Thursday, December 18, 2014

End-of-the-season flashback

Tonight at the dinner table we were discussing the word "bitch," enlightening the boys to the fact that not only is it a bad word that somehow they already know, but it does have a much more simple and appropriate meaning, female dog. This came up, of course, after my husband spelled out b-i-t-c-h when our dog, Sophie, tried stealing food off of the counter. "Yes dear husband, so very funny, ha, ha, ha. I am going to give you some leeway, being drugged-up on painkillers after minor surgery." And, yes, S is doing well, just a wee bit loopy, tired and apparently missing the kid-filter.

After this conversation, we shared an example of how this word has been so misused over the years, that even when used correctly it can be easily misunderstood. And, this brings us to tonight's end-of-the-season flashback. 

When we lived in Pakistan, I worked part-time in the Consular Section. We had an American car in Pakistan (a country in which right-hand drive cars were the appropriate style). S and I would drive in to work together, then I would go home and come back for him in the evening. 

While driving in to pick-up S, my car would be surrounded by beggars at certain stop lights. I had learned the hard way to never give money to a person on the street, at least in Pakistan. Once I gave money to a tragic, sweet looking little boy from the car window. Only a few seconds later a bigger, older boy came and punched him and took the money I had just given. Organized gangs referred to as the beggar mafia were all too commonplace. It was unnerving, sad, and overwhelming. 

Emma Lou was our beautiful, protective Belgian Malinois (or maybe Pakistani Shepherd or maybe wolf-dog, who knows) that we had adopted while living in Pakistan. And, by chance, one day I took her with me to pick-up S from work because she loved car rides and we thought it funny that it looked like our dog was driving the car. Lo and behold no beggars approached the car, even with a woman driving around alone. It was from this point forward that I learned two things, 1) give the money to reputable organizations that can truly help the kids and 2) take our dog with me in the car when driving alone to the Embassy. 

Our guards at the Embassy were a local guard force with limited English skills. Each time we would enter the Embassy, we would have to go through a car check at the security gate. The guards were friendly, professional and tried their best with English as I tried my best with Urdu. One day, Emma Lou and I pulled up to the security gate. The guard inspected my badge and then said, "bitch." Cue a stunned look on my face. Again, he said, "bitch." With me totally confused, he then pointed to Emma Lou and again said, "bitch?" "Oh yes, yes, she is."

And, so, in this flashback is our tribute to our beautiful Emma Lou. We still think about you and miss you girl. And, no boys, unlike your father who has the excuse of being in a medically induced stupor, you cannot go around calling our dog "bitch," just because she actually is one.

Emma Lou when we first adopted her

Emma Lou doing her impression of an Arctic Wolf in Bulgaira

Emma Lou in her later years, her black muzzle had turned gray.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Easy BBQ Chicken Quarters

Love this:

I just set the oven to 200 F. Put a dry rub on frozen chicken quarters and let them cook for 4 hours. About 15 minutes before they are done, heat up the grill on medium. Then turn it to low, slather BBQ sauce on the chicken quarters put them on the grill for 3 minutes per side and voila, fall of the bone BBQ chicken. If not frozen, same thing, less time (2.5 hours does the job). Frankly, at such a low temp, I tend to put them in and forget about them, taking them out whenever I'm ready to throw them on the grill.

Baked beans and a salad for the sides and we are good-to-go. Just wish my oldest ate meat, oh well, he will have salad and beans for dinner. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Getting back on the exercise bandwagon, or not. . .

So, today was the day. I was going to go to the pool and swim some laps. Just 30 minutes, nothing grand, but get back into the swing of things. My waterproof iPod shuffle was charged, my Zoomer fins, kick-board, towel and change of clothes were (and still are) packed, and I was ready to go.

I get to the outdoor heated pool and guess what, there was a huge group of seniors in the pool with their little white styrofoam weights (or whatever you call them), with more arriving by the minute and no lap lane. It is just our local community pool. Oh well, I will try again tomorrow. This time, I will go earlier, so if it doesn't work out I have time to switch gears to something else. I know, excuses, excuses!

This was my plan:
Above 70F: swim
Between 60-70F: walk/jog interval in the neighborhood
Under 60 or raining: The Firm workout with Susan Harris. I know her voice sounds like a porn star (so I've been told), but it is a very good workout!

Seriously, something tomorrow for sure! Really!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Helicopter propeller disengaged

Learning to turn off the propeller. In reality, I give my guys a lot of leeway, but when something is bothering them it is very hard for this Mom to not just swoop in and fix it.

I recently got some great advice, talk to them about their feelings, don't ask a lot "what's up" questions, but focus on mirroring back what they say and exploring their feelings. When I really think about it, I know I can trust that T will tell me if he needs me to intervene.  I hear if you help them work through their feelings, then they often find the way to resolution on their own; novel concept.

I guess sharing with T some examples of quotes from the bible about "judge not lest ye be judged," to use for a reply to what he's been hearing was maybe, just maybe, getting a little too involved.

Stepping back, helicopter propeller disengaged.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Turtle season

It must be turtle season here, as we had yet another turtle in our driveway this morning, luckily this time not injured.

Yesterday, we found the turtle above in our front walk, crushed by something. We are thinking it was likely a car, but do worry that our dog may have also had a paw in it.

We rushed him over to the wildlife refuge where they took the turtle right in. Hope s/he heals quickly and well. K was amazed by all the sights and sounds of all the injured and/or abused animals at the refuge. Such a sad sight to see. I think it is an important lesson for a little one, exotic animals are very cool to look at, but it is really not fair to those animals to keep them as pets. Most people are just not capable of properly caring and providing a proper environment for an exotic pet. So very sad. :(

And, yes, after completing the baseline for my data regression analysis, I could not get to sleep. Went to sleep after midnight and had to wake at 5:30 AM to get our oldest up and ready and then to his bus stop. You see, normally my husband takes him to the hub stop on his way into work, gets up with him, oversees him in the morning to make sure that he gets himself together in time.  I take care of youngest, who goes to school about two hours later. Alas, my husband is traveling this week. So, that means a) I probably will not sleep well and b) I have to get our oldest to his hub stop, which also means waking our youngest to go along for the ride. It's going to be a long week. Now, I really ought to focus back on school! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Glasses anyone

Doing a little homework avoidance here, so time for an update. My statistics class is really dry, dry, dry. Oh my goodness, so dang dry.

Anyway, after 44 years of 20/20 vision it is now time for me to get glasses, reading glasses I think. Typing with the computer quite a distance away so it does not blur on me. I probably should actually take a break from the computer, eh? I am grateful for the years I had, and I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. Funny, that it became so apparent during my Stats class though.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Yom Kippur

It has been an exceptionally difficult fast this year. There are many things for which we ask forgiveness, especially not performing all the mitzvahs when we could (those we know and those we don't). So, may all the suffering of this fast cleanse our souls and may every next year, we do better than we did the year before.

Now, let's eat!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It really does work

So, tonight we tried the method of shucking corn that I did not believe was real, but it is. You just cook the corn in its husk in the microwave (two ears for five minutes), take the corn out of the microwave and cut about an inch off of the stem end (the end that does not have the silk hanging out), then from the silk end just push and slide the ear right out of the husk. It comes out almost completely clean. Who knew? I wonder if this would work with other cooking methods?

I am adding this to our newly discovered method of marking our water glasses. Each family member has picked out their own color of silly band and that band goes on their water cup and stays there for the entire day. NO more multiple cups of water all over the house because people cannot remember which one is their cup. I hear that soon the silly bands will be replaced with rainbow loom markers.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Captain Underpants, what the heck?

I was just reading about Captain Underpants topping the "list of most frequently challenged books." What the heck?!

I credit Captain Underpants with getting my oldest child interested in reading. He started reading Captain Underpants in first grade. He loved Captain Underpants, as well as The Magic Tree House series, and then he moved on. Second grade was the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Third grade was the How to Train Your Dragon series. Fourth grade was the Percy Jackson series. Fifth grade he started to read the Hitchhiker's Guide series.

He does not want or like to read, unless it is something that captures his attention. And, each year he has found something to capture his attention. And, his reading skills are top notch.  He is thoughtful, empathetic, committed to his causes and, yes, sometimes stubborn. But, that doesn't come from Captain Underpants. Our youngest is now reading Captain Underpants. I will say that he and his brother do like to play chess on a lazy Saturday wearing only underwear. Perhaps, there is a connection on that front. I could think of worse things.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

We all have something

I was thinking today about how we have so many different friends, from all over the world, with different education levels, religions, orientations, ethnicities, shapes, sizes, conditions, situations and on and on. And, you know, it occurred to me, we all have something. We all have something that makes us unique, different, special, maybe even insecure from time-to-time. But, we really shouldn't be insecure. Because, really, we all have something. And, I would bet, that those we don't think have "something," do. And, if they don't believe that they do, then simply the pressure of having to keep up the appearance of perfection, in and of itself, is something. We all have something.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

That is a whole lot of produce

Oh man, that's a whole lot of produce. So, I spent the $106 for the large box of produce. It is locally sourced, organic, 9-11 different types, in-season, more veggies than fruit and I pick it up at the local drop-off point. Turns out the large box is actually two medium boxes, so I got double of everything essentially. At first when I saw this I thought, "oh shit, how will I use this all." But, really, the lettuce we use for wraps and salads, the fruit goes no problem, some of the veggies can be used to make noodles with the Spiralizer - the tri-blade vegetable spiral slicer (hey, an excuse to make yet another Amazon order), and the rest easily goes with husband's 9 - 10 servings of produce/day. This may just work. I will say the boys loved my veggie intense meals these last few nights. We will see. . .

Monday, September 15, 2014

Speaking of food. . .

Since my last post, I thought I should throw myself equally under the bus. . .

I grew up eating Swanson's Turkey TV dinners, Spaghettios, a lot of red meat and unlimited supplies of Coca-Cola. To say I was a Coca-Cola addict would be a huge understatement. I hated milk, I hated water, it was pretty much Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper and juice.   Oh yes, and my favorite thing to do driving home from high school was to stop at the local 7 11 and get a Coca-Cola filled to the top with ice and a bag of M&Ms. Such a healthy girl, wasn't I? Yet, weight wasn't an issue for me until college - go figure.

I am a short woman, very short in fact. For many years now, I've been telling my boys that I was so short because I ate so horribly and drank Coca-Cola instead of milk while I was growing and I would be damned (well darned to them) if I let them make the same mistake. Only, the problem here is that genetically speaking, no matter what I would have done, being short was in my cards. Maybe, I could have eked out a couple more inches, maybe, but shortness is who I am and nothing wrong with that. I've been realizing that I need to tweak my message to the boys as the youngest one keeps asking why he is the shortest boy in 2nd grade when he always tries to make healthy choices. He is pretty good about it really. Oh no, what have I done.

So, we talked about exactly this topic. That genetically speaking, they are going to be short and they are beautiful, smart, kind, giving people and height is just a part of who they are physically and means nothing else than that. That eating right and getting lots of good sleep will help them grow to their fullest potential, and that is the goal for a healthy life on all fronts, to make choices to reach our fullest potential in all ways. That is a more accurate message, a more healthy message and one I wish I would have thought about much sooner. And, so it goes.

All about that logic

Since we arrived at our new home, I've been trying to keep on top of the grocery list and resulting bill. I could not understand how we were spending so much and how we could possibly be eating so much food. Well, I did understand, but it didn't seem logical. And, of course, I'm all about that logic.

If you know my husband, then you know that for YEARS he has been a fitness fanatic, including protein shakes and TONS of protein-rich foods. In years past, it was a copious amount of protein shakes. Over the years, while struggling to help our oldest child with his weight and making healthy choices (especially as he is the only vegetarian in the family and someone who seems to crave starches), I've come to the mindset that natural foods are best. The less processed food we put into our bodies the better. So, I've been encouraging this lifestyle with the entire family, including the additional idea that healthy fats (seeds, nuts, eggs, cheese, lean meats, etc. . .) are not bad, but rather limiting starches is the better path. Carbs are not bad (fruits, veggies, etc.), it is the starches that get us (potatoes, corn, sugar, rice, pasta, flour, etc.). Starches should be consumed in moderation, making up the smallest portion of our food choices, trying to choose the healthiest, least processed, versions when we do eat them. It is not about being skinny, it is about being healthy. Period. Yeah, we are not perfect by a long shot. But, the awareness helps. And, really, it just makes sense to me. And, of course, I'm all about that logic.

Well, wouldn't you know, my husband took this all to heart, bless him, and has made the switch off of protein powders and has started ensuring that he gets his daily portion of fruits and vegetables. Only, he had incorrectly calculated servings sizes to be two times more than what they were supposed to be for the fruits and vegetables and three times that for proteins. I couldn't keep up. I would go buy 30 eggs/week (mostly using only the whites), pounds of fruit and veggies (with specific kinds requested) and the fruit and veggies would just be gone in two days, not to mention the amount of other proteins "needed." We have two refrigerators and not enough room to buy a week's worth of food. And, with the nightly mess of him making so much food for the next day; I was almost starting to miss protein shakes. So, we sat down and figured this all out using reputable websites. Now my husband's three lunches/day are based on proper serving sizes, not the two to three times more that he thought was a serving. Now, it makes sense. Now, it is all about that logic.

In addition, we figured out that requesting specific types of fruits and veggies was not realistic, not logical. As, sometimes those requested were not in-season and very expensive. Our grocery bill has been astronomical!!! We need to stick with those fruits and vegetables that are in-season. To that end, I found a service that will put together a large box of fruits and veggies, from local farms, all in-season for me to buy each week. I am excited to give this a try and see if it helps our family maintain the fresh fruit and veggie consumption, but in a more logical way. Because, of course, I am all about that logic. And, yes, I do like the song "All about that bass." :)

Monday, September 8, 2014

How the hell do you do it all?

I'm just putting this out there for conversation and curiosity. Does anyone know of a couple where both spouses are full-throttle with their careers, their children, their family as a whole and each other? Or, does it seem that only one spouse at a time can take the career front-seat, so to speak? And, if they are both full-throttle for all, how the hell do they do it and not die of exhaustion?

Not in the career world yet, still just focusing on my school. Just wondering, how the hell do you do it all???? And, really, is it worth it? Of course, I want to find something I love to do, that is fulfilling beyond being a mom and wife. I do need it! However, how to draw the line, where to draw the line? Frankly, to me a part-time gig that is fulfilling seems the ideal solution. Yes, that means I am accepting that my career will not be the one getting top billing.

Clearly, my husband makes far more money than I could possibly make having been out of the career world for SO LONG. And, given the fact that I have limited time with my kiddos before they are off to college (better damn well go to college), I want to balance it all, maximize our resources and enjoy a fulfilling life as a mom, a wife and as an individual beyond those roles. I want the same for my husband and for my children too. I guess if I had the answer on  how to do all that, I would have a best-selling book, wouldn't I? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Moms, Husbands, Kids and Chores, Oh My!

Growing up, my brother and I had chores and we did not get paid for them. The whole family pitched in every Sunday to clean the house and each day we took turns setting the table, clearing the table, and unloading the dishwasher. My dad had a rule, whoever cooked dinner that night, the other people would clean it up after. I liked that rule and it probably had a bit to do with why I liked to cook. My brother was in charge of vacuuming and taking out the garbage. I was in charge of cleaning bathrooms and dusting. We actually fought over who got to mop - I know, weird, right? My parents split up the rest of the chores. It worked.

It was different for my husband, who did not have chores. His mom enjoyed and insisted on taking care of the home, the boys, the projects, the cleaning, etc. . .That was what she considered her employment and she took and still takes great pride in this work. She is also a fantastic baker and father-in-law is an absolutely stunning chef. But, for my husband, doing chores, cleaning and cooking were not really something expected of him growing up. In fact, he wasn't really allowed to do these things. So, he never really learned how to do them.

Now, this is not to say my husband has never done anything around our home. He unloads the dishwasher on his days off and does a good share of laundry too.  He, also, loves to try on his chef hat from time-to-time, even if he is not so much into cleaning up the mess afterward. In our house, it would seem the motto is "no matter who cooks, Mom cleans."

Ok, I'm not pulling any punches here, I hate the job of cleaning - HATE IT. I do not find it cathartic or pleasant or any of that, though more power to those of you who do! And, yet, I am also the type who does something right or not at all, I know I only shoot myself in the foot with that attitude. Still, it is hard to break. I might have a tad bit of OCD about germs and disinfecting, maybe, maybe just a little.

When living overseas, we were able to have someone help us with this stuff, which was wonderful. When my husband was in Iraq last year and I was "home" with the boys working on my MBA, I hired someone to come in once per week to help me out too. But, now we are at our new posting in the US, without Iraq pay, and hiring help just doesn't seem likely. I decided it was time for the family to "help." Again, this is hard for me in a way because I do like things done a certain way. But, I also know I need the help. My husband's lack of doing chores growing up became quite apparent during this "help." I made a list of chores, and let him choose those he wanted to do. He actually chose bathrooms (wow). But, of course, his idea and my idea of how this should be done were different. I don't really think he has ever cleaned a bathroom before. He is learning (after 20 years of marriage). Before he started, I told him to make sure any paper towel used to clean the toilet should not be used on anything else. He stated "that makes sense, wouldn't have thought of that." Ok, good thing I clarified ahead. After cleaning the bathroom, I said "thank you so much for cleaning the bathrooms, can I just show you two things, you must clean the fixtures of the sink too and when cleaning the toilet it is not just the seat area, but the whole toilet." Trying to let go, but I wanted him to know for next time. Oh, that pesky line of appreciating, not discouraging, but making sure the "help" is actually help.

And, so, more than ever, I know I want our boys to know how to do these things without having to be taught as adults. Sometimes I do believe that not seeing or knowing all the effort that goes into cleaning something, makes it much easier to be careless about keeping it clean. If they are responsible for helping keep it clean, perhaps they would try a little harder to not get things so messy in the first place. Perhaps take more care to aim at the toilet properly. Perhaps, when preparing something in the kitchen, taking a little more care to not be sloppy about it. Still, I see all the homework my 11 year old has and must admit, I totally understand why a mom would not want to further burden her child with more work. What to do, what to do, what to do????

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tuesday is coming and then the adventure really begins. . .

On Tuesday, I pick-up T from camp. I'm so excited to see him. We haven't talked in three weeks. I sure hope he had fun. I do know his little brother really enjoyed having alone time with us.

The time apart has made me realize just how much of my time and energy goes to T and how little goes to K. With the older one's homework demands it had become such a focus at the expense of the little guy. Now, with my husband back from Iraq, I so hope that having two parents will make it easier to devote more equal time to both. We definitely need to give more alone time to our little guy.

T did get into a STEMM school, which will be demanding. Helping T with homework quickly devolves into struggles and frustrations between us. Clearly, my children will NEVER be home schooled! And, it really isn't fair to K to have so much of my attention focused on T at the expense of having any time for anything or anyone else.

We are learning along the way, always. . .

So, Tuesday will be the start of our next adventure with these lessons learned ready to be applied. Looking forward to (and dreading at the same time) our nine night drive across country in one car with two boys, a dog, my husband and myself. Hopefully, it will be about some quality family time together and seeing some new things from our own country along the way.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Camping Birthday for boys and home alone for me

Our youngest son is turning seven years old. They grow-up so fast. His big brother went to Canada for a three week sleep-away camp. This weekend my husband and K are going on a weekend camping trip with three other friends, each kid is bringing one parent, while I will be staying behind for the weekend. Spa day is planned for Saturday with a hot stone massage, mani and pedi planned. That evening will be dinner out with six girlfriends, followed by wine and hot tub back at our hotel. As much as K is looking forward to this camping trip, I think I am looking forward to a weekend on my own (the first in years). Ahhh. . .

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How much are your principles worth?

We had a beautiful home that we rented for the year while my husband was away in Iraq. Unfortunately, our landlords and their property manager were not so great.

First, we were mislead about our move-out date. Second, the homeowners who already knew they would be returning before the August 2014 move-out date we wanted, came home even earlier than expected and wanted their house back then and there. Third, after the owners returned to the area, any needed repairs started getting difficult, dragged out and done as cheaply and slowly as possible. Fourth, the homeowners were planning a major remodel, including likely changing out the 12-year-old carpeting. Even with all the previous crap, I agreed without hesitation to the three needed visits from contractors to assess the space for expansion and remodel.

After a year of headaches and heartaches with these people, we moved out on June 30. I paid a cleaner to come and do an exceptionally thorough move-out clean and steam clean carpets. I paid the property manager's repair person to take down art work and patch, repair, paint any holes on walls anywhere in the house. I went well above and beyond making that house immaculate. I just wanted out without ANY hassles. The move-out inspection went well. There was one carpet area that I had used an OXY product on that did not work out so well. I showed it to them and gave them a quote from the most highly rated repair person on Angie's list to fix. The property manager signed a move-out inspection stating that the move-out condition was the same as the move-in condition, except for that one carpet spot.

That night I get an e-mail that they have found another stain in the living room. Until just a few days before move-out, we had a large red persian carpet in that room. The stain had a pink tint to it and I just wanted this all to be over and so said, fine, get a quote for its repair too. The stain was exceptionally faint and the property manager mentioned that it should be able to be patched. Then a week later, the list from the landlords to the property manager to us began to grow.

My cleaner and I talked. I wanted to know if he had seen any thing being listed. He told me that a newly claimed master bedroom stain was not there when he did the cleaning, neither before nor after. He stated that the property manager, owners and their kids came while he was steam cleaning, walked around on wet carpets with dirty shoes and refused to take them off. Our cleaner volunteered to us that we ought to get a lawyer right away because, from what he saw and heard, the landlord was out to keep our deposit any way he could. I've been a landlord and I've seen what bad tenants look like. While I know it is self-serving to say so, we were excellent tenants who left that house in excellent condition. We don't smoke, we had a cleaner come once/week to clean the house, we had professional cleaners do a move-out clean and carpet clean. We were good tenants and our housecleaners were willing to back us up.

Not knowing that I had a statement from our cleaner, the property manager wrote to me stating that our cleaner found more than two stains, which we knew was not true. We hired an attorney. Ultimately, after assessing all the "damages," the property manager offered a 50/50 split with the owners of the home on repair costs. We had planned to pay the full costs of the family room carpet replacement and the patch repair for the living room and only that. The number offered was about $500 more than we thought legitimate. On the other hand, it was close, kind of. Our attorney asked us "how much are your principals worth in terms of time and a continued fight on this?" I was so tired, I just wanted to be done with this house and these people. We told her to just accept the offer on our behalf, but tell them we do not accept blame for anything but the two carpet stains, even though we accept their number for costs. We are simply paying for this to be done, to have a written statement from them saying this is over, there will be no other claims of needed repairs. I went back and forth on this, but when all is said and done, I was just too tired to fight this any more.

And, that is how much my principles are worth.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July

I hope all of my American readers have a lovely 4th of July wherever you are in the world. May our freedoms and opportunities be celebrated, appreciated, cherished, and nourished and may such freedoms and opportunities be available to all citizens of the world desiring the same.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Walking the line. . .

This is solely my opinion and does not intentionally reflect the official or unofficial opinion of any other person or entity. That, and my movers are coming today, so I am avoiding thinking about my task at hand.

Was the war in Iraq worth it? Based on a variety of recent polls and news reports, it would appear that majority opinion among US citizens is that it was NOT. Though, did we really need a poll to tell us that? There are blame games going around and supporters of the war on all the news shows insisting the war was the right thing to do. I'm not even sure what their point is in doing this. Nobody can change the past and it is not going to persuade war-weary Americans to go back to war.

I cannot help but wonder how far all the money spent in Iraq could have gone toward research and development for sustainable energy sources within our own country? Again, beside the point, because we cannot change the past. And, even if we could, we don't actually know what would have happened. Would President Obama have been elected president had we not gone to war in the previous administration? Would we now have President Clinton or President McCain instead? Who knows? The point is that so many things would have been different that we have no way of knowing how those differences would have affected Iraq, the US and the world.

What do we know? We know that regardless of the past mistakes, and clearly there were many from many different people, we have to deal with the situation we have now. So, let's stop the blame game and deal with the reality of the present.

These realities can be found throughout the news stories that all seem to agree, at least, on some core  basics regardless of political leanings.

Reality is that Iran already has a lot of sway and will continue to have such sway with the Shia populations. 

Reality is that the Sunnis do not trust the Shia or Iran.

Reality of the present is that the American public will not support putting thousands of troops on the ground.

Reality is that even if we do put troops on the ground, ISIL would use it as an exceptionally successful recruiting tool.

Reality is that more the West gets involved, the more ISIL will claim that this is not about one sect of Islam against another, but about the West against Islam.

Reality is that if we give weapons to "moderate" rebels in Syria, there is a strong possibility those weapons will end-up in the wrong hands at some point down the road.

Reality is that if we do nothing ISIL grows, if we bomb Syria we support Assad.

Reality in each of the regions is that though united against a common enemy for now, still each region has a variety of factions that at some point will again be fighting each other for power should a partition take place. This still could be a better situation than we have now, but that is above my pay grade (especially since I don't get paid).

What do we do with all of that? I really can't say. But, ignoring reality is not a viable option.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The sweetest thing

I shop at Safeway several times per week. It is at the bottom of our hill and so convenient. Over this last year, I've gotten to know several of the cashiers. Today, I mentioned to one of my favorite cashiers that we are moving this week. She remembered that my husband is away and asked about him. She asked about the boys who she often sees with me. She wished us well and then, after I had already paid, she asked for my Safeway card back. Unsure why, I gave it to her and she applied a $20 coupon that she had sitting by her register, then handed me $20. Wow, wow, wow, such a surprise. What a wonderfully sweet thing to do! Someone did something nice just for the sake of being nice. It really made my day.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A second time around

When T was in third grade he had a sleep over with seven friends and I swore I would  NEVER allow him to have another birthday sleepover again. Guess what we are doing tonight? T will be away at camp during his birthday, so he decided this was how he wanted to celebrate before he took off for camp. I limited him to two friends, he persuaded me to allow three.  I don't know about this, four 11-year-old boys. They are all great kids, but they are still 11-year-old boys. I've already been told that they plan to stay up all night. I told them to wind it down by midnight. Yeah, I know, but I had to try. We will see. . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's the small things

Today, I heard from our new landlord at our new posting. He just wrote to tell me that he has a dog door for his dog that he can leave set-up for our girl. I had noticed in pictures of the house that the door to the backyard was a glass door, but not sliding door. It didn't seem possible to set-up a dog door for Sophie. So, I've been worrying how Sophie might adjust to life without a dog door and here our new landlord already has one set-up for her. It's a small thing, yet a big thing. It made me happy.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The janus worm

A worm with two heads. . .am I actually comparing myself to a friggin' janus worm? It is how I feel right now. One side is the side saying to find happiness, look to what I can do, what I can impact and focus my energies on those things, focus on the positive, on life, on love, on my children, on happiness, one step at a time. The other side, trying to pull me in the opposite direction, is focusing on all the things on my plate right now, all the difficulties in my life, all the challenges ahead, focusing on feelings of being overwhelmed, on what I wish were the situation, on worries, on negativity, on wanting to crawl into a cave and pull in a nice big boulder behind me. Ok, I need to stop thinking of myself as a two-headed worm. Yikes!!!

And, thanks to my brother for explaining the janus worm concept to me when we were kids. By the way, I am starting to think this blog has become my cave (hence the increase in posts).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sophie the dorkmeister

Our dog is Sophie. She is a street dog from Portugal. We found her when she was about a year old (or so the vet theorized based on the good condition of her teeth). She has been with us for 12.5 years. I never really noticed before that she is a nocturnal creature. I don't know if this is something new or if it is because we installed a dog door for her last year when we moved into this house. For the first time in her life, she has unlimited access to the backyard at any time of her choosing. I swear, all night long I hear her going in and out, in and out, in and out. I don't know what the heck she is doing, but it doesn't involve barking or destroying, so have at it. Still, what the heck?

Poor Sophie, boys are always putting hats, helmets, glasses on the girl. She just sits there and lets them, such a patient girl. She does love her boys!

Good enough

Inevitably, the moves always work out in the end. If I forget to put something in UAB (our quick to arrive, much smaller, air shipment) instead of HHE (our slower to arrive, the majority of our belongings, household goods shipment), I can always buy another. Of course, this is how I now have 5 spatulas. The movers come on the 25th and we move to a hotel for a month, then we drive across country to our next posting. I wish our landlords here would have given us three more weeks, so my husband could have been here to help us make the move and have less time in the hotel, but they will not budge an inch. I have some choice words, but will refrain (at least in writing).

My oldest is going to overnight camp in Canada for three weeks, a few days after we move into the hotel. His first time at such a camp. The camp just sent a booklet (yes, not a list, a booklet) of all the things to pack, but it must fit into two suitcases. So, in addition to the UAB that will come to the hotel with us, we need to make sure we pack-up his camp gear ahead of the movers arrival too.

It will get done. It may not be done well, but it will be "good enough." And, that is all I am shooting for these days.

With antibiotics in working mode, today we will venture out to celebrate Father's Day with our Uncle. T insists he is ready and able for Laser Tag, the planned activity before dinner out. I don't know about this. We will see. . .

Friday, June 13, 2014

No waiting for Sunday

I don't always know what to think when it comes to my oldest child being sick. During school break it started, he had a fever and a cough, but it seemed to improve. He seemed so active and well when pursuing his interests. Then, our five day school break was over. The night before and on school mornings, the cough and tiredness would come, but no fever. It was a stressful week on many fronts, and he and I were both fighting what seemed like a standard summer cold. So, I am feeling quite bad that I didn't take his illness more seriously sooner. His cough would get bad at school and they sent him home. He got better again, so I sent him back after a day home and then it happened again, this time the fever was back in full force. Finally, I decided we needed to go to the doctor.

Poor kid, he is on an inhaler for now and if that doesn't clear him up by Sunday they are treating him for pneumonia. Upon this discovery, I decided maybe my cold that is hanging on needed a look as well. I went to the doctor today and am now on antibiotics and myriad other drugs. Ok, I need to take this illness crap more seriously.

** Ok, so no waiting for Sunday! His fever went down again after the doctor's visit on Thursday, only to spike back up to 102 tonight. Enough is enough, give my boy antibiotics. Call is in to the doctor and hopefully he too will be on the antibiotic gravy train soon.

*** Yay! The doctor called him in antibiotics. Hoping we can kick this illness by the end of the weekend, so my guy can have fun and enjoy all the great activities during the last week of school.

Monday, June 9, 2014


So, my Aunt is my Mom's sister and she and her husband took me in when I was a sophomore in high school. I lived with them during school breaks my first few years of college as well. And, even before I lived with them, I spent a good portion of my non-school, non-work, non-sleep hours at their house. They are the ones who walked me down the aisle when my husband and I renewed our vows. They are the ones to whom we "come home."

I know it is a very South Asian thing to do and I certainly encountered it a lot when working at the Immigrant Visa section in Islamabad, but the term "cousin-brothers" does seem very fitting for the relationship I have with my Aunt and Uncle's two sons. Sometimes it just fits. And, just to be clear, my cousins are not actually both my cousins and my brothers.

The five day weekend

The boys had Wed - Fri off for Shavuot, which is the holiday to honor the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Or, as the boys refer to it, the holiday we are supposed to eat blintzes. Or, as I refer to it, what the heck am I going to do with these boys for The NEXT FIVE DAYS holiday. Since we are moving to a hotel for a month at the end of June, going away just wasn't all that appealing.

So, we went to our favorite park and figured out how it connects to our favorite little outdoor shopping plaza that has a crepe food cart. Blintzes are very similar to crepes. It was about 1.5 miles each way. A lovely park, a lovely walk, with yummy crepes as our end result. Good start!

The next day we went to a children's museum with my youngest and a friend, while my oldest stayed with another friend. What I thought was allergies for him turned into a bad cold.

Friday we hung at home to rest for the day. Pretty much let all screen time rules drop to the wayside and wasted away our day. :( 

Saturday, the boys had piano lessons followed by a recital in the afternoon. We had a BBQ with family at our place that evening. Then my boys and their little cousin stayed with Aunt/Grandma, while my cousins took me to a dive bar to listen to their friend play country music. I am not typically into country, but it was fun. I came home feeling like I was having bad allergies though.

Turns out, it was my turn for the cold. Sunday, I was absolutely miserable, my youngest had a play date away in the morning and then my boys were absolutely bored for the afternoon; I was in no shape for anything. A friend called and asked the boys for a play date, but I couldn't drive all drugged up on cold meds, and I didn't want to expose anyone to our house full of germs, so said maybe next weekend. The friend's Dad sent me a text offering to come get and drop-off my boys. Wow, really, are you sure? He said that he was, so I am taking him at his word and hoping to G-d the boys behave and he doesn't regret it. Thirty minutes later, off they go and I get a quiet rest. Thank goodness for good friends!!!

And that is how we spent our five day weekend. Now, if I can just get over this fever and cold. Too miserable to sleep and too close to kid pick-up time to take any meds. Grrr!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How not to argue your point

Ok, I just have to comment on this because it is a huge pet peeve of mine.

If you are an obvious far right Republican and you post articles from FOX news to your Facebook page to prove your point, you prove NOTHING.

If you are an obvious far left Democrat and you post articles from MoveOn.Org to your Facebook page to prove your point, you prove NOTHING.

That is all.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Selective memory

Blasted allergies. For all we dreamed about with coming home, I don't know how the hell I forgot about late Spring allergies here. Selective memory I guess. Nothing like having the worst allergy problems since, since, well since last time I lived here during this time of year. K is back on the inhaler after not needing it for over two years (not asthma, just allergy induced wheezing), T is also suffering badly (but his allergies seem bad almost every place we go). If we were going to stay, I would definitely start them on shots. But, every place is so different, I'm told shots designed for here may not do all that much good elsewhere. Oh well, there is good and bad everywhere and this is definitely the bad of here, still there is so much good it certainly won't stop us from coming back.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Deep thoughts not by Jack Handy

I have come to believe that a joyful, healthy, happy life has nothing to do with what others think of us. Rather, it should be more about just finding joy and fulfillment, while also showing and giving compassion, love and care for others. Not for the sake of some tit-for-tat exchange of favors, emotions or care; not for building-up some cosmic good karma; and certainly not from guilt. But, just for the pure experience of relating to other human beings.

I've also been thinking a lot about the difference between ego and self-esteem. All too often, I wonder if we teach our children to build their egos, but not their self-esteem. I am starting to see that ego is built or knocked down by judging ourselves by what others do, say, have or think. It is dependent upon others, often involving comparisons to and validation from others; a very volatile way to live.

Self-esteem, on the other hand, comes from within and cannot be knocked down or built-up by others. It is more dependent on being built from within. Am I trying my best to improve? Am I making progress? Am I actively contributing to the world around me? Am I engaging with others, learning and growing? What can I do to make a difference for the better? I wonder if the only comparison true self-esteem allows is a comparison to self?

Is ego all bad? Maybe what I am calling ego is actually a component of competitive drive, which is an essential motivator for progress for many. Maybe it is a necessary component for progress and achievement. I really don't know. Maybe I've just gone completely off the deep-end and need a good drink and/or a good. . ., well let's just say end to this unaccompanied tour. Regardless, clearly I don't have all of the answers, in fact I barely have any. But, I would love to hear the thoughts of my lurkers and commentators alike.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Two months until we move

We are 40 days away from completing an unaccompanied tour. Living back in the Pacific NW has been wonderful. The kids and I are so ready to have S back with us, but not at all ready to leave. But, leave we must in two months time. This has certainly strengthened my resolve to return "home" for good once we leave State Department life behind.

The recent death of my Uncle (Dad's brother) and my Great Aunt (Grandma's sister) drive home just how much it touches my heart to be close enough to family during such times. For such a tactile/kinesthetic person, I have missed being physically present in the lives of my family. Not just being physically present and available, but emotionally as well. To be able to attend the services and hear and share all the beautiful stories of their lives and see and feel the emotion, caring and love behind such stories. I miss being able to be present in this way; it is so hard to do when we are so far away most of the time. It has been important for the boys and me to be so connected and close to family in good times and in bad for our time back home.

Our sons are getting to really know my family too. They see them all the time, we have BBQs with them, holiday dinners, small get-aways together. It has been wonderful to have the opportunity for the boys to really know the family. We will miss that on a day-to-day basis. But, also, I know we must buy a home here ASAP, so we can start coming back each summer to be "home" and keep these connections alive and growing. In addition to old friends, we  have made some wonderful new friends here too. The boys have learned so much at school, their Hebrew and knowledge of Judaism have grown so much and it has been amazing to see. So many things we will miss from "home."

No matter what happens, or where we go next, I know that having this year back "home" will remain a special time for the boys and me. Though it has been very difficult to have S away for the year, though we've had some trials along the way, it was the right choice.

Stay Alive

My new favorite song by Jose Gonzalez. Poor kids, I keep playing this one over and over and over. Of course, the next song on the playlist is the Pina Colada song, which for some reason they absolutely love. We even had a pina colada night at their insistence - virgin coladas for them of course. :)

By the way, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was just a movie that really hit home for me. I do recommend it. Yes, some of it is outlandish, but the message, the message is spot on!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Letting go

I have so much homework that I should be doing, but these thoughts are just overtaking my mind and I, at least, want to get them down before they disappear into the twilight zone. I've  been really emotionally and physically spent this last while, some due to the UAT, some due to new things, most due to old things. And, it is just dawning on me tonight, finally maybe getting through this thick skull of mine, that it's time to let go. I cannot carry these burdens on my shoulders anymore because they are eating me up inside. Not every battle has to be fought. As much as I hate to admit this, not every event has a logical explanation. Not every injustice can be understood.

Awhile ago, I railed against the concept of "let go and let G-d," thinking that too many people use that as a way to avoid responsibility for their own lives and choices. And, yes, there are some who do that. But, maybe, just maybe, I'm starting to understand that in a different way. Maybe "let go and let G-d" means for me to say, "G-d, I cannot carry these burdens on my shoulders any more, I am taking them off and placing them at your feet, giving them over to you, please take them so I can learn to live again." Maybe, just maybe. . .