Category Archives: Guam

My Farewell Mother Baby Blessing

Photo (and henna) credit: Amanda of Gaia Eco Solutions

On one of our last Saturdays on Guam, the amazing mothers I had gotten to know through Garden Day got together and made me feel like the luckiest woman alive. I’m not really sure what to call the gathering they had for me, but it made me feel incredibly blessed, so I suppose a Mother Blessing is the closest thing. To any who were a part of it and may be reading this, I can’t say how incredibly grateful I am to know you, and to have you in my life – even if only from a distance now. All day long, I kept looking around at the people surrounding me, thinking, “Is it possible that I could ever find such an incredible group of talented, generous, caring women again?” There are amazing women everywhere, of course, but it’s a rare thing to find so many in community with one another. In the past I have dreamed of pulling together and introducing all of the amazing women I know, but on Guam, they were already friends and I’m honored that they shared that friendship with me, too. Continue reading

Montessori Monday: Animals and Such

I’ve been promising a post on the alternatives to store bought household cleaning and personal care products, and I promise that’s coming tomorrow, but I’m excited to link up to Montessori Monday at One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now today.

Why am I so excited, you ask? I finally found a box I’ve been digging around trying to find for months now and you would have thought I’d discovered a coffee can full of cash. I was delighted to reunite with my animal models and finally be able to share them with Annabelle. They’re not made of natural materials, but they’re one of those exceptions I mentioned in my Montessori-Inspired Checklist for Choosing Toys. They are far more realistic than anything made of wood or other materials I have seen, so they’re an important part of my personal stash of learning materials.

One new basket on Annabelle’s shelf contains a few of the control cards from the Juvenile Animals Nomenclature (3 Part) Cards that Montessori Services sells and models for the corresponding animals. Annabelle is a bit young for three part cards at the moment, but she loves to carry photos of various things around the house, so I had ordered these for her and planned to put out the picture cards only. She enjoyed them, but loves this matching activity with the animal models much more. She does it over and over again!

I have also put together a basket that contains just the adult male and female animals from the same families as those shown here. Annabelle loves to carry them around, pair them, and have me say their names. Of course both baskets can be combined to make Farmyard Animal Families – one of my favorite zoology activities, just because I love to see all of the animals grouped together. At Annabelle’s age, this is simple exploration and matching, but older children can gradually learn the names of the different family members through three period lessons, if they’re interested, and many extensions can come from that.

I have many other fun ideas for these and our other animal models in the near future. The possibilities are endless, hence my adoration for them!

In other news, right after I wrote about how I simply integrate Practical Life exercises and don’t place EPL activities on Annabelle’s shelf, I ended up giving her a bit of out of context, but still enjoyable practical life to do. Follow the child, right? Sometimes what I’m working on in the kitchen just does not appeal to her and she’d like something of her own to work on. Here she is spooning star-shaped ice cubes and loving it. She practiced a bit with tongs as well, but is still finding them to be a bit of a challenge.

I have also finally decided to grow some food. Better late than never, I say. Annabelle really loved helping me plant seeds and has enjoyed going out to check the plants and give them water each day. She has also been working with me as I try to prepare a space for our little seedlings that are ready to transplant. I have been really surprised by how much that interests her!

It is quite tempting, however, for her to grab handfuls of soil from fledgling plants, or just pull out tiny seedlings. There is also one pot in particular that is the perfect height for her, and she can’t help but step in it. My thinking is that this is simply age-appropriate exploration and is a natural part of her becoming acquainted with gardening. That said, I’m open to suggestions from those of you with extensive toddler gardening experience.

On the weekend, Annabelle and I went to check out the Micronesian Cultural Fair for awhile and she loved it. I was surprised by how long she was content to watch some of the traditional Chamorro dancers. It captivated her, and yet again I was pleasantly surprised by what a great date she was. We met up with friends, but I know I would have enjoyed myself quite well if it had been just the two of us instead.

And those are the Montessori-related highlights of our week of living and learning together. What did you and your family learn this week, and how did you go about learning it? I would really love to hear tidbits from you, too!

Embracing Change

Almost two years ago, the daddy and I arrived on Guam, though he wasn’t the daddy then. It was beautiful, and we were eager to start a new adventure. The months have been filled with ups and downs as I have alternated between losing and gaining perspective, complaining and gushing about this place we’ve made our home. Just when I had learned to love it – to really, really love it – I have learned it’s time for us to go.
We’re headed back to the mainland US, to a place that was nowhere near the top of my list. I’m tempted to complain, to dread it, and to feel sorry for myself as I watch some friends stay here and continue living the beautiful life I only just learned to fully embrace, and others move on to places they chose. If there is one thing our time on Guam has taught me, however, it is not to waste a moment dwelling on the negative. Change is inevitable, and the more I learn to make peace with it, the more I find that it gives more than it takes. I am choosing, this time, to make peace with it.
The challenge now is to live in the present – to soak up as much as I possibly can from this experience before doing my best to welcome the next one with open arms.

Photo Credit:  bobosh t on Flickr
Used by Creative Commons License

So that’s our big news. If I have any readers from Dayton, Ohio, I hope you’ll fill me in on anything I need to know! 

Kitchens, Gardens and Connections

Soaking up some rays at a party hosted by
Garden Day friends
I really never pictured myself as a play group sort of mama, although I don’t know what I did picture myself as. The whole adjustment from crazy-lady-holding-down-several-jobs-at-a-time-and-embracing-happy-hour-when-time-allowed, to stay-at-home mom really changed things, however, and I have struggled with striking a balance that allows me to fill our days with activities that are both meaningful and productive. All at once, it seems to have happened. We have community, and we have at least an idea for a flow of life around the house. I’ll admit that the community bit fell into place first, and the rest of our life is still a bit disorderly, but I can see that the balance is possible, and we’ll get at least sort of close eventually.
The first thing I discovered was a lovely, incredible group of families who have created the closest thing to a utopia I’ve discovered this side of my favorite little Montessori school. This thing is caled Garden Day, and it happens once a week when a group of lovely moms and their children get together in a 
Friends at our weekly play group
backyard garden space. The children do the sorts of things that all children should, like climb on top of chicken coops and get dirt all over themselves until one of the incredibly talented women in the group calls them together for a story. The evening ends with a pot luck style vegetarian meal. Sometimes gardening happens, and sometimes it doesn’t, but there is always community, and I feel extremely honored to be a part of it. If I did nothing all week except for this, I think I would still be happy.
The very same week that I was introduced to Garden Day, a now dear friend, who was also in search of community, and I decided to start a mom’s group. We invited a handful of mothers we knew, who invited some mothers they knew, and so our circle grew. We now get together once a week and chat and laugh while our children play. I look forward to it all week long and am so thankful for the women involved and their children.
Veggies, chopped in the company of friends
Shortly after Christmas, I got an idea in my head: inspired by the idea behind “Dream Dinners,” I thought how nice it would be to dream up meals of our own and get together with friends once a week to prepare a dish or two. As it turns out, I’m not the only person who thought this way – I now have a great group of women getting together once a week to share recipes and try out new ideas in the kitchen. Our children happily play while we chat, chop, stir, and taste. It has been such fun so far!

I guess I am a play group mom after all, and so far that’s working for me. I gain so much from being part of a community, that the time outside the house really doesn’t make it any harder to keep up with things. Instead of getting stuck in the monotony of being at home, I appreciate our quiet days around the house and take care to make the most of them. I find myself happier and more motivated, and I think Annabelle enjoys it all, too. While it can still be hard to get things done around the house because Annabelle often comes to me, wanting to be held (not that I mind at all!) – she hardly notices I’m there when we’re at Garden Day, play group, or cooking day. She is so busy exploring and watching the other children, that my touch is not needed. Being a play group mama is not so bad after all!
In addition to my real life community, I have learned so much and formed some important connections in the virtual world, thanks to the Natural Parents Network and blogging in general. Some days, all a mama really needs is to know she’s not alone.

Playing Tourist

It’s funny how living in a place, even for just for a short while, can cause you to take it for granted. I often focus on the things I don’t like about Guam (which really aren’t that many!) rather than the things I love. The grass is always greener, I suppose. Showing my visiting parents around the island has really given me the opportunity to look at some things with new eyes, and I really am grateful for this adventure. The history, the beauty, and the culture here are something comparatively few have the opportunity to experience.

Earlier this week, we met a woman who is a park ranger and grew up on Guam. She talked to us about the years during her childhood when speaking the native Chamorro was forbidden, and those who did so were punished. She talked about how her grandmother, a medicine woman, taught her about the plants in the jungle and their benefits. We learned from her that the Chamorro people believe that when you see a coconut crab (Ayuyu) during the day, it is not actually a crab, but a spirit. I have read about Chamorro culture since we moved here, but it’s altogether different to hear about it from someone who has lived it.

Learning to make fire using the wood of the wild hibiscus

Annabelle looking at a grasshopper made from palm fronds
Today, we took a “Jungle River Cruise” on the Talofofo River in southern Guam. It was gorgeous of course, and so much fun. We learned about some of the plants I *still* didn’t know the names of, drank coconut water out of coconuts fresh off the tree, and just generally enjoyed ourselves. A Micronesian man who was part of the crew was weaving things with palm fronds as we rode and telling us more about life in the jungles. I am truly enjoying being something of a tourist here for a bit. Annabelle was a big hit on the boat as well – she had her photo taken by and with many a Japanese tourist :)

Playing with a coconut “spoon”