Sunday, August 28, 2011

Busy Bee

Step one: Cork board with batting hot glued on for padding. Attach chosen material with hot glue.

2011 August - Hot gluing the material to the bulletin board.

Step two: Add crisscrossed ribbon.

2011 August - Attaching ribbon.

Step three: Stitch crosspoints to create quilted effect. Add tiny ribbon accents.

2011 August - Putting on the finishing touches...

Step four: Show off.

2011 August - The finished product.

Time spent: 90 minutes.

Cost: $22 for materials (you could do it for far less if you buy a cork board on sale and have remnants/batting already laying about)

Result: Awesome.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First a 5.9 earthquake, then a tropical storm.

This has been one heck of a week, for Mother Nature and so, so many other reasons.

But only good stuff goes on blogs, right?

On the 18th Jonathon turned 10. You read that right. Ten. TEN! He's as infuriating and irritating as he was at 9, just as he's as brilliant and charming, and did I mention brilliant? He gives a great foot massage for only a quarter, has an imagination that won't quit, and still prefers to run around in his underwear. Sometimes he graces us with a robe. An amazing kid, out of amazing kids. Hugs are wild and rampant, one of my favorite things about him though his constant fidgeting is, dare I say it, a nuisance. One day he'll grow out of it, but I hope not. His constant physical activity is also a sign of his constant brain activity and that I never want to see disappear.

2011 August - Birthday breakfast at IHOP

2011 August - Baskin Robin ice cream came with Rebecca's dragon

Nicholas had his Middle School Welcome Week at Saunders. He is now raring to go with his Navigator team behind him, math review complete, P.E. uniforms purchased, and straight As in his sight. I think he grew a couple months in those four days and the halls aren't so scary anymore. Football might "toughen" him but he's still my boy, and not too big to hold my hand.

Katherine finished up marching band camp and had her first performance at the first varsity football game on Friday night. It went well, they're doing a 70s theme show and after 8 days at camp have a full song with music and steps.

Rebecca spent a full day with a friend at Kings Dominion. A day of non-stop roller coasters. Good for her. I was plenty glad not to be part of that.

Enjoy your rainy weekend. We are loading up on BSG and Dr. Who, Lego Indiana Jones, and snacks. Lots of snacks. We're on the edge of the storm, a little gust here, a little gust there, plenty of rain for our parched ground but nothing more than that. Lucky again. Not a crack from the earthquake, not a drip from the hurricane.

I'll take it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

10 Things You Should Know About the State Department and USAID

By Thomas R. Nides, Huffington Post

Do you ever wonder what the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) do every day and what it means for you?

In the eight months since I joined the State Department, I've learned firsthand about the important and wide ranging work done by the women and men who work here and around the world to enhance our national and economic security. We help train the Mexican National Police forces who battle violent drug gangs just south of our border and serve alongside our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. We negotiate trade agreements and promote U.S. exports by reducing barriers to commerce.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates used to say that the Department of Defense has as many people in military bands as the State Department has in the Foreign Service. With just over one percent of the entire federal budget, we have a huge impact on how Americans live and how the rest of the world experiences and engages America.

Here are a few examples of what we do on behalf of the American people:

1. We create American jobs. We directly support 20 million U.S. jobs by advocating on behalf of U.S. firms to open new markets, protect intellectual property, navigate foreign regulations and compete for foreign government and private contracts. State economic officers negotiate Open Skies agreements, which open new routes for air travel from the United States to countries throughout the world, creating thousands of American jobs and billions in U.S. economic activity each year.

2. We support American citizens abroad. In the past eight months, we provided emergency assistance to, or helped coordinate travel to safe locations for, American citizens in Japan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Cote d'Ivoire in the wake of natural disasters or civil unrest. Last year, we assisted in 11,000 international adoptions and worked on over 1,100 new child abduction cases - resulting in the return of 485 American children.

3. We promote democracy and foster stability around the world. Stable democracies and prosperous communities are less likely to pose a threat to their neighbors or to the United States.South Sudan, the world's newest nation, can be a viable ally for the United States in east Africa, but right now, violence and instability threatens its success. U.S. diplomats and development experts are there to help the South Sudanese learn how to govern and develop their economy so that South Sudan can stand on its own. In Libya, we helped create unprecedented international support to help the people shed 42 years of dictatorship and begin the long path to democracy.

4. We help to ensure the world is a safer place. Our nonproliferation programs have destroyed dangerous stockpiles of missiles, munitions and the material that can be used to make a nuclear weapon. The New START Treaty, negotiated by the State Department and signed by President Obama in 2010, reduced the number of deployed nuclear weapons to levels not seen since the 1950s. And, in 2010, the State Department helped more than 40 countries clear millions of square meters of landmines.

5. We save lives. Our programs that fight disease and hunger reduce the risk of instability abroad and, in return, protect our national security. Strong bipartisan support for U.S. global health investments has led to unparalleled successes in the treatment, care and prevention of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as saved millions from diseases like smallpox and polio.

6. We help countries feed themselves. In the United States, we know agriculture. Building upon what we do best - grow and produce food - we help other countries plant the right seeds in the right way and get crops to markets to feed the most people. Food shortages can lead to riots and starvation, but strong agricultural sectors can lead to stable economies, helping countries become strong U.S. trading partners.

7. We help in times of crisis. After this year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, State and USAID sent disaster response experts, nuclear experts and urban search and rescue teams to work assist the government of Japan with meeting immediate needs. Secretary Clinton personally delivered much needed supplies to Chile within hours of a devastating earthquake. From earthquakes in Haiti to famine in the Horn of Africa and devastating fires in Israel, our experienced and talented emergency professionals deliver assistance to those who need it most.

8. We promote the rule of law and protect human dignity. Every day, we help people find freedom and shape their own destinies. In Uzbekistan, we negotiated the release of prisoners held simply because their beliefs differed from those of the government. In Vietnam, we prevented political activists from suffering physical abuse. We have trained lawyers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help rape victims, police officers in Peru to combat sex trafficking, and journalists in Malaysia in an effort to make their government more accountable.

9. We help Americans see the world. In 2010, we issued 14 million passports for Americans to travel abroad. We facilitate the lawful travel of students, tourists and business people, including issuing more than 700,000 visas for foreign students to study in the U.S. last year. And, if a storm could disrupt your vacation plans or if you could get sick from drinking the water, we alert you through our travel warnings.

10. We are the face of America overseas. Our diplomats, development experts, and the programs they implement are the source of American leadership around the world. They are the embodiments of our American values abroad. They are a force for good in the world.

The United States is a leader for peace, progress and prosperity, and the State Department and USAID help deliver that. All of this (and more) costs the American taxpayer about one percent of the overall federal budget. That is a small investment that yields a large return by advancing our national security, promoting our economic interests, and reaffirming our country's exceptional role in the world.

To learn more, please visit

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Allergic to salt water?

I did a quick search for such a thing and came up relatively empty handed on facts and overloaded with anecdotes. The AOCD claims "swimmer's itch" is a result of a larval parasite that usually infects ducks. Or possibly, the larval form of the thimble jellyfish, sea anemone or Portuguese Man-of-War. Or just about anything else. Other sites claim it's a reaction to the sulfates in the water. Or hydras. Or seaweed.

Both my boys get bad rashes from something in ocean water. It seems coupled with a rubbing issue though with Nicholas it's skin-on-skin contact on his thighs and with Jonathon it's skin-on-suit contact near his knees. There's a large swath of red skin with tiny pinprick rash marks, unlike traditional "swimmer's itch" with distinct papules.

Whatever it is, it's frustrating. Our last day of playing at the beach Jonathon managed about 15 minutes in the water before declaring he hurt too much and would just play in the sand. Nicholas pushed through the pain but was really miserable every day as soon as he got wet with salt water.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hello, 911?

No, not really. But Ian did inform the police today of our "lawn activity." This morning I opened the door to find a neighbor's UPS box and contents strews about the yard. I kid you not, the dog poop/trash spreader has now resorted to stealing people's mail and dumping it on our grass.

Well, a big storm rolled through yesterday, perhaps the box blew over to us and the rain ruined the cardboard spilling out its innards? No, unless it knew how to open itself along the tape line, unwrap one item from its contents, leave the other contents wrapped but spread out, and didn't leave a single bit of mail/trash/anything else on anyone else's yard between us and the owners of the box.... 8 houses, down a hill, and around a bend away.

We returned the box with apologies (it still had its full delivery label) and Ian called to make a report. The lady was happy to get her stuff. The cops were pleasant but not able to do anything.

Seriously, does Person X really have nothing better to do? We're getting hit every few days now. A beer bottle here, a trash bag of garbage there, dog poop one day and now a neighbor's clothing order. It's getting old. And I do fear what's coming next. Is OUR mail safe? Are our windows?

Monday, August 15, 2011

The beach is where I want to be.

And it doesn't really matter which beach or where in the world. There are those who feel Beach X is the Best Beach in the World. I just feel happy with sand between my toes be it white, black or trucked in, pristine or littered with kelp and shells. Listen to the waves, no matter if it's gentle lapping or roaring crashes. Hear the birds, seagulls or sandpipers, I don't care. The beach soothes the soul.

8/12/11: Love message to Dad who wasn't with us.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

We Miss You.

4/20/10 - Katherine gave him her old iPod.  He's thrilled!

He changed his mind very quickly.


Masala in the blinds

Masala Cat

Cat Pic

Requisite cat photo: Masala.

06/29/2011: The cat is either sunning or needs ironing.


Masala Thursday Update

It probably seems like all I'm doing is writing about this cat. We do have another cat, Tandoori, but he's shy and skittish. He doesn't like the sounds that come from our bedroom/CatICU, or the ones that come from the carrier as Masala goes in and out of the house. He RUNS from those. Tandoori is fine. He likes a lap when it's available but anything new/different he just hides from. Add to that our bedroom is closed off to him and I just haven't seen him all that much.

The past few days really have been all about the sick cat. He gets meds 5 times a day, warm compresses 3 times a day and he's still not eating or drinking on his own so we feed and water him by hand 4-5 times a day. Then there's petting time. If all we did was go in and shove things into his mouth he'd be a sick and depressed cat instead of just a sick cat. So I spend a lot of time sitting in my master closet petting him.

All to say, from 6 a.m. to Midnight I spend a great deal of time managing the cat and keeping track of what I'm doing when so the vet has a record too.

After his day long visit to the vet on Tuesday we scheduled follow-ups today and Monday. Today's appointment scheduled for 11:30 was unnecessary as I brought him in at opening to be evaluated. Late last night I noticed some of the glue keeping the rear of his leg wound closed had popped open. It's due to the swelling of his leg, he can't bend his joints the way he could Monday or Tuesday. He's fighting food, probably because he still hasn't eliminated in the litter box. It's been 6 days of stoppage and the wounds and swelling are not making that any easier either.

The office called and said his leg is infected. There was bacteria still caught inside (the ER vet warned that might happen), the infection has taken over and they recommended surgery today to do what they can and put in some drainage tubes as well.

They asked for my OK to go ahead to take care of him.

Seriously? I understand, I really do. Apparently some people do say No. But I'm not one of them. We've done our best by every pet we've had. They are vaccinated, neutered and fed the best food we can afford. They are played with and tolerated when they barf on the silk rug. We foster abandoned and homeless pets when overseas and find new homes for them when it's time to move. We adopted these 2 from India and brought them all the way here and we look forward to adopting another pet when we move to Jordan. Because as I've told my kids, the animals we care for abroad have us as their only chance. We make a real difference.

And this is no exception. Has this been expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. We don't stop caring because it becomes inconvenient. Only when his life quality would be severely at risk would we consider any option other than doing our best to help him how we can... with love, good medical care and plenty of time.

This is a one-day-at-a-time thing.
And today isn't over yet.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Masala Tuesday Update

Masala spent the day at the vet for checkups and some extra care. He had an IV, was syringe fed 40mls of food, had several hot compresses and got some additional pain meds along with an increase in dosage. Apparently all day he just gave the staff the evil eye. The vet's office is far from his favorite place and the staff are not his favorite people. The staffer I spoke with last night was in this afternoon when I picked him up and she finally "put the face to the name" because he is quite a handful at the office even when he isn't critical. Just clipping his nails tends to have staffers applying bandages to themselves afterwards.

We got him home and he walked. He limped, but he walked putting real pressure on his injured leg. He used the litter box. He ate another 5mls of food. He had another hot press and didn't complain.

And later when I was petting him during a random petting moment, he purred.

Monday, August 1, 2011

First of the Lasts

It's August 1st. As we prepare for another school year to start we shake our heads at the idea that not only do we now have a high school sophomore, this is also our last year with an elementary school kid.

"Where has the time gone?"

Please don't ask me that.

We're also approaching our last year in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. There ensues the beginning of the lasts...

Our last August, though hopefully not our last beach trip.
Our last days of 3 different schools.
Our last stateside birthdays start rolling around.
Our last Halloween.. Christmas... Easter...

We're looking forward to selling our house and being mobile again. We're looking forward to our Jordanian adventure. We're looking forward to new schools, new jobs, new home.

It's a year yet, but in this life a year goes by so fast.

Where has the time gone?