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11 posts from September 2005

September 29, 2005

Swimming Update

These pictures were taken tonight at Caitlin's swim lesson. She is still a little nervous about the idea of swimming with her head under the water, but is making progress. Yes, I know, where did she get this fear??

September 27, 2005

Hot-potting!

Sunday afternoon we had a lovely visit with another Embassy family. I worry that we didn't have enough "boy toys" for their older son, but the kids still had a good time being bossed around by Caitlin. Her quote of the day when the family arrived? As she put a hand to her forehead and tossed her hair, "OH, I spent the whole day cooking for you!"

Well, now she did make quite a tasty cherry loaf. She is taking cooking classes in school and loves to try to cook new things at home. Amazingly, I found this cookbook not long before we moved and she is totally obsessed with cooking.

Another new obsession? Swimming - yea! I have to admit, today I woke up with the "mondays". I knew I needed to get out, so decided to try and find the gym I had joined. Amazingly, Kelsey and I found it about 10 minutes later, without going the wrong way down one way roads or in the taxi only lane. I didn't actually get to go, as Caitlin was due home soon, but it was far easier to get to than I remembered.

So, the exciting news: last night was Caitlin's first swim lesson at Sundhollin http://www.spacity.is/English/Pool1.html. She was nervous at first, thinking they would just throw her into the deep end. She loved the lesson, though and found her new teacher, Halldor, to be just great. She is excited to go back Wednesday night and we think this may be what she needs to really get her swimming.

Oh, yes, you are thinking, but what really helped me get over my "mondays"? Hot-potting, of course! Hot pots are like giant hot tubs. The difference is that they are outside (yep, all year round) and everyone is allowed to join in the fun. Kelsey and I relaxed in the hot pot for about 30 minutes and almost forgot the blustery, cold weather even as we looked it in the face.

September 25, 2005

'Getting' Iceland

Just on the off chance that anyone thinks that the previous message was just me being annoyed at Pete about gas, fear not! It was more of a statement to differentiate between living in the States and living (anywhere) overseas.

We have learned that one cannot simply go out for the day. If you don't have your gas bought, lunches packed and clothes laid out the night before, you will end up losing a good portion of your day and probably just end up staying at home.

One day I was so anxious to get home from the base, I drove off without my groceries. Supposedly this happens at least once a week, but I doubt to anyone else who has to drive 45 minutes one way. So, as soon as Caitlin got back from school, we hopped back in the car and went back to get them. It was actually cheaper to drive there and back than it would have been to simply go to a grocery store. More to the point, I had to have the groceries, or I couldn't pack Caitlin's lunch.

The up-side of the constant planning? Today instead of running around like crazy, we could 'afford' a lazy day. Pete spent the early afternoon tidying up from our dinner last night and then we took a long walk. We stopped by a bagel house where a friend works and enjoyed bagels, coffee, cocoa and just hanging out.

After we stopped at the duck pond, we came home, got the girls' stuff together and walked to a friend's house to drop them off for the evening. We haven't yet found a regular sitter, so are working on a modified babysitting coop. They took our girls tonight and we will watch their kids another evening so they can go out.

Pete and I went out to dinnner and then arrived at the movies with 20 minutes to spare. I can't recommend it for young children, but we saw the 40 year old Virgin and found it quite amusing. I think the funniest parts were when Pete and I were the only ones in the theater laughing. Not all of the innuendo translated well into subtitles.

And now we are at home, the kids are in bed and asleep. The upstairs still needs work, but the dishes are done and the main level is sparkling. Tomorrow I only have to gather the already purchased ingredients together and bake the cookies and cherry loaf for the friends we are entertaining in the afternoon. Of course, only after I have my leisurely cup of coffee (much half and half purchased well in advance).

What am I saying? In essence, I finally feel like we are catching up. Even though I may complain of a certain ennui at times, the ennui can be constructive. I don't love spending my mid-mornings racing to the commissary, or my postprandial time slaving over dishes, however, I now actually have the time.

I don't think I ever felt this way at home. I won't say I am completely adjusted yet, but I am beginning to think there are many things to be said for a lifestyle that is not centered around the hustle and bustle of the big city.

I don't have twelve things pulling me in different directions and waste fewer hours wondering if Caitlin has enough extracurricular activities. Kelsey is not in preschool yet, but that is okay. Yes, I want her to have more time with other kids her age, but she is having a great time at home. She is such a little helper and regardless of having fewer interactions with other kids, still seems amazingly social and well-adjusted.

Not only am I reading the books from the library, but actually remembering to return them on time! Of course, it helps that I now have the time to take Kelsey to story hour every week and I am far less tempted to buy a book. Occasionally, I know it is necessary for book club but even then I wait for my free shipping coupon.

So, when you come to visit (and we hope everyone does!) we are going to try to fit in all the exciting activities: the water rafting, blue lagoon and 'tax free' shopping. But don't forget to do what Icelanders do best: simply enjoy being.

September 18, 2005

The difference between 1/4 tank of gas and 1/2 tank of gas

is the difference between a day trip or a trip to the base. We discovered this today when preparing to depart for our day trip to see this gorgeous waterfall.

Friday night we discussed going to see the aforementioned site that Pete visited on Thursday during an Embassy 'team-building' exercise. I mentioned that we were low on gas, that less than half a tank remained.

Rather than checking the gas gauge, Pete decided that was more than enough gas for a three hour round-trip. Yes, this is the same Pete who has more than once said, "Oh, there is plenty of gas!" only to have to walk 2 miles round-trip to the nearest station because there was NOT plenty of gas.

I digress, sorry! So, when he got out to the car around noon and discovered it was more like a quarter of a tank. He wanted to go ahead and charge the gas to his card with his fun money. Basically, it would cost $80, $50 more than we would pay at the base and SO not worth it. Yes, gas is about $8/gallon here.

So, we went to the base instead and took the kids bowling. The girls were extremely excited as for a while they were tied with Dad (his wrist was achy). Then towards the end, Caitlin rolled a strike! The girls were using bumpers, but on this roll the ball went straight down the alley and didn't touch either side. Oh, and I beat Pete by 25. I must say that felt especially nice considering the boy usually wins by at least 15.

Victorious!

September 15, 2005

I weep for the future

or Britney Spears had her baby today. She even got her wish: having a c-section so as to avoid labor. Thankfully, it is a boy.

Why? Can you imagine if it was a girl? She would probably want to design an entire clothing line around the enfant and well, after seeing B's idea of 'style', I couldn't see it being good. Not only that, my daughter might figure out BS exists and want to mimic her - ack!

I suppose that is one of the (many) upsides of living overseas. Without even trying, you can totally hide your kids from some of America's bad habits: soda, Britney, commercials, you name it! They can avoid American slang and actually have a vocabulary that does not soley consist of the word "like". Un-like me in my formative years.

So, not much else going on, but time for another shout-out! This time it goes to Janet P. for sending us Texmati rice and books for the girls. Thank you, thank you, we will enjoy very much!

September 13, 2005

"Accounts payable, Nina speaking, can you hold please?"

So, last week I joined a gym but have yet to go. I know, I know, but I wake up every day with a nasty headache due to my raging sinus infection.

I would LOVE to go to a doctor, thank you, but haven't yet been able to get through to the base hospital and actually make an appointment. I usually just get put on hold for a long time, but today I did actually speak to someone. They promptly asked the wrong question, "Are you enrolled?". Huh? In what?

"Um, not sure" I say, not sure what to say.

"Okay, I will transfer you to Tricare!" Um, yeah, Tricare is military insurance and I know that means I am not getting my appointment today. Turns out there is suddenly a snafu in the system since no one else has ever had this problem. Someone is "working on it" however, that is not lessening the pain much.

We did have a playdate today, though, and that was a real bonus! Caitlin and Kelsey met up with their new friend at her house. The little girl does not speak English (only German & Icelandic) but they had no trouble playing together. Actually, the best part for all was when the three of them ran around the backyard chasing each other and screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs.

Screaming and laughing, two languages that need no translation.

September 12, 2005

I don't know why they call it "helper"

Breaking news: Last Wednesday we hosted our first dinner guest! I was so exhausted from cleaning Wednesday afternoon that I was grateful to "take a break" by cooking! However, I learned a lesson: never make a huge veggie tray for one guest. No way it will be eaten and then half of it will be forgotten back in the fridge (by mistake, of course).

Thursday afternoon we ventured out to playgroup and then to the park after stopping by the Embassy to pick up a package. Yes, my third coffee carafe since arriving here. I don't care, however, as I love my morning coffee and that is that. Um, Mom, running low on Yukon blend (well, will be by next week!).

We did make it to a park I had forgotten about, but was dismayed to see it was smaller (and more graffiti-covered) than I remembered. Not much time to worry about it though, as Cait suddenly had to use the restroom, so we departed.

Friday night marked my first LNO! Yes, that is Ladies Night Out. There wasn't one here and anyone who knows me, knows I need my monthly LNO. So, I co-coordinated the evening with one of Pete's colleagues who was able to get in touch with everyone.

We had a fabulous dinner at Austur India. Tandoori salmon, chicken, lamb, veggies and super tasty bread. It was such a wonderful evening, I will just leave out the fact that my meal cost $70 and that was reasonable!

Saturday was spent tidying up (thanks, Pete!).

Sunday was our first time at the base church. Sunday school also commenced and I was a little afraid as on Thursday, no one seemed to know what to do with the registration forms. Luckily, they had 'on-site' registration, so we just did the whole thing all over again.

Other than Kelsey having learned that saying "I have to go potty" gets you an immediate break from Mass, everything seemed to go well. We also tried the Sunday brunch at the Three Flags Club and were pleasantly surprised as it was a true "American breakfast". Trust me when I say you do crave them occasionally and they can be hard to find overseas (yes, even at "American - Style" restaurants).

So, we may end up at brunch every Sunday, especially considering it cost $19.80 for the 3 of us! Now, that is American.

September 06, 2005

Not so much Labor Day

Okay, so today was slightly better. Mostly because now Pete seems to understand that just because I have a bad day (or two), that doesn't mean we have to up and leave the country. Actually, according to the Multi-Cultural house here, I am only just in the beginning of my 'adjustment period' which could last upwards of 6 months! Good grief!

So, we are truly happy with one thing, if not several others: Caitlin's school. She is learning so much and it is such a great learning environment. Here is a link to her school: http://www.vikurskoli.is/RIS/. If you look down and to the right you will see 2005-2006 pictures and a link to "outside teaching". Click on that link and then on picture number 20.

Yes, that is Caitlin (on the right) and her friend, Telse on the left. They created a diorama which includes shells they found on the beach down the street from the school. Caitlin is really enjoying the school and they just have so many creative projects. She also seems so much more independent at age 7! Don't get me started on Kelsey; the child talks like she is 22!

More later, but didn't want everyone to think we were completely in our own world in light of the current situations in the world. However, I was serious about the "tips". Pete is checking at work, but anyone knowing of outdoor (FREE) playgrounds in Reykjavik, please let us know!

September 05, 2005

Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?

Did you say $80 for adults and $50 for children just to eat a buffet dinner? Yes, I am sure there are those of you who still don't believe that Iceland is extremely expensive, so here is another example!

Yesterday afternoon we went to Keflavik to this supposed festival. It looked quite exciting and happening, but when we got there it was mostly a bunch of kids with these weird mouth whistles that made the worst noise possible. Especially if you have a raging sinus headache due to a raging sinus infection (yes, you can get them here!).

As soon as we got close to the rides, it started to rain. While the kids were dressed warmly, sitting down in a sopping wet seat is just not their (or my) idea of a good time. Caitlin was hungry and we realized it was close to dinner time.

One pizza place was jammed full so we tried the restaurant we visited last time. All was well, even as they said it was buffet only. Okay, until they told us the price of the buffet was $80 per adult and $50 per child. My kids don't eat $50 worth of food in a week! Even more depressing was the fact that many people had taken them up on their offer.

Now, one might say, well, of course, Iceland has a great economy! Well, not really. From what we understand inflation is terribly high and most people could not live without their credit cards. Not as in having temporary needs (home improvements, etc.), as in, could never (never) live without them.

So, we are basically down to 1-2 nights out a week. Yes, that is good for the budget, but in case I haven't mentioned, Iceland is extremely insular and quite, well, lonely at times. Since we are so far from the base we have met few people there. More importantly, the embassy here is tiny. TINY. There are 11 Americans working here and only 3 of them have families.

I honestly have a hard time saying this is a good family post. The weather for most of the summer has absolutely stunk. Fifty-five degrees and windy with rain is not my idea of a great time. A bag of produce that would cost you $5 at the farmer's market runs about $30 at the local market (and doesn't always look that great). And, the lack of play areas for children is amazing.

So, we are still trying to figure out what to do. There is plenty to do here if you are on a limited schedule, but living here full-time is making us wonder what on earth people do much of the time. So many places close at 6 p.m. One mall does make an exception and stays open til 9 p.m. on Thursday! Unfortunately, there is not much to do at the mall. One can't buy clothes or shoes without taking out a home equity loan and they don't seem to have much else.

Restaurants, bars and nightclubs are the only places that generally stay open past 6 p.m. Given that we have a 7 year old and a 3 year old, they are not really options for us. We did want more family time, but were hoping not to have to spend every minute of it at home.

Sigh, tips anyone?

September 02, 2005

Razor Sharp!

Here she is, pretty in pink, thanks to Uncle Mark & Aunty Shannon. Caitlin received a bright pink Razor scooter from them for her birthday. OH, and Sandy contributed too, of course. Most likely she is relieved the scooter is now here and not anywhere near her tail!

Actual birthday pics will be posted soon, but backdated. Oh, and yes, this is the garage, and it isn't really that messy, just still filled with the boxes the movers have never picked up.

Sage advice?

So, in the midst of all the bad news in the world, the stampede in Iraq, Katrina and the havoc she wrought, I read that a certain person (who I shall not name as this is not a political forum) has offered some sage advice: Don't buy gas if you don't need it.

Now, really, all of these years that we have been torturing ourselves and the purity of our environment with tons of pollution and in the past four years, he has refused to do anything remotely ecologically sound and this is the advice we get? Well, how about, don't waste gas flying anywhere when you can't really help to begin with (or are too busy vacationing). Ugh, okay off my soap box, but I am really fed up with the hoity-toity "I know everything" politicians in the U.S. who spend our money on themselves and then are "shocked" at the atrocities that sadly were bound to happen.

But we aren't there and sadly can't do too much. Ironcially, that is all we heard about tonight. Poor Caitlin so misses her pets and Virginia so much, and we have another good 2 years and 9 months before she will get to live with them again. No telling when we will be back in VA for any length of time. Of course, God willing one of them makes it that long.

I have heard, though, that the Icelandic quarantine is just terrible (the animals are not treated well) and the government conveniently 'loses' the fees you pay. Lovely.

It is so awful to have to constantly bring up the $ factor and it is a card we have already played too much, but I don't want to get into the quarantine thing too deeply with her. I am so tired of telling her how expensive everything is, because, frankly, I am tired of how pricey it is. There is just no reason for a box (not even a box!) of colored pencils (8 of them) to be $15! Or going to the mall and figuring out that the food court Chinese dinner that wasn't even that tasty cost you $30 AND it only fed TWO people!

Of course, she is a genius and figured it out herself. We were having a discussion tonight and I was saying how expensive items are in Iceland. She asked why and before I could answer, said, "I know, it is because Iceland is so small". Yes, in a nutshell, that is exactly right. Iceland is approximately the size of Ohio with nowhere near the population, since most of it isn't exactly inhabitable. "Oh, which glacier do you live on?" etc.

Well, our thoughts are with those of you who have suffered through any of the recent disasters. We can only hope and pray things get better soon.