November 03, 2017

What's on your dinner plate?

No, seriously...I can always use new ideas, as I've come to the conclusion that I exist right now to solely stress about what I will cook my children for dinner. Dinner is huge for me. Breakfast is rushed, because Kelsey is the only one who can properly drag herself out of bed in the morning. The rest of us are lucky to gulp down hot cocoa or sometimes a (gasp) pop-tart (yes, I have them in my household at this moment, judge away). 

Lunch is taken care of by either buying at school (a good variety of local restaurants deliver daily), or whatever they decide they want. Kelsey has made her lunch for ages, and Nick usually takes leftovers (should they exist). So, I stress about dinner, because...well, that's a long story, but, in a nutshell, the idea of them coming home to nothing on the stove,  in the crockpot, or even having a kernel of an idea is just depressing. Not that I have to plan or do it all, but thanks to the hiring freeze, I've certainly got a little time on my hands.

And...there are the food options here. Between being able to shop at the commissary, the enormous markets full of the most gorgeous fruits and vegetables (the markets...oh, the markets), and the local grocery stores, we want for nothing (and if we did, there's Amazon). To say I feel spoiled for the chance to live here is an understatement. And, now that we are settled into our new place, and have extended for another year, I have to figure out my life other than cooking dinner. 


The olive selection here is nothing short of incredible...

I've realized I need to start by writing more. I've not been, because, well, sometimes there are things one can't write about. Other concerns have taken up my time, and while I can't delve into them here, suffice it to say, I won't be wasting more time fretting about them. I need to move onward and upward, even if it's just worrying about getting the soup into the crockpot, and the fritters on the stove before the critters come home...or even after they are home. At least, though, it's a plan.

I also need to write more about life here. There's so much to do, so much to see, so much to eat (Turkish breakfast...that's all), and I need to do more of it, and write more about it. We are already one year into our tour, and only have three left....

Turkish breakfast at a local favorite...

and now off to check on the black bean soup, prep the broccoli for the fritters, and begin stressing about tomorrow night's dinner....


December 30, 2016

Sometimes one needs...

just a little bit of inspiration. Things have been off for me for the past few months for a variety of reasons. I could chalk it up to any number of factors: another international move, first child going off to college (actually least stressful item), new schools for other kids ( the long run, not so bad), adjusting to a new post (perhaps the ease of adjustment?) or any number of other things that have happened.

The reality is, I've been in a funk...a very weird funk that is inexplicable in many ways. Our current post is lovely. Our sponsors have been amazing. Our kids have found friends easily, Cait has adjusted to college so well, and moving here a year early turned out to be for the best. No "What do we do about the car?!" stress, etc. Yet, still...

No, it's not the weather. I love winter, plain and simple. I love cold, crisp days, and the wonder of a new world that a generous snowfall can create. I love the fun outdoors time it creates for the whole family, and the way it (sometimes) makes everyone slow down and appreciate nature a bit more. I think, perhaps, it was just too much at once.

We moved without much of a break this summer. Too much was up in the air, pet stresses (how much did we really have to do, and how much would it cost?), school decisions, vacation plagued by the stress of the unknown. I could go on and on, but the details are boring and only stressful to us. After all, most of you who are reading this likely deal with the same issues on a regular basis. And, really, we are lucky to deal with this type of stress. We have a lifestyle that we love, that entails so many benefits, but it can throw stress our way. Sometimes I think I just forget and try to bury the little stressors  instead of remembering to deal with them.

I finally realized this week, that I simply needed to get away from it all. We, as a family, needed to get away from everything, even if travel in and of itself could be stressful. I can't say that our trip started off well. I was in a deep funk, and spent three hours in the car alternately nodding off and brooding. We finally arrived at our hotel in Cappadocia, and after a little room switching around, suddenly started to...well, chill.

My mood finally started to shift ever so slightly. We were in a totally new place, had a lovely hotel room (two of them in fact, one for us and one for the kids), and decided to wander over to a restaurant/art gallery for dinner. As the hostess started to list the daily menu, I looked around. I took in the natural wonder of the cafe in a cave, lit by lamps made from hollowed out gourds. A sip of local Turkish wine, a taste of the tomato soup and a sampling of the mezze, and suddenly I really felt the stress start to lift. 

Yes, we were all tired from the drive, but we were all together and able to take a trip and enjoy a sumptuous dinner in a lovely cafe only steps from our hotel. I realized that I had let all of the stress of the move(s), stress that I had been holding onto since before we left Managua, simply take over. I hadn't fully let go of it, and who knew (okay, a friend did...) that we just needed time away. Time away to do nothing but be on a vacation of sorts.

So, a trip three hours away seemed to do the trick. For three days we explored, ate insanely good food, were frustrated by pounding rain, amazed by gorgeous snowfalls, and stunned by the history that surrounds us here. Really, there's nothing like hearing your 18 year old relay her art history knowledge to explain the significance of frescoes (a thousand years old or more) to your 8 year old (and she also reminds the 8 year old how lucky he is to be living in his 4th country since his birth).

With that, here's to a new year, and me resolving to get my act together and remember why we are here. I'm going to give myself more time in January and February to really get settled, finalize a few projects,  figure out what I do next, whether it be volunteer or work opportunities, and really delve back into writing. I can't forget to remember to explore, though. There's just so much to do...and this week's trip was such a good reminder that if I don't really get my act together, the chances will pass us by before I know it. 



October 20, 2016

Time flies...

as it has already been five weeks and several hours since our plane touched down at the airport in Ankara. After 24 hours of traveling, we had arrived.  Two parents, two kids, two cats, one dog, and a boatload of luggage to be tucked neatly into two waiting cars.

Dare I say the journey itself was nearly uneventful? It seems like all of our hyper planning paid off (and with the exceptional help of a certain veterinarian/auntie and family), and other than Peter having to make an unexpected trip through TSA with the dog, everything went so amazingly smoothly. We had a nice dinner at Dulles, were amazed by the amenities on the plane (Nick decided Lufthansa was far superior to Delta, thanks to the water bottles by our seats), and had a relatively calm layover in Munich. There was one small snafu when we went to the wrong terminal for our flight to Ankara, but not a big deal given we had 5 hours to get lost and find ourselves again before the flight took off.

Even the arrival in Ankara was fine. We had 5 minutes or so when we weren't sure where China and Kai might appear, but then a friendly airport employee showed up with them, and all was well. We found the waiting cars, hopped (okay, stuffed) ourselves in and headed off to our new home. And what can I say,'s absolutely lovely.

While we are in an apartment, we are surrounded by plenty of play space, dog walking areas, and even a bunny habitat (they are scattered about and fearless).  We can walk everywhere (or so it seems), and are enjoying beautiful fall weather. The markets are filled with every type of fruit and vegetable one could want (lemons galore!), and we are able to augment the rare item we can't find with a trip to the commissary. 

The first few days were filled with our jet-lagged attempts at getting the kids enrolled in school. Miraculously, we did it, thanks to the help of new (incredibly helpful) friends. The kids are only in their 5th week of school, but they are already quite settled and enjoying their classes. It hasn't been a completely smooth time, but the bumps in the road that we have had are certainly typical. In fact, I realized that I had to keep reminding myself during the first 2-3 weeks that it was okay if things weren't perfect. After all, we had just moved from a different continent and very different school and living situation.  It's hard to believe that we only left Managua three months ago, and we are, living in Ankara, a year early albeit, but already loving life in our new home. 

Now do we really only have three years to explore this amazing country? Where to start....

August 19, 2016

We are crammed

into a hotel in downtown "x"...

It's the last night before Cait goes to school.We are squeezed into a studio suite with Cait and her stuff...all of the items she packed up three months ago (and a few items thrown in along the way) to make her dorm feel more like home. I'm sure we will add a few more last minute items tomorrow, but for now...she is set. I know I'm supposed to be in tears. I'm supposed to be anxiously washing a last load of laundry, except for the fact that this stubborn girl insisted I teach her how to do her own laundry at age 10. Maybe I am supposed to be debating how I will fix her bed? Please, she's been doing that for years, too. Will I insist her father peruse the dorm to ensure all seems safe and secure? Um, no.

No. None of the above. Instead, I'm just going to watch in admiration...and if I cry, it will be only because I recognize how much she has going for her, and she knows it. I only wish that I currently had the self-confidence in one little finger, that Cait has in her whole...self.

It's been a crazy, insane life at times. The life of a DS/FS kid is not easy, but Cait has truly bloomed wherever she has been temporarily planted. Where will she go? What will she do? Only time will tell, but I foresee such an amazing life....

Love you, Cait, congrats, and can't wait to see what comes next....


August 09, 2016's been a while

For a variety of reasons, being it anything from lack of strong internet to lack of a computer, I have been absent in my writing. Oh, sure, I've written plenty in my head, but does it count if you don't put pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to a keyboard?

We have now officially departed Managua. We left last month after a rather hectic pack-out, mostly as our timeline has changed rather significantly. We are no longer spending 11 months in the VA area, but will head almost directly to post. These changes are good overall, but do mean that we have to speed things up, and compress a lot into less time.

Since we won't have as much time in the States as we originally had planned, we had all of the kids leave post early and have had a few extra trips during our home leave (mandated vacation for Peter, which I actually do love).  Cait left Managua first (along with her gato) to get orientation underway for college, and Nicholas and Kelsey also left a few days later. We (brilliantly) figured moving the pets and kids out first would give us a leg up on organizing the move, and that could not have been more than accurate. I also realized that being Managua is very car-necessary (for getting kids places), had the kids not left early, I would have spent a good bit of time just driving them places. I love them, and love getting them places, but when the clock is ticking...well, it was just lovely that the grandparents hosted for a couple of weeks!

Despite having to rearrange aspects of our move rather quickly, overall things went very smoothly.  The movers were good (no, great!), we ended up getting rid of at least 1,300 lbs of stuff (a good reminder of how much we don't need), and the whole process seemed far smoother than previous moves.  While we sold a few items, we gave the bulk of it away to a friend who runs a local organization for children and families. He distributes the donations nearly as soon as he gets them and then posts photos to let us know how the clothing, shoes, food (half a can of beans, he'll take it!) was being utilized.  There were a few sad moments during the move (leaving our friends, the house, Illeana...), but seeing the looks on the children's faces as they received new clothes or a treat of uplifting.

Since leaving Managua, we've visited Tennessee, Virginia (a week in Chincoteague), Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, when not staying with friends (incredible hosts) in Maryland.  It's been a lovely chance to reconnect with those here, while trying to prepare for the move to Turkey in less than a month.  The move itself has been a bit more stressful for the kids (particularly Nick, who really misses Nicaragua) than we anticipated, and we are still in the throes of picking out schools.  As we have yet to be able to make a decision, I have finally come to the conclusion that the worst case scenario would be online school until we can figure out what works best. For whatever reason, picking a school in Managua from afar seemed so much easier...

Given, though, that we have to get ourselves ready, get the pets ready, both Peter and I have classes to take, Cait has to get off to college, Kelsey has to have eye surgery (new excitement today!), and we might throw together an extra shipment, I am just taking this move day-by-day.  I can't even look forward to the weekend, as I'm so afraid I'll miss something scheduled for tomorrow or Thursday, and throw things off even more.  So, for now, it's time for another cup of coffee, and then to work on Cait's college budget, getting her prepped for school, working on rental cars for various trips, hotel reservations, meeting up with friends, and just trying to keep it all straight.  Here's to a happy Tuesday for all, and more updates soon, and best of all, more time to write once we land in Turkey.








December 11, 2015

Stunned and speechless, we are

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

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

Well, drum roll......

Our next stop will be:



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


Yep...and, we are...


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Now for a few things I have enjoyed:





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


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

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

November 24, 2015

And the verdict is....

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

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

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

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

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



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


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



And with that, Happy Thanksgiving to all!


November 19, 2015



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

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

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

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

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


FullSizeRender (1)
Thanks so much to my friend, Carolyn, who gave me a last-minute invite to a Cheryl Strayed event at 6th and I. Good to get out, and the discussion was fascinating.

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

November 07, 2015

Usually around this time of year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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