Meet American mom Chelsea living on the island of Dominica
Hello, I'm Chelsea. Wife to Wyatt, and mother to three year old Tate Scarlet. We're living adventurously on the very remote, very beautiful island of Dominica while my husband attends medical school. I am orignially from the US, Utah actually.
What kind of house do you live in, are you and the kids happy here or is there anything you all terribly miss …?
Oh boy:) We currently live in a 1 bedroom (already furnished) apartment. Truth be told, the small space isn't quite as bad as I thought it would be. With that said, I still terribly miss having a house of our own where we can put our own style into it, and of course the space. In our Utah home we have a beautiful 50 foot Catalpa tree in the front yard that hold's Tate's swing, and I still miss that every day.
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
Does anyone answer no to this question? Yes, so much! My first love really is being a mom, but designing is a close second. Since we're not in a place we can really decorate I'm doing lots of online dream designing. Olio Board is my newest obsession, and I've got my whole Utah home re-designed on there! My favorite part about pregnancy with Tate was being able to design her nursery. When she came unexpectedly a month early I was in tears about her room not being finished. I think my exact quote to my husband was, "but her room is not magical yet".
Here in Dominica it's the little things that make it feel like home. Tate's watercolors taped on the wall, our wooden doll family, a silhouette of Tate, and of course photos.
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
I have a list of blogs that I check daily and they always seem to inspire. I love Decor 8, Caitlin Wilson's Style Files, and La Dolce Vita. I'm a new convert to the online magazine, thanks to Lonny. But I still love to buy Elle Decor and House Beautiful every month. I also get a lot of inspiration from my family. Both my mom and mother in law have fabulous taste and wonderful homes. It's really fun to come back from Dominica and stay with them because they've always added something new, or changed things around.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
Tate has really become a lover of books down here, so she's usually found on our bed going through her collection on the shelf above. Like every child, she also loves the walls and doors where we hang her art. One of my favorite things about living down here is how she's learned to appreciate the simple things. Besides story telling, her books have also served as forts, trails for walking, babies… what ever she needs them to be, really!
What places in your new neighborhood do you like to go to for shopping?
In Dominica there really isn't anywhere to shop just for fun. No charming streets lined in boutiques or anything like that. Boo. The only shopping anyone here does is for food. About a five minute walk from our place, just outside the school's campus, is a place called "the shacks". It is what it says, a row of wooden shacks lining an alley, all selling local delicacies. You can find things such as mango, canips, passion fruit, chicken lentil wraps, fresh squeezed papaya juice, crepes, and plantains. There is also a local market every Saturday morning down on the waterfront. When you hear the fisherman blow his conch shell you know fresh fish, maybe red snapper or tuna, has just arrived. You buy it whole, right off the boat, and carry it home. When we feel like something more American I head next door, to a place called Rituals. Essentially a Starbucks, only not quite as nice.
What's it like to raise a child in your town?
As far as just raising a child, I have actually loved it. Learning to love and appreciate the simple life is something that would have been hard to teach her in America. I love that she is content just staying home on rainy days reading, painting, or baking. If it's rainy, and it is a lot here, you can guarantee we're doing one of those activities, and it's made our family really close. She's also learned about the wonders of the outdoors, and loves nothing more than going on hikes. I think it's great. I'd be lying though if I said I don't miss having a car, a children's museum, a public library, and some errands to run though. I'm still learning the lesson of appreciating the simple life:)
Who do you consider is a good example for your children?
My husband, as cheesy as that sounds. He's just one of those calm, cool, and collected types of people and has an endless amount of love and patience that is so wonderful for children to see. I would feel successful if she ended up just like him. Just good to the core.
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
A day spent with Wyatt at the beach. We'd pack a lunch, catch a transport, and hike down to somewhere secluded. Tate and Wyatt pretend they are airplanes and fly up and down the beach, we all run from waves, and collect seashells. We stay until we're sun drenched, and then go home to take a late afternoon nap. Completely dreamy.
Can you tell us a funny story, quote or remark one of your children recently made or happened?
When we visit our family in Utah we usually borrow my dad's old car to drive. Last time we drove it Tate was wondering why it shakes so bad when we stop at a red light, and then answered her own question with…
"Probably Debi (my mom) took the wrapper off, so then they had to buy it broken"
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
I think more than anything you can never love too much. I try to keep that idea close in mind. I'm always willing to spoil Tate with my time and affection, and I hope I always will, unconditionally. I believe children just want you. I never want any of my children to feel like they need to compete with anything for my love or attention.
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
Right now Tate is into paper crafts. Painting, cutting, and paperdolls are keeping her happy. I didn't bring any paperdolls down here, so I've just made some for her. She's very into "cool" clothes, which means they have to be striped or plaid, and have no girly details. So I cut out the clothes and she makes them "cool", and then glues them where she thinks they belong on the paper doll. It's so simple, but fun! We both love all forms of painting too, her favorite is mixing all the colors and painting with her fingers.
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
I've always had an appreciation for crafts, but am loving doing them even more since having Tate. I also never would have guessed I would start up my own small business, one that involved sewing especially. But now, I can't imagine not doing something creative/crafty with my spare time. It's such a fun way to make a little extra money.
What do you do with all the projects your children made at home or in school?
I have a hard time throwing away anything Tate makes, so I just hang them up around the house. We have them collage style covering a door, strung from a clothesline, and taped up above my workspace. Her stuff is really the only form of art we have on our walls down here.
Any nice decoration ideas how to hang them, keep them or use them as presents?
I have some neat watercolors and canvas's that Tate has painted that I plan to frame and hang around our house. I like the idea of an unexpected, silly piece of art hung in a family room or kitchen. A good way to use some of the hundreds of colored pictures is to use them as wrapping paper for grandparents or friends presents.
What are favorite games in your home?
Definitely dancing and making home videos. Lately it seems we do that almost every night. That's something Tate especially loves to do with Wyatt, so I just laugh and hit record.
What are all time favorite books for the children?
My two favorite baby books are Counting with Wayne Thiebaud, and Bear and Kite. They are both very simple, with such beautiful illustrations. I think we now own all of the Mo Willems Pigeon books and they make us all laugh.
What are nice activities you can do with children in your place and what could you recommend when people are visiting?
If anyone is planning on or wants to visit Dominica plan to be outdoors. There are several beautiful secluded beaches to spend the day on, along with endless hikes to waterfalls, hot springs, and cliff jumping. Tate's favorite thing is probably hiking to waterfalls, where as I will never say no to a day at Batibou Bay beach. It's nicknamed the Nature Isle, so if you're not a nature lover, it probably isn't the place for you.
What movies do your children like to watch, is there one from your childhood you would love to show them too?
I always just assumed Tate would be most interested in princess movies, but she's actually not at all. She's a tomboy, and her all time favorite show is Tom & Jerry. When I tell her she is funny, she usually says "no, Tom & Jerry are funny". I can't wait to show her Annie and Adventures in Babysitting!
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food’ lover or both?
Food lover all the way. That is what my husband and I like to spend any extra money on. We both love to eat out, and really appreciate good food. The cooking thing is a work in progress:) When we were first married I loathed cooking, but now I'm starting to get more into it, and I think maybe in 10 years I might actually enjoy it. I do think it's really important for families to eat together though, so despite my insecurities in the kitchen I still try to cook every weekday night.
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with and or without the children?
When we lived in the United States we loved taking Tate to California, usually staying somewhere along the southern coast- my favorite is Laguna Beach. It's a great summer vacation spot. Sun Valley, Idaho is another family favorite. It's such a laid back relaxing place to hike, horse back ride, bike ride, and hang at the pool. From Dominica it's a cheap, one hour flight to a lot of wonderful neighboring islands. In May we headed over to Barbados and had such a great family vacation! It's a spot we for sure want to visit again with just the two of us. I'm sad to admit Wyatt and I have yet to take a trip without Tate since she's been born, but we plan on celebrating his graduation with a trip to Europe, no kids of course.
Do you keep some sort of travel journal with the children?
No, but that's a really good idea. I may have to start one.
How do you prepare for a trip, any useful tips?
Overpacking is my secret, much to my husbands chagrin. I don't mind checking an extra suitcase, or lugging a heavy one around for a bit if it means I'll have options and backups just in case. Most times I'm more grateful than not for the plethora of stuff I bring along:)
Tips for traveling with a plane or a long-time trip on the road with children?
We travel a lot with Tate since living in Dominica. Tate and I will usually come back to the US and spend a month or so until Wyatt can come back and meet us for his break. Traveling with your child on a 2 day flight is challenging, and although I've done it 6 times now to and from Utah- Dominica, it still makes me nervous. I couldn't make it without her DVD player & noise reducing headphones. I learned the hard way that if you don't get noise reducing, the plane is too loud and they won't be able to hear the movie. Also, I have Tate sleep with them on too, to drown out all the noise and it works great! This last flight I brought tiny tubs of playdough and my flip video camera and that kept her happy for over an hour! She'll play with anything for a long time if we can make a movie out of it. Of course, select seats near the bathroom too.