Sunday, April 30, 2006

Good Times

Ian returned home on Friday, after his week in Benin. I didn't go to the school so I'd be home when he arrived. We spent a quiet afternoon together before the kids returned and life returned to organized chaos.

We have switched our main door from the back sliding glass doors to the heavy wooden front door. The glass door worked fine, but there has been an increase in the number of break-ins lately so we decided to err on the side of caution and pulled the metal grate closed and padlocked it. The front doors also have a metal grate we can shut and lock should the need arise, and the wooden doors are a couple inches thick with deadbolts at the top and bottom. All in all, we feel safer at night.
So, the kids wanted to swim, and we went out the front door where Sable was hunting something in the tangled roots of a nearby tree. On closer inspection we found a baby mouse, probably fallen from a tree top nest. Katherine was appalled I would allow it to be tossed in the trash, and was convinced we could save it with warm milk and a visit from the vet. I can just imagine what a local vet would think if we called to have him help rescue a wild mouse, where mice are a disease-ridden pest (except in the form of the agouti delicacy). We compromised and kept the mouse in our bug house. If it made it through the night, we'd see what we could do. Needless to say, after being dropped from a tree, tossed by the dog (no, Katherine, it's not wet from rain, that's dog slobber), smooshed by a broom and thrown in the trash, the mouse with its eyes still sealed shut did not survive the night. We were all saddened by its passing. Today, we put it to rest. After much debate where Ian wanted to flush it and the kids wanted to bury it, we chose cremation. In an aluminum can with flammable propellant soaked dried grass, little mousy went up in smoke. Katherine and Ian did bury the final remains in a quiet corner of the yard.
But our entire weekend wasn't veiled by death. Yesterday morning, bright and early at 7, Emily stopped by to pick up Katherine for a jog. Katherine has never jogged before, but has it in her head that it's great fun so she asked Emily if they could go together. They planned to be out for a half hour. Katherine lasted 23 minutes. There's been no mention of going against next weekend.
Emily stayed at our house most of the day. We played the card games Holy Cow and Labrynth. Emily taught us Speed Scrabble. We flipped through travel books and heard about her spring break trip. We ate omelettes and brownies. In the afternoon she went home for a bit while Ian was called in to work and the kids swam. Then we picked her up for dinner at Philapat's, a nice restaurant near here with good pizza. Jonathon was bushed and kept saying it was too late, he wanted to go home and go to bed. We did just that, then opened up our mail from the past week. A box from my parents revealed perfectly intact Easter bunnies along with ingredients and recipe for a lemon cake. My mom knows how much I love lemon foods. Some new books and new shoes for Rebecca and Jonathon (for our trip) rounded out the parcels.
Today, we had a late start. Last night Emily stayed to watch a couple episodes of CSI and that always means a late bedtime for us. When I finally crawled out past 8:30, the kids were having breakfast and watching cartoons. Works for me. We made an Easter tree as our Sunday project. I'll put a picture up, it turned out really cute. We all got suckered into playing several rounds of musical chairs before lunch. That was seriously funny especially when it ended with Ian and Jonathon going head to head.
This afternoon we had our funeral pyre followed by letter writing time. Every week the kids write letters or cards. Since it's become part of our routine, they don't complain about it nearly as much as they used to. It's a simple rule to complete a letter: write as many lines as you are old. The salutation and the closing do not count. Aside from that, pretty much anything goes.
Following up on my last parenting post, I received numerous e-mails with suggestions (or commiseration) on the issues of towels and dinner time. For dinner, step one has been to make sure the table is completely set before anyone sits down. If something is omitted, it's usually an item or two, and I tell the kids to ask for what they need so I can either let them go, or I'll get it for them. It's much more pleasant now. For the towels, they have a single towel to share. They aren't liking it, but guess what, it did get hung up. I will move them up to 2 towels soon, and we'll see how it goes from there. I still need to safety pin their hand towel so it rotates around the bar. But I haven't had to pick up a towel in 3 days now.
All in all, a good and fun weekend. Ian has off tomorrow for Togolese Labor Day/May Day, but as usual the kids have school. I wonder what the Togolese teachers think about that. And do they get overtime pay?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Two Problems

I don't often post my parenting issues here, but I'm really stuck with these two things, and they're driving me more than a little batty.

1) Towels. How do I get my children to hang up towels? It has been weeks, nay months, where every time they swim or shower, the towels end up on the floor. Either in the bathroom or the bedrooms, but always on the floor. Even when it's a towel for drying hands or after toothbrushing, 95% of the time it ends up on the floor. I don't get it. I literally spend the 5 minutes every night picking up towels from both bedrooms and the bathroom, and put them back on the towel racks or over the shower rail. Obviously it's not a time issue.
What can I do to get it through their thick little heads that hand towels don't even need to come off the rack?? And that shower/swim towels NEED to be hung up in the bathroom? I admit the shower bar is too high for most of the kids, but Katherine can fling it over. And the towel bar by the sink is low enough for even Jonathon to put the towel back.
I got so annoyed today that I removed every towel from their bathroom and left them a roll of paper towels. It's SUCH a waste though. What else can I do? They don't even seem to see the towels though they are literally walking on a carpet of them.
2) Dinner time. I don't know where my kids got it in their heads that during dinner they can get up and walk around, play charades, crawl under the table, etc. Nicholas is the worst offender. I (again) got so fed up today that after he got up and literally started walking in circles by the kitchen door I told him to sit down and if he got up again he'd be eating his dinner my himself the next 2 nights. Not a minute later, he slid off his chair again.
I don't get it. We've never changed the rules, yet somehow this has creeped up on me and now it's ridiculous. Could it be because I let them get up to get their own stuff (i.e. condiments they want, ice, clean fork)?
How can I get them to sit at the table and then stay sitting?

Day 4

The kids were home today, a holiday for Togolese Independence Day. The real Independence Day, from the French (after the "independence" from the British when Ghana was split with the Brits taking present-day Ghana and the French taking current Togo, which was after the "independence" from the original European occupiers, the Germans).

I took a couple night time Tylenol last night and slept well until 8:30 this morning. The kids had gotten cereal and cartoons, so they were happy to let me sleep.
Just after 9 they went swimming for a bit before an early lunch. We learned Sable, like most dogs, will eat anything and seems to enjoy carrot slices. When Emily arrived, we made brownies, then she and the girls made oatmeal/chocolate chip/craisin cookies and played a couple games of Cadoo while the boys played Nemo on the computer and I scrapped some of last summer's home leave trip. It will be done before we go on R&R this summer!! It will! Really.
After Emily left, a couple kids joined me in scrapping until Ian called to say he'll be heading home tomorrow at 10 a.m. (9 our time). If all goes well, he'll be home before noon.
Katherine and I made ploye for dinner, which reminds me, we're running low and should order more. Leftover meatloaf, corn and stuffing make a nice filler for ploye, though the kids generally prefer breakfast ploye with sweet stuff inside.
We saw American Idol and Amazing Race, then everyone went to bed. Except me of course, I'm right here. I'll probably get a couple more pages of scrapping done before hitting the sack myself.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Ian will be Tenured! His first time around. CONGRATS!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Day Three

Jonathon has a cold. So he didn't sleep well and crawled into bed with me. And coughed all over me. Now I feel lousy.

Busy working on Home Leave 2005 scrapbook.

Day Two

Rebecca walks in the door from school and states "Something terrible happened at school."

She hands me her tooth spacer. It fell out in class.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Day One

Ian hasn't been gone but 5 hours and...

Nicholas burned his fingers at school on a hot iron in art class, which prompted me to get in the car and drive to get him and make a stop at the clinic before returning home. His fingers will probably blister, but on the whole they aren't bad at all.
And yes, my first time driving in Lome'. Go me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

*Happy Sigh*

We had a good day today. Yesterday Todd and Laura called us up, so today we met them at Cristal Plage, a beach/restaurant in town. It used to be called the Rivage, but then a relation of the President was swept out to sea (the riptides are notorious for killing people weekly) and a "rogue" troup of gendarmes ripped the Rivage apart. It reopened a couple months ago, but Cristal Plage doesn't have a breakwater like Coco Beach so we'd never gone. Well, today that changed.

...and I forgot my camera. Ah well, next time. With the overcast skies, I could have gotten some nice shots.
The beach is definitely prettier than Coco Beach. It's huge, with lovely white sand and lots of payotes. At low tide I can see how the kids could play easily in the expansive shallows, but unfortunately we were there as high tide rolled in, so the kids were upset when we told them to stay out of the water deeper than their knees. Even with three lifeguards (!), it was clear that should someone get swept out the best the lifeguards could do was drag the dead body back to shore.
The restaurant is gorgeous and set far enough back to have a steady gently breeze, unlike the strong wind at Coco. But the food wasn't as good, and it was pricier. There was a nice assortment of soups, salads and pastas, with appetizers of olives, peanuts, bread, and mini mussels. The restaurant has great potential. So all in all, I think we still like Coco Beach better, but will probably give Cristal Plage another try in a few months.
By this time it was the middle of the afternoon and Todd and Laura introduced us to another new spot... the Milk Bar. On a bumpy, charcoal dust covered road off the Rue Circulaire, we had the most wonderful ice cream, for 350cfa (about 65c) a cup. The mocha and chocolate were outstanding, Katherine relished her banana and there was no complaint from the boys with their strawberry and vanilla. Other flavor options included apricot and coconut, and next time we'll buy a liter or two for take home.
Satiated, we returned home with our company. The kids played nicely and watched a movie, while the adults chatted and played Scrabble. Ian and I got our butts kicked. That was expected. I always play miserable, and Ian decided to challenge the word "uh". It was a loss he couldn't recover from. Then I learned Todd has played cello since he was 6 years old, so he tuned the cello and gave me my first lesson on how to hold the bow and the instrument and I actually made some sounds that weren't squeaks. He said next time he comes over I'll get lesson #2. *gulp* Guess I should practice and learn something! Meanwhile, Laura was playing a game of chess with Jonathon. She won, but it was a good match.
The kids all hopped in the pool as the bats came out and the lights came on. They finally worked out their last bit of energy and we only got moderately splashed in the process. Laura and Todd's daughter, Cameron, seems to have a great time with our kids. She's 2 1/2, so having big kids to play with is attractive to her. Our kids really like her as well, she's a good kid, fun, and small enough for Jonathon to pick up.
They were going to head home, but Cameron had no nap and it was going on 7 p.m. We convinced them to stay for a simple meal of grilled sandwiches, that way when she falls asleep in the car it's on a full stomach. Ian was introduced to grilled pb&j. Since regular pb&j is his comfort food, the grilled version was that much better, or so I've been told.
They are a lovely family, and we certainly enjoy spending time with them. It's another reminder, that the post depends on the people. Days like today make Togo very very livable.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Our actual travel plans are all set for R&R. With a mix of flying, busing (bussing?) and boating, we're going to get where we need to go. I'm psyched. Now is the easy part... deciding what fun stuff to do in each city. Ian wants to bungy jump but I haven't found an easily accessible place for natural bungy, as opposed to off a crane or something in the middle of town. If you're going to plummet you might as well have a nice view on the way down, right? We'll be visiting castles and forts, churches and parks. Basically, anything that involves walking for hours outdoors is fair game. I'm still seeking adventure as well. Anyone have recommendations for Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius? Remember, we're a family of 6, the youngest being 4 (almost 5 by then) so we prefer activities we can all do. Unless it's something really cool like zorbing, then the littles can just sit and watch. Hee.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Our weekend in Ghana was so nice. A mental break from Togo, and a physical one too. Ask Ian and he'll tell you that while driving in Togo is an exercise is life preservation, in Ghana driving was almost a pleasure.

More on our weekend trip later.

We're back in Togo now. And while I'd hoped the sense of calm would continue a little beyond Tuesday (the last day of spring break), it was not to be.

Back at work, Ian is frustrated more than usual, and he'll be busier than normal the next 3 weeks. For the next couple days he's escorting some visitors around Togo. Next week he'll be in Benin filling in for a consul there. A week home will be followed by a week in Ethiopia for a Consular conference. The change in scenery will be good for him. And he'll get to meet up with some old friends in Addis.
I spent Wednesday at home, but today being Nicholas's birthday I was at the school. It was there I learned that the British School is having financial problems. Ian confirmed it after speaking with the director of BSL. And from the same person I learned that eight people applied for the director position for next year, the list was whittled to four, and those four are being voted on by the faculty. It seems the primary focus of many is to choose the person that will cost the least to transport and house here in Lome'.
We sat in the library and chatted about these things, along with the apparent inability of a school of 50 students to teach to each child's ability, whether lagging or excelling, and we sweltered. See, at about 8 a.m. the power went off. Twenty minutes later the generator kicked in, but, get this, it only powers the upper floor. The lower floor with the preschoolers, K/1/2, 3/4/5, art, music and office gets no power at all. The upper floor houses the French room, the computer room, the libarary, and the middle and high schoolers. We had power in the library, but were asked only to use the floor fans, not the a/c. Cool air was reserved for the computer room (understandable, they currenlty have 5 working computers in there!!) and highschoolers (??). I guess I should be happy that we had water today though. It seems the water goes out more regularly than the power does.
I'm searching real hard right now to find a silver lining.
Oh wait, I've got one. The school was painted over the holiday. It rips right off if you tape anything up, but for now it does look pretty.
OK OK, here's a real silver lining. I have a great family. I'm so thankful we're all in this together. We try real hard to pick up each other's spirits and see the good stuff. Even if there isn't much right now, there's always something good to look forward to.

Happy Birthday to...

Happy Birthday to you...
Happy Birthday to you...
Happy Birthday Dear.........

Happy Birthday to you!!
The big guy is a big 6 today. From cupcakes at school with a water balloon fight, to a dome cake at home followed by a pile of presents, he finished his day by saying "I had such a fun birthday." When you're 6, what more can you ask for? The favorite gift was from grandma and grandpa, a spiffy Spiderman car for a brand new spiderman action figure. Couple that with the Spiderman PJs and he's in Spiderman heaven. Again. This is the 3rd year in a row where Spiderman has been the favored superhero and it doesn't show much sign of waning.
And hey, we're back to evens all around. Jonathon/4, Nicholas/6, Rebecca/8 and Katherine/10.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

There's a show....

There's a show called something like "Try My Life." Obnoxious teens 'trade lives' with totalitarian parents. It's chock full of laughs. No, I'm kidding. But the kids think it's a great idea. I told them they would never be allowed to disrespect us or any adult the way those kids do. Or at least how they do in order to play up to the camera.

So, last night over dinner the kids decided that they would like for children to be in charge of everything in our family. After all, we get to stay up late and they often discover open packages of cookies on the coffee table. Yes, we're busted. They said they'd especially like to be able to send us to bed. I glanced at Ian and asked him if he'd mind being sent to bed at 7:30 or 8 p.m. Hmmm, let me think, nope. But then I asked them, OK... beyond the TV watching and cookies would you really want to be responsible?
You can imagine where the conversation went. The younger three thought it would be fabulous. Katherine, well....
The initial idea sounded dreamy, but upon further inspection she said she likes being a kid. We discussed what her jobs as a kid really are: To have fun. To go to school. To make friends. To do what she's been asked around the house. To learn and ask more questions.
Yes, the kids decided that they would like for children to be in charge of everything in our family. Maybe just for a few days though.
Our discussion moved on to the topic of respect, in its simplest form of addressing others and how it's all based on relationships.
We seem to be having more and more talks over dinner that actually make a difference in who they are and how they conduct themselves. Is this what happens as kids grow up?

Saturday, April 8, 2006

I usually hate doing these...

I certainly don't need to "know" what Super Hero Villain I am or what kind of mold I am. But I thought this was sort of interesting. To give you an idea of how good we've got it even out here in Togo.

Do you have:
[X] Your Own Cell Phone
[] A Tv In Your Bedroom
[X] An Ipod MP3 Player (my husband does, does that count??)
[X] A Photo Printer (An Inkjet Printer Which Does A Passable Job With Photos)
[ ] Your Own Phone Line (??)
[] TiVo Or A Generic Digital Video Recorder
[X] High-Speed Internet Access (Aka Not Dialup) (brand new! as of Thursday)
[ ] A Surround Sound System In Bedroom (not in the bedroom)
[ ] Dvd Player In Bedroom (not in the bedroom)
[X] At Least A Hundred DVDs
[X] A Childfree Bathroom
[] Your Own In-House Office
[X] A Pool
[ ] A Guest House
[ ] A Game Room
[X] A Queen-Size (Or Larger) Bed
[] A Stocked Bar
[] A Working Dishwasher (do the cook and Katherine count??)
[] An Icemaker (ice cube trays for us)
[X] A Working Washing Machine And Dryer
[] More Than 20 Pairs Of Shoes (for the entire family, yes)
[ ] At Least Ten Things From A Designer Store
[ ] Expensive Sunglasses
[X] Framed Authentic Art (Not Lithographs)
[X] Egyptian Cotton Sheets Or Towels
[] A Multi-Speed Bike
[] A Gym Membership
[] Large Exercise Equipment At Home
[ ] Your Own Set Of Golf Clubs
[ ] A Pool Table
[ ] A Tennis Court
[X] Local Access To A Lake, Large Pond, Or The Sea
[ ] Your Own Pair Of Skis
[ ] Enough Camping Gear For A Weekend Trip In An Isolated Area
[ ] A Boat
[ ] A Jet Ski
[ ] A Neighborhood Committee Membership (Homeowner's association..?)
[ ] A Beach House Or A Vacation House/Cabin
[X] Wealthy Family Members
[] Two Or More Family Cars
[X] A Walk-In Closet Or Pantry
[X] A Yard
[ ] A Hammock
[ ] A Personal Trainer
[X] Good Credit
[] Expensive Jewelry
[ ] A Designer Bag That Required Being On A Waiting List To Get
[X] At Least $100 Cash In Your Possession (I don't carry it with me though, that would be dumb)
[X] More Than Two Credit Cards Bearing Your Name (Not Counting Gas Cards Or Debit Cards)
[X] A Stock Portfolio
[X] A Passport
[ ] A Horse
[ ] A Trust Fund (Either For You Or Created By You)
[X] Private Medical Insurance
[X] A College Degree, But No Student Loans (ah, but Ian does.)
Do You:
[ ] Shop For Non-Needed Items For Yourself (Like Clothes, Jewelry, Electronics) At Least Once A Week
[ ] Do Your Regular Grocery Shopping At High-End Or Specialty Stores (Whole Foods & Trader Joes, You Decide)
[X] Pay Someone Else To Clean Your House, Do Dishes, Or Launder Your Clothes
[X] Go On Weekend Mini-Vacations (we used to and we will again)
[ ] Send Dinners Back With Every Flaw
[] Wear Perfume Or Cologne (Not Body Spray)
[] Regularly Get Your Hair Styled Or Nails Done In A Salon
[ ] Have A Job But Don't Need The Money OR
[X] Stay At Home With Little Financial Sacrifice
[X] Pay Someone Else To Cook Your Meals
[ ] Pay Someone Else To Watch Your Children Or Walk Your Dogs
[ ] Regularly Pay Someone Else To Drive You
[ ] Expect A Gift After You Fight With Your Partner
Are You:
[X] An Only Child
[ ] Married/Partnered To A Wealthy Person
[X] Baffled/Surprised When You Don't Get Your Way
Have You:
[X] Been On A Cruise
[X] Traveled Out Of The Country
[] Met A Celebrity (I don't know what constitutes a celebrity)
[X] Been To The Carribean
[X] Been To Europe
[X] Been To Hawaii
[X] Been To New York
[] Eaten At The Space Needle In Seattle
[ ] Been To Mall Of America
[X] Been On The Eiffel Tower In Paris
[] Been On The Statue Of Liberty In New York
[X] Moved More Than Three Times Because You Wanted To (As Opposed To Losing Your House Or Being Evicted)
[X] Dined With Local Political Figures
[X] Been To Both The Atlantic Coast And The Pacific Coast (In Any Country)
Did You:
[ ] Go To Another Country For Your Honeymoon
[X] Hire A Professional Photographer For Your Wedding Or Party
[X] Take Riding Or Swimming Lessons As A Child
[X] Attend Private School
[] Have A Sweet 16 Birthday Party Thrown For You

Friday, April 7, 2006

"Spring" Break

It's not really "spring" break, is it? I mean, it's still about 88 degrees outside with about 88% humidity. But still, today is day three of our break.

Yesterday we made brownies and an Oreo cake. The three older kids went swimming. Twice. Jonathon played Big Thinkers on the computer. As a group we cleaned up the TV room. Complete with vacuuming, it took all of 15 minutes. Amazing what can be accomplished when we all pitch in. We played Harry Potter Scene It and watched 101 Dalmatians. The kids drew pictures... their individual flags, holidays, and some abstract swirls of color. Of course, there's homework each day and plenty of free play time too. They've been setting up a "Chinese" restaurant which I absolutely must patronize as they take orders and serve food dressed up in clothes Amy in Beijing sent them. They look adorable.
Last night I went to bed way too late, so I've been quite the grump today. I try to take my bad moods out on dirty sinks and piles of laundry, so this morning I cleaned our bathroom, helped Nicholas pick up his room which still looks fabulous from my deep clean a couple weeks ago, threw in a load of laundry, cleaned out a bunch of magazines to bring to the school and weeded through books in the girls' room (have you ever read the "... from the Black Lagoon" kids' series? It's awful, and I only just cracked one of them open today. I thought it would be good easy reading, but found the language itself rather pointless). Together we've had lunch and begun the Art Fraud Detective book. Now, they're watching Star Wars III, though it's not going so well. Jonathon was just put down for a nap because he's had one too many crying jags about the unfairness of mankind. Or at least of his brother.
In a couple hours Ian and I will head out to the store. We have a list of groceries we need and tomorrow is busy with his proctoring of the FS exam, and then a get-together for some recent promotions in the Embassy. Stores are only open 9-12 and 3-6, and closed on Sundays, so it's this afternoon or not again until next weekend.

Thursday, April 6, 2006


I own a copy of the book The Gospel of Mary Magdalenewhich I haven't gotten around to reading yet, but I'd best get moving if The Gospel of Judas (though short in its 31 pages) is being released soon by National Geographic.

I still have Misquoting Jesus and The Confessions of Saint Augustine in the wings, which makes me think that rereading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will have to wait. Well, Katherine said she wanted to read it again first anyway. Hmph.

Of course, everything has to wait until I'm done rereading Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, the definitive version of course. Since I'll be working with a highschooler after the break on the book, it kinda takes priority.

I have no doubts that by the end of this tour, all the books on our shelves will be read.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Ah yes, the real deal.

This is what we mean when we say we lived in Orlando and loved it. The theme parks are great, but we discovered Orlando magic in the city itself long before we bought Disney passes. Orlando really is a great city to live in and raise a family, and you don't have to be inundated with Mickey Mouse if you don't want to.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Missed the byline...

It appears neither of us noticed the name of the author of that story on Togo dropping out...

"Avril Phule"

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Ian says I should pack our bags

Togo has withdrawn from the World Cup, citing "political instability" in the country. South Africa will be taking its place.

Making it to the World Cup was a huge boost to this country's moral, but the team has had nothing but problems since. They did miserably in the African Nations Cup held in Egypt, then lost their coach and a top player. And now, they quit the World Cup before it even starts. Just Thursday, reports had them preparing to train in Holland. *shakes head* Ian's expecting riots tomorrow. I think he's joking.

Togo can be really depressing.

In happy news, the George Mason Patriots are in the Final Four. I have never watched college basketball, but a couple games at our alma mater (not George Mason). But even I have to say it's pretty darn cool that my hometown school has done so well in March Madness 2006.