Surgery Update

June 30, 2009

Happy to report that Noah's eye surgery went well this morning. The biggest challenge right now is trying to prevent him from rubbing his eyes. He keeps saying it feel like he's got an "eyebrow" stuck in his eye. I can only imagine how irritating stitches in eyes must feel. He seems to be most comfortable with a wet wash clothe over his eyes, lying in bed in the dark, listening to audio books (hooray for Encyclopedia Brown and The Boxcar Children).

Sand Masks

June 29, 2009

Another beach project from last week: sand masks. All that's needed is sand, one bucket for ocean water,plaster of paris, another bucket and shovel for mixing the plaster, and treasures collected along the beach. More complete directions found here. Not all of the masks worked out (some fell apart because of too little plaster, others were washed away by waves, etc) but overall a fun and unique beach souvenir.

Red Fish, Blue Fish: Fish Printing

June 28, 2009

My sister and I (with help from Noah and Clementine) made fish print shirts for the thirteen kids (ages 12-1) at the beach last week. Brought back memories of our tie-dyed beach shirts a few years ago. I had initially envisioned letting each of the kids do their own shirts but things were just a wee bit too crazy for that. It would work well with a smaller group of older kids or more one-on-one adult supervision. Inspired by the Japanese art form of gyotaku , previous fish printing experiences in Seattle, and Martha Stewart, we set up our work area outside. We used real fish (we bought one red fish with beautiful scales and two were free from the fish market...some type of bait fish). We used screen printing paint from Hobby Lobby, paintbrushes, plain white t-shirts, and lots of newspaper.

Basic steps: paint the fish (rollers may work better but brush seemed to work well), gently press the shirt down on top of the fish, carefully hang it up to dry and follow directions for your type of paint (we heat set the paint later with a hot iron).

In the future I would plan on ordering these fish molds, but while at the beach the real fish worked pretty well. And after all of the printing was done, Adam and the boys spent quite a while dissecting the fish and exploring their insides.

Moving: Week 4

Spent our third week of "moving" lounging on the beach. Highly recommend that for all future moves. But we are now back and faced with another week of moving preparations. This week's list will be shaped by Noah's surgery and his recovery. Luckily my mom is with us and that will be a big help in so many ways. Strangely this happened with our last move. My mom flew to Japan when poor Camille had emergency neurosurgery right before our move. Hopefully this will be the last time we have any other surgeries combined with pack-outs. Not a recommended combo.

This week's list:

-Noah and his recovery (top priority and may be the only thing that gets done this week)
-Attend Adam's hail and farewell/graduation party for his residents
-Buy and use large plastic boxes for storing winter clothes. Sounds like storage will be a big issue for us in Sicily so hoping some organization on this end will help.
-Continue to whittle down toys/books/clothes for donations
-Get that rug cleaned (still haven't done that!)
-Change magazine subscriptions to our new address
-Get the kids' dental records from their civilian dentist
-Find a buyer for Adam's car who is willing to let us keep it until our departure day (dreaming but hoping something like that would work out)
-Continue working on getting our house ready for renters (exterior painting nearly completed, need to do interior touch-up, replace some blinds, yard work, etc).

Navarre Beach 2009

June 27, 2009

Another memorable week. Beach. Family. Sand. Sun. Lots of noise and laughter. Not enough sleep or air conditioning. More pics and related posts to come soon.

Just Call Me Alexander

June 19, 2009

As in it's been a horrible, no good, very bad day. A frustrating, four store search for one of the sunscreens listed here. A flat tire during lunch hour on a very busy road in 100 degree weather with Camille begging to go home for a nap. Cursing myself while waiting for roadside assistance because I should be able to change a tire by myself. Then after he arrived, relieved I didn't attempt to change it because the spare was flat. Drive to the tire shop where I am told I need to buy two new tires. Two new tires on a car we will be selling in a couple of weeks. Eat stale popcorn while waiting for the tires to be installed. Happily climb into car thinking all is well again. Head to the health food store down the street to re-stock our Xylitol supply and discover at the check-out counter that I left my credit card at the tire store. Return to tire store and retrieve card. Camille promptly falls asleep. Pick up Noah from his playdate. A playdate that was originally planned for just a couple of hours but thanks to that flat tire morphed into a full day. Get back into the car. Vaguely listen to Noah beg for Starwars toys and Bakugan (sp? what is that anyway?) while desperately dreaming about a strawberry daiquiri. I am not a big drinker and definitely not a fan of drinking and driving, but it's days like today that make me miss home and wish more places were like Louisiana. If I had been able to stop by a drive-through-daiquiri place on my way home and pick up some sweet, icy relief (to be consumed at home, of course), this would have been a much better day. Luckily, some time with friends and a hot pizza helped. Now headed to finish packing for our beach trip....tomorrow in Navarre sounds just as good to me as Australia must have seemed to Alexander.

Travel Photo Friday: Wild Florida Ride

Sadly, during our recent trip to the Space Coast we didn't get to see a launch, but we did get to see this unique mode of transportation. It was parked next to our car at a local Cocoa Beach diner. Planning to make it to the re-scheduled launch on July 11th...keeping our fingers crossed that all goes smoothly, if not we'll look forward to exploring more of the Space Coast. It's a crazy mix of natural beauty, touristy kitsch, and space mania.

More Friday Travel Photos here.

The Perfect Summer Recipe

June 18, 2009

Flower and Stone Soup: fresh, local, free, and made by someone else. Noah, Camille, and Jake spent most of Monday afternoon making all sorts of backyard concoctions.

Real Van

June 17, 2009

Another reality post. Our beach bag may be pretty organized, but most of our daily life is not...especially our van. A shot of what the van normally looks like and a shot of what it looked like last week after it was detailed and being prepared to ship to Sicily. I joked a few months ago with a friend about organizing a "real" tour of homes. This came up during a visit to her house when I felt so comforted to see dirty clothes on the floor, orange peels left behind by little hands, and other evidence of every day living. Our real life is usually pretty messy, but every now and then it is good to have a reason to give it a serious cleaning. Moving around the world seems like a good reason, but I am sure it won't take long to feel "real" again.

Beach Bag

June 16, 2009

We are pretty darn lucky. Thanks to our crazy Navy lifestyle we get to live near water. Lots of different bodies of water: The Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound, The Pacific Ocean, The East China Sea, The Atlantic Ocean, and soon The Mediterranean. That means we have had lots of time to improve upon our beach bag. It stays in our car all year round because you just never know when the ocean will beckon. The bag itself took awhile to find. We tried several different things in those early years of beach trips...backpacks, straw bags, large LL Bean tote bag until finally discovering the perfect bag: The Whale Bag. It's made of mesh so it doesn't mildew and it doesn't collect a pound of sand per trip. It has a nice large middle section for towels and is surrounded by a ton of pockets on the outside of the bag so you can have easy access to snacks, shovels, and sunscreen without dumping out the whole bag. I love this bag.

So here's a list of things we keep inside the bag:

Change of clothes
Sunscreen (currently reading this website to determine what will work best for us this summer...yikes, so many things to consider)
2-3 buckets
Small plastic boxes for special finds...those extra special shells, sharks teeth, and elusive sand dollars
This book
A trashy beach read for the mama
Sun hats
Small first aid kit
Baby Powder (pour on sandy feet and wipe favorite beach trick for removing sand before piling back into the car)

What's in your beach bag? Any favorite beach tips?

Spaced Out

June 15, 2009

So our big trip to see the shuttle launch didn't go quite as planned. The launch was cancelled. Wish we had known that before getting everyone out of bed at 3:45am. Luckily a security guard caught us in the parking lot before we made the drive over to the Kennedy Space Center. We were all pretty sad, especially Noah. So instead of heading back to bed we headed to the beach where we chased ghost crabs, spotted Venus and Mars, and basked in the moonlight. Although we didn't get to see the launch, we still had a good time. We rented a condo at Cape Canaveral Beach which meant we could see the Shuttle on the launch pad while floating in the ocean. Probably the only time we'll ever have that experience! Waiting to hear the re-scheduled date for the launch and seriously considering a return trip to try it all over again.

Moving: Week 2

June 14, 2009

Movers come tomorrow for our express shipment. 1000 pound limit for bare essentials that will be in Sicily when we arrive (a few dishes, towels, sheets, toys, clothes, etc). Not nearly as stressful as the big pack-outs that will happen in July, but still takes some preparation and planning. Last week we started placing items for tomorrow's shipment in our dining room and it has grown to a towering pile. Camille began to panic a bit today when she saw some of her favorite books and toys amidst the pile. She was only six months old when we did this before so it has been a bit unnerving for her. Very sweet to watch Noah reassure her that all of our things will be waiting for us in our new house. Moving is hard for all ages, but three seems to be especially tricky since it is such an abstract and foreign concept.

Things checked off of last week's list:

-Our Italian Visas have arrived
-We have a painter schedule to start later this week
-Our van is on it's way to Sicily

Things on this week's list:

-Get rugs cleaned
-Find a Chimney Sweep (can't help but think about Mary Poppins)
-Start packing for our upcoming beach week with my mom's family
-Start separating all of our remaining household items into one group for storage and one group for final shipment to Sicily
-Figure out some Father's Day gifts...oops how did this sneak up on me?
-Attend good-bye party hosted by friends from the preschool
-Check out children's books about moving...any good suggestions?

Travel Photo Friday: Seaweed Farm

June 12, 2009

Okinawa, Japan 2004: Our downstairs neighbor knocked on the door and asked if we wanted to see his farm. We knew he was a fisherman, but hadn't realized he was also a farmer. We climbed in our car and followed him through small winding roads until we arrived at a beach. Puzzled, but very curious we continued to follow him out into the water (at low tide) until he proudly stopped in front of his farm. He explained that he grew a special type of Okinawan seaweed.Vibrant green, healthy, and very tasty in a salad. I had forgotten about that afternoon until recently reading this great post on The Magnifying Glass all about seaweed.

You can check out more Friday Travel photos here.

Looks like the weather is clear and the sh
uttle launch is still planned for tomorrow. We were lucky to get special passes for the launch but we need to arrive between 2-5am tomorrow morning for the 7 am launch...yikes! Anyone have advice on watching a launch with kids? This was all very last minute for us (why not add a few more things to our already very full plates, right?!), but it's our only chance to see a launch before moving not to mention there are only a few more before the Shuttles are retired in 2010. If all goes well, I will hopefully have Shuttle photos and stories to share for next week's Friday Travel post...stay tuned!

Preparing to Launch

June 11, 2009

This is one of our favorite spots: the county dock just a couple of blocks from our house. A good spot for sunsets, enjoying the river, and spotting wildlife (we saw our first manatee here one night). I will miss it. Starting to become very aware of what we are getting ready to leave behind and what is ahead. Entering that liminal stage of betwixt and between two places. Tomorrow we will drop our van off. They will load it on a ship and it will hopefully be waiting for us when we arrive in Sicily. We will then head over to the Space Coast in hopes of watching this weekend's Space Shuttle launch.

Walk With Nature

June 9, 2009

Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.-- John Muir

Our recent Cardinal experience has now come full circle. Sadly, last week we discovered one of our young Cardinals dead in our back yard. The kids found him and came running to get me. We hadn’t seen the babies since they leaped out of the nest, but we had been hearing them and seeing the parents at the feeder so we knew they were still in our yard. It was a sad discovery for all of us and it wasn’t as “stingless” or initially as "beautiful" as John Muir proclaims, but it was an important moment for each of us. It reminded me of my own discoveries as a child growing up in the country. The sadness, the fragility, but the reality of life eventually coming to an end. It prompted many questions. Why? How? Can we help him? And it also became strangely beautiful. We were able to examine our little Cardinal. We noticed his new tail feathers with hints of red and his underside still full of baby feathers. We talked about how much he had changed in the week since leaving his nest. And while doing this we heard chirping in the branches overhead. It was one of his siblings…fluffy new feathers, perky crest on her head, and chirping with life. Muir is right about the inseparable unity of life and death. In the course of just a few weeks, we have seen it in our yard and in our hearts. And I am glad. I am not glad that my kids are sad, but glad that they are learning these lessons in a natural context. They have seen life from the beginning to the end. And it is very different from the concept of life and death as seen in cartoons and Pokemon cards. It is indeed very good “to let children walk with Nature”. Not always easy, but good.

***The photo is of an abandoned nest we discovered earlier this year (note: plastic dress-up shoes are not recommended for serious nature walks, but seem to work fine in the back yard). You can take a peek at our Cardinal family's nest here along with photos of them at different stages.

A Whole New World

June 8, 2009

We really should be studying Italian, but these days we are immersed in another foreign language/culture: Pokemon. Noah's cousin recently passed down his huge collection of cards. Since that time Noah has been studying the cards with such ferocious focus. Using all of his brain cells to read and calculate the meaning and value of each card. He is trying to make sense of it. While I am trying to adjust to this new phase of boyhood and still undecided about the whole thing. Glad to see him so excited. Glad to see him reading (much more excited about reading Pokemon cards than any of those boring early readers...I can't really blame him, they are boring). Nice to see him striking up conversations with other kids who brought their cards on the airplane. But not so easy to soothe him today when he became very upset about a battle with a friend. Not so easy to help him understand the "game" when I struggle to even comprehend half of what he has already so easily absorbed.

Any tips for navigating this strange new world?

Moving: Week 1

June 7, 2009

Since this blog is a reflection of our current lives, I am afraid most of the coming posts will be about moving. Not the most thoughtful or exciting of topics, but it's a big part of our lives every three years so I am going to document it. Actually, part of the reason I am going to document it is because I am not as organized as I would like be. While talking to a friend the other night, I commented that I wish I had kept notes from our previous overseas move like she had. So here's a first attempt at doing that (plus, I keep misplacing my endless lists so perhaps typing it here will decrease some of my frustration about that!).

I am considering this week 1 since this is the first week that we start shipping items. This week we will be shipping our van to Italy (actually the Navy is paying for it to be shipped). We have to drive it to Orlando (2 hours from here). Prior to driving it down, we are planning on taking it in for one final check and tune-up. We have purchased replacement parts like air filters, windshield wipers, etc because we have been told it may be difficult to get these items (there won't be a Mazda dealership in our area). We are also planning on having the van detailed and free of pretzels, sand, wet swimsuits. We have been told to show up with less than a quarter tank of gas...not quite sure how to make that happen, but we'll do our best. It should take about 70 days to arrive by ship. Luckily we will be able to borrow a car from friends and we are planning to sell Adam's car right before we leave.

A few other things on the list for this week:

-Get final bids for having our house painted (exterior)
-Get Lease signed for our house (hooray we got renters...having it shown while we were out of town turned out to be very successful!)
-Keep sorting through the garage (spent most of the weekend doing this and still more to do)
- Find chimney sweep to make sure our fireplace is safe for renting
-Set aside items for our Express pack-out which happens a week from tomorrow. These are items that should be there when we arrive (basic kitchen supplies, sheets, towels, some toys/books, summer clothes, etc). 1000 pound limit.
- Finalize our travel plans
-Check on status of our Italian visas
-Get area rugs cleaned and ready for shipping (can a regular cleaners do this?)
- Buy one or two more large area rug (lots of tile floors in Sicily)
- Keep kids entertained (why didn't I sign them up for some camp sessions?)

Travel Photo Friday: San Francisco

June 4, 2009

A few pics from our recent California trip. We spent one day in the city with friends. A fabulous, packed day. Took the ferry from Alameda and had a chance to explore the beautifully restored Ferry Building. Truly a foodie's heaven and a great place to try out local goodies. Then headed down to Pier 39 on Fisherman's wharf where we rode the carousel, visited the sea lions, and tried to stay warm. Continued walking until we came to the Boudin Bakery where we were lured into their museum/bakery tour by their amazing sour dough creatures. Had a nice lunch in the Boudin restaurant. Camille fell asleep towards the end of lunch so we located a bookstore a couple of blocks away and headed there for an afternoon break. Without a stroller, she's just too heavy to carry for very long these days. After naptime (aka bookstore pit stop), we continued walking to the end of the Fisherman's Wharf area and had some fun along the water. Then we rushed back, caught the ferry, and enjoyed the great city views on our trip back to Alameda. It was a good day in San Francisco.

More Friday Travel Photos here.

Mama Bear

I had a dramatic learning experience during our recent trip to California. After our 24 hour trip, we finally landed in San Francisco. Grubby,tired, and eager to finally arrive (sometimes domestic air travel truly is worse than those long international flights) we stood up to exit the plane and within seconds an enormous bag came hurtling down from the overhead bin where its stupid owner was trying to get it down with one hand. It narrowly missed the kids, bounced off of me, and hit Adam in the back. Adam yelled. The guy barely turned around and fled the plane. The flight attendants were concerned but eager to unload the plane. I was shaking, Adam was in pain, and the kids were oblivious to their near miss with serious injury. As we were walking off the plane, I started to get angry. Angry at the careless and rude bag owner, but also angry at the airline with it's increasing fees for checked bags. It was obvious on all of our recent flights that folks are now carrying on bigger and heavier bags to avoid the fees.

When we got off the plane, we stopped to file a complaint with the staff member at the gate. She suggested that we also speak with the supervisor at the Delta ticket counter. We found the supervisor and that's when I lost it. I really did. We described what had happened and expressed our concern about the relationship between the high baggage fees and the increasing weight of carry-ons. His first response was "I have a hard job" and from there it just got worse. His nonchalant attitude, lack of eye contact, lack of concern, lack of apology...all of it became a fuel for the fire that was starting to build in the pit of my stomach. And then some sort of switch was clicked deep within me. The message I was getting from this man was that my family's health and safety was worth less to him than his job and his damn baggage fees. Before I knew it, I felt this roar growing and exploding from within me. I started to yell in a voice that I have never heard or ever used before. All of the activity around us stopped, there was silence except for me. It was a dramatic moment in the San Francisco airport.

I am not proud of yelling, especially in front of my children who were distressed and didn't understand what was happening, but I did learn something from it. And after feeling initially shaken and ashamed about losing control, I actually felt a strange level of relief and confidence.I have often wondered how I would respond if my kids were in serious danger. It's not fun to admit this but I am a chicken. I don't like scary movies. I don't like conflict. I am a worrier with a vivid imagination and I can get myself pretty worked up over noises in the middle of the night. And here's the truth. Prior to this event, I worried that I wouldn't be able to protect my children if we were ever in a scary situation because I would be paralyzed with fear and hiding behind them. But now I can say with confidence that I would be able to protect them. I felt as if my children were being threatened and I reacted in a way that was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. A primal, mama bear reaction. Not proud to have reacted in such an extreme way, but glad to know that protective reflex is there. Might sound weird but it's a part of me that felt somehow defective as a mom, until that moment in the airport.

Needless to say, that bewildered supervisor left the scene pretty quickly and we met with his boss who responded in a much more professional and appropriate manner. We filed another complaint about the baggage policy and the previous supervisor's poor customer service skills. Later that evening we received a phone call from another high ranking airline staff member who added her sincere apologies. I would like to think we might have made some impact or change in the baggage fee issue, but probably not. So if you are traveling in the near future, here are a few words of caution/advice: be prepared to pay outrageous baggage fees, deal with grumpy staff and passengers, and most importantly be very careful when those overhead bins are being opened.


June 3, 2009

We are entering what feels to me like the final frenzy, the final months leading up to our move. Having done this every three years for the past nine years it has begun to feel like part of the expected course, yet each move has its own unique craziness and stress. I imagine this must be how it feels to go through multiple pregnancies. You know what to expect in that final trimester yet there are still feelings of excitement, discomfort, and eventually a one-of-a kind birth story. So here we are in the final stages and the adrenaline is pumping and the to-do lists are growing by the minute.

This stage is always one of extremes. The highs and lows that come with the drama of moving. The good-byes and hellos. The feelings of accomplishment as the lists get whittled down and the boxes get shipped. The intense exhaustion, frayed nerves, and the taxing mess of details that always make me wish I was more organized and started earlier. I would like to think that practice makes perfect but in this scenario it never seems to work that way for me. I have given up on having the "perfect move". I now strive for sanity and hope that half of the lists get done.

The day we left for California marked the official start of the frenzy for me. It had all of the elements: rushing the kids to school for their final day, finishing up the packing, frantically cleaning the house so the property manager could show it to potential renters while we were on our trip, re-mulching the backyard, a quick shower, and then a return to school for Noah's graduation luncheon, hurried good-byes with favorite teachers and school friends, rushing back to the house for one final mad dash of cleaning, a frantic drive to the airport only to discover that our flight was delayed due to bad weather which meant we missed our connection and had to spend the night in Atlanta which meant it took us over 24 hours to get to California. Frenzy. And more to come. Just need to keep breathing and visualizing Mediterranean sunsets.

Rites of Passage

We have just returned from a whirlwind of a trip to California to celebrate our nieces' B'not Mitzvah.Truly inspirational to watch them becoming such amazing, confident, and compassionate young women. Lots of wonderful family moments. Lots of love, pride, tears, and laughter. We felt very lucky to be a part of such a special moment in their lives. Mazel Tov, Lauren and Sarah!

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