Sunday, December 28, 2008

Learning to read

So after finishing her lunch yesterday, Honor leans over and tells me she is still hungry. Kind of surprising, as she ate a full meal, but also not surprising, as both she and her brother have managed to grow another 1/4 inch each since the beginning of the month... the mass has to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, I'd only made a certain amount of food for lunch, and it was all gone. So, I told her she could go get some graham crackers or an apple.

Off she skips, skip skip, to the kitchen. "Mom? Where are the graham crackers?"

I tell her that they are in a blue box on the counter.

There's quiet for a moment, then she skips, because she was in a bouncy mood, back to the table and whispers in my ear - secrets are as fun as yelling across the house - asking seriously, "Mom, are graham crackers the same as Honey Maid?" (the brand of crackers we have).

Little show off. She knows the box... it has pictures of graham crackers on it! But I whisper seriously back in her ear, "Yes, they are, great reading!"

skip skip skip...

Friday, December 26, 2008

My Favorite Scenes

I was going to pick just a couple photos, but we had such a fun day yesterday that selecting only a couple proved impossible. So I gathered my favorites and made a video.... it's not quite as good as being here was. No way to capture the excitement of a new PSP, an Honor-sized Princess doll, new dress-up gear, and Webkinz! We had kids and cats everywhere - except when they went to a friend's house (kids, not cats). We watched "Elf", which I'd never seen before - very cute! And Honor dressed up anything and anybody that she could get her hands on (watch out Anna, next time we visit, she will want to do your hair as often as you do hers!)

I baked a ham and rolls, macaroni and cheese from scratch (because Brad always teases me about my aversion to the stuff out of the blue box), and a nice dill-herbed zucchini casserole (with broccoli and cauliflower instead of zucchini, because I like to substitute - and Brad teases about that too). I also made a green bean casserole, substituting sauteed onions for the Durkee onions - because I didn't have any Durkee (and I like to substitute).

Today we've been completely lazy and stayed inside all day. New movies and playing new video games. More dress up, face paint, and playtime. Leftovers were good too. Internet has been up and down (mostly down) all day, so I'm only hoping I get this post finished and published today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

These pics are getting a little stale, they'll be a week old tomorrow, but it's not my fault the internet was broken. It's a Mediterranean plot, a secret Atlantean conspiracy... it's just darned mean! What is it with these anti-internet anchor-droppers?? Do they realize that we cannot load the Santa-cam videos from NORAD Tracks Santa? I mean, come on dudes. Santa has gone through Australia, Japan, over the Great Wall of China and around Mount Everest, he was last spotted near Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan (keep your head down St. Nick), he'll be here within hours! We were able to follow him on the map, but were looking forward to seeing him live. Hopefully the videos will be available on archive tomorrow when the kids wake up. Anyway, finally, after an all-day ordeal to upload pics, I have got some holiday photos heading out to the real world (ta-daa!):

Rather than doing a secret Santa, or other gift exchange, both kids' classes hung stockings and were asked to bring in small, identical items for every classmate. Wrapping the presents was also part of the fun. It wasn't easy thinking of interesting gifts that fit the 'small, non-candy' item request. I didn't want to do pencils or erasers... at this age, they have all that stuff in class and we have all we need at home. I went to an Egyptian craft store and found a basket full of carved marble eggs in several pretty colors... my kids love them, so why not? Not an easy shape to wrap, but they both did a great job. Oh, and if you notice, we do not have a fireplace, so we have hung our stockings by the kilim with care, sure that Santa will find them there.
Honor's class party involved crafts with a reindeer theme. Cookies, cups, ornaments and such. Her class sang Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer at the winter assembly... they also sang (still sing) the song constantly where-ever they were and during whatever activity... a very musical group.
One of the best parts was EATING the cookies they decorated! The sprinkles are, of course, the best.
Brian's class had their party on the last day of school before the break. They voted to have McDonald's delivered as their lunch/party food. I was impressed that 18+ orders could be delivered on one motorcycle... even more impressed that it only took 3 moms to carry it all (I think the McD's pro handled it better, but he does have more experience - at least we didn't drop anything!)
The 3rd graders opened their stockings in class, and played a fun game that I will have to remember for future parties. The teacher gave each child a wrapped gift. They sat in a circle and the teacher read a story. Every time she said "right", the kids passed their gift to the right. When she said "left", they went left. It was confusing and silly and a lot of fun. At the end of the story, whatever gift they were holding, they got to keep and open.
Brian's class sang "Up on the housetop" at the assembly, and he joined in with his foreign language class to sing the Arabic version of Jingle Bells... and yes, I have all sorts of videos which I could load on You Tube, normally, if somebody hadn't broken the internet... I'm not bitter or anything, I mean, it is Christmas, I have some internet to be grateful for... right? But because I'd like to publish this post, say, some time before New Year's, I don't think I'm even going to attempt an upload... sorry. Imagine their sweet voices lifted in song with their classmates... and be content in the fact that a certain cable-snapping ship-driver will be finding lumps of coal in his stocking tomorrow morning. Yes, Santa knows who you are buster.

Some of the songs were the traditional songs of the season... a few had been adapted for our local needs. I especially liked the Cairo version of "A few of my favorite things".
And of course, we had a visit from Santa and his elves! It was good of them to drop by at this busy time of year.
Honor wore a shirt she made in pre-K last year to the assembly today... seemed appropriate! The kids made these by painting their feet with brown paint to stamp the head, and their hands with orange paint to make the antlers! Hows that for a cute Christmas craft? (for kids, adults... well, I don't know...)
Another highlight of the day - as if parties, singing, start of winter break, etc. were not enough - Honor got to bring home her class pet for the break. Looper, the guinea pig, is our house guest for the holidays. We have set him up on the entry-way bench because we thought it best he be kept in an active and busy place... to remind of him his real home in a kindergarten class! Honor has been very good about caring for him, and talks to him constantly. I have never had much to do with these animals, but I have to say, he's quite cute.... I love the little bubbly-purr noises he makes. The cats have barely noticed him... as you can see in the picture below, Misty peeked in the house at Looper, then totally ignored him so he could hop up on Honor's lap for after-school love and attention. Looper also shows no fear of the cats - probably not a healthy instinct, but we keep them supervised or separated!

Honor took this picture of me holding Looper - or should I say, of Looper, with some of me in the photo!

Anyway, we spent Christmas Eve at home today. Playing games and watching Christmas videos. We visited with neighbors. We goofed off. Honor built a nest under the tree and played under there with a bunch of plush animals all day. In the afternoon, she and I made some salt dough, and then the kids and I made decorations. While we were mashing up the dough, friends from the security and facilities staff came by to deliver a bouquet of flowers as a gift - how sweet, and it will likely be our centerpiece for tomorrow's feast. I finally feel good again (darn cooties) although I am still coughing and congested. I think I'll manage to handle everything tomorrow. I felt good enough today to stand up long enough to cut Brad's hair, and he is much relieved - or at least cooler around the ears! I made him cook dinner for it. He cooked by phone - Papa John's was all right by me.

Kids are in bed. Mostly. They keep popping up for some reason..?? But they had a busy day and should be asleep soon. I want to be too. Tomorrow will be a busy day. See you there!

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve! (yea... even you, Captain Internet-wrecker, may your holiday be blessed and your email go through not-timed-out.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm dreaming of a sandy Christmas...

I can't get that darn song out of my head. Can I help it? It's 2pm and I'm turning on lights because the sun is behind the sand - it is like twilight. It was all white, now it's gone grey. Guess we're not going to be walking to the club to plan Brian's January birthday party this afternoon! Not in this mess. I'm barely breathing again and the air out there is a little bit too chunky for my taste right now. To add insult, my little yahoo weather gadget on my desktop... while admitting that current conditions are 'Sand' has the forecast for today labeled 'Windy' with a cute little illustration of blowing leaves.... yea riiiighhht! Maybe this wind will blow in some rain after the sand... 'after' I said!, not during!... that would be pleasant.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Random thoughts

I'm following this meme from Cairo Typ0's blog. Why... well, the alternative is watching classic Christmas cartoons. I hated these things as a kid... I mean really, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer... they are soooo mean and hateful! But, I'll keep my mouth shut and not be a bah-humbag. I may not enjoy the movies, but the kids like them, and I like that.

1. Do you like cheese? oh yes

2. Have you ever smoked? yep

3. Do you own a gun? Not yet.

4. Do you like listening to Christmas music? Certain music. Some ought to be banned.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? No

6. What do you think of hot dogs? Every so often, but they should be grilled, slightly burnt.

7. Favorite Christmas song for all time? The more classical the better - when you get down the list towards barking or rap... no no no .. and, you get the reason why I can't stand radio.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Coffee - we are trying out for best customer status at The Flying Bean

9. Can you do push ups? I'm not in the Army anymore - make me!

10. Who is your favorite Grey's Anatomy Character? Never seen it.

11. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? My wedding rings.

12. Favorite hobby? crochet

13. Do you eat "exotic" foods? Sure

14. Do you have ADD? I have the T-shirt

15. What one trait do you hate about yourself? I'm not the superwoman I see in my head

16. Middle Name? I have one

17. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment? My throat hurts, will this show never end, who drank all my coffee.

18. Name 3 things you bought yesterday? Didn't shop yesterday - internet was broken.. .sigh....

19. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Water, Coffee, Tea.

20. Current worry right now? That the kids will get the cooties I have.

21. Current hate? Cooties

22. Favorite place to be? With my family, preferable on a beach!

23. How will you bring in the New Year? Quietly

24. Where would you like to go? At the moment... nowhere.. I am content to be with my family.

25. Name three people who will complete this? We'll see...

26. Do you own flip-flops? I have some beaded sandals that should be called flip flops.

27. What shirt are you wearing? An antique faded red long-sleeve t-shirt, with tiny bleach stains

28. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? It doesn't sound nice. As much as I love the feel of silk and satin as sleepwear, the idea of sheets in either material does not appeal. Sheets should be cotton - crisp and new, old and right out of the dryer, flannel on a winter night, etc.

29. Can you whistle? Very well thank you

30. Favorite color? Black

31. Would you be a pirate? Only in the movies, or in Tampa as part of Ye Mystic Krewe of the Gasparilla - real pirates are too stupid these days.

32. What songs do you sing in the shower? I don't.

33. Favorite girl's name? My daughter's - Honor

34. Favorite boy's name? My son's name - Brian

35. What's in your pocket right now? No pockets

36. Last thing that made you laugh? Kids running on the treadmill

37. Best bed sheets as a child? Some green Princess-y sheets.. I barely remember them, but I remember my mom gave them away without telling me and I was so mad!

38. Worst injury you've ever had? Some moms have a C-section, mine was a T - 34+ staples and one baby later, well, I have a pretty good scar! (Good baby too - :-) !)

39. Do you love where you live? Home is where my family is. There are pros and cons to everything... I try to focus on the positive.

40. How many TVs do you have in your house? Two... neither hooked up to cable or satellite. We use them for DVDs.

41. Who is your loudest friend? Either of my kids... they didn't come with volume knobs

42. How many dogs do you have? Does a Siamese cat count?

43. Does someone have a crush on you? My hubby

44. Do you get embarrassed easily? Nope. Life is for learning.

45. What is your favorite book? All of them

46. What is your favorite candy? DARK CHOCOLATE

47. Do you know all the words to the Fresh Prince theme song? I might recognize it.

48. What song do you want played at your funeral? Whatever my family wants.. I won't be complaining too much at that time.

49. What were you doing 12 AM last night? Dosed with Nyquil, trying to sleep.

50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up?
Whoo-hoo! It's only 3am! I can get back in bed and sleep some more!

If you made it this far.... then you've been tagged!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

You find a bottle washed up on shore...

Inside the bottle, there is a news clipping, and across the top of the raggedy bit of paper is a tear-stained note, scrawled in purple crayon....

"Help, we are cut off! Marooned! Save us please!"
Severed Cables in Mediterranean Disrupt Communication (Update4)

By Malcolm Fried and Lars Klemming

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Internet and telephone communications between the Middle East and Europe were disrupted after three undersea cables connecting Italy and Egypt in the Mediterranean Sea were damaged.

The failures cut the flow of “data of various kinds” between Europe and the Middle East, and there’s no timeframe for when communications will be restored, said Sanjeev Gaur, director of assurance at Reliance Globalcom Ltd. in India. France Telecom SA, which plans to send a maintenance boat to fix the problem, said the situation should be back to normal by Dec. 31.

Three cable systems carrying more than 75 percent of traffic between the Middle East, Europe and America were damaged, according to the U.K.’s Interoute Plc, which operates a fiber- optic data network connecting 92 cities. The cables run from Alexandria in northern Egypt to Sicily in southern Italy. In January, an anchor severed the cables outside Alexandria after bad weather conditions forced ships to moor off the coast.

“The information we have is a bit sketchy, but chances are that it will have been an anchor again,” Jonathan Wright, Interoute’s director of wholesale products, said in a telephone interview. “Close to 90 percent of all the data traffic between Europe and the Middle East is carried on these three cable systems.”

Interoute said the January incident brought down 70 percent of the Internet network in India and the Middle East.

Egyptian Outage

Customer services and some mobile-phone customers at Vodafone Group Plc’s Egyptian unit are affected by the cable failure, said Simon Gordon, a spokesman for the U.K. company. Egypt is the only country where the company is aware of any problems linked to the failure, he said. Most mobile-phone calls are routed through fixed-line cables at some point.

Verizon Communications Inc., the second-largest U.S. phone company, said it has rerouted traffic for its Verizon Business customers making calls to the Middle East by siphoning it to Europe and the U.S. and then down through Asia, spokeswoman Linda Laughlin said in an interview.

The rerouting slowed some traffic to about half its normal speed, Laughlin said. Point-to-point customers still don’t have connections, and Verizon doesn’t have information on how many subscribers are affected. The company expects repairs to be completed by early next week, she said.

Portugal Telecom SGPS SA, Portugal’s biggest phone company, has redirected traffic through other cables in the region and therefore the “impact is very small,” said a company official. Sonaecom SGPS SA, Portugal’s second-biggest fixed-line phone company, also said that it’s diverting traffic to other routes.

‘Greatly Disturbed’

France Telecom’s Orange mobile-phone unit said the cable failure “greatly disturbed” the traffic between Europe and parts of Asia. At one point as much as 55 percent of voice traffic in Saudi Arabia, 52 percent in Egypt and 82 percent in India was out of service, according to Orange.

Internet traffic “from Mumbai to London has now been rerouted via Hong Kong which may lead to congestion and increased latency on this route,” Reliance said in an e-mailed “traffic disruption update,” adding that it is working with the affected customers to restore all services. The company said it will publish another update on its Web site tomorrow.

“You can reroute the data through other cables, but that increases traffic and can potentially create bottlenecks,” Interoute’s Wright said. “So Internet connections may slow down and some phone calls could get disrupted.”

Weather, Sea Conditions

Some of Interoute’s clients in the U.K. and Southern France are probably affected by the failure, Wright said.

“It’s difficult to forecast how long it will take to fix the problem as it depends on the weather and sea conditions in the Mediterranean,” Wright said.

A fault is affecting the SMW4 cable near the Alexandria cable station, the FLAG FEA cable is down and the SMW3 cable system is also affected, according to information received from Telstra. Flag Telecom Group Ltd., a Reliance Globalcom unit, operates FLAG FEA and the other cables are owned by groups of phone companies across the regions.

Reliance Globalcom doesn’t know exactly what happened and engineers are working on the problem, said Anurag Joshi, head of the company’s global network operations center.

The SMW4 cable, also known as SEA-ME-WE 4or South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 4 cable network, connects 12 countries: Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy and France.

France Telecom said one of its maintenance boats in the Mediterranean area is headed to the region for a relief mission with 20 kilometers of spare cable on board.

Priority will be to recover the SEA-ME-WE 4 cable, then the SEA-ME-WE 3 cable, France Telecom said, adding that Sea Me We4 could be operating by Dec. 25 and the situation should be back to normal by Dec. 31.

To contact the reporter on this story: Malcolm Fried in London at; Lars Klemming in Stockholm at
Last Updated: December 19, 2008 18:39 EST if you don't hear from us, we aren't being anti-social, I promise! Miss you! Send help soon!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where is Santa?

When we were young, my Dad used to take us outside on Christmas Eve to look for Santa... we would look and look around the dark night sky, and eventually we would find some little red light off in the distance, and Dad would say... uh oh! I can't tell, but that might be Santa! Better go get in bed and go to sleep as fast as you can!

That was so old tech! Nowadays, kids can look to NORAD's eye-in-the-sky Santa-cams to find out exactly where Santa is, and to see a little bit of what he sees as he makes his way around the world.

I can sit our kids down at the computer, and we can watch precisely where Santa is at any given time. We know that when he hits Cairo and takes a spin around the pyramids, the kids will only have a short time to go to hop in bed and get to sleep before Santa makes his way to our apartment. Santa likes to visit the local sights, and fortunately the videos of his passing by your neighborhood will be available in the morning too.

btw, if you have not heard the history of "NORAD tracks Santa", check out the website - "About NORAD" - "Why we track Santa". Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Earning his keep

Well, Dolphin, the spoiled rotten betta, has been a bit lazy lately. Probably the cooler air in the house has chilled his little bowl and is making him sluggish? That's ok. We do not actually expect a lot from him. He is more than friendly and entertaining enough... especially for a fish! Yesterday though, he earned his keep.

We've apparently hit mosquito and housefly season. I do not know what has caused the upswing in their population, but it is a real pain. For Honor, quite literally. She gets WELTS from mosquito bites. They don't get her as bad as they used to... she used to get these big red lumps all over, bad enough I actually took her to the doctor to be checked, on more than one occasion. Poor little bit. Now she just gets red bumps - still big enough to be annoying and it has earned at least one note from the nurses' office: 'Not pox, just bug bites'! We generally apply Benadryl cream, sometimes hydrocortisone too. Aveeno is also recommended, but we have not been able to find that for awhile. (I actually gave up looking, maybe I ought to try again).

One way to deal with the mosquitoes, is to leave the exhaust fans on in the bathrooms full time.. the mosquitoes don't seem to be able to handle that small bit of air flow. But in winter, with our very poorly insulated apartment, the inside that gets hotter than outside temps in summer, also gets colder inside than out when the seasons change. The house will get chilled overnight (temps in the 50's that easily seep in) and without a quick run of the heater in the AM, will stay that way even if it warms up to 70F outside. The exhaust fans just make the house chilly, so we turn them off... and the mosquitoes seem happy about that.

Plan 2, for dealing with the mosquitoes, is essential oils to repel them. I have hung small plush ornaments (little cats similar to these, which gives the oil something to permeate) in each room on ceiling fans, vents, etc. I mix the oils (which I order from The Crystal Fox) that are thought to have mosquito repellent qualities. I generally use catnip, geranium, patchouli, and citronella. I have heard that cinnamon is also a good repellent, but I haven't tried that. The first four oils, when blended, have a very pleasant, woody scent. Also, the following scents have a good reputation for insect repellent properties: Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, and others.

These oils are not 100% effective, but what is? And we like them so much more than spraying chemicals all over... they are probably no more effective than the oils anyway! I would definitely recommend using the oils on something like ornaments too. Some oils can be too harsh/strong. I would never put them directly on my skin in high concentrations... I definitely would not apply them to children.


As for the flies. Ew. I think they are getting in because we've had to have work on the house and the doors are open more often. Maybe they are also taking advantage of the exhaust fans being off? Unlike the mosquitoes - they are FAST and hard to swat. And totally annoying. At least they don't bite.

One fly made the mistake of teasing the fish. It went into the bowl, actually landed on the water - to drink I guess - and flew off again. Dolphin didn't need any encouragement. Next time that fly landed, Dolphin was ready. Hit that bug like a miniature, rainbow colored Orca. The fly was tough, he fought back, but quickly learned the hard way that you just don't mess around with our fish. I hope flies aren't bad for betta fish - Dolphin ate the whole thing. Now, if I could just get the mosquitoes aimed at the fish bowl...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gone shoppin'

Santa Claus is coming to town... or perhaps, he's already here. We keep running into him all over the place. Here he is at a local market...
We saw Santa on a camel at breakfast. In the afternoon we headed out to a charity drive Christmas bazaar. We had to buy tickets to get in, vendors had to pay a fee to sell, food and raffle tickets were also sold - all proceeds going to charity, thanks to the Maadi Women's Guild.
The big field, where the event was held, was filled with tables of crafts and other nice things.
It was hot out... and too bright to look at the camera! We barely made it through before the kids got completely shopped out and wanted to go home. Brad and I enjoyed shopping though.
And guess who else showed up at the bazaar? Santa and his wife sure are great folks... to show up in this weather in fur... oh my! ... Thank you to the Claus family. The kids were able to forgive us the shopping after you showed up.

Breakfast with Santa, Egypt style

The Embassy hosted a party for the children this morning. Breakfast with Santa. I have to admit that it was tough for me to get going. We went to a very nice dinner party with friends last night.. top that off with my need to take a benadryl (an antihistamine) in order to stop sneezing so I could sleep.. well, I slept hard, but not well. That alarm went off WAY too early this morning... but it was for a good cause.

We went to the Club with the kids and had breakfast. The kids had a special meal for free, and parents had access to a buffet. It was crowded, but we lucked into a good table inside. Honor dressed for the occasion - an elf hat, jingle bell bracelets, and a red dress... which just happened to be a red snakeskin patterned galebeya (local tunic) which is a bit unorthodox as Christmas decoration, I suppose, but that's our Honor!
Brian was more his usual casual self in a non-Christmas-y Pokemon shirt - but I'd rather have happy kids wearing what they want, than "fancy dressed 'cause mom said so" grumps. Both kids ran into a bunch of their school friends. After they ate, they ran out to play and left us to enjoy our meals in leisure. Thank goodness we had the extra time... it took awhile to get the much needed coffee.
After everyone had a chance to eat, the kids were gathered together in the lawn for story time. Twas the night before Christmas.
Then, did Santa show up with 8 tiny reindeer? Not in Cairo! No way. Here, Santa rides a camel.
Honor immediately jumped up to come over and tell me that she did NOT want to ride the camel with Santa. Camels are an on/off liking for Honor. I can't blame her - they are quite tall! I reassured her that she didn't have to go for a ride, she could meet Santa on the ground.
The line was long, but fortunately Brian and Honor were happy to go see Santa together. Brian knew just what to ask for. A baby dragon. A real one.
(btw, yes, that elf is wearing flip flops and shorts - it was quite warm today.)
Honor was a little more shy, but she was able to tell Santa that she wanted a toy cat.

Merry Christmas!!! (almost...)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trimming the tree

We're doing our part to bring a little winter fun to the season! Time to trim the tree :-)

Who's that little squirrel under there? Little enough to fit under the tree, big enough to really help with untangling the wires and tree skirt!
Nice to have kids who are big enough to use the camera .. now I can have pictures OF them, and WITH them! Brian's turn with the camera...
.. then Honor's turn.
Narrating? Singing? Our child with her own soundtrack is obviously up to something here.
Having fun hanging up favorite ornaments!
Good teamwork!
Time for the angel on top.
Are we having fun yet?! You betcha!
Ta-daa! I think our little elves did a lovely job!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Four foods on Friday 58

I missed last week because our internet was hosed!

#1. Does your family usually eat meals in the kitchen or somewhere else?

The kitchen is one place we don't eat. We have a dining room and usually eat there, but sometimes have picnics in the living room for special fun.

#2. Who usually does the dishes in your house?

The dishwasher. Oh, probably me, but we have the kids scrape their plates and help clean.

#3. What’s your favorite small appliance or tool in the kitchen?

My favorite paring knife. I'd probably narrow it down to all my knives, but to choose one, I'll say the paring knife.

#4. This one’s for my son. Share a recipe for chili.

Can't help here. I always make it up as I go.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I will not learn

You'd think I'd learn. After countless repetitions of the same error - an error that involves my suffering acute pain - you'd think I'd figure it out.

Iron pills. Vitamins with iron in them. DO NOT TAKE ON AN EMPTY STOMACH! No. La. Nyet. Just. Don't.

I'm not used to taking any medicine on a regular basis but I've been trying to fit daily multivitamins in my schedule since before I got pregnant with our first child. I don't usually remember. I'll think about it after I get sick, or when I see the bottle, but after a day or so, I'll lose track again. I did take the vitamins when I was pregnant, but Brad helped. My blood work then was always good - it's very good still - so I never worry about it. I still think vitamins are a good idea... but, too often I find that I am throwing away expired bottles of forgotten supplements.

After hitting 40, I've tried even harder to take vitamins - with iron - as I sometimes get more fatigued that I used to. I was worried about thyroid issues, but so far tests are good, except slight anemia for no reason found... it's probably age. I should take vitamins - with iron. I try. I forget. I do better by keeping the tablets at the table where I might see them at dinner... the kids know the meds are not candy, and we've also taught them to sound the alarm if other kids touch them. Vitamins with dinner do not try to kill me... when I remember to take them.

I forgot again, evening before last, to take my vitamin, and as I was feeling particularly worn down the next day, I took the vitamin as soon as I got back from dropping the kids at school. I told myself that I would immediately eat breakfast too, although I never sit down right away. But, I didn't want to forget, so I took it. Then, immediately went off to make beds and start laundry.

And this gets us to the part that I will never learn. See, I don't really think it is too odd that I can't seem to remember my vitamins. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I remember IMPORTANT meds. Things that are prescribed, etc. Vitamins seem to be filed under 'supplements' in my brain and do not rate as high on my priority list. I am also sure that I'm not the only one who sometimes forgets to take vitamins, or other medicine, with food, and later regrets it. I admit that I am easily distracted, but many people are.

Also, I'm usually(!) pretty darn good at remembering the cause and effect of things. If I do THIS, then THAT, will happen, so, if THAT has happened, then THIS is probably what I did to set it off.

Me+THIS=THAT which is the same as THAT=THIS +Me. Right?? Makes simple sense. I think I understand the logic.

So why can't I apply that theory to vitamins?? I don't. I take vitamins on an empty stomach... and forget about it. Completely. So completely, that when the excruciating stomach spasms start tearing through my body when the vitamin with iron dissolves... I panic. What the heck? Why can't I remember that my taking iron on an empty stomach causes a certain type of agony - and so, when I feel this agony, I should remember that I just took iron on an empty stomach??

No, I think instead that I must be suddenly terminal. Is it food poisoning?? Exotic parasites that have hatched and are digging their way out? Shall I run to a taxi and get to the hospital? It can't be the flu! I don't have a fever! I look for blood and mysterious wounds appearing. Nothing! What is going on?!?... eventually, as I am about to fall to the floor and crawl heroically to the phone to call my husband and tell him he has to arrange for someone else to get the kids from school because I'm dying,.. eventually, I'll remember the vitamin. And iron. And empty stomach. So, after not-so-heroically eating a few crackers and laying still for about 10 minutes, I'll find that I can live again, and move, and get on with my day.

Yes. I've done this more than once. I don't know how many times. Will I do it again? I hope not. Maybe my writing this little essay will banish this particular bit of foolishness forever - expose the silly little brain vampire to the sun where I can watch it turn to ash. I wouldn't be too terribly surprised if I do put myself through this again though... apparently what I've been through is not enough to teach me. Perhaps I should just adopt the attitude that panic attacks might be good workouts for the heart and brain... like wind sprints. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Right?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Following the happy theme - collage

I have been enjoying the lovely collages that fellow bloggers have posted, so, in special support of Lulu's Bay, I post this additional offering with the sincerest hope that it will please the internet gods and help bring back her blog. My favorite collage:

This is one I created with PaintShop and by use of a wacom tablet. It's about a year old now, but I love it (and the subject matter). I will have to find some time to explore the Picasa tool - that looks like fun too.

Pros and cons and skulls

There are definitely pros and cons about getting sick. When you are very ill, you get lots of attention and sometimes even prezzies! The cons are pretty obvious. You're sick. You have to have surgery. You have to be stuck in a boring hospital for DAYS! The doctors don't let you eat when you are starving! You get banned from school for even MORE DAYS! And from PE and Taekwondo for the rest of the month! Arrgh!

But, Brian also had a lot of pros. He was loved on and spoiled by everyone. When we arrived home, not only did he have nice balloons and a sign on his door from his friend, there were banners on the wall in the entry from daddy and Honor.

As we drove in from the hospital, the bawwab (aka - the guy who does everything) for our building, Ahmad, hopped on his bike and rode off. We found out why a couple minutes later - he came to our door with a big bouquet of flowers for Brian :-) Brian also received an awesome set of Legos (one he'd been drooling over in the Lego catalog) from Brad's office mates. When we went to pick up Honor one afternoon, we stopped in Brian's class to get school work for him... yea.. I guess we have to put that in the cons pile. Responsibilities do not go away! But along with the big pile of homework, Brian got an armload of nice cards from his classmates.

Brian should go back to school tomorrow. He's had his bandage off since the day before Thanksgiving and the wound looks very good. He didn't have any stitches. He's been feeling good all this week and seems to be getting his energy back. The first week home, he was very tired in the evenings, much earlier than he usually was. He seems to be back to normal now.

He's been getting through all of his homework and doing a great job. He loved the math and science, and as typical, we have had to struggle to get through the writing. He is typing up his work now. His class is writing little books on subjects that they are 'experts' in. Brian chose playing the game 'Age of Mythology' as his subject. He wrote up an introduction, and three chapters full of information on the game. Pure torture for a kid who hates to write, but he's a done great job. It is odd that he can TELL in great detail, and lovely vocabulary, all about subjects he likes, like this game, but when it comes to writing it down... it's painful. He'll tell me that it is "An action game where you gather resources, and the favors of gods from legends, in order to build your towns up, advance through the civilization ages, and create strong armies to win campaigns". He'll write down, "It's a game with god powers." I have to remind him that "It's not a list, it's a story!" He tries to make it as short as possible to get through it, and just get it over with. He still needs to work on improving the speed and neatness of his handwriting (he hates it) but I think that as that skill improves, so will his desire to write down all this good stuff he thinks up. Thank goodness that we get to put the final version on computer - he likes typing better than writing.

At least he was able to have some fun with his science project. He had to demonstrate knowledge of the human skeleton, and could choose a way to do so on his own. He chose to do a comparison of the human skeleton with an animal's skeleton - the animal he chose was a dragon! First, he looked up with a bunch of facts about human skeletons. He also found a good, labeled, human skeleton on the internet. He also found a labeled dragon skeleton on the internet! Using the facts he found about humans, he was able to write up a bunch of 'facts' about the dragon skeleton too. He also wrote up a Venn Diagram to illustrate how some aspects of human and dragon skeletons overlap. When he laid things out, he found that even with pictures of skeletons, pictures of dragon and human (a knight, of course), and his diagram and fact sheets, he still had a bunch of space left on the poster. So, he went back on line and found a bunch of skull pictures - dragon and human - to fill in the spaces. I found a good femur bone picture and made lots of little bones for decoration.

Brian directed all the cutting and layout of the pictures, but Honor and I were recruited for physical labor.

His finished project turned out very nice. I was very proud of all the research and good internet skills he used, not to mention the creativity in coming up with dragon facts. I thought he showed good understanding of why dragons might have certain shaped bones, while humans do not - like simple hand bones with claws, vs complex hands with thumbs. Doesn't it look good?

We delivered his project to school yesterday when we went to get Honor, and he got to see his classmates. Everyone had to see his surgery incision and ask how he felt. It will be good to see him get back to his full routine tomorrow!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

We hope that everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving. We spent the day lazing about the house, cooking, and just enjoying the time together. Turkey dinner was a great way to wrap up the day - something that made the cats, and even the fish, thankful too. Love ya!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A big hug for Honor

One day, over a year ago now, Honor got mad. It was a very BIG mad. Not even a tantrum, like a 3yo can let loose, no, an honest to god, angry. As in reasonably ANGRY about something important to her!

I don't even remember why...

After many hugs and kisses and talks, I know she and I worked out whatever it was, and she let me know that in addition to the cause of the initial anger she had, she was feeling left out. Brian got to do homework. Brian got magazines in the mail. Life just seemed totally unfair. Now, I don't believe in letting a kid get what they want by throwing a fit - they know a fit means the answer is 'No.' no matter what, and often it means an early bed time too. A out-of-control fit, in my opinion, means the child is tired, or hungry, or sick - something is going on. But children are people too, with real hurts and concerns, and she had had a real angry. I could tell she was genuinely feeling left out - even though I could also tell she understood why. She knew that Brian's class had homework, hers did not. Easy - but it was still not fair to a little one who wanted papers and mail too.
(find this kitty at: Cafepress)

So, after she went to bed that night, I got a piece of pink construction paper and folded it in half. On the front, I filled it out like you would an envelope: From Mommy, To Honor, with a pretend stamp in the corner. On the back, I drew a heart with all of our names in it. Inside the card, on one half of the fold, I drew a nice picture of me giving Honor a hug, and labeled it, "A big hug for Honor". On the other side, I wrote a full note. Simple repeating words with clear handwriting, but a full note about what a big girl Honor was and how much we all loved her.

She LOVED her note. She still has it too. She sets it up on display different places in her room, she takes care of it, and re-reads it often. If that's not enough to make you say "awwww", then read on.

Today, our little kindergartner, barely reading now (level 2), wrote a note back. She put our names on the back in a heart. She put: "To mom and dad and Brian" on the front. On one side she drew a picture of a big girl hugging small figures - not sure if it was me hugging everyone, or she was the one hugging everyone else. Her spelling is a bit off yet, "A big hag far Honor", but we knew what she meant. And she wrote a lovely note on the other side. She told us she loved us, then asked, "Do u like my nott? I love u and you love me"

You better believe that I like that nott!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We're home from the hospital

You know that 'normal' and 'routine' day, from my last post, that I was hoping for? No. We didn't get it. Most definitely NOT.

Brian was still ill on Wednesday. He actually felt better, but had that fever that wouldn't go away. He lay down for a nap, but by mid-day, when he awoke, I decided to call the clinic. In order to better tell them what the problem was, I got Brian to help me pinpoint where his stomach hurt. The pain had moved ... from the upper-middle of his stomach, to a very specific point on the lower right...oh no!... I called the clinic and we arranged to go right in.

He had an exam that was actually rather iffy in conclusions. He didn't have severe pain. He didn't hurt too bad when he bounced or had his feet tapped. He was hungry. His lab tests were pretty good... blood test was slightly suspicious. Basically, he didn't have nausea or any of the classic signs of appendicitis, except the location of the pain, and that it has started where it had and moved down and right! A sonogram was required. We went to the hospital for that. They couldn't see his appendix, but could tell lymph nodes were enlarged. This was suspicious too. It was decided to admit him for further observation and evaluation. So, Wednesday evening, we checked in to the Al-Salam hospital.

The surgeon came in and gave Brian a good looking over. Asked lots of questions, to include asking about a faded number 3 (in marker) which had not worn off his hand from pizza day at school - Brian had 3 pieces of pizza. Brian had had a fairly good, not normal, but ok, appetite. He also was able to bring his knees up fairly well to his chest. The surgeon was mostly convinced it was appendicitis, but he said that there is another syndrome, mesenteric lymphadenitis, in children that mimics the symptoms of appendicitis. Brian appeared quite healthy, was HUNGRY, and had other indications that this could be his problem. Rather than operating immediately, Brian was put on IV fluids and antibiotics. The decision was, the antibiotics would either make him significantly better by morning, or not. If not, it was appendicitis. Brad had arrived to the hospital from work by this time, as had an Embassy nurse. Brad brought us a bag of stuff, and we visited as well as made plans for the next day. By 10pm, Brad left for home with a very tired little girl - who had been incredibly patient and good as she was dragged from clinic to hospital to sonogram to admittance to Brian's room... she waited and waited and did not show a single sign of frustration, as a kindergartner might be entitled to, considering everything. She was very good and sweet to her sick brother. I stayed with Brian. The hospital provided a bed for me next to Brian's, and we had plenty of attention through the night.

Come Thursday morning, Brian was not better. Brad took Honor to school, called in to work, and joined us at the hospital. Brian had fever. He HURT much worse. He was still hungry.. not to mention, very thirsty ...because he was not allowed anything by mouth. His operation was scheduled for 9am. A doctor from the Embassy attended, and the local surgeon allowed us to be with Brian until he fell asleep, and to be there when he woke up. The surgery went very fast and well. Everyone involved seemed very pleased - and the appendix was indeed badly inflamed. They said we got it just in time.

Brian was very groggy and sore when he arrived back in his room - but one of the first things he said was, "It's after the surgery, can I eat now?" Poor kid. No, not until the next morning. At least he was able to get a piece of ice in gauze to suck on and relieve the dryness in his mouth. They kept him on fluids by IV. By evening though, he was up walking, and had made it to the toilet to pass urine and stool - great signs of recovery! Brad stayed with us until after sunset, but he had to get home and get Honor to an early bedtime. After the late night on Wednesday, and early morning for school, she was picked up after school by a neighbor, and whisked off to join them at a birthday party and playdate. She was very tired!

By mid-morning Friday, Brian got approval for food. Dad arrived just before lunchtime after catching up on some needed chores at the house, then dropping Honor at another friend's house for an extended playdate (no school - Friday is the 1st day of the weekend). Brian was told that he had to remain in the hospital for one more night. Because his appendix was so 'ugly' when it was removed, the surgeon wanted him to be observed a bit longer. We had a quiet, but boring day. Brad left early, and Brian was very tired by 7pm/dinner time. Honor was too - she was nearly in tears when we said our goodnights on the phone. I think we all slept hard Friday night.

By the time the doctor conducted his rounds Saturday morning, Brian had had his breakfast, was walking the halls, bouncing off the walls, calling his friend on my mobile, and generally wanting to go home. He got his wish by early afternoon, and was playing Age of Mythology with his friend and his dad by late afternoon, early evening. He's still on antibiotics, he will be restricted from school for a good while, and sports even longer. We have to watch his temperature very carefully the next few days too. But it sure is good to have our big guy home!!

Here are some pics -

Isn't this just the saddest face you've ever seen?? He hurt. He was a bit scared. He definitely did NOT like this whole situation. A few minutes later, we managed to joke with him and cheer him up - but then he had to fuss at us for making him laugh too much. That hurt too.
One nice thing is, Brian had an awesome view from his balcony. I told him the story of how my father had his appendix out while in the Navy, stationed in China, at the end of WWII. His grandpa's room overlooked an intersection, and my dad would sit out and watch life go by on the streets below. His favorite story was about how the police controlled the rickshaw traffic. If a runner did not listen to directions, the police would take his seat cushion, making it impossible for the runner to pick up passengers until he got his cushion back. The naughty rickshaws would be lined up in 'time out' along the curb, and the cop would be in the center of the intersection, still directing traffic, with a pile of cushions at his feet!

Not to be outdone by his grandpa, Brian had a room overlooking the Nile. Two large cruise boats, 3-4 decks each, were moored directly across the street, lit up pretty at night. We had plenty of river traffic to watch too. Tug boats pushing barges, feluccas (small sailing craft), speeding police boats, small 2-3 person oar-powered fishing boats with fishermen busily casting nets... and one morning, we watched four sculling teams row by with their chase boat.

Across the first branch of the river in front of us, we could see farm activity on the island in the middle of the river. Far out in the distance, past the second branch of the river, and behind some large buildings, we could see 2 of the 3 Great Pyramids of Giza. Way off to the left, depending on how clear the air was, we could see up to 7 more pyramids out in the distance... we don't know which ones though.
Great peeking pyramids batman!
The view towards downtown Cairo.
Feluccas everywhere.
Feeling a bit better after a refreshing piece of ice, Brian demonstrates one of the nifty things about hospitalization - the free ray gun implant you get. He didn't get to take it home though.
Ah! Finally!! Food!!!
Early evening, and we're out watching the boats again.
By Friday, Brian is getting bored, and is grateful to have activity books that Dad brought in.
Friday evening we watch the sun set.
and the horizon fade away, layer by layer. We both were tired and went to bed early.
Saturday dawned bright and very clear. We could almost see details on the pyramids!
Brian greeted the dawn brightly too. Can you tell he is happy with the news of going home?
We even had a fairly clear view of the other pyramids in the distance. Looks like 5 on the left of the large building, and two on the right.
And the best view of all! Home!!!