Ramblings of a tired mom

Living on Guam has it's challenges. Add in 5 children, homeschooling and your own business and you'll find me rambling nonsense interspersed with some wisdom. Enjoy!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Letter

Ah...it's that time of the year again to write the ever popular "Christmas Letter". I really had big plans this year to send out homemade Christmas cards (even spent a wonderful evening making several of these masterpieces), taking a family picture and including this in the card and sending them all out by December 15th! Alas, it's now December 23rd....homemade cards are still in the works...picture hasn't been taken and I have no desire to face the crowd at the post office to figure out postage to Canada!

So here we are doing the Christmas letter via blog this year! The good thing is that I don't have to write too much here as you all can just read the rest of the blog to get an idea of what it is we do here on this island we've come to call home.

But since I haven't been that great at blogging I'll fill in some more details here.

This past year has been one full of changes and expansions. I battled depression during the first months of the year over the loss of our baby girl Maggie, on November 1st, 2005. (Her birth story can be read at http://tropicalmom.zoomshare.com/2.shtml )But life goes on and we will always remember little Maggie in our hearts. To keep busy I continued to lead the Guam Homeschooler Association, but passed the leadership on this past August. I am still the webmistress for the group and maintain our yahoogroup email list.

Les was the acting Chaplain for GICA (Guam International Christian Academy) and taught the high school bible class for the 2005/2006 school year. Beginning in August both Les and I volunteer our time at GICA teaching various high school classes. Les teaches the 12th grade bible and Guam History class and I teach a combined 9/10 bible class and the 11/12th grade English class. I've enjoyed introducing the young people to such classics as Animal Farm and Shakespeare's Macbeth. Sometimes I feel I get more out of the class than the students do! We teach until around 10:30am and then head on over to open up our driving school for the rest of the day. The kids join us at the driving school. We have also expanded our business and opened another classroom in Yigo, where we teach two nights a week. We have hired a wonderful teacher from JFK high school to help us at our Yigo office. Adam and Stephanie have been great helpers this year working at Yigo as well.

Eric is thriving in his learning and has become quite knowledgeable in all things Tiger. He can tell you how big a Bengal Tiger is, what it eats and where it lives. He continues to draw and illustrate elaborate cartoons about tigers, foxes and chickens. (I'll bet you didn't know that these three creatures could live in harmony?).

Stephanie continues to excel in her piano lessons. She is growing into a beautiful and sensitive young lady. She is currently on her 4th or 5th chapter of a story she is writing. She has learned to cross stitch, sharing another of my passions and prompting me to work on some old projects this past month. Someday I'll actually get one finished!

Cassandra has become her own person and no longer is just a shadow of Eric. She loves to draw and is showing an interest in learning to read, so that will be our focus for this new year. She fluctuates between being our princess and a tomboy, depending on her mood of the day.

Adam will hopefully be able to get his driving license next year if all goes well at the passport office. We applied this month for passports for both Stephanie and Adam, based on their father being a US Citizen. We had a wonderful Christian woman helping us with this and it is just up to head office in Hawaii to approve the applications. Pray with us that this works as it will solve the immigration limbo these two Canadian born children have been in for us.

Kevin leaves for basic training in Texas on January 23rd. He is anxious to begin his new career in the Air Force. In the meantime he helps us with transportation and basic errands for our driving school.

Our household menagerie has changed and expanded to include 12 cats (including the strays that have adopted us), one guinea pig named Phillip, 3 finches (last week it was 4 but the cat got one...), and a hamster. Having an office above a Pet store has influenced us just a tad....

Our biggest change this year has to be the move to the beach house in Anigua. We are so enjoying living on the beach and being able to take walks in the evenings, enjoying our own private beach and having frontline access to the liberation day parade and firework displays.

I guess this is all for this year's letter. If I get that picture taken in the next two days I'll post it here.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all from the Smiths on Guam!

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Sunday, November 19, 2006


Since my last post with a picture worked so well, I thought I'd share some more pictures of the kiddos.

First is Stephanie,12, sitting on the porch of our new beach house. A little irked at Dad for taking her photo.

Next is Eric, always willing and open for a pose. Taken at 6 1/2 years of age.

Cassie, posing in her Mario Bro's outfit, is 3 1/2 in this picture.

And this is Adam - our 18 yo wild haired hippy musician. Looks like he's recording something. Whatever it is he's certainly intent and doesn't notice the camera!

How's the fat journey going

I thought you might like to know how the weight loss is coming along. Well, it's not. I don't know. I think I just have a slow (very slow) metabolism. I don't over eat. I limit myself to one plate of food at fiestas and buffets - and not even an overflowing one at that. I eat salads and fruits. I try to drink only diet sodas. I only use 1/4 tsp of sugar in my coffee. But still the weight stays there.

I did join Curves about 2 years ago. The first year I was consistent and really felt an improvement in my body - lost some inches and a few pounds. But then I got pregnant and any improvements I had made were instantly negated. After the loss of my baby girl, Maggie (see http://tropicalmom.zoomshare.com for her story) I vowed to really work on my weight issues. Alas, I let all kinds of things get in my way to accomplish this.

A few weeks ago I finally started back at Curves again. I really like the program. It's the only exercise program I have ever done that I've enjoyed. But after two weeks, I'm so sore and my knees hurt so much that I've become discouraged again.

But I have two reasons to continue this regime: Cassie and Eric - AKA the Mario Brothers.
These two precious ones deserve to have a mom who can run with them, push them on swings, teach them how to ride a bicycle, and enjoy the fun stuff of kids.

So each day I try a little harder to lose weight and improve my health so that I can be around to see these two grow up.

It took 20 years to get to this point in my life. Here's hoping that it takes much less to lose it!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Time for an update

Ah...as you can see I'm not a very consistent blogger. Blame it on the kids, business, work, or whatever. But I've been encouraged by reading my friend's blog to start doing this more. Also, since I'm an unschooler, this blog can be a great place for me to record some of the things my children do...to prove to the world that they really do learn!

So let's see what's happened recently. Aside from all the children growing older that is! LOL. Adam is now 18 and "officially" graduated. We presented him with his diploma on his 18th birthday in September. This doesn't mean he ceases to learn or further his education. It just means, in the eyes of his parents he is an adult and responsible for his own education. Which means he continues to pursue his music skills, practicing his guitar, composing music and downloading french operas...

I don't know where my children get their taste in music from! Dad and I are die hard rockers from the 70's and 80's, though our Christian faith lends us to listen to more Christian oriented music now. In the past year Adam and Stephanie have listened to and fallen in love with Les Miserables (we actually got to see a wonderful performance of this put on by St. John's school on Guam last week!), The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and more recently The Little Prince - the latter two operas in French no less!

Stephanie, now12 so officially a "pre-teen" continues to teach herself French, as well as a form of anime drawing (something from Neo-pets?). She's actually quite a talented drawer/copier. She's also finally taking piano lessons from a fellow homeschooler and is advancing along at a great rate. And last week she participated in her first Academic Challenge Bowl (see http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/Guam).

Eric, now 7, has learned to read via "The Calvin and Hobbes Curriculum". Honestly there is such a curriculum out there...whenever I get around to writing it! Reading is such a big part of our lifestyle that it was just a matter of time before he caught on. He's been having me read him Calvin and Hobbes comics since he was about 4. He may not have understood some of the deeper philosophical commentary but he appreciated the artwork, expressions, and the way Calvin's mind works. You see Eric has the most vivid imagination of all our children. Previous posts have shown some of the characters he has been over the years. Now he's settled down as either Calvin or Hobbes (depending on his mood) and devours the comics, vowing to some day write his own to continue Bill Watterson's tradition. (I might have to write to Bill and ask his permission...). We found him a stuffed tiger for his birthday so now he has an actual "Hobbes" to carry around. Just this morning I was attacked by Hobbes while emerging from the bathroom.

Cassandra (Cassie) is 4yo and still cute & cuddly but with her own moods. All of our children have had their own way of calling for help in the bathroom. Cassie's tends to be a whiney, crying, "I'm going to die if I don't get the t.p." kind of cry. She has become an accomplished artist, copying her big brother's art work for the past year. Aside from her recent addiction to My Little Pony, she is quite content to follow Eric's lead in her imaginings and play.

Well, that pretty much catches you up with the kids...oh except for the big one, Kevin. At 21 he has just joined the Air Force and is waiting on his orders to be sent for basic training. In the meantime he lives at our office once again and depends on us for financial backing, but trades in kind by running errands for us and occasionally watching the driving school for us.

More on what Les and I are up to in another post.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Journey to Fat

I grew up all my life believing I was fat. At least that’s what I remember. Recently my father put together our family photos on CD-ROM and sent me copies. In viewing pictures of myself at 5yrs old, 7 yrs old, 8 yrs old and 12 yrs I saw a young girl with long legs and slender arms. Her face was slightly rounded with “chipmunk” cheeks when she smiled. Her pre-teen pictures showed a pretty girl with the beginnings of a “budding” figure, taller than most of her friends, with beautiful blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair.

I looked at these pictures, taken over 25 yrs ago, and thought, “Why did I think I was fat?” Where did that negative self-image come from?

Thinking back over the years certain memories come forward that reinforced this “fat” body image. There was the 5th grade girls who teased me in first grade when I first came to school wearing the then popular “Bermuda” shorts (long shorts that reached just above your knees). There was the doctor in 5th grade who told me that 100lbs was too heavy for a 10 yr old girl. One particularily embarrassing memory was overhearing my favorite uncle call me an “elephant” when I came stomping excitedly down the stairs to greet him. Words like “who’s the new girl with the big butt?” stuck in my head to etch themselves forever in my memory. And then there were shopping dates with friends who “oohed” and “ahhed” over the size 8 & 9 clothes while I was forced to look for size 12 & 14. I was “big boned” which made me have wider hips and bigger shoulders than many of my petite friends. I developed early so that by the age of 15 I was wearing a “C” cup bra when all my friends barely filled out an “A” cup.

By the time I entered University I was resigned to being “fat” and had given up any attempt to correct my body size. I ate what I wanted, exercised very little and slowly the “image” I had in my mind became a reality. I avoided looking in mirrors or getting on scales as the pounds crept upon me. If I did see myself in a full length mirror or catch a reflection of myself in a store window, I looked away quickly and imagined myself to look much thinner.

Married, with five children, I now weigh about 250lbs. It seems hopeless that I will ever be able to lose the weight. Sadly, I now realize that I didn’t need to end up this way. At 20 yrs old I was a “slim” 140lbs. I looked good for my size, solidly built, flat tummy, well endowed breasts with perhaps a bit more flesh on my buttocks and thighs than necessary, but well proportioned all over. I had allowed myself this negative self-image of being the “fat” kid to take that body and abuse it for the next 20 yrs. I blamed pregnancies, married life and even drug use for my weight gain.

Now, at 42 yrs old, my knees ache and crack when I try to stand up or sit down. I cannot take my children hiking through Guam’s jungles because my body cannot support my weight. I’m miserable and often depressed, spending sleepless nights in pain and despair.

This is no way to live. I have a three-year old daughter and a six-year old son who deserve to have a mother who can run with them and push them on a swing without feeling exhausted.

I want to be able to finish this story with a victorious conclusion - how I was able to lose the weight and keep it off and reform my self-image to a more positive one.

I’ve been reading the prayer of Jabez and wondering if I could use this prayer to reach my goal. I know I can’t do it on my own. God knows I’ve tried.

So this is the beginning of a new journey. Stick around and discover if I’m able to make it or not!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Pictures and prayers

I've been reading and praying for a little boy named Luke who drowned on August 30th. You can read about him at
How is Luke Doing?.

It makes me really appreciate my little Cassandra and hold her so much closer to me. I couldn't imagine how I would cope if something like that happened to one of my own children.

Yesterday I attended a creative memories workshop and learned the joys of scrapbooking. I'm hooked! I've been needing something to do to fill my time while at the office. I spend too many hours playing Spider solitaire! Now I have something to occupy me. I've been sorting through pictures and remembering events. Each of my children look so much alike. Kevin was looking at pictures of his sister, Stephanie and commented that the only way he could tell which sibling it was was by the surrounding scenery. He is my only child that looks unique. Adam, Stephanie, Eric and Cassie all look alike as babies. The hardest thing about scrapbooking is trying to decide which pictures to use!

As I sort through the pictures I've been praying for old friends and family members that are memoralized in photo. I'm creating this first scrapbook for Stephanie. Now I need to buy ink for my printer so that I can print out all the digital photos we have! This could be a very expensive hobby. But , as the consultants say, I'm creating memories that will be priceless.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Have a cookie

Finally we have internet access at our office! I haven't been able to keep this blog up to date with the limited amount of hours of computer time that I have at home. We tried to get DSL, but have been put on a waiting list. Hmmm....why do companies offer it if it's really not available I ask? Oh well, on the plus side we were offered free dial-up access until DSL is available. Can't refuse an offer like that.

Today is my birthday. My daughter wants to know how old I am and refuses to accept the fact that mommies don't age past 29 yrs. She'll figure it out once she's as old as I am. I had a nice lunch with my friend Rebecca. It's always nice to have someone appreciate you.

I've been working on some writings about homeschooling my children. I've been debating starting another blog for that purpose ...but you know....I'll probably just post the essays here instead.

After all....this is just my ramblings. Family and friends might read them. Strangers might come across them. Or maybe I'm just doing this for myself. It's about time I did something just for me anyway.

And for all the world to see. Here, have a peanut butter cookie....compliments of my dad.

If I ever figure out how to add the pic that is.....

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Sunday Afternoon at the fights

I don't know why, but everytime I try to have an afternoon nap, my children decide it's time to have all out screaming fights. When we query them on what they are fighting about, it's usually really silly trivial things.

Cassie has an ear-peircing scream that can set your teeth on edge. She's still unable to communicate verbally so tends to use grunts, screams and gestures to indicate her wants. She has learned that wonderful word "no" so at least we know what she doesn't want.

Eric refuses to answer to his name anymore and has officially changed his name to Mario. His screaming usually involves this fact. "I'm not ERIC, I'm MARIO!!" The other day Les took him to the wedding coordinator office - Les is a pastor for Island Weddings and performs wedding ceremonies for Japanese tourists who want to experience an American wedding. The office has wall to wall mirrors (the better to show off wedding dresses to prospective clients) and Eric eyed his multiple images in the mirrors and tearfully lamented his having blonde, not brown hair - like Mario. Les thinks the best birthday present we can get Eric would be to dye his hair brown for him. I question letting his "fantasy" take over his life at the early age of 4, soon to be 5.

Stephanie, though so much older than the little ones, contributes her share of screaming to the Sunday fights. She wants to read her books or play her video games without the harrassment of a little brother and sister. Her way of dealing with them is to yell at them to leave her alone. Sigh.

The only quiet one is Adam. At almost 16, he lurks in his bedroom hiding from it all, usually with earphones on while he plays his keyboard, oblivious to the fighting going on in the living room.

I suppose it is good that 19 yr old Kevin has already moved out, or I'm sure we would hear his bass tones added to the cacophony of sounds.

Guess I should give up on napping and go deal with dirty dishes, laundry and...oh yeah time for more coffee!!