Fire's First Birthday, Part Emmen (The Kemem Post)

February 28, 2013

I'm sure you're all thinking, "A, the Kemem was this weekend. Where's the post on it? How did it go?" Sorry to keep you all waiting- life's been pretty busy this week- but here's the post you've been looking for. And to answer your question: The Kemem was great! The weather was perfect, there weren't any problems with family coming over from Ebeye, there was plenty of food, the music and dancing were wonderful, and everyone had a good time.
My day started early because I wanted to get all the set up and decorating done before it got too hot, so I was out at the pavilion by 7. My friends came by to help decorate at 8 and we worked until almost 11. I ordered all the decorations from Oriental Trading Company and went with blue and white for the theme. It was a little tricky keeping things up because the wind was blowing pretty bad but my friend Mary had some super double-sided tape that kept most of it up until the party in the afternoon.
Most of the guests came over from Ebeye on the 4:30 boat and I'd put 4:30 on the invitations but people didn't really start showing up until closer to 5. Things rolled along on island time until the pastor was ready to give the invocation around 5:30. Then the band started playing and things just flowed. The food showed up at 6:30 just like it was supposed to (the serving spoons didn't show up at 6:30 but catering staff was nice enough to go back for them) and there was plenty of it. Everyone got enough to eat and there was plenty leftover for folks to take home.

More Kemem Videos

I'm having trouble uploading the videos...  Here are two more of the dancing and I'll try to get some more up this weekend.

Two Years Home

February 27, 2013

   I can't believe that Sky's been home with us for two years!  The time has just flown by.  sky is in preschool already, learning her letters and numbers and how to write her name.  She is fully potty-trained during the day time and can ride a bike with training wheels.  She still hates getting up in the morning, loves TV, going to the beach, and playing with her friends.  Sky is growing into a wonderful little girl and we couldn't imagine life without her. 

Feb 2011
Feb 2012
 Feb 2013
 Feb 2011

 Feb 2012

Feb 2013

Crazy Faces

February 26, 2013

  Some crazy faces (because what's a camera for if you can't play with it at dinner sometimes) and one cheesy smile.

Fire Rocks!

February 24, 2013

My dad got all the grandkids these music mats for Christmas. Of course, they love it because it's really, really loud and they can play it by jumping on it. Fire seemed to know exactly what to do with the drumsticks though, and he plays some pretty good drums for a beginnner. Thanks Dad!

A Few Small Changes

February 23, 2013

   This is the first time in four years that D and I haven't been working towards or in the middle of a big change. In 2009, while I was still in Antarctica, we decided that I should try for a job here on Kwajalein and I had my first interview for the job I have now. In 2010, we committed to starting a family through adoption and began working towards a house on Kwajalein. In 2011, we were on Majuro, days away from adopting Sky, and last year, we were trying to live our lives while anxiously awaiting Fire's referral. I am hoping that this year we can just "be", that we can work towards nothing more than being a better family. We don't even have any plans to travel this year, although we've been told that some family might visit.  In an attempt to satisfy my need for change, I did some rearranging and cleaning last weekend and I'm very happy with the results. I tackled mine and D's room and the bathroom.

Of course, this picture doesn't capture it very well but the room is full of light and looks much bigger than it did before.  The shelves were in front of the window and seemed to close things in.  The wall beyond the bed is a little crowded but the room has a lot more usable space now and D has room to display and play his guitar.

This little shelf used to be an over-the-toilet shelf but it was getting pretty worn and dusty and made cleaning around the toilet difficult.  I removed a few screws and voila!  A small shelf for towels, right by the shower where they're needed.
This is the main bathroom area without the shelf- it looks much more open and clean now.  I'm working on finding some kind of bathroom-safe art to brighten it up some more.  The other change I made here was the drape around the free-standing sink.  I'd previously been using a old white sheet, cut up and velcro'd in place but it was getting pretty ratty and dirty.  I picked this fabric up on Ebeye and sewed it up (thanks again, Kwajalein Prayer Quilt ministry for the use of the machine!) into this pretty drape.
These hang on the wall across from the toilet- something pretty to look at while you're doing some "thinking".  They're made from scraps of the fabric from the sink drape and old picture frames.  I saw this idea a while ago in Real Simple and finally had a chance to use it.

An Unexpected Day Off and a Book Recommendation

February 22, 2013

  Florina wasn't able to come to work the other day so I got an unexpected day off.  I could definitely use the time off right now and I was really looking forward to spending a day alone with Fire.  I haven't been able to spend hardly any time alone with him and I set my sights pretty low when I made my to-do list so that I would be able to enjoy the day: run, laundry, dishes, make bed, sweep, play with Fire. 
  I spent almost three months home with Sky when she was around this age and the difference between the two of them was night and day.  Granted, they were at very different places in their lives (we, and Kwaj, were still new to Sky) but it was wonderful to not have to be holding Fire all the time and for him to not need to see me all the time.  I was in the kitchen for a big part of the morning and he would wander in and out as he wanted.  He "helped" me unload and reload the dishwasher and we played peek-a-boo with the laundry.  After his morning nap, we went to visit a friend who stays home with her daughter for a playdate.  Rachel and I talked while Fire and H played until Rachel had to pick her son up from school and then Fire and I ran errands until lunch time.  We played, napped, and then played some more.  It was quiet and calm, and even though I missed the busyness and socializing of work, I really enjoyed the day.
  One of the things I did during the day was re-read a really great book:  Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould.  He was a World Teach volunteer on Ujae in 03-04 and wrote a book about his experiences there.  I read this book for the first time in 2008 when I was just visiting Kwaj and although I enjoyed it, it didn't really resonate with me.  Now that I live here, teach here, and participate on the fringes of a Marshallese family, I have a different perspective on things and I appreciate his book much more.  While I don't agree with everything he has to say, I think he captures the dicotomy faced by outsiders here, trapped between embracing the culture and encouraging change.  If you're looking for a new perspective on volunteering in general and on the Marshall Islands in particular, I highly recommend this book.

Parents of Picky Eaters, This One's For You

February 21, 2013

 I swear I'm not trying to rub anything in!  Believe me, we have plenty of trouble getting good food into our kids, so I thought it might be heartening to parents who might have it a bit harder than we do to see this:

   A one-year-old and a three-year-old eating lettuce!  Are we just that lucky, are our children just natural foodies?  Nope.  Fire would only eat lettuce if it was with something else in the salad (turkey, tomatoes, cheese) and we had to take a picture of Sky to get her to take bites (so we actually have quite a few pictures of her taking bites of lettuce- the one above was the best one!).

  On a side note, D tried making his own tortillas- I don't think we're ready to take on Chipotle quite yet.

Kemem Guilt, Impending Flu, and Other Things

February 20, 2013

  Fire's big Kemem is this weekend and I'm really, really stressed about it.  There's so much that could go wrong and as of yet, I haven't found a go-to person to help me with it.  That's my fault, because I haven't asked anyone for help, beyond getting a friend and some girls to help decorate.  I'm worried about when to put out the drinks- if we put them out too early, they might get stolen from the coolers.  I'm worried about there not being enough food, even though Bubu and Jimma suggested having some of the ladies at the party serve to make sure that no one takes too much before everyone has eaten.  And what if there's not enough cake?  Jimma doesn't want to MC, so we're hoping that one of the members of the band will do it, but what if something goes wrong with that? 
  On top of all that, I'm wracked with guilt about who we didn't invite to this party.  We invited about thirty Kwajis total, and kept it to families that we're really close with or people who are helping with the party or people that Bubu and Jimma know and want there.  That leaves out so many people!  I want to invite everyone we know to this and we just can't.  Because we're feeding folks dinner, we couldn't just broadcast an invitation.  D is more sanguine about it than I am, saying that this party is for Fire's Marshallese family and that we had open-invite ribelle parties for his Welcome Home and baptism.  I'm looking forward to this party but I'm also looking forward to being on the other side of it.
  As if all that wasn't enough, there is a 48-hour flu going around Kwaj right now.  It's been making it's way through families here since January and at one point it hit the elementary school so bad, they considered closing the school for the day.  It's currently working through the kids at the daycare- both of Sky's playdates this weekend were cancelled because the kids were sick- so we are holding our breath and washing our hands a lot, hoping that it misses us until after the Kemem.  Not that I personally couldn't use a good five-pound flu we can't afford to be sick until we have this party.
  To top it off, Bubu, Jimma, Elizabeth, and Lomorro are coming over for dinner tonight.  I'm excited about having them over and for Elizabeth and Lomorro to see where Fire lives but I am also embarassed and defensive about our home and all the things in it.  I don't really need to be-  it's a knee-jerk reaction when we have so much and host people who have so little.  And it doesn't matter that we have a small house by American standards (around 1000 sqft) or relatively few things, it's still more than they have.  We just went to the grocery store the other day, so our pantry is full, and all I can think about is how to avoid opening it when they can see.  It is what it is, I guess.
  Other than all that, things are going really well for us right now.  Sky has finally got a handle on potty training and Fire is sleeping through the night.  Somehow the combination of those two things make the world seem a whole lot brighter.  D is getting in a lot of kiteboarding as work and family allow and I've started semi-formal Marshallese lessons with the LDS missionary sisters on Ebeye. We'll study together for an hour a week at the family's compound. 
  To end on a funny note, I got to listen to NPR's Talk of the Nation while I rode my racing bike on Tuesday.  They were rebroadcasting a story about what contributes to happiness and just as I started listening, the presenter said, "So to be happy, people should live someplace sunny and near the water, with a short commute to work, a walkable downtown, and plenty of opportunities to socialize?"  I laughed out loud and wished I could call in and tell them that they'd just described Kwajalien.  They went on to talk about other contributing factors, including financial and housing stability, access to medical care, and high employment, all of which describe Kwjalein.  So there you have it folks: according to this study, you need to move to Kwajalein if you want to be happy!

A Good Weekend

February 19, 2013

 Of course it was a good weekend!  It started out with these:

 D said that this was like trying to build Tokyo while Godzilla was attacking.  TFire was called Fire-zilla for the rest of the weekend.
 Guess who has discovered the stairs?
D worked on the bikes this weekend

 Fire worked on Sky's bike
 And then Daddy helped him out a bit
Sky had the camera for these:


Maybe we let our babies have a little too much freedom?
Don't worry- I brought them back to our patio right after I took the picture
This man is magic at nap time!

  We had a three-day weekend here for President's day and we spent most of it together as a family.  D went kiteboarding a few times, I got a good, long ride in on my racing bike, we did some cooking and eating, did some yard work, I did some rearranging (pics to come), we took naps, and generally had a good weekend. 

Fire's Birthday, Part Chelu

February 18, 2013

Singing Happy Birthday

Fire's First Birthday, Juon im Ruo

February 15, 2013

   It started out innocently enough. Our family on Ebeye noticed that Fire's actual birthday would fall on a Monday, our normal day to visit. They suggested a small party and D volunteered me to make cupcakes. Jimma said to bring about 30. I laughed when D told me that and said that I would make 50 and bake cookies too. There's no such thing as a small party in a Marshallese family!
   We didn't know what to expect when we went over but the family had gone all out for the party. The first surprise met us as we got off the boat: Elizabeth, Fire's birth mother! They'd flown her over for the party and she would be staying through the kemem. I was so happy to see her- D said that Bubu and Jimma had told him not to tell me and he did a good job of keeping it a secret.
   There were more surprises when we got to the compound: they'd put up a wall of palm leaves to screen it off from the street and had put up balloons. There was a man with a keyboard playing and singing and the compound was full of people. I did a quick count and came up with 45. You'd better believe I was glad I'd made 50 cupcakes and brough cookies too! But then, another surprise! Bubu had baked a huge cake for Fire and they had to big buckets of ice cream to go with it.
The family did the birthday parade, where they line up and sing (in this case, the man with the keyboard sang) and give the birthday boy a little something, usually money, and give him a kiss or pinch his cheeks. I couldn't keep the smile off my face- it was so wonderful to see all those people lined up for Fire.


February 14, 2013

  We've been attacked by staph again!  First it was impetigo for Sky last summer and then at the end of our vacation in December, she got boils.  We didn't know what they were until they'd gone away- we thought they were just bad zits.  A friend suggested that they might have been  boils and I looked it up in our home health guide and it described them exactly.  It also said that they're caused by staph. 
  Today I took Fire into the doctor for some sores that have been popping up on his head.  At first, we ignored them because we thought he'd banged his head against something but they weren't getting better and Florina said they seemed to be itchy, so into the doctor we went.  Just like when we went in for Fire, the doctor took one look at it and said, "Impetigo".  I was crushed!  The doctor said that it's nothing we're doing, that kids just get infections, and that they'll grow out of it, but I feel awful.  Why can't we keep our kids clean enough to keep away these infections?
  We're going to be more careful when we wash our hands and start using nail brushes on ourselves and the kids.  We're going to put antibacterial cream on anything that even resembles an open wound and I'm going to go over the house with an antibacterial cleaner this weekend.  Has anyone else had staph go through their house?  If so, how did you get rid of it?  

Happy Birthday Fire!

February 13, 2013

   Fire turned one over the weekend. I don't know quite how we got here- one minute he was a tiny little thing who couldn't hold his head up and ate 4 ounces at a time and now he's a really big crawling, almost walking, eating real food, and almost off of formula boy! Turning one is a really big deal here in Marshall Islands and Fire is getting three parties to celebrate. We went to one at his grandparents on Ebeye on the afternoon of his actual birthday (post coming later), Ms Florina is having one with all the maids and nannies this week, and then we're having his big Kemem next weekend. This is one loved baby! I'll leave you with a few shots from the morning of Fire's birthday: Fire chasing his sister with a toy syringe stuck on his face, 'cause that's how we roll around here!


So Big!


February 8, 2013



  My wonderful friend Sandra just sent me these pictures.  They were taken in September of 2011 and she just found them when she was cleaning up her computer.  David and I had taken Sky up to Roi for the weekend and we were hanging out in a friend's room.  I love looking at these pictures and remembering Sky when she was this little, about 20 months old.  At the time, she seemed so big to me, almost two, but now, having had Teshie from a infant and seeing how big Sky is now, I can see that she was still such a baby.  I love looking at her round face and her chubby fingers and her smile (she didn't even have all her teeth yet!). 
  I also love that these pictures were taken over a span of about 10 minutes and they show us playing spontaneously.  I've been worrying lately that I've been too hard on Sky, that I expected too much from her too soon and pictures like this remind me that it hasn't been all been teaching good behavior and time-outs.  We cuddled and tickled and laughed in there too.
Our Charmed Life. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.