Sunday, November 16, 2014

Routine Stuff (mostly)

So, every week I'm in a meeting for my section at work. It's the unit heads in the section, plus a few other special people. I'm not a unit head. Apparently I'm special. When we're at the meeting and someone doesn't have anything to contribute they usually say something along the lines of "Just routine stuff."

And that's how I feel about my blog. Our life is mostly routine stuff right now. This is part of the reason why I haven't blogged much lately. The other reason is that we're busy. We're really busy, but it's with work, and school, school activities, and seeing friends, and day-trips to the beach (today we went to a beach that's only about 45 minutes from home, it's not super-nice, but I've been to worse (and it's only 45 minutes from home!).

We did something that is both routine, and not routine. John and I went to Negril (the farthest resort town from home (only 3.5-4 hours away, seriously...if you love beaches, you must live in Jamaica)) to celebrate our anniversary. Last week we'd been married for 13 years (we've been together now for over 17 years - what?!). It's amazing to me that he's stuck with me for that long. This is not routine, because it's not common for us to ask my in-laws to come down for 10 days so that we can go away for six nights. It is routine because we have celebrated the last five anniversaries on an island. True - the last two have been on an island that we've lived on, but they're still islands! 

My  view on of my days.
Most other days looked similar to this.

Another thing we're doing right now that's not routine (but still sort of is), is Malachi getting his Epilepsy testing done. This year we're doing blood (routine), EEG (routine), and MRI (not routine). We've taken the blood ( it was actually pretty torturous for him), and we did the MRI yesterday - yay for Saturday hours! This was his third MRI, and the first I've been in. He went under for his first one - and I was pregnant. John went in for the second one - because I was pregnant. This time I wasn't pregnant, so I went with him. I expected the noise, but I wasn't expecting him to have a hard time with it. But the machine is big - and really, really noisy. He had ear plugs, and then two layers of padding outside of his ears. He got really nervous, and about ten minutes in he started crying from the ear plugs. He said they hurt. The technician (who was amazing with Malachi), fixed him up and Malachi made it the last 40 minutes like a champ. He was so brave, and mature. I was so proud of him.

Tuesday he's going in for the EEG. We have to sleep deprive him, so he'll sleep. The sleep deprivation won't have to be too strict. This kid falls asleep almost every morning on the bus.

Other than our vacation, and Malachi's somewhat routine Epilepsy testing, life is "just routine stuff,"

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Awesome Weekend

Satruday we went to John's boss's house for a party they were having for some (all?) of the newcomers. It was a BBQ/pool party. We brought the kids' swim stuff and let them get in the pool. Unfortunately for the people who were there for the BBQ it started raining - hard. It did stop long enough for most of us to eat, but then started up again. I sat at the table that the Deputy Chief of Mission (currently the Charge d'Affairs because we can't get our Ambassador confirmed) and her husband sat at. It was fun to talk to her, it was all very easy, she's nice. It's so nice to be at a smaller post again where the mood is calmer and less formal. We left the party after Coen (the youngest) pulled a candle down and got wax all over his head. Well, we left after the Consul General's wife, Lucy, and I cleaned most of it out of his hair. But of course, it was raining. So Malachi started crying because he didn't want to get wet after he'd dried off from swimming in the pool. We were a tired bunch at that point. :)

Sunday we all got up and moving early. We had a plan to go to a beach at a resort called Frenchman's Cove. There was a large group on a bus, but we decided to drive. And I'm really glad we did. Our drive was about half the time of the bus. On the way Coen had to poop, so Johnathan stopped and took him to the grass on the side of the road to poop, but Coen just cried and wouldn't poop. So then we got back in the car and when we were about 30 minutes from our destination Simon vomited. We thought this might happen because he did it on the way down from Baguio (a small city in Northern Luzon (the island we lived on in the Philippines)). So we came prepared with bags and wipes. However, Lucy couldn't get the bag to Simon quick enough because she was holding Coen who was sleeping on her. Luckily for us (less so for Lucy), Lucy brought a blanket and it caught most of the vomit. Eventually she got him the bag, Johnathan stopped and he finished in that. We cleaned him, Lucy, and the car up a bit and then made it to our destination.

I couldn't help myself. 

And it was wonderful. The beach at the resort was small, but beautiful. The sand was white and fine. There were only tiny little shells that didn't hurt to walk on. It wasn't a rocky beach, only some seaweed toward the shore. Beyond that, it was glorious. Next to the beach was the mouth of a river. The river runs right to the ocean, and at the mouth of it, is another little cove with very shallow water (except a tiny spot that's deeper than I am tall), that was perfectly calm and perfect for the kids to play in. So that's what they did. They spent hours in the mouth of that river. They loved it.

The dark part under the tops of the trees is where
the mouth of the river was. 

Since we were at a resort, there were waiters and we had access to their restaurant and bar. The food wasn't half bad, and the rum punch was good! We were there with quite a few friends, and it was a really good time. The bus left and then we left, and we took a different route home. The kids all slept for a while, and then after waking up I was scared that Simon would get sick. He didn't though! He lasted the whole way home and the whole evening without vomiting (woohoo!). I felt especially good because I was the one who drove home.

Look at the beautiful colors! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Busy, busy, busy

My silence the last three weeks is not due to being unhappy (my usual reason for staying quiet), but for actually being very happy with my schedule. We're definitely in the swing of things in the Roy home.

Have you seen or heard the Pharell Williams song called Happy? If you haven't you're missing out. The overall message of the song is perfect for me, and I'm clapping along right now, for sure.

My alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m., our ride gets here before 6:30, and we get home between 4:30 and 4:45. Some days I don't take my lunch 'til after 2:00 because work is so busy. My job is great, and I'm so happy I have it. Being able to work is one reason why I'm so happy these days. I love feeling like I'm contributing to the family this way. I'll be honest with you here, I'm a much happier person when I work. The time I spend at home after work is much more quality than if I'd stayed home.

Malachi has after-school activities almost every day of the week. Those days his ride and our ride arrive at almost the same time. I give him a bit of time to play and then he has to start his homework. A break from that for dinner, and then more homework. Then shower, maybe time with us to chill and then it's bed time. I usually have time to watch an episode or two of whatever John and I are watching at the time and then it's time for bed.

And I've been happy. Very happy. I felt like smiling on the way home from work on Friday. It would probably have freaked out the motor pool driver because I was the only one on the shuttle that evening, so I didn't, but I could have. I've been that happy.

On a side note: I just entered "happy" as one of my labels for this post and was sad to see that it's the first time I've used that label in the almost seven years I've had this blog. Maybe that should change. (sings) Because I'm happy...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New-house problems

We had cable, internet, and phone set up when we got here. This is the best GSO initiative that I’ve ever heard of. Seriously. Whoever thought of this was genius. I loved that on our first night, after our sponsors showed us around and I got the kids to bed, I was able to log online and tell the world (and my hubby) that we were safe and sound. I don’t think I actually did that – but I could have! I did get online and communicate with my hubby – but not the rest of the world.

We have a brand new house. Like…new-build new, not new to the housing pool new. I’m excited that we have a new house. We had old-house problems with our previous FS houses. This one won’t have old-house problems. Yay! However! We have brand-new house problems. Some of them, I don’t think are very urgent and I can wait until John gets here and can put in the proper service request (e.g. the fan in the dining room doesn’t have a remote and I have to climb on the dining table to use it), but some of them were urgent (e.g. no hot water, electrical in some parts of the house not working, etc.). I was able to talk to the person who’s currently covering my job and she was able to get guys to the house to fix the more urgent problems.

One of them was that our dishwasher didn’t have water going to it. That was an easy fix. Now the dishwasher stops mid-wash and doesn’t restart even when you touch the “resume” button. I’ll send the poor woman an email and let her know. I’ll also let her know that I don’t really consider this an emergency, just more of an inconvenience.

Last night I was skyping with John, who is on a work trip in upstate NY, and I could only think of negative things to tell him about the house. So I had to keep chanting things like: think of positive things, think of positive things. This house is smaller than my last, and it has almost no storage, and our house in Manila had a ton of storage. Those things are big to me. Not to mention we went from a gas stove to electric. I hate electric stoves.  

BUT! I know that we’re going to love this house. We’ve spent the better part of the last three days in our house, and it’s already starting to feel like home. I can’t wait to make it ours even more with paint and our stuff and wall hangings. We’ll get our kids to make some great art work and hang it somewhere to show it off.

And one day soon – one of my children will call this place home – and mean it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to survive your first 24 hours at Post without crying:

First things first (and something that's only luck-based): have great sponsors. Even good ones will be ok, but great ones are the best. We have great sponsors.

Second: make it as easy as possible to sleep. Sleep is very important to happiness. I was afraid kids would wake up scared in the middle of the night. So, instead of people sleeping alone, people slept with a partner. Four people, two beds, almost everyone slept well through the night (let's be honest - parents with a kid in bed don't actually sleep great when the kid's feet are in their backs).

Third: Drink water! Don't get dehydrated!

Fourth: Improvise! Don't have a cup to wash your little kids with? Cut the top off the 1-liter water bottle that you just finished off and use that instead.

Fifth: Bring a Lucy! Everyone should bring a Lucy (my amazing and wonderful helper from the Philippines who moved here with us) with them. Her presence has been very important to my happiness today.

Sixth: Take a deep breath when you see the first grocery bill. And remember - you are stocking your new home with essentials that you won't be buying every time. This obscenely high grocery bill isn't going to be the norm. And also remember to fill out the COLA survey the next time it goes out because holy crap are things pricey here!

Seventh: Remember the good. Every time you have a negative thought about your new place (this house is a lot smaller than my last one, I have no storage here, my list of requests for GSO is getting kind of long), try to remember the good about the house (I have four bedrooms for the first time in my life, the master suite is huge and I have a soaking Jacuzzi tub in it).

And finally - finish the first day off with a bath. A really nice bath in your really nice Jacuzzi tub.

Because you've just survived the first 24 hours at post without crying. For the first time. And that is definitely worth celebrating. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Getting close

In less than two weeks, I’ll be arriving at Post. This is both exciting and scary. Not too scary since it’s the third time I’ve done this, but a bit scary none-the-less. Our social sponsors have been great so far, and it sounds like they’ll be great once we arrive. I would like to be the kind of newcomers that are really independent, but it sounds like Kingston is a need-to-drive- everywhere kind of post, and we won’t have a car for a little while.

I’ve been looking at photos of our house. It’s so fun to have a blank slate of a house to start with. We have painting ideas (some things we want are different from what the other person wants...we’re still discussing), we’re excited to put up our wall art. Some of the pieces are new to hanging because we just framed them before we left Manila. We have some big walls to fill, and that’s exciting.

We might have to start investing in rugs. We don’t have any rugs to bring around with us. On the other hand - we’re just around our weight limit already. This is unfortunate and sad for me. I would love to make more furniture, buy some heavy artwork, buy some rugs. All of that sounds like a lot of fun.

Monday, August 4, 2014

An easier, much more exciting waiting game

When we were in Manila we had an amazing all-around helper. She was smart, hard working, and self-motivating. These qualities can be hard to find in helpers in Manila, and we found a jewel.

She started as a helper, but she became part of our family. I called her the boss of the family, and I was only partly kidding. We relied heavily on her, and she rose to every challenge we placed in front of her. I like to think of myself as a nice person, but she saw every part of me, and still continued to work for us.

Throughout our time in Manila we'd drop hints that we'd love to bring her to our next assignment. We were her fourth or fifth US Embassy family and she'd never gone with anyone. She was such an amazing helper, that I couldn't imagine no one had offered. I thought for sure that she'd just turned them down. With those thoughts in mind, I didn't have any hope that she'd come with us.

We put an offer on paper for her a couple of months before we were due to depart. She negotiated up to a (reasonably) higher amount (smart!), and we signed the contract. We got her a US visa and had a medical clearance appointment. Here in the story is where we hit a bit of a bump in the road.

Her chest x-ray showed traces of possible Tuberculosis. The Dr. wanted to see any previous x-rays from the last five years. She brought them and they were clear. Therefore the Dr. said that for sure she had TB and started her on treatment. And that was it. No more testing, no consultation about it, no asking if there were any symptoms (there weren't!). I was unhappy about this, to say the least. Our helper was crying when she told us. She thought for sure that we were going to terminate the contract and let her go, right then and there. That's not like us though. We made an appointment at another clinic that we trusted more to give us information we wanted (does she have active TB, or is she just a carrier).

She stayed on the medicine and her health deteriorated quickly. She started vomiting and was incredibly sleepy because she couldn't sleep.

She brought her x-rays to the appointment and they confirmed it looked like TB. They scheduled her to start the sputum test (when a person coughs into a box three days in a row and the sample is set aside to see if the TB culture starts forming. It's a six to eight week test. They wanted to wait the full eight weeks.). They also took her off the medicine and put her on a different medicine to fix the damage the first medicine did to her liver. She did the test, and we waited. They put her back on a small dosage of the medicine. She was to go to the Dr. every week and be administered the medicine and have a blood test to make sure her liver was healthy.

The test results came in negative - woohooo! But the Dr. said that it could have been negative because she was already on treatment. That doesn't make sense because she'd been on the treatment for about a week. What ever.

We bought her a ticket and sent her all the documents she'd need to leave. Turns out the airport official didn't look at any documents. They saw her U.S. visa and were satisfied.

She arrives in less than two hours. TWO HOURS!

I couldn't be happier to have our family whole again. I am so excited to show her a taste of our country. I'm so excited that our kids are going to have their nanny with them again. This is going to make our transition to Jamaica so much easier.

That is, if they give her a visa. We'll find out tomorrow, when I take her to the Jamaican Embassy, I suppose.

This waiting game has been nerve-wrecking, but it's almost over, and I'm so excited!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Waiting game

Warning - there's a lot of Foreign Service language in this one. I apologize to those who don't know all the acronyms. 

Months ago, I was talking to the CLO Assistant in Jamaica and asked her what jobs would be opening during this transition season. Two that she listed peaked my interest: CLO Coordinator and Housing Assistant.

I applied and interviewed for both. During the interview for the housing assistant position they mentioned wanting to fill the position as soon as possible to help during the transition season. "When can you start," they asked. "September, 1st," I replied. Internally I knew I'd just lost the job, but I kept my attitude up so that I was still putting my best voice forward (it was a phone interview since I still lived in Manila). One question I had during the interview was what security clearance level was required for this job. No clearance they said - just a background check.

Imagine my surprise when I was offered the housing assistant position. I discussed the offer with the hubby and a friend at work. They both advised me that housing assistant was better than CLO Coordinator for me. I emailed Jamaica HR back, accepting the position and asking them to remove my name for consideration with the other job. 

I was so excited! I had just secured my employment for our three years in Jamaica. I filled out a form for my background check and thought I was done with it. 

About a month into my home leave I received an email from the HR rep in Jamaica asking me to check my email and find the one from someone in HR in D.C. and fill out the forms. Three or four days into home leave someone from HR in D.C. had sent instructions on filling out the dreaded security clearance form. I got worried when the computers we had on home leave didn't fit the requirements for the government site. Finally after we got our UAB in D.C. and our new computer with it, did I have the correct browser for it.

I filled it out and sent it in. Someone from DS emailed me the next day and asked a quick question about one thing on it. She then emailed me back after I answered and said they have everything for my background check. 

Since I just had a clearance granted this February, I feel like this should be a very short process, but we'll see. Hopefully I'll still start working on September 1st. 

Right now I'm just playing the waiting game.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Museums and Memorials

We love going to museums in D.C.

Unfortunately we're not going to make it to as many as I would like, but we're here for such a short time, that I should forgive myself.

So far we've made it to the National Air and Space Museum and the International Spy Museum.

The Spy Museum was today, it was the children, and my in-laws. My poor husband had to work.

All of the children enjoyed themselves very much.

The only acceptable photo from both museums
Simon flying a plane.
 I love taking them to museums and watching them discover. I love reading to them and seeing them learn about topics they already love. Especially the topic of spies. The love spies. When I told the kids today that that's where we were going Simon confessed that he wants to be a spy and catch bad guys. It was his first confession like that to us. It was awesome.

We went downtown and saw the memorials on Sunday. It was so nice to see all of them. Some I'd been to, but some I had not, and one I didn't even know existed. And to show the kids, this part of one of my favorite cities in the world, was a joy to me.

The Lincoln Memorial

President Lincoln

The boys resting on the steps of the
Lincoln Memorial

The Korean War Memorial. Notice the reflections
of the stone soldiers in the wall. 

The World War I Memorial. This, I had
never seen before. 

World War II Memorial. This was a busy place. 

The Pacific and Atlantic towers were mini-memorials
for the battles that took place in those areas. 

Washington Monument. It's so tall, you
can't see the top when you're next to it. 

I found this while we were walking.
What a nice gesture. 

The Vietnam War Memorial. I unfortunately forget to
snap a photo until we were far from it.
The thousands of names on the wall are so sad. 
This is one of my favorite cities. I love Washington, D.C. so much because of the history, and the history is right there for you to see. I love it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I was going to complain

however, I got a challenge from my husband not to. And he's right. I try to live positively. I fail miserably many times, but I would like to teach my children to think that way, so I'm trying to change my own habits.

So, even though at times I was fairly unhappy, I'm going to tell you the reasons I was happy about home leave.

Reason 1: People!

People will always be my number 1, I think. I used to be the stereotypical extrovert that needed to be constantly surrounded by people to be happy. I'm no longer that way, but I'm still an extrovert. I still love being around people so much.

Sisters in Duluth, MN

Cousins playing birthday party games

I hadn't been to Minnesota in over two years when we got back. It was so nice to see my family. Grandparents spoiled their grandchildren, I got to see extended family I hadn't seen since my grandfather died over eight years ago, and husband and I got to see high school friends that we haven't seen in almost as long.

I'm always so excited to see people when we get back. We didn't get to see everyone that we wanted to, but it was close this time around. I've heard stories of people going to a park and inviting whoever wants to see them to come over. That might have to be what we do next time.

Unfortunately, I did a horrible job of taking photos of me and my friends. The few photos I have of people have horrible red-eye and I can't seem to fix it.

Reason 2: Food!

There's nothing like eating your country's food in your country. It's been great and I'm happy to have these experiences before we go to a country where the restaurant selection is quite limited, especially compared to Manila.

FIVE GUYS, Jimmy Johns, El Loro (my favorite MN Tex-Mex), Al Habib in Toronto, Little Debbie, Papa Murphy's, just to name a few. I've gained at least 8 pounds here (can you see why?!). I think it might be worth it.

Now that we're in D.C. for a while, the husband is back to cooking, which he's really happy with. And I'm really happy with that too. Groceries here are so easy to get! I love that I bought zucchini and yellow squash the other day. The right ones, too!

Reason 3: Sightseeing!

We had a road trip. We took a few days of annual leave and went into Canada and saw Toronto and Montreal, then back in the U.S. we went to Maine, Boston, and the Poconos. Not to mention that I actually did some sight seeing in MN when I went to Glensheen for the first time. This place is a big draw in MN due to the murder that happened. The woman that was murdered left her house to the University of Minnesota Duluth and now you can tour almost the whole house. It's amazing.


The boys throwing coins into a fountain in Montreal

The boys on the Eleanor at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

Look at this sunset! We were in Wellsley, walking with friends.

The road trip was 10 days of seeing people, places and things, and I can't express how grateful we are to those who hosted us and showed us around. 

Home leave is over, and it's hard. It's expensive, and exhausting. But it's also great. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Making a house a home

This week’s blog prompt is about making your home, your home.

“What makes a house "home" to you and your family? What are the small things you do immediately upon arrival (or upon the arrival of your UAB) at Post to make your house more homelike?”

I tried to find a picture of what I do to make my house a home, and I can’t find one, though I’m fairly sure I posted one on facebook a couple of years ago.

I am a collector of only one thing – magnets. I love magnets so much. I try to buy one or two from every destination, purchasing at the airport sometimes (our two years in Manila have increased my magnet collection by quite a few).

In my suitcase I’m bringing an envelope of magnets and things to hang with them. Decorating my fridge is something I’ve loved doing for a long time, and I feel much more at home when it’s done. The envelope of magnets and things to hang has been done since our very first move from Dallas to DC, and it’s getting thicker these days.

After realizing that I have said envelope somewhere in the house I thought…Oo! I can take a photo of those. Here’s a very small portion of my magnet collection.


It is going to make our place in Jamaica ours very shortly after we arrive.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Today’s blog subject is thanks to the writer at SubjectVerbObject.

Remember when I said (in my very last post) about the writer who’s helping some of us find new things to write about? This week her topics are about food.

I. Love. Food. Like…loooooove. Would marry it if I could.

My favorite Filipino is the turon.

photo courtesy of

It’s a dessert. You take a banana (and maybe some jack fruit), wrap it in spring roll wrapper, fry it, and immediately after it’s out, throw some sugar on it. When fresh these are a very, very tasty dessert.

Please forgive the shortness of this post. I am packing out in one day and am so busy.

If you can get a hold of a turon – do it! Your life will be better for it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Doing something for myself

The second prompt in this week’s series is doing something nice and telling y’all about it.

I had already made the mani/pedi appointment before the promt. Score!

Today when I went up to the salon, I saw a sign in the window. They have a special going on in May for their spa manis/pedis. They call it Toe-ti-fruity. I decided to treat myself to their refreshing scrub and wrap for my feet (a wrap for my feet is unheard of there, they don’t do it). It was so fun!

Toward the end, they brought out some four seasons in a champagne glass and a couple of candies. What a nice sweet treat.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Staying happy in Manila

The Foreign Service blogger at SubjectVerbObject is trying to re-start her blog, and is getting others to join. She’s giving out lists of blog prompts (suggestions accepted, and encouraged) on Sunday and will post the participating blogs on her blog on Thursday. Since I’ve felt like my own blog has been a bit boring lately I thought I’d join in when I have time. Tonight, I was sitting down, reading when I saw the prompts. I practically jumped up to blog – something I haven’t done in a while. The prompt for this week that I’m going to concentrate on is taying happy where you are. There are two other prompts, I probably won’t make it to them, but maybe I will.

For me, staying happy in Manila is fairly easy.

For me to be happy, I need to be around people, and I need to be able to pamper myself. Manila is so easy to do/have both of those things.

Sure, the greater Manila area has over 12 million people. For someone who’s looking for friendships, this is a good place to do it. Filipinos are friendly people who love Americans. There are also over 300 direct hires at the Embassy. There’s no shortage of Americans who you can shoot the breeze with at lunch, befriend at the Marine’s happy hour, or experience the Philippines with on a CLO trip (let’s be honest, it’s easy to avoid the ones you want to avoid with such a large pool of people to choose from).  

I’m an extrovert. The stereotypical kind that requires friendships for emotional survival. The kind who asks friends over to play games on her wedding anniversary, or who thinks that the only thing that could have made today (Mother’s Day) better is friends coming over for the wonderful Tea Party that my husband threw me (seriously, it was awesome and deserves a blog post of its own).

I’ve made some amazing friends here. Life-long friends, that I would travel to Canada to see. Like the ones I’m traveling to Canada to see this summer. They are what I’ll miss most about the Philippines. It’s the same about Costa Rica, and will be the same about every where we go, unless everyone at Post is horrible, and I hope that never happens.

It’s so easy to pamper oneself in Manila! This is a large metro area made of multiple cities, each one having a skyline that would rival some of the bigger mid-size cities in the US. Driving into the area on the Skyway from the south you can see them all lined up and the way they’re going, pretty soon you won’t be able to see where one ends and the next one begins.

The separate cities are chock full of restaurants, malls, cinemas, and beauty spas…so many of each of those, that one would have a very hard time (possibly impossible time) trying them all in two years.

Malling is a very popular past-time in Manila and the Roy family has picked up a love for it as well. Even in Costa Rica we’d go to the one mall near us almost every weekend to eat and let the kids play.

I spend a lot of my time at Greenbelt. I go not-infrequently to Nail Tropics and get manis and pedis for prices that would make an American salon blush. One of my favorite things to do, thanks to an introduction by Carla at Carla Runs the World is going to tea. She introduced me to High Tea at the Penninsula. While I love High Tea, I love going to TWG more. This is an international restaurant chain and I wish it was in the States and Jamaica. Alas, it’s not and soon I’ll have to leave it behind.

Though I do get to take a bit of TWG with me because for Mother’s Day the kids (read: John) got me one of their tea pots, their sugar, their tea jelly, their Earl Grey, and another tea. The name of it escapes me and that’s too bad because it’s amazing. It has the word “blue” in it, I think.

I’ve not been short of movies, eating out, spa appointments, or friends in Manila. It’s so easy to stay happy here.

You should try it if you get a chance.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Not fair

It’s not fair that I have to be so far away. It’s not fair that I can’t help even when I want to. It’s not fair that her mind is going while I’m so far and can’t be there to see her or talk to her when she’s still “there” so she’ll at least know me. Right now, she’s not so far. But how quickly will it progress, how bad will she get? Will anyone really know? She wants to be independent, but how independent is she? According to an ER doctor, she can’t be. She needs help. Why can’t she be the woman who makes me itchy clothes, and has a biting wit that either made you roll your eyes or laugh? Why can’t she be the strong woman from when I was young? Why do I have to be so far?

And I can’t be there.

This sucks.

This is the worst part of the Foreign Service.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Stocking up

There’s a monthly bazaar here put on by the American Women’s Club of the Philippines (AWCP).

It’s a large event held in the World Trade Center in the third or fourth week of every month.

I haven’t made it a habit to go every month. I’ve only gone a handful of times. I really love seeing everyone that goes. It’s a mixture of so many cultures under one roof. You see, even though the AWCP hosts the event, everyone and anyone is welcome to go, as long as they can pay the P100 ($2.25) entrance fee.

You’ll hear so many languages, and different accents. Today I didn’t pay much attention but I did hear French. I even talked to the French speakers a bit (in English…no French knowledge here).

There are plenty of things at the Bazaar to buy. There are the typical local products, things made of capiz, things made of wood, or coconut. There are the handmade crafts that you can personalize. There’s lots of jewelry. Lots of clothing, there’s a large area with tables and food booths set up. It’s quite a site, and is a monthly social gathering for many.

Today I went knowing that it was my last bazaar before we pack out next month. Actually, I forgot the bazaar was today until I was in the embassy after my workout and saw today’s date. Why does April 22 sound familiar, I thought. Oh yeah! The bazaar!

I had my driver drop me off at the bazaar before going to run an errand. Then I spent almost two hours looking at things, making purchases, and chatting with friends. I dropped quite a bit of money. But I’m not ashamed of it, and I know that between now and pack out I’ll think of things that I want to bring home from the Philippines, or something that I want to give someone.

Lucky for me there’s still Greenhills mall.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday in Pampanga

Yesterday John and I went to the Pampanga province to witness a Filipino tradition. The wiki has information on exactly what’s happening. But here’s what I saw.

Men carrying crosses:

Very large crowds flocking to witness the events:

Self-flagellation (the two guys kneeling with really red backs), and men hanging themselves from crosses:

So much of what I saw was really hard to watch. I don’t understand the rituals, and I find it illogical. I understand to some extent how they think this is acceptable, but their own religion doesn’t support it.

However, it’s a very big thing here. We saw so many tourists, Filipino mostly, and at the site in the last photo there were even tents set up with snacks, drinks, and ice for sale. You could get cross balloons from the balloon guy. It was interesting, and I’m happy to have experienced this part of Filipino culture once, but I feel no compunction to do it again.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My house

This is the third time I’ve started this post, because I walk away without saving. Note to self – Windows Live Writer does not automatically save on the settings I have set.


In keeping with the last two posts, I should say that the next thing about Manila that I’ll miss is “my” house.

It’s been a great house these last almost two years. My boys have grown so much here! We’ve enjoyed having a pool so much. It’s been a great thing for the boys, who enjoy swimming more than I do. On many occasions all four boys will go out and have a good time and they would stay all day if we let them.

We’ve potty trained two boys here! There’s such a relief when you’ve potty trained your children and to have that happen twice in this house means that I’ve connected to it as a place of big accomplishment, and relief (In the interest of honesty I’ll admit that having helpers in the house has been a big part of these events being “easily” successful).

I spent a lot of time holed-up in my bedroom during these two years, as that was my safe and peaceful place to go to, to escape my sometimes overwhelming depression.

I got my tattoo here! My sister and I both did that, and it was pretty cool that the artist came to my house.

That same bedroom is where I finally got my email saying I had a security clearance and could start working after a two year break in employment (which is what was causing the aforementioned depression).

We’ve had two Thanksgivings, two Christmases, (almost) two Easters, eight (almost ten) birthdays, one New Years, in this house. We love holidays in this family, and we’ve enjoyed using this house to celebrate.

There has been lots of relaxation, playing, learning, and growing in this house. It has been our home for almost two years and we love it. We will all miss it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I will miss…

Anyone who knows me here in Manila will be completely surprised when I list the second thing I’m going to miss in Manila.

I’m going to miss driving.

I usually hate driving here. And when I say hate, I mean…absolutely loathe. The driving here is so stressful.

However, there’s a freedom in driving here that doesn’t exist in the States. For instance, if someone is in your way, you just go around. No matter what the situation is. If you can fit around them, you can go around them.

Rules aren’t widely known, loosely enforced, and almost never followed.

I feel like my skills in driving, and parking have increased exponentially since I started driving here.

I don’t know what I’m going to do in the US when the driving is ordered, predictable, and restrained. Or what I’ll do about all the wide lanes and free large parking spots. Probably stress out less and enjoy it more, and save money on parking. I feel like it’s possible that John and I might fight over the keys for the first week or two.

We’re trying to sell our car here. It’s served us well and I’m hoping it will serve someone else in Manila well after we leave.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I’m going to miss…

I’m going to miss a lot about Manila. Sure, I’ve spent a lot of time here acting (and sometimes being) miserable. But there have been a lot of good times here.

I’m going to miss the people here.

I have a feeling this is going to be my number one answer whenever I leave somewhere. Relationships are the most important part of my life. Luckily I get to take the most important ones with me.

Possibly the hardest part of the Foreign Service life (for me at least) is making good friends and then leaving them.

For instance, two months ago, or less, an officer, her husband, and their daughter arrived at Post. We’ve spent a good amount of time with them and I’m so sad that we’re leaving in two months.

One of the benefits of social media is that I can stay connected with them. I’ll be able to watch their daughter grow up, even if I can’t see it in person.

One thing we wanted to do in The Philippines is make relationships with people who were outside of the Embassy community. We accomplished this, during our tour. We’ve met Americans, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Australians, Brits, Scots, and more. The Philippines is a place full of people from all over.

I’m really going to miss the people here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I finished reading I am Malala yesterday.

I had a difficult time reading it. I would often take a break and read something easier and lighter.

There’s something utterly heartbreaking about reading a book written by a girl who was shot in the face by Taliban at the age of 14.

She was an amazing girl who did what she could to fight for girls’ rights to education. Her father was also a fighter, fighting for basic human rights in his country.

The stories she tells of the decline of conditions in her country are amazing. It made me feel so lucky. It gave me perspective.

When I was 14 I was sad because my parents didn’t have the money for the things I wanted. That was my biggest worry.

Now it seems so ridiculous. I wish I could meet Malala. I would tell her that she’s an amazing person. I would thank her for standing up for girls. I would listen to her speak, with all my attention fully on her powerful words (those who know me know my full attention is rarely applied).

What an amazing person. What a sad story. I feel so bad for the whole country having to go through so many devastating things.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


I’ve been working on a section of the house a week, starting last week, in preparation for our move. I decided that this week I would do toys.

This morning I asked our amazing, wonderful, can’t-live-without-her, helper Lucy to take the kids out of the house so that I could do this arduous task without their interference.

She suggested to them that they eat their breakfast like a picnic. Coen got really excited and was all.

“We’re going to eat a pic-a-nic!!!”

It was super cute.

So now they are happy children who will have no idea that I’m going to be going through their toys and choosing what they have to throw away, sell, or get to keep.

I may never tell them.


Friday, February 28, 2014

My song lately

Because… it’s awesome. I’ve also been visiting the 24 hours of happy website. It’s a 24 hour long video. It’s this song over and over, with pretty cool segments of people dancing and lip-syncing.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

I don’t want to go

I’ve been involved in the departure of a close friend. She’s leaving very soon and I’ve been with her during her pack out, shipping her car, mailing things to herself in the States and at the next post, and her final mani/pedi. Soon, we’ll go to her final dinner, and I’ll be going with her to the airport.

Today when I was helping her, I was carrying something to her car, and I almost started crying. Mostly out of sadness that she’s leaving. She’s been a rock in my life the last almost two years (she arrived in Manila a week after us). She’s one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. But also because I just had it hit that we’re going to be going through all of these same things very soon.

The departure date that we’re trying to get is not long from now. It’s with-in sight and it’s scary.

It’s scary because there’s so much to do. It’s scary because I’ll be leaving friends who have become family. It’s scary because I don’t know how the children will handle it. It’s scary because I’m going to be moving to a country that I’ve never visited before, and even though it’s a tropical paradise for many honeymooners from the States, I won’t be living on the beach, now, will I?

The good news (because without the good news, how would we live)?

I will get everything done that I need to do. I will meet amazing people in Kingston. The children will see that we are excited to go to the US and to Kingston and they will be excited because of that. I will learn Kingston and the surrounding areas just like I learned the parts of Manila and San Jose and Falls Church and Dallas when I moved to all of them.

So, even though it’s scary, I know that we’ll be ok. We always are.

There may be some uncertainty, but there always is. It’s always hard, but we get past those times.

We will again this time.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

2014, the year of injury

I fell on my right knee shortly after the new year. Shortly after that, I dropped a large, mostly full, plastic jar of peanut butter onto my left foot bruising even my bones. Just last night I fell on my right knee again. I feel all…

These things on top of the carpel tunnels syndrome I had for a few days last month, plus the slowly and steadily increasing pain in my joints the last couple of years, I’m ready for a break with all the pain.

Speaking of the joint pain. I saw the Rheumatologist and he ordered a butt load of tests, most of them blood. I got those done immediately after the consultation. He also ordered some specialized tests that I’m still waiting to get.

Good news from the appointment is that he thinks I don’t have arthritis.

He did a blood test to test for inflammation, just to check.

Work is going well. I’ve finished the trainings that I need and have been scanning fingerprints, and doing some other fun stuff as well.

We are working on our departure date with the Department. Once we have it we’ll make some plans. We have so many things we want to do, and places we want to visit. We’re not going to be able to fit it all in.

I’m excited for time in the US though, and what ever we do get to do, I’ll be happy to see people and places that I miss.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

He came out screaming

and he barely stopped for the first hour.


He was my most difficult pregnancy and delivery. And he’s possibly been the most challenging to rear so far. 


But the effort has been worth it. These last four years with Simon have been so full of joy.

dec 092

Simon has proven himself to be creative, intelligent, energetic, violent (for a bit of balance and humility), and loves his family.

Random 104

He's already great at building Lego's, playing with play-doh, coloring, and cutting paper, among other things.


We’ve celebrated a birth in Virginia, two birthdays in Costa Rica and another two in the Philippines.


He’s held a steady favorite color of green for quite a while.


As well as a love for airplanes. Luckily John made this years cake, and it turned out much better.

christmas and simons birthday 101

We’re so happy that Simon is in our lives and we look forward to many, many more birthdays to come.



Monday, February 17, 2014

No more wrist brace

I stopped wearing it. I’m not having any more pains and I figured it was time to try going without. So far, so good.

We found out that Malachi’s school in Jamaica starts the last week of August. This is great news!

It gives us more time to get there than we originally thought. Now I just have to send them all the information that they require for admissions. I recently heard someone lament that getting their kindergarten into an International School was like enrolling for college.

I can’t say from experience what enrolling in public school is like. Enrolling in AISK is very similar to enrolling in ISM. Here’s the list of Pre-School – Grade 3 application process (Step 2) taken from their website:

Completed Application part 1 and fee (US$50)

Copy of Birth Certificate/photo page in passport

2 passport photographs

Vaccination records

Last 3 end-of-year reports

Elementary Confidential Reference

Any professional educational evaluations done by outside source

External Standardized Test Results (if available)

Personal Interview/Assessment and Campus Tour

This is all after an enquiry which is an email sent to the school to make your intentions of applying known. It’s an opportunity for us to introduce our child and family and give them an idea of what’s in store. Step 3 is admission decision (which is a given for us, and we’ve already been told he has a spot, even though we haven’t completed step 2).

This is what many families go through every two to four years to enroll their children in school. Some families have more to do, some less, I would think. It’s crazy! Right now I’m doing this for one child, but when we’re enrolling in a new school after Jamaica I will be doing it for three (3!) children. That’s a lot of paperwork to do for school.

Our departure date hasn’t been approved yet, but if we get the one we want, we’ll be departing in fewer than four months! That’s not very long from now. I’m excited to have some time in the States. I’m very ready for that.

Right now, though, I think I should work on that application…

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Down to nights…

with my wrist brace.

My wrist gets a little sore by the end of the day. I don’t know if it’s a nerve thing or if maybe I’m treating it weird through the day because of the nerve thing, and it therefore gets sore.

I got through the last half of January without feeling too sorry for myself. Though I did get a bit depressed. The pinched nerve wasn’t the only issue that we discussed at that fateful appointment. I’ve had joint pain in my hands, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, finger, toes, etc…for a long while. I’ve tried ignoring it because I don’t want anything to be wrong with me. It’s becoming too hard to ignore though. Jars are pretty difficult these days, and if I hold a pot or pan for any amount of time, my fingers are in the shape of the handle until I painfully straighten them out (this has been happening for a long time, think…at least a year and a half), being in one position for too long causes stiffness, pain, and/or popping of joints. Too long can be as short as 30 seconds.

The med unit gave me a number for a Rheumatologist. The one they recommend most is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10-2. The three times I’ve tried calling I haven’t gotten through to make an appointment. I’m going to ask the MED unit to make the appointment. They offered, but I decided to do it since I know my schedule. I’ve recently decided to forget about it, and whenever they can get me in, I’ll reschedule things around it.

So…I’ll have blood tests, and who knows what else to see if I have arthritis. If I do, I’ll just have to…

I figure it’s better to find out now, then let it get worse. Or to find out I don’t have it, and figure out why I have so much joint pain. I don’t look forward to this, but I’m happy it’s happening.

On a (much) less depressing note, Coen is doing fairly well with potty training. He still has accidents, but more often than not, he’s peeing in the potty. He’s still wearing special night time underwear and fully taking advantage of them. I’ve tried Pamper’s pants, Huggies pants, and Pull-Ups. I think Pull-Ups are the best. However, a box of them here costs more than $50, so I might have to buy them online and use the Huggies and Pampers that I still have.

John was paneled by HR for our job in Jamaica meaning that it’s official now. We’re aiming to arrive there in August before school starts. The school we’re enrolling him in started the third week of August for the current year. We’re hoping that it does that again for the next one. We’d like to leave Manila shortly after he finishes second grade to make sure that we can get all the vacation and training that we/he’d like, before arriving in Kingston. If we find a schedule that works for all of us, I’ll be like Liz Lemon when she gets her hands on a great TGS schedule.