Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why I Love Blogging

Reason #152: Because I can post about something as silly as putting my daughter's hair in pigtails for the first time and, with a catchy headline and a little groovy formatting, it looks sleek, professional and, well...., published for all eternity.

(And also because here at doubledutydiary we relish all milestones that involve introducing products and accessories to Shea's adorable mop of unruly hair.)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Catching Up

Now that the birthday and travel posts have tapered out, I thought I'd get everyone current with the many milestones that we've experienced recently.

First, there's Shea. Although she seems to be in a perpetual state of teething, she only has two teeth so far, which she got just after Christmas. (No kidding, she got her two front teeth for Christmas. I couldn't make this stuff up.) As she's often cranky and almost always trying to shove things into her mouth, we're expecting the arrival of the upper two any day now for a matched set.

Shea ponied up with a number of "firsts" during our
trip, but since then she has learned to clap her hands together and even pull herself up to standing position. Things are surely moving quick these days; it seems like we're noticing something new each week. I'm expecting her to ask me to borrow the car keys and my favorite purse any day now.

Then there's Finney, who wrote his name for the first time on Valentine's Day. Watching him pen his nickname letter by letter -- F ... I ... N ... N ... -- was like watching him paint a picture, both in terms of the suspense of watching something artful unfold and of the time it took to complete it, and when he finished the second N it took my breath away with pride. Sometimes these reactions take me by surprise, but there it is.

It was beautiful. I was proud. He beamed. So amazed were we both that he had written out FINN for the first time that we shared an ecstatic, squealing hug to celebrate.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Her First Pro Bono Gig

You may have heard me mention a time or two how having a girl baby has made me weak in the knees for the unbelievably cute clothing I'm able to put on said baby. Well, lately, one of the largest temptations to my normal budgetary constraint is a little shop called Naartjie, which sells buttery soft, adorably designed, cotton clothing manufactured in South Africa and sold at a mall near you.

And, unfortunately, at a mall near me.

I sent the company a photo of Shea, fast asleep on Grandma and Opa's new couch, wearing her fun heart romper and for about a month or so our own little bundle of cheeks and lips was featured on their
site. (They rotate the images they receive, so Shea's term has come and gone.)

Here's the picture they used. Awwwwwwwwwww.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Neverending Birthday

(OK, after today no more birthday posts. Sheeeesh!)

Before we left for Hawaii we had a little hometown birthday celebration for John's birthday. Here is the cake Finney picked out for his father from the local grocery store, which looked to me like the love child of Elmo and
Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants:

And, as Grandpa Jack was here for a visit, I was able to capture this classic image of three generations of enthusiastic cake mackers eating said cake:

Friday, February 17, 2006

Aloha Travelblog, Days 9 & 10 -- Plus Bonus Link!

Day Nine: Before leaving Hilo (and in doing so, Eddie and Amy), we all had a big breakfast together at Ken's 24-hour diner. During our stay in Hilo, we had driven by the place a few times and it had struck me as a kind of Hawaiiana Denny's or Coco's. But once inside, with a scrumptious Vegetarian Benedict and plate of Macadamia nut pancakes in front of me (it's vacation--why not go big?), I understood why Ed and Amy were such fans (they have coconut, mango and lilikoi--passionfruit--syrup for your pancakes, in addition to the traditional maple, folks!), and why there were cars idling out front, waiting for parking spots to become vacant. MMMmmmmmmmm, a great way to begin our travel day.

After visiting the local farmer's market and buying bags and bags of locally grown fruit for a pittance, we cleared out of our condo and began the trip back to Kona. We wanted to take the northern route out, as we had taken the southern route in, so we would be able to see the whole island (at least from the 11, the island's main highway). So Ed and Amy led the way north, escorting us out of Hilo, first jettisoning our main route for a brief detour on a scenic route overlooking a sheltered bay. The road was a like a miniature version of Maui's Road to Hana (which is the twistiest, jungliest, most lush and spectacular road I've ever been on), except this one was only four miles long. Perfect!

We bid farewell to Ed and Amy at the scenic road's nexus with Highway 11, promising to see them again in Northern California for their July wedding. On the rear windshield of their little car I photographed a small sticker that summed up the ethos of the Hawaiian experience perfectly: No Bad Days. Note the palm trees and fluffy clouds in the sticker's reflection, which somehow underscore the message that, sure, real life still happens to everyone and bills still need to be paid and diapers need to be changed, but life somehow seems a little easier to handle in this type of enchanted atmosphere.

Three hours later and we were once again at La Resort de Olivia in Kona, where we spent our final night in
Hawaii. That evening John and I dined on Thai food, while Grandma and Finn ate Chinese food (oh, the convenient choices!). Then we shopped for the requisite chocolate-covered Macadamia nuts and Kona coffee and watched our friend shake her island thang, as she does every Wednesday night just for the love of it, with the rest of the lovely hula troupe. It was a great way to spend our final night in the islands.

Day Ten: Time to head back home. Truth be told, as hard as it was to travel with two small children (much more so than I had anticipated), the hardest part of the trip was coming home. It was a delightful respite and celebration and I'm so grateful we took the opportunity to go. I couldn't imagine a better way to mark John's 40th birthday, except by bringing a nanny, housekeeper, and a cook. Maybe next time. Or in the next lifetime.

Special bonus link: For those of you interested in seeing even more photos of our Big Island 2006 trip, click

Aloha Travelblog, Days 7 & 8

Day Seven: Despite weather charts, stories, warnings, and centuries of folklore indicating otherwise, we did not see a single drop of rain the entire time we were in Hilo. Ed and Amy, who just moved to the Big Island from McKinleyville, CA, where it rains like Seattle's melancholy little brother, are used to arranging their lives according to the day's weather patterns: when it's rainy, you take care of indoor projects, paint, study, write, nap, etc.; when the sun shines, though, you make hay, so to speak. Or, in our case, you play. The unexpectedly good weather allowed us to do plenty of outdoor activities during our stay on the "wet" side of the island.

John and Eddie started the day off with an early surf session just north of Hilo Bay. Once the guys returned,
we toured the home and 10+ acres that Ed, Amy and a few other folks are currently renting (see two photos, above). Since his arrival in early January, Ed has managed to clear a path through the overgrown jungle that is his backyard to find a deserted and dormant macadamia tree grove; the side yard, once cleared of its overgrowth, revealed a lychee tree. The front driveway is lined with potted herbs, succulents, and tropical plants. With his green thumb, if there's any plant or tree on the property with even a shred of photosynthetic capacity left, it will soon see new life through farmer Ed's patient and able hands. The guy's truly in his element.

Since the sun was out, we made a beach day of it, heading to a picturesque place called "Four Mile." Take a good, long look at the photo above. Go ahead, click it to enlarge it so you can get a really good look. It was THAT pretty. We swam in those placid swimming holes. We ate lunch on a grassy knoll just like that one. We gazed at the newly fallen snow on Mauna Loa in the distance. And before long, we were scheming how we could move to Hawaii.

After figuring out just how many bedrooms and bathrooms we'd need considering all the company we'd surely be entertaining once we made our big "move," we settled back into reality and headed back to the house to meet up with Amy, who was just returning from attending class at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, where she's working on her undergraduate degree.

The whole lot of us then went to check out the Hilo Zoo (which was free, by the way, as are a surprising number of public attractions in Hawaii). Since we were there for the last hour of the day, we had the place essentially to ourselves and were even able to witness the once-a-day feeding time for Namaste, the zoo's lone white tiger, wherein he scarfed three whole chickens (the crunch of the bones sounded like he was absentmindedly finishing off a case of Pringles while planted in front of a college football game), and a bunch of ground beef, which was also full of bones. For calcium, we were informed by the zookeeper. Yeah? Wow. I've got lots of bones. Maybe I'll step over here for now.

Day Eight: Another sunny day, another beach day. (We're very easy to please, in case you haven't figured that out yet. Besides, sightseeing with babies is just no fun for nobody.) Back to Richardson's, this time mid-day instead of at sunset. Another gorgeous spot. Another day free from rain. Another day spent scheming of our imminent relocation.

Would Finn learn to surf (quicker than he would here at home, that is)?
Would Shea learn to hula dance?
Would we ever get tired of tropical fruit?

Does one ever grow weary of paradise?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Aloha Travelblog, Day 6

Day Six: Travel day from Kona, the leeward side of the island (think warm, desert, lava), to Hilo, the windward side of the island (think rainy, lush, jungle). The Big Island, for anyone out there who hasn't been there before, is called so because it's--as the name implies--the largest in the chain of the Hawaiian islands. In fact, it's larger than all of the other islands combined. Because of this you can drive in your car for hours and hours and hours, seeing everything from cattle farms and snow-capped mountains to jungles and volcanoes. And beaches, beaches, beaches--with sands that range from black to white to green. It's been said that 11 of the world's 13 climate zones can be found on the Big Island. What this means, I suppose, is that there's a lot to explore and experience in a place that might, at first blush, be seen as a little speck in the great blue sea that has nothing but palm trees and tropical drinks with little umbrellas to offer.

But if you're not in the mood to be "outdoorsy," you can also veg out on the couch indoors with some ice-cold beer and watch the Super Bowl, which is what some of us did once we set up shop in our rental condo in Hilo. After the game, Eddie and Amy showed us one of their favorite beach spots in Hilo, a pretty little expanse of beach called "Richardson's," where we watched the sunset and took a smattering of photos of each other to commemorate our special trip.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Aloha Travelblog, Day 5

Day Five: With Grandma and Uncle Eddie helping John with the kids in the morning, Amy and I were able to sneak off bright and early to Kapaluu, a great snorkeling spot about a mile south of our condo. The visibility was great, the water was comfortable, and I even saw some fish I had never seen before. (Hello there, little fish with bright blue lips! That's quite a look, but it works for you.) The rest of the gang met us at the beach about an hour later, at which time Shea accomplished her first first of the day: crawling! Right there on the beach, after weeks of rocking back and forth on all fours and moving backwards, she finally managed to propel herself forward. We knew then and there that, with her newfound mobility, the parameters of the caring-for-two-children game had changed irrevocably. As soon as the kids realize their new collective power and conspire to flee in opposite directions, John and I will lose our advantage; our days are numbered.

But before everything went downhill, we headed uphill--to the grand resort, perched on a spectacular hillside overlooking the entire
Kona Bay, that is Olivia's home. Woooohooooo! Time to celebrate John's birthday in super chill style. Olivia, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is full of the Hawaiian spirit and lives the Aloha lifestyle of grace and graciousness. And it's reflected in her home, which is landscaped amazingly with bright tropical plants, laid out in an open flow between indoors and out, and infused with the same calm geniality that fills its owner and decorator. Plus, it's a damn fine place to have a party!

So we spent the gorgeous Saturday afternoon luxuriating in the warm sunshine, enjoying pizza and birthday cake, cooling ourselves in the refreshing pool, warming ourselves back up in the jacuzzi, playing Frisbee, drinking beer and Kona coffee, listening to the giggles and scamperings of Finnegan and Jasper, and noticing the similarity of Ila and Shea's baby coos, cries and babbles. (Heather noted, "They go to the same [baby] school!")

After lunch, Shea experienced her second first: gnawing on her first cookie, which we bought to soothe her teething, aching gums. You can see from the photo at left just how much she enjoyed it.

After we all watched the sun set once again into the Pacific and bid adieu to the cruise ship that had docked in Kona Bay as it headed off to another port, Shea experienced her third and final first for the day. After being prompted to bid everyone farewell, Shea mimicked Grandma by waving her little hand and telling no one in particular, "Bye bye!"

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Aloha Travelblog, Day 4

Day Four: After three days of life in the islands, with its balmy breezes, warm waters, fresh fruit, and idyllic landscapes, we all agreed that there was only one thing that could make life better: GRANDMA'S ARRIVAL.

OK, go ahead and tease me now; I brought my Mommy on my vacation. I realize it was naive to think that John and I were going to be able to really relax with 3 1/2 year old and 9-month old children along for the
ride, but I truly didn't think it would feel so much like life at home in terms of meal preparation, kitchen chores, laundry, feedings, baths, diaper changes, nap management, sunscreen application, sand rinsing, etc.

Did I think little Hawaiian hula fairies would fly out of the lush vegetation to help us with these normal duties? Sort of. What I did know, though, was that life would get much better once Grandma Emely arrived, if only that the kids would have a tireless play partner and Grandma wouldn't expire from missing her grandchildren so much back at home. So it was with great excitement that we all went back to Kona Airport to greet her--with a lei, of course--as she deplaned.

On the way back to our condo we stopped at the grocery store for some supplies and grabbed a
quick bite at a tiny Korean BBQ. Here in California we are blessed with an abundance of really great Mexican food; I can think of at least 10 spots in our town alone that I could go visit right now for a solid Mexican meal. In Hawaii, however, given its proximity to so many various island cultures, it's Asian food that's similarly plentiful and accessible. And while I love Mexican food, anyone who knows me well knows that this new breadth of culinary access couldn't make me happier. In most shopping centers we saw, both big and small, there was at least one Asian-based food store: Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and more. MMMMmmmmmmmm. Add the fact that you can buy poke, the delicious fish dish I mentioned in my last post, in most regular grocery stores, and that's nearly argument enough for me to begin filling out my change of address paperwork at the post office to notify them of my impending move to Kona.

And if we're taking the island relocation fantasy to its logical conclusion, it should be mentioned that once settled in to our new Kona residence, nestled snugly between the Thai and Japanese restaurants in any given shopping center that sells more than three types of fresh poke in its deli or fish department, we would have easy visitation access to my brother,
Eddie, and his fiance, Amy, who moved to Hilo, about two and a half hours away on the other side of the island, just after the beginning of the new year.

Ed and Amy arrived at our condo about a minute after we returned from the grocery store, so suddenly our group of four blossomed to a group of seven and we could NOT have been happier about it. In fact, so eager were we to share the love that we also had Kirk and Heather, Jasper and Ila, along with new friends Melissa and Brian, over for a big ol' BBQ that night. We were blessed with great food, great friends, and great family. And six, count 'em, kinds of fresh poke. The islands sure have some ono grinds.

Aloha Travelblog, Day 3

Happy Valentine's Day!

Day Three: After John returned from another morning of surfing at Pinetrees with Kirk, the four of us decided to make our way from Kona up the northwest coast of the island, across the vast stretch of black lava fields, to visit the famed and fabulous Kohala Coast. This is where John and I first experienced Hawaii, back on our one-year wedding anniversary, when we stayed at the Fairmont Orchid: The Nicest Hotel I've Ever Stayed In. Those were the days of mai tais and plumerias, of eating our meals--slowly--in restaurants, and of washing, conditioning, and moisturizing our hair
and bodies with the unending Aveda products the hotel magically replenished each day (no kidding...I came home with nearly a suitcase full of travel-size luxury bath products that lasted until at least Finn's birth nine months later--you do the math--sustaining my aloha buzz for months.)

But back to reality. And, in so, traveling with kids. (Somewhere in that big black field of lava, by the way, is a great metaphor of the vast difference between our two visits to the Big Island...) We stopped at Hapuna Beach State Park, named in a number of books and lists as the nicest beach in the United States. I'm not sure if it was the nicest--I mean, just how does one rank the
beaches of Hawaii? Most of them are gorgeous, have warm, clear water, and tons of tropical fish. This must be like rating ice cream or massages or other such pleasantries, where even the really bad ones are pretty damn good, a job I'd surely love to have--but Hapuna Beach did not disappoint. Sure, the parking was easy, we were able to wheel the kids down to the sand in their strollers on the nicely paved paths, the showers were great and the bathrooms were clean, yada yada yada. But just take a look at these pictures! The water was BLUE for days, the sand nice and fine, the beach plenty wide so that our neighbors were not on top of us. (OK, maybe now I get how they rate beaches.)

John, whose many talents include the ability to keenly observe subtle atmospheric changes, noticed a faint cloud gathering on the horizon that he predicted would soon enlarge and dump rain on us. Despite the fact that it was still clear, hot and sunny where we sat, I took his word on it and by the time we showered off ourselves and the kids, packed everything up, and made it to the car, it began to sprinkle.
By the time we were halfway back to Kona, it was pouring.

But as the rains in Hawaii often recede soon after they arrive, we had clear skies again within hours. We took it easy that night, making a light dinner of assorted poke ("bite-sized pieces of raw, fresh fish mixed with seaweed and kukui nut relish") and udon noodles (a meal my Mom was so thankful to have nearly missed, no doubt, but one of my personal favorites), and cruising across the street to catch the sunset at Magic Sands Beach. A truly magical day in paradise, spent with my favorite people in the world.