Wednesday, February 21, 2018

8 things I will not miss about Okinawa

The other day I painted kind of a rosy picture of life here, every bit of which is true. And there's even more. But right now I'm in a mood to make a list of things I will not miss about Okinawa.

1) Living in a concrete house. Sounds are magnified a thousand times as they pass through these walls. A couple nights ago I was reading a book in bed when I started to hear a thump!bump!thump! sound coming from my left. Upstairs or downstairs, I didn't know -- it seemed to be reverberating all over. I went to investigate which one of these crazy kids was up and about, and I found each of them in their beds. Delaney was sitting up and reading. I reminded her not to stay up too late and went back to bed. Then I heard it again and started to get really annoyed. Just what is going on in this house?! I walked around again and found them all in their beds. I ducked my head in the girls' room one more time and happen to catch Delaney tapping her head against the wall behind her. "What are you doing that for?" I asked. "It's relaxing," she told me. O-kaaay.. "Well, could you stop?"

I gave up months ago on training Joey to sleep through the night in this house when I can hear his every whimper as if he's right there in the room.

2) Having to drive to a post office 15 minutes away to pick up my mail. Oh, the joyful anticipation of counting down the 10-14 days it takes for an Amazon Prime package to arrive .. and then leaving the post office toting a shopping bag filled with a week's worth of junk mail.  I will not miss that at all. Instant gratification will soon be mine again!

3) A cruddy selection of produce, most of which is unaffordable. I have heard that things are available on a seasonal basis at the grocery stores and farmer's markets in town. But I don't want to drive all over. I want to shop at one place, the commissary. Delaney asked me to make kale chips recently, and I am only too happy to oblige when a kid asks for vegetables.
But not this time. Sorry, Delaney.

4) Stale PB&J. I don't feel the loaves of white bread here to choose the freshest, I feel them to pick ones that seem least stale. This one has a little bit of give.. I almost feel bad for my kids as I'm packing their lunches (they are overall pretty ungrateful for the food I give them, so that's why I say almost.).

5) The puny cupholders in our Oki cars. Neither my water bottle nor my coffee mug will fit in any of them. I realize it's a nitpicky thing, but I miss my Traverse with its multiple generously-sized cupholders.

6) The lack of adequate parking anywhere out in town. Sometimes there's just no parking at all. On a rare day that Tim had off and the kids did not, we decided to do a little bit of antique furniture shopping. There was a string of stores along a stretch of the highway south of where we live. We wanted to take the whole morning to meander in and out of them. There was just one problem; actually two. The first was the stores didn't open until 11, at which point our day is half done, there's lunch, Joey's nap, and then the kids get home. The other problem was that the stores were literally at the side of the highway with cars zooming past, and there was no parking either on or off the road. There was maybe a questionable-looking alleyway you could drive down on a steep hill and search for parking; but Tim wasn't too keen to do that. So he dropped me off at one end of the sidewalk and I walked down the road alone peering in the store windows to see if it would be worth the trouble of coming back later and trying to park. Not exactly how I had envisioned the morning going.

Of the places that do have parking, it is typically limited and consists of the head-scratching kind that makes me think, 'I can get in there, but am I going to be able to get out?' Once I had a morning dentist appointment, and since I was 15 minutes early and still had the little parking lot to myself, I executed a 16-point turn in order to get my car pointed at the busy road for when it was time to leave. It was well worth the effort.
7) The roads. Holy crap, the roads. I'm pretty sure I mentioned this before, but the side roads are crazy here. They are really narrow with corners of buildings and telephone poles jutting out into them. If I go down the wrong road and need to find my way back, you think oh, no problem: just take a series of turns all in the same direction and turn yourself around, right? NO. It doesn't work that way. I once had to meet Tim at the base where he works for a Christmas party at night, and I was kind of familiar with how to get there, but I had only done it in the daytime. I had Google Maps directing me, but I still managed to take a wrong turn down a pitch-black back road. In order to backtrack I pulled into a parking lot (on my left -- big mistake because remember, we drive on the left side of the road, so when I make a right turn I have to look both ways). I had no visibility to turn out of that parking lot because of a hedge on the right, and I just froze, a scared old lady not wanting to go anywhere, with a car full of impatient kids who'd like to go to a Christmas party and see their dad.  
I have gotten comfortable with the routes I need to know to get anywhere I need to go, and I never make wrong turns anymore because I don't drive around to new places anymore. It's a little sad, but kind of a matter of survival for me and my nerves.

8) The dollar stores that have no gift-wrapping supplies or greeting cards. I know, they have a lot of cool stuff, but what do I need the dollar store for most of the time anyway?

That's everything, I think. And now the countdown really begins -- one month to go!

Monday, February 19, 2018

In our "backyard"

I miss my blog, and I miss feeling like I have a real reason to update it ever. So the other day I thought I'd take out my camera, snap some pictures and build a post around them. I hadn't gotten out my real camera forever, and it is a great exercise, trying to capture moments I don't even notice most of the time and appreciate the things I take for granted. 
Spring has arrived in Okinawa, and the temperatures have jumped from the high '50s/low '60s to the '70s. There are still no bugs. We had nowhere to be because we went to Mass Saturday afternoon (leaving Joey with the babysitter to make it a tad easier for me with Tim away), and there was no CCD yesterday because of the holiday weekend. After some time spent putzing around with our Kindles, I sent us all outside. 
There's this amazing tree near the playground. It's the stuff of fairy tales and adventure stories. You can disappear inside it. You can climb the dense network of branches almost to the top, and there's a thick canopy of leaves that will keep you cool in the heat of summer. It is a tree meant for any kind of pretend game a kid could ever want to play. Not that the kids usually need any prompting to go play in the tree, but I brought my camera along and dropped several hints. The light is so perfect in there when the sun starts to get high. Note: If this tree had been in South Carolina, we would not be going inside because there would be snakes, spiders, gnats and mosquitoes in there. 
Timmy was in a battle with the neighbor boy.
There's something for everybody: a magical tree, a playground with a hard surface they can scooter and bike on, even a sweet little dog named Sushi for the 10-year-old who is obsessed with dogs. There are almost always other kids out playing, whose presence may or may not be appreciated by certain children of mine. Often there's a grownup for me to chat with. Kids routinely leave their bikes, Nerf guns and skateboards at the playground overnight, and find them there when they return. (This is not good training for reality, I know). The military communities I've lived in will always hold a special place in my heart, and this one is a real jewel.
This is all going to be a blip in our memories soon enough, but I want to make sure they can look back and think to themselves, this was a pretty amazing place to call home.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Date Night and Other Stuff

With two months left until we move back to the other side of the world, flights are booked, movers are scheduled, and house-hunting is underway. We hope to have some happy news to share on that front very soon, maybe after Tim's trip later this month. It's a work/house-hunting trip to California, Virginia and North Carolina. And although the kids and I have been on our own for a whole lot longer than three weeks, I am just a wee bit daunted at the prospect. I'm just trying to keep in mind that we can definitely spare him, especially if it's a productive and fruitful trip that will benefit us all.

In the meantime, maybe it's time for some updates -- nothing exciting.

First off, something that gave me a good laugh recently. I was at the playground, and when my friend Becky came out her door and headed over, I thought she might be coming to chat. But she was there to call her kids inside because she had somewhere to be, and she wanted them to go inside with the babysitter first. Becky's husband Mark and Tim go back a long way, to Iraq in 2003.

Becky got frustrated when it seemed her kids weren't responding to her request, and said, "I can't corral my two kids; I don't know how you do it with four!" "Me neither," I said. She said to one of them, "I'm counting to 3, you'd better get over here." As four-year-old Maggie came running over, Becky said to me, "Of course I'd probably be just as overwhelmed with one." I said, "It's true. However many you have, it's too many." Then little Maggie piped up, "YOU have too many, Brady!"

Well, then.😆

Tim and I had a date night last night. We finally found a babysitter we love, of course within weeks of having to say goodbye. She just turned 12, took a babysitting course, and last month Joey was her first little charge after her eight-year-old brother. She lives on our street and walked to our door with her cute bag full of activities and a clipboard with a little questionnaire for me to fill out with stuff like, 'Where will you be?' 'Should I put him to bed and if so, when?' I was very impressed and Joey took to her right away, wanting to show her all his toys and books. Her mom texted later, telling me how much Elizabeth had enjoyed watching Joey.

This time we left the whole crew with her and went out to dinner. It was a three-mile round-trip walk and we went to a nice sushi place that Tim picked out, not one of the 'fast food' type sushi places we typically go to. I loved the walk at sunset on the water with the chilly weather we've been having, the delicious food and the uninterrupted conversation. I get why people do date nights! I'm putting another one on the calendar for next month.

On the way home I reminisced about our "date nights in" in North Carolina when the kids were really little, and how that wouldn't be possible anymore unless we wanted to wait till 10 to eat.
Maybe next month we'll be eating outside?
Backing up a bit, here are some pictures from Christmas. We had a nice, quiet one with just us. Early in the day on Christmas Eve, Tim humored Delaney, taking her on an adventurous little drive through the crazy Okinawa roads to a dog shelter in the middle of nowhere, so that she could volunteer walking the dogs. The surrounding roads were not pedestrian friendly at all, not somewhere Tim would have wanted to be walking under any circumstances.
One cool thing about living overseas is how gifts kept trickling in throughout the 12 days of Christmas, helping us to remember that there are 12 days. It wasn't always apparent to me who the gift was from, so for anyone we didn't thank, know that we are grateful for whatever you sent. We love you and miss you all.

We have some exciting things on the horizon, but for now I am soaking up the bug-free Okinawa winter and enjoying this lull before things get crazy again.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

I Give Up on Okinawa.

When we first got to here I was very driven, writing things on the calendar for every weekend -- a new beach, a new park, something -- kind of a bucket list mentality without having written down a real bucket list. I had been fed a steady diet of "you need to do this!" and "you need to do that!" by everyone who'd ever been here, from the time I announced we had orders. It was nice for awhile, but a little exhausting. So much to see and do, so little time! I wanted to hit up all the good beaches. Then while we were stuck inside one weekend after another either due to typhoon conditions or restricted liberty status due to events outside our control, summer abruptly turned to fall, then to winter (winter mostly characterized by temperatures of around 60 and lots of rain). My checklist got squashed after I cancelled Okuma resort for the second time. My expectations plummeted from way up there to waaaay down here.

And you know what? It's been a good thing. I'm back to appreciating the little things and not getting all worked up over plans that don't work out. I'm enjoying this lull before we have to gear up for the move back to the States. We're having a low-key holiday season over here. The biggest plans we have for the next two weeks are a viewing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (whenever a certain child stops being difficult and starts being deserving of such an outing), and a visit to the third biggest aquarium in the world. 

In the meantime I'm content. I love this little neighborhood we live in where the kids have the freedom and space to run and bike all over the place. I enjoy taking a walk at sunset with a couple of the kids, letting Annie buy herself a smoothie at the Shoppette. I look forward to our dinners out every Saturday, and now that we've finally found a babysitter, Tim and I will be getting out by ourselves soon. We won't even need to go far! We can walk over to American Village and eat somewhere that we wouldn't with all our picky kids in tow.

It took throwing up my hands and "giving up on Okinawa" to make me come back to the realization that we are simple people. We are happiest and most grateful when we're in our own little bubble, wherever that happens to be, just enjoying one another.

We take a lot of pictures and I don't blog a whole lot anymore, so here's a photo dump from the last month or two. (Also to serve as proof I have more kids than just Joey.)
Coach Dad 
The best we could manage on Thanksgiving Day
Tim is so uncomfortable here, it cracks me up. Western style seating for us, please!
Delaney has gotten involved with the Okinawan American Animal Rescue Society here, and just loves it. She has signed up for every event she can, and has a nice collection of t-shirts she'll eventually grow into. She also got herself a dog-sitting job for a week this Christmas with a cute Boston named Sushi. She is going to be in heaven. I have to say, I am looking forward to seeing this girl with a dog of her own.
My favorite decorations are the origami Christmas trees the girls made. 
A street on Camp Lester

Friday, December 15, 2017

Joey is TWO!

I just love this little face.

Our Joe turned two yesterday, and birthdays at this age are the best. The kids all counted down the days almost as eagerly as they count down to Christmas, because they couldn't wait to sing 'happy birthday' to their baby brother and lavish him with gifts and extra love.
We began the day by seeing the Big 3 off to school and heading to the naval hospital for his well visit. Joey is a hale and hearty 25.4 pounds and 33 inches tall. He's sitting just under the 20th percentile for his age. He stood on the scale and put his feet against the wall to be measured, no problem. After chatting with the doctor about what a bad sleeper and picky eater he is, he trotted out the door after her when she offered him stickers. No shots were due so it was an easy appointment.

Back home I got the house in order, made lunch and let him play outside before his nap. He happily pushed around his handmedown Strider Bike friends gave us a few days ago, and the scooter that he's commandeered from Timmy (both of which he's still too small and uncoordinated to use, but no matter). During his nap I baked his cake and blew up a bunch of balloons. When he woke up cranky as usual, I brought him downstairs and he saw those balloons and forgot all about being cranky. First he batted them around every which way, then tried putting them in the cabinets and in the kitchen sink.

Annie and Timmy came home, Tim got home from work early, I picked Delaney up from school where she'd stayed for board game club, and then came back home. When the breakfast casserole stubbornly refused to be done, and Tim and Timmy were going to have to leave for basketball soon, we were left with no other choice -- dessert before dinner!
It was everybody's lucky day. Here is the link to the video of Joey as we sing happy birthday to him. Maybe one of these days Blogger will make it easier to embed videos, but not today. I loved watching his expression as it changed from one of bewilderment to enjoyment.
He ate nearly all his cake and ice cream, and unlike last year, was a very polite young man with his fork. Once we were done with that it was time for presents. It was a bit chaotic, but once the dust settled Joey had some nice new things from us and his grandparents, including a toy truck, motorcycle pajamas, some clothes, books and a Plasma Car. He's got quite the collection of wheeled things now!

At two he seems to be changing at warp speed. I felt like even just driving away from his checkup he was talking even more than he'd been going in. He says short phrases and sentences now, like "Baby crying", "kids school," "Annie meanie", and "Mama, (where) are you?" Whenever I sing he says, "Mama, sop!"
He loves his outside time, and the weather here is beautiful this time of year so we're outside every day. After lunch and before nap I sit out back and watch him play and sometimes follow as he wanders around the grassy area behind our houses. I know my favorite memories are going to end up being those times. Then once the other kids get home from school, he can't wait for Annie to take him to the "gound" (playground). He needs lots of time outside. He turns into a little monster without it.

He really enjoys his baths too, and has one just about every day, many times on request. Every time he poops and doesn't like me wiping him a whole lot, he says, "Bah! Bah!" Sometimes it is easier to just plunk him in the bath than to wipe him completely clean.
He nurses just once a day, right before I put him to bed. As part of our bedtime routine I read him a story and then let him make his rounds giving out goodnight kisses. He goes down easily by 7:30, usually with a little car, truck or train in each hand. Sometimes he sleeps through the night, but more often than not he wakes up once or twice and needs to be resettled. We had a few really bad nights this month that made me desperate enough to reach out the Young Living rep on Oki and order him a weighted blanket from Etsy. Still waiting on the blanket, and my meeting with the busy Young Living rep isn't until the 20th. When I'm not having the really bad nights I don't mind waiting forever, but when he's waking up four, five or six + times in a night, I feel like I wait forever for anything that might give me relief.

He might drive me crazy sometimes, but I sure do love this little man.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Two Advents Ago

Two years ago when I was writing down Joey's birth story, this is where I began it at first -- a full 24 hours before his arrival. But when I started to write it it all just felt too ponderous and long, and I didn't think anyone would hang in to the end if I started it that far back. If I had decided to write his birth story in two parts, part one would have begun at Mass the day before.

I was at 40 + 4 and  I was in a horrible mood. With the first three kids, I had not even come within three days of my due date, so this pregnancy should have been long over as far as I was concerned. I was exhausted, encumbered by my enormous belly which made getting dressed, sleeping, and everything in between difficult. Tim's mom sat in the pew with us for the last time. She had been staying with us since Thanksgiving and she'd be flying back home the next morning. I don't even know if I could adequately convey in words how unbearable it was the last week of carrying Joe. I was embarrassed even to go out in public with this big round belly preceding me everywhere and making people's eyes bug out of their heads. I had recently left the post office and a Marine walking toward me said, "Woah!" I didn't even want to be at church today. I wanted to stay at home and hide, and just throw myself the biggest pity party.

During the petitions, one of the prayers was for expectant mothers. There were only about 20 people in that tiny chapel altogether, so it was obvious they were all praying for me. It was all about me, ha ha. My eyeballs sprang a tiny leak. When the offertory hymn played, I don't remember what it was, but I remember how it hit me square in the feels -- a solemn sounding advent song about waiting and longing. It was getting to be too much. My eyeballs leaked faster, and I quickly soaked a couple of tissues. My face started to grow hot and I realized that I was about to have a full on ugly cry, and once it's coming there's no stopping it. I had to get out of there fast. Rather than rush out alone, I grabbed Timmy so I could pretend it was his bathroom emergency that was propelling me to the back of the chapel. I kept my head down and looked behind me several times to make sure he was following.

I was out in the fresh air and home free, my face crumpling and the snot and tears running. Then I rounded the corner of the building to go to the rear entrance where the bathrooms and sitting room were, and came face to face with someone I knew -- another mom of four on her way back with one of her littles. Looking into her shocked and concerned face I said, "This isn't as bad as it looks!"

She went with me to the back room and there was another mom back there with her kids too. I talked, they listened, they gave me more tissues, they told their own stories, we laughed, I blew my nose a thousand times, and my tears stopped. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me. I hadn't even known how much energy I had put into bottling up my feelings, and it was such a relief to let it out.

I don't know why such a rough morning turned out to be one of my most cherished memories, but it's what popped into my mind when a member of my bible study shared that she just learned that she's pregnant and thrilled that she'll be spending the rest of Advent pregnant. My sister Grace is due in January, and I wonder if she ever finds herself feeling a little overcome as she sits in the pew hearing those songs and waiting for her own baby boy.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Joey: 23 Months

Very early this morning I looked at the clock when I heard Joey whimpering, and thought, It's been four hours. Great! Yep, things have gotten that bad, and our almost-two-year-old is sleeping worse than he did as an infant. I don't know why. No new molars, no big changes, only one very short-lived sickness .. I am stumped as to why we're having these issues. He has no trouble falling asleep when I lay him down around 7, but for about the past week starting at 11 he wakes up as often as once or even twice an hour. I go in there, tell him to go back to sleep and cover him up with his blankie. And he does .. but then a while later he's up again. The closer we get to morning, the worse it gets. Our "Mr. Clock" worked well for the girls with early rising, but it's since gotten old and can not be relied upon to always be yellow or blue at the right times. Then I read yesterday while Googling about toddler sleep, that most nightlights inhibit the production of melatonin. The "soothing" colors of blue and green are the main culprits. Once I read that, I banished Mr. Clock to the spare room, which is just a way to delay throwing it away. I'm so bummed because I'd planned on getting Joey a different kind of clock from Amazon that was newer and better, but I think it's blue at night too. Now I don't know what to do.
I started saving most of Timmy's things around the time I started thinking maybe there'd be another baby, so starting around 2T. I'm so glad I did because I love seeing my favorite things of Timmy's a second time -- like this Superman shirt. He also has a green airplane shirt that is so soft and has three-quarter sleeves which are the best! and so hard to find.
During the day he's pretty much his normal self, although he does tire out more quickly since his nighttime sleep has taken a turn for the worse. He's talking more and more, and starting to put words together too. His word choice in some situations makes us laugh. One time he was begging to go outside, and really getting upset because he was being ignored. "'Side .. 'side .. 'side!" he called, starting to cry. At last Annie said, "OK, Joey, I'll take you outside." "Fine!" he said, instantly done crying.
Once I told Timmy to go upstairs and take a bath, but he was trying to procrastinate. Joey wanted a bath with him so he went up the stairs and called down, "Mee (that's how he says Timmy -- that or just "ee")! Baf! Now!"

He accuses all of us at different times of being mean. "Mean Annie!" "Mama.. mean."
This is the green airplane shirt! And the yucky teeth are from cookies 'n cream ice cream.
At any given time if he's upset and I ask him what the matter is, he says, "Aaaa-niie.." We have a running joke that it's always Annie to blame when Joe's upset, and then I come after Annie threatening her with punishments. "What should we do, Joe? Throw her out?" But at the same time he loves Annie and is most excited to see her when they get home from school.
He still runs like a drunk pigeon, and I love it.

He's started letting me read him books instead of just impatiently flipping back and forth through the pages, and wanting to talk about the pictures.
He's figured out doorknobs.:( Darn it. Must buy doorknob covers and hope those keep him fooled for a good long time.

His current favorite toys are his "ga-go" (motorcycle) and his "dus" (bus). For some strange reason he can pronounce the "b" sound in every other word besides bus. We're giving him a plasma car for his birthday, and I can't wait. We're going to tell him it's a "ga-go".
He wasn't much help looking for sea glass, but he had a blast picking up rocks and shells and throwing them in the water.