Friday, June 30, 2006

It's the weekend again

I think the tea has made a difference. Now, if the little boys in the house would stay in their own beds at night! Just can't win.

Gosh, I wish there was more to say. There's literally nothing happening around here. I must be forgetting something.


No news. Another week gone, and no decisions.

Had you going for a second though, didn't I?


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Good sleep still evades me

I was awake too many times to count last night, and upon waking could clearly remember 3 dream sequences. One involved an enormous tidal wave.

Tonight, no snacking and a cup of warm tea right about, oh, 9:30 p.m. *cross fingers*

With Togo and now Ghana (against Brazil they didn't have a chance) out of the World Cup, we're watching... oh just about anyone. The Ukraine-Swiss match was amazing, going into overtime and then into a shoot out. Ukraine scored three and moves on to the next round. Go Ukraine!
Today we said goodbye to friends around the corner who are leaving for eight weeks to the States. It's hardest for Katherine as Paige became a friend for her and she hates to see friends go. Not knowing if we'll see them again just adds to the difficult parting.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In other news...

I'm starting tonight to try to reclaim my nights as each morning I continue to wake groggy and unrested. The dreams, while varied and not quite as panicky as earlier, have continued. Oh wait, there was a dream this weekend that involved "waking" to our mosquito netting plastered with bugs of all sizes including many mantids. Big huge mantids right by my pillow. I actually like mantids, but they certainly don't bring our warm fuzzy feelings in my bed. So tonight I try step one... no snacking after dinner. Perhaps it's the late ice cream or chocolate or ice cream and chocolate that is doing in my good night's rest.

Ian thinks it could be a build up of the mefloquine in my system.

Last night Rebecca and the boys were n the tent and slept well so maybe I should follow their lead?

But heck, no one wants to read about how I'm blaming my pillow, or nerves or anything else. Even I'm tired of hearing how tired I am, yet can't fall asleep when I do go to bed. Bleh.
So, to keep busy we had an enjoyable day outside. Earlier this year, our friend Elise in PA sent a really neat Klutz project called "sun painting" where cloth is dampened, painted, a design is placed on (with just about anything, but popular items are flowers and leaves, toys, pasta shapes) and once the sun dries it, the removed items expose a white shadow/pattern in the dye. One thing we have plenty of is sun, so the kids enjoyed donning swimsuits and painting away this morning. The dog was none too pleased since she was barred from the pool area during project time. The projects turned out pretty nice, there was a learning curve though as Jonathon's (finished first) was lighter and not as developed as Katherine's (done last).
They swam this morning around the painting, we finished the "Art Fraud Detective" challenge (and only cheated once), watched "Emperor's New Groove" (can't thank Jeff enough for encouraging us to give it a try... funny funny movie), we had reading and workbook time, they swam again this afternoon, and Katherine made dinner. We have been carting around a Chef Boyardee cheesy beefaroni pie meal-in-a-box creation for, well, a long time. Easy enough to make, we had it tonight. Our kids have not been raised on the Chef and it didn't go over too well with the boys, which really is OK with us, but it gives Katherine good practice on following a recipe. She hasn't quite mastered reading the -whole- thing through yet which has made some interesting learning opportunities. Like the time she made a cake and poured the entire batter into a single pan.... when it made 2 round cakes. She'll learn. My mom sent her a spiral bound notebook to keep her own recipes and she's eager to fill it up.
Last night the boys played Risk with Ian while I continued working on Rebecca's blanket and Katherine practiced the piano. Once the kids were in bed I put together the new digital cameras we purchased for the girls, some low cost Kodak Easy Shares I think they will really enjoy.
So what else is new? I'm trying to convince Ian (though it's not proving too difficult) to take a weekend in Accra next month. I'd like to do the canopy walk if possible. We need to get out of the house, out of the yard, out of Lome'. Everyone we hang out with is gone or leaving for the next -6- weeks. Literally everyone is vacating... Emily is gone, Monica is leaving this week, Laura and Todd leave soon. We have six very quiet weeks ahead of us.
But wait, you say, what about the talk of curtailing? Well, it's still in limbo. Trust us, you'll know, when we know.

Greetings from the iDark Side

Or as I've been told, "Welcome to the Light Side." I'm on this family's first iMac.

It's taking some getting used to but honestly, not nearly as miserable as I thought it would be. So... ihello!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Futbol Fever

Ghana wins 2-1 and moves to the next round! Today is Togo-France. It'll be interesting no matter who wins.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cleaning, decluttering and organizing

I'm in decluttering mode. OK, when am I not, but that's beside the point. The POINT is that I'm in decluttering mode to the point of searching on-line for new tips to help me out. There's something I've noticed about websites devoted to decluttering and organizing. They largely assume that the items you have fit your home, or will with a few adjustments, or that you can go out and purchase the latest organizational shelving and baskets and hanging rods and wall boards, etc. And I love the phrase "If you haven't used it or don't love it, toss it out."

I'm all for tossing things out. Really, I am. I have a stack of items by the front door waiting for new homes. I have a stack of stuff in the living room waiting for new homes. We've given away, sold or thrown out piles and piles of clothes, electronics, books, CDs. Magazines, kids' toys, and other items with limited life spans are regularly purged.
But (there's that but), all those organizational decluttering gurus don't account for the mobile lifestyle. What fits in this house, won't necessarily fit in the next. And something I don't use for 2 years here may be indispensable for 3 years next post. So how do I declutter beyond the "I hate this and will honestly never use it even if I have the opportunity" phase? Or beyond the "No child of mine will ever wear this outfit again" phase?
I feel stuck. I feel in my gut that we'll be over our weight limit with our next move and that honestly makes me feel like we're consumer gluttons. Granted, we are allotted the same 7500 pounds of personal items for a family of 6 as the 7500 pounds allotted to a single FS officer, so I feel a little better there. And I realize that I can't get rid of every stuffed animal or lego or DVD or photo album. And I don't want to put items like paintings or the piano in storage. We wouldn't have OUR home if we did that. And then there's the whole "memories" issue, with clothes no longer worn but purchased somewhere unique, trinkets that remind us of a great vacation, or useless bits that have a story attached to them.
So where's the balance between providing a comfortable and familiar home that reflects our globehopping lifestyle, and pruning out the items we just maybe might need later?

A Succinct Review....

A review of Togo's failure at the World Cup. Not too surprising from the BBC.

But the AP got the ridiculousness of it better.

Thursday we have a great match coming up... U.S.A vs Ghana. I know I'll be cheering on U.S.A., but my heart will secretly chant Ghana.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Something is Weighing on my Brain

I know everyone dreams every night, even if they don't remember it. I'm usually of the variety who remembers dreams if I've woken, then dozed off again in the early morning. But Saturday night and last night I couldn't get into a restful sleep because of the disturbing dreams.

Saturday night was water. Two separate dreams involving massive amounts of water. The first was in a little seaside town, just me and the kids and an approaching tsunami. I couldn't figure out how to hold on to everyone and kept seeing Jonathon being washed away. In the second, with just the kids and me again, we were in bright cave trying to get down a low but fast moving waterfall into a calmer pool below. I couldn't figure out how to do it without one of the kids getting swept into the fast flowing river a few strokes beyond the pool.
Then last night, I was transported back to the ever popular "didn't study for the exam in school" dream. At Marymount, Ian and I both had Dr. Pettavino for gov't, so there she was administering a final with its 3 questions. The first was on Bromide and its chemical reactions. I didn't do well in Chemistry in college in reality, so I skipped answering that in my dream too. The second was on labeling the countries in Europe. Piece of cake, no problem. The third was an hour long essay on material I hadn't read for class. I turned in my pages blank, before arriving at my dorm room for final packout. My roommate had already left, so I emptied my dresser and went home. Then I remembered I hadn't emptied my desk or closet and hoped I'd be allowed back in over the weekend.
At least I wasn't naked though, right? A recurring dream I have involves high school with never-ending halls and infinite lockers, a math class I can't find but need to find so I can take a test even though I haven't ever found the room before and therefore have never attended a lesson... and I'm not completely clothed. I don't wake up happy from that one either.

Makes You Wonder

Does the Togo team even want to be at the World Cup? This is their first appearance and it seems they're doing everything they can to avoid actually playing futbol.

Let's see...

They weren't going to play if they didn't get payed something like $200K PER PERSON just to show up.
Then last Monday the coach quit.
Well, not really, he came back to the team the day before the match against Korea. Which they lost 1-2 after scoring the first goal of the game.
Then they weren't going to play if they didn't get payed something like $200K PER PERSON just to show up. Wait, did I already say that? Yeah, it's still an issue.
The coach didn't quit before their second match, today against Switzerland, but instead the team wasn't going to get on the bus to go to the stadium. Something about money. Again. Then FIFA pulled rank and said they'd better get their butts to the field, or else. I still need to read up what the "or else" entailed but I can bet it involved... money.
Then they lost 0-2 to Switzerland. The first half of the game was packed with excitement and plenty of hope. The second half was Boring. Togo has a star player, Adebayor, who is literally -everywhere- on the field. Commentators noted that he was great, but where was the rest of the team? I bet they could have done wonders (aside from making it to the World Cup) had they, oh I don't know, practiced?? Instead of sitting around threatening to not even show up?
Next match is Friday, against France. THAT should be fun. Not. I sure hope Togo wins or it might not be safe to be on the streets.
More later.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

New stuff for little (and not-so-little) kids

If you've been holding out for a digital camera for little kids that actually takes decent photos, then it seems Fisher Price has stepped up. Check out the Fisher Price Kid Tough Digital Camera with 2-eye-viewfinder, LCD preview screen and $70 price tag, it seems like a perfect fit with a reliable maker. For slightly older kids, check out the Kodak Easy Share digital cameras. Amazon is selling the Easy Share C300 3.2 MP for $80.

Also at the Fisher Price site, there's a Kid Tough FP3 music player that has potential, though I've heard great reviews of the Disney MP3 Mix Stick, sold at Target, Wal*mart and other spots too, starting at $50.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Quick hello

Togo lost it's first match, against Korea. We thought it was would be a win with Togo scoring the first goal, but Korea came back with 2 more and once a Togo player was red-carded a few minutes into the second half we pretty much knew it was over. At least the coach, who had quit 3 days ago, was back on the sidelines. Not that it did much good. I felt bad after reading the story on how the Togolese cheering squad had been denied visas from the German Embassy here, then seeing the see of red in the stands supporting the Koreans. I really do hope they have at least one victory. A giant fetish near some friends' house predicted a 2-1 victory. I guess they just weren't sure which team would end on the winning side.

At least Togo played better than the U.S. team against Czech yesterday! That was a sad 0-3 loss for us.

The whole BBC story:
Togo's official World Cup supporters have been denied visas to go and cheer on their national team in Germany. The Togolese government has donated $500,000 for the 100 football fans to travel to the tournament. But the German Embassy refused the visas because they did not provide bank statements with their applications.
The fans' leader known as "Mama Togo" led angry protests outside the embassy, saying most of them were self-employed and did not have bank accounts. "Most of us are not official workers. In my case I sell iced water to earn my living. So how can I provide bank statements? " she said on Thursday.
The fans chanted slogans accusing the German embassy in Togo's capital, Lome, of deliberately refusing to grant them the visas.
Last week, Togo's chief voodoo priest predicted success for the national team, the Sparrowhawks, who have qualified for World Cup for the first time. Togbui Assiogbo Gnagblondjro III said Togo would definitely beat South Korea and France to get to the next round.
But unless conditions for visas are relaxed, the fans have little prospect of cheering on the Sparrowhawks themselves."

And a follow-up to the hurricanes question... I've had several people e-mail with the thought that the 74mph for a category 1 hurricane is related to a knots measurement. Unfortunately it's also been pointed out that 74mph = 64.3knots, which isn't all that enlightening either! Hmm.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Here's a question for the smart people out there...

With the first tropical storm would-be-hurricane heading towards Florida, I asked the question: "Why is a storm a hurricane when it reaches 74mph?"

I thought maybe it had to do with someone starting with kilometer measurements and then converting it to miles for us silly Americans. But no, 74mph = 119.4km so that can't be right. So somebody... tell me where this came from? Why 74 and not 70 or 80?

Wednesday is Flag Day

June 14th (this year a Wednesday) is Flag Day. If you don't have one up year round, are you getting one to put up? And if you do, will you put it up correctly? Here's the U.S. Flag Code, if you're curious as to the proper display of our Colors.

It's something that bugs us, living overseas, that displaying our flag is not encouraged. It didn't use to be like this, but Americans nore are urged more and more to blend in if possible and at the very least not draw unnecessary attention to ourselves when away from home. I understand it, but it certainly makes me a little sad. I know what the kids and I will be doing on Wednesday though: we'll be decorating the inside of our house in red, white and blue glory.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A week of contrasts

Summer vacation is here!

And the deep cleaning of everything commences. I'm not talking about scrub cleaning as our house is clean but for the copious amount of dust that seem to appear overnight. I'm focused on decluttering, thinning, and tossing of every random bit of junk (and at this point everything but the kids could fit the category) into the trash. With more people in the house on a full-time basis, there's no pity for stuff that doesn't belong and isn't 100% loved, or at least 90% liked. We've been here for 9 1/2 months and if it hasn't been used, it most likely won't be. Out it goes.

But let me back up a bit.

Earlier this week Nicholas was ill. I was sure amoebas were the culprit as he had the same symptoms (fever, nausea, abdominal cramps, green mucousy diarrhea) Rebecca experienced in Manila. After two lab samples came back negative I was happy to be proven wrong and he was even happier not to face the course of meds and miss the last few days of school. He did stay home on Wednesday which threw off school for Katherine, but what the heck. The last week of school should be light.
Thursday was sports day at AISL. Rebecca and Nicholas's class played street hockey, Jonathon's class played frisbee and relays. With a single play court, all the kids didn't get to play all day but took turns, followed by a picnic. Parents weren't even asked to supply a dish!
Friday, last day of school, and a half day. I spent the morning tidying up the library while Katherine helped out Miss Emily's class taking items off the wall, reading stories to the class and being a teacher's aide. She had a blast. After snack time, I spent an hour filling up not nearly enough water balloons for the whole school (remember, only about 40 kids, but still). The kids knew they're not coming back to AISL next year and wanted to say goodbye to the Icee man, the one who sells ice creams and frozen juices in the courtyard each afternoon. They bought enough for the family and gave him extra to keep. He was beyond thrilled.
We had an informal lesson on how little things can make a difference. Sure, the extra money made his day, but also the fact that the kids are always polite, friendly and cheerful set them apart from many of the kids at school who purchase icees.
Ok, what else comes with the last day of school? Report cards and test scores. Everyone did fine on report cards. Jonathon is more than ready for Kindergarten, Nicholas is prepared for 1st grade. We'll continue with improving reading and math over the summer for both boys. Rebecca surprised us this year, but we owe that entirely to Miss Emily. Katherine, well, you know about her already.
The girls received their IOWA test scores. If you believe in such things, both girls rated a year ahead of their current grade. Rebecca is a rising 3rd grader and rated beginning 4th grade, while Katherine is a rising 5th grader and rated middle 6th grade. We're pleased, especially as the school does not teach for the test as many schools do, so it's not solely that they are good test takers. Science Focus in Arlington taught many subjects specifically for the Virginia SOLs. The big surprises? Rebecca rated middle 5th grade for Listening skills, and Katherine rated 9th grade for Laguage Usage and Expression skills. OK, not so much surprises as we already knew Rebecca can remember just about anything and Katherine has always been good with Language skills. Sometimes it's nice to see it on paper though.
In other news, Ian sent in a cable officially requesting curtailment from Togo. Fully half of the teachers at the British School have quit and part of the school has been sold off. The new director at AISL, the current middle school teacher, in already having management difficulties.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Togo Winds Up

The excitement about Togo's presence at the World Cup in Germany is growing and growing. And hopefully it'll put Togo on the map, so people won't assume we're in Tonga anymore (which happens to be another tiny place, but a tropical island in the South Pacific).

And hey, even if we (I mean Togo, of course) lose every game, we can always look back with pride on the success of Togo's entrant winning the Miss World Cup pageant.

But there's really no need to worry, because the Chief Voodoo Priest has already forseen Togo winning the entire tournament. No problem!!

Allez les Epervieres!

It's all the rage...

Crocs... are they worth it? Tell me! Our house is mostly tile floor but for some area rugs and my feet have taken quite a beating from walking barefoot on them. A beating meaning hard soles that have dried out to the point of cracking, and creams aren't helping. It's hot here, so wearing socks and shoes indoors or slippers isn't preferable and I really like the coolness of the floor. I have some great flip flops from LL Bean that are SO comfy, but I wear them to the pool and it shows. I don't think these flip flops were meant to be wet. Regular flip flops cause toe cramping (I know, big whiner I am), so...

Long story to ask if Crocs are worth the expense. Because they are pricey, I'd like to hear first hand what folks think of theirs. And also, they are sold in full sizes, so do you size up or size down?

Sunday, June 4, 2006

The great weekend continues.

Can it really be? Two upbeat posts in a row??

This morning I went swimming, a nice quiet 30-45 minutes of laps, by my lonesome. One must remember that laps in our pool equal approximately 4 freestyle strokes, but it is still a wonderfully refreshing and peaceful way to start the day. Well, that was the plan. Last weekend it worked beautifully, I even managed to shower before anyone came looking for me. Today though, I was discovered just as I was entering the pool. Busted.
Rebecca and Nicholas were outside playing with Sable all morning so I guess it was inevitable, but I did get some exercise while they went to change into their own suits. Katherine was still sleeping and Jonathon wasn't interested in swimming, so it was just me and the 2 Middles. Rebecca learned to dive and she's very proud of herself. Nicholas is getting there but still hops into the water. It was a pleasant morning of pool relaxation.
At 11:30 we had the RSO OMS and the Amb OMS in the car and drove to Coco Beach. There is indeed a new litter of puppies so the kids were quite busy. The water was high but comfortable. And henna art was available on the beach. All that was missing was a massage tent. Each of the kids now sports a henna tattoo an indulgence we're more than happy to give them in their last week of school. Katherine has a dolphin, Rebecca a shark, Nicholas a scorpion and Jonathon a lizard. Too cute. Lunch was good with Katherine and Nicholas having bowls of moules aka mussels, and Rebecca and Jonathon sharing curried chicken.
We didn't leave until 4:30, the longest we've spent at Coco Beach. And the place was packed! I've never seen so many folks there at once, we can't quite figure it out though we have theories of vacationers or teens back from boarding school.
It was a good day. We all felt happy and satisfied by the end of it. The sky was a brilliant blue, the breeze amazing, and the company was wonderful. Both OMSs are wonderful, friendly people and we thoroughly enjoyed spending our day with them.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Graduation and End of Year Schtuff

This evening the whole family went to AISL to attend the graduation ceremony.

Rebecca and Nicholas did a song with their music class (entitled "Our School is the Best" ... you can only imagine the variations that have been practiced at home), so we all attended. Nicholas was his typical self, avoiding singing while trying to distinguish exactly how many bugs were on the stage around his shoes. Ian said that if Nicholas put his head any further down, he'd be looking behind himself. At this rate he'll never be a showman. Rebecca more than makes up for him with her, uh, dramatic flair.
The program began on AST (Africa Standard Time = 30 minutes late... as opposed to PST = Philippine Standard Time = 3 hours late), so we had the opportunity to chat with some of the other volunteers at the school. Miss Jennifer helps out in the French classes 3x/week and my girls rave about her. She'll be in-country for the summer and is looking for tutoring opportunities. I'm thinking we might hire her. Rebecca has made her an adorable certificate for being Best French Teacher.
Ms. Frances was also back, she tutored several high schoolers in literature this year in "my" library. She's an older lady, working as a counselor for the Peace Corps volunteers but giving her time to AISL as well. She's a wonderful person.
Back to the graduates... there were four this year, all women (I'd say girls but I'm pretty sure they're all 20 somethings), and all with great plans for their future. I have to say that their speeches really were inspiring. You could see the pride in Mr. Bob's face (the Nebraska coordinator) with his charges. Mr. Diffily, our DCM, was the keynote speaker and also gave an inspiring speech listing the 5 points he feels are key to being a success... doing what you love, being a good listener, being open to learning, keeping in touch with family aka Calling Mom, and hmmm... one I'm forgetting. Mr. Naylor put together a PP slide show of activities through the year, and the new director was announced. Mr. Andrew Dodds, the current 6/7/8 teacher, has accepted the position.
Speaking of Mr. Andrew, he's asked Ian to speak to his class about diplomacy and the Foreign Service on Monday. Ian's great at doing things like that. In fact, he received a thank you note from Condoleeza Rice just this past week for his "hometown" talk at the University of Cincinnati last summer. Well, I thought it was pretty cool!
And guess who received a certificate and an engraved pen this evening? Yours truly, for volunteer work in the library. It's been a long hard road at the school this year, but aside from the politics and difficult personalities, I have been proud of what I've been able to give to the library. With a couple hundred hours of time, several hundred dollars in books and supplies (gotta love ebay), donations from people round the world and a generous supply of elbow grease, the library is functional. What I could have done with a budget! Getting library catalogs makes me drool with what I wish I could accomplish in there.
But that's for someone else to do now, and I wish them well.
So we enter the final week of school for the year, for our time at AISL and potentially for our time in Togo. It's been an eye-opening school year for all of us, and no, it hasn't been all bad even for all the complaining we've done. While you read all my whines (and it must seem like it's all me all the time), there's been grumbling from everyone. OK, not from Jonathon. He's a happy-go-lucky kid anywhere in the world and I don't think he ever registers "Togo" in his ever-expanding brain, so he doesn't count. But for the rest of us with functioning memories we have had adjustment issues (some would call it an incompatibility with West Africa, others would call it being too pampered to cope), but we've had some great times here as well, and there are things I will miss whenever we do leave.
After everything, this really is a fabulous family post. I know I mentioned this months ago, how it's a family post not for bringing in lots of families or catering to families, but for getting to really know your own. I like my family more now than I ever have before, and I've always liked them. I try to listen to them as individuals more. I interact with them more. I play with them more. I'm not just talking about the kids either, it's flowing to Ian as well. We've been together 11 1/2 years and now I feel like I'm truly appreciating how wonderful they are and how much I really like each and every one of them. I imagine this is a life long process that just keeps improving.
With family, loving is a given. Liking takes energy and work. But more than that, it takes time and the absence of distractions. Togo provides more than enough time for introspection and interaction with those you love to firmly create a family of those you like.
For that, I'm extremely grateful to be posted here.

Friday, June 2, 2006


I seem to be pretty sleepy lately. Staying up until midnight... obvious starting point. The heavy rainstorm... not helping. But I need to get myself in gear to face the day and the weekend. It's another long weekend here, Monday being a Togolese holiday. I don't know what for, but the kids are in school and Ian will be home with me and Katherine.

As you know, Katherine is homeschooling now. There's a week left in the regular school year, but we'll continue School Lite through the summer. There's not much else to do, and even when there was we've always done little projects and lessons each summer with all the kids.
Katherine did a good section on Genetics this past week, learning dominant and recessive traits, chromosomes, genes, alleles, mutation, etc. To round it out, has a program for determining different traits in dogs, and the tables in the science workbook focus on traits in the family. Several other websites have proved useful as well, like the Canadaian The GEEE! in Genome site. Next week we'll apply the information from Genetics to the beginning stages of human reproduction. Yes, there's a reason we're doing this the last week while the other kids are in school.
In Math, she continues with long division. She's not enjoying it and is looking forward to being done with it, finishing review of mixed fractions, decimals, then moving into Algebra. I'm not a big fan of Geometry and hopefully that'll change, but I'm putting it off for now.
In History, she's working her way through the Pre-Civil War time. Actually, I think this week she'll be in the Civil War. We're way behind on history because while she attended AISL she didn't go through chapters quite regularly. Her timeline on the wall is getting full though. For each section she reads, I have her pick an important date/event to add to the wall. I'm not sure yet what should happen at 1900 when this line is full. Hmmm.
For French, she does Rosetta Stone sections several times a week, as well as reading stories in Petites Histoires. She also visits with her bilingual friend, Paige, each week. They do stuff like mess with make-up or play the Sims, but cover parts of the face and items in a house while they're playing.
For Spelling/Vocabulary, I have a 5th grade book we use. Lately the topic has been Greek Roots, so she's figuring out how words are created. For Literature, well, I admit I let her have free reign. She's a bookworm, so she reads whatever she wants to.
Anyway, quick overview of what's been keeping me busy.