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Jen's Journal (2006)

12/27 Our big girl
So Katie's now over 4 months old, and I can't believe it. She's really quite beautiful and smiley. When I go out with her in the Snugli, it's like traveling with a movie star. People stop and stare, pull her hat off and smile into her face.

It's clear that Nate is the star in her sky. He can make her laugh like no one else. Meals are actually pretty difficult these days because we have a hard time keeping Nate in his seat; he is constantly diving below the table to check out what Katie's doing. In fact, here's a short movie (4 MB) of her laughing.

She has definitely started teething and is drooling like crazy. She also likes to suck on pieces of fabric when she's sucking her thumb. The other day she had on a dress and the collar was all filled with drool and the hem was also soaked from her sucking. Only her middle was dry.

She's also working on getting control of her hands and feet and so sitting with her at the table is fairly hazardous these days. Tonight she actually flipped an empty bowl into her mouth and then immediately started sucking on it. We're so proud.

Finally, she sings and talks to us all the time. Her soliloquies include facial expressions and pauses as she waits for us to respond. She is delighted with her new form of communication and likes to express herself frequently. Now if only we could understand what she's been trying to tell us...

12/25 The present
One of the best Christmas presents we received came from our friends Jim, Aue and Anabelle. As you all know, Nate lost his beloved giraffe the other day at the store. Well, in one of his gift bags from Jim and Aue, there it was, staring at him. I was more than a little confused. But apparently Aue and Jim went to the store, pried open the grate and plucked the giraffe out of its (no longer final) resting place.

Nate was just thrilled. I was touched by their ingenuity and thoughtfulness. It made me feel like we really have some friends here who care for us. And it hit me: Somehow, somewhere along the way, we became acclimated to this new life. I no longer think it bizarre to climb into a taxi and have a stranger put Nate on her knee. Or to hear Marshallese covers of English songs (I SWEAR I heard "You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille" the other day, and it did make me smile, though).

When I think of all the events leading up to our trip here and all the green lights we got along the way, I can't help but feel like coming here was the right choice. Tomorrow, I may feel differently. But today, I have to say that I'm feeling at home in our new home.

12/24 Christmas Eve Chinese
You should know that Randall and I are people steeped in tradition. It's true. And Nate is quickly following in our footsteps. Just ask the Boerners. We never leave their house without a pillow fight with Mr. B and some time on the "Again, again" chair with Mrs. B. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that when it came time to plan our Christmas Eve, we started with Chinese food.

The choice to have Chinese food is a wink at geography (The Christmas Story was filmed in Ohio, after all), and our quirkiness. It's also a tradition that began as a necessity when R and I were attending both Xmas eve services at our church in Kent. The time between services was too short to make it to my family's gathering, and most of the restaurants were usually closed, so ... Chinese food was the natural choice.

Here in Majuro, we have a restaurant that serves fabulous Chinese food. The last time I got take-out food from there, I asked for a copy of their menu. The guy said it would be a bit. About a half hour later a woman returned with a copy of the menu. I can only presume that he didn't have a copy of the menu, but rather sent her out to go make one copy and bring it back. And the menu is fascinating. It is about 7 pages long and has such eyebrow-raising items as: Octopus with garlic sauce (served cold), braised pig's ear and fried beef with water convolvulus (as one of our friends said, "Isn't that a disease?").

Anyway, the only problem with the restaurant is that they're closed on Sundays, striking a serious blow to our tradition. But I wasn't willing to give up easily, so I simply placed our order and brought it home yesterday. Tonight we just heated it all up and had a feast. We had a great time hanging out and playing some card games while Nate and Anabelle watched movies. To give you an idea of how much fun we had, the last guests left after 10 p.m. Seriously. R and I were giving ourselves high-fives because we were such party animals. What a great night.

12/23 A dream of home
I had the most amazing dream last night. We were back in Ohio and in a beautiful, large brick house. Katie and I were playing in a large sunroom with blue carpeting and big French doors. I went outside and the trees were losing their leaves. I thought that I would go buy a rake at the store and buy some Christmas decorations for the house. And then I decided I would take Nate to the library when he got home from preschool.

That was it. When I woke up, the thought of going to the store and buy a rake or some decorations (they actually do have them here, though they're quite expensive) and taking Nate to the library was enough to bring on a wave of homesickness.

It's hard to explain what I miss about the United States (and yes, even Ohio!). But I think it was neatly summed up by my friend Bridget who lived overseas as well. Everything's just easier in the United States.

At home, if I forget something at the store, it's no big deal to hop in a car and head out to Giant Eagle. If I want to call a friend, I walk over to the phone and call her. If Nate and I get bored, we can go to a park, the zoo or the library.

Here, going to the store is a hassle, calling friends means a trip to the office, and there's no zoo, or library to speak of. The only park I've seen has broken, scary equipment and trash all over it. Nate can't run around in our yard because we have no yard. His best hope for physical activity is at the Co-Op school, but he needs to be out of diapers to go there.

Earlier this week Nate told me that he didn't want to go to school, that he wanted to stay at home with me and watch TV all day. My heart just stopped and I thought, oh just go ahead and tell me you're going to be a Republican and complete the nightmare. I felt like I was seeing teenage rebellion play itself out about 10 years early. So I took a deep breath and ignored the comment.

The next day, he was all into the school idea again, and he hasn't said that again, so I think I dodged that bullet. The bad news is that he starts off almost every sentence these days with a pause and a "Well..." I swear he sounds JUST like Ronald Reagan.

12/22 Droopy canes
While we were decorating our Christmas tree (thanks Pam!) a few weeks ago, Nate pointed out that we were missing something. "Mama, can we get some of those droopy things?" he asks. I'm at a complete loss. He says it again, this time making a hook with his finger as he says "droopy thing."

A light goes on. "Do you mean candy canes? They're red and white..." "YES!" he exclaims. "Candy canes!" So now the quest is set. Candy canes should be easy to find, right?

I check at Payless. No luck. I go to Formosa (other end of the island). Nope. Discount 7-12. No dice. I finally check out another discount store and they have a big display full of candy canes. When I arrive home with them, Nate was thrilled and immediately tried to put it on -- the top of the tree. This Christmas stuff is still new to him. Anyway, he's thanked me just about every day for them. It's really sweet. Though he does still call them droopy things.

12/21 Giraffe Gaffe
Earlier this week Nate, Katie and I went to the store. We were almost out of drinking water, and more importantly, chocolate milk. So off we go. We're in the dairy section when Nate suddenly cries out that something has happened to his plastic giraffe. I tell him to hang on and continue perusing the sliced cheese selections. Then I glance over at him and he has his hand IN the cooling grate, a look of sheer panic on his face.

I scream, "NO, TAKE YOUR HAND OUT OF THERE!" And now I'm panicking, thinking, please please God, don't let him have gotten a scratch from something in the grate. He pulls his hand out and now he's screaming about his giraffe and pointing to the grate. I look in, and sure enough, he's managed to drop his giraffe in the world's most disgusting, dusty, dirty, grimy spot.

I take one look and know the arc of the rest of the shopping trip. Sure enough, it's filled with pitiful tears and plaintive wails. "I want my giraffe. Mama, I really really really want my giraffe." All the way through the store. People stopping and staring. Me feeling alternately sad for him and annoyed at him. "Nate, we have about a zillion other animals at home." "BUT MAMA, I REALLY REALLY NEED my GIRAFFE!"

At the checkout counter they ask what's wrong. I explain the situation. They nod sympathetically. In the cab ride home, the whole cab has to hear the story, bringing a fresh wave of tears from the boy. At home, he's crying, Katie's crying, the ice cream is melting (bought purely for medicinal purposes at this point) and I'm ready to blow. I point out that we can have someone send us another giraffe, but that it will take a while. He suggests a trip to the giraffe store. I say no giraffe store on-island.

So that afternoon, Randy emailed Aunt Debbie and asked her to send us a giraffe ASAP. In the meantime, of course, Nate has moved on. Though any mentions of a giraffe (alternately referred to as the long-necked creature or spelled by R and me) are verboten until we get the package from Aunt Debbie.

12/19 Our theologian
We were at church on Sunday and the service had begun. The church looks relatively the same now that we're in Advent. The communion table and the vestments had all been changed to a beautiful purple batik. A modest set of advent candles with some pine needles around them was at the front of the church. But that was really about it. We haven't been singing Christmas carols, so it's a bit hard to believe that it's Christmastime.

In the middle of all this, Nate pipes up. I'm always nervous when he talks in church. He's 3 and says exactly whatever is on his mind. This time, it's a question, and it's a doozy.

"Mama, where is God?"

Now, we had been stepping up our God/Jesus talk in our house because he doesn't go to Sunday School here (not offered in English at our church) and I wanted him to know some of the things we believe. I've told him some stories about Jesus, we've read from his children's Bible, and he's become an expert at grace and prayers. When I talk about church, I say that we're going there to meet God.

So now he's scanning the church, looking for God. I hear Randy giggle a little next to me and he says reassuringly to Nate, "That's a very good question, buddy." I'm not satisfied with that, so I quickly search for an answer. I think that my brother, the theologian, would know just what to say. So I answer with what I believe.

"Do you feel the breeze on your face, Nate?" He nods, his eyes wide. "That's God," I say. "Oh," he says.

Really, it's the fan.

But it starts me thinking about what I believe about God and the nature of God. That we can't visualize God, but we can see his movement in our lives. That he's here with us in the RMI, but also with people all over the world at the same time. That he can't be contained. That sometimes we create things to try to take the place of God in our lives. Ones that we can control and direct and turn on and off. And suddenly, I'm OK with my brief, over-simplified explanation.

The next day, Nate asked if we could play his new favorite game, Christmas bingo. Perhaps because of the discussion the day before, he points out that Christmas bingo is also Jesus' favorite game. I wonder if Jesus also stands up and screams "BINGO!" with the same relish that Nate does. And I wonder what makes Jesus say it.

12/14 Back Together Again
Randall came home today after a long, 10-day journey to and from a conference in Atlanta. It was just amazing to see him again and to have another set of hands around the house. Nate and Katie were clearly excited to see him, with Katie flashing lots of huge smiles his direction and Nate requesting playtime with him immediately.

He also brought home a suitcase and a duffel bag full of treats for all of us. We now have such coveted items as baby wipes, barrettes and measuring spoons. It really does feel like Christmas came early. Our house looks like a warehouse (more precisely, Wal-Mart) exploded in our living room.

Of course, he's just exhausted. His day began around midnight our time, and so by now (around 8:30) he's been up for an insane amount of time. So he actually beat Nate to bed and is trying to sleep as I write this. I'm pretty tired now that the adrenaline rush is over, so I think I'll head to bed early also. I'll clean up the mess tomorrow. Tonight it's just nice to see evidence that he's with us again.

12/13 Metamorphosis
I became an adult today. I know, most would say that by reaching the age of 35, being married for 7 years and having 2 kids, I became an adult long ago. But no, not really.

Nate and I were having breakfast today, facing down our last day sans Papa. I had made cinnamon rolls as a special treat for us, and he was really enjoying them. He ate the first one excitedly, stopping to say "Yummy surprise, Mama!" before asking for another. He ate them, of course, icing side first, and had white goo smeared all over him by the time he reached roll #2.

I, on the other hand, had one roll. Then I switched to bran flakes. Nasty, expired bran flakes, to be specific. I didn't even like them.

I remember a time when I could eat a whole plate of cinnamon rolls and then go merrily on my way. As I ate my bran flakes, it occurred to me: I'm an adult.

Shortly after this revelation, the power went off again, sending me into a spiral immediately. After going to the store to kill time, we came home and opened windows as it was getting hot again. As I opened the kitchen window, I was angry and frustrated and yanked on it viciously. Unfortunately, the window held our seashell collection, including a beautiful, delicate white sand dollar imprinted with a tiny sea star. When I jerked open the window, it smashed into a thousand unrecognizable pieces.

As I gazed at the mess, I pondered whether or not I had really grown up at all. When the power came on, barely two hours later, it occurred to me that if I'm going to survive here, I'm going to have to get used to having my plans interrupted. Otherwise, I might find myself destroying some of the beauty already surrounding me.

12/12 Laughter in the House Where the Mourners Have Been
One of the best things about being here in Majuro is the idea that we've brought a community of friends with us. In one of the packages that arrived last week, I found a bunch of photos that had been on our refrigerator back home. I gleefully put them up on our fridge here as well, and somehow the house automatically felt a little more like home. Nate enjoys looking at the photos as his day goes on and refers to them during prayer time also. "There's a picture of Mr. B, who throws pillows at me. I hope his tummy feels better soon." "And there are my cousins; I miss them." "There's Jack and Bridget and Elizabeth and Sahra and Sophia. Maybe we can see them again soon." As heartbreaking as it is to try to explain to a 3-year-old about the distance between all of you and all of us, it's also a testament to the bindings of friendship.

The first CD we played in our new house was a compilation made by our good friends Alec, Ian and Russ called "Selections from Art in the Park." It made us feel comforted to have familiar voices and tunes ringing out in a strange place. On one of the songs, "The Great Storm is Over", Alec and Russ sing the following lines (forgive me if I got them a little wrong, guys):

"Sweetness on the air, justice on the wind/ Laughter in the house where the mourners have been/ The deaf shall hear music, the blind have new eyes/The standards of death taken down by surprise..."

Considering the difficulties of the last year, the words ring especially true for us here. These days we have lots of laughter from the one born of tears. Katie's belly laughs are so full of JOY that it's hard to remember the pain associated with her beginnings. I can't adequately express what a huge ego boost it is to see her little face light up when her eyes meet mine. Today she laughed so hard when I was making faces at her that she had a bubble beard of drool coming down her chin. That of course, made me laugh hard, which sent her into more squeals, and well... you get the picture.

My great regret is that she will be spending the first part of her life without all of you. The good news is that we Lennoxes are GREAT storytellers and I plan to introduce all of you via pictures and stories. She's going to hear about her Aunt Kim who once caught steak on fire with me (and ate it afterwards!). And her cousins Abby, Stasia and Annika who fought over who got to hold her next. And her Grandma Mathewes who never got to meet her, but knew she was coming.

In a goodbye card to us, our friend Ian wrote "I'm excited that your travels will help make the world smaller as we meet new people through you in the Marshall Islands." One of my hopes is that Ian's wish happens indeed, and that we leave here with global friendships that cross both geographic and cultural boundaries. But none of this could happen without all of you all walking this road with us and sharing our burdens. It's made the experience richer for us, and I'm grateful for it.

12/10 A full day
Again, today was another day full of blessings. I had heard that today would be another planned power outage, so I geared up for a difficult day by essentially repeating yesterday's process. We went into R's office around 8:30 to send email and even managed to talk to R's mom before hanging up around 9. Since that was when the power went out yesterday, I was expecting a similar timeframe today.

But the power was still on when we came home after 9, and when we left for our playdate at 11, the A/C was still churning out cold air. So for whatever reason, we seemed to have dodged the bullet and had electricity for the whole day. It's amazing how something as simple as having cold water and a shower can make everything better. When we came back from our playdate, we took naps and then headed over to the hotel to swim and eat a delicious dinner at Barry & Beth's.

So instead of a day filled with frustration or exhaustion, we had a normal day filled with all the comforts of home and the extra treat of swimming and a yummy meal. When we came home tonight I said a few heartfelt prayers of thanks for all the ways that God has provided for us here. We really took a leap of faith coming here, and it feels like God has moved mountains for us. I know my friends at home were praying for a community here for us, and I feel that God has answered that prayer in spades.

During this season of waiting for the Christ child, it feels especially appropriate to also be noticing the gifts already present in our lives. And despite the palm trees and balmy weather, I'd have to say that it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here.

12/9 Us Unplugged
So while I was checking email yesterday, I ran into R's boss who told me that there was going to be a planned power outage all day today (Saturday). This news was hard because it was a double whammy: a power outage means no running water, A/C and food getting warm in the fridge. It was also bad because Saturday morning was the appointed time when we were going to call Randy. I hadn't talked to him since he left Monday evening, and I was looking forward to catching up. But without power, there was no Skype, so I couldn't call him. I sent him a quick email telling him that we wouldn't be able to talk and asking if there was another time that would work.

So today I was a woman with a Plan. I got up early and showered before Katie woke up so I'd be good for the day. I also made sure the computer and the portable DVD player were charged and ready to go off batteries in case Nate HAD to watch a movie. I filled the sinks with water so that the ants wouldn't get to the dishes. I turned the A/C way down in the bedroom so that it would hopefully still be cool when it came time to nap. And I told Nate so that he'd be prepared when everything went off. Oh, and I caught a cockroach (the same one? Maybe...) and took him outside. (You can tell I'm adjusting to life here when catching a cockroach is an aside and not a journal entry on its own.)

I knew if we could make it to naptime we'd be fine. So I worked hard on playing with Nate and keeping him busy. Katie is luckily at the stage where she's content to sit in my lap and watch the "Nate show" so she was game for whatever we were doing. At around 10, we ventured over to Aue and Anabelle's to see what they were up to. They weren't there, so we came home and walked around our compound a bit. At around 11, I started opening windows as it had gotten pretty hot. I used the artificial plants around the windows to tie the curtains open for a breeze. Then it was naptime, and I knew we'd made it. When Nate got up from nap, I decided we needed to celebrate surviving our day and we had two huge pieces of cake and some milk while we waited for the power to come back on.

Then we were off to the CMI Christmas party, which included some dancers from Fiji, a game of musical chairs for the kids (Nate stayed in for two rounds!) and lots of good food. It ended up being a late night, but one filled with new friends and revelry. Again, I feel like God's grace has sustained us through a difficult time.

12/6 Abundance
So R's been gone now for 54 hours and we're doing fine. Sometimes, even terrific. Yesterday was a hard day, full of challenges, but today seemed abundant. We had made plans to go see Beth and swim at the hotel, so we were packed and out the door this morning at 8:30. We made it to her room, dropped off Katie and headed out to swim and for some good Mama and Nate time. We swam for a bit in the hotel pool and then walked over to the lagoon where we saw crabs, fish and maybe even a jellyfish.

I have to say, there are so many moments here when I just look around and laugh. And wonder, really, how did I get here? It's December 6 and I'm swimming in the ocean with my 3-year-old. Part of me hopes that I never get used to the scenery here and that on the day we leave, I am still looking around in wonder at the raw beauty of this place. It just grabs you by the throat sometimes. Kind of like watching your children sleep.

Anyway, today was a double-header, as the RMI (Republic of the Marshall Islands) band was also playing Christmas carols on campus. When I walked up, they were playing "(I'm dreaming of a) White Christmas" and I had to laugh out loud. I mean, that's a pretty outrageous dream in this country. "I'm dreaming of maybe not sweating as I'm falling asleep" would be more realistic. Though I guess that's just not quite as lyrical. Nate was completely unwilling to sit and listen to the band, so we kind of wandered around a bit to keep him entertained and so I could hear a few songs. When I finally agreed to leave, the band was playing the traditional Marshallese Christmas carol, "Shake your booty." :)

We also had a bunch of boxes delivered over the past two days, so everything feels a little more manageable. I have pictures of friends and family on the refrigerator, and a lot of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the cupboard. My two children are healthy and sleeping in the room next to me. I'm really not sure what else I can ask for. Our cup overflows.

12/4 Out of touch
Randy's headed out for a conference this week, so I'll have no way to post my journals. I'll try to get into the office once or twice to pick up email and send email, but I think I'll basically be out of touch for about 10 days. I'll be at home with the kids, so prayers for patience would be much appreciated. :) Also, we don't know when we'll have a phone, so those of you who are asking for a phone number should know that it may be sometime in 2007. I'm not joking. Until then, email is (usually) the best way to reach us.

12/2 Ant Smack Down
OK, you can tell that I lead a pretty quiet life when I have not one, but TWO entries about ants. So we went yesterday to Ace Hardware to try to get some ant bait (today is a holiday -- Gospel day, to celebrate when the gospel came to the MIs). The Ace hardware is just bizarre -- like a bit of the U.S. dropped into the middle of the Marshall Islands. They even had aisle signs up so we could find stuff. Very exciting. Anyway, they had lots of different insect repellent (a forboding sign, methinks) and we got a spray and some ant traps. R put up the ant traps and used the spray in the areas that the ants were coming in.

Then last night, I got up to do some emailing at 10:30, and turned on the stove. Right there on the stove was gecko. Now, we've seen lots of geckos outside, and it's usually a source of great JOY for Nate as he thinks they're fascinating. But this one was inside the house -- right by where I cook our food. I was pretty tired so I just stood there and looked at it for a good 2 minutes. It didn't move. It was probably having similar thoughts: "Hey look, a HUMAN! Wow, it's really close. I wonder what it's going to do..." So I did the only thing I could think of.

I woke Randy up to tell him there was a gecko on the stove.

He sleepily pointed out that geckos eat bugs. I marched right out to the stove, found the gecko (now on the windowsill) and asked him if I could get him some nice Chianti or maybe a Merlot to go with his meal.

Today, we had just the regular amount of ants in the house. I don't know if it's because of the spray or the gecko. But the combination is working, so I don't care.

11/30 Kid update
It occurred to me this morning that I haven't really been journaling about how the kids are doing. They're undergoing some huge transitions and have been doing some hilarious things. So here's a bit on the two youngest members of our clan.

Nate: In general, the big brother is doing great. He LOVES his baby sister and today spent a good 5 minutes working on getting her to laugh. He kisses her and hugs her a lot. But he's also 3 and rambunctious, so yesterday he slid into her like she was second base or something. Unfortunately, his foot hit her head so he heard a lot of screaming (from her), and got a time out and lecture (from me). He and I play a lot of games together throughout the day, and many of them involve his imaginary dragon Harvey. (I couldn't resist the Jimmy Stewart reference) He's also started to pray more and say grace with some prompting. Last night Randy was helping him with grace and said something like: "Thank you God for the things that you're doing." Nate interpreted that as "Thank you God for the things that I'm doing". I thought that both versions were acceptable. Probably his favorite thing to do is to play with his new friend Anabelle. His times with Anabelle are teaching him how to share his stuff and also that he can't always boss people around. Whenever she gets here, he runs around like crazy for a while trying to get her to play certain games with him or do things with him. Of course, she'll do some of that stuff with him, but also has a few ideas of her own. It's very good for him to see that the world does NOT revolve around him. We weren't able to see her this week because her grandmother was in town, and Nate was clearly bored with my feeble attempts to entertain him. Luckily, our TV arrived, so he could watch some of his favorite TV shows that we had TiVO'd. He also helps us set the table at dinner, can put on and take off his own clothes now, and can throw and catch ball pretty well. We're still working on the potty training. I'm hoping that's coming soon. Last week, we visited the Co-Op school that he could attend, and they won't take him until he's out of diaps. I was really hoping that school would be a motivator for him, but I'm not seeing any movement there. He also loves to snuggle with me -- especially when I have Katie in my lap.

Katie: Right now, Katie is sleeping in her car seat next to me, wearing a onesy that says "I'm a very happy baby" -- and it seems appropriate. She is an extremely content baby who really cries only when she's hungry. She's gaining weight pretty quickly, and seems to have outgrown most of her 3-6 months clothes already. She really doesn't have much of a neck -- it's all chin chub down to her chest. I'm not kidding. I've had a heck of a time trying to clean her neck and have even put diaper cream on it to keep the cracks from getting irritated. She also loves her big brother and gets clearly annoyed if she can't see him at all times. (However, considering the recent head kick, maybe that's more of a defensive measure on her part...) In general, she wants to be wherever the action is and would prefer to be held at all times. She's sleeping OK, usually up 2-3 times a night. She's also rolling over, laughing, smiling, cooing and has pretty good head control. I think she may be cutting teeth because she's drooling all the time and is gnawing on everything she can get her mouth around. And she occasionally sucks her thumb, which is exciting. And she's incredibly beautiful.

11/28 Insects make me scream and shout
So we're inundated with ants here. And I'm not talking about those woosie Ohio ants that we're used to. These are Marshallese ants, and they do not take no for an answer. These ants had to, like swim a thousand miles or something to get here, so they're scrappy.

Just about every morning starts with me sweeping them up from the floor and spraying them with a cleaning solution. But this morning, R was on dish duty and unfortunately, we hadn't rinsed our dishes after having some delicious sweet and sour chicken last night. I didn't actually see the ants, but apparently they were swarming and had even gotten into our dish rack. So all the clean dishes had to be re-washed. UGH.

These are different ants from the ones we've been battling, they're kind of bigger and red. But I've been spraying them a few times a day and have started using a sponge instead of a paper towel to clean them up. I was going thru too many towels a day otherwise.

One of Randy's coworkers thinks that they're out now because we've had a lot of rain lately. If so, then hopefully things will dry out soon and so will the ants. Half of the problem is that the house has some tiny holes that weren't filled with caulk, so the ants are just walking right in. In fact, you can actually see daylight around our front door, so it's pretty much just a giant entrance for them, even when it's closed.

Yes, we're planning on buying some caulk soon. Until then, at least I know our counters are really, really clean.

11/25 CMI Employee Appreciation Day
This has really been a banner week for us! This Saturday was a picnic on a remote island (for those of you laughing out there, yes there are islands MORE remote than the one we're on) to celebrate the college's employees. How lucky are we that we've only been here a month and they're already appreciating us! :)

So because Randy and I are consistent and a little resistant to change, we were once again crazy early for the event. The boat to take us to the island was supposed to leave at 9, so at 9 we were at the docks.

There was one other person there.

About an hour or 90 minutes later, we were finally ready to head out. We climbed into the boat, which was like a amphibious lander (like in Saving Private Ryan) and rode it for about 35-40 minutes to get to the island. Water seeped in from the front and it was pretty hot, even in the shade.

Once we got to the island, Nate and I headed immediately for the water. The tide was a bit intense in the shallow area, but only 10-20 feet out, the water got cooler and deeper and the waves much smaller. We had a great time exploring the coral and looking for fish. It was a perfect afternoon for us because Randy got to stay in the shade with Katie and talk to people, while Nate and I played and played.

The island was typical of the MIs. It was right out of a postcard with sandy beaches, beautiful coral, incredibly clear water. And then it also had wild chickens running around and an unexploded bomb (perhaps from WWII?) on the beach. One of the craziest sights of the day was when an older man went over to the bomb and started beating a stick against it. I guess he was trying to break the stick. It certainly looked like the bomb had been there for a long time, so it probably wasn't a danger. All the same, it was slightly surreal.

It was a gorgeous, wonderful, memorable day. I kept saying to everyone around me: "How much would people in the U.S. pay for a day like today? And here we are getting it for FREE." I also kept just looking around and laughing, thinking how unreal it was that on the same day thousands of Americans were shopping like crazy in cold weather, here I was lazing on this tropical beach. I remember my good friend Mrs. B telling me that she would often look around at the scenery in Norway and have a similar reaction... just laugh...

I'll be honest. Some days I really, REALLY want to come home. This was NOT one of those days. :)

The college had also provided lunch, so some women collected coconut shells and used those to start fires and then cooked hot dogs and chicken over the fire. Sometime around noon, we gathered for lunch and a Marshallese woman said a prayer and then we ate. Randy and I had our first taste of breadfruit -- it was boiled and covered with coconut and didn't really have a distinctive taste.

After lunch it was more swimming, and I met a few more of Randy's colleagues. Again, I was blown away by how hospitable everyone was and how friendly. Before we left New York, Randy's sister Debbie prayed that we would have a community in the MIs that would support us. It feels like God leaned in and really heard that request as everyone has gone out of their way to make us feel at home.

While I was swimming with Nate and meeting more friends, Randy got to go on a traditional Marshallese canoe. They're part canoe and part sailboat, and incredibly fast. Randy had a blast and would do a better job explaining them than I will. But what I found interesting was that when they want to turn the boat around, they take the sail down, move it to another part of the boat, and do the same with the rudder. Then they just take off, going the opposite direction. Wild.

The day ended as it began, with a ride back to Majuro on a boat, and then some new friends gave us a ride home in their car. Nate slept on the boat ride back, but was completely spent from his day at the beach, so he went to bed early. Randy and I got to watch a movie (!) and still get to bed early. What a fabulous, wonderful day. I feel APPRECIATED!

11/23 Our First Majuro Thanksgiving
Father Rich, the priest at the Catholic church that we've been attending, invited us to have Thanksgiving with him and a bunch of other people at his church. It was supposed to be a potluck, but as you'll read in yesterday's entry, my plans for bringing a cottage cheese salad were pretty much busted early on. So we brought wine, as Father had said they'd need that.

We left our house at 6 and went to Jim and Aue's house as we weren't sure what time the event began. Apparently it was supposed to start at 7, so at 7 we walked over to Father's house. He was at a funeral, so he didn't arrive back until 7:30, and we didn't begin eating until almost 8:30. This is something we need to get used to here in the MIs;apparently nothing starts at the appointed time.

The spread of food, however, was awesome. They had four giant turkeys and lots of stuffing and mashed potatoes. Beth had even made pumpkin pies. It was wonderful. We ate outside on the covered walkway and the tables had flowers and candles on them. We met a bunch of other people, including a few other families, so I'm hoping to expand our circle of friends and playdates. We sat with one of our friends, one of the families and a Jesuit Volunteer named Greg.

Nate, however, probably had the best time as he had a whole herd of other kids his age to play with. He was CRUSHED when it was time to leave as he just wanted to keep running around and screaming. I had already identified that we were about 10 minutes to meltdown, however, so I insisted on an exit while we could still make it. As it was, he had his bath late and didn't fall asleep until close to 10. All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving; one that didn't make me homesick and instead filled me with hope for new friendships.

OH! And when we got home, Katie rolled over for the first time. She went from back to front twice. We figured it was her little celebratory dance for her 3-month birthday. What a day!

11/22 10:37 p.m.
I recently had a friend email me and tell me that she wanted to be a housewife in Majuro, and it occurred to me that perhaps I haven't been completely clear about the challenges of our life here. So, as an example, I thought I would chronicle my day today.

It started at 1 a.m. when Randy woke up and startled me. Katie woke up about 15 minutes later and wanted to nurse. Then she woke up again at 2. At 3, she woke up again, and then spat up all over herself, her pillow, blanket and outfit. She was hungry (predictably) again at 4 and 5. At 6, R and N got up and Katie and I followed soon thereafter.

I asked R to help with the laundry that was soaking in the bathroom before he headed into work. I grabbed Katie's clothes to add to the pile and while I was putting them in the pile, a cockroach ran out from between my legs. So then R spent the next 5 minutes trying to catch the cockroach. He did, sent it outside, but then was late, so he was a little annoyed.

So it was 7 a.m., and I had a long day ahead of me. We were just about out of milk and needed stuff for the Thanksgiving potluck, so I decided to head to the store to get supplies. I made a list, got Nate ready, put Katie in the Snugli, caught a taxi and headed out. We navigated the store pretty dang well, though the store's only cottage cheese (crucial to the recipe we were going to make for Tgiving) was "red-tagged" meaning that it was cheap b/c there's something wrong with it. The manager said he thought they'd have in cottage cheese on Friday or Saturday. Not so helpful.

So I put back the other recipe ingredients and started accumulating the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. At the register I realized I didn't have salt or vanilla, so I asked if I could go back for stuff. After a frantic search through the store (did I mention that they don't have signs labeling the aisles?), with Nate tagging along behind me, I found the ingredients and went back up to the cash register. I remembered to get quarters (necessary for laundry and the taxi ride) and headed back out with Katie and Nate. Somewhere in there, I'm pretty dang sure I saw a large rat scurry under a box in the store. I also had the pleasure of using the bathroom at the store, which was dirty and buggy and scary. I realized also that I couldn't flush the toilet,so had to get help. Turns out that to flush this particular toilet, you need to use a hose under the sink to fill the tank in the back. Lovely.

It had started to rain and by the time we got home, it was raining pretty hard. Of course the house keys were in the bottom of my canvas bag, the same bag I had filled with about 10 canned goods. So while the taxi driver helped unload my bags, and Nate kept pointing out that he was getting wet, I unloaded the bag in the trunk of the car and finally unearthed my keys. I paid the driver but realized that my wallet was missing. I persuaded him to open the trunk, where I found my wallet under a towel. Yikes that was close; losing my wallet in a taxi here would be disastrous.
R returned home at 11 and said that some friends of ours were going to lunch at the resort and that I should go. He would stay home with the kids.

I love that man.

So after an insane morning, I had a peaceful, yummy lunch with two adults and borrowed some DVDs from them to boot. Came home, put the kids down for nap and worked on the web page. I had a calm afternoon and a dinner that included me only losing my temper once, a quiet bath and book reading. Then Nate completely melted down when I wouldn't read him the rest of his last book because he kept poking his sister. Screamed screamed screamed all the way to bed and in bed. Finally he calmed down long enough to hear a very involved story about Dora, Boots and a rescued dragon. When I was done, R and I crawled into bed and watched Dodgeball. Funny movie, though it made me think of my coworkers and life back in the U.S.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate Thanksgiving at our church. I'll be thankful to have made it (almost) through our first month.

A regular routine
I guess it's a sign that we're adjusting to life here because we've started to have some sort of routine. For those of you out there with small children, you know the importance of a schedule. We've started seeing Anabelle and her mom Aue for play dates a couple times a week, which adds structure to our lives. On weekend mornings, we get up, head over to the college and make calls to friends and family using the Skype program. It's only 2 cents a minute, so it's easy and cheap. But it means that we have to keep Nate occupied in Papa's office while we talk to people, so inevitably the calls are cut short when one of the parents runs out of patience. The laundromat is on the way to the office (the whole thing is only a 5-minute walk, 8 minutes if you happen to be with Nate) so we stop to start laundry on the way in.

A note about laundry: When I was at the hotel, I had trouble starting the wash the first time we needed clean clothes. My friend Beth showed me how to jimmy the machine slot open, reach in and crank a handle to make it work. So when I couldn't get the washer to start at the laundromat, I spent a good 5 minutes trying to jimmy the machine slot, thinking that maybe all the washers in the MI worked like the hotel ones. After sweating over the machine for a bit, I realized that the coin slot just needed to come out. I pulled it out and the washer started immediately.

A beach date
So Aue (Anabelle's mom, pronounced AH-way) and I took the kids to the hotel lagoon this morning for a swim. It was fabulous to get out for awhile and Nate really enjoyed swimming with the fishies. The lagoon was practically deserted, so we had the run of the place except for a group of 4-5 kids and their dog. We played in the sand and put on LOTS of sunscreen. The water was comfortable and we were tired when we came home. It occurred to me while we were there that the same water we were playing in may have fallen on our house in Ohio. That made me feel a bit more connected to my past life.

Early morning surprise
So it's 4:17 a.m. and I'm up b/c our littlest angel has recently decided that 3:45 is wake-up time. After struggling to get her to nurse and go back to sleep, I finally just got up and took her into the living room where her grunts would at least not wake her brother. Once we got out here, she was immediately happier, cooing and smiling and loving the face time with mama. We were sitting on the couch and I was deep into a discussion about how she's a beloved child of God when she starts looking to my right. I follow her eyes and see a GIANT cockroach, the length the size of my index finger, scurrying across the floor. I put her down on the couch, grab a big cup and try to corral the monster. It eventually runs behind the couch (the one that Katie's on). I grab her, and because the loveseat had ants on it the last time I looked, decide to instead just walk around the room for awhile. But as I said previously, it's 4 in the morning, and I'm tired. So I turn on the A/C (we turn it off at night in the kitchen to save electricity) and think to myself, this is a journaling moment. As of right now, she's in the car seat next to me, smiling and cooing and hiccupping. I can't help but wonder if this is wrong of me to bring her and her brother here. Are they in more danger here? Is this crazy or will I look back on this time and say this was a wonderful choice for the whole family? Only time will tell. She's looking tired now, so I'm going to try and head back to bed. Hopefully I won't step on anything crunchy on the way... Did I mention that today is our seventh wedding anniversary?

Traveling in Majuro
In order to get around Majuro, you can either buy a car and drive it around or take a taxi. Taxi drivers will take you to most places in the island for a flat rate of 75 cents, so it's pretty cheap. Taxis here are not like in the U.S.; they are not yellow. They are usually fairly beat-up cars with a taxi sign on them. I've been in some that had a bit of a shimmy to them. You also share taxis with other people, so it's not unusual to get in a taxi with two other strangers. Because gas is so expensive, the drivers try to go as long as possible on a tank of gas, so when they need to fill up, they just pull into a gas station and get a few dollars worth of gas, even if they have paying passengers in the back (or front) seat. I had been warned about this and the other day was taking a taxi to the grocery store when the driver pulled into a gas station. The funny thing was that I noticed some large ice chests by the gas station store and was surprised to see a woman go up to the ice chest, pull out a large dead fish and go into the store to pay for it. I guess fish is pretty plentiful if they're selling it at gas stations. It's kind of like getting some beef jerky at the U.S. gas stations. Needless to say, traveling here is a bit of an adventure.

Our new house!
So we've moved into our new house and it's just beautiful. I've included some pictures here if you want to take a look at it. There's a ton more room here and I'm grateful to be here. Everyone who sees it says it's the nicest place they've seen -- probably because it's practically new. I've unpacked the boxes we have and am setting up home. We are still missing a few crucial boxes, including Nate's toy/book box (though his train collection has arrived) and the kitchen box, including our sharp cutting knives and can opener. A few downsides to living in the house vs. the hotel. The hotel has its own power generator, so when the power went off at the hotel, the only thing it affected was the cable TV. Here when the power goes off (it's fairly frequent here), it means no water, (the water pump is electric) no air conditioning (have I mentioned it's hot here?), no taxis (they don't like to run when the electricity is out b/c they could run out of gas and not have access to the gas pumps), etc. Also, the water supply at the hotel is much more plentiful. Our shower practically drips out water and the other day I couldn't take a shower b/c I couldn't get the water to come out of the shower head. Apparently we only get city water a few times a week and the rest of the time are dependent on our catchment system and the rain. We also have some bugs here -- ants mostly, tho we've seen various other creepy crawlers. We also have at least one mosquito in the house who is munching on Nate at night. His bites really swell and I'm very grateful that we have the hydrocortisone cream with us. I think the bugs are probably just part of life here in the MIs, so we're just coping with that as best we can. One last thing: Apparently the post office doesn't deliver to houses here, so the address for snail mail to us is the college address found on our contact us page. I had been assuming that once we got into our house we'd get mail here directly, but apparently not.

Last week I took my first trip out of the hotel by myself. I had started to go a little stir-crazy after being in the hotel with the two kids for a few days. When R offered to watch the kids while I went to the store, I jumped at the opportunity to have some time to myself.

While walking on the side of the road on my way to the store, I caught glimpses of the lagoon and the large commercial fishing boats in it. I also had to dodge trash on the ground, and since there's no sidewalk, I walked in the road facing traffic so I could see what was coming. As I looked into the faces of those around me, I began to wonder how safe I was walking along the side of a road in a country where I barely knew anyone.

Then I remembered what a friend told me about people who come to the Marshall Islands. He said they could be grouped into one of three M's: Mercenaries, Misfits and Missionaries. I realized that I probably had more to fear from the Westerners here than the locals.

Needless to say, I reached the store without incident. The store, about 1/4 mile away, is about twice the size of Vaughn's market in Kent and has a limited selection of everything. Still, as mentioned before, it has ice cream, so I'm not complaining. In the back of the store, they have a table with a bunch of ice on it and whole fishes sitting in the ice. I guess you just pick out what looks good and wrap it up somehow.

The fish here is incredibly fresh; we've even had sashimi here, which is some form of sushi. I've also had fresh coconut milk, as in we stuck a straw in a coconut and I drank it from there. Luckily, Nate has had access to lots of American food, such as scrambled eggs and French toast, so he's doing fine. We've also enjoyed some of the Asian food here such as curry chicken and a fabulous fried rice dish that they serve with breakfast. I feel like we're getting acclimated at least to the tastes of Majuro.

We also went to our second church service this week and felt like we finally had a routine. It sounds like we really will move into our house this week. I'm feeling grateful for the hotel and its accommodations but am really enthusiastic to be in our own space. We took a final walk-through this morning and brought Nate. He liked the house so much that he threw himself on the floor when we said it was time to leave. :) I hope to take some pictures of the house and post them soon so you can see what it looks like.

On Sunday afternoon we piled into the CMI van and went with some friends to a beach right at the president of the college's house. It was a beautiful, hot day and it took us about 40 minutes to get to the house, which had a fence around it. When we got there, we walked around their place and the beach. We had a feast for lunch and then changed into swimsuits for our first real dive into the ocean. Nate and I had a wonderful time in the water. It was incredible how warm the water was -- Grandma Pam would love it! I wore my sandals as I needed to protect my feet from the rocky ground. Nate ventured too deep and had a few waves splash over his head, which frightened him a little.

We also did some seashell searching and Katie had a good nap indoors out of the sun. It was a great break from our routine and felt like a celebration of sorts. The president and his wife were very hospitable and the whole day was quite relaxing. One of the couples we were with has a 2.5-year-old daughter and she and Nate became fast friends. The couple lives close to our new house, so I'm hopeful that we have found a fun playmate for Nate.

On the way home, as I looked for dolphins (!) in the ocean as we drove along the road, and I felt just grateful to be here.

P.S. Katie has started smiling!



Well, despite sickness, plane problems and serious jet lag, we've made it to the Marshall Islands and are staying at the Marshall Islands Resort. The resort has a restaurant that serves great food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including gardenburgers and steak. It also has a saltwater swimming pool that makes you feel strangely buoyant while swimming in it. After I swam in it once, I discovered that I should probably be wearing a t-shirt over my swim suit to be proper. So much to learn... The hotel also sits right on a lagoon that you can swim in and Nate and I have spent some time looking for seashells on the rocky shores. Our room has cable TV that includes Nickelodeon for Nate and National Geographic and CNN for us. We have internet access in the lobby, but at a charge of 14 cents a minute, which adds up quickly. We hope to send email from the college in a few days.

We've met some fabulous people here already and everyone is working very hard to make sure that we feel at home. One couple in particular has had numerous lunches, breakfasts and dinners with us. And speaking of home, it sounds like we may have a house that we can move into in the next week or so. It's a 3-bedroom, 2-bath place, so the living space would actually be a bit bigger than our home in Kent.

So far the weather here has been HOT and humid. We've been staying in the hotel quite a bit as we're still trying to navigate our way around. We went to a catholic mass on Saturday night, as it was one of the few churches on the island that had services in English. However, since we didn't know a lot of the liturgy, it still felt pretty foreign to us. :) We had some new friends take us on a tour of the island today (it's about 24 miles by road) and went to this beach that was quite beautiful. We intend to come back when we have more sunscreen and time. But it was Katie's first encounter with the Pacific Ocean and Nate's second. And once again, Nate fell in the Pacific. So he's two for two for those of you keeping count.

The island is an unusual mix of beautiful scenery and a lot of poverty. It's fairly common to see wild dogs roaming the streets and a lot of trash strewn everywhere. Many of the homes are in disrepair. Our house, though beautiful on the inside, faces a giant oil drum that we can see out of the kitchen window. So all is not perfect here. But I was frankly expecting things to be much harder and have been pleasantly surprised with what we've seen so far.

We also took our first trip to the grocery store and I was relieved to see that they did indeed sell ice cream (Dreyer's) there. So I think we'll be able to stay after all.



Click here for entries in 2007. Here for entries in 2008.