Sunday, November 13, 2011

After London

When we got back from London, we took K to the dr. and got some Abuteral, it was just getting so bad. And, then K had another problem, a prolapse of his intestine. He's been symptom free for a few weeks now. We have a Bulgarian Doctor in charge of our unit, with an American PA. At first, they told me he would need an endoscopy. Then, after the local Gastroenterologists said she wouldn't or couldn't do it (still unclear exactly on this), they changed their tune to lets "wait and see." So, because K has now been symptom free for a few weeks, they think it is a done deal. However, they have agreed if it happens again we will need to do a med-evac to London. If he stays symptom free until this summer, we will at least have a Pediatric Gastroenterologists in Oregon make sure everything is ok. At least, he is symptom-free for now.


Ok, I know it has been AGES since I last posted on this blog. It just got away from me. I guess I'll catch up over the next few days or so and see if we cannot catch up.

So, where to start. . .

My husband had a conference in London back at the beginning of October, so we decided to tag along. We went a few days ahead of the conference so S could join us in some sight-seeing.

We started off our with going to our hotel, the SAS Radisson at Portman Square. They lost our reservation, insisting it was nowhere to be found. I even looked at their list of guests booked to stay in a "family" room and we were not on it in any fashion. We got the Embassy involved. Luckily the Embassy contact at the hotel was working that day. Suddenly, like after an hour of sitting around in the lobby, our reservation appeared. Of course, our surname was listed as hubby's first name and his first name as our surname AND both were badly mispelled. But, hey, at this point, we were just happy to have our room.

After such a great start, we got settled and decided to figure out London. There is just so much to do. We, of course, went on the London Eye and to the Aquarium where the sting-rays would pop their heads up out of the water, stare up at us and almost wave to us - I think it was near their feeding time!  I have never seen anything like that before. The next day we took a tour bus of the city and then a tour to Stonehenge, which is a couple hours away. Our little one was actually not feeling so hot at this point, so a bus tour was really a good way to go.

One of our stops was at Buckingham Palace of course. So, K picks this time to announce to everyone that he needs to use the potty. Only there were no toilets anywhere near. Our tour guide asked if we could wait till the next stop, but we just couldn't. We asked if it was at all possible for a four year old to find a bush somewhere around there. Finally, with his wonderful Irish accent and a wink of the eye, he pointed us to a bush in the park across the way. All was fine, watching every which way to make sure we didn't get arrested for our 4-year old peeing at the Park at Buckingham Palace. But, what's a four-year old to do.
We saw a lot of London on this tour and T noticed that there seemed to be a lot of killing and heads coming off in the stories. I guess that is English history.

The final day before the conference, Legoland Windsor was on the agenda. We were a little disappointed to find out that they did not have a Star Wars exhibit there, but the boys were still very happy and it was a fun day for all.

During hubby's conference, the boys and I made our way to Princess Diana Adventure Park, which is a wonderful public park at Hyde Park. I highly recommend it!!! The next day was museums and Hummingbird Bakery - yumm!!!!

We had some pub dinners and really enjoyed our time. We had to take some rest time for K, his cough was just terrible in London. But, all in all it was a good trip.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thoughts 3

There are many different thoughts running through my mind at any given time. Sometimes I think I really ought to write this down; not sure whether I will share it or should share it.

Lord knows we don't have control over every aspect of our lives. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. However, I see a trend that I wish we could conquer. There is a trend among some folks to always blame on bad luck what could be better attributed to bad choices. I'm not casting stones here. Lord knows, throughout my life, I have made some bad choices. And, I didn't always see the connection between the choices and the results. So, I'm trying to think about why?

Well, here is my reason, I was bitter. Yes, I was sweet and nice on the outside, but one bitter, sad, scared, resentful, hopeless and lonely kid on the inside. I was tired of seeing so many around me with so much, while I had so little. Tired of growing-up seeing those who were offering “help” arrive in their fancy cars, wearing their designer clothes, using me as an example to their own children to show how lucky they have it. I was tired of such people offering what I viewed as their “table scraps” (items I should supposedly feel grateful for, but that wouldn’t be good enough for them or their kids). It fueled a level of bitterness and resentment in me that was hard to overcome. My thinking, like my parents before me, was that I "deserved" to have as much, as nice, and as expensive things as the next person and it wasn't fair that I didn't. So, whether or not I could afford such things, any money I received should go toward righting this wrong.

Finally, thank G-d, I realized that I didn't have to continue my parents' pattern of bad choices; of basing my desires and needs on comparisons to others with more. I had thoughts of this before, as a mouthy teenager (and boy was I mouthy), I was ready and willing to point out my parents bad choices and the alternatives that I saw as available. Pointing out they could probably pay our rent if they'd didn't spend so much on smoking five packs/day. Or, that if Dad got a real job we could go to the doctor for check-ups. Or, if Mom stopped taking all of her painkillers, she could actually have the energy to make us dinner. As you might imagine, those comments didn't always go over so well.

For awhile, during college, I did let myself fall prey to their dogma of "I deserve."  Soon after, however, I came to confirm to myself what I think I always knew inside. That is that we do have some choices. And, I started to realize it is not a matter of what you deserve. Don’t get me wrong, there are some basics we all deserve (i.e., healthy food, safe shelter, education, love of a family, opportunity to support ourselves and our families, compassion).  Deserve is about those things that are core to human rights, not things simply to build our ego or status in life.

For many years after my realization, I was still bitter; however, in a different way. I was bitter against the Democratic Party because it was the party that my parents believed in. And, in my young mind, I started blaming the entire Democratic Party for always giving my folks an out, a way to not take responsibility for their lives or for their choices. As much as my parents simplistically believed the Democrats were for the poor and the Republicans were for the rich, I came to believe the Democrats wanted to hold me down, keep me poor by throwing just enough money my parents way to keep us off the street, but never actually giving them the help they needed to learn how to make better choices so that I might actually compete with these pious Democrats in their own world. You can imagine how my discovery of Ayn Rand helped to cement these ideas even further. But, this too, was a simplistic view.

Over the years, I have come to realize there are people on both sides of the aisle who want to really help those around them and make great effort to do it in a way that really helps for the long term. And there are folks, on both sides of the aisle, who care more about saying they are doing something by throwing money, rhetoric and/or religious doctrine at the problem, without ever actually doing anything that could really help. It is not isolated to one party or the other.

Living overseas in some very poor countries educated me more than I ever knew possible. Many folks in other countries actually don’t have choices. They do not have the basics to survive. The basics we all deserve. They are born into poverty, and as such, will never have the opportunity to change their lot in life. Caste systems are very much alive (unspoken, but alive) in much of the world.

And, I know the bitterness I felt as young poor kid, pales in comparison to the bitterness felt by many around the world who have nothing and look at our country and other countries like ours and cannot understand how it is things can be so different for them. How any American with a TV, some kind of mattress to sleep on, and any type of car could possibly consider themselves "poor." Why they have nothing and we have so much? And, I also believe that many leaders of these countries use these feelings to further embitter their people against the US and others, to hide the fact it is largely the leaders of these countries who are profiting off of the misery and lack of education and opportunities for their own people. It is largely the leaders of these countries who have a vested interest in keeping their people powerless, uneducated, and with little choice to change their lives.

We must address the bitterness and the helplessness. What got me over the bitterness, the helplessness, was the realization that I really did have some choices for my own life. This is the key. We need to help those with nothing to have choices, real choices to make a better life for themselves, their families and their countries. This is what all people deserve!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Stressful Day to Start Off a Stressful Week

Oh my goodness, what a day. The morning started off in a panic attack as the money from our PTO book sale wasn't adding up. As PTO Treasurer, it falls on me, especially since I'm the one who did the final count. YIKES!!!! I went to recount cash this morning. I counted it the day of our event, by hand. So, this time I went to use the cash counting machine. Lucky for me the numbers, this time, did add up. Holy Smokes, what a stressful morning!!!!

Now, on Thursday we are hosting an event for 8 of hubby's contacts, so that is dinner for 10. I don't know what possessed me, but I am cooking a lot of it myself. I'm prepping the menu with an Indian theme (Lamb Madras, Chicken Curry, Naan, Basmati Rice and Mango Cheese Cake). I cannot wait until this week is OVER.

We are going out with friends Saturday night, I think I will need the good laughs they always bring, along with a few drinks by then.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Indicative of where we live

So T came home from his first week of school with a paper about getting to know his new classmates. We are at a school largely attended by expats, as such a 25% turn-over in students each year is not uncommon. So, these type of getting-to-know-you exercises are very important. On this one, there were 14 special items and the kids each had to find different classmates that matched one of the items. One of them originally was "_________ has flown on an airplane." Only, that is not so special at school of expats, so it was changed to "has not flown." I just thought that was so representative of the life of these kids - kind of struck me somehow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


So my kids have to take fluoride supplements here at post as the water is not fluoridated. The doctor gave us a pill bottle with a new type of child safety cap. For the life of me, I cannot get the stupid bottle opened. However, my 8 year old has no problem doing it. Last night hubby tried opening up the bottle and decided it was broken, so cut-off the lid. So when did child-proof lids turn into parent-proof lids???

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Now That's Funny

Warning, this post might be considered more PG-13 as opposed to my normally G and PG rated postings. . .

I just watched the clip of Anderson Cooper laughing at the sophomoric puns he was making in regards to the recent "peeing on the plane" incident perpetrated by Gerard Depardieu. Yes, even at 41, I find this kind of thing funny. I don't know why, but I do. And, so, it got me thinking about funny things we've encountered overseas that I thought I would share with you today.

In Pakistan, the surname of "Butt" is quite common. Yes, we've known many fine, nice, upstanding "Butts;" they are good people. But, from an American reference point how can you not sometimes laugh when coming upon the name in certain contexts. . .There was the bakery called, "Butt Brothers' Bakery" and the clothing store called, "Butt's Honey House." And, of course, lest we not forget the time S had a meeting with an Army Major and had to use every ounce of composure he could muster to announce he was there to see, you guessed it, Major Butt.

When learning Portuguese at FSI, S and I shared a class with two other people. Our poor teachers, I don't know how many times three of the four of us just burst out laughing. The one that sticks-out in my mind the most, however, is when our Portuguese teacher was attempting to explain about these big ceramic white and blue Roosters that are apparently quite the item to buy in Portugal. And, she just kept talking about "the big blue cock" that you just must buy. OMG, heaven help us, to not break out in laughter over that one.

In East Timor, you often came across attempts at English that just didn't translate such as the  restaurant called, "Cock and Bull." I think they were trying to say their restaurant specializes in chicken and beef, but it just didn't come out that way.

Ok, so we still find this stuff funny. I'm not sure what that says about us, but hey that's just how we roll. Got any funny stories to share, leave a comment with your story, we'd love to read it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

GAO report on Overseas Comparability Pay Misses a Few Points

I recently read the GAO report on Overseas Comparability Pay (found at and, as a Foreign Service family member, would like to point out a few things.

First, hardship pay and danger pay were implemented before locality pay was instituted back in 1990. As far as hardship pay goes, the intent was to provide financial incentive and compensation for Foreign Service Personnel and their family members agreeing to live in situations that are more difficult than living in the US (i.e., unsanitary water supply, food supply, etc.; lower quality medical assistance; exposure to parasites and diseases not present in the US, unreliable power and water supplies). And, danger pay was implemented to compensate for living in situations where personal safety is in jeopardy due to civil unrest, high crime with little host country security forces or corrupt ones, etc. . . .

When locality pay was enacted in 1990, it gave federal employees living in DC (and the US in general) more base pay than those overseas. That percentage grows almost every year. It is to the point where our base pay in DC is more than our pay, with hardship incentive, would be living in a country like Dakar, Senegal and many other similar posts. In Dakar, for example, Malaria is a real concern, health facilities are lacking and not up to par with the US; employees and family members (including young babies and children) are required to take Mefloquine (an exceptionally questionable drug) that we are told is still better than getting Malaria; manga worms (a worm, that unbeknownst to you, lays eggs on your skin, which then hatch right out of your skin) are a part of life, especially for kids and pets. We don't have access to US style grocery stores, food establishments, and products and those we do have access to are very expensive. So, given the choice of taking a posting in DC or living in Dakar, which would you choose - 10% less pay, including all the "incentives" to live in Dakar, or stay in DC?

The whole point of incentive pay was to provide an INCENTIVE. To use those incentives as a way to help equalize us with DC pay goes against the intent of why they were created in the first place. And, as locality pay rises almost every year, there becomes less and less incentive to serve in hardship posts. Do you really think taking a pay cut to serve in West Africa is really an incentive to go there?

In 21 years, locality pay has risen to 24%. What happens as it raises more? Our "incentives" to serve in hardship posts become less and less. If you take away OCP, make no mistake, with each passing year and rise in the locality pay, you are increasingly taking away incentive to serve in hardship posts. Even those of us who seek hardship posts, will be hard-pressed to do so when it means a significant pay-cut to do so.

As far as COLAs go overseas, we see no profit from those amounts. The COLAs exist because the cost-of-living is so much higher than compared to the DC area. Every cent we receive in COLA goes toward paying the higher cost of living in whatever country we are in. I think that GAO completely failed to take that into account.

Remember that incentive pays (such as hardship and danger pay) preceded locality pay by many years. When implemented, it WAS the intent to provide INCENTIVE for serving in less desirable locations. This incentive is eroding; help fix it in one way or another. Something must be done to ensure that the intent of incentive pay is preserved as it has been for our Senior ranks.

Friday, July 1, 2011


My Mom passed away earlier this week. This is something I wrote during the 27 hours it took me to rush home to her funeral. Rest in peace Mom.

When I was a little girl, my Mom had a brain surgery to fix a neuralgia. This was the beginning of a decline that she would never escape. I have a few memories of Mom really being Mom, being a person not ruled by mental and physical illness. These memories are very special to me and I cling to those with my heart and soul!!! I think the biggest reason Jewish holidays are so important to me is the memory of being with her as Mom and daughter preparing the meals together, especially matzoh balls. And, probably why the piano has such meaning to me is because of the memories I have of her playing. She wasn't some grand pianist, but when she played I saw a woman, my Mom, without the sickness; if even for only brief moments. As the years passed and she deteriorated more and more, I lost hope of ever even getting to see those brief glimpses of her as Mom. That is until she became Grandma. When she saw her grandsons, a glimmer of the woman, of the Mom, I so very much longed for was there. She loved her grandsons and they adored her! Now that she has died, I imagine all the sickness, all the ailments of the Body and mind have finally left her to be buried Forever. And those glimmers of life and love are the whole of her now as she joins my Dad up in heaven. And so I pray to G-d, that finally in heaven she is able to gaze down upon us all with a full heart and a joyous soul and perhaps finally a relief from all that tore her away from us on this earth for so many years.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Put on a few years

Today I looked in the mirror and saw a tired old woman staring back at me. Yikes! I suppose allowing my 8 year old to have a sleepover with seven friends for his birthday is enough to age anyone. What in the world was I thinking?!!!!

I'll look again tomorrow and hopefully lose a few years.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Key to A Great Posting

We've been posted to many countries over the last 13 years. There are a lot of factors that go into whether or not we like where we are living. And while a great school for the kids is top consideration, what makes a post wonderful are the friends we make. A few postings have stood out in this regard. And, I am so glad to say that our current posting is one of them. Having friends that make me laugh, and appreciate my quirky sense of humor so that I too can make them laugh, is priceless, truly priceless!!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lucky Raffle Day

So, we had our Spring Fair at T's school. The weather was beautiful, we had some great events (Zorb balls, sumo costumes, pony rides, bouncy castles and the list goes on), we had a wonderful turn-out and the PTO made some pretty good money for next year. All in all a great day. But, it gets even better (for me at least). . . .

At the Fair, we were having a raffle with some really great prizes, so I decided to buy a few tickets. I bought myself 11 tickets (buy 10 get one free). I was working in the Coca-Cola booth when I first heard my name called. I won a cake at the Hilton. Then a few mintues later, I heard my name again. This time, I won dinner for 4 at McD's + coffee. Then a little while later I heard my name AGAIN. This time I won a framed, signed illustration by a published illustrator who had visited our school. Finally, for the last prize, guess whose name they drew. Yes, that's right, I won again. And, this time, it was the IPAD 2 with a one-year free contract. Wow, Wow, Wow. I only bought 11 tickets. I am still in disbelief. Of course, I'm told the I-Pad isn't really mine. Apparently the boys are laying claim to it. We will see about that. . . .I guess I should practice what I preach and share. ;)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wine and Zyrtec do not mix

This morning before we went to a friend's house for lunch, I took a Zyrtec to battle some allergy issues that started this week. While at lunch, I had 1.5 glasses of wine over a 4 hour period. Well, let me tell you, by the time we got home, I was so tired I just couldn't keep my eyes open. I tried to stay up, but by 6 PM I was done and just had to go to bed. Now, if I had been able to just stay asleep, all would've been fine. Yes, I would wake about 4 AM, but that would be ok.

Only, at about 8:30 PM, my oldest comes into the room and says, "Mom, Dad and I cannot find K." K is our almost 4 year old. Of course, I said, "what do you mean, you cannot find K?" They proceed to tell me that they've searched the house everywhere and cannot find him, that they were reading a story together and K decided he was tired and going to bed. My husband was ready to get in the car and go searching, thinking he must have left the house. Cue panicky Mom here!!!! But, I held my wits about me enough to go to K's room and check his bed. Sure enough, he was fast asleep in his bed, but under the covers. Apparently, the boys only did a visual inspection, not thinking to feel the lumps of the bed to see if it might actually be K. Whew, no lost baby!!! Of course, I was never able to go back to sleep after that. So, here I sit catching up on this blog. . . .Perhaps I shall try to sleep now, after checking in on the boys one more time. G'night. . . .

An American Thing - I Guess!

Ok, ever since we joined the Foreign Service, I've noticed something in every country we've been stationed. . .the locals look at me like I am downing a bottle of poison should I ever put ice in my drink. Apparently, much of the world believes that drinks are not meant to be cold and certainly never ever should include ice. Well, I'm not changing my ways on this. Nothing beats a frosty mug, filled with ice and my favorite soda and the ONLY way I enjoy a glass of water is if it is ICE COLD. I guess it is just an American thing, or maybe it's just me?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Weekend Bully

My baby, my big guy, one in the same to me. But, I know my almost 8 year old is not a baby. He is a good kid. He, like his parents, is small for his age. I don't know if this is the reason or if there is another, but a neighborhood bully is starting to really bug the heck out of me. What hurt T the most, however, is that when this bully threw a basketball at him, his friend followed suit. It was bad enough that the bully came over to our house and asked for T, but in reality was just here to get T's friend and get him to leave T behind.

I am trying to not "take over" and let T handle this himself. The thing is that this bully is around only on the weekends. And, when he is not around, T's friend is over playing all the time. But, according to T, when the bully is around, the friend leaves T in the dust. And, if the friend does invite T to join, the bully does everything he can to try to get rid of my T. So, T has decided he will not play with the bully at all, but will talk to his friend. I'm so hoping for the best outcome on this. The friend is a good kid and they do have such fun together, he has very nice parents too.

I was half tempted to tell the parents about the incident, but hubby told me we need to try to let T work this out for himself. The one conclusion we came up with together (T, hubby and me) is that a bully will try to isolate you in order to pick on you. That is why having friends who stand by your side makes it so the bully cannot isolate you. Failing that, just walk away. I hope we are helping him in the right direction!?!?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A promise is a promise

Ok, so when we adopted our second dog (Sophie) from the streets of Portugal, I promised that would be it. We would never have more than two dogs and would one day return to being a one-dog-only household.

I have seen so many strays since that promise. Though each and every one tugs at my heart, I have recently met a stray that somehow tugs even more. She is so skinny and probably pregnant. I now understand how to spot this in an animal on the verge of starvation after taking in Sophie only to find that she was pregnant. I made a promise to not take in any more dogs. And, I understand that we just cannot do that. But, what if I just invite her over to our driveway for some food each time she passes by. I can do that can't I?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

K and his questions. . . .

Ok, nothing like a three year old child to hit you with reality so often that it finally becomes common place and almost comical. You see, awhile ago K was learning about his grandparents, and when asking where my Dad was, we honestly told him "Mommy's daddy is dead." Oh my goodness, what a huge mistake that was. He is so trying to grasp the concept that the questions keep coming. Every day, several times a day, these (or some variation of these) are the questions. . .

K: Is your Daddy dead?
Me: Yes, honey, he is?
K: Did heaven make him dead?
Me: Heaven is a place, not a person, and heaven did not make him dead.
K: Why is he dead?
Me: He was very sick and died?
K: Did he have a coat?
Me: What?
K: Was he cold, did he have a coat?
Me: No, he didn't die because he needed a coat.
K: Mommy, I'll be an astronaut and bring him a coat and rescue him from Heaven.
Me: Honey, that is very sweet, but really he didn't die because he needed a coat (grasping for straws to explain he didn't get sick because he was cold and needed a coat. . .) he died because he made some bad choices and smoked cigarettes.
K: Is Akachan dead (our cat).
Me: Yes, she is.
K: Did she smoke cigarettes?

It would seem there is no end in sight for this conversation. At least it has replaced in frequency the questions from K about who does and doesn't have a penis. Phew!!! And, after more than 20 years, I can finally talk about my Dad in way that doesn't bring a tear to my eye with the question "is your Daddy dead?" being a matter-of-fact part of each and every day, several times a day. What will be next, I'm almost afraid to find out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should

Last night hubby and I went out to dinner with three couples and had such a fun time. It was so nice to have a dinner with adult friends, eating adult food , having adult conversations. These folks always just crack me up. Oh my goodness, we really need to do that more often. So, in this case, just because you can DOES mean you should.

When we returned home, we found out that the power upstairs was completely out, downstairs was just fine. You see, there are power plug adapters and 110v/220v transformers. Some American products are dual voltage and only need the plug adaptor (e.g., the laptop, the DVD player). However, most American appliances need both. Apparently, T and his babysitter didn't quite get this concept. T wanted his air purifier plugged in. So, he and the babysitter used a plug adaptor (with no transformer) to plug in the purifier. Of course, it could plug into the wall outlet this way, but without a transformer it really shouldn't be plugged in. POOF, the entire upstairs was soon without power. The power in our house is now fixed, but the air purifier, well, that's now toast.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Seven Lessons I Learned in Borovets. . .

So, we went to Borovets again. This time hubby was able to come along. Last time we were there we stayed at a hotel right on the slope. It was exceptionally convenient is so many ways, but the rooms were a bit tired looking and it was quite noisy at night. So, this time I booked us an apartment, which was better kept, more spacious and much quieter.

We arrived at our apartment, not realizing that just because you book an apartment for your family, doesn't mean you will be the only ones in it. Yes, there was another family there when we arrived. We arrived a little earlier than expected and they were given extended check-out. So, the management of the apartment suggested we share it for a few hours. We did and it actually worked out fine, they even sold us a ski pass for 1/2 price that they didn't need any more. Still, that was a first for us. Lesson One: let the hotel know you are coming from Sofia and not from out-of-country (as weirdly many do), so they know to expect you NOT in the late afternoon.

Our first day in town, T and S went skiing for the afternoon. I took K over to our previous hotel where the ski lift for little ones and the ski kindergarten are located. I had an instructor take K skiing for an hour while I got him all signed-up for school the next day. After his lesson and lunch, we headed back to the apartment. Only, I took a wrong turn and my poor little guy had a long walk uphill (in his ski boots) with me carrying his little skis. He was in tears. I was cursing myself for taking the wrong road. We finally made it back to the apartment and we were so tired that we took a nice nap until the big boys got back from skiing. Lesson Two: Get a friggin map!

So, after skiing and nap, we went to the pool. Unfortunately, it is not located in the same building as our apartment, so a little walk in the cold was involved. We enjoyed a little swim in their small pool and decided to head over to the hot-tub. Soon, a guy tells everyone in the hot-tub, "You must pay 8 lev to use the hot-tub." 8 lev is about the same as $5.25. And, not just 8 lev total, but 8 lev/person/20 minutes!!! He continued to explain that only the pool is free; there is a separate 8 lev charge for using the sauna as well. And yet another charge if you want to use their tiny gym. Of course, there is a charge for each towel too. Ok, I guess this is what is meant by "nickel and dime you to death." Jeez Louise!!!!! Lesson Three: For a ski trip with little ones, convenience over space wins the day! The hotel we stayed at previously has a large pool and two large hot tubs in the same building as your room and they are all free, including towels! And, it's location was far more convenient.

It's bed time. There were two bedrooms each with a double bed. We thought the boys could share a bed. Think Again!!!! I ended up with K and hubby ended up with T. It was the only way to stop the monkey business. Lesson Four: Our boys CANNOT share a bed!

The next morning, I got my skis. I have to say, the ski shop at the apartments were MUCH CHEAPER than the ski shop at the hotel. We are talking about 5 LEV/DAY/PERSON for full set-up. We dropped K at his little Kindergarten ski school and for the first time ever, hubby, T and I all skied together!!! What fun!!!! You can ask T; to say I am a cautious skier is an understatement. According to T, "Mom you must make like 500 turns every run." Yes, all I do is make wide turns, I will not "bomb it" down the hill. No how, no way!!! So, yes, my seven year old son is already a better skier than his Mom. I'm ok with that!! But, at least he got to practice his turns. Hubby skied behind us to "protect" us from fast skiers and snow boarders who were really not watching out for the rest of us. Lesson Five: Watch your back. Even though those behind are supposed to watch for and go around those in front, it doesn't always work out that way.

For lunch, we found a "traditional" Bulgarian restaurant for tourists, decked out in hunting lodge style on the ski hill. In our attempt to use their restroom, we learned the Bulgarian verb "Pikae" or in English "to pee." In addition, because the toilet was broken, that is all we were allowed to use it for. Lesson Six: Men can always find a way to communicate the intricacies of using a toilet (even when they don't understand common words). Yes, hubby's Bulgarian is great, but there are some things they just don't teach at FSI.

At the end of the day, I let the big guys (yes, I'm including my seven year old as a big guy) take a run without me, while I went to get K. This time, after doing a last run without Mom slowing them down, T and hubby skied to the car and picked K and me up at his school. Believe me, I was not making that mistake again! We turned in our skis and drove back to Sofia, stopping at Burger King for dinner. Lesson Seven: Calories count even when skiing. Calories burnt skiing about 300/hour. Calories for a BK meal with drink about 1200. Well, I guess better to eat that kind of meal after a day of skiing, then after a day of loafing (although with kids do we ever have a day of loafing, hmmm. . .).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Just In Case. . .

It finally happened. We anticipated the day would be coming at some point, but didn’t know when. Well, today is the day. Parents in Sofia be warned, if your kid talks with my 7 year old much, your child might just come home and start asking about DNA, birth canals, eggs, sperm and a special, very close hug that only adults can do. Of course, they could just as easily come home and start talking about Lego Star Wars after hanging-out with my kid. But, just in case. . . .

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Moro and the Dead Guy

Ok, so one more post about our trip.

We stayed at the same hotel in Borovets where the kids from school met-up with their ski instructors each morning. It was the most convenient place to stay, and I'm all for convenience.

Our room had a double bed for me and bunk beds for the boys. The lobby was nice enough, but the rooms were in need of some work. Still, we were there to ski not stay all day in our hotel room. The first night, K climbed into the bottom bunk and said to me, "Mommy, get all the people off my bed." I asked, "What people?" He replied, "All the people and Moro." Who the hell is Moro??? Now, I'm not sure if he even knows what the word "people" exactly means, but he ran over to my bed scared and refused to go back to his bed. Then he looks over in the corner of the room, where there is nothing but my nightstand and asks, "Is that guy dead?" I asked him, "what guy" and he just points to that corner where I see nothing and says "that guy." Does he know what "guy" means, does he have any concept of what "dead" means. I keep telling myself these things as I get spooked out way too easily. We all went to bed for the night and I was so tired that I fell asleep. Then, in the middle of the night all the partiers started hanging out loudly outside the hotel and we could hear everything. T woke-up and I woke-up, luckily K didn't. T was able to fall back asleep; I fell asleep only to be woken up several times throughout the night, but never by the "dead guy" or "Moro" at least.

The next day we moved rooms, not because of the "dead guy" or "Moro," really! But, we wanted to move to the other side of the hotel to not be right above the square with all the bars. It was much quieter until about 1 AM, when some loud guys above our room came home from the bars and stayed up talking (not yelling, but almost as loud) until like 5 AM. The boys slept through it, I did not. Usually, in the morning I take great efforts to keep the boys from making too much noise as to not wake guests in other rooms. Well, you better damn well believe I didn't worry about it that morning! Of course, in the morning they didn't fight once, unbelievably, so we didn't really have any loud noises on our part to keep down for once. Oh well.

Seeing is Believing

Peace and quiet at last. K is going to try hockey lessons today. He’s been skating for a year and recently started insisting on wearing some of T’s old gear too. So, with the coach’s agreement, we thought we’d let him try the real deal. I loved my few days away with the boys, but it is so nice to have Dad take them and just have a quiet peaceful morning alone for a couple hours!!! So, don’t anyone DARE walk by my house and start my dogs off barking or there will be HELL to pay!!!!

We had a wonderful time in Borovets, but certainly not a quiet time. We went with another Mom and her two kids. Her son is in T’s class and one of his best buddies. T was so excited. And, excited children are generally not quiet children. They went skiing till 2:30 PM. After skiing, was swimming and mini-golf. On a side-note, mini-golf at the hotel was in a room with two real walls on the sides and walls made of glass on the front and back. Who does that???? We are all very lucky that there were no broken windows after the kids played golf. It's all fun and games till someone breaks a window!

As for K, oh my goodness he was so insistent on getting skis. I swear anything his brother does; he just has to do too. There are some things he is just too young to do. But, having proven himself on ice skates and insisting he wanted to try to ski, I decided why the heck not. Unfortunately, the kid’s club and kid’s ski school both insisted he must be 4 years old to ski. I tried explaining, “My boy can do it, you should see him on skates.” Finally, with a little help from friends, we found an instructor to give him a private lesson for an hour. This way, if he did well, I could prove it. And, if he didn’t like the feel of it or was too scared, we could just stop and be done with it. But, at least K would know if he was truly ready or not. Of course, he took to it like a fish to water. He was the cutest little skier ever!!! So, the next day, I went back to the kid’s club and told them, “He can ski. He did it yesterday with an instructor and he did GREAT!" The younger women were all excited and ready to take him. But, the two older women at the club gave me looks of disbelief. Ah, you silly silly women, you don’t know my boy. You just wait. And, of course, with him at the kid’s club for the morning, I could go ski for a few hours too. It’s just a “win-win” for everyone!

So, I went off and got myself an instructor for a couple hours. Of course, I was thinking that I would get some smoking hot ski instructor. Hey, a little eye candy never hurts. But, it was not to be. My instructor was great, but “eye candy” he was not!!!! So, we set off so he could teach me to stop snow plowing to turn. I was able to make parallel turns on the blue slopes. But, I just couldn’t get past my fear to try it on the red slope. Hey, I was just happy I actually made it down a red slope. So what if I had to snow plow to do it. I didn’t fall until I was mowed down by a kamikaze coming down a slope she wasn’t ready to come down. She didn’t know how to stop or slow and I guess I looked a lot softer than a tree. Ouch! Everyone was fine; I’m just a little sore in the upper body today, instead of just the legs as would normally be the case.

So, after skiing, my friend and I went to lunch and then picked-up our bigger kids. At 3 PM, we went to the kid’s club to pick-up the little ones. And, yes, to tout my own horn here, was I right or was I right?!! Even the older women were going on about what a great little skier K turned out to be. Seeing is believing. I then packed up the car with four kids, two adults and all the baggage to head home for "date-night" with my smoking hot hubby (saved myself there, right?) ;)

And that was ski week.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oh, the noise of it all

Oh dogs, my dear, dear dogs. Sometimes I wish we had a mute button for you. Every single time a shadow of movement is seen outside it's "woof, Woof, WOOF." And we don't have tiny little yappy dogs. We have big dogs, which means loud barks. And, not just any big dogs, but two old big dogs who are going blind. Heck, we come home and they are barking up a storm until we walk in the door and they can smell it is us. Now, if they were totally blind, they wouldn't bark. But, no, they can see enough to see shapes and movements, but apparently not details. I guess it is better than them walking into walls afterall. But, boy a mute button would sure be nice.

Speaking of a mute button, I could use one for my youngest son too. He has decided that it is just fun, fun, fun to scream. Inside voice, inside voice, INSIDE VOICE. I suppose yelling "inside voice" kind of defeats the purpose. Seriously though, this is a phase we need to get over very quickly!!!!

My language class has been going well. Though I have the WORST short-term memory. What was I talking about? Oh yeah. . .At least I understand how to read the Cyrillic alphabet now. Perhaps it's not memory, but hearing. Now, I have a small amount of hearing loss to begin with. But, with all this child and dog noise, I think I'm really truly losing it (if not the hearing, at least the sanity, but probably both). Oh well, being able to read the Cyrillic helps some anyway. Da, Da.

Ok, Leka Vecher!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Filling up the plate

I made no New Year’s resolutions. Yes, I have a goal of trying to make healthier food choices and exercising. Yes, I have a goal of trying to get back to being more involved in school stuff. Yes, I have a goal of learning some basic Bulgarian. But, no, these were not resolutions. Rather, these are just things I've wanted to do.

So, I will start the job as PTO Treasurer in February. I will help out with an Embassy Spouse Volunteer project for the winter. I start language class next week for 2 hours/day, 3 days/week for 10 weeks. And, to top it all off, we are moving at the end of March.

We are moving to a house that, hopefully, will be a better fit for our family. Because we sure as hell aren't moving again this tour!!!! So, now I feel my plate is more than enough full for me. So don't ask me to join in anything else, unless it’s just for fun - I can always use more of that. :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Dawn, A New Day, A New Year, A New Blog Post - Finally!

It seems I'm really on top of this thing for awhile, then well it just goes on the back burner. We are just finishing up two weeks of winter break. Today my youngest goes back to school and tomorrow my oldest returns.

We stayed home for the break and just enjoyed the kids not having places to go and things to do ALL THE TIME. But, of course, our last weekend of break was filled with lots of things to do and places to go.

On Dec. 31st we went bowling with two families, both British friends. Yes, I am the worst bowler ever. Terrible, just terrible. No more needs to be said!

We had those same two families over for New Years Eve. I made 60 of Alton Brown's buffalo wings (oh so good). Put out some olives, pita and hummus, etc. Yes, I'll start making better eating choices now, I mean now, ok, ok, ok, starting now. . . I was going to order pizza, unfortunately the pizza place was closed. Luckily my neighbor brought some lovely food that saved the day. The kids stayed up till midnight and we saw the most awesome fireworks from our place. Up here, you can see the whole city below. And, part of New Year's Eve here is for everyone to set-off fireworks (real fireworks too, no laws like back in the US about that, well about a lot of things really). But, not to worry, with so much wetness, I think fire hazards were pretty low. So, we saw fireworks down in the city from every direction, it was pretty amazing!!!

The next day, we went to lunch at one of the families from the previous night. It was quite the spread and we all played this game called "Chronology," which was quite fun. And, of course, I'm not going to get tired of making fun of the words "sledging" and "aluminium." Can we go buy an aluminium sledge (aluminum sled to us Yankees). Yes, we'll be speaking the Queen's English in no time. Umm, no, we won't.

On Sunday, we tried to go skiing. It is a five minute drive to the gondola from our house. It is a 30 minute ride on the gondola up to the top of the mountain/ski "resort." So, we got up there and they only had men's/boy's ski boots. Now, I don't know if many other women have this problem, but the cuff on a man's ski boot is just too tight on my calf. Now, being a short girl, it is true that men's ski boots end-up coming up to the thickest part of my calf. And, yes, I've put on some weight this year. Yes, I know Nanny Adela, starting NOW! But, even during my more healthy fit days, this was the case. So, I just ordered some women's ski boots - yay. We'll go to the local ski swap and get everything else, so we can all have our own equipment. So, I didn't ski and K didn't either because there was only one lift running and no rope pulls running. There's just not enough snow right now, which we understand is unusual for this time of year. Though it is sure snowing right now! T and hubby went skiing, but the one lift running was too advanced for T, so he had to walk up the bunny hills and give it a go. After two times, he was tuckered out. We came home, he had a headache and a fever to boot. Of course, he's fine today. Go figure.

And that's it from Bulgaria. We hope you and your family had a wonderful, fun and restful Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, Winter Break and New Years!!!!!! Here's to 2011 being happy, healthy and successful!!!!