Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'm back in frigid Upstate New York.

In Jamaica I would wake up and go for a walk on the beach, a swim in the sea, I'd eat breakfast on the veranda wearing shorts, sometimes sighing that it was too sunny. Too sunny?! The mangoes and papaya were cut up, the breadfruit and coconut arrayed. Pineapple, banana, sweetsop, saltfish and ackee. And now... home. Don't get me wrong, it's good to be home. But, it was pretty nice in Jamaica.

We stayed a night in Kingston, with the parents of my friend, R. Then we drove (via Mount Diablo) to this house on the North Coast. (Driving is CRRRRazy, I tell you, crazy! Hair-pin turns, left-side driving, avoiding goats, pot-holes, cliffs, being passed by trucks on blind curves, honking twice on blind turns then praying nothing hits you head-on.) Anyway, the villa is owned by my friend R's family also. It has 7 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. It is surrounded by a wall and gates, has tennis courts, a pool, is on the sea, has night guards who stand out on the beach, and has 7 "helpers." My son B says they should be called "doers" rather than "helpers" because they were doing everything and we were doing nothing. True. 

The villa.
B running down the beach.
We went to several waterfalls that flow into the sea.
C giving me some love.
Attempting to keep my swimsuit bottoms in place. Eek!
While staying at the villa we swam and ate and snorkeled and went to several waterfalls, including Laughing waters, the private beach where Dr. No, the James Bond film was shot. It was amazing. We enjoyed great weather, hot and sunny every single day. I didn't even wear the one long sleeve shirt I packed.

There were some contemplative moments though. Some "wow, this is an 'easy country' what would it be like if we were living in a 'hard' country for two years?" moments. 
  • It was hot. It could have been hotter. But it was hot. I liked being able to jump in the sea. Living somewhere really hot, well, it would be hard.
  • We stayed in two really nice houses. But there is so much poverty. So many people living with so little. In huts, shacks, on the street. 
  • Lots of stuff is just broken or doesn't work. No explanation, no expected date or time of repair.
  • I didn't have a single green vegetable, other than the same plain lettuce salad at every dinner. Plenty of fruit. Plenty of potatoes. But not a broccoli nor green bean in sight. 
  • The helpers kept calling my friend "Miss R." And she was comfortable with that, and telling them what to do, because she grew up in Jamaica with helpers. I don't know how I'd do being the one in charge.
  • All the helpers were black. That made me uncomfortable. I'm no-doubt-about-it-white. R is mixed race. She said 85% of the country is black, wealthy black people have black helpers, race isn't such a big deal there as here. (Don't know if that's true.) But it made me uncomfortable.
  • The driving. R drove. Fearlessly. What if I had to drive?
  • The grocery store made me want to hold my nose. But I didn't. 
  • R broke easily into her Jamaican way a speaking (patois?) that was so strong sometimes I couldn't understand what she and the Jamaicans were saying. And that is English. I think. 
  • Bargaining. Dude. I know I was being taken for a ride. Nothing actually sold for the price marked. I was addressed as Boss Lady in the market. And I think we accidentally paid $700J for a bottle of soda. ($8 US). But it was a big bottle. And it was passion fruit. (Compensating.)
  • Crime and walls and gates and fences and security. How do you know who to trust?
  • Window screens. Ok, they don't have them. No glass either. Just open windows with louvers. (And metal bars, of course) The lizards inside are cute, the hermit crabs too, mosquitoes, not really.

After spending time at the beach house, we had to return to Kingston, to catch our flight out. I imagine a city is where we would be living if we were in the FS. Not somewhere lovely and beachy. Kingston is not really that nice a place. That would be something different for me, dirty city-living. People burning random things, etc.

We had a great time. The kids are tanned. C is home from school with a fever though. (I already took her to the Doc. because a little Google + fever + Jamaica +tropics + mosquitoes = worried mom. Seems like a virus though.

My husband scheduled his Oral Assessment date for his second candidacy. ...And the self torture continues...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lesson #2 for the week.

We bought a new fridge. We bought the durned thang two weeks ago and finally we have it in our house.

A fridge is heavy. A perfect thing for a family hoping to go into the Foreign Service, no? Maybe I'll start a collection. To add to the cannonball collection. Because we are really a portable family.

Anyway, Sears stinks.

After messing up the delivery, then leaving us with the wrong fridge as a "loaner" for a week, then delaying delivery a few days at a time, they finally got it here. The right fridge. With the doors opening on the correct side. With an ice maker. And they even found the missing door shelf after I ran after the truck as they drove down the street. Ah, Sears. With your 8-4 delivery window...

After getting the new fridge(s) I had to empty the previous fridge(s) and wipe out the new one(s). Then put all my food back in. Fun fun. In an effort to condense the food, I tossed some old condiments and such. Also, I had a HUGE wine bottle with not much wine left in it that I decided was too tall and took up more space than it deserved. I didn't want to waste the wine. But it was only 11:00 am, too early for even me. So I looked around for a container to pour the white wine into... hmm. Yes, perfect. This'll do. Much more room in the fridge now.

Let this be a lesson: (I'm all about lessons this week, eh?) Do not pour white wine into a water bottle labelled with your six-year-old daughter's name on it and put it in the fridge. Just trust me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Unsend? Is there an unsend?

Two days until Jamaica. Still nothing packed. Better get on that...

I finally got a response from B's teacher. Here is the gem:

I spoke with Mr. S [the school social worker] yesterday afternoon about your concerns.  B has adjusted well to fifth grade inside the classroom. Unfortunately, outside of the classroom is where troubles sometimes arise.  Here are some things that we'd like to try.  If B feels comfortable coming to tell me about what happened, then that should be the first plan of action.  He can also speak with Mr. S at any time if he desires.  As it is only the first full week of school, we both understand that he may not feel comfortable doing so.  Please keep us aware of any situations that he makes you aware of at home. [Is this not what I'm doing?] We have a "Zero Tolerance" policy for bullying here.  However, our hands are tied if he's not sure who said these things to him. [Tied? Our hands are tied? My hands are tied, lady! Sending him to you. Protect him.] Please encourage him to let the nearest adult know.  No child should be feeling this way.  
In early October, Mr. S will be coming into 4th and 5th grade classrooms to discuss ways kids are bullied, how to prevent it, what to do if you're a bystander of bullying, cyberbullying, etc. in hopes to make students more aware of what role they play in the process. Let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.
Fifth Grade Teacher

So, me being, well, me, I forwarded the email to my husband and added what I thought about it. I said that I thought her response was kind of 


And he responded that he agreed it was kind of 


And then, me being...
you guessed it.


I proceeded (horror of horrors!!)
to send the teacher a polite reply that included my husband's and my attached commentary about her 


"your message has been sent".....  
wait... waitwaiwaitwait......what? ...Oh...Oh, no...
no... no noooooooo, NO!


Now. Who is bullying whom?


Well. At least she'll know what I think about her now. She'll have to wait until the October talk about bullying to learn how she should proceed. I'm sorry. My hands are tied.

If we ever get into this Diplomacy thing, I think I'll need serious help in not offending pretty much everybody.

**On Edit: Ok, not to make you question my intelligence too much here, but... it looks like I may not have made the gi-normous blunder that I mentioned above. But I can't be sure. I know, doofus-material. But can I just say that gmail is *very* difficult to tell who has been sent what in a long string of emails, when you start branching off and sending some things to some people and they reply and then there are forwards and deletes and cuts and pastes and replies and adds and responses and ... Well.
I have learned my lesson. Which is, um...
The lesson is: Be very careful. And then click send.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Catching the Fairy.

Jamaica in THREE days. Nothing packed yet. Haha. Better get on that one soon...

Nothing from B's teacher yet.

This was funny though. B lost a tooth at school yesterday. The nurse gave him a little tooth box thingy to put it in. At bedtime, totally without fanfare, he put it under his pillow.

This morning I went in his room to snuggle him and wake him up for school, but he was already awake and reading in bed. I said good morning and asked how he slept. (Totally forgetting to ask about the tooth.) He looked up from his book and asked me how police dust for fingerprints. I figured he was reading a mystery and explained what I knew of the process.

Then he turned with a sneaky smile and said, "I am going to dust this dollar coin and see if the fingerprints on it match yours or Dad's and prove that there is no tooth fairy once and for all!"

I turned to the coin and smiled and said, "Oh, wow! The tooth fairy came last night, look at that! That's a shiny coin." (As I picked up the coin, turned it over, and admired it.)

He said, "Stop, stop!! You're tampering with the evidence!!"

Ha-ha!! Curses! Foiled again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mean boys.

My oldest "little boy" is getting picked on about what he wears to school. He's a smart (if I say so) 10 yr old. I love him to bits. Part of me wants to beat up anybody that ever says one mean thing about him. Part of me wants to buy him all new clothes to fit in so that the mean boys will leave him alone. Part of me wants to say, "Eff them! Wear pink and purple polka dot tap shoes if it makes you happy!" But it wouldn't make him happy. He's just wearing regular old Lands End, LL Bean, Gap, Old Navy, etc, and for footwear, Adidas. Nothing fancy, I tell you.

Sometimes people suck. How's that's for diplomacy?
And public school squashes a person's very soul. Or tries to. And, yes, maybe I am a wee bit dramatic. Or PMS-ing. But this is my child we are talking about.

He used a stuffed animal as a pillow camping.
Deep thoughts about whittling.

I sent this letter to B's teacher: (she's gonna grow to Looooove me.)

Dear Miss Fifth Grade Teacher,
B told me that on the first day of school he was asked by another boy if B was embarrassed to be wearing the shirt he was wearing (Star Wars-esque). When B said no, the boy told him the shirt was stupid and B looked dumb, and Star Wars is dumb. (Or something to that affect.) B said to my husband and myself, at dinner, "What's NOT to like about Star Wars, they have light sabers?" We all laughed.

Then the next day, B said that three kids made fun of his shirt that day. One kid asked if his parents made him wear it to school. When B said no, the boy said, "Really? You look dumb." (It is a shirt from B's grandparent's 50th anniversary party this summer.) He seemed hurt. He said that those two shirts were his favorite shirts, that's why he wore them to school for day #1 and #2. He said one of the kids was a 4th grader he doesn't even know who came up to him on the playground to insult him.

Then today somebody told B that his sneakers make him look like a nerd. And another kid said that B's shirt was stupid because it had a tiger on it. B was also told that being in Cub Scouts is stupid.

We have always tried to teach our children to be kind and caring, to be considerate and thoughtful. I will continue to teach B to try to reach out to others and look for the best in them. I hope that he continues to see the good in himself with all the negativity coming at him from his classmates. He doesn't understand what he's doing wrong. I'm really shocked by all these rude, shallow, mean comments.

Any thoughts?

Angry mom

What gives?! I have heard about "mean girls", but I hoped boys were better to each other. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A school day and an OA.

School started yesterday. (I may have danced in the kitchen during breakfast to the song "It's a New Day" by (Loved that song after the election!) However, today, I sang, "It's a school day..."

And speaking of dancing... my husband's cousin is a professional dancer who happened to be dancing at the White House on Sept. 7. (How cool is that!!??) The show was broadcast live at and here are my kids watching Michelle Obama introduce the show.

Total dance fans, all of them.
Okay. Sorry. Back to the school-thing. Fifth grade, third grade and first grade. Bright and early.

B, S and C waiting for the bus.
Smile, kiddos, we know you're happy!

The whole family. Awww.
That's a lotta kids.
We have a bunch of kids at our bus stop. B is the oldest. And tallest. He's starting to think he's too cool for pictures.

So, by the end of the day, the report was: The teachers were nice. There were smart boards. Lunch was loud. Friends were found. All seems to have started off perfectly fine. Of course you can never trust the teachers on day one. Teachers are all on their best behavior on day one. Even Darth Vader would act like a nice teacher on day one. But it was a good day.

Then the day got even better.

What? (you say)

Better than smart boards? (I didn't even know what those were. They are like big iPads on the wall.)

Yes, better.

Someone is going to the Oral Assessment again! Cheers. Here's hoping for a higher score. I'll drink a Jamaican Red Stripe to that!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jamaican me happy

School starts tomorrow. And to celebrate the new school year, we are taking our family to Jamaica!!!

Haha!! True.

Dear New Teachers, 
Our children will be missing the second week of school because we are bad parents and are taking them to paradise. They are all smart kids and will not miss a thing, as we all know you will spend the first month reviewing last years' school work and going over the rules and routine. We will think of you as we choose to swim in either the sea or the pool at the 7 bedroom villa which has a staff of 5. Our friends who are from Jamaica will be there with us, along with their 3 kids, so we will get plenty of local tours and history. They even want to take us to the Bob Marley museum. (Who knows what they sell in that gift shop??) We will call it social studies. 
The Bad (but happy) Parents

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just another uninsured American family?

As a family of five, we have times of getting sick, needing stitches, getting pneumonia and breaking bones. It just happens. Six year old C was playing "ball tag" (where you can be tagged "it" by being hit with a ball) with five older boys and caught an elbow to the eye. She's totally fine. But it reminds me that having healthcare is something we really need.

Our health insurance expired at the end of August.

Today is September. What a difference a day makes.

We are signed up, I think, for a new policy through my husband's employer. But we have no ID cards. Nothing. It's probably in the mail.

Yeah, right. I hope.

It amazes me. My husband and I both thought the FS would have happened by now. Now he's hoping to be invited to the OA for a second time for a chance to increase his score. Because it looks like the initial score of 5.4 isn't going to cut it. He's also pursuing another (non-FS) job.

Hopefully no more ball tag until we figure out this insurance situation though.