Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the tag “Guam”

Family Trip to Thailand? Bring Patience, An Open Mind, and So Much Deodorant

Traveling Asia with kids isn’t for the feint of heart.  But man is it worth it… 

Last week, we headed to Thailand with our friends (the Tislands) for Spring Break.  Traveling with friends, we’ve learned, is important because 24 hours of non-stop family time without the comforts of home can be a bit much.  I suppose we figured this out in South Korea, where Jackie and I fought for hours one night because I got her the “wrong” sandwich.  In my defense, how could I have known she actually wanted a meatball sub with absolutely nothing on it?  Anyway, now we travel with friends.

As for the itinerary, here’s the good: we started in Guam heading to Bangkok, then Chiang Mai, and then back to Guam.  Lots of adventure.  Here’s the bad part… it was all through the Manilla Airport, which is a dirty, wifi-lacking maze that might just be hell on earth.  And here’s where it get’s downright ugly: we flew Philippine Airlines – a company operated by madmen.  The Manilla Airport/Philippine Airlines combo is devastating.  It’s kind of like a sandwich your hungry wife didn’t order, and 7 days of non-stop family time.  

Regardless, here goes a recap of one of our most epic family vacations.  


Day One: Travel Horrors

Everything was fine til Philippine Airlines and the Manilla Airport did their worst.  Our flight to Manilla arrived late, we missed our connection, and got rewarded with more time at the Manilla Airport.  Yelling was involved.  This caused us to get into Bangkok late, which put us in rush hour en route to our hotel.  Finally, we got to the hotel where the kids had their own room, and Jackie and I had ours.  Perfect recipe for lots of bow-chicka-wow-wow…  

Just kidding.  We were super tired.  And the kids were next door to us – often wrestling in the hallway and calling every five minutes pretending to need housekeeping.  It was a perfect recipe for phone calls from angry neighbors.    

Day Two: Floating Market…Horrors

Day Two we went to the “Floating Market.”  Travel websites and Thailand experts give this experience glowing reviews.  I was excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Until I realized…

The Floating Market involves taking a boat ride through a series of remarkably similar tourist shops along the water with a high-pressure sales pitch at every stop… all at a nifty 102 degrees.  It’s the worst.  More on this in a bit.

The ride to and from isn’t easy, as the Floating Markets are two hours from Bangkok.  Picture endless traffic while sitting alongside six PS4-deprived children.  For them, talk of farts and “Opposite Day” make the trip bearable.   For example, “you’re cool…but it’s Opposite Day.”  Classic burn.  

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We finally get to the Markets and I get the true dagger.  The boat ride to go shopping for overpriced tourist items will cost our family of five $200 out the gate.   Look, I’ve long learned that the key to any successful vacation is to not be a cheap bastard.  But for the remainder of the day, all I could think about was this $200.  

So. Here’s what my wife saw:

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Aaaand here’s what I saw: 

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It wasn’t all bad.  We got smoothies.  For what it’s worth, Jackie said she “really liked it.”  Frankly, she would have liked it a lot more had I not gone.  But aside from the heat and the price and the overall misery of the experience it was totally great. The 2.5 hour ride back to Bangkok was also great.  But remember, it’s Opposite Day. 

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Day Three: Grand Palace

On Day Three, we went to the Grand Palace.  Immediately prior to launch, I discover I won’t be allowed to wear shorts.  That’s ok because it’s only a million degrees outside.  We take a pretty sweet boat ride to the palace.  The kids enjoyed endless sodas and the adults began a day of endless perspiration.  

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We get to the entrance of the palace and things start to get crazy.  Our guide informs us it’s temporarily closed because apparently the Princess is praying.  Umm, ok.  It’s possible this one of Bangkok’s infamous scams, but nobody is walking into this Palace.  So if thats true it’s a pretty elaborate scam.  My guess is Thailand is like every other monarchy in the world: the Princess gets what the Princess wants.  

With time to kill, we buy overpriced ice cream and wait.  But soon the kids need to potty and there are no bathrooms in sight.  I walk four blocks with the boys to discover that the only bathroom available to us costs money to use, and I have none.  Also… wait, what?  You have to pay to use the toilet around here???  This ruthless display of capitalism almost makes Bangkok more American than America.    All that’s missing is a credit card machine.   

Back to the palace, where we eventually got in.  It was beautiful.  There was a temple that was cool as well.  Our tour guide shared historic tales of battles between good and evil.   Unfortunately I won’t remember any of this, because I’m too busy anticipating my imminent death.  Have I mentioned it was hot?  

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Collectively, our back sweat could fill a kiddie pool.  I’m serious about this.

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That night we hit Chinatown.  We take a “Tuk Tuk,” which is essentially a moped with seats rigged onto the back.  “Tuk Tuk” is super fun to say, and they’re crazy cheap.  A ride for the whole family costs us a few dollars.  I know I’m supposed to be over this, but this ride is about $197 cheaper than our boat ride through the Floating Market.  I mean, I’m just saying…

We walk around eating street food and being tourists.  Jackie gets a real massage while the kids and I let fish eat the skin off our feet.  Knowing how long its been since our kids properly cleaned their feet I have concerns about the future of these poor fish.  Also, they tickle.  

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Day Four: Head to Chiang Mai 

Day Four we head to Chiang Mai, where we will be living in a Villa for the remainder of this trip.  Seven bedrooms, a pool, and toilets with those sprayers that you’d use on the dishes… only it’s for your junk.  This place is incredible.  

We swam a lot that day.  And drank beer.  It was legit vacation.  

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Day Five: Elephants, Massages and Deadly Snakes

On Day Five, Jackie and the kids went to play with elephants.  I didn’t go because I’m lame and got a massage instead.  The baby elephants were super cute.  The masseuse who dug into my skin and had me grimacing in pain was not cute.  I’m on a roll with poor decisions this week. 

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After we regrouped at the villa we headed to the “Snake Show,” and it did NOT disappoint.  For a few dollars, we got to see hilarious Thai dudes dancing around King Cobras…all while “Moves Like Jagger” played in the background.  Watching these guys evade venomous bites from angry Cobras leads me to conclude they are far more impressive than Jagger.  I mean, for goodness sake, their dance moves are what prevent them from literally dying.  

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Fully satisfied by the Snake Show, we went to dinner and ate insane amounts of Thai food.  Nobody spoke English, but Coldplay was blaring on the speakers.  It made no sense, but everywhere we go we seem to hear the whitest music imaginable.  Later that week, I’d go to a coffee shop where the second I walked in it went from Yoga music to Phil Collins.  This Country just gets me.

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Day Six: ATVs and a Night “Safari” 

Since we were in Thailand you’d think the kids would have no use for Youtube.  Wrong.  Each morning began with “can I play on my Kindle?”  The boys like videos with Fortnight commentary which, for better or worse, has provided them a wealth of newly discovered gaming vernacular.  For instance, when I Dab – a move I only recently mastered – I’m reminded that the move was popular four years ago.  “You’re such a Newb.”  And any time I even remotely screw something up I’m told to “get wrecked.”  

Anyway.  Eventually, we got out and took ATVs around Chiang Mai.  Although we weren’t newbs with the ATVs, riding through the forest was quite bumpy.  Thankfully nobody got, you know, wrecked.   

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That night, we hit up the “Night Safari.”  In my head, I pictured something resembling Jurassic Park, and was disappointed to discover the Night Safari is basically a zoo. Our son got pretty upset when a giraffe ate all of the food he was planning on giving to other animals.  On the positive side, no humans were eaten – a claim Jurassic Park cannot make.  Also, if you ever plan on opening a zoo one day, consider marketing it as a “safari” instead.  It sounds sexier.  

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After the Night Safari, we hit up the “Night Market.”  The area seems touristy, and I see lots of skinny white people.  Picture heavily-tattooed women who look like they just stepped out of yoga class, and dudes wearing colorful pants with elephants on them.   I’m surrounded by liberals.  

The food was good, and the prices were so cheap I’m not sure how any of these people make money.  But Jackie’s a consummate deal finder and can’t help herself.  “$1 for a hand-carved wooden tiger?  Way too much!”  She makes the Shark Tank seem like group therapy.  Safe to say I’m not totally surrounded by liberals…  

Day Seven: “Sticky Falls” 

A week into this eventful trip we went to the Buatong Waterfall.  We learned the actual name of it after our non-english speaking driver made it clear he had no idea what the “Sticky Falls” were.  Its a waterfall you can climb. 

You take steps to the bottom of the fall where you’ll find pool of running water.  Below the surface is mud-like substance that feels like poop.  Our son Brody was convinced this was a poop walk.  He may have been right. 

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The falls themselves were every bit as amazing as advertised.   

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On the way home we begin to appreciate how many towns and cities in Thailand contain the word “Dong” (and to a lesser extent, “Wang“).  My wife cannot let any of this go without obnoxious laughter and obligatory follow-on conversation.  One day we passed an area called “Hang Dong” and even I had to concede she had a point there.  

Day Eight: Bungie Jumping

On the Eighth Day, I decided to go Bungie Jumping.  Anyone who has seen me while hanging Christmas lights can testify to the fact that I fear heights.  In high school I asked a grown man to “hold me” at a ropes course.  20 years later, I’m still hearing about this.    

Bungie Jumping is cheap in Thailand.  Also, life insurance is included, which is great because I’m fairly certain my military insurance won’t be covering any of this.  I sign my life away, pay the fee, and head over to the jump site.  While speaking in Thai, they tie my legs together, put me in a chair that takes me up 200 feet, and then set me up for the big fall.  

We get to the top, and I’m asked to hobble to the very edge of the lift while I stare 200 feet down.  “1, 2, 3, Bungie!” the guy said.   I went nowhere.  But now I hear Jackie hazing me and I know there’s no chance I’m getting out of this.  I fall while screaming like a maniac.  “HOLD ME!” 

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Day Nine: The Hellacious Journey Home

Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Manilla to Guam.  With kids.  What could go wrong?  

Well, it all went south when Philippine Airlines linked up with, you guessed it, the Manilla Airport. Picture delays, non-sensical excuses, lines, countless security checks, temper tantrums (by the adults), more delays, and a desperate need for Gold Bond.  This place is the worst.  

Thankfully our kids have tablets which keep them occupied and makes all of this ok.   The universe has now reminded me of exactly why we got these kids tablets to begin with.  

Around midnight, the boys slept.  Riley put a sandwich on Jimmy because she was bored.  Sleep deprived, this was hilarious… much funnier than it looks now.  

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After 24 hours of travel, we finally got back to Guam and I’ve never been happier to be home.  


Overall, the trip was exhausting, and at times downright difficult.  But Thailand is a special place unlike any other in the world.  I’ve been blessed to go on several very relaxing vacations where I remained firmly in my comfort zone the entire time.  This was not one of those trips.  But the memories will last a lifetime.  

Traveling through Thailand with kids is not for the feint of heart.  It takes patience and an open mind.  Oh, and don’t be a newb...  

Bring friends, and an endless supply of deodorant as well.  It’s hot here.  

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I Tried Single Parenting For A Week And Holy Cow It Was Awful

Just leave the kids with me, I said.  What could possibly go wrong?  I said…

This week, for the first time, I watched the kids while my wife headed back to the states after the loss of a dear friend.  In my world of constant travel and trials, it just so happened to be a week where I was home.  What follows is a no-kidding recap of how it all unraveled.  And boy did it ever unravel…

The Turnover:  Prior to her departure, the wife gave me lots of tips on how to keep the kids alive and thriving.  This is overwhelming because our kids are spoiled.  Exacerbating matters, I was only half listening, so I learned just enough to be dangerous.  For instance, I know that “Brody needs (insert something about 5mL of medicine),” and “Riley only eats (some kind of food) for lunch” and that I can’t forget about Jimmy’s homework.  Or something.    

Whatever, I got this.

Saturday:  Drop wife off at airport with no drama.  Solid.  Then take the boys to soccer.  Too easy.  

Then I take the boys to GameStop as a bribe to basically be good all week.  My thought was we could get a video game to share and enjoy.  Well, we get there and the oldest wants a Pokemon card set all for himself.  Our four y/o grabs the first thing he can find – a nerdy board game – and assures me that it’s what he has “always wanted.”  I should have seen this coming.   

That night, I take the kids to a free country concert by Hunter Hayes on base.  The boys waste no time whining about the noise and asking me “when’s it gonna be over?”  Little do they know they are hearing the pre-concert music, and the show hasn’t even started.  But they loved it…

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His favorite part of the concert

Sunday:  Wake up, play, eat cereal, and head to church.  Then we head home and eat Lunchables.  You might be wondering how I find time to serve such healthy meals.  Well, we had nachos for dinner so its not like we don’t have a cheat meal every now and then.

Monday:  This is the first school day, and I quickly realize how much this week is going to suck.  Evidently our four year old doesn’t have school today because he has a Parent-Teacher conference right smack in the middle of the workday.  Does our pre-schooler’s ability to play with blocks and markers warrant a quarterly meeting?  A text from my wife makes clear I’m supposed to go.     

My suspicions were confirmed when, after driving across town and re-arranging my entire day, I learn nothing more than our son is doing “great” in school.  Oh, great.  

That night, after soccer practice, a neighbor asks me if our family wants some of her extra Sloppy Joes.  I politely reply that I would love some “Sloppy Hoes.”  It was autocorrect, I promise.  I have neither the time nor the energy for Sloppy Hoes this week…  

Tuesday:  It’s Drug Free week, which means the kids get to wear a hat to school.  Ironically, today I will be litigating a case involving, you know, cocaine.  

Before any of this happens, I make lunch.  One wants a red apple, the other wants a banana.  One wants a PB&J, the other wants turkey – but only if its cut in the middle.  Even I know that the quality of one’s lunches can make or break their status as a cool parent.  

With lunch set, I take the older two to the bus and drop the youngest at his school so I can get to work to do, like, my job.  I’m freaking exhausted and it’s not even 8am.  

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That afternoon, the older kids have “early release” which means they hop off the bus at an even more inconvenient time than normal.  Upon arrival, they beg to go to the convenience store down the road.  I make one rule, and that is that they cannot buy candy.  Are we clear?  Crystal clear? Good.  

So of course they go and buy candy.  The ensuing interrogation yields several false official statements.  One tells me “I didn’t hear you when you said that,” and the other points to her brother and says he convinced her it was ok.  And you see, this is how the Bible begins.

Wednesday:  Standard morning chaos.  Then work.  Then soccer practice.  Neighbors brought us dinner the night before but we ate it all, so its cereal and Ramen noodles on the menu tonight.  And then of course they need dessert.  After all this, we do homework and get ready for bed.  And when it’s all over, it’s time to do dishes.  Actually, forget dishes I’m going to bed.  

Thursday:  Morning chaos.  Then go to work, which is really ramping up.  Then gymnastics across the island, then get home to finish the work I left before gymnastics.  Meanwhile, the kids want to play video games, and I have the audacity to recommend they go outside instead.  For this, my son declares it’s the “worst day of his life.”  

Welcome to tyranny, kids.  

Right about now is where I notice all my kids using the “S” word when talking about the pending weekend.  The “S” word is easily the ugliest, most dreadful word in my children’s vernacular.  If your children are reading this, please cover their eyes…

Sleep*ver: defined as neighborhood kids helping our kids turn into punks, flood the house with Legos, and not sleep.  We should really be calling these “awake-overs.” 

Friday:  The kids don’t have school.  It’s not a holiday, they apparently just don’t have school.  Because in Guam Friday is for partying.  

Anyway, I work from home early and then head into the office for a few hours while the kids roam the neighborhood doing who-knows-what.  Honestly, I just hope they have pants on.

At the office I make arrangements to fly to Hawaii on Sunday morning.  Mom gets home Monday night, so there’s a gap in kid coverage.  It’s all becoming rather stressful.  Just when I’m ready to tap out of this unique social experiment, I get the word: one of the kids has lice.  Holy sleep*ver!

I get home, treat the hair, and handle child’s fragile psychological state.  Good to go. Now I just need to put the entire house in trash bags Dexter-style, and then do 18 loads of laundry – all while trying not to convulse at the thought that there were actual bugs living in my kids’ hair.  

I pop on a movie and finish this hellacious night outside with a questionably large glass of wine.  I’m starting to get my wife…  

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Saturday:  Breakfast of champions is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Then we get ready for soccer, which is a game of 21-questions.  Like, “where did you last remember having your jersey?” and “why do you not have shin guards?” and “WERE LATE WHY AREN’T YOU IN THE CAR ALREADY???”  Another Saturday in paradise.  

That evening the base is hosting a Halloween event, so the kids get to dress up in their costumes for the 18th time this month, and spend some time with their friends.  Of course, they’re only allowed to do this after they’ve had their dinner…

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On the way home I load the kids up with candy, and then remind them that I’m leaving in the morning and they will be staying with our neighbors for two days until mom gets back from the states.  Ok?  Ok?  

Suffice it to say, it was not ok.  “We talked about this, guys” I explained.  Say, where have I heard that phrase before??  Holy cow I’m becoming more like my wife with each passing second.  Anyway, I pull over to address the river of tears.

And this, right here, is why single parents have it so hard.  It’s not balancing household chores with deadlines at work, nor is it the moments when you just want to sit and veg out but can’t because a school project is due tomorrow.  It’s hardest when your kids are devastated and there’s no-one else to help – you just have to figure it out yourself.  

My wife just did this for over seven months while I was deployed.  Other parents out there have to do this, like, forever.  I did it for seven days.  I tip my cap to you, single parents.  You have my sympathy and admiration all at once.  

In truth, I am blessed beyond measure to have such happy, healthy children, and this week was precious… minus the lice, and some other things. 

As for my kids, I’m pretty sure they’re doing all their homework and eating well and enjoying their sleep*ver with the neighbors.  And if not, I really don’t care as long as they’re wearing pants.  

A final note to my wife: welcome home.  Now kindly make your way to the store because we desperately need more milk and cereal.  Also, I know I don’t need to tell you this, but…

Grab a bottle of wine while you’re at it.

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Our ‘Classic Guam’ Dolphin-Watching Experience

This week, I decided we needed some dolphins in our lives.  I mean, why not?  Dolphins are super cool and there are no penguins nearby, so this is a no-brainer.  Bonus: the boat launches from the neighboring town of Agat, which will make this an easy voyage.  Yea Dolphins! 

We packed all the essentials – water bottles, sunscreen and Pokemon cards.  Because you never can be too prepared.  

We also brought friends.  Well, I should say Jackie brought her friend Sabrina and the kids brought some of their friends (Sabrina’s kids…).  None of my friends came.  See, if my wife fails to make arrangements for me to hang out with other dudes, it doesn’t happen.  My reliance on her literally stretches this far.  

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Not pictured: Any of Jim’s Dude Friends

We get to the Agat Marina around 10:15 but we cannot head to the boat because Dwayne Johnson is singing our children’s favorite Moana song.  We’re not going anywhere until it’s over, and frankly I have no problem with this.  You’re welcome, kids! 

So we’re in the parking lot and already this adventure has all the makings of a legit Guam experience: no signs, no customer representatives, and no boats preparing to take people out.  There’s also no clarity on what time this thing actually starts – indeed, the brochure says 10:15, but our voucher says 10:30, and some random guy tells us this thing starts at 10:45.  Classic Guam.   

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No information, no problem. 

While we wait, the kids feed fish in the marina with goldfish. I assure you the irony in real-world fish eating Pepperidge Farm Goldfish is not lost on our four year old.  “DADDY!  THE FISH ARE EATING THE FISH!!!”  

Why yes.  Yes they are.  

We set sail as expected, right at 11:00. Before we even get out of the marina, the kids begin identifying all the amazing sea creatures they somehow see.   Brody sees a dolphin and sharks.  Jimmy sees a whale.  Riley sees an octopus…  

I see adorable liars.  

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A few minutes into the trip and the kids see Flying Fish.  But for real this time.  And who knew fish could fly?  Add this to their list of things that apparently exist.  

These fish have a legit superpower, and watching them in action easily occupies our group and about 30 asian tourists for the first 15 minutes of the trip.  Unfortunately, these little suckers are hard to photograph.  

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It’s a fish that flies.  Or is is a bird that swims?   

Right about here is when the boat started serving lunch.  The menu?  Sandwiches and water.  Only, the sandwiches are made of nothing but cake frosting.  Oh yes.  It’s a frosting sandwich.  Inevitably, the kids will ask me if they can have desert because they ate all of their sandwich.   And indeed they should be rewarded with cake.  

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Eat fresh, kids.

So. The boat keeps going out and we get word that there are dolphins in the area.  And sure enough there’s like eight of them swimming together. I’m super excited because we now see dolphins and that was the whole point of this trip.  Mission Accomplished! 

But another part of me is bummed because there’s a money back guarantee if you don’t actually get to see dolphins, and I was kinda hoping this whole thing would be free.  So it’s a mixed range of emotions.  

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Priceless

Anyway, we watched these dolphins for about 15 minutes while they entertained us tourists.  They’re mesmerizing – I could stand and watch them all day.  

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After the dolphin viewing we head out to some other remote area where we would be for the remainder of this excursion.  Upon arrival, the captain tells us we can fish or swim. Our kids don’t get many opportunities to fish cuz I hate touching those slimy suckers.  But there’s a crew here to take care of all that, so naturally we’re taking this opportunity to do some fishing.

Two minutes in, and Brody’s pole is trying to pull him overboard. I seize the rod from him and reel in a sweet-looking blue fish.  A member of the crew informs us that this particular fish has something on its gills that, if touched, will make grown men cry.  A solid reminder of why I despise touching fish… 

The crew member puts the fish into a bucket.  This will become relevant later.  For now, suffice it to say Brody is a proud fisherman. 

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Nearly an hour of fishing would yield zero additional fish. I’ll add that I definitely underestimated how much physical labor goes into assisting a bunch of young children with bait, rogue hooks, and intertwined fishing lines.  Which is conducive to this…

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Got er! 

Before the trip was over I went snorkeling. Despite Guam’s status as a mecca of underwater creature observation, I don’t do this often because (a) it’s too quiet, (b) sharks eat people, and (c), fish can apparently fly so who knows what else they’re capable of doing.  But with dozens of tourists in the water I figure I have math on my side.  

I will say, what’s amazing about these beautiful fish is that you can actually watch them poop.  It’s so cool! But thats about it.  

Eventually the captain tells us it is time to head back. Right about here is when the kids begin begging to keep the fish that Brody caught.  Our neighbor Vivian reminds me that she has a tank at her house the fish can live in.  That would be a beta fish…

We brief the kids on two potential courses of action.  Option One: we let the fish go overboard so it can be with its family.  Option Two: we keep the fish and it dies immediately.  

So which option did they choose?  I’ll let the suspense build for a second…

The kids unanimously vote for Option Two, despite the well-known fatal consequences.  Fortunately, the votes counted for nothing and there never really was an option, per se.  We let the crew keep the fish and I am quite certain he was fried that night.  But the kids don’t need to know all the details…

Before we reach land, I strike a perfectly creepy Titanic pose.  

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Feeling on top of the world!

In all, we went swimming, fishing, and saw some really cool sea creatures. We filled up on some frosting sandwiches, and I watched fish poop.  How could one ask for a better day?  

This is the kind of family time I need more of in my life.  It was a small reminder of why we agreed to come to an island in the middle of nowhere…  

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It was classic Guam.

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Our Drama-Filled Adventure to Tarzan Falls

I confess I’m not the world’s most outdoorsy person. Kayaking? That’s a sunburn waiting to happen. Camping? My bed works better. 

Left to my own devices I’d spend a perfectly good Saturday on the couch setting my fantasy football team, watching HGTV and eating copious amounts of Cinnamon Life. Now that’s living.   

But alas!  My wife is a planner.  She is outdoorsy.  And she is a big fan of mandatory fun.  

She’ll want to spend her entire Saturday doing something intrinsically senseless like picking apples or cutting down a Christmas Tree.  Apparently these activities are far more exciting than the football matchup I wanted to watch between the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  I digress…

Naturally when my wife proposed we go hiking this weekend I had reservations. See, like doing Hot Yoga and eating hard-to-pronounce pastas, Ive always kinda assumed hiking was an activity exclusively for liberals.  Plus, see paragraphs above. 

Well, on tap this weekend was a trip to a place called Tarzan Falls.  Like, for a hike.  

As always, I tried to bargain. What if instead of going to Tarzan Falls we watch the movie Tarzan instead???  In the end we compromised… and went to Tarzan Falls. 

As with all directions on this island, the directions to Tarzan Falls lacked street signs, an address, and visible markers. We were literally told to take a left out of our neighborhood, then “go till it gets kinda forest-y,” and then look for the shoes hanging from the telephone wire.  Then, of course, you’re there.

In preparation I drank three cups of coffee.  Which is where this whole adventure begins…

Three minutes into the ride over and we need to stop. Like right now! 

And so there I was, on the side of the road.  Going to the bathroom in a sea of painful prickly bushes and bracing for a tree snake attack while the rest of my family laughed from the car.  Guess you could say it was your standard car ride…

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We arrive at Tarzan Falls around 11am and I waste no time taking an insane amount of pictures so my Facebook friends will think we do this kinda stuff every day.  Smiles kids! 

Jackie is sporting the brand new workout shoes she (ahem, we…) just bought in order to replace the older ones that had mud and dirt all over them.  That will become important in a moment…

Okay moments up.  Jackie’s new shoes were drowning in mud and dirt no more than 100 yards into this adventure.   AND THIS IS WHY WE CANT HAVE NICE THINGS. 

In fairness, I suppose we all underestimated how insanely muddy this trek would be.  So much mud.  And sitting water.  And more mud. 

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Coming Soon: There Will Be Mud 

The kids waste no time reminding Jackie and me that we’re legit tyrants.  “It’s so hot,” I’m so hungry,” and “I can’t walk anymore.”  Not even ten minutes in and all the kids are apparently going to die.  

The good news is there are some pretty cool things to point out along the way. 

Like…

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Stunning views of Guam

And even more importantly…

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A “Prince” Frog!!!

It was all fun and games until our 5 year old daughter slipped and fell into the mud.  I don’t have a picture of this particular moment, but what follows should give you a good idea of how this went down: 

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MUD!!!!

Others would soon follow suit.  Slip, fall, mud, tears.  Repeat.  

Eventually we make our way down the steep hills. The blood sweat and tears were all worth it when we got to this: 

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And did this: 

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And this: 

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One more: 

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After lunch it was time to head back.  

The hike back up was tough, no doubt.  The kids noted that the trek was “soooo far,” and that they were “soooo tired” and inquired into exactly when we would “finally get to mommy’s car.”  My personal favorite?  “I’m not hydrated enough to take another single step!” 

Try not to die, kids…

Then we hit a swamp.  The kids walked around it in painfully slow fashion until my quick-thinking wife convinced them there was an alligator in there.  Speed-walking commenced.

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We finish around 1:30.  Two and a half hours of Guam-inspired mandatory fun.  

Honestly? It was a blast! And perhaps somewhere deep down I really am an outdoors-y person. 

But for today, I’ll be watching the Indiana-Ball State Football Game and eating cereal on the couch while my wife does laundry. 

Say, she sure is lucky to have me. 

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A Step by Step Guide on How to Move Your Family to Guam Without Any Drama Whatsoever

We’re baaaaacck! And in case you’ve been out of the loop since my last post (over two years ago), here’s a recap: I spent 8 months living by myself in Norfolk, VA prepping for a deployment, then I deployed for 7 months, then I came back. And then, we PCS’d (military slang for moved) to Guam.  So basically, we’ve followed the standard progression of any normal family of five from Northern Virginia…   

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Perfectly normal family here.

Bottom line: our kids are older, my hair is thinner, and my wife is *loving* the Navy more than ever. Which happens to be where this whole blog picks back up…

So. If you’ve ever wondered how a legit professional takes his family and moves them to Guam without ANY drama/tears/tantrums/ iterations of ”oh-my-gosh-why-are-you-doing-this-to-me”, then listen up. Because I’m about to educate you.

STEP ONE: BE DEPLOYED WHEN YOU GET YOUR ORDERS TO MOVE FROM THE EAST COAST TO GUAM.

This is huge. You see, when faced with orders to move to a small island kinda near Japan (but really not near anything), your spouse may want to talk to you about all these questions she has, like “where are we going to live?” and “when is all of this going to happen?” and most importantly, “where the heck is Guam?” Fortunately for you, you will be on the other side of the world, incapable of answering any questions whatsoever. It makes the news that much easier to digest.

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Me being too busy to discuss moving to Guam…

STEP TWO: GIVE YOUR WIFE A LAUNDRY LIST OF THINGS THAT MUST HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY BUT THAT CANNOT BE ACCOMPLISHED WITHOUT WRITTEN ORDERS, WHICH ARE COMING.  WE THINK. 

Medical screening needs to be completed. Are we sure Brody had his tetanus shot? Movers need to be arranged. Car needs to be shipped. We need to get on the base housing list. We need to enroll the kids in school. We need to do it now!

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Stop wasting time, this medical screening is due ASAP!!!

Problem is, nothing happens until written orders are in hand. And getting written orders from the military can be as enjoyable as a 16 week seminar in “Commercial Paper.”   Or (foreshadow alert!) a 36-hour flight to Guam. Super fun.

STEP THREE: COME HOME FROM DEPLOYMENT AND COMMENT ON ALL THE THINGS YOUR “WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY” TO PREPARE FOR THE BIG MOVE.

My wife just *loves* comments like these:

“You scheduled the pack out for a Tuesday, huh? I would have gone with later in the week.”

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Should have done this Friday…

“I see we let the kids color and paint all over the floor and walls in the dining room while I was gone.” Or…

“Did you forget about the lawnmower I left in the garage while I was deployed?”

Stuff like that goes over real well in our house.  

STEP FOUR: RENT OUT THE HOUSE OF YOUR WIFE’S DREAMS TO A FAMILY OF COMPLETE STRANGERS.

You love this neighborhood, huh?  Well this is no time to get all sentimental on me. Paint the walls. Clean the carpets. Replace the carpets. Fix the grout. Stain the deck. AND FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE DON’T LET THE KIDS WALK ALL OVER THE DECK I JUST STAINED!!!

Fun like that…

STEP FIVE: MOVE IN WITH YOUR MOTHER IN LAW FOR A FEW WEEKS WHILE YOU ARE HOMELESS AND EVERYTHING YOUR FAMILY OWNS IS ON ITS WAY TO GUAM.

Yep. I’m just gonna leave this one right here without further comment. Moving on…

STEP SIX: HAVE THE NAVY BOOK YOU SUPER CONVENIENT FLIGHT TO GUAM.

Sometimes Always the Navy likes to spend as little as humanely possible, without any consideration for your well-being or the well-being of your family. So a direct flight might make a whole lot more sense and cut out five hours of flight time, but if it’s costs an extra $10 in the system, you’re not getting that direct flight.

Nope, instead you wind up with a downright hellacious itinerary that starts in D.C. and goes to Detroit and then to Tokyo and then some random Japanese Island I’ve never heard of before called “Kansai”…and then to Guam. Leave Tuesday morning, arrive Wednesday at midnight. More on this in a bit…

STEP SEVEN: WATCH TIME SLIP AWAY AS YOUR BEST LAID PLANS TO “SEE EVERYONE BEFORE THE BIG MOVE” FALL APART DISASTROUSLY. 

If you end up with text messages like this, then you’re doing it right:

Friend:  Can you get together tonight? 

Me: Actually, I’m boarding a flight and won’t be available for three years.

STEP EIGHT: FLY TO GUAM.

It’s easy! I mean, it’s not like a 14 hour time difference will impact your children in any way.

But here is the REALLY important part: overlook where everyone is sitting until minutes before boarding. Then realize your seat is nowhere near your family’s. Then make your useless attempt at convincing the very nice Japanese couple that can’t speak a word of English to trade seats with you.

Then, sit alone in silence and pretend not to hear the screams from the back of the plane. 

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Me looking fabulous.  And not hearing the drama in the back…

STEP NINE: LIVE IN A HOTEL ROOM WITH YOUR WIFE, KIDS AND 15 BAGS OF LUGGAGE FOR 10 DAYS.

To soften the blow of a move to Guam the Navy sends you and your family to a hotel. It’s downright cruelty. From here, you will discover there is an “unanticipated shortage” of base housing and that we might be living there for a while. Welcome to paradise.

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Loving this hotel…

STEP TEN: GET YOUR CAR BACK.  

Here’s the process: (1) go to office that has your car and fill out forms, (2) go to the DMV to fill out forms, (3) go back to the office that has your car to…you guessed it…fill out forms. But wait! Brand new policy involving…you guessed it again…more forms. (4) Take the forms to customs, and then (5) bring them back for processing. And if you think your work is done? Start back at one.

Even Brian McNight couldn’t make this romantic…

STEP ELEVEN: GO PRETTY MUCH BANKRUPT.

A box of strawberries? $9. On sale. Dinner for five? $75. Kid’s meals aren’t what they used to be. Breakfast muffins? $5 each. The blows keep coming: Phone plans, sun screen, internet, moving costs, therapy. It all adds up SUPER fast, and your ability to make ends meet is ENTIRELY dependent upon the skill and capability of some Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice with about five months of experience in the Navy. So good luck with all that.

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DONT DROP THAT $9 BOX OF STRAWBERRIES!!!!

STEP TWELVE: BE AT WORK WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN.  

See:  “The kids didn’t pass the swim test? So sorry. Gotta run!”

See also: “The air conditioner isn’t working at our rental? Bummer. Let’s talk about this later!”

Hate it when that happens…

STEP THIRTEEN: BE READY TO BRIBE YOUR KIDS WHEN THEY START ASKING ALL THE TOUGH QUESTIONS.  

Daughter: Daddy why did we have to move to Guam?

Me: Chocolate, or vanilla?

Oh, and for the older crowd…

Spouse:  Didn’t you say we would be making MORE money out here than back at home? 

Me:  White wine, or red?  

And if that fails…

STEP FOURTEEN: MISLEAD (OR, LIE) TO YOUR MILITARY SPOUSE AND TELL HER EVERYTHING WILL FALL INTO PLACE VERY SOON.

My personal go-tos are “I’m sure a house will open up any day now” and “we’re gonna do some amazing traveling real soon.” If you’re really desperate, you may try offering to acquire a new wardrobe. Or diamonds.  Or plastic surgery. Or something crazy like that. Regardless, you gotta go big here, because the usual flowers or night out on the town just aren’t gonna cut it. And besides, after all this, a night on the town with you is gonna be the last thing she needs.

 

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We’re going to Australia soon?  

STEP FIFTEEN: ENJOY EVERY SECOND.  AFTER ALL, YOU ONLY GET 36 MONTHS OUT HERE…

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DISCLAIMER: In all actuality, we are having a great time, and making lots of new friends. Most of the time. And I’m told by the local Navy divorce attorney that my wife hasn’t made an appointment yet. So that’s always a good sign.

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