Monday, May 31, 2010

Some Thoughts on Memorial Day

flags on memorial day

They held a small ceremony on base this morning in honor of Memorial Day. Oliver had to go early and stand in formation during it, but I brought the boys and we stood in the back trying to be quiet. We missed part of the speeches because of a slow start getting out of the house, but that was all right becuase it wasn't until a woman played taps on her trumpet during the laying of the wreath that their attention was caught. Wyatt was especially interested, and stood at attention with his hand on his heart during the National Anthem when they raised the flags. He tugged my arm to get my attention, then pointed up at the MIA/POW flag they were raising.

"What's that?" he asked. I told him it was a flag to remind us of the service members that are missing.

He looked up at me quizzically and said, "There are soldiers missing?"

We then had a conversation where I tried to explain that sometimes those that wear the uniform don't come home. It was sobering, and made me realize that being from the submarine community has insulted our boys from the sort of fear that other military children have had to endure during this war.

Oliver's first command was the U.S.S. Alabama (gold, green, and blue crews - yes, that is a story in and of itself), a Trident submarine. Its mission is to hide our nuclear warheads. Our prayer was always that he would never go to war, because if he did, it meant this world of ours is much, much worse than it is now. The only fatalities we dealt with in six years were a sailor and his wife who were killed on the way home from a command ski trip we had gone on, a suicide (not on the boat), and one officer who was serving in Afghanistan. It was the first one that touched us the most, not the last one. I hadn't known the officer or his family at all, and Oliver only vaguely remembered him. I didn't bring the boys to the memorial service because they were too young and would have only disrupted it.

So, they don't know anyone who has suffered such a loss, nor do any of their friends. There just aren't that many submariners who end up in the sandbox, and everyone we know that went volunteered for various reasons. Thankfully, they've all come home.

I'm grateful our boys are somewhat insulated, although part of me feels guilty saying that. There are so many other parents who don't have the luxury of feeling that way. I didn't expect to be explaining such things to Wyatt today, but I'm glad he asked. I want him to know what others have given, and I hope he will carry it in his heart that there are others who wore the same uniform his daddy does who didn't come home.

When I was growing up, Memorial Day meant it was time to plant the garden. I didn't understand the true meaning until much later. I hope I can instill in my boys that it's something more than that. I think we all, military family or civilian, have a responsibility to teach our children that.

with daddy

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Visiting the Blue Hole

Ok, ok, I know I said I was going to do a post about the Land Crabs, but I still haven't put my video editing software on the computer, so it's not ready for upload. I'll get to that, I promise. Because I know you're all waiting for it....uh, yeah, moving on.

We had another adventure today. Andros is home to a large number of what are called Blue Holes (I linked it to a site with more information in case you wanted to know more about them; I'm not in the mood for a geography lesson right at the moment, but they are very interesting). We'd been told by several people that you really need someone to take you there the first time because it can be tough to find, so we haven't as of yet attempted to find it. (That's kind of the norm here on the island, actually. There are very few road signs, and most of the shops and places to eat are out of people's homes.) Friends of ours were taking some visiting relatives up there today and invited us to tag along, so we were excited to finally see it.

After driving there, which took about a half hour over some very rocky terrain, I think we could have found it on our own with some decent directions, but I appreciate being able to check it out the first time with people who knew something about it. Because they were actually prepared, and had life jackets they nicely traded around with our kids so we could take them in the water. I'm definitely going to jump online and order them some ASAP for the next time we go. They were kind of a must.

On to the pictures, which is really how I have to explain this place:

This first pic is a tad blurry because I tried to take it while driving. I should have had Oliver stop, but oh well. This is the last stretch of the road we traveled. We were part of a caravan of three cars, and kept talking about how annoying it would be to have to back up if we met someone coming the other direction. That would really be the only option, as it was narrow for about five-ten minutes of driving.

This next one is of the parking lot:
I'm sure you are wondering why I just posted a picture of a turn-off, but yes, that is actually what the "parking lot" looks like. We were actually parked on the road alongside the path down to the blue hole behind our friends' trucks (notice that these are trucks, too? Yeah, apparently trading in our little car for a truck might have been a wise idea.). There really isn't anywhere else to go past that point, so it worked out fine.

This next pic is of the path there:

I actually took this one when we were leaving, which is why Wyatt has a towel on his head. I was surprised to see this wooden planking, actually. Our friend told us that he would occasionally bring his machete along to get down there before this was put in. I'm thinking this may be part of the reason people told us to go with someone the first time. I would not have been able to find the place alone without this path to guide us.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any decent overall pics of the place, but imagine a large, perfectly round lake that drops down below you, with a small covered pavilion with seating at the top. There were steps that went down to the water and a tiny dock. Apparently, there used to only be a rope and a ladder made of rope and wooden steps and no pavilion at the top. Uh, yeah, not the most kid-friendly place. Thankfully, we were able to enjoy the upgrades.

Here is a view of the steps from the top:
blue hole steps

This doesn't show you the missing rung with the nails sticking out or how I felt the need to practically go down it on my butt when juggling Oscar and the camera. Oscar wasn't too big on me helping him. He spent the first fifteen minutes going up and down the ladder, or sitting on the edge of the dock and kicking his feet in the water. See that yellow thing in the water to the right of the dock? That's part of what once kept the dock floating. It now has a very distinct tilt into the water. So, when my little two year old was sitting there on the end, he would lean forward with the tilt, freaking me out. He didn't want my help, nor did he enjoy the hand I kept clamped on his rash guard, but that water is deep, and we didn't have a life jacket for him.

Here he is climbing up the stairs on his own:

The missing rung is right where the girl above him is stepping. Too big a gap for Oscar to navigate, so I carried him over it right after taking this pic. Thankfully, he finally got on the kayak our friends had brought, averting my heart attack. He loved that boat trip, and stayed out quite awhile looking for fish.

This kid, though, still had a few tricks up his sleeve. Take a look at this pic:

There is a gate on the end of the pavilion that overlooks the water. It's something like a 15 foot drop. They threw the kayak off of it to get it into the water, and then used it as a diving platform. Oscar was very fascinated by this, and we had to constantly watch him to keep him from going right to the edge. I think if we hadn't made such a show of freaking out he would have jumped right along with everyone else. Crazy little guy!

Before you ask, yes, I did it, too! Oliver made an attempt to capture it, but our waterproof camera
has a terribly slow shutter speed, so this was the best he could do:


If you look at the bottom right corner, you can see part of the ladder I mentioned earlier that was once the main way down to the water. Freaky! There's no way I would have done that with one of our boys.

We weren't the only ones there, and in fact had a tour group from Nassau show up soon after we arrived. They didn't want to swim, though, just stayed to chit chat a bit and laugh at the fool hardy souls jumping off the platform. The only other people who were there came from AUTEC. I am curious how busy it gets, or if we could go there and end up being the only ones. We'll have to test that theory. And, along the way, pray that we don't blow a tire. Driving home on a donut would be murder, and then we'd have to try to buy a replacement and have it shipped in...hmm, here's hoping we never do that! We have to go back, though. Absolutely!

Finally, reason number 153 why I am glad I have boys: There is no bathroom here. Nada. So if you ever go, be prepared to get to know the woods a bit better. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Coming Soon: Land Crabs

I have pics and even a video, something I typically avoid on the blog. However, these things look so much better in action. Hopefully, it won't take me the rest of the week to sit down and  upload it all. We shall see...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My second post on Mormon Mommy Blogs went up today. You can find it here. I wanted to add a quick note to my post:

 I actually wrote the post about a month ago. Soon after my first post on MMB went up, it was brought to the attention of the Military Relations office of the Church. To make a long story short, someone in that office talked to someone, who talked to me, and we were finally able to figure out where our records belong. Someone is working on getting that taken care of, which is a huge relief. Now, I can stop squirreling away our tithing in savings and send it on its way.

The one ironic thing about this is that we now belong to a branch on Nassau, yet it's far easier, and more likely, that any time we attend church while we live here we will do it in Florida. The plane there is free, and goes every day. The one to Nassau only goes on Saturday, leaving us with only charter flights as an option to get back, which are not that cheap.

Meeting the Neighbors, and Yard Long Beans

Yesterday, I was outside with the boys planting seeds. One of our neighbors, that we had yet to meet formally, came out of her house. Wyatt started yelling excitedly, telling her what we were planting that morning. I went over to talk with her, eager to ask her about her gardening. She's lived here for two years, and had a lot of things growing around their trailer.

My favorite by far were the two pineapples she has growing outside their front door. Because we are basically living on a huge chunk of coral rock, her husband borrowed a jackhammer to make holes in the ground for them. She then filled them with dirt and planted the pineapples.

I'm glad we finally had a chance to meet. She doesn't have any young kids at home, but isn't working because she's yet to get the right papers to do so here. She seemed to really enjoy the kids, and acquiesced to every demand they made, including looking into their shed, going into the house (which she proclaimed a mess and I had to roll my eyes at because her idea of a mess and mine are clearly not the same), playing a game of chess according to Wyatt's rules, and allowing them to climb up into their truck. Needless to say, they are quite fond of her now. We plan on going out to the beach together one of these days.

When we finally left, she had given me a couple things from her planting efforts, including the Yard Long beans in the following pic:

mile long beans

When I brought them home, Oliver took one look at them and said he wasn't eating them. In his defense, he's not that much of a green bean eater, so I kind of expected his reaction. We ate them that night mixed with some corn, and I really liked them. Wyatt gave me all of his, and I'm not sure if Oscar ate more than a couple, so maybe I was alone in this, but I'd totally be happy to get some more some time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bean Pancakes and a Recipe Blog Hop

I'm joining in on a recipe blog hop over at Trying Your Best. If you click on the logo above, you'll be taken to the post where you can link up with one of your own, or just check out what other people are having for dinner.

As for my own recipe, it's all about the beans. Because meat is so expensive here, so expensive that we typically buy it in Florida and bring it back on the plane every couple of months, we eat a lot of vegetarian meals. This means beans, which we like, but have found it difficult to find recipes that aren't totally Mexican in nature. You can only eat so many Mexican dishes when you often don't have tomatoes or lettuce available. So, I was happy to have discovered this one in Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything". (Which is, by the way, my favorite cookbook ever.  I hope to pick up his vegetarian one soon. I suspect we will make very good use of it.) Oh, and these cook up very fast. The hardest part is making sure I have beans on hand that aren't in either the freezer or uncooked.

The picture I used shows a dollop of sour cream and salsa, which is my favorite way to eat these, but my boys insist on maple syrup (yuck!), and Oliver gets creative with hot sauce and ranch. Really, you can do a lot of things with this. Pesto anyone?

Without further ado, I present:

Bean Pancakes

bean pancakes

2 cups cooked or canned beans, drained (we typically use dried beans, but have used canned before. You can also experiment with different kinds of beans - the pic above was made using a combination of pinto and red beans. I've also done them with black)
1 cup half-and-half or whole milk, plus more as needed (I imagine you can use something with less fat, but what fun would that be?
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or other neutral oil
1 cup flour (the original recipe calls for all-purpose, but we prefer it with wheat - really, any flour you like the taste of will work)
salt and freshly ground pepper

 Heat a skillet over medium-high heat (we use cast iron). Mash the beans roughly with a fork. Use the fork to stir in the milk, egg, and 2 tblsp. melted butter or oil. Stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Add the flour and sprinkle with the salt and pepper (this is where you decide how much or little you like it seasoned - you can vary this and add whatever you think will taste good. Fresh garlic is great!). Stir with the fork just enough to fold in the flour, adding more milk as necessary to produce the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Start cooking when a drop of water dances on the surface of your skillet or griddle. Working in batches, use a little more butter or oil to grease the cooking surface. Spoon on the batter to 3 or 4 inch pancakes. Cook until bubbles form on the surface, then turn and cook the other side until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Keep finished pancakes in a warm oven if you like while you finish the others. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brotherly Love and Reading

This evening, Wyatt and Oscar disappeared on us after dinner. I knew they'd gone to their bedroom, but things were strangely quiet. I debated whether or not I was going to go check on them because silence is not typically a good thing, but before I could make the decision, they came galloping down the hall to the living room. Oscar jumped into my lap and told me, "Wyatt was reading!"

I looked up to see my oldest carrying one of his new reading books with a big grin on his face. It turns out, the reason they were  being so quiet in there was because Wyatt was reading his book to Oscar. Talk about melting my heart!

Wyatt told me, "This book is too easy. You need to buy some new ones." He does have some harder ones he isn't reading without help, but when he's done with them, he'll be getting his wish for sure.

reading to brother

As a side note, his harder books are all rated "1", too, but it seems there is no real level of easiness when it comes to these reading books, which is annoying. You have to read them to see if they are actually going to be within your kid's reach. This makes it hard to order them online, which we are mostly stuck doing.

Oh, and my kids really are that tan right now. They are kind of camouflaged into our couch in this pic. Their Spanish heritage is coming out with all this sunshine. Oscar's hair is another interesting result of living here. It was never this curly in Washington, but the humidity has turned it into this adorable mop. He hates having his hair cut, and lucky for him, I'm totally fine with this look.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

More About Fruits and Vegetables

Today, I ate what was possibly the best grapefruit I've ever had before. Wyatt was in complete agreement:

eating grapefruit
It was ugly on the outside, but when we cut into it, wow, the aroma was amazing. It only got better when we started eating it.

I bought this grapefruit from a Bahamian couple who sells fresh fruits and vegetables from their truck outside the base every Friday evening. We happened upon this discovery about a month ago, and it's a total lifesaver. Not only are they actually grown here on the island, but we can get things from them that we can't typically find in the store. Like baby bananas, which they were selling several weeks ago:

baby bananas
I don't really know what the real name for them is, but the boys called them that and it fits. They were pretty good, and I keep hoping he'll have more.

I also bought some interesting looking sweet potatoes. I'm excited to cut into them, although I know I'm the only one that will likely eat them. Sadly, my family doesn't seem to share my love of seafood and sweet potatoes. On the plus side, it means I won't have to share.

 sweet potatoes

But, back to the grapefruit. I was pretty much done picking out my vegetables. I grabbed the grapefruit to make it an even dollar amount, which is why I walked off with only the one. I'm regretting that decision, though. Oliver is on watch this evening, so he missed out. Hopefully they have more next week. I think we'll pick up a half dozen!

P.S. I never really thought I'd spend so much time talking about fruits and vegetables while living here. This is why I love moving around so much; you never know what you're going to find when you get there, and living somewhere is so much more interesting than just visiting it.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I have seen no sign of "quota time" today. I hope it doesn't come back. It's only been the last couple of days that it has been showing up, so maybe whatever they were doing is fixed or tested, or whatever. I really do understand blocking blogs and personal websites (whatever that is supposed to include, which may be why it seemed random what it was blocking) for the people working in the office, but we have to live here, too. When you live on a remote island in the middle of the Atlantic, you need the internet. Period.

As for kindergarten, I'm feeling a little bit better about it. We decided to put Wyatt into the daycare/preschool they have here in order to help the transition along. It's not really a traditional preschool according to what you see in the States. Then, again, I've heard of some very sketchy preschools, some operated out of homes and including tv time...uh, say what?!. The day care here is sort of a co-op, although it has a building and a couple of employees. It's managed by parents, and I'm not positive who accounts for the money or how that all works, but I do know they are barely breaking even right now and trying to find more kids to help it out.

The program itself is basically three hours long in the mornings, with nap time and free play in the afternoons. The babies have a separate room from the older kids, although it's all interconnected. The employees are two bahamian women who seem very good with the kids. I like that he's being exposed a bit to another culture by going there, too.

Because of the way it's run, we can pretty much pick and choose when he goes. We sign in, then pay at the end of the month according to how many hours he was there. The price per hour is also somewhat dependent on how frequently he was there. My plan is to go two or three days a week, depending on how much he wants to be there. Maybe we'll work into more, maybe not, but at the very least, it should help us find a rhythm for school mornings as their preschool program starts the same same time school does.

He went for the first time today, and actually got mad at me when I picked him up at lunch because the other kids were still there (some go off for lunch with their parents and some stay and eat there).  It actually made me kind of glad to see that. I really hope that's how he is about school, too. Wyatt is a pretty social kid, and I know this part of him has not been satisfied very well since moving here. It's tough to find playmates during the day, and I think that's been hard on him, which is why I don't want to homeschool here. As much as I dread the six hour days and think they are excessive and unnecessary, I think he will ultimately do better by going than staying home.

Whatever you do, don't mention that we are moving after first grade. The very thought makes me sick to my stomach because I know the school question will rear its ugly head again. For two kids. I'm with you, Carrie - I never thought it would be this hard, and we have years and years ahead of us. Here's hoping we all survive them mostly intact!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Couple Things...And I Hate Our ISP

Well, in the ten minutes remaining that I have to look at blogs, I am madly typing out this post. Apparently, they have decided to block blogs and personal websites for anyone using the internet on base. As if we had a choice. I'm allotted 60 minutes for these types of sites. I've gotten used to being blocked from using certain sites because we have an international IP address, but actually being blocked from stuff like this because the IT department is trigger happy annoys me. I get why they would block it at work (and they have a different, more secure internet there), but why for us at home?

I guess I have now been given an artificial kick-off time, or at least will be forced to use another computer to get my next 60 minutes of time. Good thing Oliver doesn't care about blogs. It's also a good thing not all blogs get blocked, although I don't have any idea why this is, as it doesn't even treat all blogspot blogs the same. Sigh.

On to other things. I recently finished these:


Before you get too excited, no, Oliver didn't move into the officer corps. He did, however, leak the fact that I sew on all his patches, so a Lt. asked him if I would do it for him. He then dumped a bag full of uniform parts on his desk to take home. I did make twenty bucks for about an hour's worth of work, so that was nice.

And tonight, we had pizza. With peppers and onions on top. Guess where I got this beauty?


Yep, I grew it, and there are about 6 or so more nearly the same size. I'm waiting for some of them to turn red. It takes a lot longer than you'd think. On a sadder note, I think the squash is about to fail. I picked some caterpillars off the two fruit that were left on it. I've gotten three nice summer squashes, but if these caterpillars are what I think they are, I have no recourse and will most likely lose the plant. Luckily, they don't like peppers or tomatoes, which are planted right next to the squash, so hopefully it won't be a spreading problem.

Ok, time to click post before my time is up!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kindergarten: Take Two

Well, after having another conversation with the principal of the school here, it looks like they aren't willing to work with us after all. Supposedly it has to do with their accredation and all the kids having a certain attendance level. This seems flimsy to me because kindergarten isn't really required (and she tried to tell me it is), nor is it mandated to be a half day. I started to argue with her about it, but dropped it because I didn't think doing that was really going help my cause any, anyway.

So, now we're left with two bad choices, and we have to figure out which is the worst one. I've been praying, and Oliver and I have spent a lot of time talking about this. I really appreciate his willingness to see my side, even if he has a slightly different take on it all. It's helped me see it in a wider lens than I can on my own.

I don't want to make the wrong choice. One of my problems with parenting is that every decision feels so momentous. I look at my own past and can see how one disastrous decision of my mother's made such a detour in my own life.

I'm trying to keep it in perspective. I know that her decision was first heralded by many smaller bad decisions along the way. I'm just hoping my past good choices will help make this one not so terrible, or that my fears will go unfounded and all will be well.

We did register him, and will likely send him and hope for the best. He's going to be nearly six because of when his birthday falls, and he's the child whose been most willing to try new things and leave my side. If this were Oscar we were talking about right now, I know he'd be staying home.

I'm not happy about this. Not at all. If it hadn't been for my very good impression of the teacher and her willingness to recognize my concerns I don't think I could go ahead and send him there. But, I don't think keeping him home is the answer, either. I just hope this doesn't end up with him hating school right off the bat. I was really hoping to avoid that a bit longer.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Oops, Forgot the Camera!!

Twice this week, I've forgotten to bring my camera when we stumbled into something interesting. The first time, we were originally heading out of the house to let the boys run around the driving range looking for golf balls, but there was someone there when we drove past. So, we headed to the one beach on base that we had yet to check out.

At first, I thought the shoreline was filthy, but realized when we got closer that it was actually a stretch of tide pools peppering the water's edge. We spent quite awhile looking for tiny fish and other strange sea creatures, and it reminded me of all those times in Washington when we'd go to the rocky shoreline and look for crabs under the rocks. I'll have to remember to bring my camera the next time we go out there.

Then, yesterday, there was a big craft fair on base, like the one we went to a couple months ago in North Andros. I don't know why I left my camera in the house, but I did and I very much regretted it. While we were there, I bought a conch salad. It took awhile to get because they were making them to order, and it was a rather involved chopping process.

Conch is pretty big here. It's also something you won't be able to get in the U.S. unless it's frozen. Up to now, the only way I've had it is fried or in fritters, so the salad was an interesting piece of Bahamian food culture to savor. You don't cook the conch before it goes in the salad. They were actually killing and pulling them from their shells as the salads were chopped on the table in front of the conch butchers. There were also a few live conch on the main table in front of us, and I watched with great amusement as one managed to flip itself over.

Since I don't have a picture of my own, I thought I'd add this link to a recipe for conch salad. When I got it, it pretty much looked exactly like that, piled in a Styrofoam bowl with a plastic spoon stuck into the mountain of salad. The salad is a mix of conch, green pepper, tomatoes, and onion, with a dressing of lime juice, orange juice (all fresh-squeezed), and a bit of hot pepper.

The conch itself has a very mild taste, and the salad was fantastic! I couldn't get either Wyatt or Oliver to try it, but Oscar was happy to share it with me. I think he ended up eating almost a quarter of it. I'm definitely going to be looking for this again.

I also picked up another Bahmaian basket while I was there. I love, love the baskets they make here. You can find pretty much anything, from a water jug that really holds water, to a hanging planter, to Moses baskets. I've sent a couple out as gifts, but plan on collecting a few more before we move. This is the one I bought yesterday (currently on loan as a Thomas the Tank holder, as Oscar thinks it makes a great "mountain" track to drive on):

bahamian basket

I was also lucky enough to find a booth with a woman selling fruit. It all looked imported, but there was stuff we never see here on base. It was all ridiculously expensive, but I bought a carton of strawberries anyway. It's the first time we've had any fresh ones in six months, and Oscar was begging for one as soon as I put it into the stroller storage basket. I made him wait, however, so we could do this today:

chocolate fondue

There's nothing like chocolate fondue with strawberries, bananas (which happily were in stock this week), and some homemade pound cake!