Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The summer is winding down but life is winding up.

My parents made it back from a fun weekend in Wisconsin. I'm excited about our trip there next year. If we all get together, that'll be 23 people. Far from a family reunion record, but quite something for -our- family.

And in other news, aka random thoughts...

We met a new family at the pool on Tuesday afternoon. Christine V. and her 3 girls (9, 6, 4) were swimming and we had an enjoyable time chatting with them. The older two will be attending ISM, one could even be in Rebecca's class, and the younger is planning to attend Amerikids, so it seems like we'll be seeing a bit of them.
It seems I'm developing a taste for pandesal. Maybe it was destiny since I like bread so much (I could never ever do Atkins), but those mildly sweet little rolls with some grainy stuff on it aren't as bad as I'd though. Of course it took nearly a year and half to get to this point. The kids have always liked it and they do make perfect sized kid sandwiches.
Anyone had Lasik done? Hmmm.
And I'm going to have to find a dentist here. I'm starting to get headaches again from my teeth. I figure I might as well get the wisdom teeth pulled and have an orthodontia consultation.
By the time I get back to the States, I just might be unrecognizable. Is that a bad thing?

Friday, July 23, 2004

Off to Milwaukee...

No, not us, my parents! They are spending the weekend in Wisconsin visiting with my mom's side of the family. Up there we have my grandmother, my mom's sister (with her husband and 2 kids) and my mom's brother (with his wife and 8 kids).

We're planning next year to get up there ourselves over our homeleave. Seeing as my aunt and uncle have never even met Ian, and saw Katherine when she was about 18mo old, it'll be about time.

My dad doesn't often get up that way either, so this should be an interesting weekend for all involved. Hope the weather is nice and they all have fun!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The school situation in Togo

The school situation is looking up and that's such a relief.

It seems we jumped the gun and made the classic mistake of taking one person's word and experience as gospel, without truly knowing the source.
We have options and that's the good thing. While it's true that the British School is not in the OOS structure and we'd have to pay the balance out of pocket, the American school isn't as bad as we were led to believe. It is a tiny school (50+ kids at last count), and the grounds are far from great, but the education is what counts. There is a new principal starting this year and I hope to have my load of questions answered this summer. And if we can suppliment from outside for extracurriculars... this could be an excellent opportunity for our family to make a difference by being fully involved in the school.
More to ponder, but I'm happy to report it's good news!

Thoughts on being an only child

I was asked recently about my thoughts so I figured I'd share.

I didn't mind being an only child. Sure, I asked for a sibling periodically but it never was a hang-up.

We didn't live near extended family so my parents and my friends at school were my support system. Being an outgoing kid erased any loneliness I felt. We moved from one small community to the next, so similar backgrounds and shared separation/new school/new friends issues bonded me quickly to my peers. In that regard I was lucky.
As an only child, I was fine.
It was once I graduated college that I realized I'm alone. Should something happen to my parents, I'm the only one left. It falls to me to check up on them (they may find that a silly thought, afterall isn't it their job to check up on me?). If I want to pull off a surprise for them.. it's my secret to keep. I have no siblings to share childhood stories with. My kids have no aunts, uncles, or cousins. Though my husband has one brother, he's not married, has no kids and they are estranged anyhow. I have no one to call up and gab to. My mom is great, but she'll always be Mom, you know? So here I am, 8000 miles away (granted, by choice) with a single tie to the United States and home.
Of course I don't feel that anything is lacking in my day to day life for it's always been like this. It's just a little lonely when I'm asked about it or when I stop to think about it. As a kid, parents do everything for you, give you so much, and often there are best friends who substitute for siblings. Once you become an adult much of that changes or disappears entirely. I know that our lifestyle then and our lifestyle now magnify the feelings of separation and solitude. I'm not saying my parents have cut me loose. Far from it. They are still as involved in our lives as ever and I love them for that.
It wasn't through anyone's fault or choice that our little family stayed the way it was. We all would have loved to welcome a new person, but it wasn't meant to be. I feel blessed to have four children of my own who will always be there for each other when when their father and I are gone, and for that I am truly thankful.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

A Katherine funny

A usual activity for Katherine at restaurants is to take a response card and fill it out. At Burgoo's in Powerplant she usually writes a note on the paper tablecloth telling the restaurant how much she likes the food.

Yesterday at Outback she took a card and was dutifully filling it out. Through address and phone numbers, she reached the section to list birthdays with mm/dd/yy. She pondered this abbreviation for a while then asked us if it meant...

Mommy's birthday
Daddy's birthday
Yaya's birthday?

We both broke down laughing. Of course we explained what it actually meant, but it's always fun to see how her brain takes what it's familiar with and tries to make it fit. We've been here 16 months and yaya has become part of her vocbulary.

In other news, she finished _Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire_ on Friday night. She was very proud of herself and so were we. That's a big book for even an adult to get through. She started it June 5th (the day after seeing "Prisoner of Azkaban") and finished it July 17th. Six weeks is pretty good!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I'm amazed.

The kids had their 3rd swimming lesson yesterday. A huge thunderstorm swept through right before we planned to leave, so we arrived at the pool about 40 minutes late, but the instructors waited.

The kids are doing amazing. My biggest worry now is being able to continue what they've learned and encourage them in the same way their instructors have. Thank goodness we still have 3 more weeks, they might all be swimming on their own by then. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
Nicholas was being taught to paddle back and forth in conjunction with putting his head in the water and blowing bubbles, lifting his head to breathe, then putting it back under again. Kathrine's crawl stroke is coming along beautifully. With her kickboard she is stretching her arms out to make a full arc, turning her head to the side with each stroke to breathe and blowing bubbles under water. She's also learning how to do a proper shallow dive. Rebecca is taking her time but becoming more comfortable in the water. By the end of the lesson yesterday both she and Jonathon were jumping in from the side and swimming -without floats- a few feet to their instructor.
I was able to finish reading _Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas_ (a quick easy read with both a sad and happy ending) while sitting by the pool and getting bitten by mosquitoes. Guess I need to toss a bottle of bug cream into our swim basket for myself.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Ah, summer vacation

Ian had to work Saturday morning. Once a month the NIV section has a catch-up dayand they schedule about 500 interviews for the morning, hoping to ease some of the backlog. This month was Ian's first time working Super Saturday and he completed 89 cases. Go Ian!

In the afternoon we went out, but really it was a quiet weekend. We did go swimming on Sunday and the boys were able to show dad how well they do. We chatted with Stephanie and Matt Meadows when they came with their son, Cavin. And then Deb and her husband (Peace Corps) and their daughter, Isabel, came. It was almost a party! Next week Laura and Ryan will be back too. I'm going to try to get to the pool every weekend, maybe we'll become more social.
This week, we're "playing school". Yesterday was cookie day. We read stories about cookies (_If you give a mouse a cookie_, _Milk and cookies_), made chocolate chip cookies, had the kids write recipes for their own cookies, set up a bakeshop/restaurant with our kitchen toys, and made up round-the-world stories about cookies.
Today is dogs/pets. We've read a story about owning puppies, and the kids have drawn pictures about their favorite pets, as well as made up an imaginary creature for a pet. They've written about their pictures. Later on we'll have a "pet shop" with all the stuffed animals and we'll do more round-the-world stories with animals.
I have no idea what tomorrow will be :) Maybe stars, desert, or something. We also have caterpillars, one has already gone into it's cocoon so we'll see what it turns out to be. We have 2 tadpoles left from the end of the school year when the teacher was emptying her class bug collection. One has had back legs forever but I don't know that it's going to progress anymore.
I've been doing a lot of writing but taking a break the past couple days. I still need to finish our travel journal from our trip. And I have a scrapbook waiting to be worked on but am holding out for some paper to print on. They mailed today though, so hopefully I'll have them next week. Until then, I have no excuse not to get the journal done :)
I'm trying to write more snailmail letters. That's hard though because while I know people like to get them, it's tough knowing I won't get any responses. But I've written 4 this week and want to keep it up. Our next post won't have a good internet connection and phone line, so I want to get back into the habit now.
It's summer vacation time.
I read recently that January 1st is the worst time to make resolutions. It's dreary, it's cold. No one feels like the resolutions they make will actually come to pass anyway, so they make ones that are far-fetched or extremely difficult to attain. Or there are great ideas, but who wants to start an exercise program in the middle of winter? The article suggested that spring on the cusp of summer was a better time. I completely agree. It's easy to become passionate about something new when you don't feel like spending the day curled up in a blanket reading a book. Springtime and you go outside, the fresh air invigorates and you feel able to take on any new task. That's the time to put your ideas into play. So here's my summer resolution. New Year's isn't going to go away but I'm going to take the beginning of the year to start thinking about new goals and gather any needed supplies. Around June, when the kids are home and the pressure is off from schedules and meetings, I can begin.
It's worth a shot, right?

Friday, July 9, 2004

Hmm, now that I've expounded on how it was to turn 30....

Want to know how the day went?

The morning began perfectly with a Happy Birthday from my husband and a wonderful gift. On the sly he had purchased a jade Koru pendant in New Zealand, something I'd been looking at but decided was too pricey. He didn't think so and he picked a lovely well-carved piece. I also had a call from my mom. I haven't asked her yet, but I'm curious to know. How does it feel to be the parent of a 30 year old?
The kids and I set out for Seafront to register them for swimming lessons. Nicholas decided on the way that he didn't want to join in. It was my fault. I told him that the lessons would be in the big pool and that he wouldn't be able to wear his floaties. -His- floaties. It turns out that there were training floats and once he sat on the sidelines and watched his siblings paddling around, he changed his mind.
Jonathon had a visit at the clinic and earned himself another round of amoxicillan. Since we've been back he's had a cold and it has progressed into another ear infection. That helps to explain why he's been having a hard time hearing me lately. After thinking on it bit more, I wonder if his ears never fully cleared up from the flight either. No wonder he's been such a crab.
I finally dropped off the stack of brochures and books from our trip to New Zealand at the CLO. Maybe our efforts to collect this stuff will encourage others to visit. I also dropped off a stack of old VHS movies at the Seafront library. We're slowly replacing our small collection with DVD versions. We also stopped at the Seafront playground for a bit before some playtime at home.
Then to make my life a little easier (it's so rough, isn't it?), we went to McDonald's for lunch. Jonathon had a dose of amoxi and sudafed earlier, and he was just feeling off. Barely touched food went cold as he layed on his chair, put his head in my lap and fell asleep. During the lunchtime rush at McDs. Definitely nap time.
Jonathon rested, I napped, the kids either watched TV or played on the computer until it was time to gather for the first swimming lesson. They did great and each had their own instructor for the hour. Katherine quickly graduated from her back float to using a kickboard and practicing strokes. Rebecca kept on her back float and did lap after lap learning to keep her legs straight. Jonathon started with a back float and torso float and soon shed the torso float as he figured out keeping his head up and paddling to move forward. Awesome progress for all 3 of them. Nicholas felt left out, but what can you do?
Ian had said not to make dinner, so we went back home and dressed up a touch to go out to dinner. Italiannis, one of my favorites. Complete with singing waiters. Blame Ian. The kids could barely eat their "make your own" pizzas and were too tired to help me finish my ice cream. It was bedtime and I can say that I had a wonderful, relaxing, content birthday.
I'm OK with being 30.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Hello 30s.

Someone said that 10 years was far too long for a reasonable person to be forced to spend in their 20s.

For myself, the 20s were a wonderful decade of introspection, growth, adventure and faith.
The 20s were kind to me. It started with graduating college at 20 and welcoming our first child and getting married at 21. I'm an avid planner of details, but somehow the plan for my life was out of my hands and I knew it. I never bothered to envision what I'd be doing 2, 5 or 10 years down the line. Sure, we talked about this or that, mostly about the day we'd be free of debt or the dream of owning a home. But I'm proud to say that I realize the things I can fix, change and plan, and the rest I follow with the belief that it will work out in the end and all things occur for a reason and in their own time.
Since those first big steps, my 20s have seen us add three more children to our family, move along the East Coast, buy a house, buy a car, move overseas, sell a house, and travel around Asia and Australasia. Life hasn't always been perfect, but it has always progressed and improved. I've had help from wonderful parents, a supportive husband and inspiring children.
I wonder sometimes where I'd be if I'd gotten it in my head that something specific -should- have happened. What if I had a deep desire that conflicted with where our lives were going and if I had battled for that path instead? We always had a choice on paper (move or stay, buy or lease), but somehow the choice never seemed to truly exist. I can't say our good fortune has been a product of chance, it hasn't, and yet it does feel that something greater has played a role in our opportunities.
The 20s were a time of self-definition, as it should have been. I'm little like that person who walked across the stage and down the aisle, but that's not to say that person was lacking. She was just right for that time. But I like the person I am now. My mind feels clearer, my body feels healthier and my heart feels lighter. I'm more comfortable in my skin and with that I feel I can enjoy the gifts I have been given.
With my husband and children by my side, I know the 30s have great things in store. I can't wait.

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

We've done a bit of the movie thing lately

So here are some spoiler-free comments on three movies we've seen lately.

Before the trip Ian and I took the girls to see "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." We actually got to see it several days before the United States and most of the rest of the world so I formed my own opinion early. Why was so much of the backstory left our when it was clear a couple minutes in several spots would have added so much and made the story make sense even without having read the book? Why was the awe taken out of Harry's Patronus? The time travel was done very well and Gary Oldman made a good Sirius Black. Wow, the kids are growing up!
On Saturday, we saw "Spiderman 2" especially because it was Ian's birthday. We agreed that it was a bigger movie than the first one but more complicated. Dr. Octopus ("Throw me the idol! I throw you de lamp!") was well-done and the best sequence was on the train. The hospital scene was disturbing and for that part alone I wish we hadn't brought the boys.
Thanks to Netflix, we watched "Osama", the first movie released from Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. It's a story about a girl living with her mother and grandmother. Her father died so they have no means of income since women are forbidden to work. They also aren't allowed out since women could not be seen without an accompanying male. The story follows their desperate measures to continue living and the misery and fear of the girl who comes to be called Osama. Her hopelessness is palpable.