Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the Anniversary of the Mumbai attacks...

We are so very thankful to be all together, without worry of Ian being taken away (he flew to Mumbai the day after Turkey Day last year) or worry of drowning in our yard (Chennai monsoon flood of 2008). This is our first Thanksgiving with my parents since 2002, and my maternal grandmother will be with us at the table tomorrow as well. We are happy, healthy, together and blessed by each other, our children, and our home. We are graced with the comforts of a healthy home, the beautiful outdoors and our memories of travels and daily joys shared.

We miss our friends. Our State Department family is spread around the world, and this is a year we won't spend with any of them. It's a little heart-breaking. We wish them all a warm and comfortable holiday, filled with good food and fellowship. You are in our thoughts, and we miss you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cloudy skies = No DC

That's OK. I spent the morning with my boys working on Rebecca's blanket while the boys played a game of football on the Wii. Between runs we watched the birds at the bird-feeder outside, which made Masala practically manic.

He must have worked off a couple ounces with the circles he scampered across the carpet up the chair to one window and then the next and back again. He went even nuttier when a squirrel came into view, a neighborhood cat lazily ambled across the yard and a fox came up to our doorstep.
Morning fox - 11/21/09
Wish I'd grabbed the camera quicker as it was quickly across the street in the neighbor's yard. I did snap some photos of the cardinals, woodpecker and assorted finches, wrens and sparrows that littered the yard. I also wish I had a cleaner window to shoot through.
DC was an idea for the afternoon, not a steadfast plan, so deciding instead to visit IKEA for some replacement parts was good enough. IKEA didn't have the necessary parts seeing as the chair we needed them for we bought 7 years ago. We bought 2 new chairs ($20 each!) instead. They will be the boys' chairs whenever we have company at the table. Awesome ribs (for me) at Chili's followed by a trip to the Dollar Tree and Petsmart and GameStop and Dots and Best Buy. Nicholas bought a couple Christmas gifts at Dollar Tree, we didn't adopt any cats from Petsmart, GameStop did not receive any of our hard-earned cash, but Best Buy did, and Dots will need a repeat visit when Rebecca brings money she's willing to spend. Katherine missed all the fun. She stayed up way too late and was still sleeping when we left.
The afternoon should have seen the house cleaned top to bottom, or at least the middle. The yard caught our attention though, probably due to the cacophony of leaf blowers busy all afternoon.
Leafy burial
We don't own a leaf blower so the boys raked and piled leaves, I raked more, Rebecca and I mowed, sidewalks and driveway were swept and we didn't quit until night had fallen. Rebecca and Nicholas spent a good amount of time playing in the leaf pile buried up to their heads.
Gorgeous, dirty kids
A fantastic day, even without being anything like I had "planned." Love it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What does $20 and an hour get you on Monday morning?

A chat with the father of Malcolm Jenkins.

A chat with a Filipina/Japanese nurse who is going to the Philippines next year to bring her mother to the States for a while, who has a daughter who wants to go to university in Manila because of the cost of living, and whose brother was killed in a break-in in Manila when he was 26.

A chat with a Nigerian doctor who of course knew where Togo is.

And a referral to a dermatologist.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend Bliss. Wish I'd brought a camera.

Yesterday morning was slow. 9 a.m. wakeup slow. Ooze into the living room slow. Get out the door at noon slow, when the plan had been a 10 a.m. departure slow.

The goal was to brighten up Ian's office. His awards and plaques have been cluttering up hunkering down in the living room since we unpacked the boxes, and it was time to give them a new home in their rightful place. The walls already had nails from its last occupant so within minutes his little corner was decked out.
Ten minutes in an empty office building is plenty. We walked down to the Lincoln Memorial since Katherine claimed she'd never been. The boys remembered it right off from "National Treasure." We read through the Gettysburg address and tried to avoid the small throng of tourists. It wasn't as bad as a summer Saturday would have been, not by far. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is right near by, so we followed the wall (made of granite brought from Bangalore, India) west to east towards the Washington Monument. There are laminated books at either end of the memorial to check for a particular name out of the 58,261 listed and its location. Rebecca asked if there were women on the Wall, and indeed there are 8 of them, all nurses. According to the book, there are no Beaulieus listed, and about 8 Hoppers, though none from Indiana or Ohio.
We continued our walk to the Declaration of Independence Memorial, an island just past The Wall.
Location of Declaration of Independence Memorial
Silly me still can't find the charger for the portable Canon camera, and didn't bring the big camera, or any camera for that matter, so the junky little cell phone had to fill in. Being a cool gray day, the phone camera didn't do a good job so I don't have images of the signatures of all the Declaration signers. Am I the only one who didn't know Josiah Bartlett was a real person?
The boys ran around and got quite muddy. They couldn't help it, the ground was water logged from the past week of rain, and what little boy can resist running through all those open green fields? Not mine. I'm really hoping the weather forecast is right and this coming weekend will be hovering around 60 and partly sunny. I want to go back downtown while the temperature holds at perfect and the tourists are minimal. Jonathon has a field trip to the Natural History Museum next month, so we'll skip that one, but what to choose instead? American History and Air & Space are good and our normal spots, but there are so many more. Suggestions? What has a great exhibit right now?
I wanted to stay longer, but we had kids to pick up. Some friends from Chennai are in town for language training, the girl is in 8th grade and the boy is in 4th, so it's a perfect match for us. They came to the house for a sleepover. These two are good kids and never a problem so it's easy on all of us. The girls did a little Rock Band while the boys played soccer outside, before I took the girls to the ice rink for a couple hours of freezin'-the-butt-off fun. The Express was playing a game so for a while I got free ice hockey adrenaline. It was better than the Caps game on TV where they lost brilliantly to the NJ Devils. Oh well. I figure if we can't go see an actual Caps game (the 40% off coupons from the Entertainment book aren't being accepted) then perhaps local junior league can fill the gap? OK, probably not, but it's still fun to watch. Speaking of the Entertainment book, there was a B1G1 for the ice rink too. Has the address on it and everything. But the rink changed hands last year and even though the coupon is in the book, with the rink's address right there, they wouldn't honor it. I'm wondering as to the value of this book when items are outdated the day you buy it and/or aren't accepted. The Caps reduced tickets were a huge draw to even buy the book.
The girls were up way too late, the boys were up too late too, but that doesn't stop Sunday morning from rolling around. Everyone made it to church and Rel Ed, followed by a quick stop at the farmer's market and some afternoon football, on TV for Ian and outside for the boys. Katherine, Rebecca and Meghan visited some friends in the neighborhood and ended up bringing another kid, Kevin, back to the house. It was Rock Band time again, the windows were open, the sun was shining, multicolored leaves blanketed the lawn. I wanted to freeze that afternoon, but couldn't figure out how. Our sleepover kids were picked up, we shooed Kevin back to his house, Katherine plunked down with her long-delayed homework (enough of it that she missed choir practice at church), pizza came and was eaten, kids were ushered off to bed and the adults settled in to watch the season 2 finale of "True Blood." No spoilers here, just in case you haven't seen it yet. The season seemed to drag a bit in the last 3-4 episodes but the finale was a pretty good wrap-up with plenty left open for season 3.
Things are good. Things are really good.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Halloween, Stateside

I'm not a fan of Halloween. Did that shock you? Didn't think so.

Dressing up in silly costumes, asking for candy door-to-door while trying not to freeze, or as the case this year, get soaked. Nope, not my cup of tea. But this is the first year all the kids have had a real clue about Halloween and been in the States to enjoy it. We carved pumpkins, twice: the first ones a couple weeks before Halloween turned into moldy piles of goo on the doorstep, as did the second ones done a week before the big night. But here you can see Katherine's masterpiece the day she carved it.
Katherine's carving.
I'd bought 3 enormous bags of candy plus Halloween pretzels and some odds and ends like chocolates wrapped in fang wrappers. We live in a neighborhood filled with kids, the elementary school is only a couple blocks away, I worried it wouldn't be enough. Our largest stainless steel pot (our "cauldron") from India couldn't hold it all.
And it rained.
The boys went trick-or-treating with Ian so for 45 minutes there was no one to man the candy dispensing. That was probably the downfall right there, we have so much candy left to gorge on. Ian took them up and down the streets and noted what Nicholas later admitted himself: He'd rather hand out candy than trick-or-treat. The boys had a good time, but as anyone who knows Nicholas will confirm, he'd prefer to just stay home. He wasn't comfortable in his costume and going up to strangers' doors is not his cup of tea either. Here's a tiny "yay!" from mom. The candy part was OK with him and I'll agree with that, but having a bowl of it at home is just better than begging, you know? Jonathon didn't like his face mask, you'd think he would have thought of that before going as Darth Vader, but the rest of it was right up his alley. Oh well, win some, lose some.
The girls and I had a job to do before the Halloween tradition. For Katherine's Confirmation prep she has a required 20 hours of volunteering to complete. It's not much and her time with the church choir counts (though she still has to find out if practice counts or just the Masses she sings at). The church also provides plenty of opportunities and on the 31st of October we signed up to serve food at the Hilda Barg Family Homeless Prevention Center. For a couple hours we prepped the donated meals, made bag lunches for the following day, then provided for and cleaned up after the current occupants of the shelter. The girls went in costume and handed out little gift bags of candy, and the kids at the shelter were in costumes too. There was so much food and food leftover, some of it was given away, some of it thrown away.
When you've live in the Philippines, Togo and India, a visit to a shelter like this one leaves less of an impact.
By 8:15 we were home and the girls got their bags and headed out for ToT. That's when the clouds really opened. Over an hour later they had gone through the haunted yard nearby, gotten extra pity candy from the houses they visited and returned drenched through. Apparently it was fun? We'll see if they decide to do it again next year.

Quarter 1 complete

Three quarters left in the school year. How did the first shape up? We'll know tomorrow when report cards come home, but here's a run-down of the past 9 weeks in note form...

Rebecca: made the principal's honor roll with straight As, got a supporting role in the drama production
Katherine: As and Bs on her report card, elected Student Council president and has her first meeting Nov 10th, got the role of Ms. Darbus in the drama production, joined the high school church choir, is in the Confirmation class
Katherine elected SCA Prez
(Katherine with a friend, celebrating her election)
Nicholas: looks like straight As, will be tested for the Signet program (p/t conf: his teacher said he's one of her favorites but that's hard to read, he finishes his work quickly)
Jonathon: mostly Bs coming his way, is in First Communion prep (p/t conf: he's fidgety and let's his emotions control his actions, handwriting is improving as is spelling)
There it is, in a nutshell. We'll see if tomorrow brings any surprises.