Sam: "Hey...look at our vegetables! We're growing lettuce, tomatoes and bikinis..."
Sunday, June 29, 2008
This week brought our camper home safe & sound! The whole experience was a dream come true, with a bagful of nature crafts and a new sprinkling of freckles for souvenirs.
Yesterday Jake was invited to the wedding of his third-grade teacher. Watching his face as she walked down the aisle almost made me cry. I could just about read his mind...Wow! My teacher DOESN'T sleep at school. Wow! My teacher is a GIRL! Wow! My teacher is a princess! I'm in love!
This week, Em traded her chlorinated tangles for this cute new 'do! She thoroughly enjoyed being "the oldest" for a week. Her best friend, Catherine, came to town and stayed for a few days. They swam til they were pruney, had a 2-wheeler bike rodeo, and discovered Anne of Green Gables.
Although she enjoyed the company of her gal-pal, Em was completely starstruck by the teenage boys who spent the weekend in our basement as part of our church Youth Conference. She is quite a hostess and a bit of a flirt.
This week, Sam continued building his Spanish vocabulary and enjoyed his first trip in a canoe.
Sam jumps between two extremes--hysterically happy or happily hysterical. Sometimes it's hard to know which is worse.
This week has turned a doggy-paddler into a real fish. Gliding, diving, and keeping his face in the water....no problem.Luke was thrilled to see WALL-e at the movie theatre and caught his first firefly in a jar.
My new assignment is Early Morning Seminary. I will be teaching the New Testament to 9th-12th graders every day before school. I hope they like marching and fingerplays.
His reward? Flying cross-country with the wife and kids this week. Plus four weeks of non-stop togetherness. Let the fun begin!
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Divide dough into 4 balls. Shape into flat rounds. Brush with olive oil. Place on hot grill. Cook for 5 minutes.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Jake is at his first sleep-away camp.
I never thought I would be a summer-camp mom. But this is a special camp for kids like Jake, who lie at the "high-functioning" end of the autistic spectrum. Jake's first grade teacher and former speech-therapist are running things and many of his school friends are there, too.
It's a Christian farm camp...with goats, chickens, rabbits, a swimming pool, nightly campfire, and daily Bible study. I'm sure he's having a great time.
and this one...
and this one to keep me company!
(Funny how that happens!)
I guess all my kids have special needs.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I am obsessed with Peru.
My husband lived there for two years serving a church mission and his stories are a combination of disgusting (fried blood sandwich, anyone?) and fascinating (Machu Picchu, speaking Quechua & the Nazca lines). I am dying to visit.
So, imagine my delight when I met Linsey...an American girl living in the heart of Lima!
She leads a fascinating life and I couldn't wait to ask her all about it!
Here are Linsey's thoughts on life below the equator...
#1--Please tell us about your assignment in Peru. How long have you been there? What kind of work is your husband doing there? And what are your living accommodations?
We have been in Peru since September of 2006.
My husband is in the Political Section of the Foreign Service in the Department of Sate. He works in the US Embassy in Lima and his primary function is to act a liaison between our government and the Peruvian government as they try to work together to iron out differences and make mutually beneficial changes in their foreign policies. He loves his work and that is good. We took this job instead of him taking a law firm job and working all the time. Granted, that choice means we forego a fair amount of salary, but Kenny is happy and that is important to our family now and in the future.
We live in a beautiful home paid for with US tax dollars. It is more than spacious and we have enjoyed it immensely. Many of the homes have enormous yards and pools as well, though we do not. We have a full-time live-in maid and a gardener who comes regularly to care for our lawn. This is living!
#2--What are the top five things you miss most about living in the United States?
Number 1 would have to be food. I am a huge foodie and I miss being able to get anything I want whenever I want it. There is delicious food available in Lima, but sometimes I just want some cool whip or bagels or hummus and there isn’t any to be had.
Number 2 is friends and family. It is hard for me to make friends and this lifestyle will require that of me often. And, with my boys getting bigger, I especially miss being even on the same continent as my family – thank goodness for Skype and email and letters.
Number 3 is drivers who follow traffic laws. I used to get so frustrated driving in various parts of the US and now I would kill to live where people drive in between the lines, wait their turn in the turning lane and give pedestrians the right of way.
Number 4 is reasonable gas prices. We pay over $6 a gallon and have since we arrived.
Number 5 is bookstores. There are a few bookstores, but one of my favorite things in the whole world is going to Barnes and Noble and “wasting” an afternoon among the stacks. I miss US/English magazines too.
#3--What are some things that you DON'T miss about American life?
I used to have a VERY full social calendar and as much as I loved my friends and obligations sometimes it was more than I wanted to handle. My life now is a pretty quiet existence. I miss my friends, but I don’t miss feeling harried and overwhelmed by too much to do and too many places to be at once.
We have a lot more buying power in Peru (apart from gas) and that is nice. We have been able to save a lot of money and still pay student debt, take fun vacations and contribute heavily to college funds.
People in Latin America are very kind. They hold doors, give up seats and are patient with even the crankiest of babies. I have learned to despise flying back to the States because it seems we are always seated next to or behind or in front of totally children-intolerant people.
#4--How is your Spanish? How do you communicate with the locals? What are their feelings toward you & your family? Americans in general?
My Spanish is better everyday. I didn’t speak any before we came and have taken lessons for much of our time here. I have not been as dedicated as I could have been so I still struggle with tenses sometimes, but I have an ever-increasing vocabulary and I rarely find that I cannot follow any conversation about any topic.
In the beginning I did a lot of miming and as I’ve learned Spanish, I’ve been gratified to find that the locals are very patient with me and always willing to help me when I stumble finding a word.
For the most part we have been very accepted in Peru, particularly in our church congregation which is local and has services in Spanish. Of course we get stares at our white-blond haired baby, but people are friendly and have made living here pleasant. We will miss Peru.
#5--Have you ever been in any danger? Or caught any strange diseases? What are the biggest risks working for the US gov't overseas?
Peru is a poor country and there is a lot of petty theft, but very little violent crime. We have never been the victims of any crimes, though we know several people who have. The danger here isn’t anymore significant than in the US and I think if people make wise decisions it is easy to avoid being targeted.
There are lots of random diseases to be had in Peru, particularly in the parts of Peru that include the Amazon jungle. But, we have been vaccinated against everything (Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Rabies etc.) and have been fine.
The threats to US citizens working for the government overseas vary. Obviously, the threat of damage to life and limb in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and a few other places is very real. Countries where there is a lot of domestic terrorism and violence, Myanmar, Indonesia, Nigeria are dangerous for locals and foreigners alike. Our next post is Caracas, Venezuela and we are expecting the reception by locals and Venezuelan government officials to be chilly at best. Apart from that though the threats are not significantly different just because we live overseas.
#6--What challenges do you face in raising your children in this unique situation? What are the advantages?
My biggest worry is making sure my children will have every opportunity that their peers in the US do and that when it comes time for them to apply to and enter college they will be sufficiently prepared and competitive. There are safety concerns as well, but I would be concerned about their safety anywhere.
I think what is most advantageous for our children about this lifestyle is that they will get to experience in a very tangible way the ever-shrinking world. They will learn different languages and eat different foods and grow up befriending people of innumerable creeds and colors. They will be able to have unforgettable experiences visiting some of the most beautiful, historically significant and astonishing places in the world. They will get to live a unique life and it is my hope that we will be able to help them appreciate this from the time they are very young and not take anything for granted.
#7--What have been your five favorite discoveries in this current post?
Most of what I have discovered has less to do with Peru specifically and more to do with life in the Foreign Service.
I have discovered that feeling at home in a new place is a question of actions and effort, not time.
I have discovered that I am as adaptable as I thought, but that I do have a breaking point.
I have discovered that my penchant for spontaneity is going to be put to the test, because this lifestyle requires a lot of planning and logistical expertise.
I have discovered that I am good at being alone but not good at not being able to communicate as I would like to. I have a good friend in Argentina who says when she first moved there she wanted to wear a sign that said, “In English I’m really smart.” I have felt that way so many times.
Linsey & Family @ Chan Chan
I have discovered that Peru is an astonishing country with so many unexpected delights and that, generally speaking, doing things I never thought I would do or that sound boring and hard has made the last 20 months some of the most rewarding of my life.
Muchas Gracias, Linsey!
Head to South America without a passport....
read Linsey's adventures @ Rambles and Ruminations.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
If only photosynthesis could be studied by proxy...
and playground equipment could be smoothed by the sun and wind.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Mom: So, what are you going to wear?
Me: I don't know yet. I was actually thinking of buying something out there.
Mom (audibly sucking air in through her teeth): Are you SURE you want to do that? The shopping is so much better out in your neck of the woods...
Me: I know, but the reunion is still 6 weeks away. I mean, I will probably be 20 pounds thinner and a couple inches taller by then.
Mom (almost keeping the giggle out of her voice): Good point.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
**Evidently there is some scuttlebutt concerning the origins of Mrs. McCain's recipe. Did she get it from a family friend or simply lift it off the Food Network?
I don't know...but look at her. Do you think she has ever actually baked a cookie in her lifetime?
Do you think she has ever EATEN a cookie in her lifetime?
Politics can be very ambiguous sometimes.
Both candidates came out strong. The oatmeal cookies were traditional, the shortbread sophisticated and elegant. But the under-18 crowd was the swing vote and, apparently, butterscotchiness brought them to the polls.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Meet my dad...the smartest person I know. If I ever were on that Millionaire show, Dad would totally be my "phone-a-friend." He is a walking encyclopedia. History, geography, and gospel subjects are his specialty. But he would do very well in the political and current events sections, too.
Dad has travelled a lot and met his fair share of glittering celebrities. (Bono, Arnold Palmer and President Monson, just to name a few...) However, his favorite people are little old ladies with boxes of junk in their attics.
Most of all, Dad loves to spend time with his wife and family and we love to be with him, too. Because Dad isn't just really smart. He's really wise.
Here are his thoughts on being a dad...
1) What are a few of your favorite fatherhood memories?
My favorite memories were watching the birth of each of you, except Josh, who was born while I was at ROTC summer camp at Ft. Lewis. There is nothing so humbling as feeling truly helpless, while watching your wife and the Lord produce a miracle right before your eyes.
I relished each time any of you bit off more than you could chew, and then chewed it.
2) What lessons did you learn from your own father?
My own father taught me the value of good, old-fashioned hard work. It is truly satisfying and rewarding. He also taught me a great lesson in finding out what your children want to do, and then encouraging them to do it.
3) What lessons have you learned from your sons?
My own sons and daughters have taught me much more than I ever taught them. I never ceased to be amazed at what diverse and talented children you all are.
I have been most pleased to stand on the sidelines and watch you struggle and then overcome each hurdle. I often wonder to myself and Oma, “Where did these children come from?” They are all so good and so willing to do the right thing.
I have been most pleased to be on your team and to watch as each of you pass me by in accomplishing your goals on your own.
4) How do you feel wives can better support their husbands in the fatherhood role?
To the wives: Keep gently encouraging your husbands out the door to do the right things, and letting them think it was all their own idea.
5) What was it like becoming a father-in-law? What advice would you give to someone new to this role?
Becoming a father-in-law was a cinch for me personally. I was so grateful to the spouses who loved our children as much as I did, and were begging to take them off our hands.
6)You are a good example of a father who takes on "non-traditional" household chores (ironing, laundry, cooking). Any words to guys who think this is "women's work"?
My hat is off to each father that I have observed. You are all much more “hands on” in helping with the children than I ever was. Keep up the good work.
7) What is the best thing about being a grandfather? What is the one piece of advice you would give to your grandchildren?
Being Opa is as good as it gets. I love being surrounded with so many Heroes.
To all our grands: Love the Lord and Mind your Parents—they love you most.
Happy Father's Day, Dad! I love you...
Saturday, June 14, 2008
And, now, since the money you so virtuously saved--mainly by avoiding your weekly Target trip-- is going to the municipal government, you might as well forget the cute Father's Day gift idea (a silver piggy bank for Hubby...into which you were planning to deposit all your frugal savings. Get it? Money in the Bank?!)
And you might as well just give up and get your husband what he REALLY wants for Father's Day.
Which is, of course, for you to have a pair of cute peep-toe pumps and a rockin' pedicure to go with them.
Happy Dad's Day, Hun! Glad you have a sense of humor! (Wish the traffic cops did...)
Friday, June 13, 2008
Her life is hard. I feel guilty that she ends up being the responsible one, the forgotten one, the helpful one so often in our family.
So, to make it up to her, I became the homeroom mom for her first grade class.
I didn't realize that it would become my full-time job for awhile.
Especially planning this...
The First Grade Picnic
Fortunately, the pizza was hot, the ice cream was cold and the weather was just right. Parents and kids had a great time and none of the home-room mothers committed homocide. Yay!
Brad and the twinks came along to provide help and moral support.
Planning the teacher gift is always a headache for the homeroom mom...so, this year, I collected recipes from each child's family and compiled into a cookbook for Em's teacher. (And, for the night she doesn't feel like cooking, we all pitched in for a gift certificate at a favorite restaurant.)
I think she liked it.
And I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Em is wildly popular--she has playdates lined up with different girl pals every day of the week and is in high-demand with the first grade boys on the recess soccer field. (See? Having brothers isn't ALL bad!)
The best part of her year has been her fabulous teacher, Mrs. H. A good teacher is part angel, part magician, part rockstar. Mrs. H. is all three and more. Love her!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
That old Planters can stole my heart.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Mom used to make Red Velvet Cake all the time. Especially around the 4th of July. She'd make a 9x13 inch cake and then decorate to look like Old Glory. (Might be fun for Flag Day --which is this Saturday, by the way.)
Or try this recipe for the cupcake version. (Just promise me you'll make the real frosting. I know. It's a pain to make. But the whipped cream consistency and rich flavor is the perfect match for the not-too-sweet cake!)
By the way, Mom's recipe calls for TWO fluid ounces of red dye instead of one.
And she probably just thought it was the fireworks making us all so hyper...
Sunday, June 8, 2008
For example...Andrea. Until I met her, I didn't know any real-life military wives. Nor did I know anyone in a bi-racial marriage. (What DOES this say about my homogenized, white-bread lifestyle? Not sure...) But Andrea writes so honestly and humorously about her life, that I feel a new connection to the US troops and an even greater appreciation for the families who support them.
Here are her thoughts on being a soldier's wife...
#1--Please tell us how you met your husband, your love story, and how his military background fits into the picture.
We knew each other several years ago, but were both married to other people. One night, sometime after my divorce, I was online with a mutual friend. She said, “Hey! Guess who I’m talking with right now?” I said, “Who?” She told me it was Skip, that he was in Iraq and that he was also divorced. I asked her to mention that I was in the same boat (only my boat wasn’t in Iraq) and see if he wanted to talk to me sometime. I will always be grateful to her, because as soon as we connected, we knew it was going somewhere serious. I drove to Ft. Leonard Wood to welcome him home from his deployment, and he proposed to me that night. We were married 2 months later.
#2--Have you ever experienced bigotry or prejudice being a bi-racial couple? Have your children? How do you respond?
The only time I can remember is when Mika was about 3. I was in a fabric store (which seems odd for me, come to think of it…) and the woman ringing us out asked if Mika was “all white.” I said, “Well, his backside is during the summer.”
Obviously missing the attempt at humor, she said, “I meant, is he biracial?” I responded that yes, he was. She said, “Wow. He’s so cute. I guess it’s not true what they say then.”I leaned in really close and said, “What is it, exactly, that they say?” She got a little flustered, and said, “Well, you know…” I got about as close as I could to her and whispered, “No, actually, I don’t, but why don’t you tell me.”
All she could say at that point was, “I’m sorry. Never mind.” I have no idea what “they say” and whether or not it applied to my child.
I think in this day and age, people are very accepting of mixed marriages. My husband actually pointed out that the military has a jump on interracial marriages. Because of the fact that we are stationed in so many places around the world, we have the opportunity to develop an appreciation for other cultures. We try to reflect that appreciation in our day to day lives.
#3--How does life in a military family differ from typical US family life?
#4--What are some of the benefits of this lifestyle? What are the drawbacks?
I’ll combine these two questions. Some things that are unique to the military family include frequent moves, difficult working hours, long separations, and often dangerous conditions. There are many families in the civilian world who face similar challenges as well, because of their particular profession. I think military families have an advantage, however, because we know it’s what we signed up for. We can’t just blame it on a bad boss, or look for a new job. We adapt to it because that’s our only option. If you go into it with a positive attitude, you will find all kinds of opportunities to make new friends, see new places, and challenge yourself.
#5--How do you cope with your husband's long absences? Is he often in danger? What are your support systems?
Long absences put a lot of strain on both the soldier and their family. The Army recognizes this, however, and over the past several years has developed fantastic support systems designed to assist military families. I’ve met many people who “don’t need” the “social” groups of the army, but when their husbands deploy, are suddenly floundering for information and support. I am a big advocate of involvement in the Family Readiness Group, which connects families to support systems available on their installation. It’s not just a social group, but a tool for helping your family succeed.
Any warzone is a dangerous place, and I am glad he’s home now. (Click here to read about one of Skip’s toughest experiences.)
When my husband is away for regular training, we manage it by texting, emailing and talking as often as possible. While he was deployed, the main thing I had to rely on was prayer. There is an amazing comfort to be found in the quiet whisperings of reassurance that come from a divine source.
#6--Do you feel the military is understood and supported by US society in general? What are some common misconceptions?
I will confess that I grew up thinking the military was for people who couldn’t do something better with their lives. You know, after you get your GED, you can maybe go into the Army… Thankfully that’s not the case, because who wants a bunch of idiots defending our country?
I think Americans, as a whole, tend to be emotionally manipulated by the media… and that influences their level of support. I get very aggravated with all of the movies and TV shows that have come out during this war in Iraq. I think they promote misconceptions and stereotypes. (Think of the drama “Army Wives” where everyone hangs out in bars, cheats on their spouse, goes to war, and dies.) The bottom line is money, and Hollywood is first in line to capitalize on a war.
Americans are good people, and most are affected in some way by this war. That said, I do feel there is a difference between supporting the troops and supporting the war. The troops are well-supported.
War is difficult. But if you really look at it, we lost about 6,600 troops on D-Day. That was in one day! Now, five years after going into Iraq, the casualties total around 4,000. We’ve come a long way since then and I feel it’s important for people to support the work our soldiers do. (For the record, I’m not looking to spark a pro-or-anti-war debate here. Be nice about the things you say on Gabi’s blog!)
#7--Have your experiences in the military or being part of an interracial family changed your political views in any way? Why or why not?
Yes… ironically, in a very bi-partisan way. The democrat in me screams out for less funding for the military, and more focus on social welfare. But being married to the military, I understand that the bread on my table comes from decent funding in that department. I also realize that it takes money to provide safe vehicles, gear and equipment for my husband. I don’t care what it costs, if it protects him, buy it. So I find myself seriously listening to Republican politicians, because they are the ones who will likely meet those needs. Skip said he’s going to enroll me in the Young Republicans … I told him not to make any hasty decisions just yet.
I love my husband, and I support his career choice. Do I want him going back to Iraq? There’s no way in hell. But joining the Army was his choice, marrying him was mine. Some days are harder than others, but we make it work.
Hooah, Andrea! Well said...
Andrea writes at If You Give a Mom a Moment. I highly recommend a visit. (And if she graces your blog with a comment...don't ever skip it, Andrea has raised blog-comments to an art form!)