Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Barbie - the world loves you for who you are on the inside. You don't have to dress that way!

I am a 27 year old mother, and usually I feel young and cool, but today I feel like I sound like a grandma. When I was playing with Barbies, I remember that my Barbie had a briefcase. And a powersuit. I always wanted Dr. Barbie, but alas, we never bought her. Sure, Barbie babysat Skipper on the weekends, and eventually had twins. She pushed the twins around in a stroller in her 80's jumpsuit. It covered her WHOLE BODY. Maybe the Barbie of my youth was a little "conservative", maybe somewhat "traditional", and of course there was always that whole body image debate, but as I stood in Wal-Mart today I was in total shock about where Barbie has gone now.

Abi has three Barbies, and today in Wal-Mart I was fondly recalling the time I spent dressing Barbie in different outfits, which could be bought at the Dollar store or Wal-Mart for pretty cheap. From my obesrvations today, I'm pretty sure that Barbie now reads Cosmo, has recently auditioned for the next " Real World", and considers Britney Spears her life coach and primary role model. The only clothing selection was from a collection known as "party". I only found two outfits that I would even consider letting my four year old put on a Barbie, and they were both tragically covered in glitter. So that leaves me with only one solution: when I go visit my parents next week I'm raiding the stash of Barbies in the shed to get together a complete collection of mom approved Barbie clothes. The 80's are back...right?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Organic Coupons

Who knew! I can't believe that I have been paying full price for organics for so long! Shopping in a new city has me searching for ways to cut costs in any way possible, and I have been lamenting the much higher prices on most of our favorite foods. So, today I Googled "Organic Coupons". Here's what I got:

-Organic Valley offers two prints per coupon for $1.00 off of their milk, butter, eggs, and other products: has a nice article on Organic food companies that offer coupons on their websites:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We need a pet.

Maybe this is my fault, for not letting Abi tear down spider webs or kill beetles. But this morning I saw an ant in the kitchen and attempted to smush it with my finger. She pleaded "No mom! That's my ant friend! You tried to kill my ant friend. It is okay if ants want to live with us!" Now my daughter has an ant crawling on her, and she is talking to it. We need a cat.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How much is a fresh espresso really worth?

This is Luke here and I bought a newer espresso machine a little while ago and upgraded to the Ascaso Dream. Great machine, looks cool and makes a pretty good cup of espresso. My thinking was that if I bought even one espresso drink a day at $3/day it would definitely pay off in the long run. However, when we moved this past winter I failed to properly empty the water reservoir and with the cold weather the water froze and broke the internal parts. While we were off on the ship I had it fixed and now that we are moving again I wanted to make sure to empty it properly. So began the most traumatic experience with my espresso machine thus far. I read the instructions online and it said to run it until it was dry, then wait for it to cool, lay it on its back, open up the steam wand and turn on the coffee pump, then rotate up and back down. Strange but I thought how hard could this be? Apparently the waiting until it is cool is the most important part, and even though I had waited a while it was not cool enough. How do I know? Well, when I turned on the pump and opened up the steam wand (pictured with the red arrow) hot lava temperature water came shooting out and although I had a cup prepared to catch the water, I was expecting more of a gradual poor, not a laser beam of skin melting water to come shooting out and assault my left nipple. The Ascaso Dream was quickly turning into a nightmare. I screamed, the family and kids were wondering what I was doing, I felt the searing pain of a 2nd degree on/near a part of my body that while not that useful is very sensitive. In the matchup of Espresso Machine vs. Nipple, the espresso machine certainly wins hands down. This week the redness on my chest turned got nasty as the skin came off…I spare you with the details but luckily the most sever part of the burn missed my vital body part and is still intact. I’m still looking forward to using my espresso machine in Charlottesville, but this event has caused me to rethink the cost of a fresh cup of espresso. Had I lost my left nipple my equation would change to something like this: $3/day vs. cost of espresso machine + beans – (loss of nipple X severe pain) = one really expensive cup of espresso. It’s something to think about if you are in the market for an at home espresso machine.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Obsessive-Compulsive Clean Think

So...did I mention sometimes I obsessively research things as a way to deal with stress? (Both good and bad stress). Well...we're about to move into our house, and I'm about to be at home all day with children. This has me obsessing over the daily routine. I think this is with good reason - if you have ever experienced the sublime thing that is a "perfectly scheduled day" with children - you know what I am talking about!

In the past, when working most of the day, my main focus was feeding my family a good dinner and making sure we made the most of the hours between 5-10pm. However, if I am actually going to live in my house all day every day, I need it to be clean. We are so accustomed to moving every few years, I have quite honestly never cared to clean behind appliances or remove accumulating dust from high places. If we are going to live in a place for several years straight, I want to aim a little bit higher. I found this cleaning calendar online and thought it was well designed. Wanted to share it with you, because I like it.

What I like most is that there is a "catch up" day every three days designed to keep you from ever feeling "behind" on the chores. Each month has an area to focus on as a "challenge", so over a years time you are sure to declutter closets, deep clean curtains, etc., without having to schedule your whole life around it. It is also based around the premise that you will do your daily cleaning throughout the day and at times that make sense - tidying the bedroom and bathroom as you walk out the door in the morning, straightening the house in the afternoon, and making sure the kitchen is "reset" every evening.

Do you have a favorite cleaning schedule?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Countdown to Reality

Today Luke and I went to the moving truck and put up the plywood retainer wall that will separate our stuff from some commercial load that is Virginia-bound. We are officially one week away from stepping onto an airplane headed back to reality. (In this case, reality is Charlottesville, VA).

After four months of life on a ship, and two months of living with Luke's mom in Salem, we're off to start our ordinary day to day life up again. I'm anxious and excited in equal measure. Floating out here in non-reality, where both of us stay at home all day with the kids, where we pay no bills, and where the kitchen really does seem to clean itself magically if you let stuff sit too long, I have been able to avoid the fact that we are about to be in a completely new place making a completely new life. I think we are headed for a big shock.

The craziest thing for me has been the reality that I have no idea what I might do in Charlottesville. Starting a career from scratch in a place I am so unfamiliar with sort of makes me feel like I am without bearing - it is really overwhelming. I have a feeling it may be awhile before I get settled into something, but I just keep telling myself that in five years I will look back and say, "now see, that all worked out for the best, didn't it?" So, score one more point for Melanie Jones and her magical thinking.

The most useful thing I've learned in the past six months is that there are scores of things that I don't really need and ultimately don't care about. All of the stuff that we are shipping to Virginia is just stuff. Being separated from it for six months has provided some necessary detachment. I'm sure this will come in handy during the unpacking phase, because we already heard lots of broken glass when moving all of our boxes from the storage unit onto the Virginia-bound truck.

The most exciting thing is that we (fingers-crossed) are buying our first house in Charlottesville. If all goes as planned, we will close on a home on July 8th. This will be the first time that we have had a place that didn't share walls with a neighbor, or that had a real yard with grass. It even has central heat and air. This new development has me completely over the moon, HGTV-obsessed (the cable is free in non-reality, should you ever have an excuse to visit), and watching Craigslist like a hawk for just the right couch to come available in Charlottesville. I don't think I did a very thorough job of nesting with Abi or Lily either one - they were both born at very transition-y times in our lives. Maybe that nesting instinct just goes dormant if you don't fully exercise it, and then explodes all over the first opportunity there is to express it. That's my explanation of what is going on in my mind right now... like we are going to walk into our house and I am just going to blow up and leave smears of fuschia paint all over the girls walls. (It's just a metaphor...don't worry.)

The house-buying process was pretty uneventful, but still one of the most nerve-racking processes we have ever been through together. We were working on a 30 day timeline, and everything needed to happen very fast. I never imagined I could get so emotional over a house, as logical Melanie knows that a house is just a place to sleep, eat, and wash up like a Motel 6 or something. Of course, I also never imagined I could get so emotional over a baby. So there you go. Houses and babies both make me cry and stay awake all night. I guess I am waaaay more normal than anyone ever imagined.

I think that is all for now.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cupcake Fun

Life being somewhat chaotic at the moment, we celebrated Abi's and Luke's birthdays on the same day - June 25th. Luke really likes Red Velvet Cake, so about two weeks ago I whipped up a batch of red velvet cupcakes and threw them in the fridge. On Thursday, I pulled them out and made up some cream cheese frosting while Abi was on a special breakfast date with grandma. Lily was something close to helpful in the taste testing trials - we decided to add a little more powdered sugar than the recipe suggested. She gave the final result a finger lick and an enthusiastic "Mmmm-mmmm!"

Abi helped with the cupcake frosting during Lily's morning nap. Abi wanted to know if we could lick the knife between cupcakes. A fine idea if you ask me, but we opted to wait when I noted that there would be frosting left over for us to dip Teddy Grahams in. Then I got a cute idea: what if we put Teddy Grahams on top of the cupcakes like happy little dancing bears? I floated this by Abi, but she thought it might be better to put jelly beans on top of each cupcake. So, she completed the final garnish. I think they turned out very nice!

The rest of the party food was a re-work of dinner two nights prior - leftover cuban black beans + cream cheese = black bean chip dip; leftover chicken filling + cream cheese + corn tortillas = taquitos. Ya-Ya added her famous guacamole which was a big hit!

I think we will name this dual birthday party the "Red Velvet Hello Kitty Fiesta". A name that is equally delightful for a four year old girl, and a thirty-three year old man.

Yesterday Abi and I bought a gift for Luke. A bicycle water bottle cage and some of his favorite candy to use as "filler", kind of like tissue paper in the bag. Luke's other gift is going to see the new transformer movie tonight, so I thought movie candy would be in order. We discussed keeping the gift a secret, and Abi has done a masterful job on that count. One fine detail we left out was keeping the hiding place a secret. Abi divulged that one with a simple question from her daddy.

Here are the rest of the pictures from the big event which included Ya-Ya, Lydia and Tyler, Sully and Natalie, and our family:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

60th Birthday Party

Last night we had a 60th birthday party for Luke's mom. There was a great turnout, and I think she was really impressed when the limo showed up to whisk her downtown to her favorite restaurant.

Luke's sister and I spent the morning cooking at a friend's house in the neighborhood. This was perfect. Each of us had two kids that were five and under, so the six kids played together and ruled the neighborhood all day. After the party, while we all cleaned up and returned everything we borrowed, the kids ran around in the sprinkler naked and ran from house to house imagining they were pirates, babies, and monsters. I am so excited because thanks to the party Abi now has friends her age in the nieghborhood and she couldn't be more delighted about it. I think this is going to be a fun part of parenting. I like having friends over!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Happy Feet

One of my favorite things about Lily is how she is starting to express her little emotions without words. The best is her "happy feet". If she likes dinner, her right leg starts kicking rythmically in delight. On a walk in the stroller, her little leg gets to going so fast while she just smiles and looks at the world around her. I remember doing this same thing in chairs before my feet could hit the ground. How many times did mom or a teacher ask me to stop kicking when I was full of energy and anticipation?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Virginia is for Lovers

Hi people that have been following the adventures of the Jones family! Our voyage ends on May 6th. So maybe you were worried that the Joneses would no longer be Journeying. We simply couldn't let that happen.

So stay tuned because in July the Jones fam will be heading to the opposite coast and setting up shop in Charlottesville, Virginia. Luke is going to continue working with Semester at Sea through ISE, the Institute for Shipboard Education. We'll keep you up-to-date as we get ready for this move - and please let us know what you know about Virginia. Neither of us have spent much time on the East Coast, so we're looking forward to hearing from anyone who has!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Homeward Bound

It has been well over a month since I posted on the blog - I don't know how it all happened so fast! We've been to Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Shanghai, Japan, and Hawaii. We had been to all the ports other than Hawaii on our 2004 voyage. Re-visiting these countries was such an experience, especially "communist" countries like Vietnam and China where new trade policies have resulted in an explosion of retail stores, affluence, and ideas. These are truly exciting places to be right now. Rather than making this a super-long post, I'll just gloss over the highlights -- ask us more if you are interested!


-Commercial explosion: the economy is not in decline here - in just four years people have become significantly more affluent. Every brand can be found at malls and brand name storefronts.

-Still the most beautiful place on earth as far as I'm concerned.

-The interport lecturer took us out to dinner with his daughter and son - what a relief to know that all children are the same! Amazingly, even though our kids couldn't communicate with words, play bridges every language barrier - they had a good time.

-The interport lecturer also told us Vietnam is not communist - we asked what it was - he said, "well, I don't know yet." I think this perfectly characterized the amazing transformation this country has gone through. PBS series "Commanding the Heights" adds a lot to this conversation, if you are interested in a good documentary:)

-BEST. FOOD. EVER. Night market outdoor restaurant - "Food Countryside" - the seafood is so amazingly fresh. The flavors are so balanced. How amazing that food can be so rich without being heavy with cream, fat, oil, etc.


-Hong Kong seemed very similar in comparison to our visit in 2004. It was a nice place to be with kids, very easy to navigate. The weather was beautiful and spring-like, which was welcome after all the heat!

-Shanghai had changed drastically - it is quickly becoming a prominent international city. Construction of new buildings, parks, and roads made the port we visited just 5 years prior completely unrecognizable. I would love to come back in 5 or 10 years more - it is transforming in such interesting ways.


-Homestay with a family - I have never seen such efficiency in the home. Someday, I will have a bathtub with a computer-regulated thermostat and a toilet with buttons and a heated seat. The kitchen at the apartment we visited was a thing of beauty...if you are into organization. I almost took pictures for those of you whom I thought would appreciate this kind of beauty, but didn't quite know how to explain the purpose.

-Ate squid, raw fish of many varieties, octopus, pickled seaweed...maybe, things that look at you...and every bit of it was perfectly wonderful!

-Abi rolled sushi like a pro - she really did a great job and talks about it frequently. We visited a zoo and had a picnic. I bought bento boxes and spent way more money than any parent ever should on school lunch boxes.

-We met with our friend Dan who is teaching English in Japan - he made us postcards from the pictures we had put on Facebook, and brought us stamps! What a thoughtful gift!


-We ate American style. I had a hangover from all that American goodness coursing through my veins. Seriously, I woke up and still felt all buzzy from the massive plate of quesadillas, 1/2 of a pulled pork sandwich, and a ridiculously rich chocolate dessert. I'm currently on a Dr. Pepper binge.

-Hawaii is beautiful. I would like to go back. Without the children. Grandparents...any takers??

-Spent time with Steve (from Fall 04 voyage) and his beautiful future wife! They took us on a beautiful tour of Oahu and gave us 1/2 lb. hamburgers. They are great with our kids, and Abi really wanted to stay with them I think.


Lily has also grown up since the last post. She now says woof, mama, dada, baby, moo, and ball. She is standing up on her own for a few seconds at a time, power crawling all over the place, and becoming such a personality!

Luke is wrapping up job interview stuff and will know very soon where we are going next. We'll keep you updated.

I am completely ready to be home, but completely neurotic about assembling our little lives back together once we get there. I keep telling myself that everything will work out...but my body doesn't always listen to my mind. All I can think about is moving trucks, 15 year mortgages, preschools, and plane ticket prices. So, in front of all that I am trying to imagine myself tooling around Salem on my little bike, going to the grocery store and taking care of the few responsibilities we will have this summer: feeding our kids, and making sure they don't break anything!

Now we only have two weeks left on the MV Explorer with one port left to visit - Guatemala. Packing, keeping in contact with new friends, and getting in our last seaside sunsets are in order!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lollypops and India

India is a wonderful place full of amazingly beautiful people, nature, and historic sites. It is also challenging and exhausting. There is deep poverty, chaotic traffic, and crowded streets. It is overwhelming to all the senses; sight, smell, and touch in good yet paradoxical ways. We stayed with a family while we were there for two nights who welcomed us with an unbounded hospitality and kindness. While in India we ate food that awoke our taste buds, we saw temples that were thousands of years old, and we met the friendliest people in our journey thus far. We were also exhausted by the end of our stay. The kids were off of their typically schedule, their diets were changing, and they spent a lot of time in cars and busses since it takes at least 30-45 minutes to go anywhere in Chennai due to the traffic. So when we got back to our cabin the kids were in desperate need of a nap. Lily went down with no problem and Melanie left Abi to sleep in her new favorite spot, behind the curtain. Abi will often fall asleep after we leave the room and we trust she will behave herself. After about 90 minutes I needed to go back down in my room and I walked in and discovered Abi on the ground and all around her were strewn the wrappers and discarded sticks from no less than 12 lollypops! My mouth dropped and I wasn’t sure if I should laugh, cry, or wake her up…so I just took some pictures. I later found out that Melanie told her she could have one lollypop, but she decided to get into the stash of dum dums and just keep going. After she woke up I asked her if she ate them, she of course responded “no”. When asked again she said she ate four because she is turning four! That left eight to be accounted for. I figured at a conservative two minutes per lollypop, she would have been eating dum dums for nearly 30 minutes after Melanie had left and then collapsed in a sugar induced coma. We have put the candy a bit higher in the closet now and I’m just hoping she doesn’t find something else to devour while we are out of the room. This is just one of the funny moments our kids bless us with, I’m just praying for no permanent dental damage.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jones Family Update

Can you believe we are officially halfway through our journey? I thought we should take a break and let you know how we’re doing aboard MV Explorer:


Abi has made a lot of friends on the ship. She definitely thinks she is second in command to the captain, and on a regular basis she walks up to random people and asks if they want to see her room. She is constantly at play with her “big friends” (college students) in the evenings. Abi always has “things” with her every where she goes now. She packs a big purse around full of things that she has collected around the ship. She is quite protective of it. We go swimming every afternoon that the pool is full, and spend the morning doing school and projects.

Abi is becoming a good traveler – what is frightening is that she has no inhibitions in the port cities. Every taxi driver is her best friend, and she leads the way down streets and through stores. Developmentally, Abi is becoming quite in touch with her feelings. The other day she told me she was “upset, angry, and frustrated”. It gives us such an insight into the things that are important in her day to day life. She is also getting taller and more coordinated. She looks more like a four year old than a three year old I hate to say. She played Peter Pan with a friend today, and I was nostalgic about the idea of a NeverNever Land. My favorite moments are when she gently takes care of Lily when she is crying. She really has a compassionate little heart.


Lily has changed significantly – she hardly looks like a baby now! She sports six teeth, has started feeding herself, has mastered crawling, and says a few words like “mama”, “dada”, “up”, and “uh oh”. Lily definitely enjoys the attention on the ship. Most meals she looks over the seat at all the people in line and waves at everyone while “talking” to them. In country, it varies. In India she was followed by a paparazzi like crowd of local school children, grandmas, daddies, and mommies all eager to pinch her cheeks and thighs and pose in pictures with her. She found it a little overwhelming, but was a good sport overall. Her favorite toys are the TV remote, the laptop, and anything that Abi is working on. Clearly, we need to invest in some things that hold her attention a little better.

Watching her pick up eating has been hilarious. We have been feeding her for 11 months because she absolutely refused to put her hands anywhere near her mouth. She would hold onto food all day long, but unless we were shoving it in her mouth it was just a toy. The look of surprise on her face when she put together the hand to mouth connection was so amusing. She just looked so shocked, and then she was instantly devouring food.

Her newest trick is getting out of bed. A few nights ago I heard giggling on our baby monitor at 10 o’clock at night. I went in the room and both girls were sitting across from each other just belly-laughing. I scolded Abi, assuming she pulled Lily out of bed for entertainment purposes. She later told her dad that Lily had been crawling all over the bed and dresser, pulling things into her bed, and that she crawled off the bed and was playing in the floor. Abi had pulled a chair in front of the bed to keep her in, but Lily was determined to be awake to try out her new crawling skills. We haven’t had a repeat of that night, but she does purposefully scoot off the bed. She throws all her toys on the floor, says “uh oh”, and then scoots off after them. I have a feeling that our parenting world is about to change once again.


I brought 96 Dr. Peppers with me. I thought they would last until Japan if I stuck to 1 a day. They are all gone as of South Africa. The withdrawals were rough, because I am not a huge water fan, and I’m caring for the endless energy duo all day. My solution has been to start training for a triathlon. This is working out really well. I run every day during nap time, and get really thirsty for water. I actually crave it all day long, and now when I drink soda it doesn’t feel that great. Weird how quickly it happened, but now I spend all day waiting for my workout time instead of rationing my DP intake. Someone with a PhD in psychology could probably explain all of this. Basically, I have learned I just need an addiction through this process. So far, running is a reasonable substitute for liquid sugar and caffeine. We’ll see what happens when I get home and Safeway “enables” me by running a 4 for $12 special on DP bricks. I’ve always hated running, but having an “event” to look forward to makes it kind of fun! There is a triathlon in Portland on August 23rd. If we are still there in August, I will be there! If not, I’ll have to find another one to enter wherever we wind up. It will be a good incentive to get familiar with the workout options in whatever place we wind up at.

I have a few students that I am enjoying quite a bit. There is a girl from Stillwater, OK and another one from Snyder, TX. They are both sweet and fun to talk to – I even sacrificed two Dr. Pepper’s when we shared stories and pictures from our Namibia port. We also have a “family” of three girls that we get together with for dinner and conversation. I like getting to know all of the students. There are some really creative and ambitious students on our voyage. I am down the hall from two mothers that are my source of sanity. I won’t lie: being around my children all day, not the easiest thing I have ever done. It has been a complete blessing to have some people to swap stories with. One day, after a few public meltdowns, K & H knocked on my door and said “We’re stealing you!” and took me out for wine and girl time right before bedtime. It was saving grace. Just having some time to talk through the day allowed me to see the humor and appreciate how quickly this sweet time will pass in my life.


Luke is famous on the ship. I get to eavesdrop on students talking about how good he is frequently, which makes me smile. He delivers the announcements every day, and also does the Pre-Port before we arrive in each country. Students turn out en masse to hear him talk about traffic safety and avoiding pick pocketers. He really does have a gift for talking to the students, and the presentations are relevant, humorous, and engaging. He has made a special point to encourage students to give of themselves in port, whether that be time, conversation, song, a special talent, or just a smile. As a result, we frequently have students approaching us to share stories of the meaningful ways they connected with the local culture of a port. I love that!

Luke has been working a lot as he tries to apply for jobs. Applying for a job at a university is challenging enough as is, but waiting for our internet sometimes adds a new layer to the frustration. The unique thing about this voyage is that he is often able to connect with a student from the university or the city he has applied to. Sometimes students are able to share about the “culture” of their university and the community that surrounds it. I don’t think there is another place where you could get that kind of student insight as you apply for positions. Luke is also talking to lots of professionals from different universities that are on this voyage and asking about their careers and lives. The ship has been a good place to reflect on what exactly he wants from his career. The feeling of being “in limbo” seems to be something that has followed us throughout our marriage, so it doesn’t really feel too stressful to be job hunting.

Well, the computer is dying so I’m going to post this now! Look forward to seeing friends and family soon!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Back in South Africa

Back in 2000 I had the opportunity to work in a South African Township as a part of Youth With a Mission. Our outreach team of 10 was working at a new South Korean church plant called Green Village located in Philippe Township teaching English, helping with church, and facilitating a debate group where older students could practice their English. There were two students I remember most from that debate group, Luzuko and Bulelani. They were extremely sharp, motivated and determined. I always remember Bulelani because he told us it was his birthday and we made him a big cake and threw him a party. He was so emotional at the time and appreciative because people just didn’t get birthday parties there. The two months we spent in the township flew by but the relationships we formed with the people there were meaningful and we were sad to say goodbye. It was that experience that caused me to start looking for a way to change careers and pursue working with college students so for me it was extremely transformative in many ways; spiritually, emotionally, and vocationally.

I have always hoped to go back someday. In 2004 I was back in Cape Town with a study abroad program for 5 days and despite my best efforts was not able to get back in touch with the church or make my way to Philippe. Since then I have joined the ranks of facebook and about a year or so ago both of those guys found me and we have exchanged notes a few times. Well...I am currently working on the same study abroad program, Semester At Sea, and I just left Cape Town. My last two days there I had a chance to meet up with Luzuko and Bulelani for a few hours and talk. What an amazing experience to be reconnected! I met with Luzuko the day before we left and Bulelani the last day we were in port. I was explaining what I had been up to since being in SA and that the YWAM was a brief chapter in my life that was very meaningful and life changing for me. Both of them expressed how that brief chapter in my life and those that were on the outreach touched and improved so many lives there. Many of the kids we worked with have gotten out of the township, or been able to find work, or done well in school. Luzuko and Bulelani passed their high school exams with good marks but did not have the money to start university. They got involved with a program called SAEP and started a debate team among other things. This debate team won local and regional competitions and gained some amount of notoriety. They both did a little university but then had to drop out to help support their families…mothers, brothers, kids, etc. Luzuko has a two-year old girl now and Bulelani is expecting a girl in about 6 months. Luzuko works for ADT (security company) and goes around to township high schools to train students on basic computer skills. Bulelani works for an NGO called Love Life which educates younger students on HIV/AIDS prevention. They are still bright and ambitious but life is hard there.

Things in South Africa have gotten much worse since we were there in 2000. Crime rates are some of the highest in the world, HIV/AIDS is a big problem, and the unemployment rate is around 46% but is higher in the townships. Life in the township is still very hard, no running water, disease, poverty, etc. They are both going to try and go back to school and are both interested in trying to work or study internationally. It was encouraging for me to hear that my time in South Africa had made a lasting difference and that God is working there and in people’s lives much longer after we are gone. It was nice to see them face to face and know that I impacted someone’s life positively in a lasting way. At the same time it struck me that the investment in those lives and relationships didn’t end when I left back in 2000. They are still there living, working, surviving and I know that I can continue to play a role in helping them however I am able.

For whatever reason I was born in the United States and have unlimited access to resources that these two guys only dream of. What will I do with that privilege, how can I continue to help them and forge a relationship that has endured eight years and thousands of miles? I told Bulelani that if he gets to the stage where he is accepted to a school and needs help I would do what I could to assist him. Sounds like Luzuko may be doing a little better financially. Hard to tell really.

Melanie and I are looking for opportunities to get them some international experience/education…I’m going to look into exchange programs at the university I work at. If you read this and are struck to help them in some way let me know.

On a final humorous note…Bulelani said that for all these years he has been wanting to some day confess that it was not actually his birthday that day in 2000. He just said it was so we would make a big deal about it. I thought that was pretty funny and we both started laughing about it. He said he was really appreciative and that no one ever has a birth day party so I was glad we still did it. God is good and has a sense of humor.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Namibia was easily Abi's favorite port so far. We arrived in Walvis Bay to the sound of a choir of girls singing. The girls were ages 8-17 and gave an amazing performance of songs in English and Damara, after which they came on ship for a brunch. Abi was delighted to play with them, and begged to go with them when they left. The girls were from inland Namibia, and their trip to greet the ship gave them the occassion to see the ocean for the first time.

Afterward we went up to Swakopmund, a German-style beach town where Abi ran off some energy by playing in the ocean and at a local playground. On Saturday, everything in town closes at 1pm. Apparently, the whole town goes to the beach on Saturday afternoon because the water was filled with children. I have never seen Abi be so adventurous in the ocean. She was running through the water and getting completely soaked with all the other kids. The disparity was noticable. Some children played on skim boards, while others took a giant piece of styrofoam and broke it apart to stuff in their swimsuits as an innovative floatie.

We climbed Dune 7 as a family. It is one of the largest sand dunes in the world. Abi was the first one up - she scaled it like a little monkey, never stopping. We ended up going around sunset, so the sand was cool enough for us to go up barefoot and the view was breathtaking. I was afraid to take the kids on that kind of adventure because I thought Abi might get tired. What I realized was these types of activities are perfect because it gives her a chance to be un-controlled for a little while. When we are walking in a city or on ship, we constantly have to tell Abi to slow down, watch out, be careful, etc. On the dune, she could go to the top however she wanted.

Swakopmund and Walvis Bay were great cities for family travel. A map wasn't essential in either city as they were both of a size and structure where you could find your way to any place by walking and looking for major landmarks. There are tons of outdoor activities that are great for kids, lots of familiar meals, and plenty of opportunities to interact with local kids on the weekend when most businesses are closed.

Luke already has pictures up on Facebook - I'll work on getting them posted here over the next few days.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

And Finally....Morocco!

So, in the right hand sidebar, now you will see pics of Morocco - click and take a look if you like!

Morocco was difficult for us to navigate. We didn't do any trips out of Casablanca except for Rabat. I think in US terms, that might be like visiting Tacoma or some other port city. It isn't like there was anything wrong with Casablanca, but it had an industrial feel since we didn't really get out very far. Morocco is rumored to have a beautiful coast, lush foliage, impressive views from the peaks of the Atlas mountains, and sparse deserts. That's the part we missed, so certainly don't base your decision to visit the country on our experience.

I took a day trip to a Hammam, sort of like a sauna/spa. The hammam experience was excellent! The best part was grommage, or in simple terms, having all of the dead skin loofahed off of you. Sounds gross...sort of is gross if you think about it too much...but my skin felt great and looked amazing afterwards!

We tried to navigate Casablanca on our own without much success. Many of the Petit Taxis tried to negotiate special "tours" with us at ridiculous prices, which is a frustrating experience with the kids. We would get in a taxi, refuse the ridiculous price, get out of the taxi while Abi cried about "Why can't we ride in that red car?", and hail another taxi. We did manage to make it to the Hassan II mosque, second largest mosque in the world and named after the recent monarch of Morocco. It was completed in the 90's, and is an impressive structure. (There are pics in the sidebar!)

Also less successful with children was the bartering at markets. We wanted to get Abi a little princess outfit. Abi picked out some shoes and a little dress thing at the first store and the shop owner wanted 900 dihram (roughly $112 USD) for these two things. At first I thought it was a joke, as I had been caught off guard by some other Moroccan humor. But, when Luke offered 30 dihram (roughly $3 USD), they asked us to leave the store. Then we had to pry the shoes out of Abi's hand and try to explain a new concept called "bartering", which at that moment mostly involved us taking something she wanted away from her, which we had promised we were buying her, while she screamed. After a few more visits we found what we wanted at a price we could work with, but I definately realized that the barterning game is a lot more fun without toddler in tow. We'll have a bit more bartering to do as the trip progresses. Hopefully by the time we reach Shanghai she'll develop a better poker face.

The most amazing experience we had in Morocco, by far, was a dinner with a family. At first we were hesitant to participate because Moroccans don't eat dinner until 8pm, and the meals typically lasted until around 11pm. Typically staying up that late leads to a toddler meltdown. Luckily, our family had a flatscreen TV and tons of kids movies. Lily slept on their bed and Abi went between the TV and the other students that were spoiling her silly. In the meantime I engaged in a real adult conversation with a beautiful Moroccan woman that had lived in Switzerland for eight years. We talked about politics, family life, and motherhood while Luke smoked with the men in another room.

The dinner consisted of a traditional tagine with saffron-scented beef, nuts, apricots, and dates, and a plate of couscous with vegetables and lamb. It was a delicious meal! It's traditional to bring a small gift. I read that the traditional gift was "something sweet from home", so I sacrificed two cans of Dr. Pepper to the cause. The children loved it, and the general consensus by adults was that it was a "woman's drink". Who knows, maybe the next time we go to Morocco I won't have to bring my DP's from home!

Did I really say that? Equator crossing, Family, Making Your Kids Crazy.

Did I really say that?
Before we got on the ship, I lamented about packing up the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE to cook, but I was crazy! Every day, for almost a month, I have thought nothing about food or cleaning. Not even for Lily! The kitchen staff on board MV Explorer is AMAZING.

I roll out of bed around 8am, the whole family goes to breakfast and we just choose what we want from a buffet of food. Mardy the waiter comes and brings pureed fruit for Lily to try, and asks what we want to drink. When we are done, we don't even clean the table. We return to the cabin to get ready for "school", and magically the beds have been made, the towels changed, and the toys arranged in cute little entertaining scenes by the cabin steward.

Then, it's like rewind and repeat for lunch and dinner. I thought it might be hard to have so little control over what Lily and Abi eat, but in a lot of ways it is much easier. After all, if the choices available aren't favorites, it isn't like I can be at fault for cooking a bad meal. It is clear, even to the three year old, that there really aren't any other options.

Equator Crossing
We crossed the equator today! Now that we are on top of the equator, the weather is warm, the pool is nice, and the girls are sleeping well after lots of outdoor play.

We have "adopted" a family of three girls on the ship. We'll have to put up a "family portrait" eventually. Our daughter's are enjoying this adoption, as the advantage has been even more people to play with.

Making your kids crazy.
Abi's daycare provider mentioned in passing that kids that have their parents around all the time become neurotic. Not like, just staying at home with your kids makes them crazy. But being in the same room as them all the time, where they never have any imaginary time away from you, makes them, edgy or something. I would like to verify that is true. There are so many ways a child can be injured on the ship, and zero places they can be unsupervised. I have been having her play with students more and more, just so she can escape me for a while. She is more relaxed without the constant hovering. Also crazy, Abi prefers to sleep on the floor at night. We're just letting that go. I don't know why the floor is working so well for her, but hopefully it is just a phase!

Monday, February 9, 2009

100 Things List

Thanks to Tracy from My Money Story for this idea - don't know why it looked like fun, but here goes!

An Interesting List

I found an interesting post this week over at Always the Planner, and decided to borrow the idea. Feel free to do the same! Basically the idea is to go through the list and bold what you've done.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (Does the Cheiftain marching band count?)
4. Visited Hawaii (Doing it on April 19th.)
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (Does cooking qualify?)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort -- I knew there was something I forgot to do before we left Pullman!
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon --totally want to do it!
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cellphone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Sunday, February 8, 2009

See pictures in sidebar

There are pictures of Spain scrolling through on the sidebar now. If you would like to click on the little thingy-thing, then you can see all of them at once. I'll switch the scroller to Morocco once I actually write about it:)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

More Spain, Around-the-World Book Club, and Sorry no Pictures

Seville, Spain
Well, I am picking up where I left off in the middle of the last post, which means we are still in Spain! In Sevilla, we didn't have time to see much, but we visited the Cathedral of Seville. The Cathedral is still a functioning church, with mass and prayer several times each day. However, it was also an excellent place to get a sense of the history of Seville. It is now the largest gothic cathedral in the world. Orignially, the building was a mosque, one of the last constructed by the Moors occupying Seville from 1181-1198. When the Moors were ousted from power, the mosque was converted to a cathedral. The minaret was converted into a bell tower, and the entire mosque was completely remodeled into a grand cathedral. The cathedral was remodeled several times, so it has Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque features sort of pasted on top of a building that still has a few Moorish features peeking through. It is like a museum of Christian history, with many relics and items of historical importance held in chapels throughout the church. It is also a tomb for Christopher Columbus, among others.

Looking at Seville through a lense of Casablanca, I felt like the two were opposite in many ways. The sites of Seville now represent a Catholic presence, one has to look to see the mark left by the Moors. Life in Casablanca is dominated by Islam, with leftovers from French influence visible if you look closely. Both countries have been formerly occupied, like most of the countries we are visiting on this voyage.

The Around-the-World Book Club
The last time I traveled with Semester at Sea I was a student. I miss that aspect of the journey because when you arrive in a country with a sense of its history and political ideology, you look with more critical eyes. When people say things, you can hear underneath their words if you know what some of the current events are. Alas, "Global Studies" is not at an ideal time for the fam, so I'm starting a book club. I'm the only member right now. The library on board has a great collection of books focused on the countries we are visiting (except Namibia - where are you books on Namibia?). On the sidebar, you will see a list of my bookclub books. I'll let you know how they turn out. So far, I am about halfway through a book called "Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail". It's an Oprah book, so definately an easy read. It follows the life of Malika Oufkir and her family, who were exiled after her father attempted to overthrow King Hassan II in Morocco. The book definately takes on a different texture after having visited some of the palaces she refers to in the book, and having sampled the culture she refers to fleetingly in her writing. Anyway, if you are a fan of international reads, this might provide you with a few to add to the list.

Where are the pictures?
No, our camera hasn't been stolen. Yes, Luke, per usual, has been serving as the amazing photo-documentarian for the journey. I blame slow internet. Luke added a lot of photos to facebook - friend him if you want to see some great pictures right away. Otherwise, I hope to go retroactively through the blog and add pictures today...maybe...depending on naptimes.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


So it has been a while – here we are in Morocco and you have heard nothing of Spain! We learned a lot in Spain about traveling as a family, and traveling with kids, not to mention everything we learned about the Andalucian region of Spain as well. So, here goes the general:

1) Traveling with kids is hard, because when someone says something like “The Cathedral is 20 minutes away by foot”, you should really interpret it as “the Cathedral is an hour away if you add in the time your children will spend slowing your walk to a complete halt.” However, traveling with kids is also easy because I found myself content to spend an hour in a Plaza watching Abi chase birds with other children.

2) I am a jerk when I travel. I like to be in control of life. Travel is like a sick game where someone tricks me into thinking there are like 500 things I can be in control of (what we do, where we eat, do we take nap or not?), and then puts into motion 500 more things I have no control of (like whether kids can eat the food on the menu, how far it really is between “A” and “B”, and whether or not the streets are labeled), and then sits back and watches the madness ensue. I think I will retroactively add this to the “new year’s resolution”. I need to chill out.

3) Andalucia is a most beautiful part of the world. Spanish is a romance language, which always sounded like an odd way to describe a language when I thought of it in a Puritan sense. Is “rojo” really a more romantic word than “red”? Seeing language alive in Cadiz made me think of the word romance though. It seemed like the people in Cadiz were so in love with living life each day. I swear one out of three shops was dedicated to birth, confirmation, children’s clothing, weddings, lingerie or family photography. The remaining stores were for chocolate, wine, flowers and cheese. People engaged in conversation over tapas looked intensely at each other as they talked about whatever for hours. Everywhere we went people doted on our children, proclaiming their beauty, potential, intelligence and general perfection. Mind you, Spain isn’t a country where we stood out from the population. It was anyone’s guess whether the conversation would begin in Spanish, English or French. But most ended with a grandma smothering children in kisses, or running away with the baby to show a friend how cute babies are.

4) Also big in Cadiz: Little dogs. Like, little Paris Hilton dogs. Everywhere. In purses. In sweaters. Riding on bicycles with their owner. I have no explanation for this phenomenon, but it was cute.

And the specific:

On our first day in Cadiz, we went out for a night of Tapas at Cumbres Mayores, and Baladro. Tapas was a culture, so we were a bit intimidated when we first stepped up to the counter and asked for a menu. I think we expected to sit down and enjoy a meal, but it became apparent that we should stand at the bar. It made me wonder if that was part of the secret of Spain. This is a total sidetrack, but Cadiz is all about pork and cheese. Every “local specialty” listed on a menu is some mixture of bread, bacon, ham, and cheese. And then there is the sausage, which comes in hundreds of varieties and might be a part of any meal. Cadiz culture is about waking up late and staying up all night. Yet, the people are pretty moderately sized. So, I see this “stand up while you eat” culture, and I pondered for a second whether there would be room for more bacon in my life if we ate standing up at a counter while drinking and stretching every meal into a two hour affair. If this diet craze ever sweeps through the USA, I am so on board!
We had fresh salmon in a mustard sauce, meatballs in salsa, Manchego cheese, and something else delightful at Cumbres Mayores. All this was complemented by red wine, beer, and finished off with the local Manzanilla – something reminiscent of a dessert wine in texture, but with a biting, oakey flavor.

Baladro offered a “posh” environment with modern furniture and moody lighting. We did dessert with the local specialty, Sangria. We chose a chocolate brownie with heavenly chocolate and orange ice cream for dessert.

Appreciated at both places was the lack of bass-ey background music. Both restaurants were places to gather, eat, and talk with people you know.

Later, we took a train to Sevilla with some friends on the ship. Their teenage children kept Abi occupied for the 2 hour train ride from Cadiz to Sevilla. We only had a few hours in Sevilla, so we went to see the cathedral.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Six time zones from Spain!

Our ship is averaging about 20 knots these days, which means it is only an eight day trip to Spain. It also means we have to set our clocks forward one hour every night. Lily is making this adjustment more easily than Abi. I am catching up on z's during naptime, so I hope not to be affected as much as everyone else! I am less than delighted about being that parent with the screaming three year old in the floor, but unfortunately I think that will be the case until we get this time change business figured out.

Yesterday we were able to watch the inaguration of Barack Obama live via satelite -- isn't it amazing what can be accomplished in the middle of the ocean? Abi sat through the entire hour long affair while she played with cars. I was glad that we all got to watch together. In the Bahamas, many people we spoke to turned the conversation to our new president. It struck me as interesting that there were people in the Bahamas planning to celebrate the innaguration of Barack as well.

Tonight is an involvement fair on the ship. There will be groups gathering to set up different activities, so I will be attending and looking for a yoga class or something. My hope is that there will be something early enough in the morning or late enough in the evening that I might be able to participate. I'm also trying to pull together a group of students to participate in a Preschool Enrichment Program (PEP). There are 5 children from 1 to 5 on the ship, and I think it would be really nice to have story times, swimming buddies, student-led activities and crafts, etc. Sometimes it is easier for someone other than a parent to direct a group of kids this age, and most of the preschoolers on board have come out of a daycare/preschool setting. I hope we can pull together a nice group of students.

Luke took some pictures of the girls on board the ship this morning. I will try to have them here for you ASAP!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

School time, schedules, Bahamas for One

We have been getting adjusted to the ship for the past few days. The girls and I have spent a lot of time solo, as Luke gets broken in to his new position. We haven't changed time zones since Florida so we are in a nice little routine now. Abi usually has "school" in the morning, and we do more active things in the afternoon after her nap.

I knew I would need to get the room set up at first, and wanted to have a ready-made project on hand. This paper tissue craft kit from Alex really fit the bill. She spent ONE AND A HALF hours working on this little butterfly, without stopping. She was so proud of herself, and really enjoyed picking the colors.

Luke's job is keeping him really busy for the first few days. As such, we weren't really able to spend much time together in the Bahamas together. It worked out okay though. I put Lily in the Ergo backpack, Abi in a small stroller, and we hit the streets. Most days there were other moms to go out with at the same time which provided entertainment for Abi and an extra set of hands for me. The extra help was amazing! In the Bahamas, we went to Paradise Island and had a short visit at Atlantis to see the aquarium. Abi loved the large fish, jellyfish, and sharks. It really is an impressive aquarium.

At the end of the day, Abi declared that the ferry ride from Paradise Island to Nassau was the most special thing about the Bahamas. Just goes to show you never know what will please kids the most!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bon Voyage...Sort of.

Maybe you are wondering why it says "three days until we set sail" when we are already in the water. We left port last night, and it is only 50 miles to the Bahamas. However, it saves money to just drop anchor between Miami and the Bahamas. That explains how I was able to spend this afternoon seasick, even though we aren't really going anywhere at the moment.

Right now there are no students on the ship, so we have been able to connect with the children and staff on the ship a bit better. We will arrive in the Bahamas at 8am on the 18th, and then we will welcome the students aboard on the 19th.

Tomorrow the parents of younger children are meeting to discuss how to share childcare and learning opportunities. I'm excited to get the kids together. There are two young men that are near Abi's age, and one little girl that is fairly close to Lily's age.

Portland, Miami Beach, Boarding the Semester at Sea Explorer, and Setting Sail!

If you use your imagination just a little bit you can probably envision that a Jones family travel experience didn’t go exactly as planned. However, our flight was completely on schedule, our bags all weighed in under 50, and we had a great time in Portland prior to our flight and for the few days we had in Miami.

Hanging out with Rachel and Jayne in Portland – it’s fun to connect with old friends, and of course even more fun to play with someone else’s toys!

The cousins played at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) on Sunday the day before our flight. One last hurrah before we begin the summer of fun!

Luggage for a family of four for 100 days – yikes! (I’m sure the folks at the airline were not amused.)

Unfortunately, the first thing that happened when we got our rental car was a minor accident. You know, we just sort of gently bumped the Jaguar next to us with our car a little bit. Thankfully, that was the only accident we had – surprising considering how the beautiful folks of Miami drive… A minor bump didn’t slow us down! Check the damage on the Pacifica…
Once we got back on the road we went to our motel. We booked a motel on Priceline because we were struggling to find anything close to being in our budget. We wound up at the Whitelaw at South Beach. I’m pretty sure the Whitelaw doesn’t see many strollers. Where some motels have cookies and milk at 6pm, the Whitelaw starts pouring complimentary cocktails and pumping bass.

That isn’t to say we’ve had a bad time though! The Whitelaw is “barbalicious” according to it’s website. Apparently that translates to hot pink walls and ceilings with chandeliers in every room. What is a three year old girl not to love about that? There’s a sundeck up top with bouncy lounge pads – perfect for playing picnic or diving onto and laughing. The hallways looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, and were really indescribable. The Whitelaw Hotel – Hot Pink!
Best of all, the hotel was in the middle of South Beach, so it was really close to the beach. The girls had a pretty good time once they got used to the water. Lily never really took to the water, but Abi had a fun time sitting in my lap “catching” waves.

Girls and dad at the beach – hopefully we’ll be doing this more often!

Of course our real objective with the early arrival was to buy lots of STUFF for the kids, and us too. I met a fellow soda addict in the line at Wal-Mart. Apparently he took the six cases of Dr. Pepper stacked up on our two shopping carts to mean I had a problem. 5 cases of diapers, 8 packages of wipes, a bagillion crackers and craisins later…we left the Wal-Mart with our overstuffed SUV and went to the port to board! Ah…Americans. Sometimes you just can’t avoid being one.

This is 400 diapers. Didn’t know if you had ever seen 400 diapers. Maybe we should’ve considered cloth…

Now that we’re on board we are finally getting into a schedule. Remember, we jumped ahead three hours on this cross-country plane ride, so the girls are still adjusting. Today I woke them up at 7am, made them eat breakfast, and they seemed to adjust for the most part. Hopefully tomorrow we will have a “normal” ship day. Abi made a friend today named Barrett. He is two years old, but will be three next month. He was full of energy and they had a great time playing chase tonight. I am lucky to have a family next door to us. The Dean of Students is from Oregon and is right next door. Abi completely adores his daughter and his wife was a total life-saver today. She watched the kids while I returned the rental car back to the Thrifty counter. I was so thankful to avoid dragging the kids through Miami in a taxi!
So, that’s that – we’ve made it! We’re here! We’re setting sail tonight!

Friday, January 9, 2009

About Salem

In case you didn't know, we have relocated to Salem for the period before and after Semester at Sea.  It is a little unrealistic to apply for a job in January and say "see ya in May, after our career-related cruise around the world".  So, we just decided to move all of our stuff to Luke's mom's house and call it "home" for a little while.  

I'm a sunshine girl, so Salem is a little rainy for my taste sometimes, but there are a few amazing things I've noticed so far:

1) At the Wal-Mart they have staff dedicated to wiping down the baskets as they come in so you don't have to get a rainy wet basket.  There are often umbrella baskets where you can pick up a free umbrella to use and return at another basket.  How cute!  

2)  The grass is Salem is green, and many of the trees haven't even lost their leaves.  On the days when it is sunshiney, you can pretend like it is a cool day in California wine country.

3)  Speaking of wine...Maybe you are in Salem, and you don't have a job, and you don't make any money.  You have time and no money you say??  Sounds like a good day to leave the kids with grandma and go on a Willamette Valley wine tasting tour! 

4)  Is there any place on earth with better food than Oregon?  Honestly, if you want to go around the world to try new flavors, just buy a plane ticket to Portland instead!  

5)  We live near a street called "Commercial" in Salem.  Holy Cow!  On one strip, there is:  Fred Meyer, Lifesource, Winco, Target, Costco, Wal-Mart, and Safeway.  Seriously!  When you open the weekend paper a whole tree worth of ads falls out with all of the deals for the week.  I don't know if there is anything that isn't on Commercial street.  I like that it is impossible to get lost while shopping.  

6)  On the flip side of that coin, if you drive for 15 minutes in any direction you hit green pastures, rolling hills, and farmland.  

7)  People are nice.  I think I like Salem people.  Kinda chatty the Salem people.  The clerks always small-talk and random people in town say stuff to ya.  No one seems in a real big hurry.  That could be a side-effect of the fact we no longer do stuff on "after-work" time.

8)  Even though it rains A LOT in January, there are many activities for children that are indoors.  There is a carrousel downtown, lots of indoor kiddie things at malls or kids clubs, indoor aquatic centers with heated pools, etc.  

Winter Pictures

I just updated the little slideshow to the right from our Picasa Web Album. If you want to see bigger pictures, go here.

The pictures are from Seminole and McAlister, Oklahoma for a holiday visit with my parents, and from Salem, OR with Christmas with Luke's mom, and his sister's family.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Parenting Books: You win.

I've always thought that parenting books were kind of obvious.  Especially the ones that say things like "don't reward bad behavior".  I feel like calling the author and saying, "Really. You spent how long writing a book to tell people like me 'don't reward bad behavior'?  I'm not a Nanny 911 case, I'm just trying to get my daughter to stop telling people she is going to throw them in the garbage.  I read your book and I get 'don't reward bad behavior'.  As if I had time to waste.  Thank You."

Today I realized the ugly truth.  Being around my daughter when she is happy, kind, and well-behaved is like a moment in heaven.  I would do anything to make it continue forever.  When she is so sweet I don't want to give her a treat or watch TV or any of the other standby "rewards" because I just want to sit with her doing whatever it is she is doing and enjoy the golden blissful moment of perfection as it unfolds.  Sitting with her, being loved, adored, and included in play is the best thing in the world.  It is a reward for me.

When gloomy behavior visits, I really would do anything to make it stop.  I would buy her a pony or a happy meal or anything in else in the world to make her happy again.  And I'm not the only one - have you ever heard that song "Hush Little Baby, don't say a word, mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird?"  

So, obvious-advice-parenting-book, you win.  Now I understand that "not rewarding bad behavior" is much harder than it sounds.

Countdown Week

Well folks, this time next Monday we will be standing in line at the airport to board a plane to Florida and begin the family journey around the world!  I had this dream last night where I was at the airport alone with the kids getting ready to board our flight when I realized the passports were still an hour away in Salem.  Ah, night terrors:  a sure sign that life is about to get exciting again!

Today feels like one of those roller coasters you ride because they include the fastest/largest drop(s).  Everything coming up to the featured thrill is anticipation, and that is what I feel the most of today.  We're not completely packed, and I've pretty much given up on the concept of "packing everything we need".

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Health Insurance for Travel

Being that Luke and I are no longer employed at WSU, we are also no longer eligible for awesome state health-care benefits through Group Health. If we were taking off around the world as young newlyweds we could probably skip health insurance, but since we are traveling with two young kids we decided to get some health insurance. Luke found a good policy through Blue Cross and Blue Shields called "InterM". Isn't that a cute name for insurance for people in limbo?

The purpose of the insurance is to tide you over between two life events. (The loss of one job and the start of another, the end of a career and the start of Medicare benefits, etc.). Because it is only an "interim" policy, you can only have it for up to six months. However, it is very affordable even at a family rate.

We will go ahead and purchase the insurance to cover the time we are abroad even though most of the countries we are visiting have free or subsidized health care, even for foreigners. We also have an international policy through Medex which is provided by Semester at Sea. Our US health insurance policy will be for a circumstance that would cause us to return to the US, in which case we would definately want to have some kind of insurance.

Ideally Luke will have a job by the end of the summer, just about the time our "InterM" policy would run out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ergo on the Road

So, a while back I posted on the different baby backpacks we were considering for our journey.  We finally settled on the Ergo Baby Carrier, and I have to say it has worked out pretty well so far.  Lily is a twenty pound non-crawling nine month old, and she seems to like riding on my back.  Here are my tips for helping an older baby (4-8 months) adjust to being carried in a baby carrier:

1.  Have someone help the first time you use it:  If the goal is to make your baby like being carried on your back, you won't get very far if your first experience involves dropping them on the floor!  It's actually not that hard to get the hang of putting on the backpack, but it doesn't hurt to have a spotter the first time.  We also stood in front of the mirror for a while after she got in the backpack the first time so she could see herself.  She thought it was really funny!

2.  Don't plan big adventures right away:  It takes a while to get used to walking with the carrier for both parties involved.  You might try vacuuming, washing dishes, dusting, or making a bed the first time you use the Ergo.  Then move on to bigger things.

3.  Make use of the D ring on the back:  There is a nice little hook on the back of the Ergo that is quite under-rated in my opinion.  You can hang a toy from the back of it and let baby play with something other than your ponytail.  We have a Maisy board book on a ring that Gramma Ya-Ya got Lily.  She likes to sit and read on our long walks -- how studious for a nine month old!

4.  Move in interesting ways:  You can prolong the walk by swaying side to side, bouncing baby on your back a little bit, or catching a view of her face in a car or store window.

Stateside, the Ergo has been a good investment.  We'll let you know how it goes overseas! 

2009 Resolutions

I saw a post of resolutions on a blog I read pretty frequently called My Money Story.  Several people had written 2008 resolutions on their blog, and they reflected on them yesterday.  I thought that was an interesting idea.  Consider these goals up for review in 2010.

Despite the fact I could be skinnier, healthier, more well read, and a better person, I really only have one goal this year, and that is to be present for this year.  I have a tendency to get side-tracked by all the little things in life sometimes, and there are a few big things happening that I want to leave myself open to this year.  

1.  I'm living incredibly close to family for the first time in 7 years.  We live with my mother in law and within 15 minutes of cousins close in age to the kids.

2.  We're going around the world on Semester at Sea.

3.  I won't be working.

It seems we have been given the gifts of time, family, and simplicity.  I have a horrible habit of getting side-tracked by all the little things when life gives me gifts like that.  So, my goals are:

1.  Get to know my family better.  I don't just want to spend more time with them, I want to know them better.

2.  Take lots of pictures and write in a journal.  Sound simple?  Try doing it with a three year old -- it takes effort!