So long, my little Peanut…

The day we got Peanut

The day we got Peanut

It seemed like yesterday that Curt and I decided to get a puppy.  We were just college kids wanting a little animal to care for, not realizing the adventure that lay ahead of us.  On a beautiful, sunny day in June of 1999 we traveled from Omaha about an hour to the small town of Red Oak, Iowa.  We’d found an ad in the paper (imagine, no Craigslist!) about a dappled wiener dog that was for sale and decided to see if we liked her.  No one I know has ever gone to see a puppy and not returned with it in hand.

Taking our new little puppy

Taking our new little puppy

When we arrived, the local veterinarian who bred and was selling the doxies said she was the last one of her litter, the runt.  He brought us to a room with the runt and two other tan doxie puppies.  The two tan ones were playing together, the black and silver dappled one was on her own, sniffing the edges of the room.  My first instinct was to go for one of the tan ones, clearly they were playful and got along well with other dogs.  But Curt turned to me and said he really liked the dappled one.  “She’s different and she’s the runt,” were some of his arguments to win me over.  I thought she looked rather odd with her speckled fur, but Curt insisted that she was unique.  Curt very rarely states his preference on things, so I’d learned that when he does, it was best to go along with him.  Irregardless, the decision was over once we held her.  We were sold.  This little puppy was coming home with us that day.  Little did we know, at the time, how significant her exploring on her own would be and how that would define her personality.

The drive home was memorable.  I had never had a dog before and was getting used to holding her on my lap, while also being fearful of her peeing on me (which she never did).  She crawled up onto my shoulder and for awhile was sitting across the back of my neck.  While we drove back to Omaha we began to come up with names for our little puppy.  For some reason, all of mine centered around food and within a few minutes I blurted, “How about Peanut?”  Peanut just seemed perfect.

Curt and Peanut, the first day we got her

Curt and Peanut, the first day we got her

Over the course of the next few days and weeks, we began to fall in love with our Peanut.  We treated her like our baby and, truly, she felt like one to us.  She relied on us for food, shelter and companionship and we gave all of that to her abundantly.  After seeing a picture of this little odd-looking dog, my dad told me, “She looks like a dog only a mother could love.”  That couldn’t have been closer to the truth.  I soon began to empathize with her and what I thought she must be feeling.  This may sound ridiculous, but not wanting her to be lonely by herself on the ground, she could often be found studying with me on the table or chair, or eating dinner on Curt’s lap and from the first night we brought her home, she slept in our bed.  She was our baby.

Typical night of studying

Typical night of studying

A dog only a mother could love

A dog only a mother could love

It became evident that there was a reason Peanut didn’t associate with the other dogs that first day we met her.  As we watched her personality manifest itself, we learned that she much preferred to be on her own, sniffing and finding exciting things.  She was quite adventurous, completely disobedient and very strong-willed.  She didn’t care about sitting, staying or coming, she simply followed her nose and went where it led her.  We took her to Memorial Park in Omaha, where she fearlessly played with dogs much bigger than her and chased after squirrels from tree to tree.

As usual, lost in the grass :)

As usual, lost in the grass in the apple orchard 🙂

Her favorite place by far was the farm in Percival, Iowa, the house and acreage where Curt grew up and where his parents lived.  Surrounded by miles of soybean and corn fields, it was a dog’s utopia.  As soon as we turned off the main highway, Peanut would begin to sniff the air, smelling all the animals and other “wild” scents in the air.  Within a mile of the house, her head would be clear out the window, ears flapping in the breeze and tail wagging uncontrollably.  Pulling into the driveway, she would paw at the door, anxiously waiting to be let out.  Once we opened the door, she flew out and would disappear into the yard.  Her innate hunting instincts would lead her to the bases of trees trying to catch squirrels and through the apple orchard following the scents of rabbits.  I smile remembering the sound of her bark as she desperately tried to catch up to squirrels clearly out-running her across the yard.  Although she never caught one, to my disappointment she had a few baby rabbits for Easter.  When we moved to Oregon and began backpacking, Peanut’s spirit for adventure happily steered us along trails through old-growth forests and her passion for snuggling made her the perfect sleeping bag companion for me.

Camping in central Oregon

Camping in central Oregon

Peanut’s nose and obliviousness often got her into trouble though.  We almost lost her as a puppy on the farm once, when she disappeared into the cornfields.  She was lost for over an entire day and night, and we feared that perhaps a coyote would get her.  I couldn’t sleep and my heart ached to think she would die alone.  Thank God that didn’t happen, but it wouldn’t be the first time that this dog would cause us anxiety.  Over the course of her life, she would get bitten by three different dogs, inhale three boxes of chocolate and would nearly die on a cold Oregon beach.  Thankfully, she always made it back to us and we swore she would live forever.

Despite all the running and romping, Peanut’s favorite pastime was sleeping.  She could’ve, and often did, sleep for hours upon hours.  And it wasn’t uncommon for me to have to drag her out of bed at noon.  When I would come to get her, she would roll on her back and look at me as though to say, “Can’t you see how comfy I am?  Please don’t move me.”  I wondered what she dreamt about, as she yipped and appeared to run in her sleep.  Chasing after a squirrel probably.

Peanut and Mango cuddling as puppies

Peanut and Mango cuddling as puppies

Despite being blind, for awhile Peanut could still locate a cozy place to curl up

Despite being blind, for awhile Peanut could still locate a cozy place to curl up

Life was great for her up until about two years ago in early 2011 (she was 13), when we began to notice Peanut tripping while walking or when trying to jump on our front porch.  At the same time, the colors of her eyes had also began to cloud, which the vet attributed to normal age-related sclerosis.  Over the course of 6 or so months, about the time Laird was a year and a half, her eyesight appeared to get much worse.  Suddenly she was tripping all the time and wasn’t able to find her way back to our house, and she seemed less interested in going for walks.  There was now a definite cloudiness in her eyes and, hoping that it was just cataracts that a simple surgery could correct, we took her to an eye vet later that year.  I was devastated to hear that she had retinal degeneration, a condition that had no cure and would eventually leave her blind.  Within a few months, our beloved dog, who had slowed down but was still full of spunk, could see nothing but faint shadows.  Amazingly, she still managed to get around our house, finding her way to her water dish and up the ramp onto the couch.  But, it was clear, the fire in our feisty Peanut was diminishing.  What saddens us most about Peanut’s deterioration was that it coincided with Laird’s becoming a toddler and Leini’s birth, meaning it all happened without Curt or I really noticing.  It pains me to say this, but the once abundant pictures of her and Mango became nonexistent and both dogs, who had been the center of our lives, were barely noticed at all.

What baby?  I need to catch up on my sleep.

What baby? I need to catch up on my sleep.

A year ago, shortly after Leini’s birth in early 2012, it occurred to me that Peanut was completely blind.  And it seemed that the loss of her eyesight was defeating her spirit.  She simply slept all day, her body began to become quite frail due to inactivity and she no longer wanted to do anything.  I matter-of-factly stated that I didn’t think Peanut would live through the summer.  She did, but she didn’t appear happy.  In fact, she bumped into everything and howled incessantly whenever she felt that she was alone.  Having a new baby and a toddler to manage, I found her howling and need for constant attention to be more than I could handle and would become frustrated with her.  I am filled with regret when I look back at the way I treated my most faithful companion during her time of need.  How did I let life steer me away from being compassionate?

One of the last times she would explore the park in the spring of 2012

One of the last times she would explore the park in the spring of 2012.  She could barely see.

Within the last month or so, Peanut got worse.  Whereas before, we could place her in a comfortable spot and she would eventually fall asleep.  Now, she was pacing in circles and every time we tried to settle her into her bed, she would get up and continue to bump around the house.  She was anxious, depressed, lost and confused.  She needed help.  She needed peace and she begged us for it in her howls.  We just didn’t realize it until now.

DSC_3499

Putting your dog to sleep is a confusing act to do.  To find that perfect time is emotionally taxing, too soon and you are cutting short the potential in a life, too long and you are putting your dog through misery it doesn’t need to suffer.  Not only do you have to make this decision, but you also have to deal with the emotional pain of losing your companion.  I didn’t realize my responsibility as a pet owner was to make this decision for my dog.  I simply thought she would do it on her.  She would have, eventually, but not without suffering through days and possibly years of mental torture.  In retrospect, I wish I could have saved her from the last year of suffering she had endured.  For in 2012, she was definitely not happy and not the same Peanut we knew.  Over the course of the year, we had forgotten who are beloved family member had once been.

It was a week filled with anguish and fear, yet hope for Peanut.  We cuddled her and let her curl up in our bed with us, which she hadn’t done in over a year.  I held her constantly and whispered words of love in her ears, hoping that deep down in her confused mind she could make sense of them.  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to say goodbye.  Saturday was beautiful, unseasonably warm and sunny here in Portland.  Peanut’s favorite weather.  My lifelong dream for her was to eventually move to Hawaii, where she could spend her days just laying by the pool in the sun.  For lunch, she ate one of Curt’s famous waffles and we walked to the park we had visited so many times in her life here in Portland.  The kids, Curt and I played together while little Peanut soaked up the warmth of the sun in the stroller.  As the minutes and hours ticked by, the feelings of doom and loss were already heavy in my heart and mind.  We hurriedly strolled back to the house and quickly put Laird and Leini down for their naps.  The time had come.

Headed to the park one last time

Headed to the park one last time

Spending her final day, sleeping in the sun on the stroller

Spending her final day, sleeping in the sun on the stroller

Despite being vegetarians, for her last meal Curt grilled Peanut (and Mango) a bacon wrapped steak and she devoured it within seconds.  “We should’ve gotten a bigger one,” Curt joked with a smile.  We were definitely on edge though and somberness filled the air.  Shortly thereafter, the vet arrived at our house and explained her process to us.  We nodded in agreement while the tears in our eyes began to overflow onto our cheeks.  She said she would give us as much time as we needed.  With candles lit and pictures of little Peanut close by, I held her on the couch as we said our goodbyes.  “I love you, Peanut.  You’re a good girl.  I will miss you,” were words I whispered in her ear through a cracking voice and tears.  She was anxious and wanting to escape from my arms like usual.  We then prayed for her, thanking God for the blessing of her life and the happiness that she had brought to us.

Our last picture together

Our last picture together, trying to hold it together

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

We told the vet that we were ready for the sedative and, while eating a white chocolate truffle, she gave it to her in her hind leg.  Within seconds, Peanut was no longer anxious and no longer sad.  I didn’t realize she would be that sedate, but her body laid gently in my arms, sleeping so peacefully without a care in the world.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders knowing that she was not tormented by anxiety or confusion any longer.  Curt wanted to hold her one last time, so we switched off and relished the last moment we would ever hold her and feel her heart beat.  Knowing this was it, we said our final words of love to the life that we had loved dearly for nearly 15 years.  The life that had been with Curt and I through the good times and bad, as well as our successes and failures.  The life that inspired us to become vegetarians and to respect the lives of other animals.  The life that brought such incredible joy to ours and taught us the responsibilities of nurturing and caring for others, regardless of species.

Peanut's last living picture.  She actually is just sleeping.

Peanut’s last living picture. She actually is just sleeping.

With heavy hearts and an unspoken desire to have this all go away, we signaled to the vet.  While I held and petted Peanut, and we told her how much we loved her, she was given the final injection.  As I continued to talk to her, trying to reach her before she left, I could feel her heart, so little in size, but so large in depth, slowly stop beating.  Every memory I ever had of her flooded my consciousness.  Every lick, every wag, every snuggle.  And within a few seconds, her heart stopped completely.  She was gone.

I’ve never had a life end in my arms before.  I hope never to experience it again, although with Mango just a year younger than Peanut that is highly unlikely.  It is surreal and indescribable.  It leaves your heart feeling heavy with sorrow and your mind bewildered.  You become breathless.  It was the worst experience of my life, yet I can’t imagine Peanut’s final breath being taken any other way.  She was in my loving arms, sleeping.  I am thankful that God gave us the chance to say goodbye, the chance to make up for the last year and the opportunity to end her life without pain and suffering.

Before the vet took her body to be cremated, we let Mango, who had been nearly asleep on the floor, say goodbye.  She quickly licked Peanut on her face a few times, sniffed her and backed away.  It seemed obvious that she knew Peanut had passed on and it truly did appear that she was saying farewell to her sister.  Laird also said goodbye, but without ever remembering the “true” Peanut and the amazing dog that she was, it was hard for him to understand what all the fuss was about.

After she had passed

After she had passed

It's hard for me to see her not wearing her collar

It’s difficult for me to look at her collar

The vet loaded Peanut, who was now in a pet bed, into the back of her car.  I got one last look at her body, in peace, before turning away in tears.  A pit in my stomach, a weight in my chest, I missed my dog already.  Returning to the house, the sense of loss, of a life having just ended, was overwhelming.  We cried and hugged more, trying to comfort one another and begin to face the realization that she was gone.  After getting the kids from their rooms, we headed out to dinner.  What happened at the restaurant is a blur.  I can’t recall if I slept much at all that night, with memories of my dog racing through my head.

Aside from Peanut being gone, one thing that changed immediately is the amount of attention we give to Mango.  Having realized how quickly time goes by, we now shower her with love and attention.  I can only imagine the heartache when she eventually passes on and we no longer have any dogs.

Life without Peanut

Life without Peanut

Sunday was challenging.  There wasn’t a second that passed by that my beloved Peanut was not on my mind.  The hole in my heart seemed to grow the more reality sunk in and there were many times I stopped and just cried by myself and on Curt’s shoulder.  I even cried in front of Laird and hugged him so tightly.  I know he probably thought I was crazy (it’s never too early to start teaching young boys about females and their emotions).  That night I found old pictures of Peanut during our time in Omaha and we reminisced about all the funny and silly things she would do.  It was what we needed, remembering her before the blindness got the best of her.  She was not only a beautiful dog to look at, she was also fearless, rebellious and carefree, completely disobedient and always up to no good.  Yet, she was a lap dog and she won hearts over for simply sleeping peacefully in a lap on the couch.


Always a front seat passenger

People often commented on what a beautiful dog she was.  I have to agree.

110_1055

Looking around the house, I miss seeing her basking in the sun shining through the window, sitting in front of the heating vent and racing around the living room after finding out we were taking her to the park.  Most of all though, I miss holding her in my arms.  I don’t know if the spirits of dogs live on, but God, I hope so.  I hope to meet my Peanut with her tail-wagging in heaven someday.  I hope to never forget the joy and happiness she brought to our lives.  And I hope that, wherever she is, she never forgets how much she was loved and adored by her family and friends.

My dear Peanut, I miss you and love you so much.  Thank you for the 15 years you gave to us, years and memories that we will never, ever forget.

Cherishing Peanut

Cherishing Peanut in her final days

DSC_3557 DSC_3553 DSC_3537 DSC_3511 DSC_3499 DSC_3496 DSC_3495 DSC_3488 DSC_4066

Advertisements

26 hours of service

399175_456793061036171_648788450_n

If you’re like me, all you could really think of this weekend was the horrible massacre that happened in a small school on friday.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, as the thought that someone could actually gun down innocent children in cold blood was beyond my comprehension.  How could anyone so viciously and callously take the lives of children?  I cried as I pictured parents crying out for their children and imagined frightened kids encountering a deranged killer in their own school.  My thoughts immediately went to Laird and Leini, envisioning something so horrible happening to them brought me to my knees in tears.  I spent the rest of the evening in disbelief and sadness.

After having time to process the tragedy, I began to question how the God I believe in could allow something so horrible to happen to these children.  The left side of my brain has always questioned God, His existence and His motives.  There are things in the Bible that seem so far-fetched and unlikely to me that everything in my brain tells me it can’t possibly be true.  But when I begin to think about how hopeless and insignificant my life would be if it ceased to exist after my physical death, I can’t help but believe that there is a greater purpose, that there is a God in heaven somewhere and someday my spirit will live on with Him.

As I walked the half hour to church today, my thoughts were engulfed with the people that died on friday and I still tried to make sense of it all.  What purpose did the death of these people serve?  What good could possibly come of this?  I lingered in these thoughts as I walked; questioning God’s motives, trying to understand why this was allowed to happen and also empathizing with those who lost their loved ones.  And, as I typically do in these circumstances, I began to think of ways that other people might use these tragedies to create good.  You know how a victim’s family member might become an activist and end up on Capital Hill testifying for changes in policy and laws, etc.  However, I caught myself doing this and realized that I was pawning this responsibility of creating good from evil off on others.  Why couldn’t I be the one to create good in this circumstance?  Well…maybe I could spend 26 minutes in silence for each person’s life.  However, 26 minutes seemed a pretty insignificant amount of time considering the extent of the tragedy that occurred.

Eventually, I felt that God was telling me that I needed to devote more time, more of my energy to honoring those who had lost their lives and use this to help those in need.  I eventually decided that I would devote 26 hours in service to others, 1 hour for each person’s life that was cut short in this tragedy.  I have no idea how long this will take, with two kids and a part-time job starting soon, it may take me awhile.  But, I will do it, as I truly want goodness and love to come of this and for someone in need to indirectly benefit from this horrific tragedy.  More than anything though, I cannot bare the thought that these innocent children died in vain.

I want to add that I did not write this post to toot my own horn and boast about what my plan is, but more to encourage others “to be the change you want to see in the world.”  To not let other people be the ones who create good out of evil.  We all have the opportunity to make a difference in our world, no matter how insignificant it seems.

If you would like to join me in serving others for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy, please just email me.  My hope is to serve a variety of groups of people in different capacities.  I would love to have company and even more love and kindness could be shared.

This is a list of all the victims.  Please continue to pray for their loved ones that they left behind and all those affected by this senseless and tragic shooting.

A visit from Aunty and Uncle

It’s been a rather sad week for me.  The kids and I dropped my sister and her fiancé, David, off at the airport on Sunday morning and after a week of fun and adventures, the house now feels rather empty.

Uncle, Aunty and Laird

I think they have very similar features

When they arrived a little over a week ago, we didn’t give them much time to settle after their red-eye flight touched down from Honolulu.  We quickly packed up our camping gear and headed straight for our favorite beach camping spot.  Although it was windier than we would’ve liked it, I think we all enjoyed watching the sunsets on the beach and playing in the sand.  The rest of the week was filled with Laird’s birthday party, preschool day at Oaks Park, blueberry picking, eating at food carts and chasing down candy at the Multnomah Days Parade.  So much activity that you can imagine why I feel a tiny bit blue.

Our beach getaway

Someone has found a buddy

Something about having kids makes me ponder all these things in life that never bothered me before.  Such as, before I had kids it never bothered me that I lived so far away from my family.  I had lived on the mainland for 13 years and not once did I truly consider moving back to Hawaii.  Yet shortly after Laird was born I really began to miss my family.

I think a lot of these thoughts stem from memories of my grandparents when I was a child.  I was lucky to have both sets of grandparents living on Oahu and they were never more than a half hour drive away.  They dropped me off and picked me up from school, cheered me on at my soccer games and we often spent the night at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s.  They were just always there.  And now that L&L are here, it’s hard for me to imagine them not having that same experience of growing up with their grandparents.  Who will be their #1 fans on the sidelines?  Who will be the ones to spoil them with all the things mommy and daddy won’t give them?  Why is Hawaii so da@# expensive?!

It’s always the hardest when my family leaves after visiting or when we return from vacation.  And as the weeks go by, and life continues on, my sadness lessons.   I try to live in the moment and, thankfully, L&L keep me busy enough that I never have the chance to be sad for very long.  Plus, I remind myself that God has a plan for us and is continuously opening and shutting doors along the way.  As much as I miss my family, I’m not ready to leave our friends, church and home that we have here in Portland.

So for now, I just beg my family to come and visit us or take my kids (and, sadly, leave my husband) for 3 weeks to visit them.

The night my sister and David left, Laird said he wanted to say our prayer before dinner and this is exactly how it went: Dear God, thank you for Aunty Steph, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Riding the Tilt-a-whirl at Oaks Amusement Park

Lots of smiles

Uncle and Leini at dinner

Waiting for the Multnomah Days Parade to start.  How does the weather change 40 deg overnight?!!!

Leina: a lovely blessing

Loving every moment with her

I could never imagine that my little baby girl would enter our world on Valentine’s Day.  But in the early morning on Tuesday, Feburary 14, I heard her first cry and cradled her tenderly in my arms as I sat overjoyed in our bathtub.

Shortly after little Leina's birth

Let me rewind approximately 37 weeks.  Curt and I had been trying to conceive our second baby without any luck.  Every month was an emotional roller coaster as we visited with our fertility doctor and hoped that this next cycle would be the one.  After a few months on clomid and a failed attempt at intrauterine insemination (IUI), not to mention the sense of hopelessness setting in for me, we decided to be a little more aggressive.  So for ten days I injected myself with reproductive hormones, while being monitored by ultrasounds, until our doctor determined that my eggs were just the perfect size.  We did another IUI and waited a long and agonizing 14 days before I could take a pregnancy test.  All my hope was riding on this cycle, as we had decided that the emotional toll wasn’t healthy for our relationship and if it didn’t work, well, it just wasn’t meant to be.

I couldn’t wait a full 14 days and decided to test on day 13, Memorial Day.  While Curt was out playing basketball, I anxiously peed on the stick and waited for that glorious 2nd line to appear.  It didn’t.  I immediately started crying out to God out of self-pity, desperation and hopelessness.  How I wanted another baby so desperately.  I thought, “I guess this is it.  I guess we won’t have another baby,” as reality started to really sink in.  But after I calmed down (and the recommended waiting time had passed), I looked down at the stick and saw what I thought was the hint of a 2nd line.  I continued to stare at the pee-soaked stick, waiting, hoping, trying to see a purple line.  Am I crazy?  Is this just my imagination, or is it another line.  Shortly thereafter, Curt came home and I showed it to him.  He remarked, “I think it’s another line.  Let’s put it this way, if we weren’t trying to get pregnant and you showed me this, I would be worried that we were.”  And with that, I started crying out of pure joy (those hormones make you cry for every little d-mn thing).  We hugged and thanked God for blessing us with another baby.  We were going to have another baby.

The 2nd line

Leina's 8 week ultrasound

Fast forward through nine months of prenatal visits with my midwives (Alisha and Elizabeth) which were fun, hour-long, girl chat sessions; through hours spent listening to hypnotic birthing cds; through prenatal chiropractic, acupuncture and massage appointments; through kicking in odd places; through getting up in the middle of the night to pee; and through conversations with Laird on his baby sister that was growing in my belly.

Weekly belly pictures

It's a Girl!

I thought for sure this baby would be on time (February 9) or even early, not once did I think that she would be like her older brother and hang on past her due date.  But even at 5 cm dilated, that day came and went and still nothing.  Every night before I went to bed, I told Curt, “maybe she will come tonight.”  Yet, I would wake up and still be pregnant. 🙂

Leina's birthday cake

As each day passed, I was beginning to get more and more anxious about her birth.  I’ll be honest, although Laird was born at home and it went beautifully, I was not oblivious to the inherent risks of delivering at home and the fear of anything going wrong definitely existed within me.  Many people expressed concern about having a home birth, but it’s hard to explain how memorable and special it is without having experienced it yourself.  With Laird’s birth, I delivered in our jet tub, knew everyone who was present, and the best part, I was able to curl up in my own bed afterward with my new baby and feel completely comfortable.  I also wanted to deliver without an epidural.  Was I scared about the pain?  Yes.  Was I worried that my body wouldn’t be able to handle it?  Yes.  But, much like when I’ve run marathons, I relished the challenge of my mind and body and really wanted to feel what having a baby felt like.  Yet with her birth impending and not knowing when she would arrive, I was finding it increasingly difficult to sleep.  I worked out on the elliptical, walked and walked, sat on my birthing ball, ate eggplant parmigiana and did acupuncture all to induce labor.  On monday night, Curt took me to our Valentine’s dinner at a mediterranean restaurant and I noticed my lower back starting to ache.  Hmmm, maybe this will be the night.

Sitting on my birthing ball breathing through contractions

I had minor braxton-hicks contractions all night which seemed to intensify as the night went on.  Eventually, at 3:24 am, I woke up to use the bathroom and found myself gritting through a contraction.  This was finally it.  I went to wake up Curt, who was already awake downstairs and pointed to my belly.  He called our midwife, Alisha, who said she would come right over.  The next two hours is a blur of sitting on my birthing ball while breathing through intense contractions, having the urge to push and getting into our jet tub.  The setting couldn’t have been more peaceful and calm.  I pushed through each contraction with the soft glow of candles and the dark sky surrounding me.  I won’t lie, it hurt at the very end, but it all happened so quickly and I so desperately wanted to hold and kiss my little girl, that I had no other choice but to push my body to its limit.  With one last push, Leina’ala left the comfort of my body we had shared for nine precious months and took her first breath at 5:17 am…beginning her journey, her blessed life, in our beautiful world.

Leina'ala Elisa

My two favorite little people 🙂

Sand between the toes

Maui beckons

If you ever have the chance to spend Christmas in Hawaii, do it…you won’t regret it.  We’ve been fortunate to be in Honolulu these past 4 years for the holidays basking in the tropical breeze and warm sunny rays while most of the U.S. shovels snow.  I don’t think Laird realizes just how lucky he is to be running around a swimming pool naked or having melted shave ice drip down his shirt in December.

Can't smile, too busy eating shave ice

Christmas Day water gun fight

That's ice cold water their shooting at me!

We flew out of chilly Portland two days before Christmas and have done nothing since arriving but soak in all that is beautiful about Hawaii.  With each passing year our little guy is figuring out more and more about this special holiday.  And this year he seemed to begin to somewhat understand the concept of Jesus’ birthday, a decorated tree and presents.–as much as a 2-year old can, anyway.

Christmas bunch with the Shimogaki Ohana

While in Hawaii, we went back to visit places we hadn’t been to in a long time.  The day after Christmas my family flew to Hilo on the Big Island.  We stayed within Volcanoes National Park for four days in a tiny 3-bedroom cabin, equipped with kitchen and cozy fireplace.  While on the Big Isle we swam in some warm springs next to the ocean, visited a cattle ranch where we rode horses, and walked across a volcano crater.  In between these activities, Laird and his older cousins entertained themselves by wrestling in the cabin, jumping off the back of the couch, playing soccer/kickball and making smores by the fireplace.

Trekking across Kilauea Iki Crater on the Big Island

Modern day cattle ranching: Uncle David and Javin test out the ATV on the cattle ranch

Laird's first horse ride!! Yeehaw

One highlight of the trip was Laird coming to the realization that there are some exceptions to going potty in the toilet.  While swimming in the ocean he told me anxiously, “Mommy, I have to go potty.”  Amazed by his innocence and wanting to obey every rule, I looked at him and said, “Laird, you can go potty in the ocean.  It’s okay.”  He looked back at me with relief and surprise, as if to say, “Really?  I don’t have to go in the toilet.”  He was quiet for a few seconds and then said, “Mommy, I went potty in the ocean!”  Well, you don’t have to scream it.

Poor Laird is as white as the sand

With our second little one due just weeks away, Curt and I decided to give Laird a little vacation from us and took off to Maui for a week.  Staying in upcountry with my Uncle and Aunty, we made little day trips down Haleakala to the beach towns of Wailea, Kapalua and Paia.  For a week we did nothing but eat, sleep, lay on the beach looking for humpback whales, apply sunscreen and contemplate whether we could live in a beautiful paradise like this or not.  Why this is even an area of contemplation is beyond me…

My hubby demonstrating his surfing stance while checking out big surf on Maui's North Shore

When we returned to Oahu we were greeted by more family from the mainland to celebrate and remember the life of my uncle George, whom we recently visited in California and who lost his lengthy battle with cancer just the day before Christmas.  Although it was a sad realization that he would no longer be with us, I also felt a sense of relief for him, knowing that his body was finally free from cancer and free from pain.  In the days surrounding his burial, our families in Hawaii and California reconnected and used his passing to bring us all closer together.  He is definitely missed, but I believe we are all at peace knowing that his spirit lives on and his body no longer suffers in pain.

We miss you, Uncle George

My cousins from Cali

Paddleboarding and wave riding in Maunalua Bay with our cousins

Saying aloha and goodbye to Uncle George. A hui hou...until we meet again.

After we arrived in Portland, I could tell Lairdy missed all of his cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents, yet was happy to have all the attention to himself again.  I asked, “Laird, where do you want to live?  Portland or Hawaii.”  And twice he responded, “I want to live in Hawaii.”  I think it’s because of the shave ice.

Camping on the Oregon coast

A view from our campsite

Here we are already into August and we just returned from our first real camping trip of the summer.  We spent a long weekend strolling the beach, flying a kite and warming up next to the campfire at one of the few places, if not the only place, on the Oregon coast where it is legal to camp on the beach.  In the early summer of 2008 we discovered this long, deserted stretch of beach when Curt, his cousin (Pat), Pat’s then-girlfriend (Li) and I were trying to find a place to camp in order to avoid the blazing summer heat.–this would be the last time we experienced the summer heat apparently, as the last two summers have been rather cool.  We gathered our backpacks full of food, cooking equipment, tents, sleeping bags and lots of water and walked the roughly two miles to a sheltered spot in the sand dunes where we settled in for the weekend.

Backpacking was much simpler then, before Laird arrived.  Before Laird arrived, Curt and I (and Peanut and Mango, of course) would seek out trails around Mount Hood that would lead to somewhat remote lakes, hefting our loaded packs for a few miles before setting up camp in an undesignated campsite.  Unlike car camping, instead of hoping we weren’t in a campsite next to the bathroom, we hoped that we wouldn’t run into anyone at all.

Fast forward a couple years and our camping style has very much changed.  Laird doesn’t have the stamina nor attention to walk for miles at a time.  I could carry him in a carrier, but that would mean Curt would have to stuff his backpack with twice the amount of gear that he typically does.  Peanut is becoming less and less active and would also require being lifted for part of the time too.  And then there’s the cloth diapers, which take up more room than anything.  So, we’ve gladly taken to easier forms of camping.

Peanut hitching a ride on the stroller with some of our gear

The nice thing about this camping spot on the coast is that the path to the beach is straight, flat and perfect for the stroller.  Our water, food, Laird and Peanut ride on it in comfort and, although it is probably an unusual sight to see in the sand dunes, it does make life easier.

So for 3 days and 2 nights, we did as much relaxing as we possibly could, as much as can be done with an almost 2-year old boy.  In the mornings, while Curt and Lairdy ate breakfast, I would go for a run down the beach relishing the vast expanse occupied by no one else but me.  The rest of the day entailed playing in the sand, inspecting beached jellyfish, collecting driftwood for our campfire and gazing at the sky full of stars at night.  All this while the crashing of the cold ocean waves roared in the background.

Our favorite campsite

Despite all the fun and relaxtion, our perfect weekend was almost marred in tragedy when we nearly lost Peanut.  Our dear 13-year old weiner dog, who is practically blind, wandered away from our campsite after dark trying to find us while we went for a walk on the beach.  When we realized she was missing, we frantically searched the dunes and beach for almost a half an hour.  As I screamed her name in the dark through tears, I prayed that God would bring her back safely.  Being blind and having no defense against the cold, we feared that if we didn’t find her that night, she would probably die alone and cold in the wilderness.  Amazingly, Curt searched down the beach and found her running away from the campsite, along the freezing cold water’s edge, completely disoriented, frantic and shivering.  What a relief.  God answered our prayers and we never cuddled Peanut closer than we did that night.  🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Osama is dead

I was sewing away on Sunday night, trying to make more cloth diapers for Laird, and was listening to the radio when out of the blue President Obama’s voice came on instead.  Only sort of paying attention at first, I eventually stopped what I was doing and listened to him describe the intelligence they had been following for over 8 months to capture the man who had attacked our country that fateful morning of September 11, 2001.  Not realizing he had already said it, I listened intently, hoping he would tell us that Osama bin Laden was finally dead.  When he finally stated those words, I was in disbelief.  “Oh my God, Curt, can you believe it?!  Osama is dead!  He is dead!”  Though it is hard for me to celebrate the death of anyone, I was relieved and glad to know that this wily, hateful terrorist who had caused the death of thousands and put fear into the hearts of many more, was finally gone.  And that those who had lost loved ones in the tragedies of his terrorist acts, had finally received justice and a sense of peace.

I look back to that morning of September 11, 2001 and, like most, remember exactly where I was, meticulously dissecting a cadaver in anatomy lab.  One of my dental school classmates came in and informed us that something horrible had happened.  As we all know, two planes had been flown into the World Trade Centers, another had been hijacked and was missing and yet another had been crashed into the Pentagon.  When others asked who could possibly have done this, I felt in my heart that only terrorists could have devised and carried out such an unimaginable and evil plan.

Never forget

In the days and months following that dark day, I was amazed to see Americans of all colors, ethnic groups and religions come together as a grand sense of patriotism swept across the country.  We were proud to be Americans, for the freedom to do as we choose and opportunities that we are fortunate to have living in this country.  Yet, as the days and years have passed by, that patriotism has slowly faded.  This may be due to seemingly endless wars, the recession and simply a lack of morale.  Even when we traveled abroad, I was embarrassed to admit I was American, as I could feel the anger and contempt that other foreign travelers had for us.  I had lost the love and pride for my country that I had directly following 9/11.  But my hope is that with the death of Osama comes a celebration of all the lives that were lost because of him and the remembrance of all that our country truly stands for.  Not Mcmansions, or fancy gadgets or over-indulgence, but for the simple things that most of us take for granted and which a greater part of the world is not lucky enough to have.  Freedom, justice and peace.  These three fundamental rights have made our country such a wonderful place to call home.  God bless America.