Friday, January 29, 2010

Facing Death (Sort Of)

A JAG lawyer paid our base a visit this week. Oliver and I decided it was high time we faced up to something we've been talking about for years, but never had done: our wills. Clearly, talking about anyone's death is unpleasant, especially your own, but now that we have kids, I felt great pressure to take care of it. It terrifies me that someday we might both die in some freak accident and they will be left wards of the State until the State decides which of our relatives they should go live with. I don't lose a lot of sleep at night over this, but it does worry me, as I think it should anyone who has a child.

Obviously, we'd prefer to raise our own boys to manhood. It's a great privilege to do so, and I hope these wills languish in quiet solitude while we do so. However, if the worse were to happen, I feel much better knowing they will be entrusted to people that not only love them, but will raise them in a similar manner to how we would have. That's a huge thing. I know that for us, we have family members that we absolutely do not want our kids being raised by. For some of them, it's a safety issue, but others it's just because their values are not in line with ours, not because they aren't doing a fine job with their own kids.

We actually skipped over most of the will paperwork because we don't care much what happens to our "stuff". It's the guardianship issues that we talked the most about. We are lucky enough to have family that we feel very comfortable asking to be named as guardians in our wills, and we are also, thankfully, in firm agreement over it. Obviously, it will have to be revisited as the years go on, but for now, I feel comfortable with what we've decided.

The one piece of advice I'd recommend if you have yet to do this is to clearly ask the people you want to have take your kids. Ever see Raising Helen? While I loved the movie, it isn't exactly what I'd like to see happen if we kick the bucket.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Random Stuff

So, I tend to stay away from giveaways as a general rule. I don't really have any strong feelings about them, but I tend not to win, so it seems a waste of time. I couldn't resist entering (Army) wife's Sony Touch Giveaway this week, however. We have no way of getting books here unless we order online or fly to the States. I've been staring at the Kindle forever, but just haven't been able to rationalize spending so much for one. A free e-reader, however, that is something I will happily do.

The internet here is wireless, and sometimes sketchy. The last couple of days, it's been out completely and only came back on track this afternoon. I totally forgot about this giveaway until I checked my email and found out I'd won. I'm pretty excited about this. Technically, I won it for Oliver, but I'm not going to tell him about it until it comes. Although, it just occurred to me that they will probably email him for verification (as it was supposed to go to a service member), so maybe I'll have to say something anyway, haha. Anyway, it was a very nice surprise.

In other news, I got another email from the Facebook Team. Apparently, my account was hacked and is now frozen. So, if you got a message that I was in need of some serious funds, I hope you didn't take it seriously. Trust me, if I were ever in such dire straights, Facebook would not be where I'd be heading for help.

I'm actually thinking about just letting it go and not reactivating the account. I really only check it when someone messages me, and most everyone that is my "friend" on there, I have their actual email addresses. Also, I have no idea how I was hacked, so I wouldn't be surprised if it happens again.

I am not sure I ever really got Facebook in the first place. I know people say it's a great way to reconnect with people, and I did end up friending some people from my past, but I wouldn't say we ever "reconnected" on Facebook. It was mostly a matter of clicking yes, sending a couple messages, then never doing anything but reading the occasional status report. If that is somehow supposed to be "reconnecting", maybe I am a little unclear on the meaning of the word.

So, I don't know if it's worth the trouble to restart this account. I haven't made a cold hard decision yet, but if you never see me on there again, that is why.

Finally, Oliver has been told he needs to be in cammies by March. I'm very excited about this, but concerned because we have no uniform shop. I had planned to just call the NEX, but discovered we cannot call 1-800 numbers from. How utterly unhelpful, and baffling. (Have I told you lately how much I hate the phone system here?) The website where we have to buy them lists only the sizes, which are very unclear, not the measurements, so after puzzling over them for a half hour during a lunch break, we were left feeling very frustrated.

Luckily, I have a very helpful friend whose hubby was the CO of a boat back in Washington while we were there. All the COs, XOs, and COBs were wearing cammies long before anyone else, so she was able to give me some much needed help deciding on sizes and what exactly to buy. I did run up a decent phone bill because we haven't talked in a couple months and I really miss chatting with her, but it was totally worth it.

Now, I just have to make an order for him. Then, the sewing starts. Ugh; that is going to be some work, mostly because I will also have to look online for exactly where to put all the patches. I actually would have taken one set to a tailor shop if we had one just so I would have a handy reference for later (which is what I did with his first hash mark), but that's not really an option.

All this trouble will be worth it in the end, however. We get to toss his utilities into the garbage, and never, ever deal with them again. I hate, hate, hate that uniform. I don't know who dreamed it up, but they were clearly not an enlisted person who had to get down and dirty wearing it. When Oliver was on the submarine, he could ruin a pair in one day if he was on a paint crew or doing something involving grease. This cammie change is very overdue.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking Inward

We've had some things happen lately that have forced us to look inward. There are things in our life right now that aren't ideal, and things that we cannot change no matter how we might wish we could. As a result, I've been looking at the things we can, and remembering what is very definitely going our way.

We sat down with our boys tonight for a very inpromptu game of Cadoo, and I realized while we played that it was Monday. I'd even made cookies after dinner, an activity both boys had been excited to help me with. We'd had a Family Home Evening without even trying, and it was very good for all of us.

There was a time when we were good about doing FHE. But then deployments and bad attitudes got in the way, and we just gave up on it. Now that life is more normal, and the one thing we have in abundance is family time, we are talking about starting it up again.

It's amazing how you can spend so much time together, yet not connect nearly enough in that time. I thought that since we put so much effort into doing church on Sundays together, we didn't have to worry too much about FHE. I am realizing that it isn't working. We need something else, even if all we do is play a game or go to the beach.

Life can so often turn into a game of just getting by. The important things get missed in the slipstream of wants and needs and electronic noise. It's too easy to forget or push aside the people and things that should take center stage to everything else. I think I've been doing too much of that lately, and it needs to stop.

Moving here has been so challenging in so many ways, but I appreciate it more than I could ever express. I can already feel myself changing, stretching and growing in ways I know I wouldn't have without it. I love change mainly because it always fills my soul with a desire to be someone I never thought I could be. I always end up better, even if the growing pains make me wonder why I ever asked to be there in the first place.

It's all worth it in the end. Absolutely!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What is That?!

flying high
Sunset from the air

We flew to Florida on Thursday to do a little shopping. Although, "little" is probably not the right term for it. When you fly here, you are allowed only 50 pounds a person in baggage. It doesn't matter how many bags you use, but you  must be under weight or you'll be leaving things behind.

In fact, they even weigh us every so often and keep a record of our weight. The plane is small, so they have to know exactly what everything and everyone on it weighs. Where you are seated on the plane is also a result of your weight. Heavier passengers fly in the front. Unfortunately, this means we are almost never seated together. I'm always in the back with the boys, and Oliver sits in one of the second or third rows. I get him back by making him carry our 200 pounds of stuff.

About all that stuff; I have never been so aware of what things weigh as I am now. We never use suitcases anymore as suitcases weigh more than duffel bags. We also leave home anything we possibly can, so we can use our weight allowance for bringing home our new stuff. Unfortunately, we still have to bring a car seat along (we have a vest Wyatt can use that only weighs a of couple pounds). Oscar's seat weighs 13 lbs, apparently. I can't wait until he outgrows that thing.

I hate shopping like this. I  mean, I'm grateful we have the option because there are so many things we just can't get out there, plus shipping to an FPO gets ridiculously expensive. However, when I go shopping, I want to go home when I'm done. I don't want to have to stay the night, kill time until the flight, then go through the stress of making said flight, all while hoping we won't get bumped and end up staying another night.

So, when we went this time, our goal was to get everything we could so we don't have to do it again for another three months. We do have the nice option of packing a large plastic tub and shipping it from the post office there. They give us the parcel post rate, which is nice, especially considering all that happens is they put it on the same plane we fly. We mailed both an 18 and a 14 gallon tub that we had drilled holes into and zip tied closed. Together, they weighed about 110 lbs, and it cost $40 total to mail, which is a whole lot better than if we had had to pay typical FPO/APO rates.

 When we showed up at the terminal and used their scale to see how close we were on weight, we discovered we were exactly 13 lbs. over our limit. Remember the car seat I mentioned? Yeah, I really hated that thing then. We tossed a couple inconsequential things that weighed a lot (tip: water weighs more than dry things, so the first to go was a bottle of $2  conditioner that I use to shave with), but then Oliver went to talk the woman running things that day and she said we would be ok because there were so many kids on the flight, including ours. So, we flew home a little overweight.

They run a bus to and from the airport for flights. We rode it home with most of the people from our flight. I think our luggage equaled all of their luggage put together, which was kind of amusing as well as a reminder of why we hope not to do this again anytime soon. (This is especially annoying when half your party can't carry their own 50 lbs, nor can one of them even manage to transport themselves on their own two feet.)

When we got to base, one of the guards came on board to check our badges. One of the MAs from our flight passed over a few cans of tobacco that he had obviously picked up for his friend. Wyatt, watching this exchange, was perplexed. He turned to me and asked, "Why did that guy give that stuff to him? What is that?"

Not really wanting to launch into a discussion on chewing tobacco and why he's never seen it before right then and there, I kind of deflected his question. Wyatt, however, is far too much like me. When he wants to know something, he wants to know right then.

"Mama," he said, seriousness written all over his face, "why'd he give that guy some bombs?"

The entire bus erupted in laughter, including us. I appreciate my five year old for handing us some much needed levity as I was pretty much done-in at that point.

The end result of this very involved shopping trip is a houseful of food. I think I need to get rid of some stuff just to make room for it all, and we still have over a 100 lbs on the way. This is the first time in my life I've actually had a decent amount of food storage, and it's a good feeling. Hopefully, it lasts as long as we need it to.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tales of the Playground

I've been taking the boys to the playground a lot lately. The school and day care are located right next to it, and the school kids use the playground during recess. There is also a fenced-in area where the day care kids play when they are outside. I've had a lot of trouble finding any other women who don't work and have little kids here, so we can't do play dates. However, the two Bahamian women who run the day care are fantastic and don't mind if we come play during their outside time. So, we go, and I help keep an eye on the kids while the boys get some friend-time. It's good for all three of us, I think.

The older kids have a recess while the day care kids are outside. They aren't allowed inside the fence, but play on the equipment next to it. They are amazingly respectful and solicitous of the little guys, and I've never witnessed any problems between them.

For some reason, several of the kids a few years older than Wyatt have taken a real shine to Oscar. This happened soon after we moved here. Every time we were out, it seemed some of the kids, none of which we knew by name, would call to him by name. I realize he's adorable and completely hilarious the way he'll go around carrying on quite developed conversations with anyone he sees (he used the word "episode" tonight to request a DVD with Curious George recorded on it), but I would have expected the adults to latch onto him more. It's the kids, though, who seem most taken with his little two year old self.

Yesterday, while playing with the day care kids, Oscar decided he wanted to go on the big equipment. I let him walk over there, but stayed by the fence to keep the other kids from following. I had looked away for a minute, then looked back to see him picking something out of the sand. Horrified, I saw him stick his hand inside it, pull something out, then put it into his mouth. I raced over there, calling his name as I went.

When I got there, I pulled whatever it was out of his hand, and asked him what he was eating. He just stared up at me, but a little boy who looked about seven told me he had given him the last of his M&M cookies. Apparently, he had dropped the bag, and I looked right as he picked it back up. So, I smiled at that point, trying to assure him I wasn't mad about it as it was truly sweet of him.

In truth, I would have much rather been asked, but the kid was all of seven or eight, so not a biggie. I do consider processed cookies poison, but I figured I'd save that little lecture for the grown ups who just hand my kids stuff without asking.

And what is the point of this entire story? Just to say how impressed I am with the other kids here. Wyatt was wrestling with a bunch of the older boys about a month ago while we were at a softball game (very big here). I was worried at first because they had been so rough with each other, but as soon as the little boys challenged them, they toned it right down, but in such a way that Wyatt and his friends had no clue. They thought they were winning. I'm really, really glad he has the opportunity to go to school here. I think it just may turn out to be the hardest thing we have to leave.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Picking Channels

I went to check our mail today and found a sheet of paper stuffed into our box. When I pulled it out, I realized it was a survey concerning the channels we get. The cable here is free, but not exactly extensive. It's enough for us, as we aren't big TV watchers, but people here will get satellite if they want more. I like that there are no shopping or religious channels to click past, and we do get all the AFN channels, as well as most of the movie channels.

Until I looked at the list, though, I hadn't really realized that we were getting about half the channels we did with the expanded basic we had in Washington. I really only see two, though, that I would even watch, so I think my votes will just go to most of the ones we already have. The surveys have to be in by the 29th, so I'm guessing we'll be seeing a channel change in February depending on what is voted for.

When we moved here, we had talked about just not hooking up cable. However, since it's free, we have it. I'm glad because we can't watch TV shows in the internet here; something to do with the licensing or some such garbage because we live outside the U.S.

I think that good internet will be on the list of things to pay for when we return to the States, but cable will not be. It's amazing how much garbage you are required to pay for when you have it turned on. I wish you could put together your own package of channels to pay for. Then maybe the truly terrible ones would die off, like all the bad TV shows do.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finally, Pictures!

I kind of feel like we have been through a wringer this week. Unfortunately, I can't blog about it because, well, some things just shouldn't find their way onto the internet. Suffice it to say, though, that we have gotten ourselves into a fine mess. I think we'll have it resolved shortly, which is very good, but very large lesson learned: You can't always trust what people tell you, even if they seem to be making very good sense.

Moving on, I did whip out the camera and start downloading all those pics. Unfortunately, the battery died halfway through, but I found a few good ones to share for now. Remember how I talked about the sunset the other day? Well, I caught this picture a couple nights ago looking out our back door. It was a more muted sunset than the one I referenced, but it was nearly as beautiful.


Additionally, I am pleased to report we've had some gardening success:

the radish

I suspect this lone radish may be the only one that is actually harvested and eaten, as it was a tad on the pithy side and its compatriots aren't growing nearly as well as this one did, but we were all quite excited to have produced something useful. Wyatt was especially thrilled to try something he had helped plant and water. Even if he declared it "disgusting".

Thankfully, the chives, while still a few weeks from being harvestable, are looking a lot healthier. I also have some basil and pepper plants that look very good. I'm almost done filling my first Bokashi bucket, which means I should be only a couple weeks from having compost good enough to set the pepper plants out in. I have a lot of pics and am planning a post on what that process was like, but I want to see the end result first. I am going to call it a qualified success, however. The bucket doesn't stink, despite being almost full of nasty kitchen scraps that I started adding almost two weeks ago. Who knew I would ever be so excited about rotting garbage?

The next problem is finding a way to stake the plants out. I can't exactly haul in a six foot tomato cage, so I'm struggling to come up with some other ideas using stuff we have around here. If anyone has an innovative plant staking idea, I'd love to hear it! Some problems are difficult to solve when you don't have a Home Depot round the corner.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

One of Those Weeks

Clearly, I am not with it. I have a camera with a card that can quite literally not take one more picture on it, yet I have still not uploaded anything onto my computer. I often think about blogging, but then I think the pics are not here, and I walk away. I also got on Flikr and managed to break all my links without realizing it, and now have much work to fix the mess. Yet another thing I have no desire to do.

I came back from Florida with a profound discovery that I didn't miss living in the States. I was sick of the traffic, the cost of everything, and dealing with people. I realized how great it truly is to live in a trailer because you don't have to share walls or worry about how loud your kids are. This is the first place we've lived that was that way, and it's fabulous. I love that our boys can ride their bikes in the street without fear of being run over. I love the peace and quiet, and the lack of crazies to deal with. I thought I was going to come right back and blog about all of that.

However, this week made me rethink that. I felt I should share that life here is not all sunshine and happiness. Not to say it's all bad or anything, or that we regret coming. But, nothing is perfect, and we've been struggling with one of the negatives this week. I know it will be fine in the end, but it's left me with a lack of desire to get productive, hence the blogging slump.

The weather is also not helping. It's not really cold the way most of you think of cold, but it's cold for here, and the sun hasn't been coming out much. It sort of feels like we time-warped back to Washington. Quite frankly, that isn't bringing me warm fuzzy feelings.

On the bright side, having clouds hang around makes for an amazing sunset. Sadly, my camera was full and home when we were out last night, but we what was probably the most incredible sunset I've ever witnessed. The sky was by turns bright pink, purple, orange, and blue, with shading in between.

It's the sunset I'm trying to remember tonight as I deal with the harder things of life. Sometimes, we have to look up to see hope. I just hope it stays with me until the clouds clear away.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Last night, I did something I never thought I would do while living here: I turned on the heat. I actually asked Oliver if he thought we even had a way to heat the house. Thankfully, it was a yes, but I wouldn't have been shocked to find out there wasn't anything. This is the Bahamas, after all!

It's really not winter cold or anything right now, but it's chilly. We were experiencing the 40s the last few days in West Palm Beach, and apparently it's been cool down here, too. (I was amused at one of the news stories we watched about WPB; it was all about how bathing suit sales were down that week. What a curious story to be watching in January.) I haven't brought in my plants or anything, as it is most likely not going to get frosty. It is a nice change to walk out of the gym and feel cool air on your face. I do hate how long it takes to cool down after a workout when it's warm.

We had actually experienced a bit of a cool down before leaving on our trip. This picture was taken right after Christmas, when we took to the beach. We did actually go swimming, but brought jackets for afterward. With the cooler weather, there were no biting flies, which was nice. I hate those suckers. I don't think swimming will be something we do any time soon, so I'm glad we went when we did.

beach with a jacket

Monday, January 4, 2010

I. Am. So. Glad. To. Be. Home.

We spent the last week in West Palm Beach. We packed in a lot of things we can't do here, briefly considered buying a car to leave there as we finally have a parking spot assigned to us (yikes, it's not cheap to own a car in Florida; the insurance and registration were about twice what we were paying in Washington), and got to have a crash course in what the priority system means when flying to and from here. Definitely not a fun lesson, but we finally made it home today, so all is well. I have a camera full of pics to comb through and stories to tell, but I'm exhausted so I'm gonna crash right now.

Happy New Year 2010!