To Kemem or Not To Kemem, Continued

November 29, 2012

  D and I have been letting our thoughts on the kemem, and on the advice we gotten about it, roll around in our heads and we're starting to lean towards having the party here on Kwaj for several reasons:
1: Fire's birth family actually did ask that we have the party at Emon Beach, so we would be honoring their wishes by having it here. 
2: As an anonymous commenter pointed out in my first post on this, we won't be able to control the cost very well and while D and I aren't hurting for money, we're not really rolling in it either. 
3: A good friend also made a really good point: that Fire is both Marshallese and American and that his whole life is going to be about finding a working balance between those two.  Maybe this party is where finding that balance starts for our family. 
  We're holding Fire's baptism at Emon Beach this weekend and I'm going to look at it as a trial run for the kemem.  We're sponsoring over 23 people from Ebeye through a program called Community Exchange.  If this works out, than maybe we can expand our sponsorship to 40 people and make a real party of it. 

 Yes, we're talking about you, Fire!

Thinking Outside the Box

November 28, 2012

  Sky has really been trying to exert her independence lately, mostly by saying, "No" and refusing to do things that we ask her to, or by ignoring us entirely.  One of the ways this has manifested itself has been her refusing to get ready in the morning.  She'll go to the bathroom but instead of getting changed, she'll throw herself on the floor and lay there.  Or she'll refuse to pick out clothes or brush her teeth.  But I found a way around it the other morning: I told her that I didn't think that she could get ready fast than Daddy.  Sky loves a challenge.  I got excited and started telling D that Sky was going to be at the breakfast table before him, and Sky hopped out of bed and hurried to the bathroom.  I still had to encourage her along and she still balked at brushing her teeth but she got ready for the first time in a while without a fuss and without foot dragging.  I don't know that the trick will work everyday but it sure made for a nice morning when it did work.
  I had another good idea last night when Sky didn't want to stay in bed after bedtime.  After taking her back to her bed twice it finally occurred to me to ask if anything was bothering her, and she said, in her tiny, adorable voice, "Monsters.".  I told her that the monsters are afraid of Mommy and said, "Do you know what I do when I see monsters?  I tell them to go home to their mommies and go to bed."  I told her that it's past their bedtime too and then we practiced saying "Monster, go home to bed!" before I told her goodnight one last time.  I wasn't sure it would work but it must have calmed her down enough to allow her to go to sleep because we didn't hear another peep out of her. 
  I have a hard time remembering to think outside the box with Sky.  Most of the time I just want her to listen and do as I say and she has such an independent personality that she just goes her own way.  When I don't take the time to work with it, we get tears and stalling, but if I can make the time to think through the situation and get to the cause of it, sometimes I can find a solution that makes us both happy.
  What's worked with your independent kids?

Oh, The Crying!

November 27, 2012

  Well, we don't have to worry about whether or not Fire's attached to us.  In all honesty, right now he would probably love to be physically attached to us!  He's going through that (perfectly normal) phase where he cries and screams if one of his three favorite people (Florina, myself, or D- in that order) aren't holding him at all times.  Sometimes he'll be distracted enough by playing in his walker that he's okay with just having one of us in his sight but heaven forbid you open the refrigerator door and he can't see you.  A friend told me that they nicknamed their child "the appendage" and it looks like that's how it will be for Fire too.  Please, tell me this passes quickly! 

To Kemem or Not To Kemem

November 26, 2012

  A kemem (say: kay-mem) is a first birthday party in the Marshallese culture.  Historically, because of the high infant mortality rates, when a child made it to their first birthday it was really something to celebrate.  Today, kemems are usually only thrown for first-born children and sometimes not even then.  Kemems are a big deal and big investment of time and money.  Fire will be one in February and because we'll be in States until January, we started discussing his kemem the other day.
  Let me start by saying that we are blessed to have such a good relationship with Fire's birth-grandparents.  They have taken Ciela in as their own granddaughter and they've taken D and I into thier family as well.  They have opened their home to us and are teaching us the Marshallese language.  This is something we never expected and we are so happy to have. 
  We have a few kemem options: a smaller party here on Kwaj at Emon Beach or big party on Ebeye.  Auntie and Uncle (as they've told me to call them) have offered to "let us off the hook" as far as a kemem is concerned.  They've said that Fire doesn't need a big party, that one at Emon Beach with the 20 people that we're allowed to sponsor over from Ebeye would be fine.  
 And they've been very up front about what throwing a kemem on Ebeye would entail.  If we have the party on Ebeye, we're going to have to go big: at least 200 people with the expectation that 300 will show up.  And we'll have to feed all of those people.  Here's the example that Uncle gave: 15 cases of chicken at $36 each, and that's just the chicken.  We'd need rice, fish, salad, beverages, and desert, at least.  And the charcoal to cook the food  And then the fabric, because we'd all have new clothes made.  And, and, and.  We'd be looking at spending at least a thousand dollars on this party. 
  My midwestern upbringing is screaming that this should be an easy decision: why spend a thousand dollars on a party for a baby who won't remember any of it?!  But another part says that this is a great way to spend that money.  That this is an opportunity to truly embrace the Marshallese culture and all that it entails, and to thank Auntie and Uncle for their kindness.  This could be a chance for us to demonstrate our commitment to our children's Marshallese heritage.
  What do you think?  Should we go big or go home on this or accept the reasonable financial limitations and have something smaller but possibly less meaningful? 

11-30 Update: More thoughts on this topic here: To Kemem or Not To Kemem, Continued



November 25, 2012

  We got great news from one of our students yesterday- B has applied for a job on Kwaj and is just waiting on his medical clearnace!  This is a really big deal.  B is one of our best students in our English class.  Even before we knew about his job, my fellow teachers and I had requested that he be singled out for recognition during graduation for his attendance, willingness to volunteer, and excellent attitude.  To say that I am proud of B doesn't go far enough.  The Marshallese culture doesn't encourage initiative in the same way that the American one does so it's pretty unique that B stepped out of his comfort zone and went to Kwaj to apply for a job. 
  My co-teacher Gina and I had just been feeling a little down about what effect our teaching might have and where the young men we teach might go from here.  Most of the men in the WAM program didn't finish high school so the next step for them would be to get their GED but there isn't a GED program on Ebeye.  They would have to do like B did and take the initiative to travel to Majuro, Guam, or the US to get it. 
  I don't know if our teaching had anything to do with B applying for his job, and to tell the truth, I really hope that it was what he learned in the WAM program that gave him the confidence to apply, rather than anythin we did.  If WAM can help B succeed, than it can help other young men do the same.
  Gina and I teach our last English class next Monday and the first WAM Ebeye graduation is next Wednesday.  We're so proud of all the young men that have seen the program through to the finish.  We've been told they're already interviewing students for their next class.  I'm looking forward to having some time off from teaching every Monday but I'm also excited about starting fresh with a new class.  Teaching on Ebeye has been a great experience for me, something outside my own comfort zone that I'd never done before.  I'm so glad I took the chance on something new- it has expanded my horizons in some very good ways.

We're Not Prepared To Have a 3-Year-Old In The House

November 24, 2012

  I was getting myself and the kids ready to go to Ebeye when I realized that it was suspiciously quiet downstairs where Sky was playing by herself.  When I got downstairs, she was playing nicely with her doll house but there was a bottle of Tide on the couch next to her.  I picked it up and noticed the lid was loose as I walked it back to the kitchen.  There were blue spots on the floor by the washing machine- where I'd left the Tide in the first place, to remind D to start the washer.
  I put two and two together and called Sky in.  I made her open her mouth a took a whiff- yup, my baby girl's breath smelled like Tide Coolwater Fresh Scent.  Super.  Medi-mom kicked in and I got her a big cup of water and a straw and made her drink it while I called the hospital.  The doctors said to keep her drinking water and to watch her for diarrhea- since Sky's so small, she can't afford to loose too much weight. 
  I don't think she drank more than a sip, just enough to find out that Tide isn't juice, but the fact that she did it scared the pants off of D and really unnerved me.  We're not used to having someone who's both really curious and physically able to satisfy that curiosity in the house.  I think we're really going to have to step up our vigilance on things. 

A Little Flashback

November 23, 2012


     I don't remember if I've posted these pictures before but I've always thought they were great.  Sky is a pretty good traveler and these were taken just before she and I left for Thailand a year ago.  Her new stroller and my travel books had just come in the mail.  Sky had loaded the books, her swimsuit and her doll in the stroller and started walking around the house.

Like a good traveler, she decides a little ways into it to ditch the travel guides.

 She has the essentials: a good friend and a change of clothes.  All set to go.

Looks like Sky has some European ideas about bathing suits...  Oh well, she's got her friend and her wheels, what more could she need?

(On a tangent, look how tiny my girl was!  And look at her hair- she hasn't let me do her hair in ages.)


November 22, 2012

    This year, I'm thankful for friends who host big Thanksgiving dinners and who don't get mad when Fire's diaper explodes on their white carpet.  I'm thankful for wonderful neighborhood kids who look out for Sky, just because they're good kids like that.  I'm thankful for my husband who took both kids out this morning so I could have a little time to myself.  I'm thankful for the fullness that two children bring to our lives. 

D's Birthday

November 21, 2012

We celebrated D's 37th birthday yesterday! He opened his presents (a video game and some new tupperware-seriously friends, I think he like the tupperware more than the video game!) in bed and then we had monkey bread for breakfast. We had sushi and sashimi for dinner and ice cream cake for desert. Our friend Paul came over later in the evening and he and D had a jam session on the back patio. All in all, a great birthday.
D made all this yummy sushi from tuna we bought at the Marshallese Craft Fair

Sky LOVES sushi!

even if it doesn't quite fit in her mouth
made it fit!

This is the ice cream cake I made for David

This is what the cake was supposed to look like

no matter how it looked, that was some fabulous cake!


November 20, 2012

  Someone passed away here yesterday.  The man who died was a husband and a father.  He leaves behind a wife and two young sons.  He was D's age and we've been told that he died suddenly at work.  We didn't know him well but Sky would occasionally play with their older son, and I'd just spoken to him about our kids over the weekend.  My heart is breaking for this family. 
  Death on Kwaj is doubly hard.  Their family can't drive right over or fly in to help.  There is a strong community here and they are are wrapping their arms around this family but it's not the same.  His wife will have to make arrangements and then travel, probably soon, whether she wants to or not.  And because of the nature of Kwaj, this family will lose their home and the children their school and friends because of this.  The family's housing was attached to his job and while I don't think the family will be rushed out of here, they can't stay indefinitely.  I can't even begin to imagine what they are going through and I don't think there are words to describe it.

Three Weeks Until Vacation!

November 19, 2012

But who's counting?

Family Photo Shoot

November 18, 2012

  A few months ago, D and I won a photo shoot in a silent auction.  We had two sessions, on two different beaches with a great photographer on island.  I'd really been looking forward to this because we haven't had any professional photos taken in five years.  I think Lynn's photos turned out beautiful and she did a great job of capturing our children. 

Take one, at Emon beach, in the evening

 Take two, at Sea Glass Beach, in the morning

Being Grateful

November 17, 2012

  I'm trying something new: a gratefulness project.  Every time I complain about something or am catty about someone (both things I do way more than I should), I'm making myself state how grateful I am to have that problem.  For example, when my mp3 player died on my run this morning, I got a little annoyed about it, but I made myself say, out loud (because no one else was out at 6am!), that I was grateful for the ability to run, that I had Sky with me, that I could afford the time to run, and that I had an mp3 player at all.
  And just to let you know, it's not always easy.  I had a hard time this morning finding something to be grateful for when I went into the bathroom and found that Escher had torn up another roll of paper towels. Let's see...  I'm gratefull that 6 months with this cat have allowed me to learn enough personal control that I didn't smack him?  Like most things with me, it's a work in progress.

We Got Mail!

November 16, 2012

  A few weeks ago, we got a special letter in the mail:

  Our first letter from our Compassion International sponsor-child!  Cielo is six years old so we actually got a letter from her mother- which for me, was almost better than getting a letter from Cielo.  But Cielo drew a picture of Barbi for us, which makes me smile every time I look at it.  The letter says:

  Dear sponsor A,
  I greet you in the name of our Lord.  This is Cielo's mother Monica writing.  I want to thank you for your sponsorship of my daughter.  Cielo is in Kindergarten, her best friend is her cousin Niurka, and she likes to play Barbies with her little brother Luis. 
  She also helps me clean in the house and makes her bed.  Her favorite animal is the cat and her favorite food is chicken with noodles. 
  We are glad to be able to write to you and we pray for you all the time.
  God keep you always,
    Cielo and Monica (Mama)

  I'm ecstatic about the fact that we may be able to have correspondence with Cielo's family.  I would love to know more about their life but mostly I'm glad to know that Cielo has a family, with a mother that cares enough to write a letter. 
  Have you considered sponsorship?  I'm biased, but getting letters like this is great return on my forty dollars a month.

Big Bako Girl!

November 15, 2012

  Guess who is getting moved up to the preschool class a month early?  Go ahead, guess- you'll never get it!  Wait, did you say, "Sky?"  Darn it, you got it on the first try!  We had parent-teacher conferences the other day and the both teachers and director devoted most of the meeting to convincing me to move Sky to the preschool class (the 18m to 3Y class here is a Montessori-style daycare).  They actually wanted to move her weeks ago but we have been putting them off because we don't want to push Sky in school right now.  Ms Carmen and Ms Marla are the experts so if they say she's ready to start in a more school-oriented environment, than we'll trust their judegment.  Sky starts transitioning next week and is super excited to be a big Bako girl!

General Cuteness

November 14, 2012

 D found Escher curled up with Sky's teddy bear

This girl loves her daddy!

Repost: One of My Favorite Pictures

November 13, 2012

I love this picture of Sky with her friend P, taken last Halloween.  Sky has no idea what's going on and is trying really hard to figure it out.  She looks so grown up to me, with that wrinkle between her eyes, and so young and small, all at the same time.  

Growing Up a Little Bit?

November 12, 2012

  D and I noticed a change in Sky over the weekend.  She's always been independent and pretty willful and with that, we've struggled with her normal terrible-twos defiance.  But she seemed a bit different this weekend.  She was still defiant but it was more intentional, like she knew what she was doing and wanted to do, as opposed to her just doing the opposite of what we told her just because.  Does that make sense? 
  I'm actually really glad of the change because we were able to reason with her a lot better when she got upset about things.  I love seeing my baby girl grow!

WAM on Ebeye

November 11, 2012

  I will post the pictures here as soon as I have them but the WAM program on Ebeye is hoping to launch its first boat this week!  Waan Aelon en Majel is the program I'm volunteering with and they're about to complete their first training session on Ebeye.  WAM teaches young people how to build, sail, and navigate traditional Marshallese canoes.  The program has been very successful on Majuro and this is the first expansion program.  They've struggled with getting supplies and making progress so finishing and launching a canoe is a really big deal.  The first Ebeye graduates will finish the program in the first week of December and plans are already in the works for another group to start in January.

Rain Didn't Stop Us

November 10, 2012

  We had plans with two other families to grill out at the beach on last night and listen to the band that was playing but the weather wasn't working out like we hoped it would.  It had been raining off and on all day and just started sprinkling again when we were about to head out the door.  since we already had our bikes packed and didn't have any other plans for the night, we called our friends and told them that we were still going to be at the beach.  We picked Sky up at school and headed for Emon.
  D got the grill started right away in case we had to call it an early night and Sky and I got busy playing in the sand.  It was windy and rained a bit but we still had fun.  Unfortunately, because there was thunder and lightening (a very rare occurrence here along the equator), the show was canceled.  We decided to stick it out anyway and we're so glad we did.  We had a yummy dinner of grilled brats, edamame, and potato chips and just as we were finishing, another family showed up!  They had their rain suits on but they were ready to grill, hang out, and play.  Sky and her friends hit the playground and we got to catch up on each other weeks while they grilled their dinner. 
  Just as they were finishing eating and it was getting genuinely dark, the other family we'd invited came by!  Suddenly we had four toddlers running around in the rain, two babies playing below the table, and six parents talking about work, kids, and Kwaj.  It was a great way to end the week!  We stayed out until the kid's teeth were chattering and then bundled them up into trailers for the ride home. 
  I'm so glad we didn't choose the easy way out of our evening- instead of spending the night slumped on the couch, we had a great time out with our friends.  These are the things we'll want to remember if we ever move on from here.

Sky fell asleep in the trailer and woke up just as we took her picture
Our Charmed Life. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.