Thursday, December 29, 2011

NYR 12-27-11- the death of a gingerbread house

Remember how all our masterpiece gingerbread house looked when it was first completed?

Fast forward to Christmas Day, the magical time when Mac was promised that he could eat the gingerbread house. Now I have no idea why one would want to eat a cardboard-like gingerbread structure that had been exposed to air for a couple weeks after being wrapped up in plastic and sitting in a Target warehouse for who knows how long. But I'm not 9 years old so who I am to wonder?
(notice the bite marks.)

Fast forward two days after Christmas and it just keeps getting smaller. (notice more bite marks.)

For the great pleasure this gingerbread house kit provided, I am truly thankful. (But it's going in the trash now with Mac's blessing.)

NYR 12-26-11 - we've undecked the halls

I hate to seem like the Grinch, but I took down every last stitch of Christmas in our house today. The embassy was closed so I didn't have to go to work, which meant it was the only free day until we leave for vacation on Saturday. Everything was down and put away by noon.

And then because we'd used our fireplace for the first time ever, I finally got the inspiration for how our living room furniture should be configured. I've really detested the layout for all these months, and then it hit me! So while Jimmy and Mac were at the park playing baseball, I moved the furniture around. And I LOVE the result. We should have built a fire 16 months ago.

After Jimmy and Mac came back from the park, Jimmy used his new hamburger-making kit from Sur la Table to create a masterpiece of a hamburger which he grilled and we ate on the balcony because it was a picture-perfect day in Bogota.

And lest you think that we've totally lost all Christmas spirit, we went out with friends to view Christmas lights in the city. It was all quite festive and beautiful and we had a great evening. We saw some interesting food for sale,

... Asian-inspired Smurfs as well as very surprised-looking Smurfs,

...a very festive llama (who had boots on his back legs. Seriously.),

...and, of course, beautiful lights.

For a great day, I am truly thankful.

NYR - Christmas Day!

On Christmas Day, we did not get out of our pajamas which meant the day went exactly according to plan.

Mac slept in until 8 and then he came downstairs to see what Santa brought. Jimmy lit a fire in our fireplace for the first time since we've lived here. The eco-logs are pretty interesting here. Note the photo below and the two crazy flames shooting out of the sides:

After we enjoyed opening our presents - I got an emerald ring which will always be a very nice memento our time in emerald-mining Colombia - we enjoyed a yummy breakfast. The non-egg-eating 1/3 of the family ate waffles while the egg-eating 2/3 of us ate the most divine breakfast sandwiches that you've really ever tasted. It was a few of my favorite things - a baguette, eggs, bacon, cheese and red peppers - all rolled into one yummy, fattening breakfast.

Then we settled in to play with our new stuff and to cook Christmas dinner. And yes, I did that in my pjs, too. I cooked a 25-pound turkey for three people. We will be eating turkey until we leave this country. And that's in another 18 months. I'm talking a.lot.of.turkey.

We sat down to our Christmas feast around 3 and in about 16 minutes, consumed a meal that took me hours to make. Sigh.

We went back to resting and watching tv and playing with our toys until we all decided around 6 that we needed to shower and put on clean pjs.

It was a great day and we hope yours was, too. For happy, stress-free holidays, I am truly thankful.

Merry Christmas from the Storys!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

‎"We aren't here to adore a baby. We are here to worship a king." - Steven Furtick (a childhood friend from Moncks Corner and now lead preacher at Elevation Church)

Click here for my favorite, non-traditional Christmas song celebrating the arrival of the King.

NYR - one week before Christmas!

What I'm thankful for this week:

12-19-11 - only 8 more work days until we leave for Hawaii.

12-20-11 - a family dinner out at Sr. Choo (remember our new favorite Chinese restaurant?). Tonight we took Mac (always a gamble with ethnic food that doesn't involve pasta) and he loved it. We got off to a great start because the first item on the appetizer menu was called "Bang Bang Chicken Wraps". Mac's "lovey" from the time he was about 1 until he was about 3 was a plastic hammer from a toolkit my sister and brother-in-law brought him as a gift when he was a baby in Mozambique. He called this hammer "Bang-Bang" and took it everywhere with us. And by "everywhere", I mean "everywhere" (literally). I remember Mac having a meltdown in an airport when a TSA agent made him give up Bang-Bang to go through the x-ray scanner - major drama. I remember leaving Bang-Bang behind in the gift shop in the zoo in Melbourne, Australia and hurriedly buying a replacement to get us through the night before our friend Jenny could go back to retrieve the hammer the next day. We have a great affinity for "Bang-Bang anything" at our house and Bang Bang Chicken Wraps at Sr. Choo did not disappoint.

12-21-11 - my book club's ornament exchange where I enjoyed the most amazing butternut-apple soup topped with fried scallions and a curried yogurt sauce. Yes, it was as delicious as it sounds. And I got an awesome globe ornament too!

12-22-11 - Two years ago, I bought a Lands End Dory jacket that I raved about. You may remember my ravings? I have worn that jacket (and washed it) so many times that I'm really surprised it's still together. I bought a supplemental (as opposed to replacement) Dory jacket a few weeks ago because it was on sale for $26 (including shipping). How can you go wrong with a $26 jacket from Lands End??? I like it a lot, but I have to tell you it's not the same jacket. They have changed the design a lot and I don't like the design or detail nearly as much. But for $26? It's a keeper.

12-23-11 - Today we got early release from the embassy for the holiday weekend. It sounds like a good behavior parole program and maybe that's sort of what it is. Regardless, I was so happy to be out of that building at 2:30. The other thing I'm thankful for is that Mac had a sleepover at our house with 2 friends and they behaved perfectly. No squabbling, no bickering, just happy play and giggling.

12-24-11 - Tonight we hosted a Christmas Eve get-together for friends here in Bogota. It was a really nice, relaxing evening of drinks and nibbles with dear sweet friends who I am so grateful to have in our lives.

NYR - two weeks before Christmas!

What I'm thankful for this week:

12-12-11 - being done with our singular Christmas arts and crafts project of the season.

12-13-11 - a great parent-teacher conference to mark the end of the first trimester. We've got a great kid.

12-14-11 - the office Christmas party out at this place in the country that was a great cultural experience for Jimmy and me. There was everything from horses (with painted rear ends) to dancing girls to bullfights (where the toreadors were volunteers from the audience)!

12-15-11 - Jimmy's participation in a "60 Minutes" interview that may come to a tv near you in a few months or may not. Stay tuned - I'll definitely keep you posted.

12-16-11 - our first Colombian novena, which is a religious "party" that's held in people's homes every night for the 9 nights before Christmas. The one we attended featured lovely readings, great spiritual meaning, delicious food, and a musician and a magician. It pretty much covered all the bases of a great party.

12-17-11 - playing tennis for the second time since October. Sigh...


12-18-11 - a day of rest.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

NYR 12-11-11 - expo artesania!

This afternoon we went to the famous Expo Artesania here in Bogota, which is held every December for 2 weeks. It's a wonderful display of the best craftsmen, furniture-makers, indigenous artisans, etc in the country. It's an amazing collection of talent, and I'm so grateful I got to experience it again.

NYR 12-10-11 - fa-la-la-la-la-la

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around these parts and for this festive air, I am truly thankful!

NYR 12-9-11 - Sr. Choo

Tonight Jimmy and I had a date night that wasn't really meant to be a date night.

We attended a work-related Christmas party briefly and then went to the newly opened Sr. Choo for some amazing Asian food.

Our normal Chinese restaurant here in town is sort of like your grandma's version of a Chinese restaurant. But Sr. Choo? Well, it's like the Chinese restaurant for the cool kids. They even have this awesome green dragon that runs the length of the restaurant's ceiling. Plus the food was excellent. A green dragon and great food? We were sold.

For great food and a great unexpected date night with my beloved, I am truly thankful.

NYR 12-8-11 - local holiday

Today was a Colombian holiday of some stripe and we decided we weren't getting out of our pajamas all day. It was a heavenly day of rest, and I, for one, am truly thankful for that!

NYR 12-7-11 - hot water bottle?

Last night Ruth watched Mac while we went to the Christmas party. When we got home, she said that he was very cold and so she made him a hot water bottle. Now Mac has a true talent for bamboozling Ruth to get more Coca Cola, to stay up later, to avoid a shower, etc. I was sure this "too cold to sleep" was yet another ruse to stay up later than bedtime.

But we don't own a hot water bottle, so I was very confused as to what she meant when she said she "made" him a hot water bottle.

Before I went to bed, I checked around his bed as best I could without waking him up to see if there was some hot water device that needed to be removed. I felt nothing so I went to bed.

This morning when I woke Mac up for school, he had a 2-liter Sprite bottle filled up with what used to be hot water stuck up under his armpit.

Ruth had literally made a hot water bottle.

Which Mac thinks is the most brilliant invention ever.

For sweet Ruth who's so clever, I am truly thankful.

NYR 12-6-11 - catching up with old friends

We've had the great pleasure of catching up with lots of old friends here in Bogota. Surprisingly, there are more people we know coming to do business here in Bogota than anywhere else we've been.

Tonight Jimmy and I scored an invitation to a very cool Christmas Party at Andres Carne de Res here in the city. A dear friend from Guadalajara days who now works for a shipping company with a huge presence in Colombia got us on the list. We felt a bit awkward because everybody at the party was either an employee or customer, but we can pretend with the best of them. And they were expecting 180 people so what's 2 more?

We had our photo taken by the official photographer of the event, which I include here (but to protect the innocent employees and customers, I've cut that other guy in the photo out).

For a nice date night out at Andres and a chance to see an old friend, I am truly thankful.

NYR 12-5-11 - here comes the sun...

After a lot of rain here in the BOG, I am truly thankful for this view from our balcony:

NYR 12-4-11- Mac's 9th Birthday Party

Because of scheduling conflicts and the Thanksgiving holiday, we finally hosted Mac's 9th birthday party today.

And boy, was it an ordeal.

Mac wanted a sleepover (Plan A), but because of all these scheduling conflicts, it would have been impossible to have the sleepover until the Christmas holidays, which seemed a long time away for a November 20th birthday.

So then he thought a movie date (Plan B) would be fun. The problem is that most children's movies here are not English-language, but rather are dubbed in Spanish. We knew that "Arthur Christmas" was coming out on December 2 and we only needed to find out whether it was in English because that's the movie Mac really wanted to see. I called the theater a week ahead of time but they said they wouldn't know if it would play in English until Thursday, December 1. No need for advance planning, ladies and gentlemen.

When I called the theater on Thursday, they said the moving wasn't playing in English but we could certainly come to see "Operacion Regalo" dubbed in Spanish. We didn't want to see "Operacion Regalo". We wanted "Arthur Christmas", lady.

On to Plan C. Mac decided that riding go-carts at an amusement park near his school would be fun. So I called the amusement park on Friday, and the lady assured me they were open on Sunday from 9am-3pm. So we arranged for the 4 other boys to be here by 12:30 after church so we could take off for the park.

On Sunday morning, I decided to check the park's website for more information and there was a big notice that said the park was closed on Sunday for private parties.


Moving on to Plan D, we decided to order in KFC for lunch and have an old-fashioned playdate birthday party. Long gone are the days of my micro-planning every game, craft project, cake, etc decorated according to the party theme.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

(For the record, the cake had "Cars"-themed sprinkles to go with Plan C's go-"car"t theme. Too bad that didn't make a whole lot of sense with the in-house playdate party....)

NYR 12-3-11 - TGIS

Thank God it's Saturday because Saturdays are my new most favorite day of the week!

NYR 12-2-11 - epic failure as a working mom

Today was Mac's Christmas concert which took place as part of the school's Christmas festivities in the afternoon. Jimmy was traveling so I took off part of the afternoon so I could get out to the school by the concert's 3:30pm start time.

Normally the commute from the embassy to the school is around 45 minutes if things are moving.

Normally events at school never start on time.

Nothing worked according to "normal" today.

It was raining and it took me 75 minutes to get from the embassy to school. In the parking lot that was the highway out to school, I texted a friend to ask her if they were running on time. And they were.

It was not a good day. Sigh.

After I screeched down the school's street and parked illegally, I ran in past the school guard and into the auditorium to hear applause. Now there were a lot of performances in the concert (for two grades), so it could have been some other group but in in my heart of hearts, I knew that applause was Mac's group (a performance of "stomp" since we've given up the violin). I stood through the violins and the cellos before asking a teacher if Stomp had already occurred.

They were first.

Of course.

I was devastated. So I left the auditorium before I started crying in front of all these parents. I went to find Mac and decided I had to 'fess up. Thankfully, he wasn't upset at all with me which was great because I was plenty of upset enough for both of us.

It's days like these when I'm ready to quit work and just devote myself to full-time parenting. The old me would have been there with an hour to spare, with a fully charged videocamera and still camera. The new me can't even get there in time to find a free seat in the auditorium.

For surviving my first epic failure as a working mom - and so soon after I stated - WOW! - and for having a child gracious enough to offer forgiveness, I am truly thankful.

Monday, December 5, 2011

NYR 12-1-11 - on the road again, once again

Today I took my second work trip. Another day trip to a place much less dangerous than yesterday's trip, so I felt much more at ease.

I have zero military experience and don't think I've been on a military base but two or three times in my entire life. So two days in a row makes me feel qualified to appear in Mash should they ever bring that series back to life.

Today's trip was way more civilized; I even got lunch at the fancy military club off-base. After yesterday's lunch of one of my granola bars, a piece of fish overlooking the swimming pool seemed downright luxurious.

I took a ton of photos on the charter plane coming back so I could capture what most of this country looks like but which nobody gets to see up close. It is truly a stunning country. (Look for the rainbow photo as we entered a storm. Also look for the photo of just one example of the greenhouses that abound in this country - proof of where all your cut flowers come from!)

For the opportunity to live in such a beautiful place and to finally get to see it, I am truly thankful.

NYR 11-30-11- traveling on the job

Today I took my first work trip. It was just a day trip, but I was scared. Not scared of doing the work that was necessary on the trip, but scared of where I was going. Remember how I told you months ago that I've read the books that former hostages of the FARC have written? And how I know I'm not of the material that could be tied to a tree for years or chained to other people and marched through the jungle for weeks on end? I may or may not have been at a location where something like that could happen.

I prayed and prayed and prayed on that airplane that God would just get me in and get me back out.

Because let me tell you, I saw a whole lot of jungle out of that airplane window and not a whole lot of malls and movie theaters and McDonald's. I do love a hot french fry every now and then and I don't think you get those when you're tied to a tree for years on end. I'd packed a couple granola bars and some chocolate wafer cookies but if anything happened to me, I know I'd be a nervous eater and those provisions would disappear in about 14 seconds. All I'd have left to show for myself is some bits of granola stuck in my teeth which might provide some sort of residual nourishment.

All's well that ends well because I am obviously back safe and sound in one piece. And the place really was stunningly beautiful. If it were anywhere else, there would be tennis clubs and golf resorts and expensive weekend homes shaded by all those gorgeous palm trees.

I took just one photo today. It was on the base airstrip before we left. I thought this Adirondack-style chair made from a used pallet was very nearly the most ingenious recycling I've ever seen.

For living to tell the tale, I am truly thankful. Seriously.

NYR 11-29-11 - reliving the memories

The rain has settled into Bogota. It's chilly and rainy and pretty much miserable all the time. Actually that's not true. There are a few hours of beautiful sunshine that lull you into thinking that the rain is ending. But then by mid- to late-morning, the clouds roll in and the rain starts. And the rain stays. And it's not pretty. We're talking pajama-wearing, on-the-couch watching Food Network, eating bonbons while you bulk up for a long winter's nap kind of weather.

I didn't take many photos when I was in DC for my training but I was just looking through the ones I did take, which happened to be on the most magnificent fall day that you can imagine. Blue skies, crisp air and beautiful, fresh air.

For the ability to experience this truly fabulous display of Mother Nature the first time and to re-experience it with photos during these dismal days of Bogotano winter, I am truly thankful.

NYR 11-28-11 - tae kwon do

Mac practices tae kwon do after school one day a week. He took it for one term last year and is now on his second term this year. He seems to be embracing it much more this year than last.

Today he moved up to another belt AND he broke a board in half. Pretty much a banner day all the way around.

As a side note, he and Jimmy practice their moves a lot around the house. Jimmy has never had any training in the discipline of tae kwon do or any martial art as far as I know. He practices a self-taught, Berkeley-County style of "martial art" which involves a lot of "hi-yah" utterances and redneck fighting.

Apparently Mac tried one of his father's moves at tae kwon do today and he was informed that particular maneuver was not allowed. Yet another example where the teaching should really be left to the experts. Thank goodness Mac had already gotten the new belt before the Kung Fu Panda struck.

For new belts and broken boards, I am truly thankful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NYR - Thanksgiving Week

11-21-11: Today was my first day back at work after my 4-week training and my first day as a warranted contract officer, meaning I can obligate the US government to contracts. Y.I.K.E.S. I hope I don't end up in jail. If I do, it will be for something so unintentional that I'll cry everyday I sit in jail. For having a job for which there's a remote chance of going to jail, I (guess I) am thankful.

11-22-11: Today one of our oldest childhood friends Heidi and her husband Kevin arrived to spend Thanksgiving in Bogota. I love old friends because you don't have to put on airs or pretend that something is what it isn't. I am most truly thankful that Heidi and Kevin chose to spend Thanksgiving with us.

11-23-11: Today one of Jimmy's colleagues and friends from Afghanistan and his wife arrived to spend Thanksgiving in Bogota. Mike and Marcy had taken a very cool trip to Antarctica - they camped on Antarctica one night (as in on the ice, in a tent, on Antarctica) - and then stopped in Buenos Aires for a few days before joining us in Bogota for a couple nights. For the gift of new friendships, I am truly thankful.

11-24-11: My Facebook Thanksgiving post:

Today I am grateful that we get to celebrate Thanksgiving with our houseguests, including Jimmy's mom, one of our longest-term (so as to not use the term "oldest") friends Heidi Acker and her husband Kevin, and Jimmy's friend and his wife from Afghanistan days as well as friends in Bogota who hail from the US, Italy, Scotland, England and Australia. My life is rich in blessings and I count them today and everyday. Happy Thanksgiving to the rest of our friends and family, no matter where you eat your turkey today.
- November 24 at 11:51am near Bogotá

11-25-11: Today I went back to work and Jimmy was tasked (I use that in the nicest possible way) with taking our guests around. For many, many years, I have been the tour guide in our family when people came to visit. Turnabout is fair play and for that, I am truly thankful!

11-26-11: Today we introduced our guests to the fabulous Andres Carne de Res out in Chia. I will post some photos later so you can live vicariously. I promise if you come to see us, we'll take you there, too! For the wonderful, wacky Andres, I am truly thankful.

11-27-11: Today I got my house back in order. After being away for 4 weeks and letting things go for the week I've been back, things aren't where or how I want them to be. I love, crave, need, desire order and this exercise made me feel better. For that, I am truly thankful.