Mom Needs the News, Dad Needs to Snooze!

It actually happened…my parents came to visit us on Saba! David, Hannah and I waited patiently at the airport for over an hour for their flight to come. We waited with “baited breath and whispering humbleness” as my Dad would say. Mom was the first one off the tiny plane, Dad followed after several other people deplaned. I wondered why they weren’t sitting next to each other. After all, the landing is almost like a death wish, so I thought they would want to be next to each other if the plane didn’t make it. Dad later explained that he and my mom were sitting next to each other, but the pilot asked him to move up to the front to balance out the plane. Apparently his weight was needed in another area of the plane! Ha Ha! I shouldn’t laugh, but I am because Dad was laughing!

Plaid on PlaidSaba is a wonderful place to relax and visit. That is just what we did. Mom and Dad both enjoyed watching the sunrise every morning. We drank hot chocolate and sat on our patio that overlooks five different countries with our morning breath and bed head. Pa even showcased his style when he wore his blue plaid lounge pants and a blue plaid shirt. The plaids of course didn’t match, so I had to take a photo just for my sister Charmain. She constantly teases my Dad about wearing plaid on plaid. Interestingly enough, you can do that on Saba and no one thinks twice about what you are wearing.

I was “tour guide Barbie” for the parents. They saw ALL five square miles of Saba. It took us three hours to travel from one end of the island to the other and back. Of course, we stopped several places along the way. When we finally returned home after our three hour jaunt, both Mom and Dad said, “I can’t believe this island is only five square miles. Are you sure they measured correctly? Maybe the footprint is five miles, but it is five miles up and down too!”

In Front of the Cashew TreeWe saw several different places: The Bottom, the Medical School, Fort Bay, the gas station, the hospital, St. Johns, Windwardside, The Level, Booby Hill, the soccer field, grocery stores, the cemetery, “the property” (on Booby Hill), Hells Gate, Cove Bay, and the airport. Mom and Dad were fascinated by a cashew tree. We took some photos of it. After seeing the island, we had a lot of time to talk and hang out. During this time, I learned a couple of things about my parents….

First off, Hannah is a baby. She needs LOTS of sleep. In fact, sleeping is one of her favorite things to do. She will go right down for a nap without a fuss. She looks forward to her naps. Dad was starting to feel that Hannah’s naps were getting in the way with their bonding time. He sometimes would complain that Hannah was always going down for a nap. This is the funny part…Dad is the nap king. He was always taking a nap! He would need a nap to wake up from his nap! I wasn’t really sure how Hannah’s naps were cramping his style, maybe it was all the napping he was doing that was cramping his own style!

Second, Mom is in love with the news! I really had no idea that anyone could be so glued to the news, CNN of all networks! She had to turn it on whenever she had a chance. I thought maybe since she was on vacation on “Planet Saba”, the news would feel a world away from her and she would have no desire to watch it. Not so! While enjoying CNN at our house, she decided that she needed to upgrade her cable at home so she could watch CNN everyday! I told her CNN stands for “Constant Negative News”. She didn’t buy it. What did I learn about my parents from this visit? Mom needs the news, and Dad needs to snooze!

Saba MorningHannah was very excited everyday to have four adult admirers in her house. She smiled, talked, and laughed all week long. One night, my parents asked me if Hannah ever cried. I of course laughed and said YES! My Mom proceeded to tell me Hannah had not cried once all week. “Not once!” She kept saying. I am so glad Hannah was a perfect angel for them . . . but just for the record, she can really belt out a cry that will make you wish she would never cry again!

It was so wonderful to have my parents here. Now they know where I live, they have been here. I no longer live in some imaginary place in their minds. It was fun to show them the island I have learned to call home. They were really impressed with the island and the people. They had a wonderful time. We hope they come back!

Dear Hannah, Newsletter #1

Dear Hannah,

You are 7 1/2 months old as I write this letter. You are growing up so fast! I wish I could stop time and let you be a newborn baby a little longer. Your dad and I have enjoyed you every minute since you joined our family. Everyday you get cuter and smarter. This letter is the first of many that will document your development, experiences and our feelings.

HannahYour hair has gone from almost black to light brown, and now it’s turning blond. If you didn’t look so much like your daddy, people might think you came from the milk man! This past Sunday, your dad gelled up your hair and you both had the same hairdo! You LOVE everyone. You have no concept of “stranger danger”. You will happily go to anyone without question. Your dad and I don’t get to hold you very much at church because everyone else wants to hold you. You have a unique talent for making everyone feel like they are your favorite. You love to study people’s faces and you have a very fast and strong grip when it comes to grabbing necklaces and glasses.

You are learning how to communicate with us. We secretly think you speak English. We’re almost positive you are waiting until a later date to debut your speaking skills. In lieu of talking, you have chosen to grunt, laugh, squeal and cough to get our attention. I have to admit, the fake cough is pretty clever. You will have a full conversation with us by grunting. You grunt, then we grunt copying you, then you grunt, then we grunt. This goes on far longer than it should, but in the end we both feel understood. We love the fake laugh. We’re not really sure how or why you learned it, but none the less it is dang cute. You are clever enough to think we actually believe your fake laugh is real, and we are clever enough to let you believe that.

In the past few days you have discovered that your tongue helps you concentrate. The harder you focus on something, the longer your tongue gets. It is adorable. In fact, we think you are the cutest baby that was ever born. We love to take your picture and you love to be photographed! To date, we have over 1,300 photos of you! You smile and squeal for the camera, you are the perfect baby to photograph.

About a month ago you decided you no longer wanted to be wrapped up like a burrito when going to sleep. Instead of telling us in English (which we know you can speak), you decided a more dramatic approach would work best to get your point across. One night, while putting you to bed, you screamed and screamed for no apparent reason. After we spent what seemed like hours troubleshooting the problem, we unwrapped you. You smiled and cooed and went right to sleep immediately. You are enjoying your new found freedom, sprawling your body all over the bed. When you are put down for a nap you must try out every sleeping position before choosing one. We know you have had a good nap when you wake up backwards and on your belly facing the wall.

We have started teaching you American Sign Language. You seem to understand what we are saying, you are just not signing back yet. Again, we are pretty sure you know how to sign, you are just waiting for the right time to debut your bilingual skills. You have started to mimic us. You don’t wave or clap yet, but you have tricks way more exciting than that. You will scrunch up your nose and breath through it really fast while smiling. It is a lot cuter in person than the way it sounds on paper. You and your dad have a nose scrunching contest everyday. Don’t worry, you always win!

HannahYou are constantly happy. You will smile and laugh even when rubbing your eyes and yawning. You must have read the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” while you were in heaven because you sure know how to wrap everyone around your little finger! You have recently learned the concept, “you can win more bees with honey than with vinegar”. We will put you down to sleep, and then we will leave the room assuming you will nod off any minute. Sometimes after we leave, you will decide that sleeping really isn’t what you want to do. Instead of crying like most babies would, you squeal, laugh, and talk to yourself. If you think we haven’t noticed you, you turn up the volume adding a few fake laughs and more squeals. Inevitably, this charming personality of yours entices both your mom and your dad enough to run into the room to see your happy smiling face. You of course win again. You are already a little flirt. We are going to keep an extra watchful eye on you! When you decide you are ready to go to sleep, you moan yourself to sleep. It is very cute. It puts me to sleep, but not your dad!

You love to inspect everything, especially anything that has a tag. You LOVE tags. You are very particular about what actually goes into your mouth. Items will only enter your mouth after careful inspection and much consideration. You definitely discriminate as well, not everything is mouth worthy. Some things just do not make the cut! You study everything and everyone around you. You always find the smallest things. Leave it to you to find a piece of thread, lint or dog hair. We know you are smart. You are very interested in other little kids and babies. We have to watch you because you love to grab other babies’ faces, arms, and ears!

Nursing is one of your favorite pastimes. You love to nurse and when you are hungry you will pull at anyone’s shirt hoping for a meal. You are obsessed with knowing the whereabouts of your dad. You have to know where he is all the time. When you are nursing, you will stop and look around for him. When you see him, you will smile and grunt to get his attention. If he doesn’t respond, you will grunt louder until he smiles at you and says, “hi Hannah!” This of course makes your day and you flash him your million dollar smile. You can then resume nursing for a few more minutes until you start to wonder where you dad is and then the whole process starts over again. We call you our “little social eater”. You like to hum in between sucks when you are nursing as well. This is makes it an interesting experience for both of us. You also like to kick or twist your feet around. Maybe nursing is more fun when you are active.

HannahSpeaking of your dad, I like to refer to him as “dessert”. Because that is exactly what he is to you! You get to hang out with me all day, and when daddy comes home you squeal with excitement. He, of course, roughs you up, teases and tickles you, and then passes you off to me. I’m pretty boring compared to him. You think everything he does and says is funny. You LOVE it when he rubs his scruffy beard across your hands and feet. You are very strong and you love to stand up in your dad’s hands. Doing this will put a smile on your face and sometimes you will do the “scrunch your nose” trick at the same time. You wave your arms around and squeal in delight, you are just TOO CUTE! You and daddy dance and sing together. Nothing makes you happier.

You have no teeth yet. All your baby friends have two or more teeth than you. Don’t worry, that doesn’t seem to bother you. You just keep flashing your million dollar gum smile to everyone. You are definitely a talker. Maybe you don’t have any teeth to show your friends, but you sure do have a lot to say to them! When you are talking you will go on, and on, and on (sometimes about nothing we think). However, if anyone interrupts you, you will talk louder and louder until you are finished.

I took you swimming for the first time a couple days ago. You loved it! I thought you would since you love splashing around in the bath. The water was a little cold, but that didn’t seem to bother you. You smiled, squealed and laughed as you shivered in the cold water. I dunked you under the water and you came up with a look of, “what was that for?” You splashed and had a great time.

Grandma and Grandpa P visited us on Saba a couple of weeks ago. You didn’t cry once during their visit. They are now convinced you never cry. I told them you certainly can cry, we just prefer to anticipate your needs instead of you screaming your needs to us. You are so happy and content all the time. We prefer you this way. You are perfect in every way and we can’t explain in words how happy we are to have you in our family.

Miniature Land

My parents are coming to visit us on Saba! Yes, I am still picking my jaw off the ground, and am trying to recover from shock. It is true, the day has finally arrived! They are coming to see “their baby” which of course is not me. They have been suckered in by Hannah’s good looks and personality. They are addicted to her and need another dose! Hey, whatever the reason they have finally decided to come (maybe they realize that I don’t live in Hell, just Hells Gate), I am not complaining!

My dad made a funny comment about Saba that I can’t get out of my head. He said, “I feel like I am going to miniature land. Everything there is small, the cars, your house, the island, everything!” He brought up a good point. We do live in “miniature land”! I did love those Micro Machine Cars as a kid. Maybe this is my adult dream come true to live in the land of miniature!

This island might only be five square miles, but it will take you at least 20 minutes to drive from one side of the island to the other. How is that possible you ask? Well, there are nine miles of road and the average speed you travel is 20 miles per hour. I actually have no idea how fast I usually travel in my car because my speedometer doesn’t work. Speed is whatever you deem “reasonable and prudent”. That of course is subjective to everyone. The island itself enforces it own speed limit by its curvy and crazy road.

My house is 540 square feet. Spacious right? Our patio is as big as our house. In our miniature house we have four rooms. Two bedrooms are both too small to accommodate a queen size bed. Both bedrooms have full size beds and they are pushed against the wall. The third room is the kitchen/dining/family room. The fourth room is the bathroom. We have named it the “bathroom of convenience”. You can go to the bathroom, wash your hands, and shower all at the same time. It is a lovely blue….all of it is blue. Blue sink, tile, and toilet. Yikes! The best part though is the fact that you can see the blue ocean from the bathroom. The benefit you ask? While you practice personal hygiene, you can enjoy the beauty of nature. Kind of like camping, I still sometimes feel like I am camping here.

Our car is a gutsy little thing. All cars are small here. Unlike Texas where “bigger is better”, on Saba the philosophy is the “smaller the better”. No one wants a big car, what a nightmare! It would be scratched and destroyed every day by the rock wall and other passing cars on the narrow one and a half lane road. Here we talk about our narrow and short cars with pride! This must be hard for my fellow Texans to understand. There are no real Texas trucks here!

There are a few other things that put Saba on the miniature map: restaurants on average can hold a maximum of 40 people. Grocery stores are the size of American gas stations. The hospital has one Doctor, and one registered nurse. The bank lobby can hold about 6 people, no more! Saba has the shortest commercial runway in the world. The airplane can hold a maximum of 17 passengers. There is one gas station here, two ferries traveling back and forth from Sint Maarten, three banks, four villages, and five flights a day in and out of Saba.

I have really come to enjoy this miniature land and lifestyle. I think I will go make dinner on my miniature stove, and eat it on my miniature patio and enjoy the view of six islands looking back at me. For such a small place, I can see five different countries. Does that sound miniature to you?

Comings and Goings of Our Family

What a beautiful day in the Caribbean. This is the time of year when I realize that I am very fortunate to live here. This little five square mile rock we live on has its fair share of quirks, but if I look past them I really enjoy this place. I look out at the clear blue ocean water off my patio and admire the five surrounding islands and think, “Wow, I’m not on vacation, I live here!”. Something happened today that doesn’t happen everyday. My brother Ben and his wife Angie are on a cruise in the Caribbean. Unfortunately their ginormous cruise ship didn’t port on Saba to visit the 5 square miles of beauty this tiny island has to offer. However, he called from the cruise ship to say they were just leaving Saint Kitts, a neighboring island. As we looked over the horizon, we watched his cruise ship sail away and realized that this experience would never repeat itself. How many people have actually seen cruise ships just sailing by and then how many people actually know someone on the cruise ship they see passing? This little experience made us feel special today. Now if Ben and Ang would have just skipped the whole cruise thing and come to visit us, then we truly would have been special.

We spent time on Sint Maarten and Anguilla this Christmas break. Our dogs came along with us out of necessity not out of choice. That was interesting and inconvenient. While they were being traumatized by having their teeth cleaned and pulled out at the Vet’s office, we spent the day on Anguilla. Anguilla’s beaches are ranked number one in the world. They are amazing! You don’t have to take my word for it, come down and see and feel for yourself. The sand feels like baby powder. the water is so clear and turquoise. There is only one draw back, the trade winds are not as strong on Anguilla so it is very hot. I thought Saba was the hottest place on the planet, but I am pretty sure Anguilla has secured that spot.

Hannah loved the sand. She loves textures and she just had a great time squishing the sand between her little fingers and toes. The water startled her as the waves gently rolled in over her feet. It is so fun to see her discover the world around her. She has been on the number one beach in the world, visited four countries, has six stamps in her passport, and flown first class six times. You would never guess we were poor medical students!

We rang in the New Year here at our house. We were very impressed with ourselves that we actually stayed up until midnight. We had some friends over for dinner and games and then we watched fireworks on Saba and two neighboring islands, Sint Maarten and Saint Barts. The fireworks were so teeny from our vantage point. The fireworks being so far away on the other islands lost their “wow” factor and they gained the “cute” title. They were cute to see and that is the best way to explain it.

I can’t believe we have lived on Saba for a year. One more to go and we are back in civilization! You know you have been out of the states for a while when you have to mentally think about which side of the road is the correct side to drive on and which side of the car is the correct side for the driver. It is a pretty crazy feeling to be driving on the wrong side of the road with the steering wheel on the correct side of the car. We are going to be pretty messed up when we finally return to the states.

We are looking forward to a New Year on Saba. We will live our Saba way of life which includes getting up at 6:00 AM and going to bed at 9:00 PM. We hope our cable works more months than not, and that the power doesn’t go out during the hottest part of the day leaving us without air conditioning. We really don’t demand a lot.

Taste of Reality

Hannah and I just returned home after a much needed vacation to Utah. It must sound crazy that I needed a vacation from “my vacation” here in the Caribbean. I really needed a break from the heat and it was nice to see snow! We spent three weeks in Utah, three days in Temecula, California, and two nights in Fort Worth, Texas. Hannah has now flown 13 times in her short four months of life! We were fortunate enough to fly first class all the way from Sint Maarten to Salt Lake City. Hannah even scored her own seat in first class on the leg from Dallas to Salt Lake!

What a relief it was to travel with such an easy baby. People asked me if she ever cried! Of course, I know she has lungs…but I sure was glad she didn’t show them off to everyone. The last thing I wanted was stares from the other passengers in first class….the stare of “I paid a lot of money for this seat and you might have a screaming kid?” I enjoyed seeing the person’s face when they realized they were sitting next to me and I had a 3 month old on my lap. The look was, “Oh my gosh, I have to sit next to you? Do they allow babies up front?” accompanied with a half grin half smirk on their face. What a pleasant surprise for all of us that Hannah never cried. She smiled, talked, slept, and stared down the person in the seat next to us.

Flying first class is something I have come accustomed to. I have never flown coach overseas, ever. Even when flying to China I didn’t sit in coach. I think it’s a slow death wish, especially to someone as tall as me. Those little Asians fit just fine in smaller seats. I don’t splurge very often, or demand a lot of things to make my life comfortable, (trust me, I live in a country where I can’t flush the toilet unless it is brown) but when I fly I am quite particular. There is just something special about that warmed up wash cloth that is handed to you with tongs. It just seems like such a luxury in the air. How silly really. I could warm up a wash cloth in the microwave at home, but it just doesn’t seem the same. It’s like when you and your mom make the same sandwich, but hers tastes better because she made it. There is something nice about having a nice meal and an oversize chair especially when you are traveling alone with an infant.

It was wonderful to see my family. I haven’t seen them for 14 months (who’s counting anyway? Mom?). My parents are in LOVE with Hannah, and why wouldn’t they be? She is a DOLL! What can I say? She was on back order in Heaven for almost nine years! She loves to smile and talk. She will talk to anyone and she hands out her smiles freely. We all wonder if her cheeks hurt from smiling all the time! She listens very intently, it seems as though she understands every word you are saying. That is a scary thought, I better watch what I say!

While we were in Utah, Hannah discovered some things about herself. She learned that If you concentrate really hard, your hands might be able to grab things. If you want someone’s attention, all you have to do is reach up and grab their face and they will look at you! And baby talk is all you have to do to steal the lime light away from your other cousins.

I was overly excited to go shopping in the states. I had quite the list made up of things I needed to buy while I was there. I have been deprived of shopping on this little five square mile island. Really, the only things to buy here are groceries. I went shopping almost everyday for almost three weeks. I can honestly say that I am burnt out and I won’t need to shop for another year! Yikes! I didn’t think that was possible! Shopping began to feel like a chore, and then like my full time job. I actually got sick of it. I know, impossible but true.

I have been back on Saba for a week now. I have to admit that I wasn’t ready to return. I didn’t realize how big of a break I needed from this island until I left. I felt a little culture shock when I came home. I had to adjust back to Saba life. No more flushing the toilet every time I use the bathroom, no more dishwasher, and back to watching the weather to determine whether I can do laundry because if it’s going to rain I can’t hang my clothing to dry. It was extremely hot and humid as well, I actually got used to the 30 degree weather in Utah.

So here we are, waiting for David to get out of school next week so we can enjoy this Christmas season island style as a family. Just try to imagine us hanging out on our patio that overlooks six other islands while you freeze wherever you are. I know, life isn’t fair.