couldn’t even pull into the parking lot, it was full. They told us to come back and try again in 20 minutes. We headed down the highway another few minutes until we reached a lookout point. It was spectacular.

hanauma1 hanauma2 hanauma3

We headed back up to the entrance to the parking lot and were allowed in. I had been concerned we were never getting in.

They take people down in groups, following a short video that explains about the bay, what you will see there and how to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the bay. It’s a pretty long hike down, or you can pay to have a tram take you.

Even on a Wednesday in October that place was busy. We found a spot to settle in.

For months Parker had talked about going snorkeling. He’s been snorkeling in our bathtub with a mask, practicing. So when the day finally came…

232 He was ready.

Until he put his face in the ocean.

He didn’t like the flippers, and the waves freaked him out. He ended up hanging right around the edge of the water, never going too far.

He missed out. Somewhere we have an underwater camera with undeveloped pictures that Zoe took. I have seemingly misplaced it. You’ll have to take my word for it- the fish were amazing.


We spent an awful lot of time in the car on this trip. As a result there were a lot of random conversations. At one point Zoe decided we should start a family band. She put her father as lead singer, which made absolutely no sense, as he couldn’t hold a tune in a bucket. I think she assigned Parker the triangle.

Sydney said I should cover all of today’s hits and call it “Mom Bop.”

My taste in music was challenged at one point, so we ended up putting on the Disney Pandora station. This led to a whole conversation about the Little Mermaid, and her voice, and what kind of bargain it was to give up your voice to get the guy.

Jeff said, “It would be worth it.”

He just likes the idea of a pretty woman with no voice.

And I think he likes the idea of me with no voice.

My mother-in-law was trying to understand my family at one point. My dad has two children from his first marriage, my mom has two from hers. They got married, and had me.

“Oh, so you’re the only only?”

Well, did my husband have a field day with that comment. “Oh, she’s the only only all right. Between Zoe, who calls herself ‘the awesome’ and Miss ‘Only only’ over here, you can see what I’m dealing with.”

For the rest of the trip Zoe and I were referred to as “The awesome and the only only.”

Haters are gonna hate, what can I say?

We saw a lot of sites, went to a lot of events, but in the end the true memories were made on those car rides, in silly conversations and unplanned moments.

I promise I only have one more Hawaii post planned. It was Parker’s birthday and it was a day to remember. There was Mickey Mouse, a shirtless man throwing flaming swords and I got a tattoo. What more could an 8 year old ask for?

124He really just wanted me to get a picture of the woman behind him




Thank You Doesn’t Seem Enough


A couple weeks ago Zoe came to me and said, “Do we have any veterans in our family?”

I said, “None who are alive.”

“NO one? We don’t know ANY veterans that I can bring to our assembly?”

“No. Papa Bill was too young to serve in Korea and too old for Vietnam. Plus he was in college and was a father. Papa Jim didn’t serve as far as I know. In fact, the only person in our family that I can think of is your cousin Kurt, and he’s serving the Coast Guard down in Oregon.”

“Can’t he come for this?”

“That’s the thing with military service, you don’t get to come and go as you please. He has to stay there and do his job.”

She was pretty peeved at me, and insisted that even if we didn’t have anyone she could bring, that I attend the assembly.

Their music teacher’s husband is an officer in one branch of the military, so she makes sure that every year there is a Veteran’s Day assembly. They begin practicing their songs early on in the school year, which is why you could often hear Zoe going around singing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

One day as she was singing I said, “While I understand that you need to practice, could you maybe move on from the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli to another branch of service? I got enough of that song when I dated a Marine20 years ago.”

I am really glad that I attended the assembly, though. Besides the fact that Zoe would be upset if I didn’t, I have to admit that veterans are close to my heart. As they called out the conflicts in which the guests had served, and I saw these men and women stand, particularly the two World War II vets, I couldn’t help but get emotional. What are hunched over little old men now, who go about their day like anyone else, were once brave soldiers; Young men who were probably terrified and didn’t know if they would ever make it home.

My grandfather, Captain Jack Bomke, served in the US Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. It was a Sunday morning, and he was having breakfast at his mother’s house when the attacks happened. He raced down the hill to the harbor to help wherever he could. He, alongside his fellow men, worked to rescue as many as they could.

jackandcharlotteCaptain Jack Bomke on the day he married my grandmother Charlotte Quinn


When I was 13, my parents and I drove down to visit my grandfather in Southern California. Along the way we stopped off in a small town and I grabbed their local newspaper. In it, there was an article, that I’m pretty sure I still have somewhere, about an event that had recently taken place. It was an event to raise money for the needs of the veterans in their community. The organizers had spent a lot of money on food and party supplies. Hardly anyone showed up. One of the veterans was quoted as saying, “It feels like no one cares.”

That article devastated me. I thought about the sacrifices these men and women had made, and that they felt like no one cared about their struggles. I saved the article because I intended to write to them and let them know that people DO care… And then I forgot about it. For a while. But I have never truly forgotten about that missed opportunity to show my appreciation.

I am thankful to have the legacy of my great grandfather, John R. Quinn, to look towards in the care for and advocating of veterans’ issues.

John Quinn was working on his father’s ranch in 1917 when word about the war reached him. He immediately left for San Francisco and enlisted. He was sent to France and served as Captain of Battery F, 348th field artillery, 91st division and fought in the Meuse Argonne offensive.

He stayed until 1919 with the Army of Occupation.

When he returned to California, he became active in the newly-formed American Legion. In 1920, when he realized that the closest AL post was in Bakersfield, a day’s drive for the men in his home town, he organized Merle Reed Post 124 in Delano, California so they could have a place to gather.

In 1921 John became the California Commander of the American Legion.

In 1922 he was placed in charge of the veterans’ welfare board in the San Francisco office.

In 1923 he became the Chairman of the Board for Veterans Welfare of the state of California.

That same year, due to his tireless fight for veterans’ issues, he was elected National Commander of the American Legion.

image President Calvin Coolidge, center, John Quinn to the right of him.

Starting in 1921, there was a push by the American Legion for veterans’ compensation. A bill placed before the Senate was vehemently protested by President Harding and eventually failed. It regained momentum and was finally passed in 1924 under the leadership of President Coolidge and National Commander John Quinn. The American Legion was a driving force in getting The Adjusted Compensation Act into law. (This is an article written by National commander Quinn arguing for this bill)

It soon became apparent that veterans’ issue didn’t stop with the veterans themselves, but their wives, widows and children. John was a strong advocate for these families as well.

The World War Adjusted Compensation Act didn’t give immediate help to veterans, however. The act, passed in 1924, delayed payment to veterans until 1945. When the Great Depression hit, people were struggling, veterans in particular.

In 1932, the Bonus Army March was a movement to demand the payments no longer be delayed. Some sources report as many as 17,000 veterans, along with 26,000 family members and supporters, marched into Washington DC. President Hoover, who really should have known better, sent in 500 infantry soldiers, 500 cavalry, 6 tanks and 800 police officers to quell the revolt. In the end, 4 were dead, over a thousand were injured, including 69 police officers.

Hoover lost the election that year to FDR. While FDR opposed the veteran’s demands, Hoover was the one to turn the army on them. (Am I the only one who reads about Hoover and “We’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover” from “Annie” pops into your head? No? Just me?)


I don’t have an explanation as to why my grandfather supported Hoover in spite of this incident, but he was a progressive Republican (who knew there was such a thing), and FDR was a Democrat.

John Quinn spent his entire adult life fighting for the rights of veterans. He believed strongly in the obligation of our nation to pay the debt of gratitude to those who have served.

He went on to be honored by President Truman


And President Nixon


for his efforts on behalf of those who have served in our armed forces and their families.

The American Legion was instrumental in creating the US Veterans Bureau, predecessor to the VA. they continue to fight against the bureaucracy that is preventing the needs of veterans being met.

They created the “Flag Code” for proper treatment of the American flag.

They supported a fledgling organization called “The American Heart Association” and helped it become the force it is today.

The AL supported and pushed for the GI bill, which has provided higher education to millions of veterans.

If you’d like to learn more about veterans’ issue and the American Legion, please go to

And to the veterans… thank you isn’t nearly enough. But still. Thank you.



Who Let The Dogs Out? (Hawaii Part 3)


hawaii8My husband captioned this photo, “Many levels of suspicion”

I’m back with another installment of our Hawaii trip. If you’re getting bored with these, don’t worry, there are only about 5 more to go. I could say I’m kidding, but I’m not. If I can survive the trip, you can survive these posts.

The day after Zoe’s birthday I suggested we head up the other side of the island to see the Polynesian Cultural Center. The kids had complained that Waikiki didn’t feel very “Hawaiian” so I thought this was a great opportunity to experience the culture.

The drive was amazing. Where the trip to Haleiwa had been sparse in vegetation, this side of the island was lush. As we drove along the coast, I spotted “Hat island.” Hat island isn’t really Hat island. The Hawaiian name is Mokoliʻi, which means “little lizard.” The belief was that in a great battle between the goddess Hiʻiaka and a dragon, the dragon’s tail was cut off and this is what remains:


However, due to the fact that it resembles a traditional Asian hat many refer to the island as “Chinaman’s hat.” So much for being PC.

As we pulled into the parking lot to the beach area with the best view of the island, we also noticed a large site called “Kualoa Ranch.”

Sydney said, “These mountains look a lot like ‘Lost.'”

I said, “Well I know that ‘Lost’ was filmed somewhere on the island.”

I took her picture, as she pretended to be “Lost.”

sydney1 She’s even eating a banana like she would in the jungle.

I made the comment that the mountains reminded me of “Mighty Joe Young,” the movie about the giant gorilla starring my husband’s #2 favorite hottie Charlize Theron. (#1? Scarlett Johansson in case anyone is keeping track.) To which Nathan replied, “You’re a giant gorilla.”

One of us was right. The other was Nathan. Turns out Kualoa Ranch is the filming site of many movies and television shows, including “Mighty Joe Young.”

After a couple more pics in front of the island…


We all piled back in our giant rental vehicle and headed north. We noticed that there were a lot of signs protesting expansion and development of the area. With as lovely as everything was over there, I can see why they would want to protect it.

When we finally pulled into the parking lot for the PCC we were relieved to see the parking lot was pretty empty, except for a few tour buses. There was a bit of a scuffle under the plumeria trees as we lathered the sunscreen on everyone.


For those who don’t know, the Polynesian Cultural Center is a living museum/sort-of theme park owned and operated by the LDS (Mormon) church. The majority of employees are students of BYU-Hawaii and they work for scholarship money.

While there is mention of the purpose of the park, there are no overt “conversion” attempts, it really is simply a tribute to the various Polynesian cultures.



The park is designed with each unique country having their own space to highlight their housing styles, traditions, music, clothing, etc. We didn’t know where to start, but Parker insisted on heading for the canoe rides. There is a river that flows through each “country” and a tour guide talks a bit about them as you pass by.

We got to the canoe area and there was a large group already there. An employee came over to us and said, “How many of you are there?”

We told him 7.

He said, “The wait is going to be a little bit. We had a hundred and one Chinese show up in a tour bus.”

He suggested we go see the Samoa presentation that was about to start, and come back after they had gotten the “hundred and one” through on the canoes.

For the entire rest of our trip the phrase “the hundred and one” became code for large groups of tourists. As in, “We’d better make a reservation, otherwise we may get stuck behind the hundred and one.” Or, “I didn’t want to wait in the bathroom line. The hundred and one were there.”

We headed over to Samoa, and were stopped by a man with no shirt, a grass skirt and calves that were mesmerizing. I’ve never seen calves that muscular. Neither had Zoe, who leaned over and started whispering, “Do you see his…” before I shushed her. They were in the process of raising the Samoan flag and singing their national anthem.

The show consisted of Mr. Amazing Calves husking and shucking a coconut, all the while making funny jokes about the tourists watching. He is multi-lingual, and spoke to people in their own languages throughout. He is no longer a student, he was a fine art major who now sells his paintings in the Samoa souvenir shop and spends his days doing coconut demonstrations. Oh, and he showed us how to make fire.

They have hands on demonstrations for people to try at each “village” including fire making, hula lessons, basket weaving, etc. The kids can get a stamp in their “passport” and at the end, if they have completed all the tasks, they get a prize from the gift shop at the front of the park. My kids were interested in the prize, but not enough to try all the activities.

After Samoa we went back to the canoe ride, where the top photo was taken. The hundred and one had already cleared out, so the wait was short.

When we’d finished the canoe ride, the natives started getting hungry. By natives I don’t mean the people working at the park, I mean my kids. We found a spot to settle in to watch the parade of islands on the river front while Sydney and I went off to find food to bring back. By the time we got back, Jeff and the kids were surrounded by the hundred and one.

Can I just say: yes, your skin is lovely, but is it really necessary to put up umbrellas to shield your face from the sun while those behind you are trying to see over and around you? A couple rays so that you don’t block everyone’s view isn’t that much of a sacrifice.

My husband was a little shocked that I actually patted one of the women on the shoulder asking her to take the sunbrella down. At least I was nice about it.

Each island had their own float, where they wore traditional costumes, and did their own traditional dances and songs. After watching them all, I’d have to say the Tongans are the ones I would want to party with. They definitely seemed to be the most fun of the bunch. The New Zealanders (Aoteroa) were the most subdued. I found myself thinking my pale freckled face may say “Irish” but my body says “Polynesian.” I love that the Polynesian women are curvy and not skinny- except Tahiti. Those girls were by far the thinnest. I loved their outfits and they certainly know how to shake their non-existent hips. I could never make it in Tahiti.

hawaii6The Tongans

We decided that we were up for one more show, so we headed to Tonga.

The Tongan show was a drum show, and after doing some demonstrations, they dragged 3 men down to participate. The first was a white guy from San Francisco. the second was a black man from Miami. The third was a man from Japan.

The show was quite entertaining. One by one they took each guy and had them mimic their drumming. The Tongan guy would drum, then the participant would follow, attempting to replicate it. The drumming would get more complicated each time, and then they added some yells in Tongan. When the guy from Miami got up there, he was keeping up pretty well. When he got to the last set, the Tongan guy did a complicated drum beat and then yelled a very long sentence in Tongan. The guy from Miami stopped, looked at him, drummed something totally different and shouted, “Who let the dogs out?!?”

The crowd roared with laughter.

At the end of the show, Jeff came over to where I was sitting with Zoe and said, “Parker wants to get his autograph.”

Confused, I said, “The performer?”

“No. The ‘Who let the dogs out’ guy.”

I laughed. “Of course he does. ”

After some prompting on Parker’s part, Jeff, totally mortified, walked over with Parker to ask for Miami’s autograph.


Suddenly there was a huge eruption of laughter from everyone surrounding Parker.

By the time I got over there, Jeff’s face was beet red.

I said, “What happened?”

“Parker threw me under the bus, that’s what happened. We got over there and Parker said, ‘My dad wants your autograph.'”

I looked at Parker, who had a sheepish look on his face.

imageParker’s “Autograph”

Zoe decided she wanted an autograph also, but she went for the shirtless Tongan guy. Not a bad choice.


We walked towards the exit and Parker said to me, “What does it mean that daddy wants to throw me off the bus?”

“Not OFF the bus. UNDER the bus. You threw daddy under the bus. It means that you talked daddy into going over there with you and then said he was the one who wanted the autograph.”

This phrase has been used by him many times since; Usually out of context and not worded correctly. But if you hear Parker talking about throwing people on, off or under the bus, you’ll know where it’s coming from.

Funny thing- the next day Jeff and Parker went to the hotel pool and who did they see?

You got it- Mr. Who let the dogs out guy.

Out of all the hotels on Oahu where he could have been staying- he was at ours.

I said, “Did you say anything to him?”

“No I was hoping he didn’t recognize us.”

Later that day they got in the elevator. Who was in it? You guessed it.

Parker had given Jeff a gift that just kept on giving.

Coming soon- The celebration bus, the mongoose, the awesome and the only only