9.22.2017

Hurricane Irma

***disclaimer- i wrote this before Maria hit St Croix and never got around to publishing it due to the craziness of in between the two storms. i will be writing another post about our (ongoing) experience with Hurricane Maria soon. we are still feeling overwhelmed with it all***

I never thought I'd be in a hurricane. Probably because I thought I'd spend my whole life on the West Coast where earthquakes are the natural disaster of choice. Moving here, we knew it'd be a possibility. We just didn't think it would be two months after we moved to St Croix.

I have a new respect for weather tracking and forecasting. There are so many variables that make a storm big or small or nothing. Brad and I have learned a lot from our obsessive watching of Irma and understanding what was happening. The technology and ability to be able to forecast a hurricane days before it hits... I am so incredibly grateful for that. No such luxury with earthquakes and tornadoes (that i am aware of. though i feel like i heard they are working on earthquake technology which would be amazing). The days before were spent stocking up on canned goods, water, batteries, propane, and other necessities we felt we would need. We knew we'd get hit by Irma... but we didn't know by how much. Forecasters seemed to be having a hard time getting her trajectory just right. One big thing was she didn't turn north when she was supposed to, but kept going west. Then she just about doubled in size, making her an even bigger question mark. What was going to happen?

Labor Day was spent moving furniture into the back of the house. Our house is set up pretty cool that way. The front is all windows. All.windows. Our bedroom, which is an addition is all windows. Seriously. Three walls of windows. Don't get me wrong, I love being able to look outside to the lush beauty of the Caribbean... but when a massive beast of a hurricane is barreling towards you, you second guess those big, bright windows quite a bit. We were unable to get plastic (plywood was too small and we'd have to get at least 13 sheets... ick), but we did get some weed block to block out the front room. This was more of a precaution for debris flying around and possibly breaking a window and lessening the impact effect inside. The back of the house only has windows to the carport, so we felt much safer (albeit confined and depressed due to lack of light). The night before Irma, I finally felt truly nervous and scared. I don't like not knowing. I didn't like having to think what we should do if our roof gets ripped off. I was freaked thinking about my kids getting hurt. A million different scenarios were going through my head about what we'd need to do. We were as prepared as we were going to be- we had our food, our propane and camping stove, lanterns and flashlights, full tank of gas, water (bottled, frozen, gallon and five gallon jugs), emergency backpacks for evacuation, and a second place/shelter for refuge if our home was compromised. Now we had to wait. 

And I tell you what... and I almost don't want to say this due to the massive destruction elsewhere... I am just being completely honest... it was kind of anti-climatic and cool. We have storm doors to the back half of the house and were going to shut them when the storm hit. The wind started around 6am. Electricity got turned off at 6:45 for us. It rained off and on, but was mostly windy. It wasn't bad windy so I went into our room to escape the dark of the other rooms... and just watched. Watched the trees sway and bend and swirl with the wind. Heard branches creak and break. Listened to the gusts rattle the leaves and trees. It was mesmerizing. If we hadn't had a curfew in place until 6am the next morning, I probably would have been the stupid person driving to an outlook to watch the waves crash and see everything bend to Mother Nature and her beast, Irma. I did escape to the carport to watch even more, but Brad made me come inside and stop going out. The boys hardly noticed anything. They kept themselves busy playing games, learning chess from Brad, snacking, and other kid stuff. We made sure to include them in the discussion and preparation of Irma beforehand to lessen the fear they might have. Between 12:30 and 3:30 seemed to be the most active she was here. 

The next day we got into our car to escape the house, charge our phones in our car, and assess the damage done to our island. I really didn't know what to expect. Sitting on our hill seemed to protect us from the worst of the storm, but how did everyone else fare? Driving around, I feel like we were able to breathe a sigh of relief and release a huge burden- our island was intact, for the most part. There were quite a number of downed electrical poles, uprooted trees, broken branches, a metal fence was down, but other than that we came out on top. We are located in Christiansted, which is north midland of the island. Talking to someone from Frederiksted, the only other city here and on the west end, they got hit a bit harder. The whole island was without power, though downtown Christiansted had power by Thursday afternoon so Brad was able to return to work by Friday. Our cell phones worked until about 2pm-ish on Thursday, when Irma hit Puerto Rico. Our carrier is Verizon and our cell towers are located on PR so we were without text, call, and data until Friday. And even then, it was sporadic and in and out. That was hard for me- to not know how the other islands were faring. We had heard beforehand what Irma had done to the Leeward Islands since she hit there first, but we knew she'd be skirting close to the BVI and our sister islands, St Thomas, St Johns, and Water Island. Close? More like on top. When we finally got data back, I couldn't believe what it looked like over there and my heart breaks thinking about how horrendous it must have been, and still is trying to survive with so little (if anything at all). I am so proud to be a part of St Croix, where people have been working together to help the evacuees as well as deliver much needed goods to those islands. Picking up the pieces and infrastructure over there is going to be a long process, but I know they will get there. In the mean time, St Croix will be the new hub for tourism for the USVI. We already have two cruise ships scheduled for this Sunday. It will be interesting to see how and if tourism changes the island very much. 

I almost feel like I'm cheating when I say I lived through a hurricane. Probably because we didn't suffer like others have. But we did and I am ever so grateful for our outcome. Our LDS branch decided we needed to answer the call to help others. So instead of having our third hour, we went out and purchased necessities and goods to send to our brothers and sisters on St Thomas. What an amazing experience that was to witness. A few sisters in our branch organized putting together hygiene kits to send over. Others were packing up boxes and bins just full of goods. We filled up two SUV's and a truck, 1,000 lbs. It may be small to what others have been able to do, but it felt good to do something. Brad has been itching to get over there and help, but he just can't. Hopefully soon, since the ferry is up and running (or so I've heard). This is a definite drawback to living the island life- you're stuck here. I am hopeful and excited to watch the goodness keep being given to these other islands and will keep praying they get the help they need on so many levels. This was quite the experience and I hope to not forget the lessons we've learned.

8.28.2017

A Dip

Mermaid Beach from the Buccaneer
We are emerging from some not so fun things that happened around here. 

I mentioned in my last post their horrible sunburns. Yeah... ended up being second-degree sunburns for Jack and Gav. Mom fail. Took over a week to heal. 

While the sunburns were healing and we were avoiding the sun like vampires, the boys also had some bug bites that just wouldn't heal. I figured they were just scratching too hard and we needed to find a way to calm the itch. We covered them up with band-aids, figuring a reprieve from little fingers and some Neosporin would do the trick. Nope. Jack's even multiplied and spread after a night with a band-aid on. Now they were not bug bites, they were freaking bulbous (i know, such a pretty picture in  your head). And they kept getting more! After a few days and it being obvious this was bigger than normal first aid, I called the doctor's office. Booked. And the only walk-in clinic I knew was about to close. No Urgent Care around and I'd rather not go to a hospital here from what I've been reading. This was a Saturday. So I hunkered down with the boys on Sunday and waited till Monday morning. Diagnosis- impetigo. What the heck is that?? It is a bacterial infection of the skin that is highly contagious (you're welcome, church congregation, for not going to church. eesh!) and is due to the high humidity. You need an antibiotic to get rid of it, oral or cream. We were so lucky to get both because that is just how bad it was for these boys. Luckily, after a few days, they were starting to clear up. Thank heavens.

Let's add in the fact that in those two weeks we also had about 4 power outages. And our fridge is on the fritz so that every time the power goes out, the cooling system takes anywhere from 4 to 32 hours to come back on after it's all better. We had to throw out so much food on the 32 hour delay...

Not going to lie, this took a toll on me and the good attitude I had about living here. Now that things are back to normal and we can get out and enjoy the island, I'm recouping what I lost. I know I should have had a better attitude. This next month I'll be focusing on bettering myself, to make time for me so I can be better for others, to work on my spirituality so I can find more peace. I can already feel it working and hope I don't give up on this like I do so many other things. Form the habit and then it'll be another part of our beautiful life.
 Eclipsed Sun

8.06.2017

Are You Really There?

I feel like the worst mom right now. My poor babies are all sunburnt. To a sad crisp. Gavin has it worst of all. After church today he took off his shirt and we discovered he actually had blisters from his burn. Ouch! Poor guy. I put some cold washclothes on, some aloe vera (bottled and from the plant), and a tumeric-yogurt spread. They seem a teensy bit better, but I want those mean suckers gone. So tomorrow's outings are cancelled and I am a-okay with that. Shirtless boys around here (which means heaven to them).

When the boys were toddler age, putting them to bed was always reading a book and then singing a couple songs. As they got older, they showed less interest in the songs so I haven't done that in quite a while. Tonight Gav asked for extra cuddles and I asked him if he wanted a song to help him feel better. He said yes and after I asked him what song he'd like he said, "A blessing one.". The first song that came to mind was "A Child's Prayer". I love the words to this song, that let's our little ones know that they are important. Heavenly Father does and will hear your prayers and answer them. After I was done with both verses, I asked him if he knew what the song was about. He shook his head no and I told him that no matter what, Heavenly Father is always listening and with us. We just need to pray. That if he wakes up and is hurting, he can say a prayer right in his bed to help his pain go away. If he needs something ever, he can always say a prayer in his heart and mind or go find somewhere quiet to offer a prayer up to Him. I cherish these gospel moments with my children. They are so eager and wanting to learn more about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and I am so grateful for that. 

7.21.2017

Differences

There are wild chickens everywhere here. We told the boys about them before we moved, but seeing is so much more than what they expected. After a short while, Gavin started counting how many chickens, chicks, and roosters he was spotting. James also started. Jack was content and not paying attention. James "stopped" at about 35. Meaning, he got lost in his little world while staring out the window or talking to someone. Gavin got 100 within a few days of being here. 

Seeing how high his brother was getting, James picked up his counting again. This time lasted a little bit longer... he did get up to about 172 (I think that was the final number?). That was about us being here about two weeks. Gavin kept counting. Jack tried to pick it up but really couldn't find them quick enough to bother about it too much. Gavin kept vigilantly counting. He finally stopped about a week and a half ago (maybe two weeks?). His final count? 1200. For being here 2-3 weeks, that was his final number. Can you tell who our dreamers are vs our focused and determined? That is not to say anything bad about either trait. It is part of what makes them them and I love their uniqueness and ability to be close regardless of their differences. 

Now I need to take a picture of some wild chickens to complete this post...

These two were holding hands and being total goofballs while we tried to navigate the new grocery store. Totally helpful... or not. But dang cute.


7.11.2017

Cut Off

I get it now. I really, really get it. I get why Alaska and Hawaii (and let's add in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) can be a little ticked off by feeling so cut off from most companies. Our prices here are much higher due to shipping it here. I get that too. But to not offer shipping to parts of America?? Really? Companies, you do know that we are still a part of the postal service... right? That you can still offer shipping to us. Alas, many do not get it. 

There are three types of companies-

1- No way we are shipping to you outlanders. Target, I'm giving you the side-eye. Traitor. You as well, "World" Market. Disappointed.

2- Yeah, we'll ship to you! Just give us your youngest child in exchange... ok, I jest. But really. Take Amazon for example. Wonderful Amazon. To ship here, it's $10 + .59/lb. Really?? Is that necessary? Costco only ships here for certain items, plus higher shipping. Hobby Lobby negates all free shipping specials AND the more you pay in product, the more you'll pay in shipping. It gets pretty ridiculous. Let's add in WalMart, who used to ship here for free up until a few weeks ago. Ouch. There goes pantry shopping. Now shipping costs almost as much as what you are buying. We really can't work out a flat rate shipping, guys?

3- Heck yes  you can shop here. AND we'll even let you take advantage of our shipping deals. I love these people for throwing us a bone. Old Navy-Gap-BR, you guys rock. H&M, you are amazing. Joann, I'm coming for you (just getting my order ready). THANK YOU for making it possible for us to shop and benefit from you guys. There are other companies that do (west elm!), but I have not shopped there yet. 

We knew coming here that it would be more difficult to shop. Not necessarily a bad thing. It can get frustrating to get necessities (and selection) for a decent price is all. I am a bargain hunter and I am still in sticker shock here. Luckily, we have come across some great finds within the three weeks of living here. For instance, we don't have a Costco but we do have what is called a Cost-U-Less. It's like a mini, semi-more expensive Costco for the Virgin Islands. I didn't pack my pots and pans (way too awkward and would take up too many boxes). KMart (which is the only big store here. cue crying face) was waaaay overpriced. I was looking for anyone to ship to here and was coming up blank. I decided to check out Cost-U-Less since I knew they had some kitchen items there. What do you know, but I find a 10-piece KitchenAid cookware set... for $60! Um, heck yes! Getting our couch, we know we got an amazing deal. And some other things. We've also paid way too much for stuff, but that is how it goes here. I'll just be extra grateful for the deals I can find since they are few and far between :)

7.08.2017

Importance

Our Fourth of July was simple and great. We went to a church barbecue at the beach, went to KMart, was late coming home for Brad's visiting cousin, had sandwiches for dinner, went and saw fireworks over the Fredriksted Pier, came home to watch more fireworks on PBS, and talked to Johnny and Chelsie. 
This week we went to the beach... 5 times. FIVE TIMES! Guess that is what you do when people visit and I am a-okay with that. Today we were able to go to Buck Island and do a bit of snorkeling. Right away we saw eagle rays and schools of fish. Brad and I both saw a barracuda, though it was at different times. Oh, and we saw TWO SEA TURTLES! What?!?! Mind you, it wasn't during snorkeling, but it was still amazing. Amazing! 
On Friday our pallet of household items was able to get here. Going without these things the past few weeks really put things in perspective about what we really find important. What did I miss/want the most? Kitchen things. My spices and cooking. It was so hard to only cook with salt and pepper. I splurged and bought a huge thing of cayenne pepper and nutmeg so I could at least make our homemade mac and cheese. I should have sent more things with Brad, but I was so rushed and my brain was not grasping things, I spaced what I would want when I got here. Next up was cleaning supplies. I love to use essential oils and certain products to clean and it was difficult to not have it on hand. Now it's here! What was important to the boys? One word- legos. 
We barely got a couch on Monday. It was crazy how perfect it worked out, but I'll just say we are so happy to be able to sit on something other than camp chairs. We all have beds and now the couch... and we're happy. Not like I want to keep it this simple, but it has been nice to go without and realize we really don't need as much stuff as we think we do. I hope to get more in the habit of this and keep this frame of my mind when we move back to the mainland. 

6.30.2017

A Day Off

Well, I accidentally followed yesterday's advice and basically did nothing today. A huge storm (well, huge to me) rolled in during the night. Pouring rain and strong wind. It was actually nice to wake up to an overcast day instead of bright sunlight shining on my face (we need our curtains SO BAD). It felt like the perfect day to let the boys play (and hardly fight! yes!) and me to relax and get a few things done around the house. It felt so good. So so good. I feel much better today. Way less snippy and more like myself. 

One thing I really want to work on right now is making time for spiritual upliftment. The move literally overtook my life and a lot of important "me" things got shoved to the side. I stopped working out, reading my scriptures, eating well or even enough, showering consistently, etc. I'm excited to get back to all of the things that help me be a better me. Working out needs to wait a tiiiiny bit more. Mainly because it's tile floor and apparently I have an aversion to tile I was unaware of. Or maybe it's just dirty tile and this floor needs a dang good mopping. Also, I want to exercise on a rug or yoga mat and I have neither. I'm weird, I know. Such is my life. My body is getting better at the hours here and I am hoping to add things back in now that things are calming down.  

Photo catch up of the day...
Our church ward had a fundraiser for the Young Women's Girls Camp and the Young Men's Scout Camp. It was a fifties themed dinner and auction. The boys were pretty jazzed to "dress up" for it and we were all matchy-matchy. Good night with them
By the time we were outside taking pics, Gavin was done. So he took these and loved being the photographer.



6.29.2017

Mundane Errands

We have officially lived in St Croix for a whole week. Our pallet of things we wanted with us probably won't get here for another week or two. Which I am trying to not let get to me :) So far we have gone to two (technically three, but we were barely there for 5 minutes when we ditched it) beaches. Not bad! Especially considering we all feel a little cray-cray for all the errands/shopping we've been doing that inevitably comes with moving. Seriously. Gone to the grocery store almost every day. Home Depot twice. KMart an annoying amount of times. I think I have finally gotten the things I need to survive and we should be home more. Or going out and enjoying this beautiful place more! We are currently couch shopping (anybody else hate this process??) and hopefully starting two build projects. The lumber selection here is a little sparse, to say the least. Our first two projects will be a headboard for us and a dining table and benches. While we were living apart and Brad was here, he was able to build the boys matching beds for their room. They're pretty sweet looking, he did awesome.
Don't mind the sleepy heads... they are barely pulling out of their Pacific time zone...
Catch up for the day... let's take a gander at my photos...

Eye appointments! Gav and James had their first eye doctor exam. I was a little worried, not going to lie. I got my first pair of glasses in 4th grade so I've been a little nervous about when it will be the boys' turn. Maybe they all got Brad's eyes? So far, so good. The doctor said Gav looks like he'll be more on the far-sighted spectrum while James is more on the near-sighted side. Both good for now, thank heavens.
I have felt pretty negative and just... grumpy lately. Which is silly, but not. I know we are still going through a lot, in a sense. I feel like I need to be more aware of myself and the boys and cut us all a lot more slack. I will say, I am never the most pleasant person when I am uncomfortably hot. And I need to find a way to not let that affect me as much, even if it's just not doing anything for a day. Or being out and having fun instead of getting things done once in a while. Here is to relaxing and being fun. Let's make it work.