Cloth Diapers on Kwaj

September 28, 2012

     Before D and I brought Sky home, we talked about trying cloth diapers but decided to stick with disposable because Sky was older and they were what she was used to.  We have always used Pampers and haven't had any complaints about them.  I know a lot of people choose to go with cloth diapers because they don't want to contribute all those diapers to a landfill but since all our trash is burned, that wasn't a factor for us. 
  Since we were in the habit of using Pampers, we just ordered smaller ones for Fire and used them on him when he came home to us.  Again, we, and Florina, were happy with them.  So why the change, you might ask?  As usual, the main factor was cost.  Fire goes through a lot more diapers than Sky did and I was spending $50 every two weeks to keep enough on hand for him.  Also, since there has been talk of the CDC starting infant care (and hopefully hiring Florina to work there- we wouldn't send him if they didn't bring her on board), we needed to look at other options.  One of the things we found out when Sky started at the CDC is that they do a diaper check every hour and if a child is even a little bit wet, they have to change the diaper.  With a baby like Fire, that could mean 8-10 diapers a day, and those boxes of 112 diapers would only last for about 10 days.  And that's not counting what we need at home. 
  In light of that, I decided to give cloth diapers a try.  D's aunt makes her own cloth diapers (Dove Diaperz, email me for info) so we gave those a try first.  They were the snap-front, pad-stuffing kind.  We really liked them but because Fire is a gigantor, they didn't fit him very well and we had some problems with leaks (in retrospect, probably user error.)  We passed the diapers on to a friend our with a younger baby and she hasn't had any problems with them. 
  The second kind we tried were gDiapers and we've stuck with them.  I like that they have a rubber-like liner in them, meaning that there are fewer leaks onto clothes and that they are less bulky than most cloth diapers seem to be.  Florina likes them well enough to keep using them and Fire doesn't mind them.  We're still using Pampers at night (Fore's already in size 4 for night time!) but the rest of the time, he's in gDiapers with the gCloth insert.
  The upside: I haven't bought a box of diapers in four weeks.  The downside: I have to remember to do laundry every night.  I think I can handle that.

Life in Pictures

 There were three babies our bed one morning- and only one of them was happy that it was time to get up!

 We don't have fistfulls of dollars here but we do have fistfulls of babies

It's a bird- it's a plane...

 No, it's Super Dad!
Sky loves riding around on D's back while he's cooking

 Fire tried his first bread the other day

Sort of.

 Dolphin, fish, and turtle hats are standard when eating at our house

Along with shark hats and tantrums!

 Fish hats also make us go faster when we run around our play table

 so cute!

School Pictures

September 26, 2012

   Wow, I can't believe it's been a year since the last school pictures!  One year ago, Sky was still settling in with us and now she'll proudly tell anyone that will listen that D and I are her mommy and daddy.  One year ago, Sky was still learning to speak English and now she's talking in whole sentences and asking questions.  One year ago, she was still wearing 18M clothes and now she's in 3T. 

  Sky, you're only becoming more wonderful!

 Fall 2011

  Fall 2012

  Family and friends, please email me and let me know if you would like a picture and in what size.

Finding Our Stride

  I realized the other day that it's been a while since I've posted about our family and how we're doing and to tell the truth, lately it feels like we're hitting our stride.  Fire has been home for almost five months now and we're finally getting back to doing most of the things that we were doing when we just had Sky.  We even went for a four-mile run the other morning, our first long run with both kids in the jogging stroller.
  Sky is doing better with Fire.  She still strikes out at him but it's happening less and less often.  She likes to hold him and I think he'll get more and more interesting to her as he gets more mobile.  Sky is doing great in school and the teacher there have talked about moving her up to the 3-4 year-old class already.  We've decided that we want her to stay where she is so that she has a chance to be the oldest kid in the class for a while and because there is only one other student in her class in the afternoons.  J is also Marshallese so they have been getting some instruction in Marshallese in the afternoons and Ms Carmen says she's picking it up pretty quickly.  Sky is talking up a storm these days, using full sentences and asking questions.  She will still collapse into crying and just making noise when she is frustrated but we're working on it. 
  Fire is still a big, happy boy.  He stays at home with Ms Florina although there is talk of starting an infant care program at the CDC.  He loves Sky and thinks pretty much anything she does is funny.  Fire can roll from is back to his front but hasn't figured out how to get back to his back yet.  He's almost ready to crawl and will try to push himself towards things when we put him on his tummy.  He's still eating like a horse and sleeping through the night.  Fire has favorite people now (Florina, me, and D, in that order) and will cry when at least one of us isn't in his range of sight.  He is still fussy when we leave him with Bubu and Jimma but he's getting better with Bubu (poor Jimma, Fire cries at the sight of him!). 
  D is putting in long hours at work these days and his class is taking more time than he expected it would but he's still enjoying both.  He's looking forward to the windy season starting so that he can get out and kiteboard again. 
  I am playing soccer again this season, goalie this time, and am enjoying it.  I'm also still teaching every Monday on Ebeye and am having fun with that too. 
  So what's new with you?

Seeing A Man About A Boat

September 19, 2012

  D INSISTED that I use that title. Actually, all four of us saw a man about a boat. Our friend Bill is acting as the selling agent for someone who has already PCS'd and he brought the boat to the dock for us on Monday morning. D and I have talked many, many times about buying a boat here and each time we decide not to, but we're giving this boat some serious consideration. It's called Down East Trader and it's a 38-foot Northeast (LeComte 1968). It's the right size for our family and in our price range. It had a major haul out and re-fit done in 2005 but not much work has been done since then.
   On one hand, it would be nice to own something here. The American Dream of ownership is still pretty deeply instilled in us and since we can't own a home here, this boat would be something like a surrogate home- something we could put time and money into and get joy out of. On the other hand, we have two children under three that take up most of our time already and buying this boat would use up a lot of our "move back to the US" money, money we've saved to buy cars and put a down payment on a house if we ever leave here.
   We're vacilating. It's such a good deal and it would be nice to have the freedom that a sailboat can give and we'd love to teach the kids to sail, but...
For some reason, we didn't take a picture of the whole boat on Monday morning. This is one from the 2005 haul out.

Looking forward from the cockpit

The V-berth in the bow of the boat

Looking out from the V-berth

The head

Looking back towards the V-berth and the head from the saloon (like how I'm throwing out those boating terms? Makes it sound like I know what I'm talking about, doesn't it?)

The kitchen area and companionway
The nav-station and companion way. Behind the nav-station is a pocket berth and storage (both the settees in the saloon can be used as berths as well.
The engine, a marine diesel rebuilt in 2005

A Good Reason Not to Buy a Boat

  Last night, instead of hanging out on the back porch with our friends Mo and Paul, while D and Paul jammed on their guitars, I scrubbed a toilet.  I could have said, "This time is precious" and sat with them but I'd been doing that for the last two weeks and the bathroom was getting really disgusting.  I had been hoping that Florina would get to it (she does a little cleaning for us when she has time) but she hadn't and I just couldn't take it any more. 
  I gave the bathroom a good cleaning, Pledged the end tables and coffee table in the living room, put laundry away, moved some more laundry through, loaded the dishwasher, and finally got some things put away that had just been sitting around for way too long.  It was nice to have a shiny house before going to bed.  But I didn't sit around with my husband and our friends and enjoy the moment. 
  If we have a hard time getting to these everyday tasks now, how will we ever get to them if we have a boat?

You know you've been at it too long when...

September 18, 2012

They say in the traveling contract world, "the first time is for the adventure. the second for the money. the third time because you just don't fit in anywhere else."


I've [D] just noticed another effect of this semi-institutionalization.  Every disadvantage to your lifestyle starts to look like an advantage. For instance:


No internet at home - we like that we don't sit around vegging on FB, or loosing hours to just about anything on the internet. One of my favorite cartoons:


Lack of choices at the store - I have never believed three shelves full of different toothpaste flavors and brands to be any kind of life enrichment. How much time does it take to choose?  You’ll never try them all, if you feel so obsessive about making an informed decision.  By the time you find one you like, it will likely go off market.  If you have a favorite, it takes forever to sort through and find it.


Need to mail order many goods and not have immediate gratification – I remember having to drive to three different stores for that immediate gratification while visiting the states.  If I end up back in the states, with my knowledge of online ordering, I will likely trade a couple of days patience for not having to fight traffic and burn gas.


No cell phones – I doubt I really need even explain myself here.


Lack of things to do – not really, as you pare down the scope of available things to do, you can start to see the whole picture.  Instead of seeing a lack of options, you start to notice all the things available that you manage to miss out on.  It took A to teach me how to take advantage of the place you live.  There were so many things in Omaha I had no idea about.  Every time we go to a city and see a sight I have to wonder what percentage of the locals have done this?  It’s easy to wrap ourselves up and become blind to what’s around us.  Californians used to not be able to understand my parent’s love of the plains.  They’d say California was so great, they have the beach.  My parents would ask, well, when was the last time you went there?  Answer:  oh, well traffic…

(we don’t make the beach often enough, either, and that’s a 4 minute bike ride.)


Cycle of friends – A posted recently on how many people move on.  Yes, you often miss having that life time friend just down the street, but you tend to gain lifetime friends all across the world.  On our trip home, I have so many old acquaintances that have found themselves directly in my path I’m scared I won’t see half of them.  Additionally, the kids are getting real world practice making new friends.


Lack of restaurants – we don’t eat out much, therefore we eat healthier.  It’s cheaper, and when we see that expensive cut of meat in the grocery store, I just say, that’s the same cost as one person’s order at Outback.  Congrats, A on 140 cholesterol, btw.


It occurs to me that all my defending this lifestyle is the type of thing that foreshadows the other side of the coin.  The loathing.  We all go through our little spurts here when we’ve had enough.  The goal is to vacation enough, and push through the rough periods until you can tell yourself it’s alright again.  In the meantime, watch the blog for a rant!

What Dinner Really Looks Like at Our House

September 17, 2012

  Don't let my posts about food fool you.  Don't think that just because we serve Sky everything we eat and that we ask her to eat one bite of everything that's on her plate that our dinner time doesn't look exactly like yours.  Most of our meals are spent trying to get Sky to eat something (what is that with toddlers?!  She likes food, she just doesn't like to eat), trying to get her to stay at the table, and in between that, trying to talk about our day and plan for the evening.  See, I took pictures:

 Sky is eating on D's lap, while pulling is hand to her face to play "shake-face" (it's what it sounds like).  You'll notice that she's eaten most of her tofu and polenta and none of her pepper.  We let this one go- she's not a big fan of peppers and I knew it would be a stretch.

I'm holding Fire on my lap because he's teething and wants his ja-ja.  You'll notice I don't have a plate in front of me- it has to be pushed away even when I'm eating because Fire reaches for anything he can these days.

And I took a stab at making him baby food the other day
He wasn't a fan.
(I just missed catching the crease between his eyebrows when he tasted the home made carrots)

Tofu and Peppers with Polenta

  Don't let the polenta turn you off- it's microwave polenta, like the kind I made for this recipe, except this time it's a firm polenta.  Also, if you're not a fan of the regular texture of tofu, you might want to give this recipe a try.  The tofu is baked in the oven, which firms it up a lot. 


4 cups of water
1 1/4 cups of corn meal
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
Cheese (optional topping)

  Mix the water, corn meal, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 8 minutes.  Stir polenta and microwave for another 8 minutes.  If polenta isn't firm at that point, microwave in 2 minute intervals until it reaches the consistency of pudding.  Remove polenta from the microwave and stir in butter.  Transfer polenta to a greased 8x8 square or 9-inch round pan and refrigerate until the tofu and peppers are about to come out of the oven. 
  Cut tofu into squares and fry in butter on both sides until a crispy brown crust forms.  Top with cheese (if desired- we used slices of Gouda) and allow cheese to melt before moving to plates to serve.

Tofu and Peppers:
  I followed this recipe from Bon Appetit, with a few changes.  I can't get medium tofu here so I used water-packed firm tofu (and we prefer firm anyway).  We didn't have enough lime juice so I used half lemon and half lime juice and instead of cilantro I used a tablespoon of dried thyme in the marinade. Because I didn't use cilantro, I also didn't use a blender to mix the sauce that you drizzle on finished dish.  I used both red and green peppers and a regular white onion instead of a red one.  Oh, and spray the tin foil that the tofu goes on with a cooking spray, otherwise it sticks and can be tricky to get off in whole pieces.

  Because the tofu needs to marinate and the polenta takes a while to cook in the microwave, it might sound tricky to work out the timing so that everything is ready at the same time, but here's what worked for me:
-Preheat the oven for the tofu and peppers
-Mix up the tofu and pepper marinade and get the tofu marinating in the bag
-Start the polenta cooking in the microwave
-Chop the peppers and onion, mix up the sauce, and prep the baking sheets
-Have the polenta cooling in the refrigerator before putting the tofu and peppers in the oven
-When the tofu and peppers have about five minutes left to go, heat some butter in a frying pan, then slice and fry your polenta.  It should finish shortly after the tofu and peppers come out of the oven.
-Sever the peppers over the tofu and fried polenta and drizzle with sauce and ENJOY!

Spartan Expresso

   Oh, coffee shop coffee, how I miss you!  Actually, we do have a coffee shop here, the Sunrise Bakery, but for some reason, it's just not the same.  I get my fix once a month at Spartan Expresso, the coffee shop run out of the high school Home Ec kitchen.  It's run by high school students during the school year as a club.  The students get work experience and the community gets super-fabulous coffee. 

 One little sign

 Check out those prices!  $2.50 for my hot peppermint mocha latte.  I brought $7 the first time I came to Spartan Expresso and was happily surprised.

 Pam, one of the teachers that helps the students run the shop, delivering me my coffee (I bring my own mug).

 The Spartan Expresso baristas, hard at work

And in case  you were wondering how I get my delicious hot peppermint mocha latte to work on a bicycle:
The same way you do- I have a cup holder!


September 14, 2012

   We've been playing a lot of Scrabble lately.  Once the kids are in bed, we'll light a mosquito coil, grab the Scrabble box, a drink or some desert, and the baby monitor and spend the evening on back porch talking and playing.  D was looking over the rules one evening and saw a section on game variations.  We didn't know this but you can play the game with nine letters in your tray instead of seven and that's how we've been playing.  Did you know that?  If you like Scrabble at all, you should give it a try.  You can make longer words, which opens up the board more and makes it more fun, and the game goes faster.   Check out the board from our game the other night:

We tied!

Saying Goodbye and Hello

  We love living on Kwaj but one of the things that makes it hard to think of this place as "home" is how much people come and go here.  Most folks sign contracts for one or two years and leave when their time is up.  Sure, some people get on the next plane back out as soon as they get here and some people stay for five, ten, or twenty years, but it's not the same as having the same neighbors for the whole time you live in a house and really getting to know them. 

Cherie and Monte (our neighbors and one of Sky's favorite persons in the world) moved back to America

So did Sky's BFF Payton

Our friend Kerri teaches in Germany now

Brendan (the weekend-saver and wookie-giver) is heading to Antarctica

And Anne leaves for Japan soon

  It's hard to say goodbye to good friends and we really miss them when they're gone.  The bright side of their living someplace else is that we can always go and see them.  And there are always new people showing up on island.  We're getting together tonight with two newer families on island that have children that are the same age as ours and I took some toys and banana bread to a family that just moved in up the alley over the weekend. 
  We're trying to make the best connections we can in the time we have.  You can never have too many friends and you never know when you'll meet someone that will be in your life long-term. 

A Day on A Boat

   Last weekend we were invited to go sailing to Bigej (say: bee-gejj) with some friends.  Even though it's only two hours away by boat, and a great place to go snorkeling, D and I had never been there, so we were really excited to go.  Our friends Amy and Doug kept Sky and Fire for the day (they already have four kids, so what's two more!) and we loaded up our snacks and snorkeling gear and sailed out on Panacea. 
  Unfortunately, the weather didn't really cooperate so we motored our way there but it otherwise, it was a great day out on the water.  We talked, snorkeled, ate, napped, snorkeled, explored, and then motored back to Kwaj.  Even without wind to rock the boat, I still got pretty seasick (I blame it on this) and I spent a lot of the return trip laying down. 
  It was our first time away from Sky for a whole day since she came home to us a year and a half ago and I was a little worried about how she would handle it but over all, she did great.  She loves going to Amy's house and we only had a few problems with her behavior the next day.  I don't know how much more we'll get to go out boating but this time was a lot of fun.

Sky wants to go snorkeling

 Fire's not sure about those faces!

 Brendan piloting us out of Kwaj harbor

A view of Ebeye, where most of the Marshallese in the country live 

 I love this picture of D and I


 Goofing off with the camera while trying not to be seasick

 Emon beach, seen from the lagoon

Sailing into Kwaj Harbor
Our Charmed Life. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.