Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cultura Overload

Otherwise known as Pu Dances the Tinikling and Goes to Church.

I have been meaning to post about the SLS Fair that occurred, oh, maybe a month ago, but I just kept forgetting to get permission from my teachers & classmate to post pics. One of my friends in Hindi posted a video about their class cultural experience, which inspired me to get off my ass and make this post! The SLS Fair gives our FSI instructors an opportunity to share their different cultures with each other. Students don't usually participate, but the Tagalog section is so tiny that our instructors asked if we might help out. First they taught us about two different Philippine holidays, the Flores de Mayo and the Ati-Atihan Festival, that we would be representing. Then we got all Imeldific! L & I got to rock some sparkly gowns, heels, tiaras, and sashes as Philippine beauty queens, but the real fun came when we learned and then got the chance to to teach people how to dance the Tinikling. My teachers made it look incredibly easy and graceful, but, to me, it was like jumping double dutch for two straight hours. I was so gross and sweaty by the end of it! On the plus side, we were by far the most popular booth at the fair. L & I posed for pictures, enticed people to come dance the Tinikling and try on traditional costumes, we played music, and generally had a blast. There was a booth next to us from a different part of the world (we'll be ultra-diplomatic and leave out said country's name) and man were they pissed! They kept complaining about how noisy we were being, and how we kept getting in their space, blah blah blah. As they sat there stone-faced and pouting, I couldn't help thinking how happy I am that we are headed to the Philippines! After having spent so many years not being represented (for a long time the Tagalog section only had 1 teacher, so there was no opportunity for her to participate), my teachers were so proud to have the Philippines be represented so well. Plus it was a total blast (and I got a good workout in!).

Teacher G and Language Supervisor M show off the traditional Ati-Atihan costume

L posing in front of the Philippines booth

Teacher G & I in front of our booth

Teacher S strikes a mean Tinikling

Three lovely Philippine ladies taking a break from dancing

This last week we did something on the opposite end of the spectrum and attended the first night of Simbang Gabi with my teacher. The Mass ended up being in English since the priest was not Philippino, but all of the songs were in Tagalog and we got to converse with people after the service while eating a traditional Philippine breakfast (lost of simple carbs and chicken soup!). The only negative was that we had to get up at 4am to make the 5am service. Mercifully, our teachers took pity on us and let us out of class early to make up for the fact that we started our day so early. This was a big plus for me since the other item on my agenda for the day was to get off my ass and haul the family downtown to get our diplomatic passports. I will post about this journey separately since it was truly its own adventure!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


You would think now that my Masters program is finally over (FINALLY!!!) I would actually spend some time updating my blog. Oh you silly readers. Actually a little over a week ago I began suffering from the worst bout of insomnia I've ever had. I've always been prone to periods of insomnia for as long as I can remember. I have these weird memories of childhood nights spent listening to a self-hypnosis cassette tape meant to help me visualize my way to sleep. I can also remember hearing the click of the cassette as the tape ended, lol. As I've gotten older I've recognized that usually these patterns develop during times of high stress, and they usually last for about 3-4 days or until I pass out from lack of sleep (because, as with everything in my life, we don't half-ass things here at Pu's Corner, if I have insomnia it means I don't sleep at all). This last bout, however, seems to be unending. It started the last week of my Master's Program (and the week following my incredibly poor performance during my 1st Tagalog assessment), so I thought once I finished up with school that it would clear up. Alas I think I totally fucked myself up in the head because I have not been able to sleep for almost 2 weeks now.

You would think at some point a person would just keel over from lack of sleep, but apparently you can just keep on functioning. Husband eventually dragged me to the doctor after my own attempts to self-drug did not work (I tried Tylenol PM, Melatonin, and even NyQuil). The doctor prescribed me Ambien, which helped give me a few hours of sleep, but I would still wake up at about 3-4am and then be wide awake until my alarm went off. So I went to see a sleep specialist, who basically told me there's nothing wrong with me (physically) and then gave me some Ambien CR, which is supposed to last longer but ended up acting just like the regular Ambien. I finally got fed up and combined a double of dose of Ambien with some alcohol, which is not particularly safe or healthy, but it did work. I slept from 10pm to 8am this morning. I have never been so happy! Hopefully this will kick my body into gear and get me over this mental block against sleep. I guess we'll find out tonight!

Monday, December 05, 2011

One More Week, One More Week, One More Week

That is the manta I am currently clinging to anyway. Just one last week of dual school before I am so donesies with my MS, and I cannot freaking wait! I foresee many a Tagalog flashcard in my future!!

Anyway, its been a while since I posted any recipes, and the seasons are a changin'. So here's a few of the most popular recipes we've been chomping lately. The key to making these recipes is to use minimal effort and time to come up with the best results possible!

Skillet Roasted Chicken

4-6 boneless chicken breasts
kosher salt
juice from 1 lemon

Salt and pepper the chicken to taste and add squeezes of lemon over top. Heat a large non-stick, oven-ready skillet over medium heat and brown the chicken breasts on both sides. Toss those suckers in the oven at 400 degrees for about 5-8 min (depends on the thickness of the chicken). Seriously, that's it.

Roasted Winter Veggies

1-2 diced sweet potatos
2 diced parsnips
1 peeled head of garlic
1 medium yellow onion
Spice Mix - paprika, New Mexican chile powder (or whatever kind ya got), cumin, pepper, and kosher salt*
1-2 tbsp olive oil

Combine the veggies in a large glass pan. Add the spice mix and oil, and toss that shit til every bit o' veggie is covered. Roast veggies uncovered at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until the veggies are nice and tender.

Of course you can make this with whatever veggies you prefer. We usually just combine whatever looks best at the market. Turnips, shallots, carrots, butternut squash, and various kinds of mushrooms have all made appearances  in the past with great success.

Hint: Chopping your veggies into like-size pieces will give you the best result since everything will cook evenly.

Homemade Applesauce

8-10 Honeycrisp Apples**
1/2 cup sucanet
1- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup water
1-2 tbsp cinnamon

Peel & core the apples, and add them to a large pot. Add the other ingredients to the pot and bring everything to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20min (you can use a fork to check the done-ness of the apples). Now that your apples are soft you can either use an immersion blender or I prefer the old fashioned method of using a potato masher to smash my apples because it results in a much chunkier sauce. This recipe is so versatile. You can eat it warm right out of the pot as a dessert, chill it and it eat as regular old applesauce, or you can use it as a topping for waffles or pancakes (you may wish to add more water to make it thinner if you want to use it more like a syrup).

Apple Yogurt

1/4-1/3 cup Homemade Applesauce (see above)
1 cup 0% plain greek yogurt
Sprinkle of raisins
Sprinkle of chopped nuts

Mix that shit up and dig in! Sometimes I even add a little extra cinnamon or swap out the nuts for some Bare Naked Fit granola if I'm craving more crunch. Tastes like fall :)

*I specifically left out amounts on the spice mixture because I like my veggies pretty spicy, so you can choose to add whatever amount of paprika and chile powder you please to achieve the taste you prefer.

**You can use any variety you wish, but I like to use apples that are naturally quite sweet so that I don't need to add much sweetener.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Hockey Man

In addition to cheering C on the volleyball court*, we are hard core hockey parents. Of course since our son is only 4 and just learning to skate, yelling at him to body check the other kids is generally frowned upon. Stupid other parents. So we started him in individual lessons so that he really focus on learning how to throw a good right hook. Today we realized our lessons had really been driven home when A took a face plant on the ice and promptly started bleeding profusely from his mouth and nose. Some pussy bystanders expressed concern, and they even made everyone clear the ice so they could clean it up and examine him (it was really a decent amount of blood). A, however, thought it was all quite hilarious.** His brave face earned a high five from some of the Capitols (yeah, the Washington Capitols!) who were passing through on their way to their practice rink, who told him to "stay strong, little man." They were not as enamored with his penguin hat, however. I guess we were lucky he wasn't wearing any of his Sabres gear!

* Had our 1st parent meeting on Tuesday night. The girls will have a clinic to focus on particular skills on Saturdays and them practice only 2x a week, on Wed nights and Sunday afternoons. Yeah, guess who's going to be missing all of the 2nd halves for the rest of the year :( Well, at least this means the Bills might actually win some games since I won't be around to screw it up for them!

**At the moment...later he really played it up for the some cuddles and the all important candy!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Pun intended. We've got five of 'em here and, boy, can they eat! Anyway, here's some pics of their Turkey Day feast. I was going to do a post about how football broke up with me (and it was a bad break-up, too, none of this let's be friends bullshit), but then the Bills had to go and put up a decent showing today (oh, don't worry, we still lost, but at least we made it a fight). So now, I'm confused. Does football like me or not? Check yes or no. I think I'm going to lose in both of my fantasy leagues, so I'm leaning towards the "no" box.

Gobblins Being Forced to Make Stuffing

Believe it or not this is the best picture I could get of all 5 Gobblins

Yes, this was a child's plate

Let's dig in!

Oh, yeah, we also braved Black Friday* and made a side trip to Santa's lap

*Okay, so technically it was Black Saturday since I had to work on Friday to avoid losing per diem. Long story but basically if you take leave while staying at Oakwood you not only lose per diem for the day, you also have to pay the daily Oakwood rate (meaning I would be out around $200 for just one day of leave). Since I'm already going to be shelling out a small fortune just to go home for X-Mas, I just wasn't willing to do it for a day when I was here in town. On the plus side, FSI was completely empty and finding a computer was a breeze!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oh to be Twelve Again

Has anyone in the history of the world ever uttered those words? I think the middle school years are best forgotten for most of us, and my poor C is in the very midst of them. We are struggling with school issues, truth issues, friend issues, attitude issues, and she's one of the good ones!! I think the biggest problem is that her keen intelligence far outweighs her complete lack of common sense. Unfortunately I don't think those two trajectories even out until sometime in your late-twenties to early-thirties. As I understand it, these issues are all par for the course for this age, so I am completely baffled as to how the human race has managed to survive all these years.

In the very good new column, C tried out for and made the volleyball team. This is club volleyball (meaning I get to pay for the privilege, lol). There were many girls who tried out, so when the coach called and said C was one of the solid nine to make the team (there will be 12 girls total on the team) she was very proud. We are very proud of her! Last year was tough because it was her 1st year playing, and volleyball is huge (!!) in FL, so she was on a very competitive team playing with girls who had a lot more experience than her. That meant we ended up investing a lot of time (1 1/2 hours driving 3x/week to practice, plus all-weekend tournaments every other weekend) just to watch her ride the bench for most of the season. I think learning to play at that level has really benefited her, and now she is one of the more experienced and knowledgeable players, so she'll really have a chance to shine this season. The international schools in Manila also offer volleyball, so this is something she'll be able to continue throughout the upheaval of moving again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day

Happy, happy day to all my friends and family who have served (even if it was only in Alabama ;) Having an all-volunteer force makes the sacrifices we are willing to make just that much more special. Much love and thanks to all of you!! To celebrate this special day, my kids made me a special breakfast:

The plate is divided into the five food groups: Crackers, Cheesy Crackers, Cheesy Poofs, Cookies, and Yogurt

The proud chef poses next to her creation:

And, yes, that is strawberry milk in the glass. Go ahead, be jealous ;) 

Oh, and for those who inquired, Delgado is home and doing fine. In fact he is up and walking around with no issues as all. The incision doesn't look anywhere near as bad as I thought it might, and he doesn't even seem to notice that he's missing a leg! He's moving around with much more ease, trying to chase after the cat, and moping because of the Elizabethan collar he's forced to wear while the stitches heal. He goes back in two weeks to have the sutures removed and, with any luck, once those come off we'll finally be able to have the normal family dog experience we've been wanting (long walks, dog park visits, etc.). 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Suck Day

We took Delgado in for his surgery today. Up 'til now I have been very pragmatic about the whole thing. After all there is nothing we can do now but move forward and do what is best for him. But I couldn't help getting a little choked up this morning as we dropped him off at the vet's. He has been very subdued for the last day or so, as if he knew something was up, and I felt so sad watching him trot off knowing that in a few hours he would be a very different dog. We got a call this afternoon that the surgery went very well, and Delgado is already recovering nicely. He'll stay at the vet's tonight for observation and then we can go pick him up tomorrow. I know everything is going to be fine and now he'll be able to move and grow like a normal dog instead of dragging around that useless limb, but I have still felt like crying all day. This day just sort of sucks.

Monday, November 07, 2011

It's Not You, It's Me

My streak of attending horrific football games where we not only lose but lose badly continues! I have been witness to the Bills losing to Arizona after they went 4-0 in 2008*, and losing to Miami after Miami had an 0-16 season, among other notable loser games. And now I can add our utter and depressing defeat to the despised NY Jets, in our own house none the less! After all the talk I've heard about what an awesome stadium the Ralph Wilson is (and it is), how rowdy and crazy the fans get, etc. it was such a let down to have the Jets just walk all over us and suck the life out of that stadium from the very first drive of the game. I was extra sad because we had the choice of attending this game or the one against the Pats in Week 3 (you remember, the one where we came from 2 touchdowns down to actually best the Pats for the 1st time in 8 seasons) and this one. I chose poorly :(

I'm beginning to think it's just me. I must be some sort of bad luck charm. Husband has also commented on this, that my presence seems to inspire teams to play poorly (I have this affect on the Sabres, as well). Am I doomed to never witness one of my teams win?? Well, here's some pics of happier times:

Look how cute and hopeful I appear in front of the Ralph

The game hasn't started yet, smiles still on our faces


*We started the season 4-0, then our ex-QB got sacked by the AZ defense who gave him a concussion and knocked him out of the game, then he ended up sucking after that and we finished the season something like 7-9.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Before you ask, he was Yoshi not a frog or a turtle! Clearly people are not up to date on their Super Mario these days!

We also had a leopard...

But, no C this year. She lost trick-or-treating due to a series of unfortunate events involving undone homework and the truth (or lack thereof). She decided she was too old for it this year anyway.

This one was an actual turtle*

* Unfortunately the turtle face wouldn't fit over his crazy big German Shepherd ears!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Dogs of Our Lives

Oh how the dog drama continues! I wish it were only as exciting as a previously unknown twin returning from the dead or a doggie wedding busted up by a jealous bride, but unfortunately our dog drama is a lot more painful and a lot less exciting. After four months of dog ownership, 3 1/2 have consisted of broken limb issues, casts, and physical therapy.* Delgado had his cast on for about 4 weeks, meaning the cast has actually been off longer now than it was on in the first place, yet he still does not use the leg at all.

Doggie Saga Part 1: After the first couple of days post-cast removal, we called the vet's office (hereafter referred to as the Surgeon's office because that is their specialty, they do not do general veterinary work) because we were concerned about the lack of use. We wanted to know if we should start him on physical therapy (thank you, inerwebs), and they assured us that this was normal and we shouldn't worry about it and that physical therapy was not usually needed for puppies so young. This sequence repeated itself for about 3 weeks until Husband took the dog into his regular vet for a routine check-up (shots, getting his chip put in, etc.) and she completely freaked out and said that this was in no way normal and we needed to take him back into the other vet pronto. In fact, she even called the other vet's office and complained for us, stating how serious the situation seemed to be. Husband received a personal call shortly thereafter from the head vet of the Surgeon's office. He listened to Husband's concerns, and scheduled an appt to bring in Delgado the following day.

Doggie Saga Part 2: Husband takes Delagdo into the Surgeon's office, and the head vet acknowledges that something is really wrong with Delgado's leg. It has not healed properly, and the joints do no not bend to any degree of normalcy (about 10-15% range of motion). He basically drags the rear leg around behind him like it is dead weight. So he refers Husband to an in-house physical therapist to start working with Delgado on a regular basis. Husband innocently asks whether this problem could have been avoided if we had just started him on physical therapy right away, and the head vet gets very upset. They end up having a small altercation where Husband basically says it was the vet's office reassurances that nothing was wrong that prevented us from seeking help earlier, and the vet mutters something about how we could have made an appointment any time we wanted and leaves the room while Husband is still talking. Needless to say, Husband was extremely pissed, and wanted to go to a lawyer right away to see about potential malpractice since we were then looking at many months of intensive physical therapy (which is not cheap!) from a simple tibial fracture. Husband was able to negotiate free access to physical therapy and so he next chapter began...

Doggie Saga Part 3: We begin doggie physical therapy, which consisted of 2x appointments per week and daily therapy at home 2-3x per day where we stretched and contracted the joints. Delgado hated it (yelped and tried to bite), and it didn't seem to help improve use of the leg at all. We were able to get his range of motion o improve a bit (15-20%), but he still dragged the leg behind him as if it were a dead weight. After a few more weeks, we were starting to get desperate. Husband even researched and made appointments with doggie alternative medicine providers (acupuncture for dogs!). I suggested that we make another appointment with the vet and/or physical therapist to figure out why Delagdo was refusing to put any weight on the leg or use it in a meaningful manner. So that is what we did on Thursday. We went back to the Surgeon's office (different vet, same practice), who noticed right away that there was something wrong with Delgado's hip in addition to his knee problem. They decided to do a new set of full x-rays to identify what the issue was and whether or not it would be fixable. He took a long time to explain what hip issues mean for dogs in general, and especially for German Shepherds, which are prone to hip issues as a breed. He also explained that having 2 joints (maybe 3, although he thought the ankle problems may just have been a continuation from the other two joint issues) have major issues meant that even surgical intervention had a low probablity of making the leg into a usable limb, especially in a puppy so young who would continue to grow (and potentially outgrow any surgical solution put in place). After several hours of waiting and worrying, we got the news I suspected after the vet's earlier long explanation. The leg is not salvageable, and amputation is the most humane solution for us at this point. Surgery has a less than 10% chance of working just on the hip joint, and they have no idea how it would affect the issues with the knee joint, so it would likely be a lot of $ and time (recovery, physical therapy) thrown down the drain only to find out that we would need to amputate anyway. If we leave the leg on as-is, it is having a negative affect on the healthy leg, which is overcompensating and being pulled out of socket because of the weight and angle of the dragging leg. So then you end up with 2 fucked up legs. So, Delgado is scheduled for amputation surgery on November 9th.

I am feeling very zen about the whole thing. I have seen tripods before (as they are known) and they are able to function just as any four-legged dog would do. Dogs do not have the same hang ups about their bodies as humans do, Delagdo will never know that he is different from other dogs, and since he is so young, he may not ever remember life with 4 legs. He will adapt quickly and be much happier to be without pain. Husband, on the other hand, is just furious. How do you go from a simple tibial fracture to needing amputation. In the vet's own words, he has never seen anything like this. It is just a freak occurrence. I do think the Surgeon's office feels some culpability because our visits and the x-rays have all been comped. I did bring up the cost of the surgery (about $3,000 + post op visits, suture changes, etc.) and how we felt in, in no uncertain terms, that this all might have been avoided at some point along the journey if we #1 hadn't been discouraged from coming in, #2 were continually assured that nothing was wrong, #3 neither the 1st vet nor the physical therapist noticed there was anything wrong with the hip...all of which leads me to believe that the Surgeon's office must be concerned that we have a pretty strong case for malpractice. Either way, husband is devastated that our beautiful, perfect family pet will now have to live his life as an amputee. I think Husband is projecting some personified feelings onto Delgado. As I mentioned, dogs aren't like people. he isn't going to walk by as other dogs whisper and wonder about his missing leg. He'll just be another dog to them. And, he'll be able to function just as a normal, four-legged dog will. So, in the long run, this is the most humane decision to make. What is the point of letting him drag around a diseased, non-working leg that isn't doing anything but impede his development? The whole things is just a set of freak circumstances. No one gets a dog thinking, gosh I hope something happens so that I can amputate one of his legs, but what happened, happened, and there really isn't anything we can do about it. The sooner we accept that and move on, the happier we will all be.

Oh, and 2 of 3 kids have strep throat, Husband is still sick (he was diagnosed with pneumonia a few weeks ago but finished the medicine and yet the cough has not gone away), and I've got some sort of mild cold that is annoying the shit out of me! Sept/Oct has been the rainiest by far the NoVa has seen in who knows how many years (J has literally had about 3 practices and 3 games all soccer season since everything else has been rained out). Today it is literally snowing (slushing, really)!! Fall has not been the best of seasons for us this year!

*Add that one to the things I never thought I'd have to say, "Sorry, I can't go, my dog has a physical therapy appointment."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yet Another Cop Out Post

I love posting pictures. It prevents me from having to come up with ever more creative excuses for not updating my blog, lol!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Falls Church Farm Day!

Pony rides, petting farms, pumpkin painting, and bees, oh my!

Monday, October 10, 2011


Alas, I have let this whole 3-day weekend getaway from me (happy dance for being back with the federal government, who are the only ones besides school children who still get Columbus Day off!). I spent a whole day and half not studying at all! In case I have not mentioned it lately, if you are thinking about joining the Foreign Service while still pursuing other studies...don't! The overkill of constant studying is really taking a toll.  There is absolutely no break for me, and I feel as though I could be progressing much faster in language if I wasn't so encumbered by my Masters coursework. In my case, the money was already sunk, and I only have my Master's capstone after this last class finishes up in a couple of weeks, so it is worth it to see it out, even if it does mean that I am losing some of my hair (if hair meant sanity). Anyway, that was a very long explanation for why I don't have anything to blog about! I promise to post some pics of our trip to Falls Church's Farm Day 2011, but in the mean time here are some freebies I've been storing up to tide you over (and/or distract you from sending me nasty e-mails ;)

This interview* is with three foreign service officers and talks mostly about the changes in the service post-9/11. You can either listen to the broadcast or read the transcript.

For those with special needs children, someone on the FS Special Needs board recently posted a link to the 2011 Special Education Needs Seminar videos. This is a really fabulous resource with information on how to navigate the system, help in planning moves overseas, allowances, researching posts, and just pretty much anything you might want to know as a FS parent of a special needs child.

Free yoga! **

*Amb Munter came and spoke with my A-100 class, and he was such an awesome speaker! 
** Disclaimer - I have never actually used this site, it was just forwarded to me by a friend. So I can't vouch for how good any of these videos are!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Putting the Minions to Work

And making them think it is fun! Apple picking works even better than corn shucking :)

 It was cold out there!

...and the bonus was the pick your own pumpkin patch :)

A pumpkin patch that grew pumpkin trucks...I wonder where they get the seeds for those?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Klase ng Pornographica

So maybe I got a leetle bit carried away yesterday...maybe...probably not. I mean this was monumental. Four interceptions of Tom Brady (matching the # of interceptions he had all of last year!), overcoming a 21-0 deficit, putting an end to the 15-0 winning streak the Pats have had over the Bills (it has been 8 years since the Bills have beat the Pats), being #1 in the division since god know when! This was a big fucking deal!! What are we going to do without football in the Philippines!!??

Okay, enough about football (at least until the Redskins beat the Cowboys tonight, yeah!). Language continues to struggle along...or, I continue to struggle along in language :) Some days are good Tagalog days and others, well, not so much. Today was a good Tagalog day. We had a couple of officers who just came from Manila come and talk to us about life and work at the Embassy. It was really nice of them to take the time out of their days to come and talk with us, and it was fantastic to get some perspective on what it's like for an ELO (entry level officer) as well as what it's like for families. This week my kaklase (classmate) has a language test in another language (she speaks like 5, she is crazy amazing!) so it will just be me for two hours for some 1-1...not sure how I feel about that. It is difficult being in such a small class because there is absolutely no break (as in, you can't take a minute to just absorb because it is always your turn to speak or translate!). Now I'll get to find out what it's like to be a single student. Hopefully my head doesn't explode. I don't think the custodial personnel would appreciate that very much.

In other Tagalog news, my teacher is totally awesome. She has reached a certain age - the age at which you no longer give a fuck what anyone thinks. She loves to make jokes and just laugh and laugh, which is awesome because that is what I like to do :) She also likes to tell dirty jokes, which is hilarious. L & I have been making jokes because I make stupid, crazy sentences with the limited vocabulary I have. We recently learned the word for snake, so I have been making sentences like: the fat, gluttonous snakes who live near the back of the church, or the dirty snakes who smell bad that are located on top of the clean stove. Well, I guess snakes is also a euphemism for penis because on Friday our instructor asked what my deal was with snakes (in slightly different language), and we tried to explain the humor in making these inane, ridiculous sentences. Apparently humor doesn't really translate because she thought we were giggling over making sentences about penises and promptly pronounced us to be the "Pornographic Class" !!*

* incidentally, I now know the words for penis and pornography in Tagalog...adding these to the other dirty words I have picked up so far should make me a popular figure in Manila! ;) 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Who's # 1??!!

The fucking Buffalo Bills, bitches, that's who!!!!!!!!

3-0 and our 1st win over the Pats in 15 games feels sooo good! Husband and I went to a Bills Backers bar in DC to watch the game, and it was fucking in.sane, ya'll, in-fucking-sane! Watching Brady cry, piss, and moan in his post-game interview was just the icing on the cake.

GO BILLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

School Daze

I know posting has been slow lately, but I promise that I really do have a good excuse this time. It's back to school season! This year we've decided that it is so exciting everyone is joining in. The kids started back to school on the 6th, and I started language training the same day. Husband and I are also back to our various other educational pursuits. After a couple weeks of summer break, I am back to my Masters degree (I graduate in Dec, yay!) while Husband is pursuing a post-grad certificate program in IT program management since he may as well put the rest of his GI Bill to good use!* Husband also starts ConGen on Monday. This is the same course that I just finished which is required to get your consular commission. As an EFM (eligible family member, which is what we call all family members listed officially on one's orders), Husband will not be eligible to adjudicate visas like an FSO, but there are many other jobs in the consular section for which a cleared American is needed. Manila is a rather large post and there are many jobs available for EFMs that pay on the US pay schedule. After looking into jobs on the Philippine economy, Husband has decided that it would probably be better to pursue employment at the Embassy and earn a decent wage rather than try to put his MBA to use and make very little.

Now that school has been in session for a couple of weeks, I can report that all children seem to be doing quite well...thriving even. I was concerned, especially for C, that the change from small private school to large public school would be a difficult adjustment, but my children constantly amaze me with their incredible resilience. C is absolutely loving her new school. She has made lots of friends, joined the morning announcements team, and her favorite class is FACS (I forget what it stands for, but it is apparently the new, PC term for Home Ec) where she gets to cook! J is also enjoying school, and she recently started soccer. Today was her 1st game. I was a little worried how she was feeling about the whole thing because we discovered at practice that she is not only the only new child (all the other children played together last year), she was also 1 of only 2 girls on the team! J is more than a bit shy, and at practice one of the rambunctious boys kicked her soccer ball away from her and the look on her face just broke my heart. At first J mostly stood around on the field, but after a couple of quarters and some encouragement from her parents and coaches (who are really wonderful) she started running around after the ball just like the other kids. She even kicked a few times! I was very, very proud of her. A seems to be flourishing in pre-K. His teacher is very sweet, and although A is not quite over his shyness, he is doing well. A will be starting ice skating lessons in Oct (NHL here we come!).

As for me, well, language training is not quite what I expected. I am in a class of two...actually, I am in a department of two! L and I make up the entire Tagalog language department at FSI :) Fortunately, L is an awesome girl, and it has been a very bonding experience so far. I imagine we will be very close by the end of the course as we have nothing but each other to talk about during class :) Another benefit to being in such a small class is that we got to set our own schedule. Generally language classes at FSI are either in the morning (0740 - 1440, 5 hours of classroom instruction and two hours allotted for language lab) or in the afternoon (1040 - 1640). Since it is just L and I, we requested to have class from 0740-1240 with no break for language lab so that we would be free to do it at our leisure. This way I will always be home to pick up the kids from school, even on Wed when they have early release. It is really a great schedule! As for the course itself, let me start by saying if my teachers are representative of the Philippines, I think I am really going to like it there. They are such a warm people, and they love to laugh! Just like me! :) As for the course itself, well, it has been an interesting experience so far. Tagalog is a very unique language. It is of Malay origin, but it has been heaving influenced by Spanish and English, so it is really a bundle of contradictions and lack of rules. On top of that our instructors, as wonderful as they are, are not teachers by profession, so it has been a struggle to understand some of the madness behind their methods. We had little structure to our days, no drills, no grammar, no homework. I actually became quite jealous of my friends in Hindi and Chinese who had hours of class devoted to grammar, pronunciation drills, etc. It had gotten so bad that on Thursday L & I met with the head of of the SE Asia Maritime Dept (who also happens to be a Tagalog speaker and has a PhD in second language acquisition). She was very understanding and seemed to be expecting some of our feedback.  I don't know what she said to our instructors but yesterday was like a brand new class. It was a good Tagalog day! I am also amazed at how much we have learned so far. We have only been in class for two weeks, and we are already having small, halting conversations. It boggle the mind to think of how far we will have advanced by the time we leave next year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Living in VA has reminded me of my desire to never live or work in the DC area. Between the multiple natural disasters (including the last week of non-stop rain that caused flash floods and tornadoes), the incredibly rude people (perhaps we have just become accustomed to the friendliness of the South and Southwest?), and the ridiculous cost of living here, I am more determined than ever that we will spend the vast majority of our career overseas. However, there have been some incredible high points to living here. I blogged about experiencing 4th of July in our nation's capitol, and being here for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is right up there with it. 

I was in the process of transitioning from active duty to ROTC when 9/11 happened. I had flown into Seattle on the 9th and was staying with my friend A while I apartment hunted and got registered for school. My ex and C were staying with relatives in Idaho and were supposed to fly in on the 11th. My friend A and I were at her friend's apartment when the news reported the 1st plane crash. I remember talking to my dad on the phone and trying to make some sense of what was happening, watching the fuzzy picture on this friend of a friend's small television on a disconcertingly beautiful fall day, but I don't have a whole lot of concrete memories of what I did for the rest of that day. I know the ex and C's flight was delayed since everything we grounded, and they didn't arrive until two days later. I know that I felt sick to my stomach that something like this could happen here, and I knew that nothing would ever be the same. I think if you asked any American where they were when the planes hit we would all have some rather distinct memory. They might be as vague as my memory of staring at strange pixelations on an old tv set, searching the channels for coverage that would help us make some sense of what was happening. It's not so much the memory of what I was doing that stands out to me as he memory of how I felt. I remember distinctly the sense of disbelief and dread when we learned of the attack on the Pentagon. To me, even more than the 2nd tower crash, that signified that this could not be interpreted as anything other than a serious violent attack on the U.S. 

It's hard to explain to people who joined the military or the intel field post-9/11 (as many did) the difference between what it was like before and after. It was not the same experience. When I joined the AF in the 90's most people came in to get their education (GI Bill), to escape a bad situation, or to learn a skill. We had a decent operational tempo (after all there were still tings like Kosovo, EP-3 crashes, stand-offs in the Taiwan Strait, etc. to worry about), but the difference was that feeling of security. I can't put into words the changes that I saw over the years, some were quite sudden and jarring and some were so gradual it's hard to say when  they changed at all. Of course, there are many things I expected to change that have never changed at all (thus my distaste for serving in Washington). All I can say is that to serve today is very different than it was to serve 10 years ago, and I am proud to have served my country in as many capacities as I have. I myself joined the military to go to college. I ended up loving active duty, oh how I needed the structure, and was awarded a scholarship to ROTC through the AECP program. I commissioned as an officer post-9/11 and rejoined a service changed by experience and by declaration of war. I also left active duty for the same reason some years later when the deployment tempo simply became too much for our family, and I was unwilling to leave three small children behind to go to Afghanistan for a year supplementing the Army. But, I can reflect upon how the wars were managed (or mis-managed in some cases) in another post. I would rather you take this time to read this article and reflect on how 9/11 affected your life. 

So to my foreign service colleagues, military counterparts, intel professionals, and our civilian equivalents: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Americans feel safe again because they have no idea what you do on a daily basis to keep them safe. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Are You Ready for Some Yoga?

While the end of August/beginning of September brings with it pre-season football and fantasy drafts (only doing two leagues this year, but I still ended up with several of the same picks - Arian Foster better be a beast this year or I am screwed!), September is also known for being National Yoga Month. I hearts me some yoga! Yoga has innumerable physiological, physical, and psychological benefits. Personally, practicing yoga has really increased my flexibility, my mental calmness, and my physical strength (especially core strength). Because I have so little time to fit it in amongst my other fitness routines, I only do two long (60min+) yoga practices per week (although I do stretch for at least 10min after every workout). Yoga has become so popular that there are multiple online resources, no need to go to a class or purchase a DVD (unless you want to). Most are pay by month or pay by download sites, which helps if you have exercise ADD like me. Yoga Today, Yoga Vibes, Yoga Glo, Yoga Download, and My Yoga Online are all excellent sites with a variety of different types of yoga classes. Most of them have free trials so you can see if you like it before you commit to anything long term. There are even some totally free resources online like Yogis Anonymous. Many yoga instructors like Sadie Nardini and Jill Miller have their own YouTube Channels that offer several free practices, and, in honor of National Yoga Month, several different sites are offering free trials or free downloads, why not try kripalu?  

If you're not big on following along with a screen, try some MP3 downloads that simply talk you through, like Alive Yoga. It feels more like a classroom just without all of the other sweaty people in your space :) Yoga Journal and iHanuman have free podcasts for download. 

Now that I've shared all of that with you, I'm off to do my own practice for the day because after a weekend filled with school preparation and broken doggie doings, I sure need some relaxation! 

Friday, September 02, 2011

Perils in Parenting - School Version

Everyone is heading back to school next week, and it has been a pain in the ass trying to get everything ready. Since C attended private school last year, she had to take placement tests for English (reading and writing) and Math. To her great disappointment my Francophile daughter will have to endure yet another year of Spanish (what they taught at her last school) since they only offer year 2 of French for 7th graders. I did, however, attempt to ease the sting by agreeing she could take chorus instead of band this year. I think 3 years of flute is torture enough. Because we had to wait for the results of C's placement tests we weren't sure what school supplies to buy. Now that we have them, I have to head back out and brave the crowds and empty aisles trying to track down the last few items she will need for the year. I am a bit worried about how she is going to deal with going from a very small school environment to one that is not only large (there are more kids in her grade than there were in her entire school last year) but also significantly more complicated. C will have to change classes by period (Math in one room, Spanish in another, etc.) as well as by day (each day's schedule is slightly different since only some classes are 5 days per week, while others are 2 or 3 days per week), contend with actual lockers (one in the main hall and one in gym) and floors (3 of them!), and the realities of middle school fashion choices (uniforms - I miss you already!). I have a feeling the 1st couple of weeks are going to be quite a challenge as she acclimates to this new environment.

As for J, well, it has been a bit of rough going there as well. She had gone in a few weeks ago to do a reading test and based on that assessment, I learned yesterday that the school has recommended that she repeat kindergarten. Now, I was already concerned because she is not reading and I felt like she was not at the same level as C had been at that age, but her K teacher from FL seemed to think she was ready for 1st grade. So it was a bit of a blow to have my fears given some credence. J is also very young (the youngest in her class), and I am not opposed to having her be the oldest rather than the youngest in her class. Plus, I would rather she have a strong foundation now instead of perpetually being behind and playing catch up. She's too young to be stressed about school yet. So I was feeling okay with this abrupt and sudden change of plans until I ran into some friends at the school's open house later that afternoon where I learned that the school had also recommended the same thing to them except they turned it down. I was not present when J took her assessment (Husband had to take her, but he wasn't permitted in the room), but my friend S said that she felt the assessment was unfair, that the administrator had been cold and a little intimidating. It's understandable that a young, shy child might clam up and not want to answer questions in an unfamiliar and somewhat scary environment. So now I feel very conflicted. Did I make the right decision for J? I don't want her to feel bad about having to repeat a grade, but I want to make sure she has a really good foundation before we throw her into international school (which generally has even more rigorous standards than U.S. schools). All her new friends here at Oakwood FC will be going into 1st, and I wonder what they/she will think about not being together in the same grade. Did I make the right decision?

A's school entrance have also been somewhat of a nightmare. 1st we had the contention of just getting him in in the first place. Then we had to wait for all the new paperwork to get processed. So when I took in J yesterday I asked about A's class & teacher, and they didn't even have a file on him yet! School starts Tuesday!! Anyway, after some scrambling and a lot of time being sent from person to person in the school, I got word today that A will for sure be in the afternoon program, as well as am e-mail from his new teacher. They have also changed his IEP to reflect the appropriate language, hours of therapy, etc. to meet VA's requirements. He may also have to get two more shots (they never reviewed his shot records since there was no enrollment verification, so no one told me that VA has different standards for immunizations than FL). After all the issues we've faced changing from just one state to another I can only imagine the hell we're going to face when we transfer overseas.

Of course, husband is in LA right now, so I've been taking care of all this + the one-legged dog all on my own (wah, wah). I try not to let my decisions weigh too heavily on me (my thought is usually, what's done is done and you just have to move forward rather than dwelling on the past), but I can't help it when it comes to the kids. Did we do the right thing putting them back in public school (especially for C)? Did I make the right decision having J repeat kindergarten? Will A thrive in his spec ed pre-K or will the other kids need much more attention so he gets lost in the shuffle? This parenting thingy really sucks some times.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Broke Ass Pup

So, we got a dog. Husband and small Pu's have been begging for one for quite a while, but I have resisted mainly because I was wary of the great effort a puppy requires. I didn't even want to cat to begin with (he has grown on me). With five children, a husband, two jobs, and school, I just felt that taking care of a new puppy would be too much to take on. Husband was adamant that now was the perfect time since he is home full-time and would have the time to train the dog properly. Also he missed out on having pet as a child and really wants to give our children the benefit of having a dog through their formative years (and J is a huuuuuge dog lover). Thus the dog came to be. As with all new toys that come into the Pu household, the kids promptly broke it (no, seriously). So the dog that I didn't want has now come into being, cost me several thousand dollars in hospital/vet bills, and now must be carried around everywhere since he's supposed to stay off the leg. He is lucky he is so fucking cute. Seriously fucking cute.

Dog Before

Dog After

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hunkering Down

This is absolutely crazy. Irene has totally freaked out the East Coast. New York shut down its subway system for the 1st time in history in anticipation of the storm. She is just a bit south of us now and moving quickly, so I expect we'll be out of power for a couple of days based on what the news reports are saying. We've got our water, flashlights, extra food, everything is charged, etc. etc. I find it amusing that we went storm free in FL, and now that we've moved to VA we're about to get hammered, lol. Hopefully this is all for naught and all we'll get are some heavy rains. I guess we'll find out soon!

ETA: Just some strong winds and lots of rain for us. We didn't even lose cable satellite, much less power. A little anti-climatic after all the news coverage!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Having lived through earthquakes in Japan and Cali, we were unfazed by Virginia's 5.9 today. I paused, waited it out in a doorway, then continued working out*. Apparently the rest of the East Coast freaked out and evacuated. What's next, a hurricane? ... oh wait ...

We've lived through earthquakes, hurricanes and typhoons, wildfires, mud slides, blizzards, and floods...I'm beginning to think our presence may be more than a mere coincidence. Take note, Philippines!

Random Shit

A: What butts made of?
Me: Um, butts are made up of butts. What kind of question is that?
A: Butts have more butts in dem?
J: No, dummy, butts are made of poop.
Me: Seriously? Is your butt made of poop? Butts are made up of flesh. Poop comes from digesting the food you eat.
A: *horrified* Poop in you tummy??
Me: No, food goes into your tummy, which digests it and then pushes the waste down into your intestines, which eventually comes out of your butt as poop.
A: *ponders this for a bit* ...what peepee made of?
Me: I cannot believe I am having this conversation. Oh wait, this is the same little boy who told the UPS man that he eats farts. Never mind.

*One of the little known benefits of gap days at FSI - you can sleep in and work out at 1pm and still get all your work done from home!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Year of Pu

Pun intended.

Another year older, another year wiser. Well, another year older anyway. I had an awesome birthday this year. I read some trite, sentimental article in one of those parenting magazines and have since been collecting original artwork from the progeny as gifts on my special days. Soon I will have enough glitter and foam stickers to build my own rotating statue. Suck on that, Turkmenistan!

From the husband I received a day off from Mommy duties, a fabulous dinner date at Tallula, and some Bills gear to kick off the season right! But, I have to say, that this year's best gift award goes to my lil' sis and her hubby who gifted us with a new niece:

I'm still not sure if they're planning to ship her by Fed Ex or UPS. Either way, welcome to the world Lia Agnes! You have already started inconveniencing your parents by spoiling well laid birth plans. This bodes well for you. If you should need further assistance in how to become even more of a PITA, I have 3 children who would be happy to share some tips and advice. It may be a few years before you are old enough to crawl on the floor of a grocery store, but you should try it. Nothing will gross out your mother more than crawling on your belly on the floor of a store that sells raw meat and seafood. Then run into people you don't know and shout, "Now you dead! I make you a zombie! Go eat braiiiiiins!" This is just one suggestion. Congratulations A&R; welcome to parenthood!! :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Checkin' In

Just a brief post to say I'm still here! ConGen is progressing nicely (we graduate next Monday!). We've made it through Passport & Nationality, Immigrant Visas (IV), and Non-immigrant Visas (NIV), and now we are working our way through American Citizen Services (ACS). The work is incredibly diverse and interesting. I have studied everything from how to detect fraudulent documents and micro expressions to interviewing techniques. Today, for example, we role played death notifications. Not exactly light subject material but, unfortunately, a reality of our job. I continue to hear wonderful things about Manila through the grapevine and it just feeds the fire of our excitement, in spite of the fact that we won't be leaving for almost a whole year!

In other news the kids are mostly settled for school. Yesterday J went in for her reading placement test (all 1st graders must do this), and today I took C in to meet with her 7th grade school counselor who helped her pick out her schedule for the year. she'll need to come back next week for a math placement test (a reading comprehension assessment will be done for all students at the same time after the start of the school year). At her last school she took advanced math, which doesn't fit in nicely with any of the offered categories here in FC (i.e. algebra or geometry), so this test will help us figure out where she needs to be. She will also be taking chorus in place of band (I'm tired of fighting over it), continuing with Spanish (she would have preferred French, but they don't offer French A for 7th graders), and this is a civics/economics year vs. History. I'm actually okay with that as one of my biggest worries about attending international schools is the lack of U.S. history and government instruction. As for A, after a bit of a head/heart ache over transferring his IEP (no two states are the same, so they were having trouble deciphering his needs) we have been offered the option of having A enroll in the spec ed pre-school option or just taking outside services (which would equate to just 1 hour of speech and 1 hour of language with an ST, and one hour of OT, per week). Unfortunately, FC does not have the option we pursued in FL, which was an all-day, language based program that mixed neuro-typical kids with mild spec needs kids. The school here is only half-day, and it sounds like it is intended for kids with far more severe needs than A, but I am loathe to restrict his services to just a couple of sessions per week. I think we are going to go with the school option for now and see how that goes. We can always pull him from the program if we think it isn't working out.

To wrap up this quick update, T&V went back to Texas last weekend (back down to 3!)and I finished my last class of the semester with a killer final. Once ConGen ends it will be a little bit of a break for me while I take a few onesie, twosie classes before I launch into language training on 6 Sep, coincidentally the same day the kids start school.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Family Traditions

Okay, so there's no time to blog about how ConGen is progressing (quickly!), or how my MS is going (slowly & painfully!), or how the summer is flying by. But, there is always time to write about one thing: Shaaaawk Weeeeeek!!!!!!! This has been a family tradition for as long as I can remember (or at least for the last couple of years). Every summer Discovery Channel has shark week in July, and every summer we watch it with the kids and reminisce about all of the shark infested beaches we have been to/lived near.*

In other family tradition news, I just have to gloat for a minute. You may not recall my previous posts on the great list debate, but AinA sent out what I consider the final word on the matter in an e-mail earlier. So, in the spirit of gift giving: in yo face, sistahs!!!

*Fun fact: Florida has the world's most dangerous shark-filled waters in the entire world, yay! :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reason #29 to Move to Oakwood FC

Bouncy House!!*

*Forgot to take pictures of the snowcones, but I guess that would make the title of this post #'s 29 and 30 :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Be ConGenning

Useful Bits

So it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the bloggio as things progress. As my post title suggests, I am about a week into Basic Consular Training, also known as ConGen. This class is totally rocking my world. I now understand why so many ex-lawyers become consular officers. It is nutso the amount of information you must understand and know how to apply in order to do your job effectively. I can’t go into too many specifics because so much of the info we work with is considered SBU (sensitive but unclassified)* but let’s just say this shit is hard, yo! They are going to grant me god-like powers. No, really! For once this isn’t just a fantasy in my own mind!! Many consular functions are left to the discretion of the individual consular officers working the case. You want your baby born abroad to be a U.S. citizen? BAM, I just made your baby a U.S. citizen…or not. Okay, that last example is sort of not true because citizenship and transmission thereof is written into U.S. law, so it is pretty cut and dry, but there is a lot in Consular World that is not. We have the FAM to guide us (talk about legalese!) and case precedents, but many of the decisions we make are based upon our own personal abilities and judgments. I.feel.so.powerful! If you could see me now *nerd alert*, I look just like Galadreil when Frodo tries to give her the ring…Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for State to send me on a Consular tour, lol.

Okay, obvs the above is somewhat tongue in cheek, but it truly is amazing the types of decisions I’ll be making. These are decisions that can have profound effects on an applicant’s life, regardless of the service they are looking for, and I am in awe that I am being entrusted to carry out such important work.

In totes different news, I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, so lemme share what I’m eating now. Because I have so little time to cook anymore I am fixated on creating meals that take about 5min to put together. Besides tons of big ass yummy salads, I am currently obsessed with chunking shit in a bowl and hoping for the best. In general I have pretty good luck with that. Here are a couple of creations that are in the current repertoire:

Berries & Shit:

Equal mix of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries mixed with crumbled goat cheese and about 1 tbsp of sugar-free raspberry syrup (like Da Vinci). Let it sit for at least an hour and mange!!

Nuts & Shit:

Blueberries, sliced bananas, chopped walnuts, raisins, halved dried figs, crumbled goat cheese, and about 1 tbsp sugar-free maple syrup. Mix that shit up and it’s ready to go. Sooo yummy!

PB & Shit:

Chopped roasted peanuts (no salt), sliced bananas, halved grapes (or whole, depends on how much time I have), maybe 1/4cup 0% plain greek yogurt, PB2. Sprinkle a little wheat germ on this one for an added nutrition boost.

Best Dip Evah!

2 parts almond butter, 1 part almond milk, 1 tsp light agave syrup, sprinkle of unsweetened coconut. Whip that shit together and keep adding almond milk until it reaches the consistency you prefer for a dip. This is awesome with either celery and carrots or with any fruit.

Random Shit

So I’m in the bath with J rinsing the soap out of her hair talking about things like the move and camp.** We are casually discussing subjects like how it stinks when Marley (the cat) poops, how candy tastes really good, and the progress we are making potty-training A (fully trained, including pooping – yay – except for the nighttime accidents) when J very nonchalantly says, “Yeah, I always pee and poop in the potty and sometimes I pee in the bath.”

Me: Wait, sometimes you pee in your own bath?

J: Yeah, but it’s okay because it’s just water.

Me: Okay, hold on, did you pee in this bath?

J: *smiles sheepishly* No?

Me: Now I need a shower, too.

*Every time I read that I think SBD and start giggling…because I seriously have the sense of humor of a 12 yr old boy

**J is adjusting well, but there have been a couple of instances where she has asked to “go home” and mentioned that she misses Florida. Sometimes with accompanying tears :(