Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Cure to Backseat-itis

There's something about putting my kids next to each other in that backseat that turns them into maniacs.

When we're in the Suburban, with all three rows so the kids can sit 2 to one row, and 1 alone in another, all is right with the world.

But woah.  You put all three kids together on the same row, and a chasm of sibling rivalry opens and engulfs all three of them in, "She's touching me!  He started it!  Don't lean on me!  I did that so much better than you!  I can't move!  Blah blah blah, made up complaints, blah blah blah!"

I figure my kids are lucky and unlucky.  They're lucky in that they have two loving parents who love each other, we live in paradise, have resources to live and give comfortably, and we can school from home.  They're unlucky, at least maybe in their pre-teen minds, in that we discipline and don't take too much backtalk and lip from them when they get testy and hyper.


If you've got enough energy to cause royal havoc in my backseat, both verbal and physical, you can put that overabundance to good use and get your core and chest in shape.

So if you see a black Suburban on a side street, pulled to a stop, surrounded by three redheads pounding out push-ups on the uncomfortable asphalt, it's just us.

Working out our problems.

One push-up at a time.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Pink Flop Birthday

When Phoebe turned six, I decided it was time she was introduced to the magic and wonder that is Barbie.

But first, here's a bit of backstory:

Phoebe is the baby of the family, behind the oldest big sister who is the ultimate, hyper tomboy, and then a middle child brother who is also a tomboy.  Meaning he likes all things boy.

Phoebe was raised with cars, not dolls.  Going topless, not fairy dresses.  Burping and farting, not twirling and giggling.


She really does like dolls, fairy dresses, twirling and giggling.  Or so I thought.

So in my infinite mom-wisdom, I advised all of the grandmas and aunts, great-grandmas and friends, to bombard Phoebe with the pinkest, most Barbie birthday imaginable.

Paige and Josh were under strict orders not to tease, harass, or make-fun of Phoebe and her Barbies on pain of loss of iPad for a month.

Upon opening her over-abundance of Walmart pink-aisle gifts, Phoebe was a good sport and pretended to be happy.  She delighted in assembling the Barbie car, boat, and cottage.  She dressed Barbie and the little girl Barbie chick.

It was just how I imagined it.  A little six year old, awash in the glow of pink Barbie fantasy awesomeness.

It was great.  Greatness that lasted all of 6.4 minutes.

Then Phoebe and Josh started undressing Ken and Barbie, throwing them around by their hair, and stuffing them in the Barbie convertible in all kinds of uncomfortable positions.

Lesson learned.

Can you see it?  In this last photo?  The pleading look on Phoebe's face?

"Mom, please.  No more pink.  No more Barbie.  Please get me a gun, a holster, a stuffed vulture, and a dress up costume of something only mildly cute, like a jaguar.  But NO MORE BARBIES!"

I've learned my lesson.  So this year, at least for Christmas, she personally picked out every toy and plaything she wanted online, with nary a suggestion from me.  Except that it be "Prime".

Let the stuffed animals and boy toys arrive!

Barbie and Ken?  Get back in the bathtub nekkid where Phoebe left you.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Opposite Vacation

 As with just about everything else with us, we do things a bit differently than everyone else.

Where do most people go during the week?  Shopping, to places like Walmart, Target, IKEA, and the toy store.

Where do you we during the week?  A tropical island beach.

Where do most people go on vacation?  To a tropical island beach.

Where do we go on vacation?  Shopping, to places like Walmart, Target, IKEA, and the toy store.

See?  Different.

On our island, we don't have name brand stores.  Not one.  No Walmart.  No Target.  No Dollar Tree.  No McDonald's, KFC, Sonic, Walgreens, CVS, Kroger, Publix, or anything.

We do have a "7 to 11", that is, ironically, open from 6am to 10pm.

So when we have an excuse to go back to the States, usually Fort Lauderdale, we take advantage of all of the inexpensive 'Merica prices and hit the big-name stores.

This trip, during July of 2014, was in honor of Phoebe's birthday.  First stop, Toy-r-Us!

Phoebe wandered the aisles in a haze of indifferent indecision and left with just about nothing.  Yes.  My children say they love toys, but they don't.  They just don't.

Toys-r-Us was a bust.  But you know what is never a bust?  Walmart.  Wally-World always brings a smile.

Ah, I remember well, the days in Del Rio when I scoffed at buying produce at Walmart.  The ONLY place to buy decent produce was at HEB.  Walmart was better of course than the commissary, but still.  Yuck.

Ha!  When comparing the barely edible produce we can buy here on Eleuthera with the produce of Walmart, I am forced to eat my words; literally.  When we go back to the states, we hit the Walmart for everything, including the huge, colorful, well-stocked, high variety produce section.

Oh, the berries.  The fresh apples that aren't squishy.  The oranges that aren't wrinkled and pitted.  The lettuce that won't turn brown and mushy in 1.2 days after purchase.

Walmart produce section, I'd like to offer you my sincere apologies.  I was mistaken, spoiled, and ignorant of the condition of "produce" sections of other, poorer parts of the world.

We buy a million clam shells full of every berry ever discovered, and then gorge ourselves to the point of disgust.  That way we won't want to even see a berry for the next 2-3 months before we go back to Fort Lauderdale.

After Walmart, we always stop by IKEA a few times for fun.  What could be fun about a furniture and home accessories store when you're not buying furniture or home accessories? 

The meatballs.

And the kitchen gadgets.  And the daydreaming that can be done by a stay-at-home-mom who doesn't live in her own house and dreams in IKEA. 

Another fun find in IKEA, on this particular trip, was this artistic figurine chorus line and greeting party.  That's always a fun surprise.

But mostly it's for the meatballs that we love IKEA.  And the kitchen gadgets.

There's one more feature to any good vacation, and that's the hotel swimming pool.  Nothing is better than this when the kids are full of pent-up energy after following you around stores, up and down aisle, repeatedly hearing, "No.  We're not buying that for you." 

All you need is water, a swimsuit for the kids, a bottle of wine or two for the tired out parents, and you've got yourself a grade A vacation. 

Repeat every 2-3 months as necessary. 

And that's how we do an opposite vacation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Jerry in Africa

What's Jerry up to at work, you may wonder?  Where does he fly?  What does he fly?  Does he like it?  Is he happy?

Here are the answers to those questions and more in this one-on-none interview with Jerry.  (Today, the part of Jerry will be played by me, Paula.)

Interviewer:  So, Jerry.  Tell us about your work.  What do you fly?

Jerry:  I fly the Boeing 787 for United Airlines.

Interviewer:  What is the plane like?

Jerry:   With the nickname, Dreamliner, you can get a sense of the dreaminess of this plane.  We pilots even have our own sleeping quarters so we can sleep half of the trip and get paid very well while we nap.  It's a great job.

Interviewer:  I see.  That sounds like a good gig.  How many pilots are on the plane?  Who's flying while you're sleeping?

Jerry:  There are four pilots; 2 captains and 2 copilots.  We take turns flying while the other sleeps.  We are awake and alert while in the cockpit, though everything, including landing, is automated so basically I sit there and make sure nothing goes wrong.  But if it does, we are highly trained to avoid disaster. 

Interviewer:  Where do you fly regularly?

Jerry:  The 787 does long haul trips, such as transcontinental and overseas.  Because I have to commute in for each of my trips, I typically try to fly the Lagos, Nigeria trip because I can commute in on the same day I leave for the trip, and get home the same day I get back from the trip.  And it pays the most for the least amount of time gone from home.  I fly three trips per month, each trip is three nights away from home.  I work the minimum I can to maximize time at home.  I have a boat that needs a captain and fish that need killing.

Interviewer:  I bet flying to Nigeria is a long flight.  Why would United fly to Nigeria?  What's there?

Jerry:  It's a 12 hour flight.  I sleep for half of it so it's OK.  Lagos has a population of 20 million people and a recent influx of oil discoveries in Nigeria has increased US interest in the area.  Oil, you know, black gold.

Interviewer:  Do you feel safe flying there?  What about ebola?  Terrorists?  Mosquitoes?

Jerry:  We are safe and are well covered in the security department.  We drive from the airport to a hotel where the aircrew hang out together, sleep, workout, eat in the restaurant, or watch fifteen thousand hours of Netflix.  I have become a Netflix addict. 

Interviewer:  Do you ever venture out into the surrounding neighborhoods?

Jerry:  Nope.  It's loud with cars honking and people shouting.  There's really nowhere to go. 

Interviewer:  But what about ebola?  And mosquitoes?

Jerry:  Because we don't venture out into the city, our exposure to those particular African evils are limited.  I avoid direct contact with anyone in the airport or hotel.  Or so I tell my wife, who is awesome by the way, but prone to health anxiety and an overactive imagination, and a fascination with all things medical.

Interviewer:  Tell me more about your wife.  She sounds interesting. 

Jerry:  She's the best woman in the world.  She can manage the house and kids without me and I know things will be OK when I'm gone.  She's a fabulous cook and keeps a meticulously clean house.  She's never short-tempered or loses her patience. 

Interviewer:  Wow.  That's glowing praise.  It's almost as if she were speaking for you.

Jerry:  What?  No way.  Couldn't be.  But......maybe.......

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sailing Camp

One week in July is the yearly sailing camp, held by the Eleuthera Swim and Sail Club.  The camp, and weekly sailing club, meet on the beach of Cupid's Cay, Govornor's Harbour, Eleuthera.

For a week, the kids get to learn about sailing, swim, paddle board, enjoy friendly competitions and races, and make new friends. There are Opti's for the younger sailors, and Sunfish for the older sailors.  The family who runs camp and club, volunteer their time and experience to make this a very fun week for the participants. 

Each day includes stretching, partner exercises, sailing instruction, swimming, and mounds of teen and preteen jibber-jabber. 

Josh and his soon to be best friend John got to sail first in one of the Opti's, carefully instructed by a volunteer sailor.  Watch out for the boom, John!

While the kids waited their turn with a sailboat, they could swim, take out one of the paddleboards, and hang out with friends.  Any time anyone was in the water, they had to wear a life jacket, no matter their swimming skill.  

Phoebe, wanna go out on the boat?

Phoebe was put in a boat all by herself, despite her having just turned 6.  She was assigned a one-on-one volunteer to teach her and stay near her as she learned her way around the Opti. 

No.  I wasn't a nervous dang wreck while sitting on the beach taking photos of Phoebe as my baby, with a mere five minute sailing lesson, sped off with the wind. 

Nah.  Not nervous at all.  I didn't want to yell and shout and scream and jump into the water fully clothed and swim out to save my baby from accidentally sailing away to Cuba. 

She was good.  The wind was mild, the instructors nearby, and a rescue boat was patrolling the bay.  They'd get her. 

I hoped.


Phoebe?  Where are you going?

Um, Phoebe.  This isn't funny. 


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Ugly Side of Eleuthera

This is a post about garbage.  Yep.  Stinky, fly-infested, stray dog eating, poor-people rifling, mounds of refuse. 

If garbage does not interest you, leave now.

But in case you're curious about how most of the world deals with it's garbage, you know, from a dorky anthropomorphic point of view, please carry on.....

For much of the island there is no trash service.  Live on the highway and have a lot of trash?  Sure.  You can hire a trash service.  Live on a side street and only generate a few bags a week?  Nope.

So then what?  You've got to take your garbage to the dump yourself.

Raise your hand if you know where your closest dump is.  OK.  Quite a few.  Now, keep your hand up if you can bring all of your garbage to the same place, unsorted, no matter what:  Batteries, car oil, glass, plastic, cars, furniture, boxes, fish guts, etc.

I find only my hand up.  (And my Eleuthera friends.)

This, above, is the entrance to our dump.  It's only a mile up the street, surrounded by farmland, and at the end of this road is the cool, blue, gorgeous waters of the Bahamian Sea.

Our trash has one heck of a view.

But what do we do?  How do we drop off our trash?  Does someone meet us at the gate and tell us where to drop off our refuse?

Can we sort our own recycling or is there someone there to sort it for us? 

Here is a step-by-step instruction manual for bringing your trash to an Eleutheran dump:

Step 1:  Load your garbage in your vehicle, preferably a pickup or something that doesn't get filled with flies.  Oh, man.  The flies.

Step 2:  Drive to the dump.  Keep driving until you find a pile of crap you think looks the best and come to a stop.

Step 3:  Remove your trash as quickly as possible before your children in the car are eaten alive by flies.  Oh, man.  The flies. 

Step 4:  Chuck your garbage into the pile.  Preferably far into the pile so anything nasty or personal is lost amongst the masses. 

Step 5:  Watch with a weird sense of satisfaction as your junk returns to it's home, The Land of Garbage.

Step 6:  Continue with steps 3-5, as quickly as possible because of the flies.  Oh, man.  The flies.

Step 7:  Get back in your car with all 1,876 flies that entered your vehicle.  Turn around and drive to the highway.  Quickly.  Watch out for strays and poor people rifling through the garbage.  Yes.  We regularly see both.

Step 8:  Get on the highway.  Open all of your windows and flap and swish all of the flies back out.

Step 9:  Go home, or to the store, or wherever, to make more trash.

Like I mentioned before, everything, EVERYTHING is brought to the dump.  There is no recycling.  There is no NOTHING.

Wanna know what they do when the dump gets full?  Are you sure?  Are you really, really sure?  (All my environmentally focused friends may want to close your eyes for this next part.)

They burn it.

Once a week or so, a bulldozer comes in and pushes all of the trash into manageable piles, then the entire thing is set on fire.  Pallets and plastics, cars and cans, diapers and dog poop.  It all burns.  And the resulting flame is so hot that even the metal melts and the glass shatters into nothingness.

Yes.  I know.  That is a LOT of soot and debris and coarse particulates added to the atmosphere.  Al Gore is cringing somewhere with his Nobel Prize.

But you know what?  The above photo, that I borrowed from Google images, is a slightly over-exaggerated view of some of our beaches here on the island.

Trash washes up in TONS onto all beaches.  Small, large, plastic, glass, shoes, lighters, caps, and an inordinate number of glowsticks wash up onto our shores.  The nicer beaches, and those more frequented are cleaner as tourists and expats do a cursory beach clean-up every now and then.  But walk around the corner, just past where the beachcombers go, and the above photo is pretty accurate.

Miles of beautiful pink sand, crashing waves, sea kelp, and hundreds of tons of garbage.

Do we take it all to the dump where it is burned, thus polluting our precious air?

Or leave it on the beach where it is picked up in the ebb and flow of tides to choke, strangle, and kill millions of air and sea life all over the world?

Man.  That's a tough one.


Alright.  That's enough of the heavy.  I will end with this:  If you have a recycling program, please use it.  We find 10 to 1 plastic bottles and caps.  Also, if you take a cruise, please keep a close eye on your shoes.  For real.  We find dozens of shoes on our favorite beaches each day.  Weird.

Reuse, if you can.  We keep all cardboard, most plastic bottles, ALL plastic bags, and many aluminum cans, and re-purpose them though eventually they too end up at the dump and the inferno.

Use refillable water bottles, rechargeable batteries, hand-me-downs, etc.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Then come for a visit and we'll take you on a dump tour.  It's something.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fish and Fish's Fish

This is what we do.  We fish.  Not with a pole but usually with a spear and a Hawaiian sling.  What do we shoot?  Things that we eat. 

Except this big 'ol barracuda.  We don't eat barracuda because of the insanely high levels of mercury typically found in these hunting masters.

But sometimes Jerry will shoot one anyway.  Especially when a five foot long cuda keeps swimming around the children.  Then it has to go.

You can imagine that it's a bit risky to shoot one of these things.  They are impossibly fast, and have nasty attitudes.  If you don't make a good shot, that thing is coming back for you.  So Jerry had help from two local dudes we often go fishing with (with whom we fish).  Three giant guys, one giant angry fish.  It took three spears and a LOT of girly screaming (from the men as the cuda tried to eat them in revenge) to get that thing in the boat.

But only after it escaped a few times and had to be shot again, and again, was it manhandled into the boat where the kids and I tried desperately to stay away from those teeth as it thrashed in the throws of death.  

When we got to town, we gave it to some local friends.  They ate well that night.

Not all fish that we, and by "we" I mean mostly Jerry, are so toothy and vicious.  This giant African Pompano swims in sharky waters a few miles away by boat.  They swim in schools and range in size, this one being a bigger specimen.

Jerry shot this one first, then had a backup spear from another fishing friend.  That's typical with spearfishing; whoever shoots the fish first, and they take turns, gets to keep the fish.  Any subsequent shots taken by others are to help with the final take down.  It's OK.  Hunting is fun even if someone else shot it first.

We got about 11 pounds of meat from this fish.  Yum.

The kids are learning to spearfish, too.  Paige shot this strawberry grouper with a pole spear.  These smaller grouper are very spearfisher friendly as they are stupid and let you take repeated shots before finally going off to hide. 

What's most impressive about this fish is that Paige was in probably 15-20' of water when she shot it.  And with a pole spear, you have to be a few feet away from the fish, not yards off like with a sling.  She's a pretty good darn swimmer.

Confused by all of this spear talk?  I'll post about that more later.  I'm sure you're very excited. 

This is just one of Josh's kills.  He's pretty good at shooting flounder, crabs, lobster, and other smaller fish like strawberry grouper.  But this is a tiny bar jack he shot with a sling while practicing his aim.  (A sling is like an underwater bow and arrow crossed with a slingshot.)

Hitting a big fish is one thing, taking insane strength to shoot the spear fast enough to penetrate the scales from farther away, especially at a moving target.  But Josh shot this tiny fish from a few yards away.  AND HIT IT.  I can't even catch one with a net.

No wonder he was boy junior archery champ for the entire camp two years ago.  You would be too if you could hit the bulls eye over and over and over.

But yet somehow miss the toilet.

I digress......

My spearfishing prowess is still developing.  I am pretty good at shooting things that don't move, like crabs, lobster, flounder, and lionfish.  My best shot was pretty cool though.  I shot a lionfish from behind as it tried to hide in a cave while it was watching Jerry and the kids swim by in the opposite direction.  It did not see me.  But I saw it and shot him from behind.  It was awesome.

This isn't a lionfish in the picture of course.  This is a mackerel that was caught on a fishing pole while trolling for fish near Cape Eleuthera.  I get credited the catch as I reeled it in.  Big whoop.  But it did taste very yummy!  (We don't eat these often, again for the high mercury content.)

Over all, we enjoy our time spent with faces in the water and spears in our hands.  We aren't always successful, but that's OK.  Try, try, try again.

This last photo is cool.  While getting ready to fillet a grouper, the kids discovered a squirrelfish halfway down the throat of a grouper.  Jerry shot the grouper while the poor thing was trying to have his breakfast, minding his own business.

All of the ocean better beware, The Man with Spear!!