Sunday, August 31, 2008

Self-imposed science homework

One of the places we make sure to visit when we are in the US is craft stores. I think it is important to keep a variety of craft supplies freely accessible to the kids. We've done this since they were tiny, less than 18mos. Brian was safe with things, Honor had some lessons on scrubbing crayons off walls at an early age - not her doing the scrubbing, she thought that was fun too(!), but we 'took mom away' to clean up her mess. She learned that if she wanted me, on demand, she couldn't color on the walls or I'd have to go clean. (It worked)

Some basic supplies, always on hand, are paper, crayons, markers, watercolor supplies, scissors, and glue. We sometimes have significant messes, but that's part of the learning process. I also have let the kids have yarn, beads, and some materials. When we visit the crafts stores, we always pick up a handful of kits to do as supervised projects too.

One craft/toy/activity we picked up this year was a couple of simple "Dinosaur Dig" sets. I cannot find a photo online of the kit. It's not one of the more complex sets where you have to dig out a whole skeleton and then assemble the dinosaur (maybe next year), it's more like this mystery rock set. There's a 'rock' with a toy dinosaur embedded inside it, and a tool to scrape away the sand and rock to dig it out (with a reasonable amount of effort - not too hard, not too easy). This kit came with a toy dinosaur that grows when you put it in water. Brian dug his dinosaur out carefully. Took two days. Honor saw him working on the 2nd day, and started on hers - like crazy! Sand and bits flying everywhere! (Might be best to do this as an outside activity if possible.) Soon, both dinosaurs were free, and they were asking for something to soak them in.

I cut up plastic bottles to use, but then the kids ran off. They came back with their notebooks. Brian said they needed to write down their observations before they started the water experiment. They measured and described their dinosaurs. Brian wrote a whole paragraph. Even Honor wrote her notes - with some spelling help. (He is 1 inch, he is red and yellow, etc.) Finally the dinosaurs were placed in the water. I wonder if they'll remember to record their findings when the dinosaurs have grown as much as they are going to?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Proper tools for the job

As anyone who does any kind of needlework can tell you, in order to maintain your gauge (a consistent stitch size that impacts the final size of a piece of work) you have to maintain a consistent tension (tightness) on your work - with the stitches being made, the stitches that are already a part of your work, and with the string you are yet to take up. The looping, pulling through, and dropping of stitches (etc) are also important techniques to master, but properly holding on to your project, needles and everything else involved as you work, is also one of the most basic lessons to learn. Some technique you gain with training, experience, and constant practice. There is also a wonderful variety of tools available for just about any type of needle craft that you fancy. I prefer to use a lap-mounted assistant to ensure proper yarn tension:

(photo by Honor)

Where's my stroller?

Honor is fascinated with babies. Her baby dolls. Her pretend play baby gear. Little ones at the playground. Most recently, a dear friend's pregnant belly - she'll often pet the baby in greeting, before she even says hello to our friend! When we arrived home yesterday, she asked where her stroller was. What? She wanted to see whatever stroller she'd supposedly had when she was a baby. We did have one, very gently used. We bought it before Brian was born. We used it a little, but mostly carried both kids in a sling. A stroller is useless on these sidewalks and roads - and I liked the sling so much better anyway. We gave the stroller away before she turned 2 years old.

So, what's a sling, she wanted to know? I started to explain, but then remembered that I had her old sling hanging in the entry closet, gathering dust with the winter coats. I brought it out and showed her. She wanted to see how it worked, and as soon as I put it on my shoulder, her eyes just lit up... and she wanted in! Thought I'd give it a go, and now we know, a Maya Wrap works from newborn, up to (cooperative) 5 year olds! I was able to carry her around - no hands by either of us, no slipping. Hmm? Think she liked it? I think we have a future baby-wearer in the making!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

There was a knock at the door....

... which I opened, and to my surprise, was a new friend with pie. OK, so it wasn't really a knock - it was a new headline on my iGoogle page of favorite blogs. And Simple Answer wasn't really at my door, but her virtual 'visit' was still a very pleasant and welcome surprise. I loved her blog about pie, and other baked goodies, and the use thereof to magically bring a feeling of home and friendship to a new relationship.

I have to admit, I am no good with baked goods. I can be a very good sponsor and friend - I can welcome folks and friends to a new place, show them around, get them all the info they need to get out their on their own, etc. But I haven't yet managed to add actual pie to my repertoire. Or cakes. Or cookies. I enjoy sweet homemade goods but, well, even my family is dessert deprived. My dear husband even has to make his own pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

Perhaps that will change now that I am getting more used to this SAHM business. I do enjoy cooking - and am even quite good with the oven, when it comes to entrees. I enjoy making bread by hand too. I like going to restaurants, trying new dishes, and attempting them later at home. I love to experiment. My husband teases that in 16+ years of marriage he has never had the same meal twice as I cannot follow a recipe to save my life. (I say it's not "cannot", it's "will not"!) As much fun as I have with cooking meals, I have never really gone beyond that into desserts. But I am beginning to consider the possibility.

I have actually (only recently) made a couple of cool birthday cakes. True, I started with mixes, but dragon and pony shapes do not come from regular pans (I have to say, I am still unreasonably proud of myself over those cakes, I was shocked that I was able to manage them at all - both times I had 'back-up' cake mixes at the ready). I stepped out of my comfort zone and succeeded. I have pre-existing confidence based on single recipe for the most awesomely easy (and delicious) banana bread ever - hey, I am from Florida and we had banana trees. When you have banana trees, you have LOTS of bananas. Our mechanic lucked into a loaf of that recently and has texted me as "master baker" - trying to butter me up probably won't work. I told him he was blessed with a rare miracle from my oven and not hold his breath for more, that I'm a cook, not a baker - but now he's asking for leftovers. You know... if he gets our AC going, I might see what I can do.

Ok, my blogging friend! Now you have me thinking of baking. Of pie. So inspired, I will see what I can do to bring this heartwarming concept to a more solid reality. In the meantime, I shall serve up a fresh-baked dish of virtual pie to some of my new and old blog friends:

Smiles and Trials - my dear sister-in-law (extra large pie to share with the whole family)
Mama Seoul - formerly of Cairo, who tempts me to run off to Korea
Earth to Danie - who has been around the world, then around in circles (hearty pie for strength on your new adventure)
Lloyd's Blog - a long time internet friend, we met recently, with a mutual friend in a pub in his dreams. I shall return the favor of a drink with one of virtual pie - some for the whole family.
LuLu's Bay - my fellow Cairene who needs pie.. tamed, with no nuts

May you always be blessed with sweet-as-pie friendships. (And this goes for those not listed too.. :-) )

Burrito... oh oh...

I am laughing so hard.. gotta share this fun website I just stumbled across. Mo'men Burritos - yea, a local restaurant has a whole website devoted to this new menu item. It looks like they've put a lot of effort into this, and even have four commercials that you can watch from the website - I hope no-one finds them culturally insensitive/stereotyping, I think they are creative - or at least, they're poking equal fun at Egyptians and Mexicans. I may be missing some of the joke - which happens with foreign language, esp. in dialect, but the basic theme appears to be the Egyptian restaurant is trying to pass off their burritos as authentic, and the Mexicans are not happy about it. What I especially like - besides the creative silliness - is the fact that at least one Egyptian restaurant is trying to promote Mexican/Tex-Mex food.... YAY!!!! Makes me want to Otlob some Mo'men burritos...oh oh oh oh! .... just to show my appreciation! I miss Mexican/Tex-Mex food so much when we're overseas. Even the simple quesadilla - fried tortilla with cheese in it. Or beans in a tortilla. This is basic comfort food, and while I can make my own, it's not the same... sometimes, when you want comfort food, you want someone else to make it for you. Thank Mo'men.

Monday, August 25, 2008

3 ovens, all in a row

Wish I'd had my camera with me this afternoon. I went downstairs to catch my ride to the school to pick up Honor, and there in the courtyard, was a bunch of ovens, all lined up like some sort of unexplainable work of modern art. Dead art. And I knew the explanation.

Flashback to last Friday. We'd spent the day lazing about the house. I wasn't feeling all that wonderful because of clogged sinuses and eye-popping headaches. The lights started doing this dim, BRIGHT, flicker, dim dim dim, normal BRIGHT flicker (etc.) action. Well, we are actually used to seeing some of this type of lightshow, but it wasn't stopping. When electronics went off, we were leaving them turned off. No, we did not immediately jump up, run wildly about the house, and unplug things - the surging usually stops.... usually...

Eventually we went to bed. The power went out. The generator went off. And stayed off. What?!?! I have to say, that's a first for us here! Pretty darn good really, for as long as we've been here. We've been spoiled.

On with the story - We share our home with one of these guys:
Robosapien V2
He can be quite an independent guy, if freed from the top of the dresser and powered on, and is a chatterbox as well. One of the things he will comment about is, sometimes, when he loses track of whatever had his attention, he'll stop and say "It's quiet, too quiet." (Other times he'll just wander off and spout something silly like "I am not the bot you are looking for." or "Here kitty, kitty...") (Anyway...) I have to say that when the power goes out, and stays out, it's quiet. Too quiet. Cairo is supposed to be noisy ALL the time. Even Maadi. Having it so quiet... not even completely silent, but ... unnaturally ...too.. quiet... It was eerie! We had a hard time trying to sleep. We gave it a shot though.

Until the banging on the door at 3am. A neighbor had come home to smoking and sparking, toxic-fuming, electrical shorts. Several neighbors apparently. They were waking everyone to check electronics. We unplugged what we hadn't already. Most of our stuff is on transformers or has other surge protection. A bit later, some other neighbors came by and suggested we open the windows, wake the whole family, and evac to the courtyard. We asked if there was a real fire or just circuits blowing. No fire. We let the kids sleep, but kept an eye on the situation... we figured that by this time (generator off and apartments searched) any risk was past. Eventually we were told to make sure the main circuit breaker to our apartment was off, and we could go back to bed - they'd be working until they got it fixed and come by apartment by apartment to check later. It was nearly 5am before I could finally sleep. It wasn't the heat. It was actually cool enough to sleep. But the silence kept me distracted.. that and the robotic voice repeating in my head, "It's quiet. Too quiet."

About ?9am? on Saturday - I never looked at the clock - someone stopped by, turned our main back on. We spent the rest of the day with more funky light shows and other electronics-related trouble and mayhem - like the water going off and on (water systems need power), and no elevators, which made hauling groceries a chore. Good thing we have strong kids! The ACs kept going in and out as well - guess they are on a separate system which was also acting flaky, but different than the lights(?), and the power supply to the major appliances was acting up too, enough so we just turned those breakers off. We lost a couple small transformers - one to our router, leaving us webless for a bit (it gave Brad a good excuse to go to the computer store). We also had bulbs weakened and blowing out - but, we buy bulbs in bulk anyway and were (are still!) able to replace them.

Facilities personnel checked our oven when they reset our main. Guess the ovens were the major culprit/victims in the weekend's chaos. Ours was fine - probably because we'd requested a tougher circuit breaker long ago. We'd gotten tired of how easily the old one flipped because it wasn't set up with a breaker of the right capacity. It had been a huge pain - we couldn't use the AC, the oven, and more than 2 burners without the breaker flipping. Less if the oven was set over 350F! How can you entertain with that? The new breaker might have saved us more than the headaches we were having back then... OUR stove wasn't in the appliance funeral procession downstairs today! (whew!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cairo kisses

Brad was in a car accident the other day. I thought about blogging something about it, but I forgot. Yea, I forgot. Cairo kisses, as in cars 'kissing' other cars on the road, happens so often that it gets to be part of the routine. You know, "Coffee was good this morning, we got the National Geographic magazine and a bill in the mail, I got rear-ended by a hit and run driver, your friend said to tell you hi, blah blah blah..." Routine. How strange is that? Guess we've been here too long! Or, just long enough to get a laugh out of something completely unacceptable anywhere else.

Brad said that he had stopped in traffic, but then heard desperate braking behind him, followed by a loud crash, glass breaking, and he was jolted rather strongly. It was so loud that the driver of the car in front of him was concerned that she may have been hit too and also got out of her car to check for damage! She looked at Brad in confusion because their cars were not even close, and he had to tell her that he didn't hit her! About this time, the driver of the car that hit Brad saw a cop approaching and he vamoosed. Must have had no money/insurance/etc. Brad said there was glass and grill bits everywhere - none of it belonging to our truck. Nobody was hurt (well, that we know of - the guy drove off!). The woman of the front car and Brad checked for damage on their vehicles - none on the 1st because she wasn't hit at all (she must have heard the loud crash just as she was stopping - it was a sudden stop and that can cause a jerk), and there was only a slight scratch on the rear bumper our truck.

I should feel silly for forgetting this, but Brad started it. He didn't think to tell me about the accident until later that evening after he'd been in for awhile. And the only thing we are annoyed about is that the driver didn't have the guts to just stop and apologize. We were rear-ended by a minibus previously. Actually did a little damage, about $100 worth - it would have been much more in the US. Technically, we could have probably demanded some form of payment from the bus driver - the large group of police who witnessed the accident would have backed us up, but it was obvious that this was an accident. We had to stop fast or hit someone who jumped out in front of us, the bus driver couldn't stop, so he hit us. It was also obvious that the driver was very scared and it was likely that he had no ability to pay for our damages. The difference? He offered. We said no thanks, it was ok. Too bad that this other driver ran off. Brad would have given him a 'no problem' had he stopped. It wasn't our car that was damaged, and traffic was bad - it happens! - he would have been understanding. O well...

This is why...

Some days, I miss my old job. I really liked it, and it was tough to quit work as I have worked all of my life, liked what I was doing, loved the people I worked with (and I do miss them!) etc... but I thought that it was taking too much away from our family. After giving it some serious thought, I knew it was time for a change. I know that my becoming a stay at home mom has greatly improved the quality of family time we all have. Brad still comes home at the same time, but now, he walks in to dinner on the table (or almost), kids who have rested if need be, bathed, finished their homework, even had playdates or other after-school activities, and all that is left to be done is have a family meal and together time. It makes our weekends more relaxed and free too.

It is also helpful on days when the kids just 'need a hug'. Better yet, I think that sometimes, my being here helps avert some of those times. I get to do more at the school and see the kids during the day. Yesterday, both kids were very tired and Brian was sort of down and out of sorts all day. I heard about this from a friend who happened to be at the school, so at noon, when Honor's class was released, she and I popped in to see him at lunch. Surprised him in front of his teacher and classmates. He's still young enough to like that!

Today, as I waited by the kindergarten classes with some other moms, waiting for our little ones... this is how Brian greeted me as he passed by on the way to the cafeteria:
Oh yea! I think I made his day, but not as much as he made mine :-) !!! He was still in a very happy mood when he got home too, even though he was exhausted again. Getting through the first full week of the new school routine has been exciting and tiring - it's apparent that a lot of kids (and parents!) are sagging. The heat has been tough too... many people are hopping into this weather straight upon arrival from leave in cooler climates, or upon their new assignment. Getting acclimated can be hard. Tired is ok though, when you are otherwise cheerful!

Honor is enjoying her class and new classmates, but she is also enjoying the one-on-one mommy time when she gets home.
This afternoon, Honor and I made banana bread (with chocolate chips, walnuts, and maraschino cherries). We also read a very sweet book that I'll recommend for any young reader who loves cats, The Bravest Cat: The True Story of Scarlett by Laura Driscoll. Honor loved this true story of a brave mother cat who rescues her kittens from a fire. After the book she got her toy cats and acted out the story, and when Brad got home, she told him the story and had him read it to her again. What a change... used to be, when we would get home from work, all we had time to do was cook, eat, homework, bathe, bed! Hurry hurry hurry!

So yea... on the days I think of my former job and wonder... well, this, a day like today, is why. (and after all the feelgoodedness of today, I even worked up the oomph to get the backlog of despised ironing done before Brad got home!)

I ...

Found this quick little meme at Expat Mom's blog.

I am… fuzzy headed from lack of sleep

I think…. that I should make some banana bread

I know… that I should iron instead of bake, but I don't care

I want… more hours in the day

I have… a headache

I wish... time would slow down

I hate… ironing

I miss… clean air, clean water from the tap, a green lawn

I fear… anything happening to my family

I feel… slow (headache and fuzzyhead are weighing me down - I need banana bread)

I hear… the fan

I smell… coffee

I search… for my scissors

I wonder... how the kids are doing in school right now

I regret… nothing

I love… my family

I care... about my family

I always… like to drive

I am not… too terrible picky

I believe… in the power of a positive attitude

I dance… but not as much as I used to.

I sing… with my musical daughter

I don’t always... meet my own goals

I write… randomly

I win… sometimes

I lose… my chain of thought

I never… say never

I listen… to life

I can usually be found… at home

I’m scared of… anything bad happening to my family.

I read… anything and everything

I forget… numbers

I just… finished my coffee :-(

I am happy about... the new school year

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ew! Spinach!

I am so mean. But spinach is good for you! I do not like it plain unless it is raw and fresh - which I can't always have. I have to say though, spinach cooked into other foods can be yummy... not according to the kids, but I think so.

I have a once weekly shopping trip, and a veggie delivery once a week, and that's it. For the rest of the week, food will be what is on hand: fresh, canned, or frozen. It might help, I suppose, if I planned our menus, but I haven't figured that out yet. I never know what kind of leftovers we will have and we actually like leftovers - esp. something I can create new meals with. How can you plan around the randomness of growing kids and ever changing amounts of leftovers?? I don't think meal planning would fit my cooking personality anyway. My method, unless I wake up and start the day with a meal idea - it happens - is to open the fridge and hope the inspiration fairy whacks me. Today, it was the zucchini that got me. Spinach is a mean enough thing to impose on small children, but zucchini too?! Yea. I did. Can't make a whole meal of 6 small zucchini though, so I just chopped them up and threw them in the steamer.

So, next I moved on the freezer. No fairy in there either. Finally I opened the pantry and saw a can of spinach. Ta daa! (or should I say "Mwaa-ha-ha! and rub my hands gleefully?)

Here's what I did to the kids tonight:

Browned 1lb lean ground beef in olive oil.
Sauteed one small red onion and a couple cloves fresh minced garlic, as the meat was browning, in the same pan. (Sloppy? Cutting corners? Whatever. It works!)
(Normally I'd drain the excess oil, but there was none)
When the onion was soft, I added one, drained, can of spinach. (The equivalent amount in frozen or fresh works too.)
Added about a cup of dried cranberries.
Added (to taste) salt, pepper, cinnamon, (tiny bit of) allspice, ginger, and cardamon. (I'd usually add mint too, but apparently I am out. Oops!)
I will also often throw in a handful of cashews or pine nuts, but I forgot this time.
Last hard ingredient is 2-3 medium apples, diced. (Any kind, and I do not peel them - keeps in the nutrients and the crunch.)
Pour in 1/3 cup white zinfandel (which was a nice change - I usually use red wine, but the lighter wine was very nice with the apples).
Simmer until the apples are slightly soft/cooked - not mush. A couple of minutes.
Serve over white rice.
Feta cheese (best!), or parmesan cheese, is a good topper.

I'm not sure if the zucchini was the best 'match' to this entree, but it was sweet and fresh. Poor kids. At least they liked the rice. And the dish didn't get a complete thumb's down. They managed to clean their plates, and they'd have chosen to go hungry if they really despised it. At least Brad and I liked it, and I can sleep easy tonight with the knowledge that I got greens AND fruit in the kids again!

and... she's out!

Kindergarten is hard work! So is third grade. Where Brian's class immediately started with full days, the school is easing the kindergartners into their schedule. Last week was half days, release at 11:30. This week is an hour more. Next week they'll start the full day of class. With all the excitement of a new schedule, new friends, new teacher, etc. Honor has been very tired. She has also had the chance to have a couple of after school playdates - and then sit through the excitement of Brian's playtimes with his new buddy (boys are loud) - and even had a fun birthday party this past weekend. It's catching up to her! She was very tired last night and had a hard time waking up this morning. Brian was also glassy-eyed by bedtime last night, and very hard to rouse this morning. Poor guy - he's usually up, dressed, ready to go and begging for some computer time before I get myself completely showered and dressed!

A friend of mine saw Brian at school today and said that he looked down. She asked him if he was ok, was he too hot (it's only 93F, but it feels worse from the humidity!), or what was the matter. He was just worn out and tired. I went in to pick up Honor about the time he was getting out of art class and going to lunch, so Honor and I stopped by the lunchroom to give him some hugs and attention. He seemed happier, but still tired. Poor guy. When we got home, Honor finished her lunch and I had her lay down a bit. She said she wasn't tired, but she went out immediately! I sat down to get some paperwork done and be quiet while she slept, but I don't think I need bother. She is out.

I guess I better have a light dinner ready early tonight so I can get these guys down for an early bedtime....if the power stays on, the electricity has been, uh, interesting today - off, on, BRIGHT, dim, off, etc.... Gotta get these kids caught up and rested.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friends and physicals

The kids had their back-to-school physicals at the Embassy today. Honor has been dreading this for weeks now because she has been worrying about getting shots. It made her a little hesitant throughout the morning. Brian was pretty laid back about it all and manage to actually enjoy himself. The nurses and doctor were very good with the kids and Brian warmed right up to the attention. One favorite nurse/friend even had Brian filling out some of his own paperwork. It took a bit to get through two physicals though, plus immunizations - they lucked out, one for Honor (2 later this month), and both had the PPD test. We didn't get back to school in time for Honor to join her class. This week is still half-day only.

Honor and I walked Brian to the library to join his class - pretty good I remember some of his schedule! - and then we wandered back past Honor's class in time for the kindergartners to be released. She got to say hello to her friends and teachers.

I had restarted my order for veggie delivery and when we returned to the house, our Veg box had been delivered. Mangos are in season...mmmm! The cantelope and apples were very nice too.

After lunch, Honor played computer while I did some cleaning. She has been immersing herself in Kindergarten level reading PC games and music games and doing very well. She took a break to help me mop the kitchen, but then dove right back into her games. She was a little tired from the heat and a bit fevery from the immunization so this quiet time was good for her.

Brian soon arrived home and threw himself into his homework and chores. There is a new family in our building and they have a boy his age! Both kids are thrilled!! Honor has been lucky to have a wealth of little girls in her/our circles, but Brian's friends are usually not local, or are the ones who move away :-( These two seem to hit it off very well. His mom and I had sort of planned to let Brian go over to their place today - because Brian hosted last time, but the boys made their own plans on the bus ride home and wanted to come over here to play "Teen Titans" on the PS2. We thought it was great that they were both so eager to get all their work done in order to have a playdate. I think this friendship will be good for them - and good for their homework motivation!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Follow-up on house II

The AC for the back of the house is dying - just in time for the weekend, ie. no facilities help except emergencies. See, I told you the things were evil.

Follow-up on house

The facilities guys showed up and got the psycho washing machine tamed, and managed to get the shower and sink fixed temporarily (until they can get parts). Thank goodness we have these guys to help us!

The house missed us

Our apartment is needy. It desperately needs to be coddled and loved at all times or it just falls apart. The whole thing, about 14 years old - I think, according to rumor - was renovated before we moved in, about 4 years ago now, and we do our best to keep up with the maintenance, and usually (... except for the evil AC units, which are possessed by demons and ought to be thrown into the Nile - after many cleansing rituals and banishments are performed...) (ahem...) usually, we have no problems. BUT, we were gone on R&R nearly 4 weeks, a week more than anticipated, and the apartment got its feelings hurt.

So far, all the new halogen lights in the entry are burnt out. Halogens are supposed to be long lasting - "Halogen MR16 lamps are typically more efficient than standard incandescent bulbs, but not as efficient as fluorescent lamps or LED technology. MR16 lamps typically have a life expectancy of 1000 to 3,000 hours." - which in this place, translates to about a week whether we use them or not, if we are lucky. We were gone a month. Why should I expect them to be working??

The AC filters, which were cleaned right before we left, were so clogged that the AC's were not putting out any cool air. When the filters were removed, piles of black ick fell out. They had construction going on while we were gone and all the dust got sucked right in. Yuk! And yea ... that means the whole house had a fine layer of black ick all over too... even after our friend had the place cleaned and vacuumed before our return, there was still time for another layer to form. I am not sure I want to look at the ionic breeze stand-alone air filters - although they may not be too bad. One power flicker (happens all the time) would have simply turned them off.

One good thing is we had weatherstrip tape put around our door - it has already significantly lowered the temps we get in that area. And btw, even though I might complain about the AC, I absolutely do not like a 'cold' house... I just do not like it to be hotter inside than outside! Since we have an apartment with FULL SUN, some AC is needed, and leaky doors are not helpful.

Yesterday, after I finished working in the back room, I walked out to check my laundry... and into a FLOOD. Hallway, living room, kitchen, laundry room ... sigh. The washing machine went psycho. Don't think anything was ruined - but it was a huge mess - the laminate wood floors will not be the same again. (not too bad, considering the amount of water). I'm glad I was home to catch it. Fortunately the maintenance guys were on the ball and ran right up to help clean up and try to fix the washer. The machine in still broken though and I need to do laundry. Hopefully by today.

Today was "Too much water, Part II" - fortunately, contained in the shower this time. The shower faucet has broken about six times since we've been in this apartment - that is six times more than I've EVER in my life seen a shower faucet break! Yet again, the stupid thing snapped and we could not shut off the shower. Had to turn off the shower from the wall - meaning we have no water in the back of the house. The drain is draining way too slow, and the sink is dripping too - which has been temporarily solved by our turning off the water.

Ok, enough is enough... house, you need to start behaving. We are back, ok?! Chill out already!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good & Bad

Good - We still had frozen berries in the freezer from before our R&R, not freezer burned(!), and a bottle of rum.

Bad - When I started blending the berries up, with ice, a fresh banana, honey, and some rum, the blender started leaking.

Good - I was able to finish blending and pour the daiquiri into glasses.

Bad - The pitcher for the blender (an old plastic thing) was split all the way down the side. Not sure where I can get a good new one any time soon (except by mail). No daiquiris, margaritas, fruit smoothies, ice cream floats, coladas, etc... :-( they are so refreshing, and it's still quite warm here!

Good - The blender-killing daiquiri. Berries are so good for you! Get your vitamin C and potassium in one refreshing frozen drink, and it's even said that alcohol helps boost the antioxidant properties in the fruit.

1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen red raspberries
1 large banana
2 tbsp (approx) honey
1/2 - 3/4 cup rum (or not, it's up to you - Bacardi gold went well though)
ice to fill the blender
Blend until smooth
(toss old broken blender ... sigh... )

I missed you!

Misty reeeeeaaaallllly misses Brad when he is gone. When Brad gets in from work, Misty needs lots of love and reassuring. Kisses too - whether Brad wants them or not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back to school '08-'09!

Yay! School's in!!! Who's ready for school?? How about the boy who woke up at 4am?? Brian remembered my 'beat the jetlag' advice though, and stayed in bed until after 6am. Honor was a bit more work to wake up. We're all still working on our schedules. They look ready though, don't they?!
Walking to the front gate. Doesn't Honor look pretty in her new skirt Aunt Christine? (Thanks!)
Brian finds his name on the 3rd grade board and checks to see who is in his class with him.
Hmm? Didn't we only have 2 children?? We picked up a couple of friends from last year on the way to the kids' classes.
Wow! I want to go to 3rd grade!! Isn't this an awesome classroom??!! Both kids have wonderful classrooms - we just love this school! Not only for the physical furnishings(!), although they are lovely and inviting, but Cairo American College is a school that has truly earned its good reputation in many ways. If you and your family are heading this way for assignment in Cairo, check out their website (link on the name above) - and visit it often because they keep it up-to-date. Today's 1st day of school photos were on the web before we were done with the parent orientation, which included a presentation on the website - even the speaker was a bit surprised to load the page and see photos barely an hour old already up on the header page!
Brad and Brian check out the new school supplies.
Meanwhile, over in kindergarten, Honor shows me her new cubby.
And we meet the class pet. They voted to name him Looper. He's (she's?) a very patient and gentle little rodent!
The kids played before the start of class. This is the kitchen/home/store center.
After school, only a half day the first couple of weeks, Honor had a playdate with a new friend - a classmate whose family has just arrived Cairo. After we got Brian home for school, she went to her room, and without saying anything to me, put herself down for a nap - even when I got her up later for dinner, she was still as tired as a tired cat and snoozed with Ramses on the couch a little more!
Of course, the first day of 3rd grade proved to be very tiring too - after a bit of PC play, Brian also put himself down for a rest! I could barely wake him for dinner, and he went right back to bed afterwards too... hope he doesn't wake at 4am again tomorrow.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Egypt, Cyclops, Pokemon and Kindergarten

We are finally back in Egypt after R&R. We arrived back on Friday after a pretty smooth flight, one stop-over, from DC. Smooth except that the kids were not able to sleep for the majority of the flight - not good. Not saying that they were not good, nope. They were very well behaved. We received several positive comments from fellow passengers about their good behavior. It was "not good" because they - and we - were exhausted by the time we got here.

We left our hotel in DC Thursday morning at 9:30am, stopped at our favorite UPS store in Columbia to mail a box (which arrived TODAY - 4 days later!), had lunch at Ruby Tuesday, and got to Dulles in plenty of time for our 5pm flight.

The flight was about 6hrs to Frankfurt. You'd think that by (DC time) 11pm the kids would have been a little tired. No. Brian slept less than an hour. Honor not at all. We had a couple hours in the Frankfurt airport followed by a 4 hour flight to Cairo. Brian did sleep - crashed - during this flight, but not the whole of it. Honor only slept for a very short time... right before we landed!! It was as if she'd stayed up until 5am DC time! It was very hard to wake her to get off of the plane! I had to promise to carry her once we were in the airport to get her moving without risking a melt-down. Poor little bit. She was very tired! To give her credit, she did try to sleep. She couldn't until she got so tired she finally went out. This is how I am on flights too, or cars for that matter - if it's moving, I'm not sleeping, no matter how I try. She liked the idea of being carried, so she woke up enough to get off the plane. Yes, I carried her.

Once we got in the airport, we got through customs, got our bags, and caught our ride home. It was 30+ minutes across town and I kept Honor singing and playing until we got there. Brian was keeping himself occupied by looking out the window. I didn't think I could carry Honor anymore if she slept again! She's getting big. We arrived home around 3:30-4pm on Friday (Cairo time) and being home was enough excitement to keep us awake for a couple more hours. Hit the bed at 630pm and we were out.

Well, out, but only in 2 hours chunks - o wait, that was just me. I woke at 8pm and had to get up and walk around a few minutes before I could sleep again. The cats woke me up at 10pm and I had to get up for awhile again. Midnight, Honor climbed in with me for some snuggles. She stayed about 15 minutes, but my neck hurt and I couldn't sleep cramped up, so I walked her back to her room and sat with her a bit until she went to sleep again. At 2am, Brian came and tapped me on the shoulder. (Why is it that the kids can't find their dad's side of the bed in the middle of the night??!!) Brian was coughing and wheezy and wanted his inhaler. I got up and had to search the house and luggage.

Brian wanted to get up at 2am, but I explained that whether he was tired or not, he had to try to lay in bed, eyes closed, and rest. Jetlag is best tackled head-on. I asked him if he wanted one miserable night of not sleeping, or several. He only wanted one and said he would try to sleep. I lay back down again... for a short while. At 3am he was back and bored out of his mind. I told him he could turn on the small lamp by his bed and read in bed. I asked him to try and stay in bed in the soft light until at least 630am. He did. He read for 3 and a half hours! I managed to stay in bed until 4am, as did Brad, but my back wouldn't take anymore than that. We got up. I stayed up until 7am, but had to go nap again for a couple more hours. I woke Honor up at 9am! 14 hours of sleep.. by a child who despises sleep... yea, she was tired.

Saturday night was better, although Honor took a turn at getting up way too early. I think that I actually had 4 whole uninterrupted hours, in a row! We're getting there. At least she was kind about waking me and just came in and snuggled until my alarm went off, then she wandered back to her room to play with her Barbie laptop. It was nice to be serenaded with her keyboard accompanied version of "Do, Re, Mi" when I got out of the shower.

Today was Honor's first day to meet her new teacher. There was a 1-hour meet and greet for kindergartners. Very exciting. We went with friends although it ended up that they did not get the same class. They'll have plenty of playground time and other time together during joint class activities. Too bad though. They'll make more friends. Brian had to tag along and he was pleased to see that Honor's class is the one that his 2nd grade class had been 'reading buddies' with last year. He hasn't found out who his 3rd grade teacher will be yet. His first day is tomorrow. I'll try to remember the camera tomorrow.

The kids spent the rest of the day playing Pokemon, goofing off, pushing my buttons by pushing each other's buttons, and alternatively being very UN-helpful (making messes and not listening) and being VERY helpful (putting away laundry, toys, cleaning & setting the table, etc.). Too much energy and lack of purpose - school is starting just in the nick of time!

Brian has mastered his favorite PC game and expansion pack (Age of Mythology with the Titans campaign expansion), single player, over the summer and is now begging us to play multi-player. We haven't had time, so he is trying to teach Honor how to play. This is a teen level game and requires reading, but he was working very patiently today trying to explain the strategy of building city centers, and deploying forces. "Take your Cyclops, yes, that's him, very good. Now have him attack the wall over here... "... I wish I'd had the video camera handy!! He's teaching her Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythological characters and creatures before she is comfortable reading whole 'Level 1' books! He is a good big brother - even if his ultimate goal is a partner for a multi-player game. He has been teaching her how to play the Pokemon trading card game too. She's reading well enough now to understand some of what is on the cards.

As for me, I spent the rest of the day cleaning, recovery from R&R, catching up on regular stuff, unpacking boxes that have arrived, getting ready for school, and banging my head against the wall around the internet trying to order car parts. We're back to slow and continually stuttering DSL :-p We were spoiled by the speedy cable back in the US... sigh... I never did get through to any of the on-line shops I tried. I probably should try more now, but I am too tired. I'm thinking it's bedtime. It's currently 8 hours until time to get up - my goal tonight is FIVE hours in a row sleep! Bonus points for anything over that.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Do I remember this?

We had a chance to visit the area we used to live before moving to Cairo. We chose to commute from Columbia, MD because it is such a nice area to live (another good website). We made this trip in order to take care of some things in the area, but also grabbed the chance to visit with some of our friends that we haven't seen in a long time. Email is nice, but it is much better in person! Unfortunately, we didn't get many pictures the week we were there. I take lots of pictures when I think to take the camera out, but I don't always remember to take the camera out!

In addition to visiting with our friends, we visited some favorite restaurants, shops, the Mall in Columbia, and other places we used to go. That, 'used to go', was a phrase we used a lot with the kids. We moved to Cairo when Brian was 3 and Honor was 18mos. We'd told them of the place we used to live and hang out, showed them pictures, etc., but it was fun to actually take them there. They didn't really remember too much, but enjoyed the stories we told them of the places we visited. Honor asked me a couple of times, "Do I remember this?", like I should be able to look in her mind and see what she knows! Not the first time she's acted like I should be able to read her mind or see into her dreams :-) !

Don Pablos was a much requested restaurant - we went there twice:

We visited some of our favorite stores at the mall - past PF Chang, restaurant of the awesome cement horses (one per kid even)...

we paused by LL Bean to visit the fountain... they were running a promotion where you could sign up for a boating or flycasting class, they'd bus you out to a nearby lake, and give you lessons. The kids were too young though, minimum age was eight.

The indoor merry-go-round at the mall:

Photos of our walk around Lake Elkhorn, where we used to live, and where we walked with the kids when they were little - Brian trotting along as fast as he could go, or riding in his little red wagon, and Honor in a maya wrap or a stroller. We have a bunch of photos from the massive Brood X cicada invasion when we last lived there, so the kids have 'seen' the lake, but we went on 2 nice walks so they could really get to know it a little. The first walk was after a dinner with friends at (highly recommended) Hunan Manor. We lived close and used to order take-out regularly! Their food was still yummy. The kids enjoyed the 2-mile hike around the lake after lunch. My husband said that the par (fitness) course had been renovated, and tree identification tags had been installed. They saw tons of ducks and geese, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, box turtles, and two giant-sized alligator snapping turtles. The kids and I took another walk a couple days later and I remembered my camera. We went mid-day, so we saw fewer critters out in the heat, but it was still a pretty walk. The kids want to move back - not sure we'd want to retire to this area, but I think we would all like to live there again sometime.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

To the (Middle???) East coast

We've been in Maryland and the DC area for about a week now and have enjoyed the time visiting with our friends, shopping, seeing movies, and visiting some of our favorite places. One well-timed event was a dance recital in Baltimore. A friend of our participated and did a very lovely job. It was obvious that she has been working hard.

I have to say though, we thought it very funny to come all the way around the world FROM Egypt, to see Middle Eastern dancing! Of course, it was a variety of dance types, but still, very backwards! It was a great show and you should check out the website: BellyPalooza: the Daughters of Rhea and Friends

and my friend's portion of the show:

Some photos from the show:

The only low part of the evening was we managed to work Honor into a perfect condition to melt-down. She hadn't been eating well or sleeping well, despite having a nap that afternoon. She LOVED the show and was very over-stimulated by it all... but she had to do a lot of sitting still and being quiet. The ride home was just a bit too long and she had a tantrum the likes of which we'd never seen before! She kept yelling "Tell me what to do that is FUN!" She absolutely did not want to just sit in the back seat of the van and ride. Poor baby. We figured food would help a little and stopped at Taco Bell on the way to the hotel - bean burritos at midnight before bed. Well, it worked. We think that our friend's brother has probably decided to never have kids though... sorry!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Saying Goodbye to California

We spent the majority of our time in California visiting with family - as it should be :-) We also did a bunch of back-to-school shopping. Not notebooks and folders really, although we did get backpacks and water bottles, but shoes and clothes (on sale!) and other items that are hard to find or more expensive on-line. My biggest pet peeve is packs of socks! You know, the 10-pack of plain white socks that you can find anywhere in any department store? Not available on-line :p So, we stock up during summer visits.

We also spent a bit of time being sick - not recommended for any vacation, of course, but it usually cannot be helped. We did a bit of restaurant and grocery store tourism as well - good beef, good tex-mex, etc. I like that our summer vacation coincides with Chevy's watermelon margarita season - wow, those are yummy! The kids like to have cereals they do not usually have access to (like Cookie Crisp!) and other goodies we cannot get at home (like Taco Bell bean burritos!). Good thing we stay busy during vacation or we'd pack on serious pounds.

We made the trip out to the bay area to visit one of Brad's brothers and his family. Unfortunately, that is when the stomach bug got Honor. Brian had been free of symptoms and fever-free for over 24 hours, and Honor showed no symptoms, so we thought we were 'clean'. Nooo.... She was good for the drive and that evening, but she (and Brian) started getting wild/cranky at bedtime - overtired kidlings. Brian and Honor were to share an air mattress in the living room, but there was room for me to lay between them for snuggles to help calm them down. We all crashed out! Brad tried to wake me to go to bed later, but by then, I was actually comfortable and didn't want to move. Good thing. Honor woke me early in the morning by throwing up - very neatly, but it was good I was there.

She was sick for the next 48hrs. She was in clingy, but good spirits, but she was very fevery and she couldn't keep anything down - if she moved, she threw up. She and I spent a lot of time snuggling - she needed lots of comforting - and cleaning up. I didn't get many pictures. I didn't do a lot of visiting either... we tried to quarantine ourselves as much as possible (couldn't leave because she couldn't move, but we didn't want to get near the baby). At least Brian got to play with his cousins - he's a good 'big brother' - and Brad got some time with both of his brothers in the area. By the time Honor started feeling good enough to move, Brad started turning that pale-green color we were becoming too familiar with. We got on the road anyway - yea, we were that red Ford Edge stopped on the side of the road... I was lucky. I got the 'just queasy' version of this particular bug.. of course, it hit as we were flying from California to Denver, through rough turbulence, but I made it.

Here are some pictures of our trip to the Bay area:

After our return to Brad's dad's place, I took the kids off to visit his other brother and family one more time the next evening. Brad was too ill to travel, but Honor had been fever-free for about 24hrs by then. I wanted to give them a chance to say goodbye to the other batch of cousins. The kids played a bit when we first arrived, then Uncle John came home from work and took a handful of kids off to the waterslide near their home. Brian and Honor had never been on a waterslide before. Brian LOVED it. Honor thought it was fun, but scary. She rode twice. I think that if she had more confidence in her swimming ability, she'd have liked the slide better.

We had a lovely visit with everyone in California - Love you!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

CA family - missing you already

Here are a few more photos that I especially liked, I might have more as I am still sorting:

My nieces Anna and Julia started their grandpa's birthday off right by cooking breakfast - great pancakes!
My sweet nephew William had been saving up hugs for me all year - I was spoiled by all the attention.
Jonny and Honor were usually inseparable - I believe they'd been off on a pretend shopping excursion through the house here, and had arrived to unpack their 'car' - and Dennis was fascinated by what they were doing.
I love this picture - I took it as Dennis crawled over to join the play. Dennis wanted to see what they were taking in and out of the bag (pretend food and other 'shopping'). The bigger kids just made room for him - naturally and without prompting - and let him dig right in to their gathered toys. Very sweet.
Dennis lost interest in his brother and cousin as soon as his Daddy walked in :-)
Annalyn helping in the kitchen - what a beautiful smile!
I was looking through my pictures trying to find one of my sister-in-law and her new son - I guess I never got one!! I take lots of pictures, but I am quite random and disorganized about it. Thank goodness she blogs and I can get a pic!! I love this picture though. Christine in the kitchen, surrounded by kids who are helping to serve up dessert. It is homey, warm and inviting - which is, of course, perfect :-)
I think there will be a keyboard in our future. Honor was determined to play! Thank goodness that her grandma could help her learn a few tunes.
Honor and grandma loved puzzles too.

Flashback to Arkansas

We've made it to DC - after multiple airline delays - and we are staying in an extended stay-type hotel. We'll only be here a week, but I thought we'd more comfy in a place with a kitchenette. We've been busy visiting friends and goofing off the last few days and I haven't been doing computer stuff. Thought I should go back and share some pictures of Arkansas. My sister and her family took us from Oklahoma to Arkansas to visit our parents' graves, and the cemetery was set in some beautiful country.

Brian and Honor enjoyed spending time with the 'big cousins'.
Hillside next to the cemetery.
Look at this beautiful big oak tree!
View from the gravesite - very pretty and peaceful.
Looking out from the entrance to the cemetery.
They took us to see a parcel of land they own in Arkansas. We had a nice walk around their property. I miss seeing so much green! It was very refreshing.

For dinner, and to celebrate 3 birthdays, we went to a Japanese steakhouse for dinner on the way home. Honor wasn't sure what to do with chopsticks.
Brian and Kira try to figure them out.
Honor snapped this photo of the cook flipping her rice dish in the air - the dish is a blur, but I think she caught a good expression on Brian.
She was a very tired girl.
We had a great dinner, and had cake at home later.
We had a great visit with you, and miss you very much already!