Monday, May 30, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Sesame Street'

Ok, guys, I had a gritty, bloody action flick with expletives in the title all lined up to review today.  And then I looked at my viewing history in Netflix, and realized that 80% of what we've watched this week has been ... Sesame Street.  Now, I KNOW everyone out there has already seen, and was probably raised on, Sesame Street, but as I'm feeling quite sentimental today, I'm going to go ahead and review the show, anyways.  So feel free to skip today's post, and come back next week when I review one for the adults!  (or, non-parents-of-preschoolers)

I remember watching (and loving) Sesame Street as a kid.  Coming back to the show as an adult, parent, and with some background in child development and early childhood education, I am realizing just how brilliant it is.  Here are the reasons why I have no qualms about using Sesame Street as an electronic babysitter in the afternoon:

1.  It teaches, really teaches.  There are tons of 'educational' shows out there for kids right now.  Most of them are fluff, mind candy for kids.  Not Sesame Street!  Sophie knew her entire alphabet by the time she was 2 1/2, because of daily doses of the show.  I realized that Xander didn't know any of his letters (except for 'M', which is in the McDonald's sign).  After a month of Sesame Street (thanks to Netflix, which now has 7 complete seasons available for streaming), he now knows several.  And he doesn't only recognize them in isolation - he picked out an 'S' and a 'Y' in a sign when we were at the gas station yesterday, on his own!

2.  It incorporates multi-cultural art and music.  I love that Sesame Street exposes my kids to art and music from around the world.  The other day we were watching a clip of a Picasso painting that had been animated and put to music.  The cultural references include African, Cajun, classical European, Caribbean, South American, Indian and Asian.

3.  It teaches social skills.  Really.  It does.  The other day, Zoe was sad because Rosita and Abby weren't playing what she wanted to play.  This is an issue I deal with Sophie about often.  The characters have real feelings (including anger).  Clips show kids crying, angry, happy, shy, feeling all the very real emotions children deal with daily.

4.  I can't leave out the nostalgic aspect of the show.  There's something so comforting in the fact that Big Bird still sleeps in his nest by Gordon's window, with his teddy bear Radar.  Bert is still obsessed with bottle caps and pigeons.  Oscar still screams, 'Scram' but lovingly tucks in Slimy every night.  Maria still fixes the same toaster she was working on in 1983.  And the lovable, furry Grover still stumbles and trips his way into our hearts.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Taking Out the Trash

It's an unsavory job wherever you live.  On Luaniua, the trash gets sorted into burnables, which are incinerated on the beach, and food waste, which is fed to the chickens and pigs.  Everything that can't be safely burned or fed to the animals gets taken far out onto the reef at low tide for the ocean to flush away. 
This was mostly my brother's job.  Nathan would sneak through the village after dark with a bucket of tin cans, plastic, dried pens, empty toothpaste tubes, and foil packets, and then pick his way out to the yawning edge of the reef.  Why wait for the sun to set?  Because otherwise he'd collect a bevy of curious pikininis, who would pick through our trash, and then broadcast it throughout the village.  Even our garbage was endlessly interesting to villagers who had basically lived the same life for centuries. 

Sometimes, he would catch the tide on the way in, or dump too close to the beach.  I always knew when this had happened, because the next morning there would be a week's worth of white man trash floating along the shore.  The sodden re fried bean packets and jagged tomato cans always gave me a guilty, uneasy feeling.  When you throw away trash, you want it to stay thrown away.  You don't want to be reminded of the ghosts of things you've consumed. 

There are people in my life with whom I share a history of hurt.  When I don't interact with them, I'm fine.  The trash stays out on the reef where it belongs.  But then something happens to trigger conflict, and suddenly the tide comes rushing in and I'm staring at the sodden mess of old things.  Nasty old words and hurts that can't be burned away.  And I have this boiling, seething mess of garbage I have to look at again.  Forgive again. 

I used to think that once I forgive a hurt, it gets washed out to sea.  I don't ever have to look at it again.  But I've learned that sometimes, I have to chose to forgive the same offense over and over again, because it resurrects itself in my heart whenever trouble rolls in. 

All I know to do is look at each bit of trash as it floats by, and say to myself, "Yep.  That hurt.  But I forgive."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Muscle Memory

We had our inaugural swim in our pool today.  The first of the season.  Sure, the pool is still a bit cloudy, and it hasn't warmed up enough outside to take the edge off the water-to-air transition, but I was chomping at the bit.  So in we went.

After the first gasping shock, my muscles started to unclench, the adrenaline subsided and left sweet dopamine in its place.  The desert sun, still not too hot, smiled warmly down at us.  Xander paddled out to me in his sister's pink floaties from last year, his blue lips stretched into a huge grin.  Sophie sucked down an Otter Pop at the railing.

I kicked out from the shallow end and dove down towards the drain, feeling how good it was to move my body.  My muscles stretched.  My lungs ached with contained air.  My arms and legs said, "Please and Thank you" to each other as they came together and apart, together and apart.  And a burst of joy suddenly ran through my heart.

Here I was, a 30 year old wife and mother of two, frequenter of the superstore and wielder of the debit card.  But in that weightless moment, as my body fell easily into old, habitual movements, I was 12 again and diving to the ocean floor to recover a handful of sand.

That's how it is to live TCK, rocking along my happy little path, when suddenly my Island self reaches across time and distance to grab my hand in sudden remembrance.

How do you deal with this schizophrenic self?  I know some TCK's who push it so deeply down it pulls their authentic selves right down with it, and they live, shells of themselves.  Some embrace it so radically that the only place they are able to fit in is with other TCK's.  Some spend their lives searching to replicate the experiences of their childhood.

And me?  I try to embrace each appearance of my Island self as a gift, and try not to allow the ache it brings with it to consume me.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What happened in the tide pool (Low Tide, Cont'd)

It was the magic moment.  The point just after the ocean receded, and just before it began to swell back again to fill the ancient bowl it had carved into the protruding reef.  Gaping and exposed, shelves of black rock jutted in jagged layers below me, with stubborn cowrie shells and clams stuck to their underbellies.  I took a deep breath.

And jumped.

Sunlight does funny things when its filtered through water.  Opening my eyes, immersed in the dregs of the last wave, I saw it slanting down in brilliant ribbons, throwing golden zebra stripes over the coral, my arms and legs, the brown bodies next to and above me.  Cowrie shells, dull above the surface, were now little, brownish spots of blood-red against smooth cream.  Spiky black sea urchins sprouted in grumpy tufts from the rock.  The water around me was filled with bubbles and frantic brown limbs.

Out of breath, I thrust my head above the surface.  The muted, high pitched clinking I had heard below the water instantly gave way to shouting, splashing, and the roar of an incoming wave.  Startled, I looked quickly to see what my comrades were doing.  Everyone now had their heads above the surface, and were swimming away from the protruding coral wall.  Towards the mouth of the bowl.  Towards open sea.  More kids ringed top, and waved at me frantically to follow them.

If I had learned one thing on Luaniua Island, it was when the villagers told me to do something, I should do it.  They knew their world way better than I did.  I'm sure it was harder on my parents to be treated like three year-olds who didn't know anything than it was for us kids, but all six of us had enough sense to obey.

So I turned, and swam with all my might towards the mouth of the tide pool.  As I did, the water started to rise around me.  The next wave was rolling in off the ancient ocean floor.  Now all the kids in the water were swimming back towards the coral wall.  They quickly caught up to where I was, and together we rode the wave in.

Kicking my legs as hard as I could, pumping my arms, I kept pace with my island compatriots.  The kids ringing the edge now stooped down with hands out, and started plucking us all from the surf .  I could feel the great gathering force of the wave beneath me.  As someone grabbed my uplifted hand, the ocean threw me out of its great belly.

Staggering, I planted my feet gratefully on the firm rock.  A wall of surf rose in defiance behind me, the sun glistened in triumph, and I sucked in the benevolent air.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Low Tide

The full moon on white sand is something to see.  The light, so brilliantly white, is caught, magnified, and reflected up from the beach, casting a luminous glow on everything.  On full moon nights, the village doesn't sleep until the moon sets.  Men and women work copra, and kids play jump rope and tag into late hours of the night. 
When the full moon comes, round and bright, it also pulls at the ocean.  It sucks the water in a great vacuum, leaving the ribs of the islands bare and exposed.  Fish caught in the tide pools gasp for breath, and bright pink starfish curl their limbs at the sun as sea urchins slowly dry out, emitting gasping, foamy bubbles. 

You can see the expanse of the atoll's reef straight out to where it drops off into deep sea.  At very low tides, full moon tides, you can pick your way out across the sharp ridges, right up to the angry surf.  There, where land meets defiant ocean, there are deep pools carved into the reef by centuries of pounding waves.  I usually stayed away from this area, for fear of being pulled out into the deep sea by the strong rip tides.  But one day, curiosity drove me to chance it. 

I could see, out on the edge of the reef, a group of children congregated around a deep 'U' cut into the rock.  I gingerly picked my way out to them, taking my time, going from smooth rock to smooth rock and avoiding the piles of human excrement on the way.  The ocean side of the island served as the village's public toilet, flushed twice daily when the moon pulled a giant lever and washed the waste out to sea. 

Nearing the edge, the roar of the pounding surf became so loud that it filled my ears and chest.  The ankle deep water tugged at my toes with treacherous strength.  A thrill of risk and excitement pulsed through all of us collectively.  Watching, I saw how each kid timed the waves as they came in with a rush, filling the rock bowl to the brim, paused, then flushed out again to sea.  There was a brief respite of calm after the sucking stopped, then another wave came rolling in and the process started all over.  Get in too soon, and the water would pull you right out into open ocean.  Get in too late, and you would be dashed against the razor sharp reef. 

Poised at the edge of the pool, spray misting my face and scattering the harsh sun's rays into a billion brilliant flecks, I willed my heart to slow to the rhythm of the surf.  In it rushed, a giant primeval force.  Right before the wave crested, a dozen kids clambered out, then laughed at the foam as it surged upwards in a wall at our feet.  The wall fell, the water was still for just a moment, and then with a sucking woosh it spiraled back out through the bottom of the pool.  The water stilled again.  Kids started jumping in, and I knew it was now or never. 

Taking a deep breath, I leaped. 

Caught for a heart splitting moment between nothingness and faith.

And then my feet hit the water, my body and head plunged below, and for a thrilling minute the ocean accepted me as its own.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Outsourced'

Hope your week's off to a good start, folks!  For me, 'Monday' means that I write another review of a movie I found on Netflix that I enjoyed, and think you might, as well.

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to move to a non-English-speaking country, this movie is for you!  It's also for all of us who have been through the experience of moving between cultures.  'Outsourced', an Indie romantic comedy, is the story of manager Todd Anderson, whose catalogue sales department is outsourced to India.  He is tasked to go train the company's new employees, on site, in Mumbai, India.  Plunged into a world he has never experienced before, Todd reels from the ensuing culture shock as he realizes, 'we're not in Kansas anymore'.

Putting aside the sometimes preachy, 'we're people, too' undertones of some of the Indian characters, this movie gives a pretty realistic, often humorous, portrayal of what it's like to be suddenly dropped in the third world.  Todd (whose name sounds like 'Toad' in Indian English) comes face to face with the new-to-him foods, religion (including the super creepy goddess painting in his bedroom), customs and festivals of Indian culture.  His first encounter with an Indian 'bathroom' (hint:  they don't use toilet paper) is side-splitting.

'Outsourced' paints a beautiful picture of the vibrant, deeply rooted culture of India, without being overly romantic or idealistic.  You see its strengths and flaws portrayed side-by-side with our own, Western culture.  This is a lighthearted movie that will leave you feeling good about your world.  The only downside is one unnecessary (and in my opinion culturally inappropriate) sex scene.  Overall, a positive, entertaining flick.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


One of the houses we stayed at in Honiara stood like a sentinel at the very top of the hill.  Bound around by starfruit and orange trees, its cinder block walls kept the rooms cool and dark.  A few meters past the rain tank, a hedge of hibiscus bushes marked an abrupt drop to the road below.  The hibiscuses, thick, lush and ornamented with huge, star like blooms, kept pets, children and adults alike safe from the drop off. 

One day, armed with a book and seeking to escape for a while, I tentatively poked my head through a gap between two bushes.  To my surprise, I discovered that there was a shallow ledge on the other side of the living wall, shaded and protected by the overhanging branches.  I tucked my book into the waist of my skirt and squeezed the rest of my body through the opening. 

Broad, dark leaves brushed my face.  Twigs clung at my t-shirt and hair, then sprung back greenly as I passed.  My knees, stirring the dirt below, upset a colony of snails.  A spider skittered huffily away.  The air was suddenly thick with the dank, brown scent of growing things.

And just like that, I had emerged to the other side of the hedge.  Carved there into the living wall was a little nook, rounded at the back by overarching limbs, and open to the wide sweep of flowering trees and sparkling harbor below.  An exhilarating wind greeted me, fresh and scented with frangipani and island cherries.  Settling back into the curve of branches, I let the wild brightness sink into me.  Alone there at the edge of the world, I was the wind.  I was the sea.  I was sister to the rippling ocean of blooms and leaves below me. 

Opening my book, embraced by the earth, I began to read.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Netflix Movie Monday - 'Gentlemen Broncos'

Hello all!

I took a needed hiatus from blogging last week.  My heart and soul needed a little TLC, so I withdrew from everything for a few days.  But not to worry, I'm back just in time for another installment of:  Netflix Movie Mondays.

This week's movie is not streaming on Netflix, but is available through the mail on DVD:

So, an odd little movie came out a few years ago.  It was just quirky enough to inspire a cult following of fanatical fans.  You might even call them disciples.  Yes, I'm talking about the movie that forever changed our views on tater tots, nunchucks and Tupperware salesmen, 'Napoleon Dynamite'.

'Gentlemen Broncos' is made by the same guy who brought us both 'Napoleon Dynamite' and 'Nacho Libre'.  If you take the fabulous random dorkiness and one-liners from Napoleon, add to them Nacho's underdog triumph and catchy soundtrack, then multiply the result by the nth degree of awesomeness, you get 'Gentlemen Broncos'.

*** Word of Caution:  If you didn't 'get' 'Napoleon Dynamite' or 'Nacho Libre', you're going to HATE this movie.  So you might as well stop reading.  But, if you enjoyed either of the above movies, read on, my nerdy friend.  This one is for you!

'Gentlemen Broncos' is the story of homeschooler Benjamin Purvis, aspiring science fiction author.  He lives at home with his dedicated, yet ditzy mother, who sends him off to a fantasy writer's conference on his fledgling leap from the family nest.  There, Benjamin meets other homeschoolers (not to be mistaken with 'homeschooled' - watch the link here to discover the difference), and gets the chance to meet his favorite author, Dr. Chevalier, who happens to be suffering from a major case of writer's block.

Benjamin enters his story, 'Yeast Lords' into a contest of which Dr. Chevalier is the judge.  The evil 'doctor' steals Benjie's story, and Benjamin is launched into the underdog battle of his life to defend and redeem his story.

I can't start to put into words how completely off-the-wall this story is, or do the comedy of it justice.  So I'm going to have to settle with writing down some of the things that have stuck with me since I watched it, seared into my visual memory.  Forever.

- blow gun, with poop darts
- popcorn balls
- blond transexual
- the most enormous pair of lips I've ever seen on a man
- old lady nightgowns
- flying deer with guns in their hoo-ha's
- bolo ties
- I did not know pythons could poop that prolifically ... can they?
- Grizzly Adams in a unitard
- cyclops with assault rifle
- matching mother / son Western outfits ... in purple silk
- the most uncomfortable hand massage I've ever witnessed
- wood paneling

I'll finish out my review with the words of another reviewer from Netflix, that about says it all:
"Dad thought it was the worst pile of dung I'd ever recommended. I loved it. Giggled to myself in self indulgent nerdiness."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Update on Diana

Sorry, for those of you who aren't on my Facebook, you probably haven't heard - my dear friend passed away the night I wrote the blog post about her and Brad.  I hadn't updated here on my blog about her death, because, frankly, it's taken a while to catch my breath about it.  Her sweet 15 year old daughter put it best (posted on Diana's Facebook wall):

Chillin' with Jesus.

We all loved you, D.  See you.

2011 Goals Revisited: May

So back in January, I posted about my goals for the new year, and resolved to blog every month about my progress.  So I'm warning you in advance that today's post contains no amusing anecdotes, or stories about the Islands.  Feel free to skip, and come back later when I have something interesting to say!

Ok, now, on to my goals.  April was another humdinger month, in which I plowed along and stayed on top of my 5 goals.  I'm pretty proud of myself this month!

1.  Focus on Scott
I blogged last month that we were settling back into our old comfortable, easy rhythm.  Ever since my 'aha moment' back in February, and how God washed my heart with the water of his word, Scott and I have been knitting closer and closer together.  It's funny how when your heart gets in line, everything else lines up behind it! 
This month, we connected by working on turning our backyard wasteland into a paradise retreat.  I also tried to serve Scott by continuing to bring his coffee and breakfast to him in the mornings while he gets dressed, and have started packing 'snickety-snacks' (our family vernacular) in a brown bag for him to take to work.  Lastly, I have continued to work on holding my tongue when I know we're both tired and empty, and a fight's brewing over something silly. 

2.  Focus on Sophie and Xander. 
Ok, so let's be real.  You know how sometimes you just don't enjoy your kids?  They get on your nerves, push your buttons, etc?  This month, I was so blessed by some moments where I just reveled in them.  I have really enjoyed homeschooling Sophie (and Xander by proxy) this month.  We are studying insects, and it has provided hours of fun and peppered our days with teachable moments.  To copy Hannah over at A Quite Spot, here's some of what we've done:
-Made a papier mache replica of an insect (still not done).  This was very effective in teaching Sophie the terms, 'head', 'thorax', and 'abdomen'. 
-Stopped to observe every insect we come across.  (Me:  "Xander, be gentle with the insect."  Xander:  "Can I kill it?")
-Checked out loads of insect / bug books from the library, as well as a few DVD's. 
-Started numerous insect collections.
-Ordered butterfly larva to start raising, and thus observe the process of metamorphosis. 
-Sorted clip art pics of bugs that are insects, and bugs that aren't. 

3.  Focus on the family.
We haven't taken any family trips or outings.  Scott and I have been pretty lazered in on the backyard.  But, the kids did participate in working on the yard with us (Xander was so cute with his little tools!).  And, we've made a conscious effort to do family devotions right before bed time each night.  For the Easter month, we did Easter story eggs, then gave each family member a chance to pray.  We could have been more consistent on this one.  It's easy to skip family devo's when you're tired, and just want those kids in bed so you can relax!

4.  Focus on my writing.
I think I was really consistent in keeping up my blog this month.  I sat down to write even when I was tired and pretty uninspired, but managed to come up with some posts that satisfied me. 
"A" for effort. 

5.  Focus on my body.
Ok, this one I'm REALLY excited about!  At the beginning of the month, I kicked my running into a higher gear and bumped my distance up to 3 miles.  This is a feat for me.  I haven't run anything over 2 miles since cross country in high school.  I kept up the distance, running on average 4 times a week.  I also did pilates for 30 minutes during the afternoons.  Nothing tones and refines your body like pilates!  I'm starting to see real progress, and am very happy.
But, I ran into a roadblock (yes, pun intended!).  As soon as I kicked up my mileage, I was voraciously hungry and exhausted all day.  It was a struggle not to snack on junk.  Even when I was a good girl in my eating, my weight did not budge.  In fact, I hit a very frustrating plateau that lasted nearly all month!  What could I be doing wrong to not lose weight after running 3 miles a day with pilates on top of that?! 
Well, turns out that I was not feeding my body properly.  I talked with a friend who runs, and she said I should be eating a protein and a carb every three hours.  For example, eggs and whole wheat toast for breakfast, an apple and string cheese three hours later, turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread for lunch, banana and peanut butter for snack.  You get the idea.  She recommended the book, Eating for Life, by Bill Phillips.  It contains lots of great, balanced meals.  I borrowed her copy, and lost three pounds in the first three days!  This was just last week, so I expect to report some weight loss next month.  Because of my running, I still get an: