Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Waiting Game

I've been in a bit of a slump these last few days. I think I'll call it an "end-of-the-year/probably-moving-in-seven-months-but-don't-know-yet" slump. I still haven't seen those packages I was waiting for. I did end up making a claim with Amazon after the delivery date came and went. They nicely offered to send me replacements for the two boxes that didn't arrive. I had to make separate claims for them, however, and they have so far only sent me one shipment notification for one of the replacements. That was a week ago, so I'm not sure if that means it was never sent, or I just didn't get the email? So, still waiting for something, anything, to show up here.

 I am trying to be patient about it. This is, after all, only the second issue I've had with something missing in the mail (and the first one had some real doubt as to if it was sent at all), and also the first issue I've ever had with Amazon, the company we use far more than any other here. So, I'm gritting my teeth and checking the mail every day. Hopefully, something shows up eventually.

On a brighter note, Christmas was fun. As usual, it's been exceptionally quiet around here. Anyone that can get out tends to do so. I kind of like that about this time of year. (Although, to be honest, if you just visited here, you'd probably think it was absurdly quiet all the time.)

We gave our boys lots of books and LEGO sets, so our house has been a mess of LEGO bricks the last few days. I typically enjoy building their sets and try to get to them first so I can do that, but by the end of the day, I was actually a little tired of it. I'm sure I'll get over that, though.

The funniest thing that happened was when Wyatt opened his gift his grandparents and aunt sent. It turns out they sent the exact same gift we still had for him under the tree: the big space shuttle set from LEGO. We looked at each other in shock, then let him open ours anyway. This was the thing he'd wanted most, and he didn't seem to care at all that he'd received two of them. He actually thought it was rather cool.

I did try to convince him that we should return ours so we can get him something else he might want, but he wasn't interested. I put it aside, anyway, so I could try to change his mind about it. Then, the next morning, while we were still sleeping, he pulled it out, opened it, and built the rocket himself. So, now we have plenty of spare parts, and if his brother wants to play, no fighting.

This situation does illustrate why I always tell people to get our kids LEGO when they ask. Because even if it's  a repeat, our kids don't mind having two, and you can always build something else with the pieces.

Now that Christmas is over, we're all waiting for the big event - our trip to Legoland. We also rented Dolphin Tale to watch on Christmas Eve, and realized at the end that the dolphin with the missing tail, Winter, is actually at an aquarium about an hour and a half away from there. So, we're going to go visit her after our time at the part. I'm kind of excited about this.

Now, if only my stuff would come in the mail...



P.S. I'd like to thank Amazon for providing all the free wrapping paper. And the guys who packed all our stuff to move us here. Seriously, who needs to buy fancy paper when you are swimming in free paper that can be easily drawn on? Because it's not as if the kids care in the least what the paper looks like. They only want to see what's inside!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Boxes in the Mail - MIA

Mail here is rather maddening odd at times. I can typically order something online, and it will arrive the next week after I receive the shipping notification. Unike most military addresses, ours has a much shorter route to take. It goes to Florida, then is sent to somewhere (I really have no idea where, and I'd love to know) where it gets put on our plane whenever possible and sent over.

This system works for the most part. Tracking packages, which most places don't do anyway because it's the USPS (still don't really understand why not), doesn't always help me much when I'm trying to figure out when it will get here. I can see it's made it to Florida, but then it can be any number of days before it makes it on the plane.

The biggest problem happens when there is a large load of mail. The things that don't fit get left behind for the next trip. Except, the next trip doesn't prioritize the mail that got left behind. I don't know how they decide what goes, but it happens sometimes that a package will get pushed aside and will sit there for a long time before it finally goes.

I'm dealing with a situation like that right now, and it's driving me crazy. I ordered four boxes to sort they boys' LEGO bricks over two weeks ago. Amazon broke the order into three shipments (there were a couple other things included in the order), one of which went out a couple days after the first two. As of today, I've received the last box that was shipped, plus everything that we've ordered since, including a book I ordered last weekend that came in this morning.

I totally get that it's Christmas and there's a ton of mail, but I find it weird that my fairly light packages are still not here, yet the 35 pound boxes of wheat and flour did. I wish there was some place to call, but there isn't. All I can do is sit here and wait, as patiently as I can manage.

I really hope they get here soon, though. I was really hoping to get it all done before the Christmas influx of new LEGO sets. Sigh...

Monday, December 12, 2011

LEGO Ideas Book Update

So Wyatt's birthday is over and done with. We've had time to play with the LEGO Ideas Book a bit, and I'm happy to say it's been popular around here. The models depicted are of a huge variety, from tiny to fairly large (yet nothing that's so over the top you better have a basement full of bricks to build it). There aren't any instructions, but some of the models have different views that allow you to figure out easily how to build them. The rest is all about sparking your imagination.

I think the boys' favorite has centered on the spaceship section, which has a few pages of mini-ships to look at. They spent this last weekend building their own fleet of mini-ships. Here's a pic of Oscar continuing the work this afternoon while Wyatt is at school:



Incidentally, I am planning a post on our latest LEGO organization method, some of which you can see here. I'm still waiting for the other boxes to come in the mail so I can finish the sorting work, but I'm excited to finally get it set up in a way that will make it fun for all of us to build. At the moment, I hate it when they ask for help because it means spending hours digging through the pile to find the right bricks (and has anyone noticed how freaking loud LEGO bricks are when they hit against each other? I always feel a little deaf afterwards). After going through three or four different systems to this point, I think we may have finally found one that will last for a long time. We will see...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vitacost Ten Dollar Coupon Code

I picked up a code off someone else's blog that gives you a ten dollar coupon off an order at Vitacost. com.  I'm getting desperate to find somewhere else I can order the peanut butter we like. The only kind I can get here are the standard brands, but we've been eating natural peanut butter (basically, just peanuts) for years. It's impossible to go back! I used to get it through Tropical Traditions, but they've been out for months. The only other site I've used, Nutsonline (which is an awesome company, by the way), has a pretty steep shipping charge for FPOs, so I'd prefer to do something else.

Enter Vitacost, a site I've admittedly never heard of. The coupon is good no matter what order size, and shipping is only 5 bucks (even for us far-flung sorts), so I think it's worth the risk. I ordered four jars, which with the coupon and including shipping, will end up costing twenty bucks. That's actually what I pay for it normally, but these jar sizes are four ounces larger. So, yay!

Hopefully, they don't take too long to get here. We're down to our last jar, and it's less than half full. Eek! I definitely put this off too long.

Here's my link for a coupon. If you use it, I get another coupon, too, so obviously I'd love it if you did!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

LEGO Creator Creating

After only three years of life with LEGO, we've amassed an impressive collection. The boys now have sets from about six different themes, plus a bunch of miscellaneous bricks to work from. I'm rather impressed at some of the stuff I've seen them build. Oscar, who is only four, built both of these this past week:

 This one is a police station, complete with jail cell and storage rack. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good angle on it, but it looked pretty good in person.

This one is an airplane with twin engines.


Wyatt has started to not only stare at all the pictures in the latest LEGO catalog, but to attempt to build some of the things he sees there. As a result, I picked up a copy of The LEGO Ideas Book for his birthday this month. It's supposed to be over 200 pages of LEGO creations, split into themes throughout the book. Considering how much they love the catalogs, I imagine it will get a lot of look value, but I'm also hoping it will inspire more building. (I just may get down there and come up with a few myself.)

I think out of all the sets we've tried out, Creator is my favorite. We only have two of them at the moment, a Log Cabin and 3-in-1 helicopter/boat, but they are both getting another set each for Christmas. The best part about Creator sets is that they use mostly standard bricks, with only the occasional special brick. That means they are more adaptable, and gives us more play value overall.

Trying to find something new to do yesterday with Oscar, I thought about this and wondered if we could use the directions you can find on the LEGO site for one of the Creator sets and build it ourselves. So, we went to the site and looked through the instruction list. We built a mini-dump truck together (unfortunately, I forgot to get a pic of it, but here is the original if you are curious what it looks like). Oliver helped us come up with a solution to the fender piece we don't seem to have, and we had to use some other colors, but it came out looking pretty good.

When Wyatt got home, he wanted to get in on it, so he picked out a set to try. I tried to steer him to the mini-models, but he wanted something more impressive. I wasn't sure he'd get all that far with it because it was so involved, but Oliver sat down with him and managed to crank it out with a few modifications. It was a riot of colors, so I sat down with it this morning and substituted pieces until it looks mostly red and black. Here's our end result:

 The wheels fold up inside the plane, which is kind of awesome.

Here's the link to the original set to compare. It took a few hours to piece out and build, and I'm really surprised we had so many of the right type of pieces. Clearly, the five pounds of miscellaneous LEGO I bought off Ebay a few years ago has worked in our favor (we also raided some of their sets - I got some of the red stuff from their Lego City Fire Boat).

Yeah, Lego wins at our house, more than any toy by far.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Visitor from the Great Outdoors

We had a visitor recently. The four legged variety. I opened the door to go outside one evening to find him clinging to the outer door at about eye level. I called the boys over so they could get a good look at him.


Yep, we had a frog on our door. It was about the size of my thumb. Our outer door is a little warped and doesn't close securely, so it was easy enough for him to get inside. Whether he'd find his way back out, however, was a question, so I nudged him to the outside of the door so he would hopefully find his way back home.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunny Saturday

Okay, this post is a little behind. This actually happened last Sunday, but I have only now convinced myself to sit down and write this post.

Anyway, now that I have that out of the way! One of the rather cool things about living here is that sometimes we get to see the helicopters carry torpedoes overhead. They pick them up in the water after visiting submarines fire them on the range. It's a rather fun thing to see, and I've wanted to a get a picture of it. For the life me, though, I haven't succeeded. Every time, I've either not had my camera or it's been inaccessible - like the time we had just gotten back from a trip to the States and got off the bus just in time to see a helicopter land with one on the helicopter pad right behind us (I just could not get it out of my bag fast enough, grrr).

That all changed last Sunday, however. I saw a chopper take off with an empty basket while letting the boys jump around on rocks outside the dining hall where we'd just gotten done with breakfast. I rushed them home, then convinced them to go to the playground because I knew it would have to fly overhead on the return trip.

We were there for quite some time, longer than I thought we'd have to be, and I'd gotten up to tell them it was time to go when I finally saw it coming in, torpedo dangling below. I took a series of pics, and this is one of my favorites:


Oh, and just to be clear that living here, we've learned to make our own fun, I feel the need to share the following:


This is what the boys did while I was waiting for the chopper to pass overhead. There is a small skatepark to the side of the playground. I have yet to see a single person use it for its intended purpose, but the kids here have found all sorts of ways to amuse themselves on it. My boys like to bring a handful of their Hot Wheels cars with us whenever we go. They race them up and down it, and will send them shooting off the back end. Here, Oscar is climbing up the side to retrieve on that didn't make it down.

I am most impressed, however, with what some of the older kids came up with later that afternoon. They wet it down with a hose, slicked it up with shampoo, and turned it into a waterslide. (You can't really see in this picture, but there is a higher ramp right next to this one.) The place was swarming with kids for several hours, Wyatt included. It was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Letter "B"

We did the letter "B" today. The craft was one I found online, a bear bag puppet. I was absolutely sure I had some bags a friend had sent from Japan a few months ago. We don't have any real need of lunch bags here, so I stowed them somewhere with the idea that we could use them for crafting or some other future need.

However, for the life of me, I can't find them anymore. I'd already told Oscar we were going to do this, so I really needed to produce something. I decided against going to the store to look for a pack of lunch bags, partly because I didn't want to spend money on it, but also because the chances of actually finding some were rather slim.

Enter innovation! We get a lot of brown paper here. Amazon seems to pack most things in boxes with wads of brown paper in them. Since we frequent them more than most due to their FPO shipping policies, we are regularly swimming in the stuff. I decided to just make a paper bag.

I'm not going to post up a big tutorial because, well, I really don't have much to share. I just cut out something, trimmed it, folded it, and taped it up. It more or less looked like a paper bag, and it satisfied my youngest.

Here's our paper bag bear:


I folded it down like a lunch bag, so it opens at the mouth. I didn't make the top big enough, so it's kind of squished in the face, but, hey, it's a bear!

I told Oscar he could color the body if he wanted, so he asked me to draw a shirt and an "orange badge like a post office guy". I drew this, not really knowing what he wanted, and he told me it looked like a police officer badge.

Oh, well. Bags, I can whip up. Drawings? Not so much.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Waffles For Lunch





I once had a waffle maker. It was a pretty standard, non-stick, electric affair and worked fine. Then, a pin came out of one of the hinges. I couldn't see a way to fix it, so I just kept using it like that. When we moved overseas, we had to do some pretty heavy triage, and anything broken beyond repair that wasn't used much didn't make the cut. That included the waffle maker.


The thing is, though, my kids love waffles. I'm not industrious enough to indulge their love of them very often, but it was nice to be able to make them, especially since I detest the frozen kind and refuse to buy them. Since we moved here two years ago, the only waffles we've had are at the chow hall, where the quality is on par with the ones you can get at a free breakfast in a hotel (something we've had extensive experience with, heh - the best one was the place we stayed where they had watered down the waffle batter so much it that when it cooked, it turned into strings of cooked batter - it kind of looked like spaghetti when it was done).

So, I've trolled the internet occasionally looking for one I could like. I was hoping to find one that allowed you to pull the plates out to wash (the biggest reason I rarely used our waffle iron before), and had this one in my Amazon cart for months. It's pricey, though, so I hadn't been able to talk myself into buying it.

And, there's the issue of the non-stick stuff. I'm not sure whether it's killing us all or not, as some people claim, but I hate the stuff because it doesn't last. I've gotten rid of all the pans I once had, and use a combination of stainless, glass, and cast iron. I ran across something not long ago that mentioned a cast iron waffle maker, something I didn't even realize existed.

A couple weeks ago, I finally broke down and bought a Rome waffle maker. In all honestly, I could have probably found a better made one on Ebay (old stuff is always made better!), but when I couldn't really find anything as cheap as the one I got, once I factored in the shipping costs, I just decided to get it new. I'd maybe do it differently next time, but since I don't expect this one to ever break down on me, that may never happen.

Anyway, after a not-so-enjoyable cleaning (unseasoned cast iron is shipped with a wax coating that has to come off first - it's a pain to do) and seasoning (I did it twice to be sure), we had waffles for lunch today. I had made a hasty promise to the boys that we would do so, then I looked in my Bittman cookbook and realized the yeast waffles I wanted to try needed to sit overnight. Yeah, this was at about 1000 today...

Wyatt got indignant when I tried to push it off, so I caved and used a baking powder version from the same book. Here are our results:
I'd read that sticking on the batch is common, but apparently I'd done a good enough job seasoning it beforehand because I didn't have any problems. I did brush it with butter between waffles, though, just to be sure. I didn't want it to flow out the sides because there was nowhere for it to go but underneath the burner, so I put very little batter on the pan at first. This is actually my last waffle, and the closest it got to filling the iron. Surprisingly, you can put a lot more batter on these than it looks like. The waffles are also a lot fluffier than I thought they would be considering the thickness of the iron. I sort of thought we'd end up making pancakes with depressions in them, but that was totally not the case.

I think we found a winner. Cast iron takes a little more work to take care of (and you must preheat or you are doomed!), but the results are awesome. I've heard good waffles described as "crispy, with a creaminess inside", yet this was the first time I realized what the heck that meant. And my boys? They went through the first three waffles before they let me eat one. (They are also quite excited that we can take this camping with us; for some reason, waffles on a camping trip sounds like a seriously awesome thing to them.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Letter "S"

Today we did the letter "S". I'd originally planned on moving through the alphabet in order, but I'm teaching Oscar to read using the Bob books. The first book focuses on the short "A" sound, and "S" is one of the consonants used. Oscar can read that one confidently, so we moved on to book number two today.

I had planned on a starfish craft, but right after I told him what we were going to learn today, he asked if we were going to do a submarine project. (Clearly, submarines have a solid place in our lives.) So, I sat him down with the starfish, a fairly easy gluing project, while I rushed to find something we could related to submarines.

This is what we ended up with:


I traced a submarine onto some construction paper, had him color it in, then cut it out (that trailing piece of paper is because he had drawn a diver and got mad when I cut it off, so I reattached it). I then cut some portholes and taped tissue paper to the back to allow light to come through them. It's kind of tough to tell because of our filthy window. I tried to clean it a bit before we hung his project up, but to do it for real requires removing the screen and standing on a ladder outside because our trailer is up on blocks. Yeah, since we have less than a year left, I'm pretty unmotivated to go to all that trouble. Clearly, the previous occupant felt the same way.

Wyatt came home and immediately wanted to do one, too, so now we have two of them hanging up.


*You can find better instructions here, at an awesome blog I can tell I will be mining for further ideas as we go.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Doing School At Home

We've finally decided once and for all that Wyatt will be homeschooled next year. Oscar isn't technically old enough to start next year, but since he's already beginning to read, I think we may just consider next year his kindergarten year.

My plan as of now is to use K12, assuming we get stationed in a state that provides it for free. That means that while I'll be doing most of the teaching, the books and planning will be handed to me. It does, however, follow the school year, which is a bit of a complication. Apparently, it takes at least a month to get registered, and you have to live in the state before you can do that. Since we are not sure when we are leaving here (could easily be as late as October), and I'm determined not to break up the family any earlier than necessary, it leaves us with a bit of a problem when it comes to school. We can start school the next semester, in January, but that runs the risk of having Wyatt fall behind.

So, I've had to start to seriously consider other options. (Something I really have to do, anyway, because we might not end up moving to a state that supports K12, and I'm not prepared to pay 5 grand per kid to do it.) I am really not the most dedicated, on top of things sort of person. I'm great with a schedule that has been imposed on me (I actually loved filling up my calendar in college with all my deadlines and tests - it was a big game to work my way through it all), but not so good at imposing one on myself. Clearly, that has to change if we are going to homeschool.

I decided that this year, when nothing is so intense or important, is probably the best way to start. Oscar walks up to me every day after Wyatt goes to school and asks, "What are we going to do today while Wyatt is gone?" That has typically meant I then sit down with him and build LEGO or or do a few puzzles.

This past weekend, however, I spent some time putting together some ideas. I've decided to turn our days into letter themed days. Oscar already knows most of his letters and their sounds from listening to us teach his brother, but I'd like to reinforce them and find out which ones he isn't so good at. Also, focusing on a letter has helped a lot in keeping things together.

Monday and Tuesday were "A" days. We made an ant eater and an ant hill complete with painted on ants:


I was a little surprised that he spent almost a half hour carefully coloring in the ant eater parts. Wyatt really didn't like coloring in anything when he was the same age, so I had thought he'd just breeze through it with a few scribbles. (In case you are curious where I got the template, you can find it here, along with plenty of other fun ideas for teaching letters.)

We also did a little handwriting, which I hadn't planned on introducing, but after I told him we were going to learn about the letter "A", he immediately started asking me how it goes as he attempted to draw it on a nearby piece of paper. I figured we'd go with it as long as he was interested, so I printed out some letter tracing pages and did that the second day.

The best thing about this is that Oscar is so very proud to show his dad and brother what he did at "school" while they were gone. Watching that, I am kicking myself for not doing this earlier. He told me today that he
"does school at home, right Mommy?" I answered, "Yes, you do.", already envisioning how things would go when both of them are home.

I'm getting excited about this. I've always loved teaching, but it's even more rewarding when it's your own kids doing the learning. This homeschooling thing seems like it just may end up being a good fit for our lifestyle in more ways than one.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our Final Halloween in the Bahamas

Well, this was our last Halloween here. This year found us experiencing some of the cloud bursts common to life here. Halfway through our trick or treating, Oliver had to run home for an umbrella when it started to rain on us. It wasn't a huge deal because it wasn't more than a shower and the night was warm, but it was still nice to have the umbrella. By the time we got home, the rain was gone and we were all feeling a little soggy.

Still, it was great fun as usual. Here are the boys sporting their costumes:

And no, this is not the best picture. The camera kept fogging up on me because of all the moisture in the, so I couldn't give it enough time to get a good focus. I just wiped and snapped and hoped for the best.
I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty darn proud of Wyatt's costume. He had asked to be an Army guy about a month ago, but when I went online to see what a costume would cost me, I couldn't find anything decent for much less than fifty bucks. It sure changes things when you can't go to a store and search for stuff.

So, in light of that problem, and because there was no freaking way I was going to spend fifty bucks on a costume for him, I convinced him that it would be pretty cool if he went as a submariner. The utilities were replaced by the cammies a year or so ago, so I knew it would be no big deal if I cut one down and used all the patches.

I really haven't sewn much more than patches and small mending jobs for, um, twenty years now? So, I was a little scared I wouldn't be able to pull it off. However, my mother did a good job teaching me when I was a teenager how to sew, and much of it stuck with me. I liked sewing, but not the rules of patterns, and remember always asking her at every step (especially ironing -for some reason, I really hated ironing seams) if I could just skip that. Unsurprisingly, I only  managed one full project, a sun dress I wore once because I outgrew it right after as it had taken me so long to finish it. I did make a lot of doll clothes, however, and made my own patterns so I had some experience that helped a bit here.

Since real clothing is different, however, I found a few tutorials online that showed me how to make patterns for both shirt and pants (since there isn't a fabric store to buy a pattern, either). I also looked at a blog that had clear instructions on how to cut down a man's shirt into a boy's. So, that spared me buttonholes and hemming on the bottom, but I had to figure out the collar since I wanted one that looked like the original and that isn't what she had done with hers. I had to do it twice, including cutting a second one, and it still isn't completely right, but it was close enough. I also made sure to iron all those seams, and, yes, it really is important to do that.

I learned a lot along the way, including how to use self-fabric as interfacing as I couldn't, once again, run to the store for that. I recycled buttons, belt loops, and some elastic I pulled out of an old pair of pants that were too worn out to pass on to anyone else. The only real cost in all of this was some thread.

I used all the old patches (the name one is blacked out in this pic, in case you are wondering why it looks a little weird), and we finished the costume out with Oliver's old command cap, some collar devices (wouldn't be worn normally, but it helped keep it down and made it look more military), one of Oliver's uniform belts, and a dog tag. The Navy guys we ran into during trick or treating all recognized it right off, which made it all the better.

As for Oscar, his was kind of a remake from one Wyatt wore back in Washington. He really wanted to be a firefighter, so we pulled out the rain gear I'd bought for Wyatt in WA (it's a fleece lined coat, so way too warm to wear here - we mostly just get wet when it rains and it's no big deal), used the pieces of a firefighter set we'd bought for Wyatt for that Halloween and they still play with, and then Oliver got creative and fashioned a fire extinguisher out of cardboard, the top of a spray bottle, tinfoil, and some printed off pictures to put on the side. He carried that instead of his pumpkin this year for treats. Sadly, this picture doesn't do it justice.

(I found it completely hilarious that after the kids kept calling it a "fire hydrant", we ran into an adult who immediately proclaimed it the same thing.)

While I don't know if I'll get get so involved in costume making again, I know we'll keep on creating costumes. It was so much more fun than just picking something and ordering it, which is what I did last year (although Oliver did build a train out of cardboard and our wagon for Oscar's get up).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Computer Smart Already

Yesterday, the boys asked me if they could download a program from the LEGO site that allows you to create with virtual LEGO bricks. We used to have it on the computer we replaced, so I said okay. My older son clearly knew what he was doing (he's reading, after all), but I sat down and had a chat with him about how he must always, always ask before downloading anything on the computer. Thus far, he's been a pretty trustworthy kid, so I believed him when he promised to do just that. (We keep the computers in the living room so we can keep an eye on them for situations like this.)

Today, they sat down together, one on each computer, to play. Wyatt asked if he could download the program again because he was on the computer we hadn't put the program on before. I said yes, then went off to take care of something. I walked back in the room to see that Oscar was in the middle of downloading the program on the laptop that already had it.

Apparently, he wanted to play, too, but couldn't figure out how to load the program from the desktop. So, he opened up the browser, found the right page, and started it up himself. At four years old.

On the one hand, I appreciate that our kids are so tech savvy. I believe it will serve them well as they grow. It does, however, remind me that I am going to have a keep a close eye on them. No, they will not be allowed on Facebook for...well, possibly forever.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Daddy is Not an Office Worker


Oscar was playing with his Lego guys today. He brought this one to me and started telling me all about how he was a boat guy (he'd been using him in Wyatt's aircraft carrier). I asked him what kind of shirt he was wearing, and he shrugged and just repeated what his job was supposed to be.

I thought it was kind of funny. When I was growing up, my father worked in an office. I would have considered this a "work shirt" if anyone had asked me that question when I was little. Oscar, however, rarely sees his dad wearing a tie. It's even rarer now that we get to attend church maybe twice a year. So, as was my first instinct, I can't ask him if it's a church shirt, either.

He does, however, have a pair of brown camo pants that he's quite proud of. Even though his dad wears blue cammies, every time he wears them, he tells us they are his "duty pants".

Clearly, we are raising a couple of military brats.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Latest on Order Picking

I thought the orders situation was on the back burner for a few months, due to several things. Then, a couple days ago, Oliver came home with a possible situation for us. Basically, if he agrees to move in July instead of October, and they can find someone to fill his billet then, we will be able to get orders to our top choice. He asked me what I thought, and I really didn't have to think at all - absolutely I am behind the plan!

The one bad thing is having to go back to a boat early; we're certainly not raring to do the deployment thing. However, we'd kind of like to, you know, have a grocery store to go to again. Little things like that. More importantly, leaving early will solve the school issue. The program I want to use to homeschool is through the public school - kind of like a charter school. So, they follow the school year, and the biggest catch is that you have to have residency to apply. So, we need to live there at least a month before school starts so we can apply and get all the paperwork done in time for the first semester. Otherwise, we have to start in January and do, I don't know, the rest of the time.

This has been a headache for us. The last thing I want to do is split us up when it's not necessary. As bad as a deployment can be, it's far worse when you know the only thing keeping you apart is a decision you made, even if it was for the best of reasons.


I'm just praying now that someone will want his orders.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thinking About Moving

Now that we're in this holding pattern of waiting for order picking (this should happen the beginning of the year), I cannot seem to settle down. Every day, I wander through the house picking out things I need to get rid of before we go, or trying to decide how best to packed things to make it easier for the movers (also, we found if you go out of your way to get things ready when they come, they do an awesome job with it - totally worth all the work we put into the last move!). I keep telling myself I really have three months before it's even remotely important to buckle down, but I keep obsessing over it.

In truth, though, the thing most on my mind is getting housing. We don't plan on living on base unless we get sent to Hawaii or something like that. We want control of our money this time, and I'm not too big on the trend in military housing to charge utilities on top of your entire BAH. That's crazy when you consider that by virtue of rank, you could be spending twice as much for your place than your neighbor with the exact same apartment. There is no accounting for that at all, and by the time we left WA, we were paying for our tiny two bedroom what we could have paid for an entire house out in town.

So, no more military housing for us. That does kind of leave me in a dilemma, though. I am realizing that the last time I really had to find a place to live was over ten years ago. I got it through an ad in the newspaper, albeit their online version. Clearly, this isn't really how people do that sort of thing these days.

I guess I will have to look at Craigslist? I have almost no experience with that as it's not exactly an option here. Or is a realtor a way to find a house to rent? Do realtors even deal with rentals? I kind of like the idea of going and seeing a couple places at once, but maybe you can only do that when you are looking to buy a place.

And buying a place is not what we're going to do. At least not yet. Hopefully in ten years, we'll know where we want to land and be ready to get something. We'll see. It's tough to imagine us as anything but wanderers.

P.S. Totally random, mostly unrelated fact: Apparently, if you had a VA loan, you can get a VA refinance. With interest rates so low now, not a bad idea to look into.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Growing Up

Wyatt and I had a conversation the other day. We were sitting on the porch steps, and he started talking about a few concerns he had about some other kids in his class. I soon found myself in a back-and-forth exchange that, well, was rather grown-up for my six year old. I was so very excited to be having it.

I do enjoy being a mother, really. It's been an amazing journey. I'm not gonna lie, however - I find the baby years insanely difficult. I don't operate particularly well on no sleep, and I've never been particularly good at entertaining toddlers. Babies are adorable, and I have some very sweet memories of cuddling them close. I'm grateful for every minute we've shared, even if I have found myself suffering through many of them.

It's awesome, however, that they are growing up and becoming people. The best part of motherhood for me is watching them become someone. I'm eager to have a lot more conversations with my boys as they make choices and figure out where life is going to take them. I hope I can be a sounding board for them, that they will always know that I respect their thoughts, allow them to take risks, and don't expect them to follow a path I've decided on for them. I'm looking forward to the years ahead.

Wyatt and I driving a go-cart together this summer.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Final Year

We are just days away from being a year out from the end of our time here. Which means Oliver can start looking at orders very soon. He's also going to be negotiating a reenlistment contract. I'm trying to ignore  the pit of dread in my stomach.

Last time we did this, I was excited and thought it would be kind of fun to consider all the possibilities. Later, after slogging through months of uncertainty, a list of duty stations that included almost nothing we'd wanted, and then a budget impasse in Congress (sound familiar - clearly, that bunch will never learn) that left us with only three months to put together an international move, the excitement factor is definitely gone.

This time around, we have a list again, but it's a lot shorter due to submarine platforms, where I would like to weather deployments, and where the online homeschooling program I've decided to use with the boys is free (20 states have it available as part of the public school system - the cost otherwise is about 5k per child). Washington actually meets two of those criteria, and so I'm trying desperately to talk myself into being open to returning as I know it is going to be on the list. I'm hoping we won't have to, however. That would be really frustrating.

So, we shall see how it all turns out. Maybe we'll know by the end of the year. Or maybe they'll keep us hanging until June, like last time. Either way, it will be settled by this time next year. In the mean time, we'll try to make the most of our last year here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rice Krispies, Anyone?

While planning dinner tonight, once again last minute (it's pretty tough to meal plan when you aren't sure what veggies the store will be carrying that week). I've got some pinto beans in the freezer, onions and potatoes, mushrooms (a rare treat around here!), and even some frozen corn (which is also pretty hit or miss). So, we're gonna have a bean and corn chowder tonight.

I went online to find a recipe for something to go with it, because I'm getting tired of biscuits, and I discovered this recipe for breadsticks. It looks good, takes only 40 min, and I'm excited to try them as soon as I get done typing this.

I did, however, make the mistake of spending some time looking at all the recipes. Sigh. It's sad to look at recipes, find one that looks awesome, and realize there is almost no chance of getting all the ingredients at the same time. I'm good at substitution, but some things you just can't change, nor would you want to. Like a decent cut of meat.

We eat almost no meat these days. Sometimes I buy it in Florida and trek it home, then we make it last for months (and we're talking about two small coolers, full - not a huge amount). Occasionally, I buy it in the store here, but it tends to be only ground turkey or ham because everything else is crazy expensive. In truth, I've never been a huge meat eater, and the less we eat of it, the less I want it, but sometimes, with the right dish, it's pretty good.

What's worse are the recipes that require fresh vegetables, however. Especially things that ask for fresh herbs (the bugs keep killing mine and the store doesn't sell them due to how our food is shipped in) or other slightly off the beaten path veggies like beets (my fam is probably happy about this, but I really love them). I finally had to just close out the blog and stop thinking about all the food I will have to wait to try until we move back to the States.

Ironically, we probably eat a lot better here than we did when we lived there. We've cut almost all processed food out of our diet. I'd been trying to do this before we moved, but coming here forced big changes just because of the cost of everything. Cereal was the best change, actually. For the life of me, I could not kick the cereal habit. It was just too easy, and we are not morning people. Plus, we could get it for two bucks at the commissary.

Then we moved here. There is no such thing as a sale or couponing here (not that I ever couponed, ha!). You pay the price or you don't buy it. Cold cereal is about five dollars a box. Eggs are less than two dollars for a dozen. Yeah, that one was a no-brainer. We now eat eggs and toast most morning, with pancakes, oatmeal, and muffins thrown into rotation. The best thing about it has been that I no longer have whining boys an hour after they eat. Turns out, cold cereal doesn't last too long. The other stuff gets them through to lunch. Definitely better for Wyatt because he's at school now.

There is, however, one cereal I really miss. Rice Krispies. Not for breakfast, because we never ate it that way, but because sometimes I really want to make Rice Krispy treats. Which brings me back to that blog I linked. It had an interesting recipe for peanut butter chocolate Rice Krispy treats. That was pretty much the last recipe I looked at. Maybe I'll have to cram a box into our bags this Christmas when we take the boys to Legoland. We'll see.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Early Retirement....is actually possible!

I'm sitting here waiting for the stock exchange to open. And I've been doing this for a couple of weeks now. I've got a shopping list of stocks, and prices that I'm willing to buy them at.

Why all the investing mania, you might ask? Well, when the stock market took it's latest fall back in August, I watched the news intently. I've been thinking about doing more than just dumping money into retirement accounts, where it mostly sits in index funds, for quite some time. I haven't, however been all that inspired to take the plunge and learn enough about it.

That all changed, though, when I ran across this blog. Basically, it's written by a guy named Jacob who saved 70-90% of his income for five years, became financially independent at 30, and quit his job for real at 33 when it was no longer fun for him. Now, he's not some millionaire, and, among other things, lives in an RV in order to keep his expenses down enough to live on his investment income, plus he doesn't have kids (and is married to a spouse who is still working and covers her own expenses), so I don't see his story as completely possible for us.

However, it really has got me thinking. The most helpful thing I got from his story is the idea that when planning for retirement, you can't spend all your time looking at your money and wondering how big it needs to be (does anyone else hate those calculators that tell you you are going to need a million bucks by the time you are 65?). Instead, you need to calculate how much it costs to live today, and then figure out how much you need in order to keep that standard of living. When I looked at it that way, I was surprised to realize we could easily save more than half Oliver's pay if we put our minds to it. And it wouldn't even hurt.

So, since I am well aware that most frivolous spending in our house comes from me, I'm refocusing, and sending all the extra money to a new, taxable account (since most of our retirement accounts are fully funded, and I want a better diversity of accounts in case we manage to meet our goal of retirement in our early 40's). I've got an investment strategy, after spending more than a week reading everything I could get my hands on about investing (and still reading, just not as avidly). I don't know how this will play out, but for us, this is just another step on a path we took long ago when we decided to only have one car because it would accelerate our debt payments. Then, we just kept it up when it was all paid off because we'd gotten used to it and now we were saving all that debt money.

There's now way we'll be able to do what Jacob did, due to having kids, being a one-income household, and past mistakes, but we've come up with a plan that is comfortable for us. The biggest surprise is for me is that it's actually possible to make early retirement happen, as evidenced not only by this blog, but all the other people who comment on it and share their stories. Crazy stuff. You should read it.

And now back to the stock exchange, which has finally started trading.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Has It Really Been Ten Years?

I haven't been able to get myself to sit down and write this before now. Both the net and TV have been flooded with 9/11 stories and remembrances. Every time I see one, it's like being punched in the gut again. I'm blown away at long it's actually been since it happened. It still feels so recent to me.

And yet, it occurred to me while looking at my oldest that neither of my boys have any idea what happened that day. Neither of them were even born, and in fact I remember thinking how glad I was that I hadn't married or had kids yet because the world seemed like it was falling apart. A year later, I met Oliver.

The other reason I've hesitated? I know I don't really have anything new to add. My own reactions were personal and intense, but I didn't know anyone there. I mourned for our nation, but not for family or friends. I also think we're all flooded with this stuff and sometimes it's too much. So, if you want to quit reading, feel free. I am not going to care.

I was living in Rhode Island at the time, about two hours from New York City. I went to work that morning, and was sitting at my desk when the first plane hit. People started running around the office saying something about a building. I really didn't know what they were talking about, so I ignored it at first.

Eventually, curiosity got the better of me, and I joined the conversation. Before long, my boss had hooked up a TV in his office, and the rest of us crowded in there to watch. I saw the second plane hit, and watched the towers fall on live TV. I remember standing there after the South Tower fell, praying like mad that the North would stand long enough for everyone else in there to get out. I just could not believe that I was watching New York implode at the heart.

At lunch time, I left the office and found another, out of the normal, situation. I worked in a large shopping complex. Our offices were upstairs from retail stores, and there was a grocery store anchoring the place. It had a huge parking lot that was nearly always busy. That day, however, I was struck by the silence. Everyone was sitting still, and the only noise I could hear were car radios, tuned to news reports.

It was more of the same in the grocery store when I went to buy my food. I found myself walking around in a bit of a daze, picking stuff up and not really caring what I was looking at.

After returning to the office, I went back to the TV, as did nearly everyone else. It was like that for the rest of the week, and I'm amazed my boss tolerated it. He was a rather gruff type, and didn't like to see people standing around. But he let us watch, and I'm grateful.

The news coverage ran pretty much 24/7, it seemed. I didn't have cable at the time, but it didn't matter - the networks weren't playing anything else, including commercials. The first time I saw a commercial, I remember thinking it was really weird. It was also a sign that real life had to keep going.

I think one of the reasons it had such a large impact on me was how close geographically I was to it. I can remember evacuations of tall building in Providence, a city I spent a lot of time due to work. Logan International in Boston, where the planes came from, was an airport I occasionally flew out of. A lot of people who worked at the site in the days following the attacks came from our area, due to the proximity. Our office got together and pooled some money together to buy masks and things they had asked for to send on a truck that was heading to NYC to support the relief operation. It felt good to do something, even if that was so small.

I had one co-worker who seemed to come a little unglued over it all. She was the one who spearheaded the campaign to buy supplies, and I went with her to buy them. Soon after, though, she stopped showing up for work, or would come in late. I was in charge of tracking vacation and sick leave as part of my job, and when she came to ask me where she was at, she was shocked to realized that she'd been out so much. Soon after, she quit, and last I heard was planning on a new career as a fireman.

As for me, I tried to join the Air Force in early 2002. Granted, it was a career path I'd considered at 18, but had figured was out of the picture after I went to college instead. But 9/11 got me thinking, and I tried again. A past medical issue ultimately kept me out, which was disappointing, but I met Oliver soon after and ended up chasing the military life in another way.

I don't really have anything particularly profound to add (which is sort of why I hesitated), but I know I need to tell my story to my own children today. I know I have to find a way to explain to them what happened and why. I'm not ready to start that conversation yet, and am happy to indulge in their ignorance for a few more years. It will happen, however.

Maybe when we go back to the States, we'll take them there. I'd like to see the memorial. I flew over NY in early October to visit a friend in Seattle (I did not fly out of Logan). The ground was still smoking, and I could see the plumes of smoke hovering over the city. A year later, I visited with Oliver and some Navy friends of ours. We walked around the site, which was pretty much a giant construction site at that point. I don't even think I took any pictures because there wasn't much to see. We stood in front of a chain link fence keeping us out of the area, and talked about it. One of the guys we were with said this was the whole reason he was in the Navy. I understood what he was talking about.

I've been looking at pictures of the memorial online. It looks beautiful. My deepest hope is that we will remember - and try to build something else that is equally beautiful as we try to live with other people in our world. Sometimes, I wonder if that is even possible. I still have hope, however, that it might be someday.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Going Home (for real this time!)

We're leaving for the airport in about twenty minutes. Oscar and I will be on that plane, then Oliver and Wyatt will follow a couple hours later. I'm really happy to be leaving, although we did manage to make the most of our enforced vacation. Hopefully, we won't have much trouble getting our lodging and food reimbursed. At least we had enough money to cover it.

Most of my fam is up in the Northeast, so I'm crossing my fingers for you all! Irene is all yours today. Good riddance, I say.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Going Home...Not Quite

The good news is that Irene took a turn eastward that ended up sparing Andros the worst of it. Damage reports that I've heard have been positive, and they had lists up this evening for the first flights home tomorrow. We checked, and none of us are on them, which we kind of expected, so we're here for at least another day.

Most likely, we won't be able to go home until at least Sunday, although Oliver may be out of here earlier depending on how they decide his priority status is. He doesn't technically have anything he has to be back for until Wednesday, so I'm crossing my fingers that we will end up being able to return together. We'll see.

I'm feeling a lot better now, so I can handle that if it happens. I had a stomach bug during our trip off-island the last week, and hadn't quite gotten over it when we were ordered to evacuate. When I get stressed out, it all tends to sit in my stomach, so I think that layered on top of that and I pretty much quit eating for three days because I couldn't keep anything down. So glad to be done with that!

I don't know what kind of damage our trailer sustained, but I don't even care right now. I'm just relieved the worst case scenario was avoided, and we don't have to find ourselves a place to live in Florida while Oliver tries to fly back and forth every weekend to see us. That would have been pretty sad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

C-130 Pic

This is someone else's photo (click on it to see where it came from), but I stumbled across this on the net today. I'll get mine up at some point. I don't know if this was our flight, but it could have been.

Update

Well, we're in Florida now, waiting Irene out in West Palm Beach. The hurricane, which apparently is a Cat 3 now, as expected, is veering East a bit, and Florida is no longer worried about a direct hit, which is good news. They would have moved us if it was coming to us, but I'm relieved we won't have to do that. Once was enough.

As for getting out, that was a big process. Every thing seemed kind of disorganized. We got a call on Monday night that the boys and I were on the first C-130 flight and needed to show up at 0930 at the base theatre to register. No word on what we needed to bring, or anything else.

So, I dutifully showed up, sans luggage because I didn't want to walk it over (Oliver was working, and had the car, and wasn't able to get out to take us beforehand - it's not a long walk at all, takes maybe three minutes, but I'm still sick so I just left it because the flight wasn't supposed to be until 1100). When I got there, they began giving instructions and told us we had to have our evac form, which we would show as we went thought the line, culminating in checking in the luggage I didn't have with me. I knew nothing about the paperwork, nor who to ask about it.

So, I left the boys with a friend who was also supposed to be on the flight with her boys, ran home to get the luggage and call Oliver about the form. He told me he'd come pick me up with the bags, and tried to figure out what this form was. He didn't have any luck, but when we came back to the theatre with our bags, we finally saw someone in uniform (most of the people here are working for the civilian contractor, so they had their own forms and their own procedures for money etc. than we do). He had all the forms, so I picked up ours and sat down to wait while Oliver went back to work.

My friend and I decided to not get in line right away because it got huge almost instantly and we had four young kids between us. After about an hour, though, we noticed that new people kept coming in and getting in line. Clearly, it was not at all about who was supposedly on this first flight, and was turning into a bit of a free-for-all.

To make a long story short, after talking to someone handling the processing, we were able to just wait it out in our seats until the next C-130. The first one filled and left, and then they had a couple flights on our normal plane, which seats 19. They actually offered my friend and I seats on the AUTAC plane, but we wanted to fly on the C-130. We knew our boys would love it, and hey, these kinds of opportunities don't come around every day. For me, too, there was the hope that Oliver would be free to go and get out with us, which is what ended up happening.

It took about five hours, but we did get out on the second C-130, and Oliver went with us. He finished what he had to just in time. Considering how stressed out and ill I was feeling at that point, that was a huge blessing.

We took with us a suitcase, two duffel bags, and four backpacks, just under 150 pounds of baggage. Here's the curious thing about that - I am exceptionally aware right now of just what we need to restart our life if the worst case happened and everything we own was gone. Turns out, it's a whole lot less than you'd think. The digital age has made this so much easier, too - the desktop we had to leave behind, I dumped all the photos, home videos, and music onto my IPOD. What was left went onto a flash drive, and then I backed up Itunes onto a couple DVDs (since our desktop is where I always sync the IPOD). That stuff takes up no space to carry.

Then we have our binder with important docs, like birth certificates, and a couple folders with investment info, taxes, and other miscellaneous paperwork. The boys carried their prized, most loved possessions, including a gallon bag of LEGOs (a small fraction of what they own, but enough to keep them happy). There are other things, too, obviously, like clothing and passports, the camera, and a few books to keep us busy.

There are things we left behind that I will be sad to lose, but overall, they are very few. Everything else is replaceable, and it's insured. The car will actually be the biggest loss because we have to carry Banhamian insurance on it, and it only covers damage you might cause to someone or something. It's an 8 year old car, but we were hoping to hang onto it for while longer and use it as a commuter car for Oliver when we buy a new family car next year. That will be our most painful financial hit.

Maybe it's all the moving I've done in my adult life (our six years in Washington was the longest I'd lived anywhere since I was 18), but I am realizing just how not attached to things I am. Oliver is the same way. Ultimately, that's probably the biggest factor in our deciding to stay in the Navy - we are experience junkies, and we don't care about stuff. Owning a house sometimes seems appealing, but it also seems like a financial albatross and something that will kill our mobility. By staying in the Navy, we get to keep moving, and we get to do some crazy stuff, like board that C-130 and have a flying experience unlike any we've ever had before (I've got some good pics, but seem to have forgotten the cord for the camera, and our laptop weirdly has no card reader, so I'll have to upload them later). The retirement is pretty appealing on many levels, but after the latest attack on that, I am no longer positive it will still be there when we finish his twenty years. So, if we stay, we have to stay for other reasons.

Anyway, this is getting longer and longer. If you managed to keep reading, bravo to you! Clearly, I am just sitting in a hotel room with nothing to do but watch storm radar as Irene slowly advances through the islands. The waiting game is no fun.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The ultimate irony? We're being evacuated to the Florida coast. Where Irene is also supposed to hit. Sigh.

I've never been so reluctant to leave home before. We're getting on a plane tomorrow morning and I don't know when we'll be back. Our lodging and food is supposed to be covered, but no one seems to know how much or if a car will be covered, too. Because we need a car. They are just flying us there and letting us out on our own. I'm not too thrilled about it all.

We've moved things around, put the things we can't take with us into closets and bathrooms without windows. As far as I can tell, the biggest danger is breaking windows, but there's no telling really. We're just praying things will be okay. It's all we have left to do at this point.

Sigh

So, it's official: After one day, school is closing until further notice. And we're going to be evacuated in the next day or two. So much for returning home yesterday.

Hello Irene

Well, Tropical Storm Emily was more like Fizzled-Out Emily when it reached us a couple weeks ago. Hurricane Irene, currently harrying the island of Hispaniola, looks a little more menacing, however. We've gone to a condition 4 today, so all the visitors have been kicked off. I'm watching my neighbors clean us their patio as I type this, as that's one more thing everyone has to do: secure anything loose outside. We don't have much to do in that area because we just spent five days in the West Palm Beach area and hadn't pulled much back out after stowing it for Emily.


Ironically, I'm once again feeling ill while I await word on whether or not we'll be evacuating this time. I picked up something on our trip, and am still trying to shake it. Wyatt started school this morning, and I was the only one able to drop him off as Oliver had duty. I dragged myself there with the boys, took some pictures of him giggling with his class while they waited for flag, and then dragged myself back home to collapse on the couch. Oscar's been all over this because he's been allowed to pretty much watch whatever he wants today. Hopefully, I'll be more myself tomorrow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thunderstorms and the Beach

Thunderstorms are pretty much a way of life here in the summer time. They sweep in, the heavens pour, the lightning crashes, and then it's gone fifteen minutes later. I love them; Washington almost never had thunderstorms, but it wasn't until we moved here that I realized how much I missed them.

We had plans to spend some time at the beach this afternoon. As we were eating lunch, however, the sky began darkening and it rained. We decided to just wait it out, and left about an hour later. The beach was beautiful, the sand all hard-packed from the rain, and the sky filled with thunderclouds. No one else was there. If we lived anywhere else, I would have stayed home, but here, we can just fit in a visit between storms.

Unfortunately, I didn't bring a camera; I expected to be caught in a downpour and didn't want to risk it. I wish I had, though: the sky was beautiful, Wyatt found a live conch in the water, and we built a massive sand volcano that the boys used as a slide right before we left.

We swam a bit, and I'm excited to see Oscar is finally getting brave enough to get out there without me carrying him around. It's a lot more fun for me now.

While we were in the water, the thunderstorm that had been slowly sweeping across the sky made its rather loud appearance. When we saw the lightning streak across the sky, we knew it was time to go. As soon as we got home, the sky opened up. It was perfect timing.

Life on an island can be challenging, but we had one of those moments today when it's at its best.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Because Watching This Makes Me So Sad

Share food, change lives


And as bad as things are in our country, at least our kids aren't dying like this. This is where our donation money is going this month.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hanging With Emily

Emily, or what's left of the storm, is hanging out over the Bahamas today. The rain started last night, and we woke up to it this morning. Most likely, it will rain all day and into the night. That's okay, though, because we really need the rain! This winter was far too dry, and we're still struggling to recover from it.

They're still watching it to see if it will reform, so good luck to all of you on the East Coast!

I'm actually surprised to see there's internet right now. The tower we rely on has been jury-rigged after the line was cut during construction. It's power source is now the house next door, and the cord has been run above-ground through a large pipe. Not the best set up, and it tends to go out every time it rains. It's nice to have it now, though, since it appears we won't be leaving the house today.

The bad news for us is that the leak above the stove seems to have reopened. We woke up to a puddle of water on the stovetop. I've got a couple pots catching it now, but I guess I won't be cooking anything that way until the rain stops. Fun times in an ancient trailor.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Update, and Where oh Where did Emily Go?

I'm please to announce I'm finally on the mend. I went in yesterday and finally saw the doctor (he wasn't in the day before when I had the first reaction). He took one look at me and said to give me a shot of steroids, a tapering dosage of pills for the next 9 days, and off all antibiotics as my nose looks good and the one they gave me actually wouldn't touch staph anyway.

So, yay! Today I finally woke up feeling like myself (after being up half the night because the steroids really do keep you going - the boys were nice to let me sleep in to 9 this morning). I got back on the treadmill and ran three miles. I hadn't expected to do more than 1 or 1.5 since it's been about ten days since the last time I ran, but I kept up at a snail's pace. Took me 41min, but that's okay. I was running. I think it did me good, too, because the intense prickly feeling in my skin was much better afterwards - all that sweat maybe?

Figured I'd add a word about our dispensary, since I don't think I've ever talked about it. While I spent a lot of time freaking out that this would turn out to be something they'd have to send me to the States to treat due to their lack of facilities, I am very grateful for the ease of obtaining care here.

The dispensary is basically a long, rectangular building. You enter the middle of it and walk into a waiting room with a reception area attached. When you open the door at the rear of the room, you find yourself in a hallway that runs to either side of you. Exam rooms, a room for dental care, an X-ray room, the doctor's office, and a tiny room for pharmaceuticals lay on either side of the hallway. That's it. There is one doctor on staff, two nurses, and, for the Navy and Navy family members, a first class corpsman (who just made chief).

They have hours similar to basic working hours, M-F, and the doctor is on call at all other times. If you have a problem on the weekend, most people just go to the firehouse where there is a 24-hour dispatcher on duty who will page the doctor. Or, I've heard 911 works, although I don't have firsthand experience with that one.

For me, because I've had to go in there nearly every day this week, the best part is the lack of wait. The only thing I've ever had to make an appointment for was Wyatt's school physicals. Everything else is just a walk-in sort of thing. Typically, I can go in there and be back out, medicine in hand, withing 15min. One time I had to have a couple tests done, as well as an X-ray, and it took more like 20min. The times I had to bring the boys, I could leave them playing with toys in the waiting room while I saw who I needed to see because everything is so close. I totally could not do that in the States, nor would even a routine, scheduled appointment take any less than a half hour. What happened to me would have required a couple emergency room visits, which would have been a nightmare.

So, I'm really, exceptionally grateful that if this had to happen, it happened here. See, there are always upsides to every place!

Moving on to Emily, or what's left of here. She stalled out over the Dominican republic, and fell apart. It's been downgraded to not a Tropical storm, and is headed our way this weekend. It might regather at some point, but we'll not see much of that if it does.

So, much ado about nothing, not that I'm complaining. I really wasn't looking forward to dealing with an evacuation while I was so drugged up and everything seemed to be going haywire in my body. It would have been just me and the kids; Oliver is in a different priority for leaving. Kids go first, and the under 5 set first of them. So yeah, that would have been tough. I'm glad it's all worked out this way.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Next State...?

I was randomly surfing through some blogs and ran across a post where the woman described a meeting she'd had with someone new. Apparently, he was from New England, which she described as "the next state over from me" (she's from New York). I scratched my head when I read it. Does she not realize that New England refers to six states, and is a regional term?

Sigh. This reminds me of the person I met in college who didn't know where Boston was. Although, I think that was a little worse.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Head Full of Sand

This has been one of the longest weeks of my life. And just when I thought I was nearing the end, it got worse. You know those powerhouse antibiotics I've been taking? Well, I went back in to see the corpsman when I ran out. He thought it looked good, and sent me home with instructions to keep using ointment until it goes away completely. I though, hooray, and went home - whereupon the phone promptly rings. He's calling because he talked to the doctor, and he wants me on them for five more days.

So, I'm back on them. Until this morning, that is, when I went back to the dispensary because I was having an allergic reaction to them. Now I've got Benedryl in my system, plus a new antibiotic to try.

Sigh. Will this ever end? Worst case is I have to go to the States if it just won't clear up here. There's a limit to what they can treat here. I'm praying it'll clear up. What a pain that would be...

Anyway, as for Tropical Storm Emily, she's still a tropical storm, and while we've gone to condition 3, no one is talking evacuations of residents (although all the visitors had to leave). We'll see what happens, but we might not even have to take to our assigned shelter when it runs over us. I can live with that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Yikes!!

So, I went to the doctor today to get my last staph infection checkup, and while I was there tried to reschedule my son's physical for school. It was supposed to be yesterday, and I was feeling so poorly (hate these antibiotics!) that I completely spaced it. The nurse told me she didn't want to schedule for this week....because we might be evacuated. I stared at her in surprise, because I hadn't heard anything.

Turns out, Tropical storm Emily formed last night and is on a path to seep right through here. Unless it turns, we'll be out of here soon. Clearly, I must start packing...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Space 2

I've been meaning to write this for awhile, and frankly it's amazing I'm doing it now. I've gotten pretty bad about planning posts and never getting down to doing it.

This week has also been a weird one. Somehow I contracted a staph infection in my nose, so besides dealing with that, I'm on powerhouse antibiotics that make me feel sick to my stomach all the time. The doctor said he's seen several cases, so I guess it's not uncommon here. Wyatt actually had an infected toe a few months back that required two rounds of antibiotics. Ah, the dark side of life in the tropics!

Anyway, moving back to the real purpose for this post: I asked Wyatt if he wanted to get up really early and watch the space shuttle come back. He got all excited about it, so I set the alarm. When I went in to get him at 0515 (after making sure it was actually going to land, as there is always a chance they will have to change it), he got up right away when I reminded him why I was waking him up. I didn't touch Oscar because he would have been a bear to deal with the rest of the day, and I knew a replay would be enough for him.

It was really nice snuggling on the couch with my six year old while we watched them track the progress of Atlantis through the sky. I'm absolutely not a morning person, and neither are my kids, but sometimes it's worth it to get up for something.

I did feel a little bit badly when Oscar got up later. Their room is right off the living room, and though I kept the TV low, he is easily disturbed and got up just after the shuttle landed. He got all sad that he missed it, so I promised him we'd find it on the internet for him to watch. Luckily, that mollified him.


As it turned out, though, I didn't have to do that because the NASA channel replayed it over and over again that day. How do I know this? Because it's all we watched all day. The boys whipped out their spaceship Legos and played in the living room. The space shuttle Legos didn't come with a whole fuel tank and launch pad set up, so Wyatt built his own out of Duplos.

It's been, what, a week since the landing? They still ask to watch the NASA channel, and are still playing space all the time. I hope they will have the opportunity to be involved in the space program if they are still interested in it as they grow up. Or at the very least, they are able to do something they care about or are good at.

I've found one of the toughest things about parenting for me is this whole schooling issue. We've been spoiled here with a tiny classroom and teacher that is able to teach the kids at their level. Wyatt's gone way beyond what he would have done in a typical kindergarten classroom because of that. After another year of that, I know we're going to have to look to more unconventional solutions for their schooling.

For now, though, we're all learning a whole lot about space.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Space!

Our boys have been very into space lately. When we were in Orlando, we picked up a couple of the new LEGO space themed sets for them. So, now they have their own space shuttle, astronaut, and astronaut van. They've been getting a lot of play around here.

Interestingly enough, our first day in Orlando coincided with the launch of Atlantis. Unfortunately, we weren't paying attention and didn't realize that until after we were there. Because of our lack of planning, and the huge traffic jam to get over there, plus the cloud cover that nearly cancelled the flight (which would have made it much harder to watch much of the launch), we decided to just watch some coverage of it on TV before going on about our merry way.

The last few days, here at home, the boys have been obsessed with the NASA channel. I guess you can watch it on the net, too, but for some reason it's part of our cable package, along with all the overseas military channels (and I do mean all of them). Oliver's been rolling his eyes a bit at it because much of what you see is shots of mission control with no sound - not the most exciting thing to have on. We have, however, been able to see interviews with the astronauts both on the shuttle and in the space station, video from the launch from all angles, including one one attached to a rocket booster that followed it all the way to splash down, and shots of the astronauts floating around doing their jobs. The boys have been fascinated by it all, and astronaut is the vocation of choice this week. Today, we caught a special they made about the shuttle program, and it was really awesome, if a bit sad, to go over the last 30 years.

With all this space stuff, I figured it would be great if we could catch the landing on Thursday. So, I looked it up this afternoon. The time its scheduled to land? 0556 bright and early. Um, yeah, not sure about that...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Because You Just Never Know

I haven't really gotten on here in awhile. I think about blogging a lot, and I even write posts in my head, but I almost never get past that. I'm hitting a bit of a low, and guess it will just take some time to refocus and get over it.

We just got back from an amazing week in Orlando. Probably one of the best vacations we've ever taken. We rented a little condo with three bedrooms for less than $100 bucks a night about 15min from Disney (for orientation, although we didn't go there for Disney World). We saw three movies between us (one Oliver saw while I spent the time at the LEGO store with the boys), went mini-golfing at an awesome pirate-themed place, did Go-Karts, ate ourselves sick at an authentic Brazilian Rodizio, and even managed to fit in a few very needed errands (we took a leaky tire and had it replaced - never flown on a plane with a tire before; good thing it was small). And then there was the visit to Sea World and a few other things thrown in. We weren't bumped once on the flights, and everything went pretty smoothly.

Then we returned, and I realized how much I didn't want to go back. Oliver looked at me and asked if we were done with this duty station, because he had some of the same feelings.

Sigh. It's complicated. In some ways, absolutely. I'm tired of crappy, draconian internet and the utter lack of anything outside of beach combing to do. I've struggled to find friends in what is a rather insular community. Surprisingly, being Navy has marked us even more here than in the States, something I didn't expect. I miss fresh food, and I'm so, so done with having to plan meals around the 4 or 5 things in the produce department (okay, who a I kidding here - it's a produce bin) actually nice enough to consider buying. I miss being able to go to Church (something we also were able to do in Orlando, the first time in a year). I want a library to visit, and a store where we can pick up in five minutes what can take hours to locate online.

But, I also know the grass isn't always greener on the other side, which is why I'm not quite done. When we leave, we welcome back deployment. We lose the weekends and holidays, the birthdays and anniversaries together. I lose the parenting partnership we've developed in the last year and a half, and will have to once again take up most of the family responsibilities. We'll lose having a beach in walking distance from our house and Oliver's work, and will no longer be able to count on having it to ourselves when we go. We'll have to leave behind the coconut palms right outside our living room window, and the silent streets the boys can ride their bikes on without fear.

So, it's never so simple, is it? I'm a girl who tends to want to move when things get difficult, but after a lifetime of doing that, I am aware that you tend to just trade one problem for another, although the trick is discovering which problems you can live with and which are unbearable. (Since I've yet to decide on that one, I suspect it is why I can't think of one place I'd like to settle down in.) We've had some really good times here. I've grown a lot in ways I didn't expect. I'm not going to be sad to leave, but I'm not anxious to go because I also realize I just might be wrong about that in the end. You just never know about a place.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ten Year Plan

Oliver and I had a long talk yesterday. We went through where we are at financially, where we want to be, what we want our future to look like, and how it all might play out. We've now mapped out a plan that will take us from now until retirement in about ten years.

It's been hard to plan until now. We've been so on the fence about sticking it out in the Navy. Now that we've decided on that, however, the rest is finally possible to debate.

Despite my penchant to do things last minute and my inability to schedule my days effectively, I like having a plan, goals to work toward. It's hard to do things without that. Sometimes it just feels like you're drifting and getting nowhere. The last time we really had any financial goals was back when we were married and facing down 30k of student loan and car loan debt (mostly mine). Two years later, the car was ours, and after another year, the loans were knocked out. We started saving for retirement and living small to save more, but it was more with the idea that we didn't know what was ahead and just wanted to be prepared.

Now, though, we've looked at what he's likely to make in retirement, what we'll have saved by then, and what we have to do now to make that all look better. He's got some career goals, I've got some goals of my own to focus on. Ultimately, my hope is that when his time in the military is done, he can have the freedom to choose whatever job he feels like without feeling locked into another job he doesn't love just to have the money it makes.

So, we'll see what happens. Obviously, there are plenty of things that could go wrong. But it's not worth stressing over those things. We'll just approach our plans again if we have to and adjust.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Just So I Don't Forget About It

On Tuesday, I dropped Oliver off at work, then took the boys to the beach after they had eaten breakfast. I didn't take a camera, and maybe I should have. It was cloudy most of the time there (we've been getting a lot of rain lately, which is fabulous). The water was calmer than I've ever seen it, which meant almost no sand was being kicked up in the waves. There is often seaweed floating around, too, but I didn't see any that day. Just beautifully clear water.

We spent a lot of time tunneling through the sand, building sandcastles, and burying Wyatt per his request. Oliver showed up at lunch time to get a ride home (the building he works in is literally steps from the beach we typically swim at), but we weren't ready yet. So, he took off to find us all some lunch while the kids and I took to the water.

Wow, so much fun! We saw fish, both tiny ones and larger ones as big as my hand. They were white with darker stripes on them that looked kind of like seaweed. Against the white sand, they were almost invisible. We sat still for a long time letting them dart around us.

After splashing around for awhile after the fish watching, Wyatt caught sight of a huge orange starfish sitting quietly a few feet from shore. I was carrying Oscar, as he is both short and uneasy in the water, and he started freaking out when I got closer. Apparently, he saw the starfish as something dangerous. Considering all the things in the ocean that truly are dangerous, I was okay with this even as I assured him we were perfectly safe.

Oliver finally got back with some food. He had to go to the store, then home to assemble a picnic lunch as the one eatery on base was unaccountably closed. (They do that when they can't staff it, is my understanding. That seems to be happening just about every time we want to get something from there lately.) We finished up our perfect morning making sandwiches and trying to keep the boys from getting sand all over the food. Luckily, the wind was much quieter than it normally is.

Then, it was back home to clean up and listen to the huge thunderstorm that rolled in a few hours later. Curiously, it seems to rain here at about 1400 every day lately. Oliver told me one of the chiefs in his office had made a joke about it, so we started paying attention to it. He was totally right, and we now look at each other and laugh when the clouds blot out the sun once more around 1330.

The one bad thing? The internet went out during a huge clap of thunder. Who knows why, but it was another day before it was fixed. I'm crossing my fingers it will stay fixed for a good long while now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Internet, Welcome Back!

We got the internet back today, and I am so happy. Last Wednesday, someone somehow cut power to the wifi tower on our street. It took us a couple days to finally figure out who the right person was to call, and by the time it was actually looked into, it was Friday afternoon. Nothing happens here over the weekend. Nothing.

So, we had to wait out the weekend, then see how long it would be until it was repaired this week. Happily, it only took until this afternoon. Ironically, I was walking back from dragging both kids and our laptop to the playground so I could take care of some pressing business when I spied them finishing up the repair. Ah, well, it did get 'em out of the house (sometimes a huge feat - between the massive biting flies, the heat, and bright sun, they won't go out unless they have friends, we are entertaining them out there, there's running water involved, or we give them no option - or bribery; that sometimes works).

The net is my contact with the outside world. A few days of no internet has all of us pacing around this place. Luckily, I got a new book in the mail a few days before the net went out, so I had something to do when I'd otherwise be online. I am very sure, though, that we'll be ditching the cable when we move back to the States. There really is nothing on. I'm so glad I don't pay for it here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

House Buying

Every time I turn around, there's another article online about house prices being depressed. I knew it would happen; I mean, at what point do houses get so unaffordable that everyone stops buying them? I had no idea the banks would end up being such a huge part of that problem, but the high prices made us not even consider buying when we lived in WA for fear of what would happen there. Plus, we are military. The last thing we have wanted is to complicate our lives with a house that could be a huge pain to sell last minute.

I have to admit, though, my resolve has wavered a bit looking at home prices today. Especially since we will be at our next duty station for five years. I brought the topic up with Oliver the other day, thinking he might be warmer to it because it was more me than him that said "No way" to buying before. He surprised me, though, by kicking the idea to the curb immediately.

I was a little disappointed at first, but I'm thinking now that he's on the right track. We will be better off if we rent a house that's less than our BAH. I'm determined to find a place we can paint, but otherwise, I don't mind living in someone else's house. Ultimately, I value mobility over staying put. And why on earth would I want to do anything more than call the landlord when something breaks while Oliver is out to sea? That is not a stress I want in my life.

So, no houses for us until retirement. And even then, we might pass if we can find something more interesting. Like a job overseas. One can always dream...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

He Loves Me, This I Know

I love getting flowers, and all those traditional expressions of love. There are no florists here, so it's been a long time. Yesterday, though, Oliver gave me something better. We were walking home from Wyatt's graduation, and I took one bite of the chocolate cupcake I'd picked up on the way out. It tasted strongly of mocha, which I detest, so I tossed it in a nearby garbage can and bemoaned my decision of what flavor to pick. Oliver told me I should go back and get another one (we are literally a five minute walk from where it was being held, and we'd only gone halfway home). I told him I'd thought about it, but I was too lazy to go back. On hearing that, he turned around without saying another word and walked back to get me a cupcake. I watched his departing back and realized once again how much I love that man.

One of the first things that attracted me to Oliver (other than his dashing good looks!) when I met him was his willingness to jump in and do things when someone needed help. He doesn't hem and haw over it, ignore it, or try to get out of it. When someone asks, he just does it. Even if that desire is as small as a cupcake for his wife.

I love that man.