December 11, 2015

Stunned and speechless, we are

in a good way.  As some of you know, we were still in the midst of the bidding process.  There was a rumor afloat that we might hear something today, but one never knows, right?

Well, now we do.  We hadn't shared our bid list because it was so wide, varied, and open.  There was just so much opportunity, and in fact, I've done little to no research up until now.  We knew that anything was possible, so we just let it all go and hoped for the best.  And?

Well, drum roll......

Our next stop will be:

 

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but...didn't we want to go overseas?

 

Yep...and, we are...

 

this is just a brief stop in the USA for a year of language training before we head to:

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Ankara, Turkey!  We are over the moon to announce that we will arrive in Ankara in June 2017 for a 3 year tour.  Huge congrats to Peter, and now to dream of vacations in and around Turkey...

And....

I'm still here.  Since the first injection went relatively well, and actually seemed to work (numbness decreased, my ability to move without pain increased), I went through with the second per my earlier post. When originally planning the second, there wasn't really enough time put in for me to recover from it and get a sense of whether or not it worked.  So, I was extended again until December 16th.

Then after more discussion, and talking with the third doctor (who actually performed the injections), that it is likely best that I do all three.  If I don't, I risk not getting the full benefit.  At this point, it won't have me staying here that much longer, as I would not need a follow-up appointment after the third injection for another six months.  So, I will have the third, have a recovery day, and hopefully fly back to Managua on December 23rd.

It's been an interesting few weeks. I've been trying to combine errands with keeping up on things back home, finishing up Christmas prep that I can do from here, and wishing I could see all of the performances that I am missing.  On the other hand, Peter was able to attend most things I couldn't, he got a smashingly good photo of Nick's performance last night of all of the iPhones being held up in the air (I'm guessing that's just a universal thing now), was able to then scoot to Cait's end of season monologue for her acting class (held at a local dance studio), and even took a great video for me.  Not quite the same as being there, but not missing entirely and feel like I'm fairly caught up thanks to Skype, Facebook phone, and even just regular old phone calls. 

I wasn't sure what on earth I'd do on the medevac at first, given the length of time between appointments, but have found it's not so hard here to fill one's days. Just driving anywhere is not for the weak of heart or those low on time (the roads for the most part are in amazing condition....except when jam-packed).  I've mixed doctors appointments, working on medevac issues, and trying to research open season options for next year with get-togethers, local things to do, mailing teacher gifts and other treats back home, and just enjoying being able to catch up on my HGTV (did you expect more of me?).  

Just a few of the things I've missed, along with one or two events here I normally wouldn't get to do....

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Nick and his diorama of a "winter wolf hunting deer." I'm guessing I might get to see the diorama in person when I get home, if the cats leave it alone that long.

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Nick's Christmas show (The Giving Tree). He's the one in the black shirt and the Santa hat, right behind that iPhone...oh...wait.

 

Now for a few things I have enjoyed:

 

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Meadowlark Gardens Winter Walk of Lights!  They have a beautiful, walkable festival of lights every year. It is an easy walk (maybe a mile or so?) with tons of gorgeous lights. The weather has been fantastic here lately, so I highly recommend going if you can. Great for families, and there is even a snack area at the end with a fire pit. One can purchase a "s'mores kit" so the kids (or kids at heart) can enjoy a tasty treat at the end.  Without the kids, or the need for extra sugar, I opted out, but if we are back next year for any reason, I think we will all partake.

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The von Trapp great-grandchildren and Stephanie J. Block singing at the holiday pops concert (with the NSO) at the Kennedy Center.  I was able to get a great discounted seat online via Goldstar and the concert was just amazing. Wishing I had researched the parking cost a bit more (and that giant expensive cookie), but if that money is filtered back towards more venues like that, so be it.  The von Trapps were spectacular (they are the grandchildren of Werner, who was Kurt in the movie), and I would be stunned if anyone had a dry eye in the house when they sang Edelweiss.

And with that...maybe it's time to head to a few more holiday events before I head back.

November 24, 2015

And the verdict is....

I will be in the DC area until at least December 10th after discussions with the powers that be (doctors, MED, etc.). I can say that I while I was initially nervous and stressed about the medevac, I think after yesterday's doctor's appointment, I feel much better about staying in the area a bit longer.  

Granted, yesterday's appointment was not one I will forget soon.  After a very thorough work-up with both a PA and a doctor at the Spine Center, I had the first epidural (steroid) injection.  The hope is that this treatment will calm everything down (particularly the nerve that's being compressed) which will in turn relieve the pain and hopefully all of the numbness.  The good thing is I can tell when there is less pressure, and the numbness naturally decreases. This gives me hope that with the second injection, things will calm down even more and I should get even more back to normal. 

I was initially a bit nervous about the appointment yesterday, as I had no idea what to expect. I wasn't sure if I would have to just throw myself down and become a pincushion or if there would be a bit of discussion first. Thankfully, there was a lot of discussion and both the PA and doctor were very quick to confirm that the injection was the best route to try, and more importantly, that it would be best to try a set of two.  Despite my fears of needles near my spine, I felt better knowing I would have more recovery and assessment time from the first, and even better (in some respects) a second one to ensure that I leave in the best possible shape.

I will leave out a description of the event, other than to write that I am amazed I still have hair (very nearly pulled it out while screeching in pain yesterday), and grateful for patient and understanding doctors and nurses.  Let's just say when the nerve that is being compressed is touched...well, yes, there is a bit of (extreme) pain. 

So, while I am sad to be missing events in Managua, I am happy to be here, happy to have been able to get a second opinion, and feel like I am getting a tiny bit better each day.  I've had a chance to catch up with many friends (and hope to meet up with more), get into the city a bit, and will have Thanksgiving here at the Salty Dog 'stead...guaranteed to be a good time!

 

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In hindsight, my visit to the botanical gardens was a bit much. While I ended up getting a lot of steps, my leg really wasn't in good shape for so much walking.  So, trying to scale down my trips out a bit so I don't end up with my leg in an enormous amount of pain while only halfway up the extremely long escalator in the Rosslyn Metro Station....

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I've even had a chance to do a bit of Christmas shopping. Peter, what was it you said about wanting a drum set this year? I'm thinking this would be a fantastic addition to your office!

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And with that, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

 

November 19, 2015

Frustrated....yet

hopeful.

So, I'm back.  Well, here in the DC area on medevac.  As mentioned previously, I've had a back issue since October 3rd (that went haywire on October 12th) and I'm here trying to figure the whole thing out.

I should not be depressed or stressed, but this has been a bit frustrating. I am grateful that I was flown out, that I've been able to see a good doctor, and that open back surgery was not suggested. In fact, no surgery has been suggested at this time. I think that is part of my frustration, as I was seeing that as perhaps an easy fix (still complicated, but easy in some respects).  Given that my pain level has been going down (it still exists, but is getting better) and my ruptured disk isn't that bad (which is good news), surgery is not the first option.

Instead, we are going to try epidural injections. The only issue is that these generally are 2-3 weeks apart, done in a set of three. To do the full set would require at least 6 weeks here. I'm slated to try one on Monday, and see how that goes.  I think part of the problem for me is that despite my somewhat relaxed attitude at times, I do like having timelines and deadlines. I realize I just work better that way.  So, having to have a 'wait and see' attitude while being so far from home is more stressful than I imagined. In fact, it's nearly as stressful as that thing that happened five years ago.  In many ways, somewhat similar, as I didn't know how that would turn out either.  I also have a ticket home a week from Saturday, which can be changed, but I guess I'd just like someone to say, "This will work or it won't..." A rather silly expectation, really, but...

I'm also overwhelmed by choice. I've bought zero Christmas gifts so far, and have been so busy with work that I haven't even thought about Christmas cards (and I'm missing the holiday fair...my favorite event of the year).  So, if anyone is offended by a New Year's card this year....

Then I watch the news occasionally and feel like an idiot for complaining about anything. Yes, I have a bad back and a bum leg because of that.  However, my husband's employer cares enough about my health that they flew me back here to get it looked at. I'm in safe lodging, have too much food around me, clean water from the tap, and a car to drive me anywhere thanks to friends who care for it while we are out of the country.

 

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Thanks so much to my friend, Carolyn, who gave me a last-minute invite to a Cheryl Strayed event at 6th and I. Good to get out, and the discussion was fascinating.

I also have friends who care enough to meet me at the airport, take me out to dinner, house me, call me up and invite me to events, and meet me for lunches.  So, really I just need to get out of my comfy direct-billed housing on this gray day (which is actually okay...I miss cooler weather!)  and just go do something...meanwhile being very hopeful after reviewing the spine center's website that the injections will help and I will be home soon...feeling much more like my old self.

November 07, 2015

Usually around this time of year

I am regaling one with tales of yet another fantastic trip to Somoto Canyon.  We discovered it for the first time in early November of 2013, and had a return trip last November.  Being that it is officially Nick's favorite place in Nicaragua, I naturally assumed we would all head there together this year (maybe even getting Cait to go along, too!).

Sadly, any hopes of me going started to fade around October 12th, and truly faded when I was told I couldn't go for fear of making a bad health issue worse. I was actually quite relieved to be told I had to stay home, as while I felt like I should try and push forward, I knew deep down inside I could end up in even more pain.  What could be so awful?

Back pain, pure and simple. I don't know what exactly happened, but started having lower back pain (tailbone pain, to be exact) in late September. I figured it would fade, but then it seemed to turn to sciatica. Painful, but tolerable. On the morning of October 12th, instead of enjoying a day off work with a hike and breakfast at a favorite cafe, I ended up in excruciating pain by doing nothing more than bending a knee. A terrible pain shot down the other leg, and it felt like I was walking/standing/lying down on a nerve that was now on fire in my left leg.

Thanks to a bit of ibuprofen and a lot of time on a heating pad, the pain eased up so I could hobble around the house.  I ended up at the Health Unit the next day (so love having that right at work), and made an appointment to see a top orthopedic surgeon at the hospital here as soon as possible. A visit to him, x-rays, an appointment w/the head of PT, several PT appointments, an MRI, and a follow-up visit later (not to mention several trips to the Health Unit), I have an answer:  a ruptured disk.  Basically, that disk is just sitting on the nerve, hence the pain and uncomfortably numb feeling I have had for the past month.

Yes, numbness. While I can generally handle the pain, the numbness in my leg and foot has been making me crazy. By last week, the constant sensation of pins and needles in my left foot, the weakness in my left leg that is a result of me not being able to walk/exercise enough, and the overall pain had me extremely stressed out (not to mention making my job far more difficult). In fact, when the surgeon reviewed my MRI, and announced I would need surgery, I was almost relieved, as I had been sure that was in the offing, and it seemed like a giant (if likely painful) step in the right direction.

So, with all of that, Somoto Canyon was completely out. As it is, I have probably been doing way too much, but given that have fewer only 8 months left in Nicaragua, we are rather frantically trying to get to all of those places we haven't yet visited...while Cait works on college applications and deals with the general exhaustion of senior year, while Kelsey enjoys her final year of middle school, while Nick tries not to think about moving (he has decided he does not want to leave Nicaragua) and while Peter and I are just a bit busy with work.  The back issue that I had hoped would just go away on its own has not, and now I'm left with only one option: medevac.

Not all of the details are completely hammered out, but it looks like I am definitely headed back to the U.S. for a few weeks.  I will likely have to have a microdisctectomy to fix the issue with my spine, possibly therapy and other follow-up before I return to Nicaragua.  I can hope to only be back for 2 weeks, but in all likelihood, I think my stay will be a bit longer.  Not something I wanted, but given it's right now my only option for a return to a normal walking ability, I will take what I can get.

So, no Somoto for me. While Peter and Nick enjoyed hiking, swimming, jumping (Nick assures me he jumped from serious heights this year), and an extremely fun day in Somoto, Cait, Kelsey and I had a girls' day out. Lunch for all three of us and then Cait, one of her friends, and I caught a movie.  I've realized I've got to take advantage of these times, given that Cait will head off to college next year (no news yet as to where). 

Sadly, I don't even have any photos (yet)...well, except this one of the extremely zonked LG.  Poor little dude sat down in his comfy chair to eat his baked potato, and fell asleep before he could take two bites.

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Despite the back issues, and the limitations on my movements (and activities), life here is quite good. The closer we come to the end of the tour, the more I think about our lifestyle, and give thanks for these exhausting and fun opportunities, whether or not we all join in or simply admire from the (very far away) sidelines.  Now, to only guess where we might be headed next...?

August 19, 2015

17 years ago today...

I was holed up in a labor and delivery room in Alexandria Inova Hospital with Peter, thinking that labor would never really get going, even with a little assistance (yes, induced for very good medical reasons). Little did I know that in just a few hours, this little champ would pop out (well, you know...), make her presence known, and forever change the course of our lives in so many good ways.

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Obligatory crazy-colored background baby photo.  No worries, friends stopped by and took other (much better) photos, but this one still goes in the memory book.  Here it comes:  how was the now nearly 5' 10" (now) redhead,  beautiful and with such style ever this wee?

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Being an almost 3 week old baby is exhausting.  Apparently, so is being the wee one's dad, and "Big Fifter" (it's how the dog talked, okay?).  Mom, on the other hand, somehow had tons of energy (thank you, coffee). 

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They grow like weeds!  Not much more than a year later, and Cait is visiting Auntie Shannon and Sandy (the original Salty Dog) at VA Tech.  Once a Hokie fan, always a Hokie fan...oh, how we loved those trips to Blacksburg, which we only had to curtail because....

 

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Holy heck, we moved to Caracalus! And vacationed (once for 4 days, but you know...) in Bonaire. Nothing made Cait happier than hanging out on the beach...and prolly unbeknownst to Cait, this was one of her Grandmom's favorite photos. Sniff...no, can't afford to get that verklempt this early into the blog post.

 

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Hanging out with dad in early 2002 at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Caracus. We had to take a crazy jeep ride up the side of a mountain, but then had the most unforgettable meal to include the best pico de gallo I've ever tasted.  The gourmet dinner was accompanied by the most amazing view of the ocean....

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And then Cait is suddenly *almost* four.  We realized that her birthday will be two weeks after we move after we move back to the States, and she will miss out on celebrating with her friends if we don't act quickly. So, we planned a quick little shin-dig, and couldn't pass up the life size Cinderella pinata. They were everywhere in Caracas and extremely well-designed.  The movers spent hours packing this treasure, and if Bailey, our numero uno Fur-In Service Gato hadn't decided to take frequent naps in the mid-section once she was unpacked in the US, she might have lasted longer than 9 months.  

 

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I found the first day of kindergarten photo! Woo-hoo!  Seriously, though, 5 years old, are you kidding me? The most amazing thing about this day was that Peter was actually home to witness it. I'll save the photo proof for the retirement party, but he was technically around. This was nothing short of a miracle, given he spent most of his time being a world traveler on Secretary's Detail (54 countries in 3 years, some of them several times!).  He brought us home Belgian chocolate frequently, so it all worked out, but still FIVE.

 

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Then six rolled around. Instead of being prepared, I realized that time was flying faster, and if I didn't look around quickly....

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life was going to spin right past me.

Just before seven rolled around, we did that whole crazy, fun moving to Iceland thing, which involved lots of festivals, winter coats in August and other fun...I'll just say we still miss it terribly, lest that whole verklempt thing start up again.


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Eight!  Super Girl still living in Iceland, hanging out with Stephanie from Lazy Town, and enjoying a good trick or treat session at the embassy. 

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Nine brought us repeat trips to glaciers.  Don't all the cool kids hang out at Gullfoss? I'm not going to think that she is now nearly twice that age.  

 


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Halfway through 4th grade, Cait added big sister times two to her resume. Not long after that we all packed up and headed to California for a two year tour near San Francisco.  

 

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California had us so busy. School, travel, festivals everywhere, so much to explore outdoors...and before we knew it,  Cait started Middle School not long after turning 11.  

 

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The following year had us headed back to Virginia while Peter completed an Unaccompanied Tour in Iraq. It was kind of a crazy year, though this photo shows one of the happier times.  Pete left not long before Cait's birthday, and hated to miss it.  So, what dad doesn't wake himself up at 4:30 a.m. to Skype into the birthday celebration? He even saved a slice of cake to share with her, so it was almost like he was home.  Darn it all, where *are* those tissues?

 

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Finally, ye olde teenagerhood!  Cait could now officially do crazy things like fly to Iceland by herself (okay, technically not until the following year) and get up even earlier for school (somehow possible). 

 

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She may have turned 14 two months before, but you never outgrow the cow train.  Sailing along through freshman year of high school, while Pete tackled his second UT in Kabul.  Not always easy, but easier knowing that we would soon be...

 

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living in amazing Nicaragua for the next three years.

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Our lives are a bit different from the US with all of our canyon-traversing, Marine ball dancing, and volcano lagoon swimming. So, sometimes we throw in a few traditions from home like Halloween.  If pressed, I'd have to say it's Cait's favorite holiday.  Trying not to think ahead to next year when Cait will be at that college place and we will be...oh, yeah, check back in a few months! 

And now...we end with another beginning. The beginning of senior year, then off to college while we are in (insert fabulous place from bid list we are hopefully sure to get?)?

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Photo credit to Jana Bannan at mkPhoto; Credit for fabulous senior photo shoot idea to Dr. (Auntie) Shannon.



What else can I write, but Feliz Cumpleanos, Cait! Enjoy your 17th and remember that the best is yet to come....

August 12, 2015

And there she goes...

off in the bus for the beginning of...

 

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first grade?  Senior year starts today and yet it seems like she was just boarding the big, yellow bus for the very first time....

 

(Insert parent fail, can't find Second Grade first day pic. Please imagine highly bundled child headed off to first day of school in her new school in Iceland.)

 

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First day of third grade, Reykjavik, Iceland

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Fourth grade for Cait, Reykjavik, Iceland

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If the backdrop looks like a Residence Inn...well, what FS kid doesn't start at least one school year from a hotel, temp housing, you name it?  Above we have the beginning of 5th Grade in San Ramon, California. 

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And the beginning of sixth grade and middle school for Cait, this time in front of our house in San Ramon. 

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Our move back to VA allowed Cait to start middle school yet again and if you can tell from the photo, at the crack of dawn (or so we thought until we moved further south).

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8th grade and the bus still not taking the hint that the crack of dawn is too darn early for pick up...

 

(Skipping 9th grade, as the hour had become even earlier, and thus even harder to muster enthusiasm to hop on that bus.)

 

By the beginning of 10th grade, we had moved to Managua, Nicaragua.  Now the bus comes at 6:15! To think we thought 6:40 was as bad as it could get...

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They were actually very excited to start school. At this point we had been stuck at home for nearly 5 weeks with no car, and they were thrilled to hop on that bus and be with others their age for a few hours.

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Not quite as excited as the previous year, but, hey...

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And with this we suddenly have a senior in high school. An amazingly bright and talented person who will take the world by storm next year wherever she decides to go...Happy Senior Year, Cait!

July 14, 2015

One just can't celebrate Independence Day too much....

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The joy of being overseas during some federal holidays is that sometimes one can have the opportunity to celebrate them more than once.   The 4th of July happens to be one of those special days. This year we've had a chance to celebrate Independence Day on three separate occasions, all of which were memorable and patriotic, whether we were wearing flip-flops or dressed to the nines.

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My office at the embassy ran the community event, as we call it, and my unofficial take is that it was quite a good time.  Whether one enjoyed the delicious pulled chicken, hung out by the pool, became a little misty-eyed during the playing of the national anthems, bounced in the brinca-brinca or worked on becoming a bungee jump master, fun appeared to be had by most (if not all).

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Our next event was the official party for the Embassy. I will simply say that it was once again a lovely event, a chance to connect with so many, and to appreciate the beauty of celebrating our country's independence with our host country yet again. It was another unforgettable evening that ended with a spectacular display of fireworks.

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Our third event was the 4th of July itself back in the States.  Just being in the U.S. for such a holiday is a treat in and of itself. While out buying last-minute items for our celebration that night, one person asked what we were doing to celebrate Independence Day. 

My response?  "We are here!"

We had a quiet, but fun-filled day watching parades (with only mildly jet-lagged kids), hanging out with friends, eating copious amounts of delicious indulgences such as grilled bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, and watching never-ending fireworks gorgeous displays of fireworks.  There is something so heartwarming about seeing the red, white and blue decorations everywhere. Even Trader Joe's was festooned in streamers and balloons.   Simple touches that remind one she is home...

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This is as good as it gets when you have still tired travelers the day after their trip...

 

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Oh, the wrath I received for this photo....

 


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And with that, another 4th of July successfully celebrated. Next up: nothing says R&R like a little time at the beach....

 

July 05, 2015

Ah...'Murica

How we are happy to see you again...while it seems like I was only just here with Cait for her brief college tour in February (I will write about it at some point), and Peter was only in the States just last week, neither Nick nor Kelsey had not stepped on U.S. soil since August of 2014. 

So, here we are, enjoying the convenience and ease of vacation life here and the way our dollars simply fly out of our wallets to accompany said convenience.  From art supplies Cait needs for her summer intensive program to the yearning for Thai we've been missing, it's a never-ending flow.  That being said, given how regulated our expenses are overseas, the wallet-lightening is limited to once a year and therefore, well, expected and a bit easier to take.

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The weary travelers at the crack of dawn.


We were very lucky this year to arrive in time to celebrate the 4th of July in the States. A few minor snafus nearly left us in Managua and then Atlanta, two of the three being due to passport issues and, yes, the second passport issue was in Atlanta.  For some unknown reason, our boarding passes for our flight from Atlanta to BWI (no visa needed that I know of) were rejected (the double-blinking red light of no-go).  The gate attendant in Altlanta boarding the flight to BWI (yes, read that again) promptly told Peter she needed his passports (um, WHAT?). He gave them to her, and then they were rejected due to not having the proper visa.

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Okay, definitely appropriate for a traveling day. This tiny bit of humor brightened the day after several tense travel moments.


Yes, really. Apparently, we needed a visa to get to Baltimore, and not the kind that earns you Capital One points...who knew?

So, I boarded with the kids and waited for a very tense 30 minutes, while Peter inexplicably had to explain several times how we A. shouldn't need to show passports, B. do not need visas to go to Baltimore, and then wait for not one but TWO supervisors to show up in the hopes of fixing the glitch. 

Finally, he boarded, the door shut, and off we went...

Then promptly after the Super Shuttle dumped us and our 9 bags of stuff (someone felt like not using his entire R&R allotment) at the Salty Dog 'Stead, we did what anyone in their right mind would do...and headed for the Old Stein Inn so that we could satisfy three meals worth in our dinner (breakfast and lunch didn't so much happen on Friday due to the numerous snafus...but tasty spatzle made up for that quickly).  The kids got to hang, the adults sipped tasty hefe-weiss brews, and all was well with the world....

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March 22, 2015

Happiness is...

turning 13 with a fabulous fun and friend filled party.  Nothing crazy, just 15 of your nearest and dearest over for a swim and pizza party, followed by an amazing cake (and cupcakes courtesy of a friend).  Even more fun that the friends insisted on singing Happy Birthday three times, once in English and twice in Spanish.

Kelsey, my Wee Nugget, turns 13 today.  Yesterday was the official celebration (well, the slumber party went into today) and tonight we will celebrate with a family dinner out at her favorite Peruvian restaurant in Managua. However, before we can celebrate, a little review of her life up until now is in order. Last year I could not do a huge blog post with many photos due to being in FL the night before her birthday. I promised to make it up this year, so here goes nothing...

 

KelseyNewborn055Kelsey was a mere 9 days old in the above photo, dressed up for her first Easter on Sunday, March 31st, 2002.  She was actually not due until early April, but a few weeks after I medevaced to the States from Caracas, I once again started showing signs of intrahepatic cholestasis.  The doctor decided better safe than sorry, and as I was already in misery with the itching, and my bilirubin levels were rising, we opted for induction.

Luckily Peter was already back in the country, though his paternity leave would be cut short just a couple of weeks later due to the coup in Caracas.   We could not go back, so the medevac turned into a departure, and we stayed in Massachusetts until late May.  The upside? We were able to visit Auntie Shannon and watch her become Auntie (Dr.) Shannon when she graduated from VA Tech in May of 2002.

A few months later we moved back to the States, so that Peter could spend a few years working on the Secretary of State's protective detail.  While Peter helped keep Colin Powell safe, Kelsey grew into quite the little toddler. Here she is at her first birthday celebration at our house in Annandale.  

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Not quite a year later, actually, only 6 months or so, but I love this photo of her with Greema Kirk. She was so young when Mom died, so I have relatively few of them together.  This was a weekend we spent with her in late September 2003 in order to celebrate her birthday. Peter was traveling so frequently, so we took many a trip with just the three of us.  This particular day we spent at a farm in New Jersey for a fall festival. 

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 Okay, again, not quite a year later, but likely a few months after she turned two.  Really, I included this particular photo as I've always wanted to do a side-by-side comparison with the one right next to it.  I actually managed to find both and finally put them together tonight and figured that was a sign of some sort....


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The following year, after not quite three years in the VA area, we moved to Reykjavik, Iceland.  This photo is from our first trip to the mid-point between the continents.  It was actually on the way to the base, so fun to stop off halfway, let the kids run around, and appreciate the geographical mystique of living in Iceland.

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The above photo was taken July 24, 2005, and the kids were probably actually a wee bit underdressed....

We spent a lot of time exploring Iceland and there seemed to be waterfalls everywhere we turned...and snow, anytime between October and April.  This particular photo was taken April 15, 2006... 

 

 


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Kelsey enjoyed almost two full years at her Icelandic playschool or leikskoli.  It was the only option for preschool, and while we were a teeny bit nervous at first, she adjusted like a charm.  Mind you, she didn't speak to anyone for the first ten months. She just played, ate, learned how to follow along in Icelandic (she was never told her teachers spoke English) and one day she just popped out with perfect Icelandic.  She refused to speak it with us, and when Peter would try, she'd say, "I just don't know WHAT language you think you are speaking."

We just loved that playschool. They spent most of the day outside in every kind of weather, had good healthy (and varied meals) and took all sorts of field trips from the symphony to plays. They were extremely independent at school and even though I was excited for her to join Cait at the international school, I was more than a little sad when her leikskoli days were over.

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2008 brought many changes, but perhaps the biggest and most exciting (besides moving to Northern California) was the birth of our own little Viking (and best souvenir ever from Iceland), Nicholas.  Kelsey was a big sister at long last, and fell very naturally into the role just before she turned six. Don't worry, I think the camera just startled him...

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It was actually a bit overwhelming to move to California. So many people, and so much to do!  We decided to do right by Cali and treat it like any other overseas posting...by traveling and seeing and doing as much as possible. From Tahoe to Yosemite, from Vegas to LA and San Diego, we really tried to see it all.  We spent spring break 2009, not long after Kelsey turned 7, in Vegas, so could not pass up a trip to Hoover Dam. It was a darn memorable trip, especially after we got lost trying to find the Grand Canyon....

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but no worries, we found it eventually...on our cross-country trek when we moved back to the DC area in June of 2010. Peter was on his way to Iraq, and we thought it might be better to go ahead and move back in case his next post required language. Things didn't end up turning out quite the way we expected, but we still found ways to enjoy our three years in VA (despite the added fun of a second unaccompanied tour in 2012).

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 Given that it had been a while since we had lived in the DC area, and on the heels of our adventuring in Cali, we tried to do the same in DC.  We hit museums and all of the tourist hot spots, including this famous one.  Kelsey is a fairly new 8 year old in this photo, enjoying third grade, and her third year in Girl Scouts.  

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Not long after we moved into a new house in our old neighborhood in VA, Kelsey came running home and said, "Guess what?!  My friend has lived her WHOLE LIFE in her current house. Can you believe that?!"  Given that Kelsey was now in her 7th home over a span of 8 years (including long-term stints in the Residence Inn in MA, and our temporary housing in Iceland), I guess that does seem sort of amazing...

Fast forward a few months and we are not only considering Peter's next tour (which would be another UT), but also his follow-on.  We had a very short list of posts (only 4) that were remote possibilities (since we wanted to have something prior to his departure for Kabul), and once we researched everything to death, we realized Managua was our only viable bid...so bid on it we did, and in November of 2011, it was confirmed as our next post!

We still had a whole year of an unaccompanied tour to get through...and while I was entirely unsurprised, for the most part it was fairly easy. The kids and I were just so busy.  We missed Pete, but between  school, Scouting, swim team (a first for Kelsey),  and everything else going on, life just rolled along.

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Oh, and patrol...Kelsey loved being a patrol on the "big, yellow bus" that Nick ached to ride.  He'd get his wish to ride the bus to school the following school year, though not very big or yellow..but a bus is a bus...

And why not a big yellow bus?

Well, perhaps due to our move to Nicaragua in July of 2013....one minute you are stressing about packing your life into suitcases, unaccompanied air freight, boat freight and storage, and the next minute, you are floating down the (sometimes wild) waters of Somoto Canyon in northern Nicaragua.

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But before we knew it, that first award-winning year in Nicaragua was nearly over. It had its ups and downs (and a few shakes), but Kelsey just rolled with the punches...or tremors, as they may be here sometimes.

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And now?  Now we have a 13 year old. Well, I'm technically finishing this up just a bit before midnight...so in roughly 16 hours Kelsey will be 13.  What more can I write?

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Happy, happy birthday y feliz cumpleanos to my practical, yet creative baker and artist, wee (or not so wee) Kelsey-Delsey D. May this year be the best ever...until next year, of course.

 

 

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