Sunday, November 21, 2010

Really, A Cell Phone for a Seven-Year Old

Yes, I know, never in a million years did I ever think I would be considering allowing my seven-year old to have a cell phone. But, here's the deal. . .

First, in our compound there are two houses he goes to a lot, one moderately, and three every once-in-awhile. If one friend isn't home, T goes to check in with another friend. I make him come home to tell me whenever he is switching venues, but when T does this it causes a big brouhaha with his little brother, K. You see, K wants to follow T every moment of every day and when T goes to a friend’s house, it’s as if the world has ended for K. So, to see T come and go again is a huge disaster in the making.

Second, we have two very simple, old cell phones from when we were stationed in Portugal, so the phones are older than T. We just need to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card, and voila T has a cell phone ready to use. If he loses one, likely, then there is cell phone number two. If he loses that one, then it’s over and he clearly is not old enough. Now, we are buying a SIM card for one of the old Portuguese phones so my in-laws have a phone to use for their visit. So, when they leave, we will have a working phone, with a SIM card ready to go.

I’m thinking this means that T will get a cell phone after his Uncle and Grandparents' visit is over. I know, a seven-year old with a cell phone seems a little much. But, let me rationalize just a little bit more, he will ONLY be allowed to use it on our compound to call his Dad or me or for us to call him. Though I can hardly believe it myself, yes, we are really considering giving our seven-year old a cell phone. It must be something they put in the water or maybe I'm just tired hearing K cry every time his brother checks in.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Our Way to School

So every time I drive K to his new school, we pass a couple things that I keep thinking I just have to share with everyone on our blog.

1. On our compound, they are building another building that will house four very small apartments. We've been watching the construction from day one. Here's the first thing we noticed, they use cinder blocks in the building of the walls of the house. Not so shocking. But then, get this; they line the outside of the blocks with Styrofoam. Yes, you read that correctly, the houses are insulated (and only on outside walls) with Styrofoam. Now, I don't know, maybe this is SOP in the building industry, but I've never seen it before. Back home, houses were always insulated with that pink panther furry insulation stuff (yeah, I don't know its real name, but you know what I'm talking about). So, now after the Styrofoam sheets have been glued on to the cinder blocks, they are spackling on a thin layer of cement. We will see what happens next. . .

2. Every day on the road, we go around this very sharp curve and see a bunch of tires scattered on the side of the road. There was a big puddle on the road next to these tires. It didn’t even occur to me why that might be the case. Well, there is a HUGE hole in the road. And, yes, I found out the hard way. Luckily my tire was not destroyed. But, apparently others weren’t so fortunate. I guess when it’s dry; I just instinctively go around it without paying much notice. Believe me, I will take more notice of such things in the future.

And that's our daily journey to school.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Embarrassing Moment

We've been told that it is ok to use credit cards at the bigger chain grocery stores. So, for the last two weeks, I've done this without problem at two different stores and I never needed my PIN. However, today I went to a different grocery store (the one closest to my house of course) and, guess what, they needed my PIN. Only, I don't know my PIN, I've NEVER needed it - not here, not there, not anywhere, I do not like green eggs and PINs. So, there I was standing in line with all my groceries and no way to pay for everything. The cashier was kind enough about it, but told me you ALWAYS need your pin at our store!!! I tried calling hubby on his cell phone, but no answer. Thinking this meant perhaps he was in his office, I tried that, but again no answer. Why is it you can never get ahold of your husband when you need to the most? Because, in my case, my husband is always in a DAMN meeting, but I digress. . .Luckily, the cashier was able to back out about $20 worth of stuff so that I could pay with the cash I had on hand, but oh my goodness was I embarrassed. Ok, so I promise I will memorize my PINs or only go to the two stores I know don't ask for them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mommy, are you a princess?

Dressed in my lilac gown (thanks Julie for having such great taste), wearing my new heels and my amethyst necklace, I descended the stairs of our home to my three year old asking me if I was a princess? I have to say there is absolutely nothing to make you feel more beautiful. Or feel really bad, when he tries to hug you with pizza hands and you tell him "don't touch Mommy baby." Well, off to the Marine Ball we go.

Our chariot of choice to the ball was a taxi, which we shared with our neighbors who were also going. In the weirdest of coincidences, they arrived in Islamabad, which was our first tour overseas, at the same time we were leaving I'bad. We never met till here, but know some of the same folks. It's such a small world. Glad we finally did get to meet-up at the same time and place.

We celebrated the 235th Birthday of the Marines. Gosh, the Marines all look so young. Nothing to confirm this more than when they announced the birth year of the youngest Marine, which was the same year I graduated high school. There was an open bar and a lot of dancing. We had a lot of fun, but paid for it just a little bit the next day.

Of course, today, my three year old asked me if Sophie (our dog) was a princess. At least he had the good sense to not ask this at the same time he asked me if I was a princess the night before.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If The Shoe Fits

You can call me a chicken if you like - if the shoe fits afterall. Yes, it's true, I bought a pair of 4" stilletos for the Marine Ball. Well, I decided to not wear them afterall. I ordered them from Amazon.Com and really they just weren't what I was expecting in terms of going with my ball gown. In addition to a lot of height on a heel as thin as a chopstick, they are patent leather and have a VERY pointy toe. I swear I could wear them for a Wicked Witch of the West Costume on Halloween. Still, they will go with a few things. I did wear them once to an event at the Ambassador's house, which (unbeknownst to me) turned out to be a garden party. As you can imagine, the Ambassador's lawn was well aerated by the end of the evening. So, maybe, just maybe, I'm not a complete chicken.

So, what will I wear instead. I just found the cutest 3.5" heel (slightly wider heel in back, paded on the ball of the foot on front) at the mall here in Sofia. I think they are cute and comfortable (at least more comfortable than the stilletos). So, go ahead, bach-bach-bach, I'm ready for it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just Another Thought From a Not-So-Desperate Housewife

Warning: Going to get up on my soapbox here. . .

Dear Political Elitists* of both parties;

Your view is the right view for you, but you must realize that everyone feels that their view is the correct one. And, as difficult as it would be to persuade you away from your long held beliefs, understand it is equally as hard to persuade others from their beliefs.

Please remember that we are all human beings trying to make our way in the world for ourselves and our families and trying to live the American dream in the best way we know how. Most, regardless of political affiliation, recognize the importance that all people have the opportunity to live to their fullest potential and to ensure that we leave this world, at the least, a bit better than we found it. Ultimately, I do believe we have similar goals; just not always the same ideas about how to get there.

Though I may only have a BS degree from a public university, I do understand that the culmination of my life experiences has made me who I am and believe as I do. I also understand, though your education level may be more or less than my own, the same holds true for you, for everyone. As such, I pledge to keep these filters in mind in order to have an open discourse about the issues, the ultimate goals to be reached and the best way to get there. I will not vote for an issue or a candidate because anyone tells me to, whether it be friends, family, educators, colleagues, a political party, a politician, a tv personality or a movie star. However, I will listen and try to understand the ideas of others whom I feel are truly willing (not just paying lip service) to do the same for me. Of course, this is just my view of how to reach goals together. But, in this case, you'll have a hard time persuading me that it should be any different.

*According to Urban Dictionary a Political Elitist is a person, regardless of party affiliation, who thinks that they are better than another person, simply because of their alignment with a particular political party/cause/opinion/etc., and as such, exhibits anger and/or animosity towards another person because they have a different view/opinion. (definition can be found at

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!

I just did the most STUPID thing! If you've seen a picture of our home, it looks like a mansion. In reality, it is anything but. The "house" is actually split-up into four units. Underneath is a garage, with each unit having its own garage space. There is a garage door for the entire "house," but no garage door for each individual unit.

It is a windy, rainy, yucky day today. GSO (aka our Embassy fix-it guys) were here installing shelves for us in our garage space. I had to move my car out of the way to the empty unit's space across from us, so GSO could have room to work. When they left, I closed the big garage door behind them, then turned on my car to move it (K was with me too). I didn't realize how stupid this was until we got out of the car and smelled exhaust with no way to escape. I, of course, opened up the big door to air it out right away. But, I MUST remember to open up that big door before starting the car.

As I finished writing this, I see sun and a calmer (still not calm, but calmer) day!!! This is a fantastic thing because the wind and rain knocked down our basketball hoop, threw the sandox lid and many ride-on toys around the yard and beyond our yard too. Time to go set things straight now that the wind won't blow me away along with all those toys.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween over before it began

We celebrated our Halloween early here in Sofia and boy did we celebrate.

T was sick on Thursday and still a bit Friday morning, so missed school for two days. But, wouldn't you know it, his fever was gone and he was feeling so much better by Friday evening - just in time for the Embassy Halloween party. My boys dressed as clones (big surprise). T was dressed as Commander Cody and K went as Captain Rex. Each office in the Embassy basement decorated their doors and handed out candy. On the main floor, there were treats and a haunted house. K was spooked by a few of the adults in costume; he kept staring in astonishment at the big scary wolf. T and his friends kept going to the Haunted House (3 or 4 times I understand). K went once with me and then tried to follow in T, but came out crying for his Mommy because he was too scared without me with him!

The next day was the Halloween party at T's school. What an event. Cars in the parking lot decorated their trunks and so the kids went Trick-or-Trunking. There were Halloween stories, pizza, treats and games too. In addition to selling juice and soda for the event, as typical for our new school, beer was on sale as well - that still always surprises me. One parent came dressed as a pumpkin man with a pitchfork. I don't know how he could stand it, but he put a big carved pumpkin on his head and walked around that way for the whole night. Boy was K staring at him trying to figure that one out!

Our last event was at home. We have 9 families currently living on our compound. So, in talking with the other American Mom in compound (who happens to be the owner) we thought it would be fun to trick-or-treat on compound. This actually came about on one of our morning walks. She told me that T had invited them to our house for a Halloween party. I was completely surprised, as we had no such plans. We talked and decided with the Embassy and school events that a party at the house would be overkill. So, the other Mom said she had the e-mails for the other families on compound and we could arrange trick-or-treating for everyone instead. Great idea!!!!

Today is really Halloween, but we are so done!!! In the last two days the boys had 3 different events and came home with the MOTHER LOAD of candy. I don't know how we are going to get rid of it all. When we left Virginia, I had a big bowl of left over candy from all the parties and Halloweens that we had to give away before we moved (of course, all the chocolates had been eaten first). Now, we begin again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Learning our colors

So, we've been trying to teach K his colors and he does know the difference between his colors, only not the correct names. So, here is the K translation:

Cookie Monster = blue
Elmo = red
apple = green
banana = yellow
orange = orange (this is where it all began)

He is, at least, consistent with his interpretation. Now to just get him to insert the correct names.

Now to prove that we are not totally slacking with our child, he can count to 5. And, if you ask him to help set the table. He counts and brings 4 spoons all by himself.

Given the above, I am happy to say that K will be starting real preschool soon. We've been on the waiting list since December 2009 and a spot just opened up for him. Yay!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thank Goodness for Babelfish

So, yes, ok, we have a housekeeper. I pay about $80/week to have her come 12 hours/week and it's great, mostly. You see for the last few weeks we've been sick A LOT and so I started worrying that this coincided with Tamara's start date with us. Now Tamara is a Russian living in Bulgaria for many years. We share absolutely no common language. So, expressing my concerns is difficult. But, then I remembered Babelfish on Yahoo. It does not offer translation from English to Bulgarian, but it does offer translation from English to Russian.

So, in English, among other things, I wrote:

Be sure that the cleaning rag you use to clean toilets is NEVER used on anything else and put all cleaning rags in the dirty laundry at the end of the day.

Now, I'm not saying she was doing that for sure. But, I really do wonder. And, instead of only one cleaning rag in the dirty laundry at the end of her day, I now see two. So. . . .

Friday, October 15, 2010

Potty Training Woes

Potty training T was so surprisingly easy that I decided I would use the same method for K. With T, we never pressured. We put kid potties in all the bathrooms and encouraged him to use the potty before bath time and always told him how proud we were of him when he went potty. The first time he went to the potty on his own initiative, Thomas the Tank Engine (aka Daddy at work) called him to say how proud he was of him too. At that time, S had a private office with a door that closed, so it was easy for him to make that call. And, to this day, T remembers that special call from Thomas! Even better, two weeks after that Thomas call, T came home from preschool and said, “Mommy, throw away all my diapers.” He never used another diaper again, not even at night. He was ready and he knew he was ready.

I was so hoping that K would come to that point as well. Well, K has not yet gone potty without me directing him to try. We've gone through a lot of laundry and failed attempts, but trying to keep it positive and not pushy, always telling him how proud I am of him when he does go potty! Still, I’m anxiously hoping that he soon will try on his own initiative so Star Wars Clone, Capt. Rex (aka Daddy) can call and tell him how proud he is of him. And, hoping that the Capt. Rex call will have as much of an effect on K as the Thomas call had on T.

Of course, now Daddy’s office does not have a private door, so everyone will hear him on the phone with K. S is a bit worried about that. I told him he can take his cell phone to some isolated corner outside to call K if he's that worried. However, so many in his office also have little ones, so I really think they would totally get it. I’ll let you know how that goes when we finally do get there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Craving Chinese Food!

First and foremost, before discussing our latest (and admittedly trivial) dining discovery, I would just like to say what an absolutely wonderful miracle it is to see the progress of the rescue of the Chilean miners. I cannot even imagine being trapped under the ground or having a family trapped like that. I have never heard of a case where miners have been rescued after such a very long time and yet, miracle of miracles, it is happening. Thank G-d!!!!!!!!!!! All our thoughts and prayers to the miners and their family members!!!!

So, now our more boring, less miraculous day-to-day stuff ...

The other night the neighbor kids were over and their Dad came to visit with S. In addition to being the parents of T’s best friend in our compound, the Dad is actually one of S’s contacts. As they are Bulgarian, we asked if they knew of a good Chinese food restaurant in town, as we've been craving it for weeks. Of course, our neighbor went home and told his wife our plan and she, like me, decided that Chinese food sounded so much better than staying home to cook. So the two families made their way to town for Chinese. The original restaurant suggested no longer existed, so thank goodness they were with us. We followed them onward to another in town. We went to the upstairs portion of the restaurant and there were tons of fish tanks by some open tables, but they absolutely would NOT let us sit there. They put us at a round table on the other side of the restaurant. I was really starting to worry that perhaps this was the one non kid-friendly restaurant in the city. Soon the restaurant had a few other families present too, so thank goodness! The food was pretty good, don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I do have it programmed into Richard for future reference. To the dismay of the wait staff, the kids kept getting up to see the fish tanks. Luckily our table was not the only one with this situation. All in all, it was a lovely evening. Maybe next time, they will put us by those fish tanks though!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Skate The Snake

This is a story about our T and his friend Skate the Snake. Skate was the imaginary friend created by T when we lived in East Timor. T was 2 ½ years old when Skate first appeared in our lives. It’s kind of a funny story how T met Skate. You see, in Dili (just like in Rio) there is a huge statue of Jesus atop a hill (called Cristo Rei). So, on nice days, we liked to walk to the top of the Cristo Rei hill. According to T, he met Skate on one of those walks. Why I found this so funny is that my little Jewish son met a serpent on his way walking up to Jesus. The imagery of it all is too much, anyway. . .

The thing with Skate is that I do believe he was really needed by T at the time. At first Skate was just a friend who would play with him and help him “fix.” T loved to fix things, especially pretend AC units. Then the evacuation occurred when T was almost 3 years old. T and I stayed back home in the US for 3 months, while his Dad had to be in Timor. I started hearing more and more about Skate during this time. But, it was when we returned from evacuation that Skate really came into his own.

We were allowed to return to Timor after 3 months apart from S, however events in Timor were not always calm. We always received texts to stay home when chaos started. But, there were rock fights, rocks and poison darts being thrown at people and their cars, and most terribly, Timorese “houses” being burnt to the ground by rival gangs. Seriously, Timor was the only time in this career that we actually put an American Flag on our car so as to not be targeted.

There was a lot of discussion about events by everyone and, unfortunately, sometimes kids heard things parents did not want them to hear. One day, T heard a teacher’s assistant talk about her house being burnt down. Suddenly, Skate had to move into a secret house, under our house. Apparently, Skate's house had been burnt down by bad guys and T wanted our guards to keep Skate and his family safe. It was a rough time. We loved Timor for its beauty, the WONDERFUL friends we made, the awesome SCUBA diving and we still miss so much about it. But, definitely, for a short time, there were some real negatives and T picked-up on them. Things did calm down, I became pregnant with K and then suddenly Skate’s Mom was pregnant too. Clearly, Skate was something positive for T. When we moved to America, after Timor, Skate became less and less mentioned. I don’t hear about him anymore. But, if I ask T about him, he does remember him fondly.

K is for. . .

K is my youngest son and this post is all about him. He's not been so happy with the "going to school" situation. He wants more than anything to go with his big brother. As much as K is attached to and wants to be with Mommy, big brother TRUMPS ALL. Unfortunately, hubby's job will not pay for K's school until he is in kindergarten. And, big brother's school wants 665 Euros/month (about $920/month) for K to attend half-day preschool. So, unless they are guaranteeing him a life time of happiness and success (including guaranteed admission to Harvard), I am not paying over $900/month for 1/2 day preschool!!!! For goodness sakes, that doesn't even include lunch!!!! And, sorry my European friends, but yes I do hope your euro tanks against the dollar and soon. I can dream, can't I? But, I digress . . .

We decided to try something new for K. He now goes to an activity center. He is so attached to Mommy that the idea of going to school, even for a short time, is devastating to him. His friends absolutely love it and I'm hoping with a few more times he will feel the same.

Lately, at home, K has taken to crawling around like a dog and barking. We think it's pretty cute, though not sure our dogs agree. He only does it at home. He also loves to do a lot of imaginative play with his stuffed animals. So, his imagination is really active these days! The other stranger thing going on is that he tells on his brother or the dogs for things they did NOT do. The other day he turned to Sophie (one of our dogs) and said, "Sophie, na ah, I am NOT a monster." He said it as if she really just spoke to him. Perhaps calling K "our little Cookie Monster" is not such a good idea afterall. But, he loves cookies and Cookie Monster, so. . .Or he'll tell me that Sophie just told him this or that. Now, if she starts telling him things like "give me meat" or "take me to my boyfriend Ruskie" then perhaps I will start wondering more about Sophie. But, until then, I believe this is K's imagination. Of course, K is also saying things like his brother just pushed him when brother is nowhere around, so I'm not sure what is going on with all of this. I do remember his big brother, at this same age, having an imaginary friend (Skate the Snake). K doesn't have an imaginary friend, but certainly seems to be using his imagination.

So, someday K, when you read all of Mom's postings about you and your brother I hope you won't hate me for sharing these things. But, it's kind of cute. And your kids (someday far far far in the future) are going to get such a laugh from it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's Hockey Time

We did not know exactly what to expect when we came here in regards to hockey (actually in regards to most things). The season started a few weeks ago and boy are they serious about it. Even the young kids are "encouraged" to attend 4 days/week (two after school days, Saturday and Sunday). We just cannot do that, but T goes on the weekends for sure and then tries to go one day/week if his Dad gets home in time to take him. It's a big commitment, but he seems to love it still. His team is entirely Bulgarian. Most kids don't speak English very well and T is just starting to learn Bulgarian. Luckily, Coach does speak English! T is doing very well. They end practice with a 3 on 3 scrimmage each time. Last scrimmage T made 4 of the 5 goals for his team. He's made one friend, who doesn't speak any English, but T says they figure out how to communicate with each other. Very proud of him for just jumping in and making it work.

The other day, our neighbors were asking about hockey. They are Bulgarian, live in our compound, and have spent many years overseas. In fact, both their kids were born in Brazil (not a lot of ice hockey in Brazil I imagine?). Their son is the same age as T and is one of his best friends. Surprise, surprise he's interested too. We so hope that interest stays as it would be wonderful for T and for us (I can envision carpool arrangements right now).

Now, of course, K wants to play too. He cannot start until he is four years old. But, K can already ice skate, has his own pair of skates, and is pretty steady on his feet for a 3-year old. Oh, is this really going to take over our lives? I can just see it now, not only will our bids be based on school quality, but on whether or not ice hockey is available in country (oh wait, those were already the considerations for bidding on Bulgaria). S and I barely even skate. How did this even happen? Well, we wanted our boys to find something they love and be involved in a team sport. They just picked one of the more dangerous and expensive ones, should I really be surprised? Oh well, at least there is no checking yet!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Just another day in Bulgaria. . .

So, after having this blog for awhile now, I've decided to take off some restrictions. Since inception, I've had it set-up so that search engines couldn't find it. Basically, the only way to know about it was if someone told you about it specifically. I'm loosening the reigns a little for now. Though I go back and forth on this. We will see. . .

Yes, I have some breaks between postings. Day-to-day life seems rather mundane when put down in writing. I figure who wants to read about our mundane happenings. But, for a few of you who are interested in what our day-to-day life is like, here we go. . .

Co-curriculars have been assigned. This is our first experience with co-curriculars and we are very excited. They are essentially after school extra-curricular activities, but required for all. And, thank goodness, T was able to get into Karate. He wanted it so much and I was so afraid every other kid would want it too. His other co-curriculars are "Fun with Dough" and "Fun with Music." He's very happy with all of his choices. I wish they had "Fun with Dough" for K at school. I have to say "Fun with Dough" is almost as bad as "Fun with Moonsand" when I'm the one who has to clean it up. Always nice if the boys get their desire to play with such things fulfilled at school.

So, yes, I now do have someone coming to the house 3 mornings/week to help out. With two dogs, two active boys and their friends, I need all the help I can get. The house looks so wonderful when Tamara is done. But, within an hour of the boys both being home, it's a friggin pigpen again. At least it's a disinfected pigpen. I have to figure out how to get my three year old to take out only one toy at-a-time and put toys away!!!! What a messy monkey. BTW, if anyone knows of a garbage can that can stay accessible to little kids, but not to garbage-hound dogs, we would love to hear about it.

Now for K, that messy three year old, I’ve decided to reduce his days/week for nursery to only 2 mornings/week, instead of 3. Also, we are switching his days so he can be part of their once/week music program. And, I will take him to another activity center for a more structured program once/week. I think he and I will be much happier with this arrangement.

Now, that I've finally figured out K's schedule, I can finally sign-up for language lessons. And, boy do I need them!!!! I'm tired of guessing about exactly what it is I am buying, ordering, reading - it's not always easy to tell. And, it would probably be good to read exactly what the road signs are telling me!!!! Something like "bridge out" might be good to know!

So, now that S has a Blackberry for work, we get to see him so much more. He usually comes home at a decent hour, in time for dinner with us. But, it also means he is on the damn Blackberry day and night. With the Department being seven hours behind us, he's getting messages all the time. Still, glad to have him home more! And, at least, when he is waiting the two hours for T to finish with hockey practice, he can do some work.

S has two work trips coming up. The first trip is to Prague. The other trip is to Budapest. Oh, how I wish we could go. But, I just cannot take T out of school so soon, so often. At the end of October, T has a week break from school. Damn the government for not coordinating their end-of-fiscal-year "better spend the money NOW" conferences with T's school schedule.

And, that's the mundane day-to-day scoop from Bulgaria.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Honeymoon is Over

I just got run off the road by a big white truck. Luckily, the baby and I were not hurt. I was driving up the mountain road to our house, as a truck was driving down. I had no place to pull off to allow him to pass. So, I slowed as best I could and TRIED to pull off as best I could, hitting a cement pillar/marker in the process. Better to hit the cement marker than to hit a truck head-on, right? It completely destroyed my front passenger side tire. The truck kept barrelling on. I tried to get home as best I could, but it sounded really bad. So, I found a place to pull-off up the road. I called the Embassy and they sent our mobile patrol guys to help me out. Thank goodness for mobile patrol. They changed my tire and got me home.

Yes, every tour we experience a "honeymoon period" where everything is new, exciting, interesting, fascinating and charming. I think when I am in a place for a short time, I tend to see the surface of life, but not until I get settled into life there do I really start scratching beneath that surface. And, then something happens, like a truck running me off the road, that's more a gash than a scratch. Now, I just need to remember that it is the surface, the gash and everything in between that are the true representation of the place, not any of them in isolation. When I reach that conclusion naturally, that's when I know I'm truly settled.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Point of Rosh Hashanah is to not make your friends vomit!

Last night we went to my husband's boss's house for Rosh Hashanah dinner. She took the day off to prepare and I helped. Hubby was in charge of the office in her absence. Normally our youngest son (YS) goes to Embassy care for only a 1/2 day a few days/week. But, today he stayed for the full day, so I could be free to help prepare the dinner. Dinner was to be at 6 PM. Only, hubby had to stay late, which meant that YS had to hang out with him at the office after Embassy care closed. When I asked YS what he did at daddy's office, he replied, "I had a meeting with Daddy and Ms. Sue." Ms. Sue is actually Susan (our Deputy Chief of Mission). Luckily, for us, she was very understanding about the atypical situation at hand. So, hubby and YS arrived at 7 PM for dinner. Still, it was a nice dinner, if not a little late.

Today, we drove to the beautiful old Synagogue here in Sofia for services (most importantly to the boys, to see the shofar blown). We were just about there, when oldest son (OS) vomited all over himself and the car. We made an immediate u-turn and headed home instead. I know it’s a day of "no work," but there was no way I could let vomit sit in the car. I gave hubby the choice, watch the boys or clean the vomit. You can guess which one he chose. So, I spent the next several hours cleaning, cleaning, and cleaning! OS vomited again at home, luckily in the toilet, and then spent the next several hours sleeping. When he awoke, he was still sluggish and tired.

OS asked to watch a movie. I wanted to share one of my all-time favorites with him. So, we watched The Princess Bride together. He loved it as I knew he would. After the movie, he heard kids outside playing and insisted he felt better. I told him, "no, you cannot go out and play." Oh my goodness, you would think the world was about to end. So, we had a long talk about Rosh Hashanah. We discussed how important it is to look at yourself, your choices and what you can do to think about and help others. If he went out to play, he could very well get his friends sick and that wouldn't be a very good thing to do. So, yes, the point of Rosh Hashanah is to not make your friends vomit. And there you have it. He still wasn’t happy about it, but at least he seemed to get that small part of it. We are still working on him to give up some of his toys to take to the orphanage. That is a work in progress. . .

And with that, we will wish all of our Jewish friends and family a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! Shana Tova Umetukah!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where to begin?

Well, our sea freight arrived, almost all of it anyway. We had a few damaged items and a few missing items. Our biggest loss was an 11x13 Persian carpet we bought while stationed in Pakistan over 10 years ago. Of course, the boys think the most devastating loss was the missing power cord to the Wii. Talk about disappointment.

So, now all the boxes have been unpacked. But, this is a point of contention in our home. My preference would've been to unpack one room at a time, organizing that room before moving on. My husband, however, insisted that all boxes be unpacked in their appropriate rooms and then items put wherever they will fit for the time being until we have time to better organize. So, I did it my way and he did it his way. We now have our main floor pretty much put away and organized (this is the floor I worked on). All boxes on all floors have been emptied. But, the upstairs and basement are chaos. When I open closets or drawers I feel overwhelmed at the complete lack of meaning, pattern, or place to things. But, I will admit it is nice to have no boxes taking up space and it is also nice to see exactly what it is I need to organize. So much still to be done!

So, one thing that did arrive in decent shape was our Red Crab Sandbox. Only finding play sand is not easy. After hearing all this stuff about silica from quartz based sand, too much dust for little ones to breathe in safely, etc . . . . I started to worry about what we could do. All we were seeing in the stores was cement. And, geese, do they use a lot of cement. Then we saw some pretty colored sand-like substance. But, it turned out to be grout. Hmmm, no, don't really want my kids playing in cement or grout. We couldn't find any type of sand at all. Then, we happened upon a garden nursery with a bunch of sand. It didn't seem dusty at all. We asked where they got it from. Apparently they dug it up from the walls of a cavern on the river. So, it may not be the most ecologically friendly sand, but it appears to be all that is available. And, after searching all day for sand, we are willing to give it a try.

The other thing that arrived was our charcoal grill and chimney. Now, we've been gas grill fans for some time. It's so much easier than charcoal. But, we thought converting our American gas grill to European standard would be too dangerous and European gas grills are 2 - 3 times as much for the same product. So, we decided to go back to charcoal. And, thanks to Alton Brown, I think we have a winner. Back home, we just loved to watch Alton on the Food Channel. My oldest loves to watch cooking shows with me. We have learned so much from Alton too. This, by far, has to be the best tip ever. A chimney starter to light the grill means it lights fast, reliably and without the use of lighter fluid. Oh, and the tip about a drizzle of vegetable oil on the newspaper was fantastic! We tried it for the first time tonight and OMG what a difference. Charcoal is not so hard after all. Alton, we love and miss you very much. When are you going to start putting your full episodes on Hulu????

And with that last ode to Alton, I will say goodnight to all.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

6 Weeks In

Ok, so it’s been awhile since my last posting, so sorry for the few of you out there who actually read this thing. . .We've been here almost 6 weeks now and here's what we've been up to. . .

We took the boys on a hike up Vitosha Mountain - just from the top of the Gondola ride to close to the top of the "walking trail," more like climbing trail in spots. Yes, it was a little more challenging than we expected. Lessons learned: do not take a 3-year old on that hike! Don't wear your Trim Step shoes for such a hike. And, for goodness sakes, don't let the kids wear Crocs when hiking!

My 2nd grader had his first week of school last week and I have never seen so many parent orientation meetings as I have at his new school. I will say, so far from what we've seen, it seems like a good program in a good facility with a good teacher. They even had a welcome back barbeque. The school provided all the food, live music and free drinks (including beer). I guess if you charge university level tuition, you can afford to give free beer to all the suckers (I mean parents).

We are now on our second week and homework has started - about 20 minutes/day of written work and 20 minutes/day of reading. The school even has a website, with each teacher having their own page. Whenever Tak has a new assignment, I go to his class webpage and get all the information about what they are working on and what they are expecting from the kids. It also includes a month-by-month overview of the lesson plans for the year. It is awesome!!!!

Our preschooler started going to the Embassy preschool/daycare a few mornings/week. So, I now have a little bit of time to do shopping, errands, exercise, etc . . . . Some mornings he's happily on his way and other mornings, he cries "I stay home with Mamma." It just breaks my heart, but he seems to have such fun at school and is always happy when I pick him up. He needs the time with kids his own age and I need the time to myself every now and again, especially for exercising (though here I am finally catching up on this blog).

Speaking of exercise, my neighbor showed me some walking trails that are really walking trails, as opposed to climbing trails. And, we've been walking about 3 times/week. Though the weather is turning cold, so I don't know how much longer that will last. At some point, I need to start doing gym workouts again and HOPEFULLY find a pool where I can do some laps. I miss swimming!!!!

And, in our biggest news, all of our stuff arrives tomorrow. We are getting the house ready to TRY to fit everything. And, of course, I need to be putting the "Welcome Kit" back together to return to the Embassy. The Welcome Kit is a crate of basic necessities that we borrow until all our stuff arrives. But, seeing as we have 6,000 lbs of stuff arriving, I need to get everything that doesn't belong out of here ASAP. And, with that, I should go and finally get this thing posted. Hopefully, after all of our stuff is unpacked, I will be better about the blog. Keep in touch everyone.

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's Always The Little Things That Get Ya!

So, we have this spot in our yard where you plug in a garden hose. Only, it's not a spicket, but rather a hole in the yard, under a cover, with a snap on plug. Apparently, you are supposed to just snap on your hose to the plug and the water will start flowing. There is no on/off mechanism, just when you pull off the hose, the water will stop. So, I tried to hook-up our hose to the plug, but I couldn't get it to work. Stupidly, I twisted the plug that was in the ground. The plug popped off and the water started gushing, it was like a mini-geyser. I tried my best to screw the plug back on, but the water pressure was too great and I just couldn't do it. I'm soaking wet, with no way to stop the water, trying my best to hold the plug on, so that water doesn't go everywhere (feeling a little bit like BP here). Luckily, Seiji was home and was able to find the complex handyman to come and save the day. He called somebody who turned off the water supply, screwed the plug back on and then showed me how to snap the hose onto the plug. It's always the little things that get ya!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Old and New and Not Much In Between

So, last night, we went out to dinner in downtown Sofia, my first time to the old downtown section. There were some beautiful OLD buildings there, including government buildings, churches, a mosque and a synagogue. I also found out we are actually only a 6 hour drive from Istanbul, a 6 hour drive from Dracula's castle and a 5 hour drive to the Sani Beach Resort in Greece. Hmmm, the wheels are turning. . . .

Sofia is a funny place. They recently joined the EU and so now have an INFLUX of money. With all the EU money and international companies opening up shop here, they are building like crazy (e.g., new homes, new apartment buildings, beautiful new malls, etc . . .). However, there are still many old buildings. Yes, a few are historically old. In general, however, I mean old in terms of dingy, dilapidated, gray soviet era buildings. Add to that the Roma, who are a visible presence here, and it’s all just such a strange mix.

The Roma live in very simple structures and still use horse and buggy to get around. It is not uncommon to see their horse and buggies turning onto busy roads traveling right along with the cars on the same road. It's not just the Roma. The older generation of Bulgarians grew up under Communism and you can see a definite break between the young and the old. It's like third world country and first world country co-existing (not melding, but co-existing).

Of course, you have young and old Bulgarians playing this techno-music (think Sprockets from SNL)in their restaurants, taxis, etc . . . . It’s a whole other weird mix. And, yes, there is A LOT of German influence here for some reason. They must have some kind of special trade agreement with Germany, or something????

UPDATE: Oops, we are a 6 hour drive to the gateway to Dracula's castle, which is then another 9 OR SO hours beyond. At least, to the one that was discussed in the PBS special about Vlad the Impaler. There may be closer ones, as apparently many places claim that they are the location to Dracula's Castle.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Oh Richard, I Forgive you.

Today, after my language lesson, we headed home. However, the only route I know how to use was blocked by construction. Dare, I trust Richard (our GPS)? Hmmm???? Well, what choice do I have? Wouldn't you know it, today he worked. No weird small rocky roads, yeah! Richard led me to another main road a few miles away and then I was home. Richard, you are redeemed in my eyes (for now, so don't push your luck).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who The Heck was Cyril and What the Heck Was He Thinking?

So, today I had my first introduction to Cyrilic. Here's the gist of what I got today.

A, E, O, K and some M are the only letters that are what they seem.

M with points are M, but any M written with rounded top are T.
B is V
H is N.
X is H (or more like a gargle)
C is S
P is R
U or a mirror image of N are both I
U with an accent on top is Y
3 is Z
Cursive N is P
4 is Ch
W is Sh

And, those are the easy ones! Hmmm, this is going to take some time to figure out. I curse you Cyril!!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Richard, You Let Me Down! :(

Today, I took the boys for a visit to the school. It is beautiful, albeit warm (they don't have A/C). I guess in Bulgaria, you really don't need A/C all that much, so. . .

Anyway, on the way home, I went the route I know well. However, I let Richard (that's the name of our GPS voice, hence the name of our GPS) chime in with his suggestions as well. I knew there was a short-cut coming up that is well paved and thought perhaps Richard might point it out. So, when he told me to turn left very near to the spot I thought would be correct, I followed his instructions.

Oh my goodness, what a HUGE mistake. At first, all seemed well. But, then the roads became narrower and narrower, less and less paved and finally just rocky, etc. . .At this point, I decided it was time to turn around, which I did.

On my way back, a car decided to stop in the middle of the "road" and park. I was stuck and had no idea when the person would be returning. Adding to my frustration, there was a truck on the other side of the parked car wanting to get through in the opposite direction. I tried backing out of the road to see if I could find another way. It was either that or wait to see if the driver of the parked car returned. I knew the road too rough and narrow to turn around. I understood that I really did not share Richard's idea of a suitable route. I was quite aware that I did not speak a lick of Bulgarian to ask "how the hell do I get out of here." I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. But, I told myself to "suck it up" and try to get me and the boys home. While I was backing out, I backed into some kind of pole and smashed the rear driver side tail light of the car we just purchased. I was so upset at this point. Damn Richard!!!! You know, it's all his fault, right?! I got out and picked up what pieces I could of the broken plastic tail light and of my bruised and battered ego. And, just as I got back in my car, the woman who parked in the middle of the narrow road returned and moved her car. Perhaps she heard my big BANG and decided she should move??? Then the truck backed-up and let me through.

I decided to not drive anymore today. And, I will only follow Richard if he takes me on fully paved, real roads. Otherwise, I will trust him far less than I can throw him. And, believe me, I was tempted to throw him out the window today. But, I didn't do that and he still lives for another day, another adventure.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Oh No He Didn't!

We had the most beautiful, freakin awesome day today (mostly). We had heard there was a gondola that goes up to the ski resort, not too far from our house. So, today, we set out to find it. It is not only close to our house, it is just two miles away. We have NEVER lived two miles away from a ski lift. We take the gondola up. It is a LONG way up, but so beautiful. We see some very twisty, narrow roads pass underneath us and are pretty dang happy right now that we can get to the ski lodge without having to drive those roads. It was about a 30 minute ride from the entrance of the Gondola up to the top. I imagine by road it would be hours. Once there, we got out and explored the beautiful scenery. On our way back, the boys were tired and so we agreed for a rest/snack stop.

As we are finishing up our snack, a restaurant worker (hoping he was NOT the cook) comes out and starts going through the GARBAGE. He pulls out two pieces of not fully eaten bread and takes them back inside. Hubby and I look at each other in astonishment, did he really just do that. OMG!!! Ok, we are not eating here ever again. Luckily we only ordered bottled water and some prewrapped ice cream treats this time. And, no, I don't think there will be a next time eating at this place. Just hoping the other eating options up there are a little more appealing come ski season. Even with Garbage Collector Cook, it was still a beautiful day and we are excited to ski, ski, ski. . . .

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Adventures at a Bulgarian Supermarket

Seiji speaks Bulgarian very well. I, on the other hand, not a lick. Though I hope to change this through language classes at the Embassy, those lessons have not yet begun and reading in Cyrillic is totally lost on me.

Our previous, and first, trip to the grocery store, Seiji was with us. But, today, I took the boys alone. We did pretty well until we got to the pastry counter (a promise to the boys for behaving - mostly - during the shopping trip). There were these Bulgarian treats that they wanted to try, so why not. The lady behind the counter is looking at us. I look at her and ask "English?" Nodding her head "yes," she says "no." Oh G-d, I'm never going to get this opposite head nod thing down. I try to communicate in the best way I know how. I point to the pastry the boys want and hold up two fingers. She gets a box and starts for the correct pastries - yeah success!!!! There's our two, but she is still going. Uh oh! I say "that's good, no more," shaking my head "no." But, of course, a head nod "no" actually means "yes" here. What am I going to do? I make the "stop" gesture and, thank goodness, she understands. She gives us our box of 5 pastries and I just take it and am happy she stopped at 5. Then the boys ask if we can get pastrami. First of all, I don't even know how to say "pastrami" in Bulgarian and even if I find it and point to it, how can I possibly communicate I only want 500 grams. After seeing the pastry debacle, my oldest actually understands why we need to wait for Dad on this one. We made it out of there with everything we actually came for and five pastries. All in all, it was a successful trip.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day Four in Sofia

Ah, maybe we are in the honeymoon period (probably), but so far I gotta say we are really liking it here. Our home is in an area surrounded by green lucious foothills and it is just breathtaking. It is so wonderful to have such a refuge and to have that refuge be our home.

On our second night in town, our social sponsor (a very nice couple, without kids), took us to out for dinner. The food was awesome. We started off with an appetizer of chopska salad, which included the most yummy tomatoes topped with a soft white cheese, cucumbers, goat cheese, etc. . .. Then, we had yogurt cucumber soup and chicken shish kebab for dinner. There was live traditional music. It felt very much like eating at a traditional Greek Taverna. Our only problem that night was that dinner (as will likely be the case here often) didn't start until 7:30 PM. The kids were loving it, but by about 9 PM, they were done. Oh boy did the melt down begin. So, finally at 10 PM, we left. But, we left in the car we bought from a departing employee, so we had our own wheels on Day 2 in town. And, I got the GPS working, so woohoo!!!

I've now programmed the Embassy, our house, schools, a grocery store and a co-worker's house into the GPS. So I am mobile and it is a great thing. Everyone seems amazed that we are getting around on our own already and got our internet and cable tv set-up so quickly. All I can say is THANK YOU to one Seiji's co-workers who has been a G-dsend in so many ways!!!!!

So, yes, we have a GPS and we are using it. We heard there were three ways to get to the school from our house. So, we drove via the easiest route (until we could get the school programmed into our GPS) to the school. It is a beautiful school. Then, we put in "home" to see what route it would take us. It suggested a different route, but for some reason we thought we needed to get back onto a main road first. Big mistake not listening to "Richard," our GPS navigator. Richard said "go right," followed by the baby repeating "go right, daddy." But, no, we went left back out onto the main road. It re-routed us and boy did it re-route us!!! We took that third route, which was referred to by our neighbor as the "off-road" route. Boy, was it ever. It was more off-road than we ever expereienced in Timor. We did see a section of the mountain we live on that we would never have seen before and, G-d willing, will never see again (talk about getting car sick - yikes). We saw a portion of the Roma community and how they live (quite different from what we've seen in Sofia so far). From what we saw, it is a much more peasant-like experience with more shack-like structures than houses for the Roma (or what we think were Roma). Roma, by the way, are what we always grew up calling "Gypsies."

After FINALLY making it back to a main road, we stopped in the little village that is just a mile or two away from our home. We started off by going to a central part of the village to park, but immediately a drunken man came up demanding money (lev) for parking. There is no charge for parking and we didn't want Seiji taking his wallet out in public. We didn't pay and got back in the car. The guy stuck his body in the door so Seiji couldn't close his door. Eventually we got rid of him and got out of there. He was just a drunken villager, who probably thought, "ooh Americans, an easy mark." Next time we will either keep a few bits of change in our pocket to give or just learn how to deal with this type of thing without the change (we will definitley have to ask our neighbors what they do.) So, we head back toward our house and see a traditional restaurant where we stop. We ordered ice cream sundaes that were quite yummy and this made the adventure all worthwhile to the boys who were getting a little bit tired of "exploring."

Later in the day we drove to the Embassy, so I could get that programmed in before I have to drive there myself this week. All along the way, Richard would give directions and the baby would copy him. It was like we were on repeat. It was quite funny.

And, so, those are our latest adventures for now.

Friday, July 23, 2010

First Impressions

We made it, yay!!!!!

It was a long journey to get here, but we all made it. When we arrived in Sofia, we expected long delays at the airport clearning the dogs. But, it was very quick and easy. The Sofia airport was nothing like we expected. It was rather new looking, clean and not overcrowded at all. We went to baggage claim to pick-up the dogs, expecting to have to see an Ag. Department vet to clear them. Nope, none needed. We just showed their papers to the custom's guy, who said "ok, looks fine." And we were done and out the door.

We were then driven to our new home. And, when I say new, I mean new. It was just completed right before we moved in. It's bright and pretty. We are in a compound that can accomodate about 20 families. We are gated and guarded. Each "house" contains four units. Our place here is every so slightly bigger than our place in VA. But, it has less rooms, so the rooms here are bigger. Not having a room I can use as a play room/bonus room is definitely the biggest disadvantage we've seen of this house. We thought we wouldn't have a private yard, but in fact we do. It's not fenced, but it is ours and it is a much bigger space than what we had in VA. And, we have a two car garage, which we did not have in VA. So, all in all we are happy. The area of Sofia we live in is actually a suburb of Sofia. It is on the mountain and it is a beautiful area. So, we are very happy to not be directly in the city. However, the thing that makes us happiest is that Tak is very happy with it. There are kids everywhere in our compound. In fact, he is playing right now at a friend's house. At our place in VA, I didn't feel safe letting him out to play without my constant supervision. Here, I feel so much safer about it and he is enjoying his new found freedom and SO AM I!!!!

Lastly, the cable guy came today and hooked us up. The hardest thing for me was when I would ask a question and he would nod, "no" while saying, "yes." In Bulgaria, the head nod is exactly the opposite of back home. It will definitely take some getting used to!!!

And that's the update for now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Big Time Rush or Not

Obviously, my boys like a certain Nick show about hockey players who have a band. But, this has nothing to do with that show. No this is about our big time rush and wait, rush and wait, rush and wait. . . .

So, last week I was rushing around trying to put together a birthday/farwell party for the boys. They love LEGO Star Wars, but you cannot find Lego Star Wars decorations, cakes, etc. . .I tried to make some Lego Star Wars plates and we hired a friend, Susannah, to make an absolutely fantastic Star Wars Lego Cake that was the hit of the party. And, of course, because I was in no mood to figure out games for a party, we had it at a swim center. Gotta love built-in entertainment! Of course, I forgot a cake server and matches. My mind is in too many different places I guess. Luckily, our friend Emily had a matchbook from a restaurant and SAVED THE DAY! And, Susannah, who also came to our party, was kind enough to serve the beautiful cake she made using the plastic cutlery we had available. She is amazing!!! But, my biggest reward was when my now seven year old son said, "Mom, that was the best party EVER." Cue a BIG smile on my face hearing that. Now, on to the next thing.

The movers came this week. On Monday, they took our air frieght, so that was done in the morning. We shipped 700 lbs of mostly toys, but included some clothes, linens, and kitchen items (because as much as my boys insist, we cannot actually live off of legos). On Tuesday, the real work began and the guys worked a full day. On Wednesday, they didn't have a driver, so weren't able to come until 1:30 PM, but sent a double crew to get as much done as they could. And, Thursday was a full day and our final day of packing. How in the world did we accumulate so much CRAP. And, every move, we get rid of STUFF, but still. . .Of course, buying a sandbox and BBQ at the last minute probably didn't help. So, anyway, just a tip, if you ever have movers. . .More than anything else, the movers kept telling us how much they appreciated that we kept our house supplied with Coca-Cola and water and NEVER bought them PIZZA for lunch.

We provided lunch on the two full days the movers worked. On their last day, I went to Wegmans (only the greatest grocery store that has ever existed) and ordered a sub-sandwich tray. The tray came with four 14" sub sandwiches, cut-up into quarters. Wegman's, being such a great place, provided a bunch of condiments/extras for free (pickles, peppers, olives, mustard, tomato, lettuce, cheese, etc. . .) and chips. The tray cost $33, but fed 5 moving men, Seiji (who eats like 5 moving men), Kai and me. The movers couldn't stop thanking us for the food. They said they had never been treated so well, all because of a sub-sandwich tray. So, there is your tip. Now, we wait to see how many pounds over we are on our HHE (stuff being shipped by boat from here to Sofia). I shutter to think about the rushing around we will have to do if (more likely when) we find out we are over our 7200 lb. limit.

Today, the contractors came to the house at 8 AM. They have a lot of work to do. They need to patch and paint, replace carpeting on two of the three levels, regrout the bathroom tiles, fix some lights with broken sockets, and a multitude of other odd jobs to get the place fixed up and all this needs to be done by Monday night. The cleaning lady comes on Tuesday to do a final clean and then that afternoon we are supposed to go through the place with the new tenants and our property manager to write a condition report and hand over keys.

Now on to other things. I went to Verizon this morning to cancel phones, but they wouldn't let me as hubby is the "primary." How stupid is that?! I'm on the account, but because he is the primary, I cannot cancel the account. I'm thinking I should be the primary from now on. But, I fear if everything was in my name, they would not allow me to use his government travel orders to cancel without termination fees. Oh well, what can you do. . .

And, so, down time is over.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Time to get moving

Here we are less than a month away from our next move. Summer just started and it feels like it is flying by. Our day starts off at 6 AM with the baby yelling from his crib "get out, Get Out, GET OUT!!!" And, so, I go get him and bring him to my bed. He watches PBS Sprout while I get another hour of rest before my oldest comes sauntering in. Without pressuring, I try to encourage him to get his little bit of daily studying and piano practice done so its not hanging over his head the whole day. For the last few days, he's done that to my amazement. Hope, Hope, Hope that continues!!!! Then it's breakfast time, followed by swim lessons, followed by lunch and our day is 1/2 done - YIKES!!!!

The afternoons have just filled up so quickly too. There are last dentist and doctor appointments. There's shopping for all the things we THINK we won't be able to find in Sofia and, of course, know we cannot live without (especially with birthday money burning a hole in the boys' pockets). Then, lest we not forget, I need to cancel accounts, organize files and our belongings and get rid of STUFF (random stuff that just magically accumulates between each move). There is nothing like a move to rid ourselves of JUNK.

At least I've already found tenants and signed the lease, arranged for a property manager, sold hubby's car and bought us a car at post so we have something right when we arrive. So much left to do, and here I am on the computer. Shame, shame, shame. Time to get moving.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mystery of the Midnight Honking

For quite a while now, this has been happening and I still cannot figure out what the heck is going on. Usually, my deepest sleep doesn't happen until very early morning (3 AM and beyond). So, if a little noise occurs in the midnight hour, there is a good chance it will wake me up. For several months now, I've noticed that someone honks their car horn sometime between midnight and 2 AM. Usually, it is at 12:15 AM, but not always. It's not a car alarm, and frankly it sounds more like Morse Code or something. Short beeps, long beeps, pauses between various beeps, etc. . .It goes on for about two minutes and then it stops. Very occassionally, I think I hear a car honking back. I've tried to look out the window, but I don't see anything or anyone. It's very weird. Hmmm????

Monday, May 24, 2010

G-d works in mysterious ways or has one ironic sense of humor

The other night we went to our favorite little Mexican/Tex-Mex fast food joint in town--Guapos. Mmmm, we just love their rotisserie chicken!!!!

As we entered the establishment, hubby and I were discussing/debating a topic. For those of you who know us well, I am the eternal optimist and hubby the pessimist. He accuses me of wearing rose colored glasses and describes himself by saying, "not only is the glass half empty, but broken and leaking too." In fact, I think I'm more of a realist, but it's all relative. So, anyway, we were discussing our housing situation at our new post. It is not ideal with our dogs, but it is what it is. As hubby was going through the list of all the things for which we must prepare ourselves, I said, "you know what, maybe I'd actually rather be blindsided by something potentially bad, than constantly worrying about the possibilities [or as he says, "preparing for"] what might be troublesome."

It's our turn to order. Drinks come with the meal. While he is waiting for our food, the boys and I walk over to the fountain soda machine (otherwise known as the pop machine, from where I come from anyway). I'm listing off those drinks I will allow my six year old to drink. As I am doing this, suddenly the cover of the pop machine just falls off and hits me on the forehead. The bump swells to the size of a golf ball and starts to encompass my eye. Luckily, ice brought the bump down quite a bit. And, even more importantly, luckily the boys didn't get hit!!!! Hmm, just after I said I'd rather be blindsided, what happens, I'm blindsided by something. Maybe I don't prefer to be blindsided after all.

After all of this, you might think Guapo's would refund the price of our meals. But, no, they didn't even offer. The manager kept saying, "if there is anything I can do for you. . ." I just asked for a bag of ice, I was just in shock that this random thing had even happened. He did call today to see how I was doing and says he will call again in a few days.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Piano Debacle

Oldest son has been taking lessons for a year and it is time to move on from my 20-year old keyboard. After much research we decided upon the Yamaha Clavinova 340. And, since I've been told that money does grow on trees, why not. "Come from" or "grow on" what's the big difference anyway.;) Ok, so if you know me well, you know I don't really think that way. Afterall, I've had that old keyboard for 20 years and wanted to update for the last 10. So, anyway, we decided to go to a dealer and see what we could do.

The salesman immediately offered a price for less than the "real price" in my official "Digital Piano Guide." Hmm, something isn't right. How could this be, isn't my "guide" supposed to know everything afterall. We negotiate a little and he says he will throw in free delivery and set-up (a $145 value), so we say "OK." Only, I'm not feeling quite right about it all and as the day progresses I feel worse and worse about it. Poor hubby, trying hard to make my Mother's Day so nice and here I spend the whole day stressing about how I think we got screwed. And, that feeling just kept growing and growing. Guide be damned!

Because I had such success with my on-line guide, I go home and get back on-line to do more "research." Finally, I find a blog with a thread called, "Digital Pianos, Prices Paid." This thread listed the model, the price paid, the area it was bought, and (in some cases) the name of the store at which it was bought. Dare I look. Of course, I looked! My worst fears were realized. If we had paid $500 less we would've had a great deal, $300 less a fair deal, so we way overpaid.

We called the dealer tonight. After a lot of going back and forth, we told them we would cancel the order if they couldn't do something better for us. The dealer said he would need to talk with his boss and call us back. During this time, I called one of the stores listed on the "Digital Piano, Prices Paid" thread (on the other side of the country from us). The salesperson at that store tells me about some Yamaha rule that doesn't allow them to quote prices on the phone. Hmmm. . . I tell him our story and he asks, "how much did you pay?" Thank goodness he took pity on me. He immediately tells me that was way too much money. He tells me what a "fair price" would be and instructs me how to proceed with our salesman. So, that's what we did. We reduced our cost by $375. I feel much better. Of course, this was all done over the phone with a guarantee that the new invoice would arrive tomorrow with the piano and the $375 would be refunded to our card. Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. . . .We will see what tomorrow brings!

Update: The invoice arrived a little off (by about $145 too much), but one phone call and a few days later the right amount was given back to us. Whew!!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My poor baby

Oh, my poor 1st grader. He is suffering with allergies something terrible this year. I took him to the allergist today and he had a bunch of tests on his back and some on his arm. His poor little welted back and arm!!! And, then, he went to school. But, on the way, we stopped at McD's for a milkshake. Such a brave guy, I thought he deserved it.

So, he's allergic to ragweed, grasses, oak trees, dust mites (how do you convince a 6 year old he can longer sleep with his beloved stuffed animals?), some type of mold that floats around the air everywhere, and cats. Dogs were non-reactive on the first test (phew) and every so slightly on the second test. The doctor said to not let the dogs in his room, but its such a minor reaction that it's really not the problem here. Though we miss our Akachan, its probably best we didn't get a new kitty.

UPDATE: $40 eye drops, nasal spray and a HEPA air purifier for his room and, still, today his eyes are so swollen he can barely see out of them. I guess we better start the shots, cause treating the symptoms doesn't seem to do much good. Just looking into seeing how difficult it will be to continue them when we move.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Today, my dearest hubby actually surprised me for my birthday. He planned ahead, he didn't tell or hint a bit to me or the kids, and low and behold he totally pulled it off!!!! We had a lovely afternoon at Tim's Rivershore with friends in the area--friends from old schools, friends from old jobs, family from Oregon, and friends we've made here in town. Such a lovely mix and so cool to have them converge in one place. And congratulations to D&M and W&R on your pregnancies!!!! So exciting and so wonderful to share in your news!!!!

Then this evening was also very fun. Our 1st grader's friend is having a camp out birthday party. They have a beautiful big woodsy backyard perfect for camping. The baby and I stayed only for the first part of the party, which was very lovely. They cooked hot dogs on a fire pit and served dirt and worms for dessert. The kids learned how to start the camp fire and played lots of fun camping games and activities. Now, the big boys are setting up camp. I think they will have such a fun time. Hopefully, its not too cold and windy tonight!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chicken Butts

On Sunday afternoon, we skipped hockey and went to our local library because my 1st grader was a semi-finalist for the library's "Create-a-Bookmark" contest. The theme of the contest was "No Butts About Reading." In addition to handing out awards to winners, the author of the children's classic, "Chicken Butt" read the book to the whole group. Of course, now my two year old is going around saying, "chicken butt, chicken butt. . ."

I find this extra funny because in college my RA used to go around saying, "what's up chicken butt?" and reply, "not a thing chicken wing." Really, this whole book is not more complicated than her "chicken butt, chicken wing" routine.

You can see a photo of the bookmark on our facebook page. Instead of drawing a chicken butt or the butt of some other animal, he drew a leprechaun and a pot of gold. Not sure how it's related, but hey he did include the phrase "no butts about reading" on it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Practice What You Preach!

Ok, I admit it, I have all kinds of great advice for my little cousin, but apparently I don't always follow my own advice.

So, Cousin Courtney has been staying with us for a couple months while he decides if Virginia is really the place for him, before he signs a long-term lease somewhere. This comes with an added side benefit of being able to save some money for move-in costs for him and some readily accessible and trustworthy babysitting for us. Courtney has been looking at places to rent, some far more expensive than I feel are prudent (like I'm his Mom or something-not).

So, I keep telling him to base his decisions on the money he has now, not on what he thinks it will be in the future. Turns out, I am apparently guilty of this same thinking.

When we bid on our upcoming post, we chose it because: the school had a great reputation; Tak could continue on with hockey there; I could have a break from worrying about Malaria and Dengue Fever; and, lets just be frank, MONEY.

You see the post offered a 20% pay increase becuase of its hardship status and therefore also qualified for student loan reimbursement. Well, guess what, they just lowered the hardship to 10% and, so now, post no longer qualifies for the student loan repayment either. Talk about counting my chickens, guess I'm guilty as the next guy. Oh well, it's certainly not the end of the world, but certainly a blow to our day. There's always our next post.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Who Knew?" and other inane observations

At the mall the other day with T, we noticed the Easter Bunny waving to us as s/he walked along. T was so excited to see her/him. And then, aforementioned Easter Bunny heads right to the bathrooms. Of course, Easter Bunnies need to use the bathroom too, but we've just never been confronted with the reality of it. Must've been some mighty big pellets. ;)

Reading an article today, I found that "snafu" is actually an acronymn for "Situation Normal: All F'ed Up." Who knew? Probably everyone out there but me.

K is transitioning from bike helmets to hats. Now, he still likes the helmet from time-to-time, but has decided that hats are the best thing since sliced bread. Please, however, if you see him out-and-about without his helmet, do not ask "where's your helmet?" ;)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I am so STEAMED right now!!!

So, we got some mail for our former tenants. I keep putting "return to sender," but it doesn't seem to help. So, I thought I would try to look up their current address and see if I could include that on the envelope in addition to "return to sender." Big Mistake. I found our former tenants' myspace page. Now, mind you, "no pets allowed" was part of their lease agreement.

This is from their blip about themselves.

"My house was like a zoo. We had pet cats and rats and mice and cats and dogs and a snake and, at different brief times, we had a rabbit w/ one eye named scar face, but he was sick and died pretty quick; a snapping turtle, 2 mean as hell Ferrets anmed Hannibal cauz he bit everyone hard as hell, and stinky;a tarantula named harry who was cool as hell, and that's all my burnt out mind can think of. . ."

Now nothing specifies when they had all of these pets, but with the damage this house had, I'm sure at least some of those were here. How could our property management company, who was supposed to come and check on the house once/quarter not have seen, smelled, or noticed any of this. Oh my goodness, I will NEVER EVER AGAIN use Professional Property Management of Northern Virginia. Now, I know they've had good reviews from co-workers that live closer to their office, but apparently if you live too far away, your home is too much of a bother. I will be doing some serious interviewing of property managers near us this time around. And, thank goodness, with Seiji being on the housing board we now have a core group of fellow neighbors who will be watching what's happening at our place.

Forget "return to sender," from now on their mail is going straight to my shredder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Where's my six year old?

T is a classical music fan. It started in Kindergarten when his teacher would put on classical music during rest time and he just LOVED it! Then we shared the John Williams Star Wars CD with him. He even asked us to put that CD and the Henry Mancini Pink Panther CD on his MP3. Now, everytime we get in the car, he asks me to tune it to Classical WETA. Of course, how could you ever turn down that request? He will then tell me the story of the music we are hearing, from horses galloping, to ships sailing, to a sword fight. He imagines a story for each song.

The only problem with WETA is that sometimes some rather grim news stories come across the airwaves in between classical pieces. Last night, as we were driving home from piano lessons, I turned off the station as they started discussing death tolls in Chile. Of course, he's heard much about the earthquake in Haiti and we've discussed what we've done as a family and what his school is doing to help. So, he said, "mom, please don't turn that off, I want to listen." Is he really only six? I let him listen.

The radio discussed how Haiti had a more devastating experience than Chile even though the earthquake in Chile was much stronger. And, we talked about it for awhile as he didn't understand why that would be. How much to explain???? I tried to say that the people in Haiti are very poor (like in Timor), their buildings were built as cheaply as possible, that their government just doesn't work for the people very well, and that we need to do more than just send money, we need to help them build a functioning government and help make sure the money to properly rebuild their buildings and schools goes where it needs to go. I went on to say how difficult this is to do without them feeling like we are treating them like babies (trying to figure out the best way to put it) as nobody likes to be treated like a baby. He then proceeds to tell me all about the "Slave One" ship he is building with Legos and how he wants to find the Lego mini-figures that go with the ship. Ah, the world of Star Wars Legos. There's my six year old.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gremlin or Cherub

My little cherub, sitting here quietly, peacefully, watching his Wiggles before we head off to take brother to school. And, yet, lurking behind that peaceful, loving, oh so cute baby face is a GREMLIN! Yes, I admit I have a gremlin. We like to call him baby, but he prefers going by the names of either Star Wars, Luke, or Darth Vader. He must have been in his Darth Vader mode yesterday when he stuffed some unknown object into the Wii, which now no longer works. Ah, yes, me and the Nintendo lady had a good laugh together when I called up telling her that her phone menu doesn't have an option for "two-year old gremlin destroys the Wii." I was happily surprised to hear that they think they can fix it and it will only cost me $50. Now, just wondering what the heck he stuffed in there!!!! Perhaps a lego. We will find out soon enough!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thoughts of a Not-So-Desperate Housewife

Oh, what has happened to me? Here I was today sitting listening to "Fresh Air" on NPR, driving in my SUV, with my two kids in their car seats in the back, donating money to various causes that make it easy and convenient to do so and not giving a bit of my time or effort to actually change anything outside of my little world that I profess to care about. I am exactly what I railed against only 10, maybe 15 years ago. Does some part of me now feel a little of that "middle class guilt" I never before understood? The "middle class guilt" that I resented as a young "poor" kid, that I thought was demeaning and useless, that I thought led people to donate rhetoric and money, but never their personal time and effort to make it better. Just a minute, let me finish texting "Haiti." OK, done.

Or, maybe it's just that I realize as hard as it was growing up, there are so many in the world that have it so much harder and, so, a lot of the bitterness has dissipated. Perhaps, I now understand just how lucky I am to have been born an American. I never slept on a cement floor in a straw hut, without infrastructure for electricity or water, nor without an opportunity for an education or a way to better my life beyond my parents' place in life. So many in the world lack basic foundations of living, they lack opportunity for class mobility, for education, for so many things. And, they are surrounded by deep, embedded corruption that teaches "take advantage of what and who you can, when you can, because everyone else around you is doing it and if you don't, then there will be nothing left for you or your family." It's an attitude I absolutely abhor, but after living in too many countries where "democracy" is a title bantered about without real meaning, where oligarchy would really be the better description, I do have a slight understanding of why they've given in to it.

Perhaps I get frustrated and feel overwhelmed by my inability to do anything that would actually make a difference or at my lack of desire to do anything except, perhaps, just enjoy my little slice of life in the world for a while. Perhaps I'm just thinking too much. What's that, my turn for Wii Mario Cart? OK, gotta go.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Random thoughts before falling asleep

Ok, so I now have a blog and therefore should not have to say to hubby, "hey, are you still awake, I just thought of something silly. . ." But, of course, how I will remember these silly things if I do not speak them aloud to hubby the night before. So, here is an example to what he is subjected and now, oh joy, you are too! ;)

If SINKs are "Single Income, No Kids" and DINKs are "Double Income, No Kids" what does that make those of us with kids? If I remove the "N" from SINK and DINK, it doesn't look so good. Wonder if that was intentional? Hmmmm????

Such thoughts, of course, are coming from someone who finally started taking a daily multi-vitamin only after they became available to adults in gummy vitamin form. So, keep that in mind.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010

The Blizzard of 2010, Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, Snoverkill and the names keep pouring in. To us, though, it doesn't matter what you name this storm, this winter season will forever be etched in our memories!

Just as the last bits of snow piled along the side of the road from December's storm were about to melt, we were hit with two major snow storms this last week. The federal government closed, schools closed, metro and bus systems offered limited service if any at all, and piles of snow just kept getting bigger and bigger and BIGGER.

As we venture out we see huge piles of snow along side the roads. The neighborhood roads are still packed with icey layers of snow. The main roads have been salted and cleared, with all the snow pushed to the sides. And, there are some HUGE piles of snow along the roadside. I hate to think what might happen if we had an unseasonably warm day--from frost to flood I fear. Not likely anytime soon, as they are calling for more snow on Monday. Yikes!!! Well, at least we have a taste of what to expect in Sofia. Except, I understand, in Sofia they don't close down schools, businesses and government for any snow and they don't even attempt to clear neighborhood roads EVER! We will see. . . .

Oldest Son is sure he will be telling stories of this snowstorm in years to come. Not very often you get a week off of school because of weather! Thank G-d!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Preferred Provider or Perverted Provider?

Not quite the getaway I had in mind, but nevertheless I did have two nights and three days essentially to myself. Of course that does not include the nurses who kept taking my vitals every hour, changing the IV saline solution often, filling me up with pain killers (thank G-d for that at least), taking my blood on several occassions and then giving me blood.

So, I went to the ER on Thursday morning in a lot of pain. The Nurse-Practitioner (NP) checked me out and put in orders for various tests, as well as for a nurse to hook me up to an IV and to give me some heavy drugs. The nurse had a very pleasant demeanor, but he was a little weird. Did you ever watch "Will and Grace?" I swear my nurse reminded me, at least in physical attributes, of Karen's arch nemesis (Leslie something I think). My male nurse (from now on to be referred to as Nurse Leslie) was very friendly, but perhaps a little too friendly. Right after the NP left, Nurse Leslie came in to set-up the IV. Before doing so, he said he needed to listen to my stomach. The NP had just done this. He lifted my hospital gown a little higher than it needed to be and I swear brushed up against me where he shouldn't. But, I wasn't sure. Later, after I was told I had a large kidney stone and needed to be admitted, he proceeded to explain the procedure to me. Instead of just saying that a tube would be inserted into the urethra, yada, yada, yada. He said, "you know, they'll put a tube up your "hoohoo." OK, color me shocked!!!! Not soon after, I was on my way to a room outside of the ER--whew!

OK, so I was finally given a room after being in the ER for six hours. The nurse (not nurse Leslie) comes in with a "questionnaire." I'm feeling pretty good about answering all her questions.
Q1. Do you drink? A1. Maybe one glass of wine a week.
Q2. Do you smoke? A2. No.
Q3. Do you take any illicit drugs? A3. No.
Q4. How much caffeine do you consume? Ah, damn, there she goes bursting my balloon. A4. You found me out! I don't drink coffee or tea, but Coca-Cola is my guilty pleasure.

I have been a Coca-Cola junkie since childhood. Though I've finally made the switch to Coke Zero at home, there is nothing that beats regular ice cold Coca-Cola poured over a full glass of ice. I have been addicted to the stuff for so long, I even wrote a poem about it in high school. It was the only A+ I ever got out of Mrs. Moore. OK, can we say obsessed? But, I digress.

Back to the hospital here. . . All went well, they were keeping me high on drugs. That night I had a reaction to the painkiller they were pumping into me. I think it was just that they pumped it in too quickly. But, just in case, they switched me to morphine. All was good in my world at this point.

The surgery went well. I had to stay one more night because the surgery occurred so late in the day. The hospital was within my preferred provider network. Unfortunately, the surgeon they arranged for me was not. I'm worried to see that bill. I really don't know how the insurance company expects me to go searching out an appropriate surgeon while I'm filled with morphine. So, I'm anxiously awaiting that bill and ensuing battle.

I'm home now, taking it easy for this next week. And that's my two night getaway.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


First some quotes to preface my rant.

Those who will not reason, are bigots; those who cannot, are fools; and those who dare not, are slaves. -Lord Byron

You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered. -Lyndon B. Johnson

The Rant

The problem with the extreme Right and the extreme Left is that they are so set in their opinions that they will not listen to anything or anyone else. One tends to legislate from the pulpit and the other from an ivory tower. Both are guilty of paternalistic, dogmatic, black and white thinking. If you haven't figured it out, this is the best way to TURN OFF swing voters. To extremists on both sides of the aisle, it would do you well to stop living in your self-created bubbles and see just how out-of-touch you are with much of America. Whichever party does this first, is going to be the big winner in the long run.

Why did Senator Brown win? Besides the fact that many people are hurting and not yet feeling the "benefits" of the "recovery," there is another reason that the Democrats need to consider. The Democrats made a fatal error by refusing to answer questions in a meaningful way about health care reform. Folks with real questions are told, "you are trying to derail healthcare." Or, just as bad, all too often "answered" with "holier-than-thou" stone-walling responses that do nothing to show any real desire to listen or to address questions and concerns. Sure there are those who want nothing more than to derail health care reform in its entirety. But, you are letting them win, letting them succeed by not seeking out and talking to those who truly just want clarification and answers.

What about the person who is not against the idea of healthcare reform in some form, but, also doesn't want to throw money at a problem just to SAY something has been done. What about providing a solid plan with a solid explanation of how the plan will be effective in its implementation and efficient in its costs? It is a mistake to assume that anyone with questions is seeking to derail the whole thing. It is also a mistake to assume that anyone with questions does not have any worthwhile ideas to contribute. Such attitudes are exactly why the Democrats have alienated so many.

Wouldn't it be interesting to compare legislation created by the vocal extremes with legislation, hopefully one day, created by pragmatic moderates of both parties? Now, that is change I could believe in. And, in fact, what I believe many moderates believed Obama was espousing when he ran for President.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Best Roast Chicken EVER!!!

I decided to do a Shabbat dinner for the family tonight. I wanted a new recipe for roast chicken and thought I would try this one I found on I changed it just a little and it was delicious!!!!! I don't usually randomly share recipes, but thought this was too good not to share.

One 3.5 pound kosher chicken (Note: Kosher chickens are already brined and of good quality, if you don't use kosher, use a farm raised chicken and then brine it yourself).

1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (mixed together in a bowl for seasoning the outside of the chicken). Adjust these to your preferences.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Truss the bird. NOTE: I found a video example online (through the Food Network). I had to play the video a few times to get it right, but with the way the chicken turned out I think it was definitely worth the effort.

Sprinkle and rub in salt/fresh ground pepper mixture on the outside all over.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan (NOTE: make sure the pan is not too big, otherwise juices will spread out and smoke) and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone--don't baste it, don't add butter. Roast it until it's done, 70 minutes. Let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board, then carve.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A busy winter break

Whew, this last week just flew by! Mondays events have already been chronicled, but that was just the beginning.

On Tuesday, we went to Baltimore Aquarium, which is lovely but not nearly as wonderful as the Monterey Bay Aquarium (at least in terms of kids activities). Still, the boys loved it, especially the Dolphin show and the Jellyfish exhibit. We had a great time, except for one incident. When I was changing the baby's diaper in the bathroom (he was standing up because he now wears pull-ups like a big boy), he decided it was a great time to let it go and boy did he ever! Luckily, I was wearing layers, so just peeled off the pee'd upon layer, cleaned up the floor as best I could, changed the baby's clothes completely (though wish I had brought him extra socks and shoes). Thank goodness, it was at the end of the day. Otherwise, it was a very nice time with the boys.

On Wednesday, we went to the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor and saw their beautiful ICE sculpture exhibit. They even had full-size useable slides made of ice. But, at 9 degrees F, it was COLD!!! I do not recommend taking a two year old to the exhibit. The rest of us thought it was very cool, pun intended. However, the funnest part of the day was the search for PEEPS throughout the hotel, and unlike the ICE exhibit, it was free. The boys thought that was a kick. And, it was beautiful there. Tak kept asking if we could spend the night, but of course that wasn't in the cards.

On Thursday, we went to some friends house for New Years Eve. We had a lot of fun, a lot of food and a little drink. The boys stayed up until midnight for the very first time. Luckily, they actually slept in the next day.

And, now, we hope to rest for the remainder of the weekend. We will see. . . .