A World without walls
everyday life while homeschooling overseas
Devin decided that we needed to have a tour of the Capitol building and the library of Congress. It was actually absolutely fascinating! The architecture is incredible! There was a movie at the beginning of the Capitol building tour that I'd like to find and show my older two kids who weren't there. It was really impressive and I learned some cool things! ;)
It was pouring rain the entire day and we got really soaked. There were lots of people there that day...probably because it was a Saturday and it was pouring rain. We got to go through the tunnel that connects the Capitol Building with the Library of Congress, and that was super cool! (and it kept us nice and dry!)
Andrew's face as we viewed the inside reading room of the Library of Congress was priceless. "I just want to sit in there and read, mom...without Peter climbing on me and making me stop!" Poor kid.
I'll let the photos speak for themselves, as there really isn't much to say about it--it was all eye candy and overwhelmingly beautiful.
The boys and I have continued our week of museum going...it's been so much fun! Every morning, Peter and I do our school work, then we all head off to the metro and downtown to see something new! And once again, most of the time, the picture credits go to Peter who is having so much fun taking pictures with my camera! :)
Wednesday, we went to the Natural History museum. It was AWESOME--and actually quite overwhelming! There is SO much information there. I could come and spend a whole day in each section. Pretty amazing! We saw Narwhals, ocean displays, evolution exhibitions, dinosaur bones, gems and rocks (including the Hope Diamond, which, admittedly, wasn't as cool as the hype), animals from all over the world, skeletons of lizards and amphibians, and a REALLY amazing photography exhibit! The photographs were amazing--and I think Josh should enter some of his!
Thursday, we went to the American History Museum. Now, I've been here lots of times, but I've never been to the upper floors! It was pretty incredible! We really enjoyed the displays and learned a lot.
Friday, we did the Jr Ranger program on the National Mall! We walked to almost every single monument on the mall! We didn't make it to Jefferson...it's too far...and we didn't make it to the Vietnam memorial, because we were just to tired to go on the left side of the reflecting pool. :O But the boys did it! They worked hard and filled in their booklets and both of them earned those badges! And the best part was when we stopped to eat lunch, a squirrel tried REALLY hard to join us! He is literally that close to me (I took that picture...not Peter)!
Aaaand Saturday, Devin took us all to the Library of Congress and the State Capitol building! Talk about some amazing architecture! And Andrew was like Belle in the Beast's library...you could just see the longing on his face to go down into the reading room and be able to just soak in all that knowledge!
Today, we enjoyed another bus ride to church. I'm kind of sad that it's the last day we'll be going here...we leave soon. So strange. I'm enjoying it while we're here. I'll sure miss the easy bus and metro system...and the cool museums and fun things to see and do. Most of all, though, I'll miss the view from our 14th floor apartment! Pretty much my favorite things EVER!
And even though there's a lot of construction going on and our balcony is unusable and we can't open the doors...it's still pretty much the coolest thing ever! I love being able to see out and feel that wide open space even in a crowded city. Beautiful!
I have given myself 15 minutes to post tonight, so I will go quickly!
No word from Claire today, so she must be continuing to have the time of her life! Josh wrote a few words: "I made it to Iceland!" So I'm sure he's having the time of his life as well.
The boys and I had a nice day. We took it easy, did Peter's school work, then got ourselves out to the metro in order to make it to the Air & Space museum when it opened! We got there 3 minutes before open doors. We thought we were beating the crowd. No such luck! Sheesh. It was packed within minutes! We ran ourselves upstairs and lucked out by running into the BEST exhibitions they have there: WWI, WWII, and the Sea Planes (including the aircraft carrier!!!)! The boys were in heaven! At one point, we were in the WWII exhibit, and there was a tour guide below, explaining something, and Andrew turned to me and said, "I know EVERYTHING that guide is saying! Wow! That is SO COOL!" and when the guide asked the group a question, Andrew yelled the answer from the balcony up above! Doh! HA! What a kid! Plus he kept stopping and explaining stuff to people as we would pass by. Andrew the extrovert! So awesome!
After a while, we were definitely done with the museum--it was like a Sri Lankan local bus--it was SO PACKED! Wow. People just kept coming in in droves. I'm sure it's partly because it's July, and partly because it was HOT HOT HOT outside, but we were definitely done. So we went to the museum next door--the Contemporary and Modern art museum. Ugh. Seriously. I'm not sure WHY anyone would call that stuff art. It's just gross. During the times of the Greeks and Romans, they liked to sculpt naked women. Well, modern art likes to focus on naked men. Just nasty stuff. My poor little boys! We didn't stay long.
Here are some lovely photos from our little outing. Again, Peter was in charge of the camera and took all the pictures...except for the ones with him in them! :)
We jumped back on the metro back home so we could have some lunch and some down time--and then a HUGE storm hit! Woohoo! We got a nice downpour of rain and lots of lightning and thunder, which is WAY cool because we're on the top floor of our building and have huge windows that overlook the city, so a storm like that is just AWESOME!! It made for a wonderful and relaxing afternoon. :)
Devin got home, we went grocery shopping and I saw some of my favorite grocery ladies from the other day and gave them more hugs. :) Then we came home and the boys swam while Devin BBQ-ed some steak. Mmmm... We definitely eat a LOT less without Josh and Claire! But that's ok. I don't think we'll be doing much more shopping before we leave next week. I can't believe we leave next week. That's actually a little sad! I'm liking it here! I'm FINALLY relaxed! Oh well. I'll just keep on relaxing for a few more days...
Whew. I am SO DRAINED. I hardly know where to start.
Well, Claire was finally able to get off. After a fun day of back and forth, and being up ALL night long in order to coordinate, we were able to get her flight transferred to a different airline that allowed her not only to do a non-stop flight to SLC, but to do it all alone. Sheesh. And it was painful. I had so many forms to fill out and all the info for the person who was picking her up had to be updated over and over again. I got to help her check in, go through security with her, sit and wait with her in the boarding area, and watch the plane take off! It was pretty exciting! We ate food (really REALLY expensive airport food, but what can you do?) and people watched for almost 3 hours waiting for her flight to board. She got to be the very first person to board the plane, too! She was so excited for her VIP treatment! She boarded first, and sat by another unaccompanied minor girl, and they got lots of treats on the flight, and there were even movies! Wow! Pretty great for a short hop across the US! This was Friday afternoon. I basically spent 5 hours traveling to and from the airport and sitting in waiting areas. It wasn't SO bad, and I think the boys enjoyed a day of tv watching and iPad playing.
Saturday, we had breakfast in our apartment...then breakfast provided by the complex...then brunch with a work friend...we were all SO FULL! Sheesh. Then we did some last minute shopping for Josh...who sort of forgot to look ahead and check what things he needed for his Iceland trip. Just TRY finding winter gloves in Washington DC in the summer. I dare you! We searched everywhere! Finally, I had an idea of going to a sports store. They would have SOME sort of glove there! Plus, he needed a sleeping bag, too. And he and the little boys all needed new shoes. Well, Josh and I searched the store over. We found workout gloves, batting gloves, baseball gloves (ha ha), tennis gloves, golfing gloves...but nothing that would be warm. We finally asked a manager guy, and he took us back and checked in the back stock--and HOORAY!!!! Found the perfect thing! Glove liners and fleece gloves! They're awesome, and I think they'll work well for him. We found him a sleeping bag and all the boys got new tennis shoes. Whew.
Sunday, we got to go to church on the bus! Yay! It was super cool! We found a great route and enjoyed our travels. We made it to church with plenty of time to spare. We met lots of people--lots of foreign service people there--and after sacrament was over, Devin took Peter up to pay tithing...and I looked over and Devin's hugging some lady! What??!? I figured it must be someone we know, so I go up , and it's our friends Jon and Leora! YAY! So crazy! They had just arrived a few days after us! Neat! So we got to chat and have friends to hang out with. It was pretty awesome! Sunday evening we walked over to the Iwo Jima monument. It was a nice afternoon for a walk. Peter took over my camera and so he gets the credit for pretty much all of the pictures (except the one with everyone at the bus stop, and the boys swimming, obviously).
Today...well today was another day for me to enjoy dealing with my big kids and their travels. Claire left Utah on the shuttle the same time I was taking Josh over to the airport to catch his flight to JFK to meet up with his group to go to Iceland. Josh and I were on the metro when Claire called to say that she was boarding her shuttle. She had a transfer at the airport...so I just had to hope that she would catch the transfer--that someone would help her out!
I got Josh all checked in and watched him pass through security with no problems at all. Then I came home to the little boys. We ate lunch (french fries and ice cream--luckily the three of us don't actually like that stuff, so I don't think we'll be doing that again!!), then we went swimming. It was SO HOT and the pool was in the sun, so that didn't last long. We came back inside and just watched tv until Devin came home at 4. At that time I got a message from Josh...he was wondering where he was supposed to meet his group. I KNOW I told him a thousand times he was supposed to meet them at the check in area...but he just went in on auto-pilot and had checked himself in on the flight! Ha! He'd scanned his passport, printed his boarding pass, dropped off his checked bag, gone through security...and now wondered where to go because the gate wasn't posted yet! Doh! After some back and forth, Devin called the emergency line for Nat Geo and explained what had happened so they could call the trip leaders and let them know that Josh was already through and would just wait at the gate. I sat and chatted with Josh for a while just to keep him company. Then Devin wanted me to go to Target with him and the boys so I could release some of my stressed out energy. Right before we left, Claire called to say she was in Idaho--HOORAY!!! So I had one all set, at least. We went to Target and got dinner (oranges, strawberries, cherries, bananas, grapes, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes...FINALLY! Read Food!), then came back to find that Josh wasn't alone anymore...but it wasn't the rest of his group. Apparently another kid had done the same thing! Ha! Well, that was a bit reassuring, actually. I finally ended up calling the emergency line one more time, since it was just over an hour before departure and the group still wasn't there...and the guy on the phone just let me know that the group had been stuck in a very long security line, and were just about through, that Josh was not alone (I knew there was the other boy there, but apparently there was a girl there, too), and that they'd all be there soon. About 15 minutes later, he wrote to tell me they'd all made it, and, well, that's that! I probably won't hear from him again until he's at JFK again in a few weeks at the end of his trip! I'll see pictures on the group blog and stuff, but he's a boy of few words, so I don't expect a lot of writing home.
And now, Devin is reading to the little boys, and I'm sitting all alone and quiet writing in my blog/journal. It's so strange to not have Claire or Josh chatting with me. I know they're having a great time in their respective places in the world, and that's happy. I love that my kids get to have these experiences! They're growing up so fast. And giving their poor old mom ulcers. Neat.
And yet another day of desafios. All I can say is that if I were a drinking person, my house would be strewn with empty bottles. Ugh. This is just so stressful. Thus far the credit card is working properly, but today we ran into a BIG problem. Today was the day that Claire was supposed to fly out to Idaho. Supposed to.
We got her all packed up this morning and ready to go. By noon, we were walking to the metro with her bags. It was an easy and uneventful trip to the airport. We walked up to the self-check in, started checking her in, and a screen that said, "Unaccompanied Minor" popped up. One of the ladies came by, swiped her card, asked where Claire was going, and when she heard that Claire had a connection, there was a long wide-eyed pause. Apparently, ONLY on United, unaccompanied minors can't make ANY connections. At all. None. They're only allowed to go on non-stop. So in order to make it work, I have to with her to Denver, wait and watch her plane take off, then turn around and come back! WHAT??!?!? What happened to the unaccompanied minor service? United doesn't do that anymore. Not at all. The only other option is to have someone fly to Denver and meet her there and fly on to IF with her. What the Heck??!?!? These are not options! In order for me to fly to Denver and back with her would not only cost me over a thousand dollars, but it would be out of Dulles, which means I couldn't ride the metro, I'd have to get a taxi there and back. We'd have to go at 5am to Denver, then I'd have to wait until 7am (there) to watch the plane take off, and then take the 9:45 flight back to Dulles in order to get back the same day. Seriously. I don't know what to do. Devin's not here to help me out...he hasn't even called me yet today, and it's 7pm. :( Other options would mostly include changing airline so she could go unaccompanied without any problems. But it would mean footing another plane ticket, which isn't cool, since it was the fault of the travel company that we used in Sri Lanka and it's official travel, so should be covered. I'm HOPING that the reason I haven't heard from Devin is because he's working on the problem, but usually he would at least call or write a quick message to let me know he's working on it. Maybe he's going out to eat with others there at the training and will call soon.
I feel shattered. This is Claire's special trip! We've been planning this for over a year! It is NOT cool. We had to turn around from the airport and drag all the bags back here to the apartment. I looked up bunches of options and sent them all to Devin to see if anything could be worked out.
Then the kids and I decided we needed to find Josh a new carry-on bag. So we went to the bus stop to go to TJ Maxx's. We went to Georgetown--I've never been there before. It's really pretty! I wish it weren't SO HOT, because I would have loved to just sit there and walk around and enjoy the architecture of that shopping area. So pretty! But we found TJ Maxx's and we found a nice carry-on bag that Josh really likes, some notebooks/journals for everyone, some headphones and a neck pillow for Claire...and we just had a really nice bus ride over the Potomac river during rush hour! :D
We're basically out of food again. We should probably go grocery shopping. Again. Although dinner ended up being awesome...for the kids. :) Grilled cheese sandwiches (using Cabot Farms cheese!!), tater tots, sausage links...and I had a huge yummy salad!
And now...I'm still waiting for a phone call or some news or some idea of what to do for Claire. We're watching the Food Network, which is pretty much our most favorite channel when we have cable tv (and the reason why we don't have cable tv). I think I need some GABA.
Sometimes there are just days where you HAVE to sit and write about it before you go to sleep, no matter how exhausted you are. Honestly, every day should be like that. I want to do better. I will start now.
Today, Claire and I met her new Chinese tutor. Wow. She is going to be AWESOME!! We chatted for 2 hours--and it was wonderful! She will be wonderful for Claire and I think Claire will just love taking Chinese classes! This will be so good for her!
Later, Nadine and her kiddos came to visit us! Yay! Except that Nadine was sick...AND a few blocks from our place they got in a car accident in their rental car! Ugh! So while the kids all played, Nadine sat on the phone trying to figure out what to do...and finally had to leave to take care of things. I'm glad the kids were here to play instead of just sitting around. And I'm glad it happened here right by the rental place instead of in WV where they'd have to travel for 2+ hours to return it. Not the best day for them...
But the most memorable part of our day today was this evening when we went to the grocery store. The kids and I had sat down and wrote out a very exact menu for the week--each one of us took a day and decided on breakfast, lunch and dinner. So we went to the store, I gave them their menu, and they went around the store and bought the things they needed for their meals! It was SO COOL! They did really well--for the most part. Of course, Josh decided he needed to have salmon for dinner on his day. Whatever. And most of what the kids chose were pasta based or from the freezer section, but that's ok. We're on 'vacation' in America!! We're trying to eat the foods we've missed so much (except for me--I'm doing good). Well, we filled our cart well...and then ran into a problem. The credit card was not accepted. I tried twice and it wasn't approved. Great. So I left the kids in the store and ran outside to call the CC company (the store is in the basement of a large office building, so there wasn't any cell phone reception in there). I was so upset! This is, I kid you not, the FIFTH time this has happened THIS WEEK. Seriously, people--I just want to buy some food!!! Devin's card was locked out on Friday when he tried to put the rental car on his credit card. I called on our way to Ohio to try to clear it up, but we ran into some problems. I was calling from a phone number that wasn't on the approved number list, so they couldn't verify I was who I said I was. So they tried to send a verification code to my phone, but it never ever arrived. Then they said they were going to send a verification code to the email, and that when Dev got it, he should call them back and take care of it. I asked if my card was still ok, and they said that it was. Our weekend, unfortunately, was super-ultra-mega busy, and it completely slipped our minds. Fast forward to today, as I'm standing outside on the sidewalk in DC, with my kids all standing together by our shopping cart full of food inside the store, waiting on hold for 20 minutes...and I ask the guy what's up, and he says that because Devin never cleared his card up, and our cards are linked, they had to lock us both out! GAH!!! How much I would love to go back to cash only...but our bank hates us and won't let us use our debit card, so I can't even get any cash! All I have is my credit card...and Devin left last night to go to West Virginia for the entire week for training, so I'm all alone! With no food! And the only way I can get the credit card to be fixed is to have Devin call them and clear up all his flags. I felt really bad for the poor guy on the other end, as I know he hated having to tell me there was nothing I could do, and I was just sobbing. So, I walked back into the store in tears, and told the kids and the cashier that there was nothing the CC company could do until my husband called them and cleared it all up, so I was stuck! I felt SO bad that I had this cart full of food all bagged, and now they would have to put it all away. I asked if we could put it all back for them...and instead, the manager asked me what I needed tonight. I told her no way--we'd survive tonight and just come back tomorrow when it was all cleared up, but she would NOT take no for an answer! She and one of the cashiers bought almost half our groceries for us, and even handed me a $20 bill! I didn't even know what to do about that--holy cow!! These two ladies spent well over $100 on someone they had never ever met before. I'm still in shock--I wish there were something special I could do for them--something that they need that I could provide for them...maybe they just needed to serve today, and I needed to be served. I don't know, but it definitely restores faith in humanity when someone does something like that--something so unexpected and selfless. There aren't words. Someone was there when I needed them. That is what life is all about.
I'm sitting in the Frankfurt airport, waiting for our flight to announce boarding and watching the planes take off through the window. Mostly, though, I'm thinking about the latest closed chapter in our lives. Our life really is like a book full of chapters...or perhaps it could be even better described as a series. The chapters are rather long and full of adventure.
So in this last installment, we found ourselves ensconced in a jungle/tropical paradise. I'm always surprised at how experiencing a place affects our perceptions. It is NEVER like we imagine it will be. And no matter how much I plan and prepare, I will never be ready for what will really happen. I'm grateful for every day we spent in Sri Lanka. I'm grateful for the heat and humidity, as it made me more grateful for seasons. I'm grateful for the friends who became family. I'm grateful for a support network that I knew would never let me down. I'm grateful for tuk tuks and buses that made every day an adventure. I'm grateful for all the tropical fruits and spicy curries that I learned to love. I'm grateful for the beach, the mountains, the raw beauty of that tiny island country. I'm grateful for the fact that we made it 3 years enduring the feeling of a complete lack of motivation--I know that sounds strange, but it's true! After a few weeks of living there, you have no desire to do ANYTHING. You're just tired, discouraged, and 'blah'. For a vacation spot, it's fabulous! But to live, it was difficult, to say the least. But because of this, I had to learn how to REALLY motivate myself and push through the hard times. I accomplished more than I ever thought possible! I'm hoping that through this, I've gained an increased ability to motivate myself and others and to work harder. Hard things are good. While it was hard to go through our 'living funeral' for the past few weeks, I'm grateful for that, too. It helped me to see a bit of what I accomplished and made me feel loved--and to know that I did all I could.
The opportunities we have of living overseas are pretty amazing. I'm grateful for the difficulties we encounter, as they make us better people. I'm grateful for the amazing things we see and experience, as it broadens our horizons. I'm grateful for the cultures we encounter and the friends me make, as it breaks down boundaries and leaves no space for prejudice or judgement in myself or my children. Just a love for all people, no matter their race, nationality, religion, or outward appearance. No matter where we go, people are people--they need love and acceptance. That is what brings the greatest joys in live. I'll never forget the people who have touched my life with their love, acceptance, friendship, and service. I pray that God will watch over them with His ever-loving watch care...and I WILL see them again!
Dubai. A haven for the filthy rich in the middle of the desert. It's the Las Vegas of the Middle East. We opted for a 24 hour layover here on our way back to the US. Full of adventure for all! Whew! It was HOT HOT HOT! Man. I thought Sri Lanka was hot--and it is--but Dubai is hotter! Not as humid, though.
We had a really lovely day. We got in late, got lovely rooms, slept in late, then meandered over to a bakery place to get a late breakfast. That place was AMAZING!!! First of all, their entire menu was on iPads which we each got to peruse. Then while we were waiting for our orders, they brought us never-ending bread, butter, and fresh olives. Mmmmmm... The food was GLORIOUS. And the manager came and brought us extra french fries (because, as he said, "I want you to eat!") AND a giant plate of danishes and croissants, all for free! Wow! It was SO good!
We continued on our way and walked through a giant air conditioned 'hallway' over the streets and roads, so we didn't have to walk in the heat so much. :) Then we came to The Mall. Holy Cow. There are no words. It's its own city. We got lost a lot. We found the indoor aquarium where you could not only walk through the tunnel of fish, but you could scuba with the sharks! Sheesh!
The most fun, though, was the ice rink. Seriously. It is an ice rink in the middle of the mall in the Middle East. This was our end of the year outing, so the kids all went ice skating while Devin and I watched them. I was so proud! Even Andrew and Peter went out for their first time ever! I loved it!
The only thing I didn't love was this crazy guy who kept going in circles (showing off for his girlfriend) and you could tell he was losing control...then he'd usually crash and slam into a wall. Once he took out a kid, and that was super scary! I was pretty upset that they kept letting him back on. By the third time he did that, it seemed the workers there were keeping a better eye on him, so I suppose it was ok?
On our way out of the mall, we found tickets to go up to the 'top' of the Burj Khalifa--the tallest building in the world! Wow. The elevator was SO COOL! The doors closed...and then my ears started to pop! I looked up and the numbers of the floors we were passing were just zooming away! We didn't even feel the elevator start to move! It was crazy! We made it up to the 124th floor in like 20 seconds or something ridiculous like that. It was quite the view!
The only thing I was sad about was that we didn't get to see the fountain show. I was hoping to see it, but everyone was SO tired, that we just sat around and rested until our flight late that night. When we were checking in at the airport, Andrew asked the lady where she was from, and she said she was from Africa. We asked her which country...and she said Cameroon!! Wow!! Then she asked who was Emily, and that was her name, too! Ha! Small world! It was so fun to sit a chat about Cameroon. :) And boy, I love to make people at the airport smile. They don't look like that happens often.
The rest of our trip was fairly uneventful. All flights on time. More or less. Lots of movie watching and interesting airplane food. Catnaps and uncomfy seats. Good times. And now, another adventure begins.
Packout is done. The movers came, spent two days methodically packing everything in my house, stuffed those boxes into giant crates, and drove away. How long will it be until I see those crates again? Who knows? I'm hoping for Christmas, but we shall see.
Our goals for this packout was to be underweight. EVERY SINGLE TIME we've ever packed out before, we've been within 50 pounds (either under or over). I worked tirelessly to get our weight down. I was SO nervous as I looked at our piles for our UAB shipments. Those piles were so big! Would we have enough weight? YES! We did! AND not only did we have enough, but we were under! I was SO relieved! We are allotted about 900 lbs for our UAB, and we only used 700! That was so happy!
Then came the tricky one. The HHE. After day one of packing all day, the downstairs was still not finished and I was worried. Why do we still have SO MUCH??!?!? Day 2 took 4 more hours to finish the downstairs! Ugh. And that was with me having pulled everything out of the kitchen and setting it on the dining room table, all ready to wrap and pack. Oh boy. And those bookshelves from Africa are heavy--but not as heavy as our piano!
However, after the downstairs was packed away, then came the fun part--the whole upstairs took 2 hours to pack! Claire and Andrew/Peter's rooms had only 4 boxes each! Josh only had ONE! The art room had 4 boxes, and my room had 5 boxes. That was it! I couldn't believe it!
When we left Jordan and arrived in Sri Lanka, we brought with us over 200 boxes/pieces that weighed well over 7,000lbs. Probably 30+ out of those 200+ boxes were books. Leaving Sri Lanka, we boxed up just over 100 boxes/pieces that weighed just barely over 5,000lbs!! And only 8 of those boxes were books. I did happy dances the rest of the day! Talk about a relief of stress! I'm pretty sure that everything that's in there are things that we want/need/use. I still wonder why we need to carry around 5,000lbs+ of stuff for only 6 little people, but there it is. I'm just so happy about our new packout weight. We did it!! We almost halved our weight/possessions! And it feels absolutely marvelous!! Who needs all that extra junk?
Now, we're on to bigger and better things. I'm trying my hardest to move away from stuff, and focus on experiences. That's what life is all about anyway, right? Experiences and relationships. Family and friends and what we do with our time. We've enjoyed our time here, and look forward to our time in the states starting in just over a week, and wonder what our time will be like in South America. After all, isn't it about...time? :)
Who Am I?
As a Stay At Home Mom of 4 wonderful children, I have the amazing opportunity not only to home school them, but to do so in many different places! I am married to the most amazingly wonderful (and handsome) man in the whole world! Together, we seek out, every day, that Joy in the Journey that makes life exciting!
by Dan Brown
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