Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas sans Santa

So, Christmas has come and gone. This morning, as I was walking to the gym, it was so beautiful I thought summer had just started again. Very weird, but nice.

We had a nice Christmas here in the Bahamas. Everyone stayed in their pjs all day, we made manicotti and artisan bread for dinner, and built Legos for most of the afternoon. Santa did not make an appearance, and no one seemed to care.

When we were first married, we talked a lot about whether or not to do Santa. I wasn't too big on the idea, and Oliver was neutral, so we ended up nixing the big guy with the red suit. I had witnessed other parents' seemingly crazy efforts to ensure their offspring believed this false tale, and didn't see myself going to all that effort or having fun with it. Plus, I didn't want to give credit to someone fake when we'd put so much love and time to finding gifts that they would enjoy. Overall, we've been happy with the no-Santa Christmas.

*Before you get all worked up about this, we don't avoid Santa altogether. We let the boys watch Christmas shows that star the jolly old elf, and have even put them, quite unwillingly, on a few fake Santas' laps. They know, however, that Santa is just fun stuff, like Mickey Mouse. Presents come from the people that love them. We are very low-key about it, so Wyatt has yet to feel the need to trumpet Santa's fakeness to other children who do believe in him. I'm really not trying to rain on anyone else's parade with this.*

This year, I had some moments of trepidation about this decision to excise Santa from our holiday preparations. Wyatt is getting older and a tad confused by all these people asking him what Santa is going to bring him this year. I did spend some time wondering whether or not he was missing out by not believing in Santa Claus, and debated whether or not I'd fill their stockings (given to them by their grandmother, not us) with candy and call it Santa's visit. In the end, I decided not to, in no small part because Christmas candy is rather impossible to find out here. Also, I just couldn't bring myself to start telling stories I didn't believe in.

I am glad I decided to hold strong, because I noticed something this year: Christmas day wasn't about the presents under the tree at all. The boys went to bed at a normal time after watching the Nativity DVD we got from our church a few years ago. There was no being too excited to sleep because of presents, but much talk about who baby Jesus was and what happened that night so long ago.

When they woke up, the first thing they wanted was breakfast, as is typical. I had made blueberry muffins the night before, which is sort of our traditional Christmas breakfast. Typically, we'd pair it with eggnog and linguisa, but we couldn't find either of those things here. We ended up with some kielbasa, which is so not the same thing, but such is life here. After breakfast, we finally called them to the tree. It was weird, though; I remember as a kid hovering around the tree in anticipation of what was to come. Neither of our kids seemed interested at all until we were actually opening the gifts.

I know some people would probably think we've gutted the fun things about Christmas, but I don't think we have. The gifts under the tree were the sorts of things we could all have fun with, from the new Wii games for Oliver (all of which were the type the boys can play in some fashion, too), to the Legos and RC cars for the boys. We spent the day building things, trying to figure out how to drive an RC car on the wall, and making music on the TV.

In short, I think Christmas without Santa has been a resounding success around here. It's so much easier to avoid all the hoopla and stress without the big red guy hanging around. Christmas in our home has become a day to celebrate Jesus' birth and reconnect as a family. I'm really glad we made this decision and stuck with it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

...means it's time to make pizza. We may be at the mercy of what is in the store while we live here, but that doesn't mean we can't have some fun and grow a new Christmas tradition while we're at it. I do think Oscar ate more raw dough than he did the finished product, but it was so much fun letting him have a go at making his own.

I'm so grateful we are all home together this year as a family, free of the shadow deployment has all too often brought in the past. Life is good here in the Bahamas, and I am once again reminded of all our Savior has done for us.

Feliz Navidad!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fire Trucks!

We take care of our own lawns here. This is fine with me as I was very tired of the racket the landscaping company made every week in our housing in Washington. I use the term "lawn" loosely, as it is mostly a collection of weeds and clover with nary a blade of actual grass in sight.

In order to take care of this prickly mess of green, housing provides some equipment in a shed at the end of the street. Both a lawn mower and a weed whacker are kept there. I wish we hadn't put our rake in storage as there sadly isn't one to use (or buy) here. I'm a little tired of the coconut pods littering our yard, but it's a pain to pick them all up by hand, especially after the lawnmower has shredded them. I guess we'll just have to learn to ignore them.

In order to get into the shed to borrow the lawn care equipment, we have to go borrow a key. The place we go to borrow the key is actually in the fire station. There is someone there working dispatch 24 hours a day (this is also the person that handles 911 calls for the base), so we can pretty much get the key whenever we want.

A couple days ago, I returned the key for Oliver after he was done using it, as he's quite nicely taken on this job for the most part. Oscar was itching for a ride, so I brought him with me. The firefighters are great with the kids here on base. When I walked up, one of them came right up to Oscar and asked him if he wanted to see the trucks. He was so excited!

fire truck time

Here he is sitting in the driver's seat. Notice the glow from the window? That is a pitfall of living in a place that requires 24 hour air conditioning. The camera lens always fogs up when you first leave the house. I forgot to wipe it off before taking the picture. Sadly, it was the only one I have where he grinned like that, so I'm posting it anyway.

This next one is also not the greatest, but he was on the move, so I took what I could get:


next to fire truck

Friday, December 18, 2009

Because the Sky Here is Beautiful

We took a random drive today to see some of the island. We haven't made a huge effort to do so before, but felt the need to get out of base for a bit. Truthfully, I don't feel particularly comfortable here yet. Part of it is because it's a country with a different road system and almost no signs for anything. You have to ask people to find out where things are. You can't just drive into town and figure out where the stores are.

The other issue I'm having is that never in my life have I felt like I stuck out so much. Because we are white, we are clearly not from the island. The few times I have found myself in the minority in the States, I never felt as discomfited by it. Here, though, it's not just skin color, it's also because I'm American. I know I'll get over this, and being out today helped, but I think this is an experience that will prove valuable in the future. You never truly get how an outsider feels until it's you.

While we were out on our drive, I caught these pics of the sky. The sun was setting, and it was beautiful. I love the sky here!

sky2


sky1

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What's Christmas About?

For church today, we decided to focus on Christmas. We decided on this partly because I don't think we are doing a particularly great job teaching the boys what Christmas is actually about. Their quick responses to what it's all about usually focus on the presents. So, for our makeshift Sacrament meeting, we watched the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional since we hadn't watched it last weekend.

When the first congregational hymn was playing, we sang along. I found myself tearing up some while we did so. It felt really good to sing with other members of our faith, even if they were on a computer screen and had done so the week before. I don't feel like we are hurting spiritually by being out here on our own, but I very much miss the ability to be with others that believe the way I do. I never really understood before how good that can feel. I'm so grateful for the internet and all the Church does to reach out to its far-flung members. This would have been so much more difficult without that.

P.S. I will keep you all updated on the compost progress. I'm a few weeks away from being able to actively start a bucket right now, so not much to say for awhile. I'm hoping it will work out; if not, maybe I'll try doing something enclosed if I can find a container that would work.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What I've Been Up To (in case anyone out there still reads this blog, ha)

I'd like to say I've been neglecting this blog because I've suddenly become so busy with holiday excitement that there is no room for such things. Nope, life is pretty much as slow as it has been. This is not to say that I'm sitting around feeling bored. The nice thing about having almost no scheduled time is that you can fill it with things you've always wanted to do but haven't because there was the excuse of a deadline/event/etc. coming up. Oliver is home far more than he's gone, which is a very, very nice change, so I even have help with the boys. So, what to do?

There's the book writing, of course. I'm not making as much progress as I'd like, but the story is taking shape and I have about 20 pages written that I think I may actually use in the final book. The rest is scrap, but it's still useful. The biggest challenge for me here is to have a block of time to work on it. All too often, I sit down and start writing, then someone or something needs my attention and I never get back to it. A lot of it is being shaped in my head, though, so I work on it even when I'm not actively typing. It'll get done one of these days.

Then I have my gardening gig. The radishes are developing; I could see a nice bulge on one of them when I checked them this afternoon. Hopefully, they will all start doing the same thing. The chives also are going well. I almost lost them when we had a really heavy thunderstorm a few weeks ago because I hadn't taken the time to drill holes in the bottom of their container.

The rain here tends to come down with the same force as someone dumping a huge bucket on your house. It ends fast, but, wow, the amount is crazy. This is especially interesting when you live in a trailer. The sound is incredible. Oliver came home one day after another brief dumping shower to report he'd heard it loud and clear in the two story building he works in. His office is downstairs. Yeah, I was at home waiting for the roof to collapse it sounded so loud. We've yet to have a rainstorm that lasts all day, though. Mostly, it comes and goes in a half hour or less.

The rainstorm that almost murdered my chives was at night. I woke up to find all these little green shoots floating on the top of mud puddle that filled the container. I hurried to drill holes and drain the dirt, then carefully replanted every last one of them. Amazingly, they all survived, and I am really looking forward to using them when they get a little bigger. I think the spinach seeds were drowned out, though. They never came up, so I've planted jalapenos in their place.

Gardening has got me thinking about compost. We have no garbage disposal here (although, we were very, very lucky to have a dishwasher; almost no one else here seems to have one...I would have been a very unhappy woman without one), so we are constantly dumping food into the garbage. I could really use some decent compost when I figure out how to build a couple raised beds. I plan on doing a version of square foot gardening, and compost is definitely what I need.

All that rotting food in the garbage has got me thinking about how to turn it into the compost I need. I can't, however, start a big, stinky pile outside our trailer. Not only will the neighbors hate me, but we will be swarmed with bugs. We have more than enough of those already, so we need to do it inside. I'm planning on using Bokashi, which is a Japanese method that basically has you layering your food scraps with a material innoculated with beneficial bacteria. You seal it up into an air tight bucket, then when it's full let it sit for a few days. Then you bury it (or, in my case, use a container with some dirt on top), then in about two weeks you should have compost ready. The stuff basically pickles in the bucket.

The one big problem I'm running into is that I can't find the Bokashi bran online without being charged a lot for shipping. I ran across a method of making your own, so I now have a little science experiment going on in the kitchen. Oliver thinks I'm a little on the crazy side, I think, but I'm pretty fascinated by the whole thing.

It's a very empowering thing to be able to produce things on your own. Living here is going to teach me a lot about making do and coming up with creative solutions for stuff I can't just go out and buy anymore. I think Wyatt is catching on to this, too. A couple weeks ago, he wanted a donut. Instead of begging to go to the store, he asked me to make him one because, "we've got to do it ourself". I'm rather proud of him for that.

Speaking of Wyatt, he is doing so well with this reading program we've been using. It's a computer program that I found through an online homeschool coop. It wasn't very expensive buying through the coop, and I'm really glad I decided to go with it. Wyatt is a very tech-savvy kid. Other than keeping an eye on what he's actually doing online, I really don't have to help him with anything. He just finds a new game on the site he's allowed to go on (the Lego site is his latest obsession), then figures out how to play it by himself.

I wanted something that played to that strength and interest, and it's going very well. He's gone through ten lessons (I have him repeat one if he hasn't really grasped what it taught), and there are practice sentences with each one. Today, he read through the three sentences they had with no help at all. It's the first time he's really applied the letter sounds and other skills he's gaining to actual reading. I'm very excited for him! It's an amazing thing to watch your child learn something that will be such a life-changing tool for him later in life.

I will have some new pictures soon. I took the Lumix to the store today and got a nice shot down the aisles. I forgot to take one outside, though, so I'm going to wait until I get that to post the store pics. It's very nice having my camera back. Getting clear pictures with the Olympus was so difficult.

That's about it for me. What's new with you?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mail Call

No pics today, but when I went to go pick up our mail this morning, I was excited to see five package slips. Looking at them a little closer, I realized several of them said "x2". When Wyatt handed the Second Class Petty Officer behind the counter our slips, she told us she'd meet us around back (which is really the front of the building where you park your car/golf cart). When I herded the boys there, we saw a stack of about nine boxes with our name on them.

Receiving packages is always fun, but here, it takes on a bigger significance. Nearly all of it was stuff we need: a new toaster, seed packets, dried beans, among other things. There was also a Lego Advent calendar I've been anxiously awaiting. We're obviously a little behind, but we'll just keep opening one door a day until we've finished it. I am really glad I was able to find one at a decent price.

The best thing, though, was a package from my in-laws. They had sent us a Christmas present, but also included our missing DVDs and my camera. I'm really happy to have it back!

In other news, they got some Christmas lights in at the store this week, so I grabbed a few boxes when I saw them. We always use white lights on our tree, but I brought home a string of colored lights, too. I'm not one for decorating, but Wyatt has been begging to have something outside our house, so I was happy to oblige him this year. It's a pretty weak little strand of lights wrapped around the top rail of our deck, but it has made two little boys very happy, and that is definitely worth the five bucks I paid for them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Phone System

I've never really been much of a talker when it comes to the phone. To illustrate, Oliver and I have one cell phone between us, and it's the pay as you go type. We really only use it for traveling and the rare occasion we think we might need to call home for some reason (like when he would need to be picked up from work when we lived in the States). The rest of the time, it's turned off. Typically, we have minutes that go to waste, but since it only costs us about $20 ever three months, it's no big deal. We did have a home phone, which saw moderate use, but nothing crazy.

Now that we live here, we have little choice when it comes to a phone system. Getting a cell that works here is big bucks, so we aren't even going to think about that. The phone that came with the place operates on a LAN system. The good news is that we have a U.S. phone number, so it doesn't cost extra for people to call us. The bad news is that it can be very difficult to get through. Also, while it doesn't cost us anything to have it hooked up or to call others in the LAN, it does cost about 50 cents a minute to call someone outside the system. That adds up pretty fast. A lot of people here use Skype to cut costs, but so far we have just avoided using the phone unless absolutely necessary. No one in either of our families seems to be much for the phone, either, so this hasn't really been difficult.

This past week, though, I have been quite aggravated with the phone system. I've been trying to work something out back in the States, and the situation requires that someone can actually call me back. A week went by with no word, so I tried to call this company to find out what was going on (we'd been doing it through email). They won't accept my calls because their phone system requires all incoming calls to register on the caller ID. Obviously, mine will not do this. They finally emailed me back and said they'd been trying to call, but it's always busy.

So, now I have to put this on the back burner for the next couple of weeks. Wyatt and I have eye appointments in a couple weeks, so I'm going to take care of it when I fly to WPB with him. I really do miss the ability to just handle stuff when it comes up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Is Here

Yet, this is what we were up to a couple days ago:


Before you ask, no, I have no idea why Oscar's swim trunks are so huge on him. 
It's a matching set, yet the rash guard is the same size, but almost looks like it won't fit him for much longer. 
Either he's built weird or someone mislabeled something.


It's getting a little hard to get into the whole Christmas thing this year. I've never before realized just how much of it revolves around snow, despite how rarely it actually snows on Christmas day. I grew up in the northeast, and while we often had snow just before or after, there were many years that Christmas looked more brown than white. Ironically, when we lived in Washington, it did snow on Christmas day last year. I suspect that will not be repeated this year.

I can tell when Wyatt is dealing with a bout of homesickness for his first home when he gets all nostalgic about how much he "just loves snow". Poor kid; next year, we are going skiing. With all the moving and traveling, it just wasn't possible this year.

We did spend some time putting up our tree tonight, though. Typically, I procrastinate and the tree goes up a few days ahead of time, but I figured we needed extra help getting into the spirit of things this year. Good thing we have a fake one. Otherwise, we would have had to dress up the coconut tree in our yard. That would probably have been more interesting, though...


Wyatt did so well at matching the colors and hooking the branches into the trunk 
that I think this will be his job next year.

After we assembled the somewhat dusty-smelling tree, we discovered a bit of a problem: we have no lights. Last year, several of our strings developed shorts in them, so I tossed about half of them, intending to buy new ones this year. There were a couple strings left, but apparently they either ended up in storage or somehow vanished in the move. In most places, this would be no big deal. Here, the solution is a little more complicated. I could wait to see if they will have any in the store this month, but a. they may not have any and b. someone else could easily buy them up before I see them (which is what happened to the very few bags of fresh cranberries the store got this Thanksgiving - grrr). So, I guess I'm going to be looking for some online tonight.


We did crack open a couple of the ornament boxes (ok, the boys actually got to them first and had the entire Nativity set lined up on a nearby table while we were searching for lights; that was kind of cute) and let Wyatt and Oscar hang up ornaments until they were bored. Since we will have to try to get lights on later, I didn't care where they chose to hang them. Oscar's idea of ornament hanging was something like this:



When Wyatt was his age, we had no problems with him pulling things off the tree. Oscar, though, is probably going to be a bit more challenging. I've already had to stop him from eating a glass candy cane ornament. In fairness, it really does look like a real candy cane. What actually brought the incident to my attention was his frustration at not being able to remove the string dangling from the top of it. That is one of the few ornaments hanging high in the tree now. I think a lot of the more fragile ones we didn't open yet will just stay in the box this year.





Saturday, November 28, 2009

Growing Things

A few days ago, we woke up to this discovery:




After the farm trip fell through last week, I started thinking about gardening. I've always loved growing things, but it wasn't possible when we lived in Washington. We weren't really allowed to do much with our postage stamp-size lawn, so outdoor gardening was out. I thought about growing herbs or something inside, but our townhouse faced east and west. Even on the rare days there was sun to grow things, we didn't get much of it. I did try basil once, but it didn't make it. Growing things here, though, is quite possible.

So, I trekked over to the store to see what they might have. They had a couple seed packets handing on the wall, most likely leftovers from last spring. I ended up with radishes, spinach, chives, and jalapeno peppers. Probably not quite what I would have gone for if there were more choices, but it works. They always have a big pile of bags filled with potting soil outside, so I bought one of those and carried it all home.

Even though I can dig up our yard area for a garden, it really doesn't work out here. The ground here is full of coral. I am not positive, but I believe that's pretty much what Andros Island is made of. On the south side of our trailer, you can't even dig a spade into it because it's solid. Surprisingly, a lot of weeds still survive, though, so it isn't immediately apparent that that is the case.

Because of the coral, container gardening is what I'm going to do. We have some plastic containers that we were using in our home in Washington but that seem to have no use here, so I grabbed them and the boys and we planted our seeds. I need to find another container for the peppers, but we started some of everything else.



I'm not sure who was more excited about the growing things in our containers, Wyatt or I. It's a lot of fun to share my love of gardening with him. He will go outside to check on them, and both he and Oscar help me water them with their little watering cans (which, weirdly enough, have multiplied in the move; we used to only have one, but now we have two identical cans....I'm still puzzling over that one).

We will have to find out what will end up being successful, but it's a good feeling to take some control over what you eat, especially when it can be so difficult to find things available to buy.



Edited To Add: Since writing this post, I have discovered we can bring seeds in, just not live plants. I think I will be haunting the Seedsavers website quite a bit in the next few years. Hopefully, we can figure out what grows best here and how to accomplish that in containers without losing too much to the bugs. And here I was thinking I couldn't get organic or heirloom produce in the Bahamas. I'm always happy to be proven wrong when it comes to such things!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

We were invited to spent it with some people who live just up the street from us. Everyone who came brought something to contribute, so I made rolls this morning. I was excited that one of the three turkeys there had been deep fried because I've wanted to try that ever since I had heard people did that. It did taste pretty good, but not really much different than one that is done well in the oven.

We ate outside, the first Thanksgiving I've ever done that. They had these fantastic little net tents to put over the food which kept the flies off of everything. It was really nice, and I'm glad we decided to go. Plus, I didn't have to cook this year beyond the rolls. I do owe Oliver a pumpkin pie, though. I'll have to get on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where's That Flashlight?

Oliver was flipping burgers for an MWR fundraiser at the softball game tonight, so the boys and I tagged along. Wyatt jumped into the wrestling match on the sand volleyball court with a bunch of the other boys that live here (nearly all the kids here are boys, interestingly enough). I was very impressed with how careful the older boys were with the little kids. I was not, however, so thrilled to see the sand matted into my son's hair when he came running back to me.

So, a bath was in order as soon as we returned to the trailer. I got them settled with a few toys, then ran down the hall to throw in a load of laundry. I had just started the washer when the power went out and the place was thrown into darkness. I could hear the boys screaming because the lights were out, and I called out to them in an effort to reassure them while I searched for a flashlight. I was able to get a hold of Wyatt's nightlight/flashlight combo that was plugged into the wall in his room right next to the bathroom where the boys were.

It didn't take me too long to do this in actuality, but it seemed like time slowed while I was looking for the light. Wyatt and Oscar were fine, but it took a lot of talking before they stopped freaking out. They wouldn't let me leave them alone unless I left the flashlight, so I ended up leading them through the house while we collected pjs and other necessary bedtime accouterments. I had promised them that we would all snuggle onto my bed if the lights were still out, but the power came back on while I was getting them dressed. They were all right about sleeping in their own beds after that.


I did learn a few things tonight. First, that we need to keep flashlights and extra batteries in every room of the house. Our place gets very, very dark when there is no power. I was literally feeling my way around while looking for the flashlight. Having one nearby would have been a great help.

Second, difficult events can often beget interesting teaching moments for both myself and the kids. When I was talking about how we can handle the rest of the evening without power, Wyatt assured me the TV would work if we shined the flashlight on it. He was a little upset when I explained that the same power that turns on the lights also makes the TV run. We then started naming everything that is run by electricity in the trailer.

It was enlightening to both of us just how much of our lives need electricity. It's probably a good idea to think carefully about what we would need short term if we were forced to deal with a prolonged electrical outage. I haven't spent much time on this before, but I know I should do so. It's not fun to have no plan when trouble comes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Beach at Night

On a whim, we decided to hit up the beach tonight after dinner. Ever since daylight savings hit, sunset has been around 1730, so it was nearly dark when we left. I didn't bother with pictures because my camera can't handle that sort of photo, sadly, but it was beautiful. The tide was very low, so the sand was swept clean of most of the usual seaweed tracks. The wind was just high enough to keep the nasty biting flies away (definitely the one awful thing about the beach here), and, as usual, we were the only people in sight.

We had let the boys bring flashlights, so they ran around flashing them around at things. Wyatt was playing pirate for awhile, then that morphed into kitty digging in the sand. Needless to say, he was completely coated in sand by the time we were done there. He was having a lot of fun, though. Both Oliver and Oscar were ready to leave long before we were, so next time I think I'll just bring him and we can spend however much time we want out there.

I have a feeling our car is going to be perpetually coated in sand while we live here. Never that fastidious of a car cleaner, with the exception of making sure there is no "stuff" in it, I have pretty much given up the idea of a daily vacuum. It's just part of the landscape here. The only time you aren't walking in it is when you are up on the sidewalk or inside a building. It's the cost of living on a tropical island. I think I can live with that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bump in the Road

We were supposed to go out to the Mennonite farm today. Unfortunately, due to an incident last night, the person who was going to take us out there and show us around the island a bit was called into work today. If Oliver had been around, I might have just decided to try to find it myself, but I really did not feel confident doing that alone with our boys in tow. So, we stayed home, and I wasn't happy about that.

Every time you move, there is an adjustment period no matter how much you wanted to be where you moved or how much you enjoy living there. For me, I find the logistics of it, like getting food, settling into a new house, or learning a new routine much easier than the people side of things. It's always hard to leave friends behind, and it's equally hard to find people you click with in your new home. I've met a lot of very nice people here, but haven't really connected with anyone as of yet. I know it will happen in time, but until it does, it will sadden me in certain moments. Today was definitely one of those days.

I decided I didn't want to mope all day over our lost trip. I know we'll make it out there another day, and I needed to pull things together for both myself and Wyatt, who was also disappointed. So, I gave myself permission to not stress about the house and we went outside to play with the hose. Later, while Oscar was napping, I let Wyatt skip his learning time (I'm teaching him to read using a computer program that is also used in many schools, and we do a lesson a day before he's allowed to have computer or Wii time), let him play his games on the computer, and I spent some time alone reading and thinking.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better, but I'm happy to report tonight ended nicely. Oscar has been having trouble falling asleep at night, so I laid down with him to help him calm down. I love doing that. He's such a sweet little boy. No matter how much he taxes my patience, whenever I look at him, I know how lucky I am to have a two year old in the house.


(Pic taken by Andrea)

No one loves you like a two year old does. He'll be running around the house doing his thing, and suddenly he will catch my eye across the room. He'll sail towards me, shouting, "Mommy! Mommy!" until he has flung himself into my arms. Then, he's off again in his own world, his mission of love completed. I cannot do without this little guy. I'm happy to know he feels the same about me.                      

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Weirdness

I don't think I will ever get used to going outside to warm up. Every time I walk outdoors, I am surprised at the temperature difference. I realized today that Thanksgiving is next week. That only compounds the weirdness.

Winter is definitely perfect around here, though. It's not blazing hot, and just about everything feels comfortable, whether we are playing at the beach or watching a softball game. If the humidity weren't so high, I probably wouldn't use the air conditioner at all. However, mold can be a big problem around here, so I think we will keep it running.

Thursday the boys and I are going to tag along on a trip to the Mennonite farm up in the North of Andros. Apparently, it's possibly the only place to get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables on the island. I'm a tad tired of the imported stuff; it's never that great by the time it gets here, and then it sits until it rots (literally; I've seen black ears of corn piled in their bin before).

I'm also excited to see more of the island. This being the first time I've really had to navigate around a foreign country, I feel apprehensive about driving. The road signs are different, and the road system is not all nicely mapped laid out like it is in the States.

Also, they drive on the left side of the road. Although, I've only seen a handful of cars made like that, so this is a little amusing. We drive on the left on base, too, so I've had a chance to get used to it. It's hard, though, when you drive up to an unfamiliar intersection or are pulling out of a parking lot. I always have to think hard about which lane I need to be pulling into and where my car needs to be to not block other cars. Also, who has the right of way when a right hand turn is now like a left hand turn in the States. I have found myself more than once pulling into a road and automatically driving on the wrong side. Good thing traffic is nil around here. Hopefully, I don't have the same problem in reverse the next time we are in the States. That would probably not turn out as well.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good Things Ahead

We have had a really great week. Oliver has had to work this weekend, which was a bummer, but it's the first time it's happened since we got here so I really can't complain. Mostly this post is going to be a random mix of stuff, so bear with me.

First, I have finally figured out where to send our Church records. Through a convoluted way, we received a phone call from the President of the Kingston Jamaica Mission. We'll be sending our tithing to the mission office and can do interviews and such there, too.

He did confirm that as far as he knows, we are the only LDS members on Andros Island. That is a very weird feeling, but I kind of already knew that. It's going to be an interesting challenge, but I believe we will be fine.

Ok, on to happening number two: Yesterday, they had a craft fair on base. I wasn't able to get there until the afternoon so I missed quite a few of the booths, but I was able to stop and talk to some people manning a booth with cake and jams on it. I felt like I was back in Washington at a farmer's market for a minute there, and it was a good feeling.

Apparently, they make the jams on base with mostly local fruits. The store here only carries jams and jellies containing high fructose corn syrup. Since we don't eat that, I was worried we were going to have to ship some in from Florida or order online, but now I don't have to. I quite happily bought a kind called Guinep to try. Here is a pic of it. You'll have to pardon the weird marks on the table. I swear, I actually wash it; the flash just bounced off the wet marks:




 The jelly is actually more of a pale orange, but the aforementioned flash messed it up and I'm not yet handy enough with Photoshop to fix it. Or edit out the bad table marks. In taste, it is very mild. We had it in sandwiches for lunch today, and Wyatt refused to try it because it's not his normal strawberry, but everyone else liked it. I will just have to wait until the strawberry is gone for Wyatt to become a convert. When he has no choice, he's pretty good about eating what there is.

Next time, I'm going to buy some passion fruit jelly. That really sounds good.

The third thing to share are a few beach pictures. I have many more, including some very windy shots from last weekend, but I have zero patience to weed through them right now. I have managed to bring my camera to the beach several times in the last week, but these pictures were taken on Veteran's Day. After the ceremony, Oliver had to go to work, so I packed up the boys and took them to play in the sand. I appreciate that we are so close to the beach that it is not intimidating to do that here. It takes more time to get us all ready than it does to drive there. We just played for about an hour until they were ready for lunch, then we went back home.



Finally, I leave you with this fabulous photo of our youngest. We very rarely buy chips, but when I left to go to the store yesterday, Oliver asked me to bring some home for him. When I got there, all they had were these jalapeno Doritos and some baked Lay's barbecue chips. They are playing war games this week, which is why Oliver is working this weekend, so the place is swarming (well, as swarming as it ever gets around here) with pilots and helo crews. The bonus for us is many a fantastic helicopter sighting, including watching them carry the torpedoes mid-air, but the downside is all the chips were bought up. So, jalapeno chips it was.



Oliver opened them right away, and we all tried them. They were pretty hot, and Wyatt was quickly disinterested. Oscar, though, he dove right in. We had to cut him off after awhile. Apparently, this little guy likes it spicy. He also asked for some hot sauce on his pasta tonight and actually ate it. He never ceases to surprise me. I'm really, really happy he joined our crazy clan.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

We were able to go to the small ceremony they did here on AUTEC for Veteran's Day. They are flying the flag at half mast, and raised the Bahamian flag alongside it. I brought the boys because I thought it was important they learn to respect our flag and what our veterans, their dad included even if he hates being recognized that way, have done for our country. No matter how I may feel about our current wars, I don't doubt those that have served and are serving have overwhelmingly done so with honor.

Last night, while I was getting ready for bed, I turned on the AFN movie channel and caught the very beginning of Taking Chance. It was 2200 and I was tired, but I couldn't stop watching it. I ended up staying up to see the end, and I'm glad I did. If you ever want to gain a deep sense of respect for what our war dead go through from battlefield to grave site, you should watch that movie. It was gratifying to see the love and respect that was accorded this one soldier on his last journey home. Although I pray my own husband never comes home in such a way, I am grateful beyond words to know he would be treated with the same respect if it ever did happen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Warning: Blog Under Construction

I've been meaning to do this for awhile, and it's probably going to be a bit before it's finished, but I'm working on a new background. So, if you come and it looks rather unreadable, it will get better, I promise.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ah, the Car Saga

This morning, as I said in an earlier post, I took the boys outside to play in the mud. This morning was overcast and a bit cooler than usual. To give you perspective, however, we are still running the air conditioner. Wyatt, though, chose to go outside in this getup (yes, those are sweat pants):



Apparently, my four year old has already acclimated himself to life here. Hopefully, this means he will also find it easy to move back into a colder environment when we are done living down here. I can see all of us freezing in 60 degree weather.

It's what's behind him, however, that I wanted to really talk about. That's the front end of our car, which arrived on island last week. Originally, we had planned to leave it in West Palm Beach for awhile. We had been told we could get a free parking spot near the terminal there, so we weren't anticipating any issues.

However, upon arrival there, we found out differently. Oliver went into the office there to request our parking space. They told him there was a waiting list, so he would have to make different arrangements. They had no real options outside of this. The guy he talked to actually suggested we leave it with one of our friends in the area. You know, in case we actually had friends in WPB.

Needless to say, we freaked out about this. We had less than 24 hours before our flight left. After combing through our list of nonexistent friends in the area, we spent some time online trying to find a reasonably priced place to park the car. The last thing we wanted to do was just leave it at the airport in long-term parking, as we weren't sure of its safety and doing that would cost $13 a day. That was going to add up.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what ended up happening. There just wasn't enough time to come up with a better alternative. We got on our flight, and just crossed our fingers we would be able to get back over fairly quickly and take care of it.

What really frustrated me the most about all of this is that the place to drop the car off to have it shipped was up near Orlando. If we had been told there was a waiting list when we first asked about this, we could have just changed plans, dropped it off the day we left Disney World, and rented a car for the last couple of days in West Palm Beach. Instead, we were left trying to get a flight back off the island to then make a two hour drive back up to Port Canaveral.

To make a long story short, they got Oliver on a flight back to the U.S. a couple weeks after we arrived. We ended up paying about $150 in parking fees, but he was able to get it to Port Canaveral, then catch a flight back to Andros the next morning without further incident.

In the long run, I think it's worked out better for us. We were thinking about buying a second car and leaving it in Florida, but didn't because we couldn't find one at our price point with the madness of the Cash for Clunkers program. I've never in my life been so surprised at being turned away when we were prepared to pay cash for a car. It was aggravating, but now I'm so grateful it happened. We would still have a car sitting there costing us much money because it would have been stupid to have two cars here when we barely need the one.

Also, after looking at what it costs to have a car licensed and insured in Florida, it's going to be a lot cheaper to just rent a car every few months when we fly over there. After deciding to leave our car in WPB, we had planned on holding onto our Washington plates as long as we could, as it's a lot cheaper doing it that way versus turning into Florida residents. However, we are now doing it all through the Bahamian government as required, which is even cheaper.

Speaking of Bahamian insurance, we had to get insurance before we could get our car released. We were finally able to find someone to drive us off-base to take care of that two days ago. It was our first foray outside the gate since we moved here. We pulled up to the small grocery store....and got our insurance from the cashier. There is a desk in the corner of the store where she took care of that. Luckily, no one else came in and needed to buy anything while Oliver was signing the paperwork or she would have had to juggle both at the same time. The whole thing was pretty funny.

So, we now have our car. We still need to get our Bahamian plates, but hopefully we'll be able to take care of that this afternoon. We're not too worked up about it, though, because we mostly want it for off-base trips. AUTEC is only about a mile square, so it's easy to walk most places. Oliver works on the opposite end and doesn't plan on driving much as he can take the base taxi, which is free. I will probably only use it to buy groceries and going to the beach, which is a good trek with two kids. We won't be buying a lot of gas because of this, which is good.

Oliver took a pretty hefty pay cut to come here. COLA is offsetting some of it, but I'm relieved to discover that lower costs on pretty much everything but food will take care of most of the rest. Internet, cable, and phone (except long distance calls, which are expensive) are all included in our housing, so we don't pay extra for them, and a lot of the things there are to do here for entertainment don't cost anything, either. If we had taken shore duty in Virginia, which was our second choice, we would have had a much harder time.

As a side note, when I called USAA to cancel our car insurance, they told me we could sign up for a policy that will cost us $5 a year while we are overseas. It will cover any rentals we get, and will keep us from appearing to have had a huge gap in coverage, which would have resulted in higher rates. I think being able to use USAA has got to be one of the best benefits of being military. I've never had anything but positive experiences with them.

Bahamian Wildlife

Back in Washington, it was a common occurrence to see deer grazing on your front lawn in military housing. I had one friend tell me a story of how she woke up one morning and watched a doe give birth outside her window. Sadly, I never got to see anything quite that exciting, but the boys and I have witnessed many deer families wandering the neighborhood.

Here in the Bahamas, we get to see wildlife of another sort. This morning, while we were outside playing in the mud and puddles from yesterday's rainstorm (yep, we use the bathtub a lot here; I figure getting dirty and wet is a benefit of living in a place that is always warm), we were able to witness this little herd waltzing up our street:





I'm really not sure who was more excited, the boys or I.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Adrift, Yet Not

We knew that coming here would be a challenge. We also knew it would yield great rewards. We've definitely been finding this to be true on both counts.

The food situation was expected, and I had planned for it. It will be a relief to go back to real supermarkets, but I appreciate all I'm learning about using the sorts of food you are advised to have in your food storage. I am also happy to discover that when you have to do without, innovation kicks in and possibilities abound.

The one thing I'm having the hardest time with, though, is the inability to attend church. I miss having a ward to go to. Well, actually, I miss having the opportunity to meet with anyone outside our family that is LDS. I am realizing just how many times I took that for granted, how many times I just stayed home because it was easier. I wish I hadn't done that. It's a real blessing to be around people that share your religion, that both teach and strengthen you.

We've met some great people, but I can tell it will be a bit harder to find friends here. I can't just go to church and make the quick bonds that come with a shared experience and understanding. I know I'll find my place, but right now, it's tough to know where that will be. Drinking seems to be the big pastime here, which obviously puts a damper on things for us. We haven't made a big deal about it, but people already seem to know not to offer it. The last time we went to something, a couple people tried to find me the few non-alcoholic drinks buried in the cooler. I really appreciated that.

We're just doing our own thing right now. We get dressed for church in the morning, and have a small Primary for our boys. This past Sunday, Wyatt asked for a small chair, so we lined up our little camping chairs in the living room and had them sit there. They already seem to realize that even though we are at home, we are still going to church. It's hard to have to do it by ourselves, to feel the pressure of knowing that if we don't teach them, no one will.

It's also amazing, though, just how much more we are getting out of this. I'm seeing Oliver in a totally new light as he has met me halfway in making this happen. He's missed so much church in the past that I haven't really had the opportunity to see him serving or teaching in that way. He has only held one calling that actually required he do something in the last six years, and it was only for about six months. I love discovering that he has a faith and belief I didn't realize was as strong as it is.

I have felt in the past that I was going to church just because I was supposed to, not because I was going to learn anything. Most of my time was spent with our youngest, who hated nursery and wouldn't sit still for sacrament meeting. I rarely could sit through an entire Relief Society meeting without being needed, and didn't even bother to try to get to Sunday School. Now, while we are still struggling to teach Oscar to sit still and listen, it's amazing just how much more you can gain when you are preparing and teaching the lessons to your own children.

There are problems, however. I have no idea where we fit anymore. I thought every part of the world had at least a mission to watch over it, but no one we've talked to seems to know who is over us. Our records are still sitting in Washington because I don't know where to send them. Our tithing is also an issue because I don't know who to give it to. I actually mailed a check to Salt Lake last week because we had three months worth building up in our account and I don't want it there. It's not our money.

Hopefully, we'll be able to figure this all out before too much longer. At least before I need a new temple recommend. I don't even know where to begin to get another one of those...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in the Bahamas

 
Wyatt, our bounty hunter. I realize this costume won't be winning any authenticity awards anytime soon, but I'm pretty proud of it. It's the first time I've ever really come up with an original costume. His helmet and jet pack were made of paper mache. I used packing paper and cardboard from moving boxes to make them. His vest is the one we bought to use in lieu of a car seat. We decided on camo pants to give it a bit of a military look. His snow boots would have worked better, but they are now under his bed in a small space behind the drawers. You have to pull the mattress and box spring off, then pull up the slats to get to them. Yeah, we weren't quite that ambitious yesterday.





And Oscar, who went as a soccer player. Sadly, we had to nix the turtle costume. He refused to wear anything that wasn't real clothes. He did, however, proudly announce at every house, "I a soccer player!" He's wearing his pumpkin bucket on his head because Wyatt discovered awhile ago that he could see out the eyes if he pulled it low enough. He taught Oscar that it was fun to wear them as "helmets". 
Ah, brothers. They keep us entertained!




Trick or treating this year was interesting. Oliver received an email a week or so ago with all the rules. There were hours set for it, and parts of housing were considered off-limits. If you lived in the family areas and wanted to participate, you just had to leave your porch light on. No one was supposed to knock on doors with the lights out.

I really liked this approach. Living on Bangor base in Washington, we were always inundated with kids from both the base and in town who would come on base for their trick or treating. The street was crowded with kids, and we typically had to hang a sign stating we had no candy or they would ring your bell until late. Here, all we had to do was turn out the light when the candy was gone.

They allowed the Bahamian employees to bring kids on base to participate. This was good because there are only about 40 kids that live here. It was interesting, though, to see how many of them didn't quite understand the concept. A lot of them weren't wearing costumes, and they rarely said "Trick or treat!" when they came to the door.

A lot of people really got into it here. They decked out their trailer and sat outside waiting for the kids to come by. One family had even built a small haunted house out of a screen house and blankets. Fake smoke was billowing out of it, and a guy in a mask was handing out candy in there. I never saw the inside, though, because Oscar took one look at it and screamed. I'm pretty sure Wyatt would have gone in there as we've taken him to a haunted house every year before now, but he wasn't going to do it alone. So, the masked man came out and handed them their candy.

One of the more amusing things about trick or treating here, though, were all the people who used their golf carts. They would drive down the street, let out the kids to hit up a few trailers, then drive on to the next set. Most people walked, us included, and we really didn't have to worry about cars. There are more golf carts on base than cars, and a lot of people who own cars have golf carts, too.

The boys filled their pumpkin buckets be the end of the third street, so Wyatt decided he was done. I was okay with this as I'd been carrying both Oscar and his full pumpkin the entire way. I didn't bring the stroller because I thought he would walk a good part of it. He was pretty freaked out by all the costumes and spooky decorations, though, so he wouldn't let me put him down. Oliver had stayed behind to give out candy in his pirate get-up (he had no shirt, so I'm not going to post it, but it was hilarious), so I wasn't able to get a break from carrying Oscar the entire 45 minutes we were out. My arms were shaking by the time we got back to the trailer.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. Definitely our most interesting Halloween to date, however. It was also the first Halloween that had me sweating by the end of the evening.

Friday, October 30, 2009

We Have Eggs!!



Oliver brought home two dozen unbroken eggs today. I never thought I would be so excited to have eggs before moving here. We ran out on Sunday, so we had to wait until the barge got here. As long as the weather is cooperating, it comes every Thursday, then they restock the store both Friday and Saturday. Going without really makes you appreciate what you have. It's a lesson I hope I take with me after we leave here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Costuming the Small Fry

Wyatt is so excited about Halloween this year. Every day, he asks us if it's the day. I've been told everyone comes out for the holiday, so I'm hopeful he won't be disappointed. It will be hard to top last year, however. He was a fireman that year, and one of the base fire trucks came through housing. The firefighters handed out candy to the kids who excitedly ran up to them.

I'm excited for a very different reason: I had a lot of fun with their costumes this year. I'm really not crafty by nature or interest outside of cooking, but sometimes a project interests me and I run with it. Wyatt, my little Star Wars-obsessed boy, is going to be a bounty hunter. I'm not sure why, but he is quite taken with them. So, before we moved, we bought him an appropriate toy gun. I'm making my first foray into paper mache and building him both a helmet and a jet pack. We have a safety vest he can use in the car in lieu of a car seat (although, there seem to be no seat belt laws here in the Bahamas; I plan to keep strapping the kids in, though). He has called it his "bounty hunter vest" ever since I bought it, so that works out just fine as armor. I'll post pics when I'm done with it all.

Then, there is little Oscar. Originally, he was supposed to wear the Mickey Mouse costume Wyatt wore when he was about the same age. However, it's a little on the warm side. Coming up with a costume here means finding one that will keep them cool, not warm. So, back to the drawing board.

When I asked him about a week ago what he wanted to be, he promptly answered, "A turtle!" Oliver, typically the more creative of the two of us, fashioned a nice looking shell out of a cardboard insert that came out of our grill box. Unfortunately, Oscar freaked out when he tried it on him. I'm hoping we can convince him to wear it when he sees Wyatt decked out, but I'm guessing it will be a no-go. We don't have much of a backup plan, so that's a bummer.

In other news, I heard eggs may have arrived today, so I'm going to run to the store tomorrow to hopefully get some. Powdered eggs work for a lot of things, but definitely not brownies, as I discovered this week. Oh, and Oliver had his first duty day. He had to go in at 0500, but was home by lunch. Nice. I know we'll see busier days, but nothing at all like what we've been dealing with for the last six years. Coming here was definitely a good choice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sigh

I keep writing posts in my head, and I even have one waiting to be finished in my drafts folder. The problem is always dealing with the pictures. I don't know what it is, but uploading them from camera to computer, resizing, and doing a very small amount of editing are just pulling me away from it. Without the pictures, though, my posts always seem lacking. Because we have wireless here, and where the computers are has changed, I'm bouncing between the laptop and my computer. So many times, I realize the pics I need are on the wrong computer. It's driving me crazy!

I think I'm going to stop fretting about it. If I have no pictures, I have no pictures. I'll just add them later, or move on. I really will try to get them there, but it's keeping me from writing, and I hate that.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkins Can Make You Happy

I'm very happy. Oliver brought home a pumpkin today. I had asked him to stop by the store on the way home for lunch (it doesn't open until 1100) and see if we could still get one. We were originally going to get one on Saturday when the PTA here was selling them at the annual Fall Fest. However, we were a little late due to Owen's nap and getting dinner.

Apparently, that isn't a good idea around here. Most of the action was over, it seemed, so we were milling around debating what there was to do. They had advertised they were doing hay rides, so when a tractor pulling a trailer full of kids arrived about then we decided to get on for a ride with the boys before we bought our pumpkins. On getting in, we discovered that around here, a "hay" ride is actually a "coconut frond" ride, which I thought was funny.


 I love that this tractor read "John Deere/ Navy Tractor" on it.



 Daddy and Oscar enjoying the ride.


Looking out the back of the tractor. The roads are actually unpaved here. 
Andros is mostly rock, so the unpaved roads have the feel of a road that was once paved years ago, 
but is now breaking down. It's not as bad as a straight-up dirt road.


This coconut frond ride ended up taking almost an hour. I guess they do two rides, a shorter one for the little kids, then a long one for the older ones. The long one took us around the perimeter of the base on dirt roads. The base seems quite small until you ride around it at 10 miles per hour. By the end of the ride, half the kids were begging to get off, and the other half were busy decimating the coconut fronds and attacking each other with them. We were in the former camp, and jumped out to see everyone else cleaning up.

I no longer saw the pile of pumpkins, so I asked someone where they had gone. Sadly, they had all been sold while we were on our trip around the base. Someone offered us use of their golf cart to get one from the store the next morning before they were all sold off. We walked off thinking we would do that.

However, we woke up yesterday realizing it was Sunday. It was a really hard decision to not buy one. On the one hand, I didn't want to not be able to get one, but on the other, I didn't want to set a poor example to both our sons and the people we live with here, none of which are LDS. We decided the latter trumped the former, and we waited until today to try to get ours.

I'm grateful it worked out all right, but I was willing to go without. It would have been worth it to do the right thing. I know that will last longer than the pumpkin.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's For Dinner?

This is a question that has morphed into something else around here lately. Now, it's something like this: "What do you think we can make out of the produce they had at the store this week?" I will definitely post pics of our store when I get my real camera, but the one I'm carrying now doesn't do indoors very well. I need to do it justice.

Imagine a decent sized gas station store. Throw in a three foot section of shelving and cold space (that's the produce section). Add another wall of random household stuff, like a vacuum (yes, I meant to say only one), a toaster, and other such necessities of life. Add in a shelving unit for all cleaners, toiletries, and paper goods, including diapers. Then add a collection of random things such as a couple bikes, boat gear, AUTEC branded stuff, and various playthings aimed at the children. Got all that? Then you have a decent picture in your head of what our store looks like.

Basically, meat comes in about every two weeks. However, it's so expensive you are better off flying to Florida to get it. Oliver had to go there last week to take care of our car (yes, that story is still coming), so I asked him to get whatever meat he could to fill out his weight allowance. I'm now making it stretch as much as I can as I have no idea when we will get another chance to buy more. So tonight, we had chili with about 2/3rds of a pound of meat and some tofu mixed in (because we can get weird stuff like tofu; good thing my kids love it). Not too bad, actually, and definitely healthier.

We can usually get eggs, although sometimes they don't handle the trip very well. I was lucky last time I was in there. Most of them were broken, but I was able to patch together a good dozen. We are out, so I'm not sure if we'll be eating eggs this week or not. The barge comes in on Thursdays, so if they are all gone I'll have to wait until Friday after they restock. I shipped some powdered eggs for cooking just in case that sort of thing happened, but, yeah, no eggs for breakfast.

Really, though, I'm not complaining. Just trying to paint an accurate picture of what life is like here. I know this probably sounds terrible to many of you, but it's kind of more like an interesting scavenger hunt to me. I like a challenge, and cooking has always been a bit of an adventure to me. When I lived in the States, it was all about eating as healthy as I could manage, with organics and local produce. Now, it's more like trying to figure out what to make out of a head of cauliflower, a handful of potatoes, and an onion, as that was what looked good enough to eat this week.

I'm really grateful I decided to learn to bake bread last year. Bread is flown in three times a week, but they still run out now and again; plus, it isn't typically the type I would normally buy. I now own a grain mill, and shipped enough wheat, oat groats, and other grains to last us at least a year. So, we aren't starving. We just don't eat as much meat, which is fine with me. I was actually eating almost no meat when I met Oliver, and kind of met him in the middle when it came to cooking after that. He's ok with being a little more adventurous because he doesn't want to pay twenty bucks for a small pack of ribs.

I'm also glad I cloth diaper. Diapers here run about $13 for the smallest size pack you can buy. They don't even carry the jumbos, which I remember paying $11 for in the commissary right before we moved. There are never sales on non-perishable stuff unless it's damaged. Yeah, diapering Oscar would have left us broke. Since our utilities are included, we are saving about $100 a month on diapers right now.

It's an adventure around here, that's for sure! When my mother-in-law called to tell me whose family we had this Christmas and ask what might be good presents for us this year, I told her to just send us some food. Especially some good dark chocolate.

Friday, October 23, 2009

So, We Went to the Beach Today

I even remembered to bring my camera. I've forgotten it every other time we've gone. The boys ran for the water, and I pulled  it out. I had just turned it on and was changing the settings when it flashed, "Battery Empty". So much for beach pictures yet again.

I'm actually not a big fan of this new camera. The pictures are not the greatest. We mostly bought it because we can do crazy things like snorkel with it, but I've been spoiled by my lost camera. The last time I checked, it was still being mailed to us via my mother-in-law. Here's hoping it finally gets here. I miss it!

So, back to the beach, sans photos. Our base is fairly small, but the beach is in one corner and our trailer is in the opposite corner. I've run the distance while out jogging, and it took me 25 minutes. Since we had to return the loaner golf cart and are still waiting on our car (more on that in a later post), our only choice was to walk it. So, we put Oscar in a stroller, then let Wyatt ride in the wagon with our beach gear, and we were off.

As it turned out, we didn't have to walk either way. One of the nice things about living here is everyone, whether they know you or not, are quick to offer you assistance. We were picked up by an MP on the way there, then managed to catch the base taxi (which is either a minivan or a three car golf cart and free to ride) right as we were leaving the beach. The walk there didn't bother me much, but I'm really glad the taxi driver was fine with how wet and sandy we were. We were tired, the kids were cranky and ready for dinner, and my swimsuit was soaking through my pants, making it look like I had a little accident. Both embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Despite the challenge of getting there, we have to go back soon; this is the first night Oscar has gone right to sleep since we've been here. He typically spends a good hour bouncing around his crib while Wyatt snores in his bed. He's also the first one up in the morning, even beating Oliver, so I'm not sure what's up with that kid.

Well, despite the lack of beach photos, I do have a few of the day our household goods arrived.



Not only did we have to unload, but we also had to pry the crates open.
They nicely left us a hammer to accomplish this. I left this fun task to Oliver.
Yes, my youngest son has no pants. I apologize, but he's not too into them. I probably created this monster by letting him run around without them this last year because his cloth diapers were too cute to cover.
Plus, I'm a little on the lazy side.


The boys did not want to be left out of all this unloading.







And, finally, a couple shots of our living room after the first four crates were unloaded. We pretty much couldn't move in the place. Luckily, our neighbors coveted the furniture housing had put in our living room, so they hauled the extra couches away for us that afternoon. They also brought in a truck and took the beds we didn't need to the Housing office. I don't think we would have been able to accomplish much that weekend if it hadn't been for that. We did, however, eat in the dining hall until it was all cleared out.






Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just a Tad Bit Depressing

I ran across a blog today from an Army wife. The first post I read talked about how hard it was to sell their house due to a PCS. The next one was about the sweater she had just made for her first grandchild. I stopped reading then and thought, ugh. There's no way I want to still be dealing with PCSes when I have a grandchild on the way. Even if we decide to finish this thing, twenty years is it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yikes, What a Weekend

So, right about the time I wrote my last post, I got a knock on the door. There was a man there who informed me our household goods had arrived and they would be dropping them off in twenty minutes. Needless to say, I was quite surprised; the last we'd heard, they hadn't shipped our HHGs from Washington until September 25th. We'd been bracing ourselves for a very long month without our stuff. Instead, we were happily overwhelmed with boxes and crates.

One interesting thing about living here is that when your stuff arrives, they don't unload it. So, we got to do that fun task by ourselves. Luckily, everyone here is quick to offer their help, and we had a couple sets of guys over two days that helped us with most of it. (We might have been able to do it all in one day, but they only delivered half our crates at first. We had to call and ask them to find the rest of them, which they did and delivered that evening.)

Now that we are close to being done setting up, we have found this place is both smaller and a tad challenging because it seems to have nothing but wire shelves in all the closets. Wire does not hold much. For the most part, that has worked out, but we shipped a couple thousand pounds of dry goods and canned food. We've had to get pretty creative in where we put it. Luckily, the kitchen has proven to be much larger than our townhouse, which is a huge plus for me, but I have been using extra space in the boys' bedroom to stack cases of canned goods.

Overall, though, everything is fitting just fine. I was worried for a bit because there just wasn't much space for all the boxes. For a couple days, our house was a maze of narrow pathways through the stacks of boxes. I left lights on at night so I wouldn't kill myself if one of the boys woke up and needed something. After we began unpacking in earnest, however, it became clear that amongst all the packing paper there really wasn't as much there as it seemed. I think this became clear to me when I unwrapped a large wad of paper and discovered two pieces of candy inside.

However, all that paper has done its job. Our stuff is here, no big mishaps or breakage, and in record time. I think it will be another week or two before we really finish setting up, but most of it is done. I was going to add a few pics, but didn't get past uploading them. Hopefully, I can make myself sit down to edit and add them tonight.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things

Things I Miss:

a mixing bowl
my garlic press
having more than one, 1.5 quart pot at my disposal
Wyatt's bike
a bread pan




Things I Don't Miss:

cloudy days
duty days
deployments
playing single parent
dog poop on my front lawn




Things I Already Love:

white, sandy beaches
an empty beach
hearing helicopters overhead
the chance to exercise without the kids
discovering what you can make do without
discovering how many uses there really are for things
my family together every night

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Couple Questions

I was all set to order a set of Fiestaware baking bowls today. I found them on the AAEFES site for cheap. Since this is a military-run site that is FPO-friendly, I figured there would be no problem. It was after I was about to check out that I discovered they won't ship Fiestaware to an FPO. Sigh. I can tell this is going to be an on-going problem for the next three years. It's especially irritating because for us, it just goes to West Palm Beach, where it is then put on the puddle-jumper plane we flew on. Nothing complicated, like most overseas packages. However, there are no exceptions to where your address actually is.


So, I figured I'd use this post to ask a couple questions:

Anyone out there have a line on a decent APO/FPO friendly site? And when I mean friendly, I mean a site that doesn't charge more than the cost of the item just because you have to fill out a customs form. It costs the same to mail to an APO as it does to a U.S. address.

Anyone have any questions about our new home? I have quite a few myself, so I can't promise I'll be able to answer right away, but I'd love to focus a couple posts on answering them.

To answer one in the comments in my last post: Oliver has only gone to work a couple of days so he hasn't done much more than check-in, but so far so good. They have a lot of stuff going on this week, so he's going to get to monitor some helicopter action.

There's a helicopter pad on base, so we were able to watch one taking off yesterday. They boys were quite excited about that. We also got to see a few military planes fly over us on the way to the airport. This is definitely a great place for plane/helicopter/big ship sightings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yes, We Made It!

We've actually been here since Thursday, but have been spending time getting acclimated to our new home. It's a little weird moving here. Because the base is so small, it kind of feels like going to a new high school that started classes months before you arrived. To make matters worse, you have to wear a badge all the time (although a lot of people don't after they've been here a long time). Ours are yellow, temporary badges, so it's even more obvious that we are new. The first couple of days, I felt conspicious and stared at whenever I left the house, but that's starting to wear off now.

We flew in on a tiny, 20-passenger plane. The seats were placed two to a row, with an aisle between. The boys and I ended up in the last three seats, which were straight across the back. Behind us was a bulkhead separating us from our baggage. There is no bathroom on board, as they pointed out before we left the airport, so I'm glad Wyatt had to go before we left. It was a short flight, less than an hour, but a rather exciting one. I could see out of the cockpit for a lot of it, as they left the curtain open for all but the middle of the flight. When we are coming down, it had the feel of a rollar coaster ride. I never realized a plane moves up and down so much when landing. Yes, this is the same plane you will fly on if you ever come visit us, family and friends. If you are scared of flying, this might be an issue. If not, it's just an exciting part of the journey. 

So far, I love it here. It's about as hot as it was in Florida, but with a nice breeze that makes it comfortable. We were sweltering in Orlando because the air never moved. We are living in a trailer. We'd been warned over and over not to take too much stuff because there was no storage. We got here and realized pretty much everything we owned would have fit just fine. Obviously, the people we talked to didn't realize how small our townhouse was! The main difference is we have no garage, but there is a shed out back to store bikes and outdoor things.

We do have three bedrooms, though. They are small, but I'm excited to have the opportunity to turn one into a playroom/guest room. There's really no room for a bed along with the boys' toys, plus place to play, but I think we'll put our hide-a-bed couch in there. The living room furniture that is already here is brand new, so I think we'll hang onto it. While we are technically living in a furnished house, we were told we could remove anything we don't want. I'd say that's about half the stuff here, including a very ugly fake plant in the living room. I'm glad we decided to ship a lot of our own stuff.

Golf carts are authorized to drive on base. We see more of them than we do cars. I have never seen so many different golf carts in my life. We drove past one a couple days ago that was decked out in blue camo. Here's a pic of our ride:



The trailer in the background isn't ours, but looks exactly the same from the outside.

We plan on walking a lot until we can get our car down here, but for now we have a loaner golf cart. Wyatt is in love with this cart, and has already convinced his dad to give him a driving lesson. (I'm considering putting the video up, but will have to think about it.) He's going to be quite sad when he realizes we have to return it. As for Oliver, he wants one of these babies for himself. Preferably a souped up one, I'm sure. I think we'll just have to settle for getting our car here; ultimately, that will be cheaper.

I have a lot more to say, but I now have a two year old in my lap who is dripping oatmeal all over me, so I'll leave you with this picture:



 Because we now live in a place where my kids can play in coconut fronds!
I kind of feel like we are getting paid to go on vacation for three years.



Monday, October 5, 2009

Bye, Bye Disney World

Today was our last day in the main parks. We are going to hit up one of the water parks tomorrow before we leave, but that's it. We've had a ton of fun, were able to do nearly everything we wanted to do here, and discovered our boys are ride junkies.

My favorite memory was made on the Teacups in the Magic Kingdom. We all went together in one cup. I had Oscar on my lap, so Oliver did the spinning. And spin he did. I had foolishly left my sunglasses on my head and they were quickly sent flying away. I wasn't sure how the boys would like it, but they were laughing so hard. Oscar was laughing this full-on belly laugh of pure babyness that I hope I never forget. He was pretty upset when it was over.

Wyatt was tall enough to do a lot of the bigger rides. Even some I refused to go on. Oliver took him on the Tower of Terror in Disney's MGM Studios. Look that one up. My little four year old walked off that ride exclaiming, "That was awesome!", and talked about it off and on for the rest of the day. He said he didn't want to do it again, however.

So, tomorrow we head to West Palm Beach, then hop a plane to Andros. It's not going to really feel like home until our stuff catches up with us (everyone pray it doesn't actually take until November 14th to get there), but home it will be. I'm ready for a little stability, despite the fun times we've had.

I'm also a tad nervous, though. This is a big change, but the bigger issue for us is what we are going to do with the next three years. I was actually leaning toward staying Navy if Oliver could find his groove, but I recently ran into a news article that made it appear they are very seriously moving toward beginning the move toward putting women on submarines. I'll find a link and write a more indepth post about this when we are in Andros, but I've been disturbed by this ever since I read it. Add that to all the other reasons we don't love the military life, plus that fact that we really, truly, love being together and dread the whole deployment cycle, and staying in is becoming unpalatable. But that leaves us with this huge, scary transition ahead.

I know we are lucky than many others who face this. We have time on our hands, and a good shore duty that should allow Oliver to take a good chunk of classes. Still, though, there are so many unknowns. Staying in the Navy is the easy way out in some ways. It's all we've known our married lives. Oliver makes good money and has shown constant movement in rank. In only thirteen more years, we'd have a retirement check for the rest of our lives'. But, at what cost?

So, lots of things to think about. I hope we make good on our time in the Bahamas. I hope Oliver doesn't end up reenlisting just because we didn't. I hope leaving the Navy doesn't mean moving into a staid, predictable life that keeps us in one place forever. I hope when the time comes, we really, truly feel like we've made the right decision.