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20 posts from October 2005

October 31, 2005

Pumpkin Carving: Part 1

On Monday night we remembered that we had not carved the pumpkin. Unfortunately, we forgot about it until dinner-time (which was after swim lessons) and by then probably about 7 p.m. So, we decided just to clean the pumpkin and carve it the next day.

In the pictures above, Caitlin is removing the 'guts' of the pumpkin. Most of the guts went to the compost heap and then we adjourned to "Baking the Seeds". Caitlin, as we all know, can be picky but absolutely loves baked pumpkin seeds.

Halloween at the Embassy

As you may or may not know, Halloween is not celebrated in Iceland. However, since RIS is an international school with some American students, the children do participate in Halloween festivities.

Today, the children from RIS, the teachers and the teachers' children (who were on vacation this week), spent an hour at the Embassy entertaining the staff and enjoying some sweet treats. I decorated the Lava Lounge (old MSG house basement) and Caitlin and her friend Aidan helped make cupcakes to share with their classmates.

Later in the afternoon, I stopped by Caitlin's school and we spent the rest of the day playing games. Admittedly, my 'freeze tag' is a little rusty, but we had fun and I was able to visit her classroom and see more of her work.

October 29, 2005

Part 3: The party!

Just a few of the attendees! Did I mention we hosted a Halloween party today? It started out as a small party for the mum's group and then I decided to include Caitlin's classmates (only 10 kids in the whole school).

After I thought about it, I realized I should probably also include children from the Embassy, whether their parents are FSOs or FSNs. However, one cannot simply invite the kids, so we went nuts and invited every Embassy employee and their families. So, how many people did we have?

Um, about 60. Everyone brought food (mostly luscious chocolate cakes) to share while we provided beverages and games for the kids. It was a lot of fun, and if I may brag, when one partygoer (the social queen bee of the Embassy) was asked, she could only describe the fete as "Fab!"

And, yes, I am already planning our holiday party!

Part 2: Horseback Riding

Okay, these pictures may not seem too different from last week. However, what one cannot see is that Caitlin is actually riding bareback.

Not only that, in the second picture, they are actually trotting around the ring. All of the students had two turns in the ring, and Caitlin was too scared to go fast on her first try. On the second try, she rode with her hands in the air, on her head, rode faster and stood up on the horse. I guess you would believe the lesson of the day is balance?

Yes, we are proud as usual, especially as it was once again extremely cold and she barely noticed.

Saturday, Part 1: We shovel!

Here is a picture of Caitlin thoughtfully shoveling the snow in our driveway. Unfortunately, not too much headway was made as the bottom layer had started to turn to ice. Wonder how we are going to get it clear for the Halloween party this afternoon?!

Above left is our house the day after the first snowstorm of the year!

October 28, 2005

Traction

is so highly over-rated. Isn't it far more enjoyable just to slide around every road in your new overseas home whilst plows clear any road but the one you are on? And why have traction when you are also lacking any visibility? Combine the two and what do you get? Yep, you guessed it: the road to Keflavik in a snowstorm in October.

We finally picked up our car on Thursday afternoon and I spent most of today fretting that it would be headed back to the body shop. I was sure I was going to fly off the road, or worse, ram someone from behind because they couldn't go faster than 10 km/hour uphill. Given that I began to stall and slide around at 15 km, not a good thing!

Did I also mention the gale force winds? They are not new, but when you are in the middle of a snowstorm, they add a whole new dimension. It really wasn't terribly bad, only about 40 miles an hour, but still.

I think the most enlightening part of the day, however, was when we realized just how much we desperately needed a heated driveway. I spent a good hour shoveling the driveway after Pete went to get gas for the stove. By the time he came back, the driveway was recovered with more snow. It was also extremely slippery snow (seriously!). So after half an hour of trying, we finally got the car halfway up the driveway. Heated garage or not, that car was not giving us one more inch, oops, one more centimeter!

Perhaps tomorrow Pete will finally able to get the car in the garage. And if he does, it will stay there until May, when everything melts!

October 26, 2005

It is just sooooo cold

I walked Kelsey to school today as she quite vehemently requested that I do so. In theory, we had the option for Pete to drive us, but since he is now sick, I felt he would be better off resting (ha- he's at work of course!).

So, we went to school and I thought my lungs were burning a little going up the hill. We got there, though, put Kelsey in her jammies (they are having a pajama party today) and I went on my way.

By the time I got home, my legs were like wooden blocks. I swear several layers of skin were frozen solid. Note to self: buy thermal underwear, NOW! A little while ago I checked the temperature: 25 degrees F. That is the temperature now, probably colder earlier. And don't forget, winter hasn't started yet; this is FALL.

So no wonder I was slightly cold and still have trouble moving my extremities. I am sure I will loosen up just in time for the walk back to pick her up. As much as I hate driving in the city, it will be nice if we ever can use our car again, especially on days like this!

Oh, and if you want to see the weather in Iceland, do NOT go to www.weatherchannel.com. According to them, it rained every day last week in Reykjavik. Maybe somewhere else, but not here! Instead try http://www.vedur.is/english/. This is the Icelandic Meteorological Office's Web-site. Given that they are actually in Iceland, they have a better idea of the weather here.

October 23, 2005

The Very Pink Cowgirl

Here she is! They mounted the horses, rode to a larger ring and walked around that ring for about an hour. You can't tell from the pictures, but most of us were absolutely freezing. Apparently, the horses are even calmer in colder weather.

They were pretty quiet today (except the one who got left behind!), so I am guessing the 30 degree F weather agreed with them. OH, and in case, you didn't guess, she is the one with the VERY pink pants and fur-topped pink boots!

Cowgirl Catla D.

Each week before they ride, they comb their horse. Caitlin wanted company while combing, so I got to feed the horse her carrot. Despite the fact that Peter was bitten (not badly) by one of the horses last week, Icelandic horses are known to be some of most gentle in the world.

The Icelandic Brown Dog

Here she is! It's Sandita Bandita's twin! There would be more pictures, but like her 'sister', this little doggy is extremely fast.

October 20, 2005

You've Got Mail!

Or in our case packages. Since the price of children's clothing here is generally astronomical, we tend to buy a lot of things on-line. This can be beneficial, since by going through www.upromise.com, we (and friends and family) are boosting the kids college accounts. Or we use www.mypoints.com for those Starbucks cards. Mmm, missing that gingerbread mocha!

So, we get mail twice a week (in a good week) on Wednesdays and Fridays. Yesterday, Caitlin got her Halloween costume, Kim Possible, complete with pom-poms and Kelsey got a new dress and a swimsuit. Coincidentally, the girls also received a package from Auntie Shannon & Uncle Mark with their new rain boots (VERY necessary here) and more socks. Thank you, Auntie Shannon and Uncle Mark!

Kelsey was extraordinarily excited to have a new outfit and decided to wear the dress and boots to school today. Thus, we took a picture and this time she was a tad bit happier than the first day of school.

The girls also send a big "TAKK" to Greempa Kirk and Dibby, as they sent an extremely large box of Halloween fun! They have already worn their wigs, colored in the books and Caitlin can't wait to make the pie that Pete can't wait to eat!

October 18, 2005

Caitlin Dinoia, Expat Extraordinaire

says, "I just hate the BBC, it gives me a headache!". (BRAG ALERT): Now, really how many seven year- olds even know about the BBC? Not that she has written a dissertation on it, but it is amazing what they pick up when their minds are so open.

We were at the Cultural House today for Caitlin's field trip (not to be confused with Ahus, the MULTI-cultural house) and even Kelsey pointed to a map of the U.S. and said how we used to
'go to America'. Of course, the child is so very smart.

She is also WAAAAY into preschool!! She started on Monday, although it is what I like to call a 'soft' start, as she only stayed two hours and I had to stay the whole time. Apparently, some Icelandic (or other cultures too, I suppose) children are nervous when they first start preschool. Therefore, each school sets up the first week so that the mum or dad is with the child a good part of each day.

Today I left for a little bit and tomorrow I will leave for 3.5 hours. After watching Kelsey when I left today (I got a kiss when I requested one), the teacher mentioned she didn't think Kelsey would have any problems tomorrow or the next day, when she stays even longer. Considering this is the child who cried on August 22 (Caitlin's first day of school) because she had to STAY HOME. She found that out after she had packed her own lunch. Yep, she's ready!

I realize I haven't updated in a while, so here is a quick rundown of the past week or so. Columbus Day was relatively uneventful. Caitlin had school and swim lessons, and it was our day to visit (and make our decision about) Kelsey's preschool. We liked what we saw and agreed to start her on October 17.

That night Pete took Caitlin to swim lessons by himself. While helpful to me, he realized that Caitlin might not have the routine down just yet. He dropped her by the stairs and she appeared by the side of the pool approximately 30 seconds later. Given that her hair was barely damp, he had a feeling she had skipped most of the pre-swim showering business.

So, Wednesday night I took her to the lessons (we walked, of course!) and as she was getting out of the pool, someone overheard us talking. The person was immediately interested as he heard us speaking English. The irony is that almost everyone here speaks almost perfect English! Sadly, their grammar skills are better than some native English speakers. They make occasional mistakes, but most are completely fluent in Danish, Icelandic and English. Others delve into addtional languages such as German, French, Spanish or Italian.

It would be really nice if the U.S. could see the benefit of early language studies. Waiting til high school is way too late. Start them while they are young; "they are sponges", to quote Rick Moranis, but it is the truth. The preschool administrator has already guessed that Kelsey will be bilingual by December.

Instead of immersion programs being the exception, they should be the rule. Well, that and English refreshers through college and even in the workplace! I am embarassed to read most of what is on the web today. Grammar and spelling errors are rampant throughout newspapers, web-sites, even emails! Granted, I don't necessarily know the circumstances behind such errors, but how can we expect to be a political and wordly super-power when we can't even use our own language correctly?

Okay, off the soap-box, sorry! And, yes, I do make occasional mistakes and take some short-cuts. However, I will simply blame my mistakes on the logical and correct assumption: I was up writing this at 3 a.m.! Well, not tonight, but change is good!

So, we had family night out on Friday night at Mama's Tacos. Pete secured a 'good deal' with his friend who owns the place and several Embassy families met up to enjoy the dinner buffet. Kelsey impressed everyone by not only sitting still to eat her dinner, but mentioning "how wonderful" everything was. She also frequently compliments my cooking; this child will go places!

Saturday was more horseback riding and yes, I know we owe you pictures! Unfortunately, Pete not only forgot the camera, but also his phone, so I could not even call and remind him that he forgot the camera! After they came home, we went off to the festival at the base.

Let's just say that I have been spoiled by the Arlington County Fair and leave it at that. It was free and the kids did have a good time, so that is really all that matters in the end. The biggest news of all though????


WE FOUND A BABYSITTER! So, after we returned from the base, Peter and I went to Grillhusid for dinner (which was half-price, thanks to the discount card) and then went to see Flightplan. The most amazing part of the evening was that we left home at 6:30 p.m. and walked to dinner. We walked back home, drove to the movies and still arrived 20 minutes early. After the movie, we took money out to pay the sitter, drove home and realized it was only 10 p.m.!

If we had gone out in Northern VA and had the exact same agenda, it would have taken us 6 hours to accomplish the same thing. We are still in awe of the extra time we seem to have. If Pete leaves work at 5 p.m, he is in the house relaxing by 5:15 p.m. after he WALKS home!

Not much more than that right now. We still don't know about Caitlin's First Communion. The date will probably not be set until December. The only surety is that it will NOT be Mother's Day weekend.

Did I mention that anyone who could make it for her First Communion will also receive a free trip to the Blue Lagoon, (and food and lodging) courtesy of her parents who are desperate to surround her with family and friends on this important occasion?? I thought so, but just wanted to be sure it was out there!

October 17, 2005

The First Day of School

Today was Kelsey's first day at Njalsborg, her new preschool. Here is her pre-departure picture. She is a little sad, but not because she is going to school. The 'driver' was anxious to get going and tried to get her into the car. She wanted to wait for me and burst into tears.

Unfortunately, no time to get into a happy mood before the picture. Suffice it to say, she definitely brightened up at school! Oh, and the photo was taken in our backyard. The house is to the right and the yard to the left.

October 09, 2005

The Icelandic Doppleganger

"It was my twin! Spanokopita?"

No, I didn't find my twin in my head. However, yesterday we did find someone else's twin where we least expected it!

When we arrived at the stable on Saturday, we didn't notice the little dog jumping around at first. Then as we neared the ring, the dog ran towards us. We looked at the pup and were shocked as we thought perhaps we had been transported to Edgewater, Maryland!

Yes, Sandy "L.E." Talbott has an Icelandic twin named Nina! Both Caitlin and Kelsey thought she was Sandy's long lost relation. Nina's tail is a little bit longer and Sandy's fur is a little darker. If not for those small differences, Pete would have grabbed Nina and performed Sandy air-guitar without further ado.

Nina even likes to be picked up and held like Sandy and displays her belly eagerly. She seemed equally as fast, too. The only test we could not perform was 'paw'. Hopefully, next week we will also get a picture to post!

One happy, happy girl!

In light of yet more disasters in the world, I thought I would add a spot of light. It may not cheer everyone up, but we are estatic that Caitlin is now a little bit happier in Iceland.

Why? She is learning a new, well, sport? Today, in the very cold weather (maybe 40 F?), she started horseback riding lessons. Ever since she saw photos of Icelandic horses back in February, she has been extremely excited about the idea.

I thought about doing a tour (many, many horseback riding tours here), but a child her age has to have experience or they cannot ride. A-ha! Experience! So, I wrote one of the companies. Well, they don't have lessons except during the summer. If things go as we plan, we will not even be here most of next summer. Hmmm....

Well, one day Cait and Kels had a playdate with another expat child. The mom (out of the blue) mentioned horseback riding lessons. Triple-strength coffee could not have gotten my attention faster!

She gave me the phone number of Reith Faxabol. I called, but they were booked until October. ~Sigh~

So, lo and behold, last week I received an email from Faxabol saying that lessons would start Saturday, October 8th. Without further ado, Caitlin started her 10 week sojourn into the art of Icelandic horseback riding today.

Now, with my luck, of course, the camera died. However, next week it will be fully charged and I will have pictures of cowgirl Catla D.!

October 07, 2005

Breaking News!

No, I just see that on www.cnn.com about 500 times a day and figured someone else should use it once in a while for something that actually resembles breaking news. I don't know about anyone else, but a politician lying and/or in trouble again is not breaking news!

That being said, a certain person in this household may start preschool next week. Yes, Kelsey D., that cutey-pie with oh, so much energy, may have a spot in a preschool about a mile or so from here!

Yes, this came out of absolutely nowhere. On Monday we thought she wasn't even registered to be put on a waiting list (not anything we did or didn't do), the next day we heard about a Montessori, yesterday we found out the monthly cost of aforementioned Montessori could be confused with our mortgage payment and today we got the news of the other preschool having an opening. Whew!

So, the extremely precocious and precious nugget is headed off to school. Oh, dear, now I may just have to tackle that laundry pile after all. Well, once the washer and dryer are installed, of course!

October 05, 2005

See Caitlin!

If you go to http://www.vikurskoli.is/RIS/meetthestudents/index.htm, you will find more pictures of Caitlin and her friends. She really seems to be enjoying the school and her vocabulary (already large) has grown tremendously.

She will create projects for herself at home based on things they learned at school and never seems to need help. The other night while making dinner I realized I had not seen or heard from her in a while. I looked in the living room and saw one pink sock poised high in the air (my laundry normally does not pile in such an artistic manner). Turns out she had been there the whole time, quietly reading a book.

She brings books home from school and has them completed the next day. She reads, reads and reads some more. She also uses her talents to read to the kindergarten and first grade students and apparently does so with much gusto.

Such a great kid!

October 02, 2005

Am I scared or proud?

This afternoon I found Kelsey in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open. As I looked more closely, I realized she was in the midst of a deep conversation: with the condiments.

I knew she was lacking for friends (I will spare you the diatribe on the dearth of English speaking children here or that the waiting list for preschools has over 600 children on it), but had no idea the situation was so extreme.

I mentioned something to her and she agreed her 'sends' were in the refrigerator. Later in the evening, she hopped up out of my lap and ran into the kitchen to 'put her sends to bed'. She spent 15 minutes 'laying' the condiments down, but then decided they could 'wake up' before she shut the door.

So, here is a picture of the cutie and her 'sends'. Sigh.

October 01, 2005

One way to meet other Icelanders

is to have them ram your car from behind. After leaving the base today, we decided to stop at Kaffitar, the coffee shop on the highway to Reykjavik. We were in the left lane when Pete started looking around like crazy, tried to swerve, possibly said some wordy-dirds and ultimately (through no fault of his own) could not avoid being rear-ended.

For whatever reason, a person two cars behind us did not realize we were in the left lane stopped with our turn signal on. The car in front of her went around us and I am guessing she wasn't quite paying enough attention and before she knew it, her car was enmeshed with our rear bumper, muffler, tire, you name it.

We are all okay, although Pete and I both now have sore backs. The girls, luckily, have always had super safety seats courtesy of www.britax.com. I will now officially never even look at another brand, as neither one of them had a bruise on them. The crying from the fright of the accident didn't cease for about 15-20 minutes though.

Peter called all the appropriate persons in the right order and his wonderful investigator, Mr. Bjorn, came to get us and took us (and our many groceries) home. We are 99% sure the Icelandic police understand that not only was the accident not our fault, but Pete did everything he could to avoid it. Luckily, it seemed the girl slowed down a little right before she hit us (she was doing about 70 KM/hour) and this prevented us from being shoved into the car coming from the opposite direction in the other lane.

So, we left the car on a side road although driving even 15 feet was extraordinarily painful to the ears. Especially since the right rear tire was essentially destroyed. The car will be towed by the insurance company to be reviewed for damage and then will be repaired. Supposedly, we will not be out of pocket by too much but we shall see.

Aurora Borealis

Tonight Peter was walking home from the Embassy and noticed a funny light in the sky. Looking up and a little closer, he realized it was a greenish sort of streak.

Yep, folks, it is that time of year: when from (apparently) anywhere in Iceland, one can see the Aurora Borealis. For those "Latinophobes" that translates into the "Northern Lights". Here are two relatively insignificant folks viewing the Northern Lights from their small front porch of the "Lellow House" in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Last year at this time we were lucky to see a few stars in the sky, as (then) living so close to the many lights of Washington, DC, blotted out hopes of more. Oh, and generally, it was only one of us, since my better half was busy globe-hopping and protecting then Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

Gosh, I thought I was finally over the past three years of unintentional single parenting!

Okay, I did try to take pictures, but the the lights are not yet strong enough to view through a camera lens. Give us another month or two, and I am sure we will have pictures up. OR you could just visit, wink, wink, nod, nod!