The Great Australian Adventure

It was time for a big vacation. Michael and I hadn’t been on a big getaway since our honeymoon. So after months of planning and saving, we were finally ready to head Down Under for two weeks and leave our babies in the hands of Nana and Grandma. We said a (tearful) goodbye at bedtime and headed to the airport in the middle of the night. I was excited and anxious all at once, and I cried as Guam disappeared through the plane window. But our adventure had officially begun!

We landed in Seoul, Korea just before sunrise. We had a 12 hour layover so we wanted to get out and see some of the city. It was a nice 18 degrees outside. After a year and a half in 85 degree weather, I was completely unprepared for the cold. Michael and I brought jackets, gloves, scarves and hats but I was still miserable. I always think I miss the cold weather in the winter, but I was cured of that delusion after about 10 minutes on the streets of Seoul. Nonetheless, we had a great time discovering the South Korean city. We went up in Seoul Tower and saw just how huge the sprawling city is. It seemed to go on for miles in every direction and there was a very noticeable line of smog surrounding the whole city.

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After leaving the tower, we walked several blocks to a Korean palace. It was guarded by men who reminded me of the Buckingham Palace guards. They didn’t move or speak, despite all the tourists taking pictures with them. The palace itself was beautiful. The detail in all of the architecture was amazing.

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When my toes were officially numb, we found warmth in a small restaurant and experienced Korean food for the first time. It was…. interesting. Not my favorite but not terrible. After lunch, we bought some gifts for the kids and headed back to the airport, ready to fly to Australia.

The first part of our trip was spent in Sydney. On the first day we walked around a large chunk of the business district, which reminded me of a less-frantic Manhattan. There were several shops and restaurants, and an Ugg store on every corner. I got my first Starbucks coffee in almost 2 years and then we headed towards the harbor. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was amazing… and the Opera House was even more beautiful.

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On our second day in Sydney, we took a train and then a bus to get to Bondi Beach. It was a fairly hot day and the ocean was beautiful. The water was around 74 degrees, (absolutely freezing for me), but we had a great time swimming in the waves and playing with our new GoPro.

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The following day I turned 30. This definitely goes down as the “birthday gift of a lifetime”… a kid-free, 2 week vacation to Australia! Thanks Michael! We spent the morning walking around the zoo and taking pictures with baby koalas. They were only 1 year old and SO adorable… that was definitely the highlight of the zoo trip for me. That evening, Michael took me to an amazing dinner at Cafe Sydney, overlooking the harbor. Not a bad way to ring in 30….

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The next morning we headed to the Outback. A 3 hour flight and a 5 hour drive later, we arrived at Uluru, (Ayer’s Rock). The scenery was incredibly similar to New Mexico, just very red. It was hot and dry, (no frizzy hair!), and full of flies. When we first arrived at the resort and saw people walking around with what looked like mosquito nets on their heads, we thought they were being a little ridiculous. A few hours later, we raced to the store before it closed so we could buy our own nets. These tiny flies buzzed around your head incessantly; it was unbearable without the nets. That night we ate kangaroo and emu for the first time, (both delicious, by the way), and went to bed early so we could do a sunrise walk around Uluru. It took us about 2.5 hours to walk around the base of the giant rock, which was very impressive to see in person. There were several signs along the walk explaining the significance of different areas. We saw caves where Aboriginal children did their school work. We learned about how their culture placed a large emphasis on the grandparent-grandchild relationship. There were even certain areas around the rock where they ask you not to take pictures because it is considered disrespectful to their culture. Climbing Uluru is also considered disrespectful, but they don’t forbid it expect in the summer months when it’s too dangerous because of the heat.

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After our Uluru walk, we grabbed some breakfast and drove 4 hours to Kings Canyon. I’d never heard of Kings Canyon before this trip but it ended up being one of my favorite experiences. We got up early the next morning to begin our walk at sunrise. The hike starts with a very steep climb to the top of the canyon. The next 3 hours were spent exploring the top of the canyon and peering over the sides. My fear of heights kicked in and I couldn’t get closer than 5 or 6 feet from the edge. But Michael is a daredevil and he took several pictures right by the edge, dangling a foot over a several-hundred feet drop. About halfway through the hike, we went down into the canyon, to an area called the “Garden of Eden”, which was full of vegetation and a swimming hole. This is another area where they ask you not to swim because it is disrespectful to their culture. The sign said the aboriginal boys would swim there as part of a rite of passage when becoming a man. Surprisingly, all the tourists respected their wishes and stayed out of the water.

This was not an easy hike, by any means, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pictures really don’t do it justice. If you ever make it to Australia, I’d say it is definitely a “must do” for your trip.

The next morning we got up early, (again), and drove to Alice Springs to catch a flight to Cairns. Luckily, we had plenty of time before we had to be at the airport, so we found somewhere to watch the Super Bowl. My Panthers may have lost but at least I can say I watched them lose while sitting in a theater inside a Casino in the Australian Outback!

We got to Cairns after dark and drove an hour north to our hotel in Port Douglas. Michael really outdid himself when he found this resort. The room was beautiful, we had our own pool deck right outside the room and it was a couples-only resort. We spent the first day exploring the little town and checking out the beach. The town reminded us of a smaller Key West. It had a very laid-back vibe. The beach was another story. First of all, we couldn’t even go in the ocean because of all the deadly jellyfish in the water that time of year. They had a small area protected by a net for swimming, but during the 5 days we were there, 2 people were stung INSIDE the net. No thanks. And apparently there could be CROCODILES in the ocean too!

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Australia is basically one big warning sign. The ocean has enough scary creatures to worry about without adding crocs to the mix! We didn’t actually see any in the water, but we did spot some on the beach.

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We’re such dorks. But we have fun. Anyway, the next day we went up to the Daintree Rainforest. We hiked through Mossman Gorge in the morning and learned about the terrifying Cassowary birds. They can grow up to 6 feet tall and can claw you to death with both feet at once. I’m very glad we didn’t come across one of these on our hike, though the chances are pretty slim. They’re extremely endangered and the Australians are trying very hard to protect them.

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We went on a river cruise, hoping to see some crocodiles, but it was high tide and the elusive reptiles stayed hidden. We managed to spot the top of one’s head for a minute. But the river guide was very knowledgeable and taught us some interesting things about the area. In fact, I learned that one of the plants along the riverbank was used to treat postpartum depression in Aboriginal women back in the day. I found it very interesting that PPD was a recognized illness so long ago.

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After the river cruise, we headed further into the rainforest to go ziplining, or Jungle Surfing, as they called it. I had a blast! The guides were entertaining, the views were amazing and the ziplining was exhilarating! My fear of heights completely vanished and I made the most of the experience, hanging upside down and spreading my arms wide. It was so much fun!

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We heard some interesting stories from the people who live and work in the rainforest:

“I was swimming one day and a big fish got ahold of my arm, all the way up to my elbow. He started thrashing me around for a while until I could break free…. It was fun!”

“There’s a small bat who lives in my bathroom, right above the toilet. Every night he flies around the house 3 times, then goes out the front door, and returns every morning to the same spot in the bathroom. We have to leave the toilet seat up so his poop falls right in. Otherwise you’ve got a mess on the seat.”

“My girlfriend and I came home to find our cat halfway inside a python’s mouth. So I grabbed the snake’s mouth and pried it open while she grabbed the cat and pulled him out. He was never the same after that, that cat.”

The best part about all of these stories is how they were told in such a nonchalant way… like they were simply talking about going to the grocery store or walking the dog. I guess things like that are just a normal part of Australian life.

The following day it was finally time to dive! This was definitely the best part of the trip. I want to give a big thank you to Michael for being the driving force behind me becoming a certified diver. He never pushed me to do it, but once I decided to go for it, he held my hand through the entire process and kept me motivated. Now it’s my favorite thing to do and the Great Barrier Reef did not disappoint. I thought Guam had some beautiful reef life, but it’s nothing compared to the Great Barrier Reef. We booked our dives with a small company. The first day there were 10 of us on the boat and the second day, only 7 people. I can’t imagine what the experience would have been like if we’d gone on a giant boat with 50-100 other divers. We rode about 2 hours out to sea before beginning our dives each day and did 2 dives a day. We saw gorgeous, colorful fish and coral, stingrays, a cuttlefish, clown fish, anemones, sea turtles and sharks. The first day we saw two little reef sharks, probably about 4 feet long. I was excited to see my first sharks while diving. They just hung out on the bottom and eventually swam away. The second day was a different story. We were swimming along a huge reef wall when I looked at Michael and he signaled “shark” and pointed out at the blue water to our right. I turned to look and immediately freaked out when I saw the shark. My first thought was, “that is huge and looks like something out of a scary movie…” My second thought was, “swim in the opposite direction!” and I scrambled towards Michael and the reef wall. By the time I signaled to Michael that I saw it too and then looked back towards the shark, it was gone. We signaled to the other divers but no one else saw it. We’re pretty sure it was a bull shark, based on its shape and size. I could hear my rapid breathing and realized I was panicking. After a few minutes, I calmed down and carried on with the dive, but I was very preoccupied with looking out for the shark and didn’t really enjoy much of the reef. I kept looking out to my right, expecting to see it swimming right for me. When our guide signaled that it was time to ascend, I was more than happy to get out of that water. It took a lot of effort for me to get back in the water for the second dive that day, but I did and I’m glad I did.

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The rest of the trip is kind of a blur. I was so anxious to get back to my babies that I couldn’t think about much else. We left Port Douglas, spent a night in Cairns, and then flew back to Sydney for one night before flying home. That last night in Sydney happened to be Valentine’s Day so, despite our exhaustion, we took the train downtown and walked across the Sydney Harbor Bridge at sunset. It was beautiful.

We finally got home 2 days later, at 1am. The kids were too tired to show much excitement when they saw us walking out of the airport, but I’ve never been happier to be home. It was by far the most exciting and interesting two weeks of my life. I couldn’t have asked for anything more in an Australian vacation. But I didn’t expect to miss my “mommy routine” so much. I’m actually enjoying cooking and cleaning and changing diapers.

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This blog post would not be complete with two major thank yous. First of all, a GIGANTIC thank you to Nana and Grandma for flying all the way to Guam to care for our kiddos while we went on vacation. This trip would not have been possible without your offer to watch Kelly and Clayton. We are so very grateful! Secondly, I have to thank my awesome hubby, Michael, for planning this trip of a lifetime. He spent countless hours researching every single detail, making sure we had the best experience everywhere we went. I’m so blessed to have such a thoughtful and resourceful husband. Can’t wait to see what’s next for our adventurous life together!

 

 

 

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Jungle Bells, Coconut Shells…

“Ohh, Jungle Bells, coconut shells, Sticker burrs all the way. Oh What fun it is to ride in a two-wheeled carabao sleigh…”

That’s Guam’s version of Jingle Bells and it pretty much sums up the Christmas season on a tropical island. We loved our second Christmas in Guam, though we did feel more homesick this year. It’s tough to be so far away from family but we made the most of it!

We kicked off the season by watching Elf and decorating our tree after Thanksgiving. Kelly really enjoyed putting up the ornaments this year. She tends to cluster them all together in one little section at the bottom of the tree… so her OCD Mama might have done some rearranging after she went to bed. Then the gate went up around the tree so Clayton, aka “Destructo”, couldn’t tear it down.

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The next weekend we went to a Christmas party for the kids on base. It’s not every day you see Santa fly in on a helicopter, land on the golf course and then hop in a Carabao-drawn sleigh.

We made another attempt to get a sweet picture of Kelly on Santa’s lap at the mall this year, but she decided to stay consistent and scream the entire time instead. Clayton stopped crying long enough to take the picture but he wailed most of the time too. Poor Mall Santa… I hope he gets paid well.

Guam really knows how to get in the Christmas spirit. All the radio stations play a lot of Christmas music and almost everyone puts lights on their homes. Our church does a huge Festival of Lights and Christmas concert. Kelly was fascinated by a giant display of the 3 Wise Men and she kept calling the camels “candles”. There are a couple of other big light displays set up around the island and she absolutely LOVED running around those. Clayton seemed a little indifferent but to be fair, he was up past his bedtime.

Christmas morning is a whole new ball game with two kids. It felt a little chaotic but in the best way. 🙂 Kelly definitely understands the whole “present” thing now and she wanted all of them to belong to her! It’s so much fun to watch a 2 year old open gifts and fall in love with everything she gets. Clayton just tore up the wrapping paper or tried to eat it… and then started destroying anything he could get his hands on. This kid is nuts.

We didn’t go to the beach on Christmas this year because it was a rainy day, which was kind of nice. When it’s cloudy out, you can almost pretend that it’s cold outside and actually feels like Christmas. But we did spend a lot of time outdoors the week after Christmas. Michael was off of work and we got to spend some quality time as a family. We went to the playground a few times, hiked a big hill at Asan Beach with Kato and went to Gab Gab beach. Believe it or not, the water was actually too cold to spend much time in, even on our tropical island. But we still had fun in the sand and at the water’s edge. Poor Clayton thinks he’s a bit bigger than he is and was ready to swim, (or walk), right out to sea.

I enjoy Christmas in Guam but I’m also glad we (hopefully) only have one more to go. I’ll be glad to get back to cold weather in December and a chance to see family this time of year.

Now we’re looking ahead to Clayton’s first birthday, a visit from Nana and Grandma and our big “Chrissie is turning 30” trip to Australia! Plus, a week from now I’ll have my Advanced Dive Certification so I’ll really be able to enjoy diving at the Great Barrier Reef! Stay tuned for some awesome underwater pictures of sea turtles and vibrant coral… and hopefully no Great White Sharks. 😉

Guam’s Jingle Bells

Here we are on Guam.
Without a hope of snow.
But though the spreading palms.
A typhoon sure can blow.

Sandy Clawz will know,
What the tropics will allow.
Instead of riding eight reindeer,
He’ll ride a carabao.

Chorus:
Ohh, Jungle Bells, coconut shells,
Sticker burrs all the way.
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a two wheeled carabao sleigh.

Jungle Bells, coconut shells,
Sticker burrs all the way.
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a two wheeled carabao sleigh.

Be watchful everyone
He’ll send a telegram,
That today he’ll be on Guam.
Send out by Uncle Sam

Santa will be here
To see what you have done
So let’s all greet him. Ha! Ha! Ha!
And join him in the fun.

 

Bob-o & Mimi’s Excellent Adventure

A plane ticket to Guam costs a pretty penny, so you have to make the most of your time during a visit. Last month, Michael’s dad and stepmom came to see us and spent 10 action-packed days on the island. Every day was spent on a Guamanian adventure, doing everything from snorkeling to hiking to the top of the tallest mountain in the world. Well… that was the objective at the beginning of the hike. We didn’t find out until a few days later that we hiked the wrong mountain. 🙂

We knew Bob and Betsy would be jetlagged their first full day on Guam so that seemed like a good day for the 3-hour island tour. We headed south from our house, driving along the east coast of the island. We stopped for lunch at the must-see Jeff’s Pirate Cove. The view is better than the food, in my opinion, but it’s definitely worth eating there at least once. We continued south after our meal, stopping at various lookouts and points of interest along the way. I’ve made that drive 3 times now and I love it every time. The views are always incredible. Whether you’re looking at towering mountains or the seemingly endless ocean, it takes your breath away.

One of the cooler places we stopped was Inarajan Pools. We managed to climb a rickety ladder and stumble across precarious coral all the way to the edge of a large rock. It’s perched above the waves breaking on the reef and it’s one of the most incredible places I’ve seen so far on Guam. There’s a bench right on the edge of the rock and I felt like I could sit there forever. I told Michael if I ever hand him the kids and disappear for a few hours, that’s where he can find me.

The next day was beach day! We went to Tarague Beach and spent a few hours playing in the water. By this point, Kelly was fully obsessed with Betsy. She wouldn’t do anything unless Betsy was coming along. I absolutely adored watching their relationship flourish during the time they were here. It’s hard to be so far away from the grandparents so I get really excited when the kids get a chance to develop relationships with them.

One of the things I was most excited to do was swim in Marbo Cave. It’s actually only a short drive from our house. We hiked about 5-10 minutes into the jungle and climbed down some very steep steps to a beautiful cave full of fresh water. I swear I’ve never felt cleaner than I did after swimming in that cave. It was pretty cold and crystal clear. We were fortunate to be the only ones down there the majority of the time we swam. It’s not a very big cave but it is definitely one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. Kelly wasn’t a fan of the cold water so she stood on a rock in the middle of the cave most of the time. It was way too cold for Clayton and he spent most of the time nursing.

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When we were done swimming in the cave, we hiked another 5-10 minutes down a cleared path and ended up on the edge of cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. IT WAS BREATHTAKING. The waves looked beautiful, but extremely dangerous. I could easily see how so many people drown there. I couldn’t imagine climbing down those cliffs. We stood on the edge, watching the waves crash, sea spray raining down on us. Clayton slept through the whole thing.

The following day we decided to hike Mt. Lam Lam. It’s the tallest mountain in the world but most of it is underwater. It starts in the Marianas Trench, which is the deepest part of the ocean. We drove to the head of the trail labeled “Mt. Lam Lam” and started our hike. Parts of it were really steep on muddy terrain and other sections took you through mosquito-infested jungles. I’m still amazed that we all made it to the top… including Kelly, who demanded she walk on her own part of the time. Clayton rode in the Ergo on my back… a nice 20 lb. addition for me to carry up the mountain. We eventually reached a fork in the road, which in true Guam fashion, was not labeled. So we went to the right and apparently ended up on Mt. Jumullong. If we had gone to the left we would have reached the top of Mt. Lam Lam. But at the time, we thought we were on Mt. Lam Lam and were pretty proud to have hiked the tallest mountain in the world! Interesting point about Mt. Jumullong: on Good Friday each year, crowds of people hike to the top of the mountain and place a cross at the summit as they reenact Jesus’s struggle during his crucifixion.

When Betsy was researching Guam before they flew out, she found a picture of some really cool rocks on a beach on the west side of the island. We figured out how to get there and spent Thursday morning on a very cool, remote beach.

Friday we decided to hike down to Spanish Steps and do some snorkeling. The hike was described as “easy to medium” on a Guam hiking website. Well I’d sure hate to see a “difficult” hike. It was not for the faint of heart. I had Clayton on my back again and everyone else was carrying various beach and snorkeling gear, so we kind of made it hard on ourselves from the get go. The hike starts off with a steep climb down some rocks and you have to hold onto a rope to lower yourself down. Then all throughout the 20 minute hike there are various places where you have to hold onto a rope to get down the trail. Which also means you have to pull yourself up with the rope on the way back, after snorkeling and swimming for a few hours. Needless to say, we were wiped by the time we headed home. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT. The water was incredible. I’ve snorkeled a few times in my life but this was the first time I’ve ever enjoyed it. Someone described it as being placed in the middle of a fully stocked aquarium and that is the truth. There were so many fish! All different colors and sizes. I felt like I was swimming with the schools of fish as they surrounded me. It was an awesome experience.

That weekend, Clayton was dedicated in the church, which was very meaningful to us and made even more special since Bob and Betsy were here to witness it. (The picture was a screenshot from the online streaming, hence the quality.)

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Michael had to work on their last full day in Guam, but the rest of us packed up and headed to Talafofo Falls that morning. It’s sort of a tourist attraction so there wasn’t much hiking involved. But the falls were absolutely beautiful. We rode a cable car over the falls first and then walked around the outside of them. We also got to see Yokoi Oni’s cave. He was a Japanese soldier who didn’t know the war was over and hid out in a cave until January of 1972, almost 28 years after US forces had control of the island! After he was discovered, he admitted he had known the war was over since 1952, but was scared to come out of hiding, because Japanese soldiers prefer death to being captured alive. Can you imagine spending 28 Years living in a cave that you couldn’t even stand up in???

That evening, we met up with Michael and watched the sunset at Two Lovers’ Point. It’s an amazing cliffline overlooking the ocean and the site of an ancient legend, Guam’s own Romeo and Juliet of sorts. Legend says the two lovers, who were forbidden from being together, leapt to their deaths from the cliffs so they could be together in eternity. Despite the sad story, it was gorgeous to watch the sun set over the water and a perfect way to end Bob and Betsy’s trip.

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It took a visit from family for us to finally get out and explore our island. Though in my defense, I was 6 months pregnant when we got here, then I had a newborn, and then Michael left for 4 months. But I am SO happy we got to do so much during their visit. Plus a big kudos to my kids for being such troopers through all of those adventures. They came on every single hike with us. Clayton hung out in the Ergo on my back and Kelly either hiked right alongside us or Michael carried her. But most of the time she wanted to do it herself. My baby girl is growing up!

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Stay tuned for more Kenaston adventures around Guam!

Patience in Paradise

Island time is a very real thing… and it takes some getting used to. Taking it slow is a nice concept when you’re on vacation and want nothing more than to relax. But it’s not all that practical for real life. I can see how it appeals to the locals if they’ve never experienced anything else. It doesn’t feel slow, it feels normal. But for the rest of us, it can be very frustrating. I’m a fast-paced person. I may be from the South but I missed out on that slow-paced southern gene. I can still hear my Mother’s words echoing in my ear, “Slow down! I can’t understand you when you talk so fast!” My love of a fast pace is probably why I thrived in a newsroom, where everything needs to be done fast, faster, fastest. But it’s not suiting my current life.

In Guam, the motto seems to be, “What’s your hurry?” I’ve actually heard a local resident say that, when we questioned the island-wide 35 mph speed limit. Personally, I don’t want to spend the majority of my day in the car, especially when my baby absolutely hates his car seat. But 9 times out of 10, I end up behind someone driving 20 mph. (Or I get aggressively tailgated by someone going 60 mph, but Adventures in Guam Driving is another post entirely.) Most of the local stores don’t open until 10am, if then. There’s one store in particular I’ve been trying to go to for a while, but they never seem to be open. I went right at 10am one day, found 3 open signs on and around the door, but it was padlocked. The next day I went at 11 and found it the same way. The only time I’ve actually seen it open was when I drove by at 2pm but didn’t have time to stop. When we first moved here, Michael and I spent hours in line everywhere we went, trying to get power, water, internet, etc. You could feel the lack of urgency in the air. Which may be fine for some people, but we had an 18 month old with us who couldn’t handle 4 hours in a chair.

Now let’s throw a toddler in the mix. Toddlers seem to be on permanent island time, regardless of where you live. Everything is done at a pace slower than I even thought possible. If I tell Kelly to go put on her shoes, 10 minutes later she’ll come out of her room with no shoes and probably less clothing on. I say “hurry up” about 600 times a day. Which is funny because a few years ago I read another mommy blog that talked about the importance of letting your toddler stop and smell the roses. I remember after reading it, I told myself I would never tell Kelly to hurry up. I would always let her enjoy her little toddler world. Funny how things change when they become a reality.

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But I WANT to be that mom who slows down and lets her toddler enjoy life. I WANT to be the driver who just smiles and enjoys the music while stuck behind someone going 20 mph, especially now that Kelly is starting to repeat whatever choice words I might have for the slow driver.

In short, this has all been a huge lesson in patience. I have never been very patient. Anyone who’s spent much time around me could probably tell you that. It’s always been an issue for me but I’ve never been very motivated to work on it, until now. I want to be much, much more patient with my adorable kids.

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I don’t want Kelly and Clayton to constantly feel rushed, especially when there usually isn’t a good reason to be in such a hurry. It’s rare that I have to be somewhere at a specific time, so maybe I should adopt the local attitude and remind myself, “What’s the hurry?” So often, when I find myself stressed, it’s because I’m trying to hurry up and get something done that doesn’t have an actual deadline. I impose unnecessary deadlines on myself and it’s causing me to miss out on the fun in childhood and the fun on this island.

So from now on, I promise to stop and smell the roses. Or the Bougainvilleas.

“Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” –Proverbs 14:29

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Finding God in Guam

I’m going to start off by admitting that I’ve felt some anxiety over this particular blog post. But when I started this thing I asked a (super cool) friend of mine for some blogging tips and she said, “Write it for yourself, not for everyone else”. So I’ve decided to blog about this topic mostly for myself… to get it down on paper, (or on a screen, I suppose), and show that I’m not afraid to say this to the world. I’m going to write about my new relationship with God and Jesus Christ. Because it’s changed my life in the last 2-3 years and made me a different person. I realize that some of my friends who read this blog are not Christians and may shy away from this topic. I even worried about losing friends/readers over this because I know it makes some people uncomfortable and I know a lot of people have the wrong idea about Christians. Oh well. If I lose friends over this, then so be it.

A little back story on how this change came about it my life: I grew up a Christian, never having any doubt in my mind that the Bible was true and Jesus saved us all when he died on the cross. If someone asked me if I was going to Heaven when I died, I’d say yes. But that was the extent of it. Fast forward to when I got pregnant with Kelly. During that entire first pregnancy, I felt the Lord tugging on my heart, nudging me in His direction. I started reading the Bible occasionally and talking to friends and family who I knew had a close relationship with Him. Shortly after Kelly was born, Michael and I started going to church again and joined a Sunday school class. Those in-depth discussions about Jesus and the Bible, though only happening once a week, really started to push my heart towards finding a relationship with God. Then in February of 2014, Michael and I decided to be baptized in our church and recommit ourselves to the Lord. That day was one of the most special days of my life… I daresay even more special than my wedding day. It’s rivaled only by the birth of my 2 kids. Michael and I standing in that water together, listening to the pastor while looking into each other’s eyes and then taking turns being dunked is one of the best moments of my life. Ever since that day, I’ve slowly been turning towards God and away from my past.

I don’t have a sordid past by any means. But there was definitely some room for improvement. The new me found it much easier to be a good wife, not because I thought I HAD to be loving and honest towards Michael, but because suddenly I desperately WANTED to be those things. I WANT to be the Proverbs 31 wife….even though she sounds way too good to be true! But she is a wonderful thing to aspire to and has given me encouragement when I’ve felt lost as a wife and mother.

I could not imagine how I would handle my current life without the Lord. It is not easy to be a mother of 2 very young children while living on the opposite side of the world from my family. It is not easy to be this far away and have to spend large chunks of time alone, without Michael’s help and companionship. But it’s amazing how I can suddenly feel comforted and at peace when I turn to prayer or His Word. It’s something that is very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I don’t know if my old self would have believed or understood how helpful prayer can be. Sometimes it’s just a silent prayer of thanks and/or help with the tough mama stuff while I’m rocking Clayton to sleep. And sometimes it looks more like me down on my knees, sobbing and begging for Him to help me when I’m at my worst moment as a wife or mother, full of anger and guilt. Either way, afterwards I feel instantly soothed. That doesn’t mean I always, (or ever), hear Him speak to me. I don’t always feel an instant solution to my problems. It’s like when you were a kid and had a big problem and talked to a parent about it. They may not have had a solution for you, but just getting it off your chest and being held for a moment would make you feel a little better. That’s how I feel in those moments.

He also brings me peace when it comes to where my family lives. I saw the incredible things He did in my life and Michael’s life when were in New Mexico… things I’m not sure would have happened had we been living closer to friends and family. That’s why I wasn’t scared when I found out we were moving to Guam. That’s why I’m not scared when I’m left alone on this tiny island while Michael travels for work. Because I know He has some amazing reason for us being here and I’m really excited to see what it is.

It saddens me a little that I was scared to write about this… and it tells me two things:

1. I have a long way to go on this walk with Jesus if it scares me to talk about it. As Christians we’re called to talk about Jesus as much as possible so we can bring as many people to Him as possible. But I struggle with that, mostly because I’m a people pleaser and don’t like to think about offending anyone. I’m working on that. 
2. We live in a very judgmental world. I know I will be judged by this post. I know some of my friends will think differently of me now and not in a good way. They may think that because I’m a Christian, that must mean I’m now more judgmental and less tolerant, when in fact it means the opposite.

As I thought about this blog post over the last week or two, I kept coming back to one thought: How do I convince them that this doesn’t mean I’m a completely different person? But I guess I am a completely different person. That’s kind of the point, right? It’s probably more accurate to say that I’m working on becoming a completely different person. Because, in all honesty, I still like to blast Eminem in the car when I’m having a rough day, (if the kids aren’t with me, of course), and I still enjoy watching Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black. Deep down I know I should give those things up if I truly want to turn my entire life to God. But I’m struggling with that and asking Him to guide me towards making those sacrifices.

I’ll wrap this up with my favorite verse.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8.

It’s shown up time and time again for me in the last few years. It brings me great comfort when I find myself obsessing over the negative things in my life, or in the world. It reminds me to focus on the positive and that instantly makes me feel better.

I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me next. I can’t wait to see how it makes my marriage even stronger. I can’t wait to see how it influences the way I raise my children. It’s an exciting time y’all.

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A Mom in Guam… The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Being a Mom in Guam can be really fantastic and full of adventure. But it’s also full of challenges and hardship. Because motherhood is one of the main focuses of my life on this island, I thought I’d make this blog post about my mommy journey.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Guam is such a cool and beautiful place to live.  I really wish Kelly and Clayton were old enough to remember it. Maybe Kelly will have a few memories of her last year here. She’ll be 4 when we leave. I doubt Clayton will remember anything about his birthplace, but we sure will have some amazing pictures to show him!

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A tropical paradise gives you so many interesting places to take your kids to explore. We can go to the beach whenever we want, 365 days a year. We can go on a hike through the jungle to find old World War II guns. Or we can explore the caves on the east coast of the island and get some amazing views along the way. (We actually haven’t checked out the caves yet. We’re waiting until Clayton is a little older and can handle the heat better.) I love being able to take my kids to the playground every day because the weather is always beautiful. Even if it rains, the sun usually comes out at some point and we can go play outside.

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But there are certainly some cons to living on an island halfway around the world. For one, it’s hot. Really hot. All the time. I was 6 months pregnant when we first got to Guam and I was miserable. But I figured it was just because I was pregnant and assumed it wouldn’t be so bad once I had the baby. Well, it’s still really freaking hot. So while all those outdoor activities I just described are really fun, they also involve lots of time in really hot weather. Most of the time I suck it up and go outside anyway, for Kelly. But there are definitely days where we don’t leave the house because air conditioning just feels so much better. There are a few indoor playgrounds on the island but you have to pay by the hour to let your kids play there, which I haven’t been able to justify doing yet. I feel like I should just let her play outside for free, especially since the heat doesn’t bother her at all.

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The biggest con to being a mom on Guam for me is being so far from family and close friends. Skype and Facetime are wonderful things that help us feel closer. But I really miss being able to spend time with everyone… especially my other mom friends. I’ve got several friends with kids, but we all live in different places and never get to interact with one another in person. Not being able to watch how other moms interact with their kids has left me feeling like I’m all alone in some of the negative parts of motherhood. No one shares the negative stuff in a Facebook post or a “how’s it going” email. So it becomes easy to believe that you’re the only one going through some of the hard stuff. I genuinely believed that I HAD to be the only mom who lost her patience over a 2 year old taking forever to put her shoes on. I couldn’t imagine any of the moms I know losing their cool when their baby woke up for the 8th time that night.

I’ve had some trouble with my post-partum emotions after this pregnancy. I didn’t experience this after I had Kelly, but I’ve had some real issues controlling my emotions in the last couple of months and it’s left me feeling like a crazy person half the time. But in the last week or two I’ve come across some mommy blogs that talk about other moms going through the exact same thing. Literally the EXACT same situations that I’ve faced. And it’s made me feel so much better. I’m not crazy! I’m not losing my mind or being a terrible mother! (I’ve certainly felt like a terrible mother more than once lately.) I’m just a mom of a 2 year old and a 3 month old and THAT IS HARD. When you’re getting ready to have kids, you hear all about the hard pregnancy stuff, the hard birth stuff and the hard newborn stuff. But no one prepares you for how much harder it gets as they get older. I guess a big part of being a mom is just rolling with the punches and trying not to pull all your hair out along the way.

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Remind me to give Kelly a huge thank you one day… for all the times she’s had to put up with her crazy, sleep-deprived mama who’s just trying to figure out this whole parenting thing.

**If you need some reassurance that you’re not alone in the hard parts of motherhood, here are a couple of the blogs I’ve read recently that really helped me:

http://www.foreverymom.com/loving-my-kids-when-they-arent-likable-maybe-jesus-was-an-annoying-3-year-old-too/

http://www.foreverymom.com/the-day-i-totally-blew-it-as-a-mom/

I’m back!

I’m back! I apologize for the lengthy hiatus but… I had a baby! 7 weeks ago! And I’ve just now found time to sit down and write a blog post. So much has happened since my last (before Christmas!!!) post, that it’s hard to even remember everything I want to include here.

Let’s start with the holidays. Christmas was fun, but very different. We were a little sad to not see any family members, but we made the most of it with phone calls and Skype. Kelly opened all her presents Christmas morning and then we spent the afternoon at the beach… along with many other people who had the same idea. Because when it’s 85 degrees outside on Christmas, of course you go to the beach!

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New Year’s Eve was pretty uneventful. We hit the new year 15 hours ahead of most of you, so we didn’t have any New Year’s Eve specials to watch on TV. I was pretty pregnant and exhausted at that point, so Michael and I drank sparkling cider and played board games to help us stay awake until midnight. At midnight, we went outside and listened to all the neighbors celebrating. It seemed like everyone in the neighborhood was honking their car horns! Maybe that’s a tradition here in Guam… we aren’t sure.

January was spent preparing for baby Clayton and getting ready for Nana’s visit. She got here on the 21st and stayed until February 25th. I couldn’t imagine bringing a new baby home without Nana there to help! She was a Godsend… taking care of all the chores, but more importantly, taking care of Kelly.

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We spent a lot of time exploring Guam while she was here. We did a tour around the island and went to several beaches.

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Michael, Kelly and Nana did a Jungle River Cruise and visited One Thousand Steps.

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One Thousand Steps is actually more like 150 very steep steps, which leads to a beautiful panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean.

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Kelly is already missing Nana… or “Nanny” as she so adorably called her. And so am I, as I adjust to having 2 kids to care for. It’s an exhausting but incredibly rewarding job.

Now to my newest pride and joy: Clayton James Kenaston, born 1/30/15 at 5:11pm. He weighed 7 lbs, 10 oz and was 20.5 inches long. Clayton was the spitting image of his sister at birth, but since then he has…plumped out a little…haha!

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He was already 12 lbs at his 2 week appointment and hasn’t been weighed since. But he’s a big boy! His next appointment is in a couple of weeks and I’m very anxious to see what he weighs now. He’s already in size 3 months clothing.

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Kelly is handling her big sister role very well. She’s only tried to push him out of my lap once. She loves to help most of the time. She puts the pacifier back in his mouth when he drops it. She brings me diapers or a bib. If he’s crying, she says, “Ok Clayton” and will pat his tummy. It’s so wonderful to watch her with him. I can’t wait to see them interact as he gets older!

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Now that I’ve had the baby and am working on getting back in shape, we hope to go on more Guamanian adventures. So look forward to more posts about the island coming up!

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Here Come the Holidays

The holidays came around way too quickly this year. We’d been in our new house for less than 2 weeks when Halloween was suddenly here. But that didn’t stop us from having a good time.

The day started out feeling odd, since the FSU-NC State Football game was on that morning. I’m still getting used to FSU football being on Friday or Sunday mornings. I watched by myself because Michael was at work. Kato looked at me like I’d lost my mind when I whisper-cheered at the end of the game while Kelly was napping in the next room.

That afternoon, we went to a Halloween party thrown by Michael’s squadron. Kelly dressed up as a little pirate and loved every minute of it. She went door to door, collecting candy and eating half of it along the way. Then she ran around the building on her sugar high!

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Halloween night, we took her trick-or-treating on base. No one really trick-or-treats in the neighborhoods here on Guam. It seems like everyone goes on base or goes to one of the malls. There is a particular road on base that really goes all out for Halloween. All the houses put up great decorations and hand out candy. There were hundreds of kids and families out there, all dressed up, running around like crazy. It was quite the sight! I have never really trick-or-treated in a big neighborhood, so it seemed like something out of a movie. I think it overwhelmed Kelly a little bit. We had her in the stroller for most of the walk. She’d get out to walk up to the houses for candy, with her tiny little candy bag. She only went up to 3 or 4 houses before she didn’t want to do it anymore. So we put her back in the stroller and walked around a little longer, just enjoying the atmosphere. It really was hot though! Usually I’m trying to find a way to incorporate a jacket into my costume. This year we were all dripping sweat and ready for some a/c after about 20 minutes. So we went home and this pregnant mama enjoyed way too much Halloween candy!

A month later, Thanksgiving was upon us. It was just the three of us. Kelly ate a fair amount of turkey and loved the stuffing. I attempted a Cheesecake Pumpkin Pecan Pie for dessert. It didn’t come out perfectly but it was pretty tasty.

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It definitely felt odd to have Thanksgiving without football or the Macy’s Parade on TV. But we got to see all of that on Friday when we had some people over to watch football. One of Michael’s co-workers made deep-friend Oreos and they were incredible! Definitely pregnant lady approved! Michael smoked his first brisket in Guam and it was delicious, as always.

Now we’re deep into the Christmas season, but it really doesn’t feel like it. Sure, there’s Christmas music on the radio and decorations on many of the houses and in the stores. But it’s so hot! It feels like mid-July. I’ve always lived somewhere with cold weather at Christmas, so this is certainly a change. But we’re working hard to get into the holiday spirit. The tree is up and the house is decorated. Kelly even got to help this year!

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This is how we hang stockings in Guam when there’s (obviously) no fireplace or mantle:

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Michael got some cute outdoor decorations too, including Kelly’s favorite, Minnie Mouse!

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It’ll most likely be just the three of us for Christmas too, which is fine with me. The more pregnant I get, the less I feel like cooking for a crowd. I’m so excited to see if Kelly has a bigger reaction to Santa’s presents this year. Last year she was only 8 months old, so I can’t wait to see how she reacts at 20 months old. We haven’t had to put a fence around the tree this year, so that’s already an improvement. Though I’m sure the fence will be back up next year with baby Clayton crawling or walking around.

This weekend we went to an incredible Christmas lights display. The same street that goes all out on Halloween has a similar event at Christmas time. Each house is covered in creative Christmas lights and families have little stands set up, handing out candy and cider.

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Some of the houses went with a Star Wars theme and even had a guy dressed as Boba Fett posing for pictures and signing autographs. There were a couple of houses with big toy planes launched down a zipline, dropping candy for the kids to grab. It was all very festive and definitely helped us get in the Christmas spirit. Kelly even got to ride in her new wagon! (forgive the quality of the picture… it was nighttime and she was cranky.)

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Next on the agenda, a trip to visit Santa! Who knows what Santa in Guam will be like? We’re heading to the mall to see the tropical St. Nick and hope for a smiling picture this year.

Also worth mentioning: I learned a valuable lesson about Christmas shopping in Guam. It’s impossible. You need to order almost everything online. And order it back in October so it will get here in time for Christmas. I’m starting to worry that Michael will be opening a bunch of I.O.U.’s on Christmas morning!

Life on the Island Begins

I finally got my blog started! It only took me a few months, haha. It takes a lot to get settled in a new place on the other side of the world, especially when the holidays start piling up right after you move in.

It was a very, very, very long trip to this tiny island in the Pacific. We started off in Dallas with a 2:30am wake up time and 30+ hours later we were in Guam at midnight. It was an exhausting experience. Kelly slept about 4 hours total and watched a lot of Bubble Guppies on the Kindle. But we survived and were greeted by a group from Michael’s squadron at the airport, even though it was close to 1am by the time we got all our bags and got through customs. They greeted us with friendly smiles and a bag of food. It was the perfect welcome to our new home.

After getting settled in Hotel Nikko, the house hunting began. First, let me say that Hotel Nikko was an experience in itself. The guests are about 95% Japanese, so almost everything in the hotel is written in Japanese first and English second, if at all. The view from our room was incredible. I still miss waking up to that every morning.

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The hotel has some amazing pools, including a kiddie pool that Kelly absolutely loved. She was just tall enough to stand up in the kiddie pool and she loved having her independence in the water. The beach was another story though. Kelly still isn’t too sure about the ocean. We usually spent about 10-15 minutes at the beach and then ventured back to the pool.

One of the best parts was the water slide! Of course, Michael was the only one who could do it since I’m pregnant and Kelly is so little. But he had a blast! And we loved waiting at the bottom for him to splash into the water. He even got a video of the ride, thanks to our handy waterproof phone cases. (A must with a toddler!) Unfortunately, the video file is too big to upload here but I can email it to you if you ask. 🙂

Eventually we did have to get down to business though. We spent about two weeks house hunting before we found our home. Looking for a home in Guam is an interesting experience. There are very few “nice” neighborhoods and “bad” neighborhoods. Everything is kind of jumbled together. You can find a gorgeous, two-story, gated home right next door to someone living out of a shipping container. There are stray dogs and roosters and chickens everywhere. There is graffiti everywhere. Basically, a typical indicator for a bad neighborhood in the states doesn’t actually mean it’s a bad neighborhood here. For instance, as you drive into our neighborhood, the bus stops are covered in graffiti, there are stray dogs, called Boonie dogs, running all through the streets, and you pass a house that is halfway collapsed and still has a family living in it. But it’s a very safe and quiet neighborhood and all our neighbors are very friendly. Plus I think our home is beautiful.11-15-14 035

We are very fortunate that we found a brand new house we could afford. It has 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, with a fantastic kitchen, garage and fenced yard, (very important for Kato). It’s taken a while to get used to marble tile floors. I thought hard floors would be easier to maintain than carpet with all the pet hair in our house, but it’s actually worse. I spend a lot of time sweeping and mopping. Thank goodness for Swiffers!

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I would say that we feel pretty much settled in now. The office and garage are still full of boxes, but the house feels very lived in. We even found a “Guam Bomb” so Michael and I don’t have to share a car anymore. (A “Guam Bomb” is what people here call the not-so-nice cars you buy just for use while you’re on the island. Then you sell the car again before you leave. We’re blessed that we found such a nice “bomb”.)

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I miss all my friends and family who are so far away. I know we probably don’t chat/skype/facetime as much as you all would like. But I’m going to play that “7 months pregnant with a toddler to care for” excuse here and say I’ll try to do better. I love you and miss you all! Hopefully this blog helps you feel more connected to the Kenastons on the other side of the world. Coming soon, a tropical Halloween and Thanksgiving!

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