Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Big Goals

Madison told us tonight that she set a goal last year to live to be one hundred years old. Then she complained that it was taking a LONG time to do it.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Smarty Pants

When mommy won't let you bring your snack to your bed then you gotta think outside the box. Bring the bed to the snack!!!

She also asked today why I was laughing as I worked on the computer. I was texting with Brian at the time so I told her because her daddy was funny. She asked why he is funny and I said because he was smart. I told the she was smart and asked if I was smart. She said, "No." When I looked over at her to find out why she smiled at me and said, "You are smartie pants!!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The GPS Stole My Voice

We bought a mini van with built in GPS. The system has three voice choices. One is a male that sounds like a robot, one is a female robot and the last one is Angie. Well, the display actually calls it USA - Michelle but they stole my voice. It used to completely wig me out every single time I heard her give me directions.

Finally I am getting used to her but yesterday while driving Brian put his hand on mine in the passenger seat and said, "This is not going to sound right but the GPS sounds so much like you I just tune it out and don't realize someone is giving me directions I am supposed to follow. I don't even hear her most the time."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ashlyn Loves Daddy Best

Yesterday Ashlyn was asking for dad this and dad that. I am rarely allowed to help, hold her or do anything at all. Just dad. I asked, "Don't you like me?" To which she replied, "I like you better than Peter." I confirmed - she means Gina's Peter. You aren't forgotten Ms Espina Gina!! We love and miss you. ❤️

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kids Discover Differences Here

The kids are noticing funny things that make us laugh. As I write Ashlyn is asking why daddy is pumping gas, where are the workers that have to do it for us and suggesting maybe they are just inside the shop waiting. Earlier she thought it was hilarious that daddy was allowed to drive at all and we didn't have to call a driver. The GPS tells us to go so many miles then turn and her friend is named Miles and she told us that Miles didn't need to turn there. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ashlyn Gems

Our household belongings are now sea freight and on the ocean slowly making their way to Houston. This morning Ashlyn asked us, "Where's Johnny?" He left this morning on a cruise with his family so Ben told her he is on a boat. "OHHHH!! With our stuff." I hope his cruise accommodation is a little bit better than a freighter. 

Discussing sharing rooms in Houston and who is with who Ashlyn got REALLY EXCITED! "I will share with mom and dad and we can have three pillows!" That's not what we had in mind. We get fly told her that even though we have a king bed here that fits three pillows here in Saudi, our Texas bed is a queen size and only two pillows are going to it there.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Full Cup Status


This is where I am right now. Full cup status with peanuts making messes. If you've been in my living room in the last two weeks you've seen the "evidence" that has been left. 😕 The packers are gone. The house is nearly empty. Home school should finish on Thursday. I'm researching schools in Woodlands Texas and cell phone plans and what cars to buy and where our house should be. Just too much for my brain and emotions these days but I hope very soon to be able to say again, "I've got this." And "Challenge conquered!" Thanks to all who helped with kids, taking away donate stuff and bringing meals now and when I had shingles. You are all angels to me!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Too Fast

I was cleaning out the pictures on my phone today and saw this one. It seems to typify how I'm feeling today. Things are going too fast. I have no control and it's spinning so fast. Yesterday the movers called and nearly begged for us to move out pack date forward because they are so swamped with work when we asked to pack. We agreed to move it 6 days earlier. As I hung up the phone I realized what I had done. We leave today for Dubai. Our second and very last get out of jail trip. We return Sunday late afternoon. Monday we pack and Tuesday morning they come. AAAAAAHHHHHH!!! I'm not sure how this will all come together but I'm hoping after the pack out life will slow a little.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Best Brag Yet

Ashlyn is in that standard kid stage where she says a lot of "Watch me. I can do this!" She's seeking affirmation and wants us all to know she's big like us.

Today I overheard her tell her guys, "Watch this guys. I can spank." Then she swatted Madison on the back side. It was kind of awesome. Madison just calmly asked her not to spank anymore and I had to stifle my laughter in the other room knowing my eight year old had just been swatted by a three year old. 

Now Ashlyn is taking big steps around the house then small and meduim steps. I'm thinking in preschool today they must have been exploring how to move their bodies. I love that little lady!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Perceptive Kid

If you were to ask me about what kind of a kid Ben is, I would stop and think as I always do. It depends on the type of day we had what where I would start. He is often anxious about change and doesn't like to be made to do things he isn't interested in. Rarely does he fight me when I ask him to do something but I have to watch to see that it gets done because he's keenly aware of how busy I am and how many balls I have juggling at that moment and will capitalize on my busyness and avoid a chore now and then knowing I won't notice for a few hours or days or won't be able to remember if I asked him to do it or another kid. He's observant.

Ben is quiet. He prefers to stay in the background of a scene. He's smart. He is amazing reader and devours books. This year he would check out a book a day and his goal was always go finish and return it in 24 hours. He succeeded a lot!

He loves Nerf guns and could play Nerf wars with his compound buddies all day long everyday. They have hideouts and strategies and a million guns between them all which they are constantly comparing and even trading. Not much in this world could make him smile as big as a package of neon colored foam bullets. 

One thing I love to say about Ben is that he's a very thoughtful, perceptive child. I once asked him if he wanted to stay in Singapore, go on another adventure in another country or go back to America when we finished our first expat assignment. He said he wanted two more adventure assignments then he wanted to move back to America so he knew what it was like to live there before he went to college alone because he was already forgetting what it was like to be in America. He was only eight years old.

Now he's eleven and we have resided in two countries, traveled a ton and are relocating to Houston next month against our wishes. (We all wanted to stay in Saudi a few more years.) I asked last night while I trimmed his hair, so his ears would show again, if he liked expat life with all the moves, disappointments, losing friends every year and other frustrations mixed within the fun, new friends and adventures. Was the good worth the bad? Ben has really taken this move hard but even with all the mess of home schooling, grieving and loss we are feeling now he said it was definitely worth it. He wouldn't have wanted to miss what he had done so it was worth the sadness and pain. He'd be willing to move overseas again after we have some time in Texas.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Slam On Mom

I've been known to finish people's sentences by singing lyrics that fit. Especially when my kids are talking so slow that I have a hard time paying attention and staying focused on them. For instance today Madison was talking slowly as she asked a question about math and I was losing concentration.

She said, "Hoooowwww doooooo I......" To which I responded in song, "live without you?"

She rolled her eyes and asked, "Is there a song to EVERYTHING?"


"I sure hope not."

I guess this home school gig is getting boring to me but maybe I should channel my energy into a stellar music class for those with minimal voice skills but ample knowledge of old lyrics.

I used to do it to Brian all the time but tell him, "You know there's a country song about that..." And there always was.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Gomer Pile

Sometimes when you use a very old notebook you find amusing chicken scratches from year ago. This one cracked me up. I assume I was talking about baby names for our fourth child and looking for patterns or something. 

Benjamin Brian 
Madison Mae 
Jacob Robert
Gomer Pile

It makes me glad Ashlyn Anne turned out to be a girl or she may have ended up with that name.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Name Pronunciation Challenges

Singapore Memories:
My son Ben was told in Chinese class at the international school that his name translated as either "stupid", "notebook" or "pen" depending on the way you write the accent. 

My name of course is Angie and over the phone in Singapore I got written down as the Asian surname "Ng". They assume I spelled my name for them, not said my name. When I show up a blue eyed white lady people are totally confused. I finally started using Angela for all phone conversations

Saturday, May 9, 2015


I'm healing from shingles. Slowly but faster than the Internet says I should. I think it's a blessing from above because I can't be held up with a miserable body right now. I have duties and responsibilities to home school. Most days I start with someone doing something by 7:00 am. Often we are working until 5:00 pm with someone else. Home school shouldn't take this long. And given enough time it wouldn't but we are fresh into this and there are still a lot of emotions and push back and tantrums. 

My friends here in the compound that are with the same company doing home school have been so gracious and have been providing dinner every other day and bringing enough that I don't have to cook on the days in between. They are angels in my book especially because they are also swamped trying to prepare to move their own families and home school their own kids.

As for the shingles the medicine has been great. The shooting pains across my body are gone and I'm left with just a terrible itchy feeling and an occasional pain in my side where the pants hit my waist. But I'm counting it as fantastic news that I'm in pants at all! I wore dresses and loose flowy skirts for over a week to minimize anything touching my torso.

I've been semi-quarantined here. Most people have already had chicken pox or the vaccine but in this very international community not all have. I'm pretty safe with Americans but no body else is a given as okay. I will take tomorrow off of teaching poetry because the younger kids that I know haven't had it will be in the school house but resume my class on Wednesday for the next regular session.

Temperature's Rising

A friend is in need of a baby bed rail so we moved Ashlyn's bed against the wall and took one of hers off to give away. It's white so of course it's grungy from years of dirty hands. We took it outside to scrub it with some soapy water and it didn't take me long to realize it was HOT in the blazing sun. Ash had gone out barefoot and declared she needed shoes because it was too hot for her feet. We got her shoes then moved to the shade to finish the job. We don't expect it to take long to dry so we can deliver it to its new home.

Friday, May 8, 2015


At dinner. 
Mom: "Jacob will you take some salad and pass it to Ashlyn please?"
Ashlyn: "I don't want any salad."
Mom: "I know but you have to some cucumber."
Mom heard: "I don't want a que number."
Ashlyn meant to say: "I don't want a cucumber."

I will miss little kid speak in a few years from now. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Remember the Time?

I remember a day my sister Kristie was with me and Brian driving home from Lake Powell together. She was driving and I was co-captain manning the tunes. The Mask of Zorro was kinda sorta a recent movie and it had a great song "I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You" and Brian had the soundtrack from his birthday. I put it on and hit "repeat" because it was such a good song and chatted with Kristie while she drove along those vacant desert roads. I was absorbed in the compelling conversation. I guess she wasn't. About 30 minutes later she finally asked me exactly how long the song was because it wasn't changing.

I did it again tonight and I can't stop giggling because it reminds me of all the fun times we have had together over the years. I found a song called "See You Again" and the music was nice so I clicked a version on YouTube to listen to while I surfed Facebook. After 14 minutes I asked Brian if it had switched yet because it seemed to still be the same song. He checked. It was the same some set to run for over an hour.

I love it when random things remind me of my family. 

Home School Stinks

It's only 6:53 am. Madison is in tears because I asked her to bring over the weather chart she's been keeping for a week so we could plot the temps on a graph. She had written that four of the last six days were foggy. It's been clear as it could be with visibility for miles all week. She's sobbing now because I tried to discuss what fog was with her.

Just a typical home school day at our house. Though it's rarely her that's crying. More often it's the boys.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

For the Record Books

As this expat season of ours comes to an end we got a little curious and wondered where we had the good fortune to travel. I was amazed my the number of places we had been in this beautiful world. We will sure miss the chance to travel!

Here is where we have been as of 2015 with most of the travel occurring between 2011 and 2013. 

Lived in USA, Singapore and Saudi Arabia
Ben age 11
Madison age 8
Jacob age 6

Lived in Singapore and Saudi Arabia
Ashlyn age 3 

Visited by all six of us:
United Arab Emitates

Angie, Brian, Ben and Madison visited:
Hong Kong

Angie, Brian, Ben, Madison and Jacob visited:

Ashlyn visited:
USA (haha)

Angie and Brian visited:

Brian visited:


It's been a wild ride and we honestly hope to do it all again real soon. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Medicines Out the Wazoo

This is what the back of my counter looked like two months ago.

This is what it looks like today. 

And the pain med and itch cream aren't even in the picture because they are upstairs in my bathroom. Needless to say I'm not feeling my best these days. The main troubles are my knees and then more recently shingles. I had no idea what shingles were but I sure do now. Random, perpetual pain shooting up my torso or side all day long and intense itching. This is horrible! One week down. One to five more remaining. The first set of scabs is nearly healed but the foreshadowing pain has migrated to my back and I'm scared for how much worse this is going to get.

Now that I know what it is, I accidentally exposed a bunch of people to it and thus the chicken pox. So I had to tell everyone. I feel really bad. And kinda stupid. But now that everyone knows a bunch of ladies have organized dinners for me every other day. For a week. Today it was so nice to stop moving and stay still on the couch while I corrected the home school papers and worksheets. Every movement I make seems to make it itchy. The less I move the better I feel.

And I hired a teacher to do writing with Jacob. He positively won't do it for me. And I'm done fighting. It's time to outsource which is odd because he isn't one I would have thought would do that for me. I thought he'd want to please me but I was unequivocally wrong on that assumption.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Six year old Jacob had been making up unbelievable story after unbelievable story explaining how the ear piece on his glasses frame got snapped in half during the night. None made sense. This went on for three days. Then we were reading scripture as a family and it happened to be about a story where God condemned liars in one way or another in Mosiah. We didn't say a thing to him at all but after family prayer he says, "Reading that scripture made me VERY uncomfortable tonight." Brian and I burst out laughing. Yep. It oughta make him squirm!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

East Meets West in Maddie Mae's Kitchen

Yesterday Madison went to a cooking class by a French friend here in the compound. She taught them how to make the most amazing, flaky Apple turn over pasteries. Once left to make their own however she decided to try combining her skills and make her French apple pastry into a dumplings cousin. Our other Chinese friend taught her and Jacob how to make dumplings for Chinese New Year in February. This girl loves language, culture, cooking and food.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

An Added Measure of Patience Today

Today was one of those horrible, awful, rotten, wanna run away from home type of home school days. I was yelled at, cried at, verbally assaulted and beaten down like I can't believe for a solid three hours by two of my three big kids. God obviously blessed me with an added measure of patience today because the real Angie could have never endured that without losing her mind and blowing up. I did snap back on two occasions when they over and over and over started getting too personal in their attacks and just seemed to be going for the jugular vein. So it was a pretty bad day at home but we survived. And I think that one of them may have actually caught on to the fact that if they don't whine and cry they can finish their entire day of learning super early. The non-crying one does that every single day. Heaven is helping us but all four of us still hate our situation with a passion that is hard to put into words. The emotions are so raw still and there is or of anger all day every day directed at whatever is the closest target.


I am part of an expat facebook group. Discussion today was started by an American 35ish year old observing all her US friends are married with kids. Not a single European friend is. She asks why? And the mentions she doesn't want to move home because she doesn't fit in anymore.  It's interesting to read opinions from people all over the world. Here is my take. 

Culture has a big bearing on what a person thinks is the "right" thing to do in this. I happily married at 20. We both considered waiting because of our super young age but in the end took the leap because when we talked about our long term goals they fell right in line together. So we made the conscious choice to just do all those big wild dreams TOGETHER. We are so incredibly happy we did. 16 years together, 2 degrees, 20+ moves, 3 countries, 4 kids. Life is awesome together but it is a deliberate, eyes wide open choice we made to make it such. Not all are ready so young and it frustrates me to see people both pushed into marriage and told to be scared and run away from it.

Use your heart and your head. You'll know when it's right if you do.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Daddy Was In Charge

I had Boy Scout committee meeting tonight while Ben had his patrol meeting so we both took off right after dinner. We ride in style these days. Ben had a bike and I ride the electric scooter.

Dad was in charge of dinner clean up and bedtime. I'm curious what precipitated this wardrobe for Ashlyn. My hypotheses is she was whining it was too cold. She got socks for her feet but when she wouldn't stop crying over it she was told to put socks on her hands too. I have vague recollection of myself telling one of the other kids to do the same thing many years ago.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fighting Reentry

Tis the season of grief and goodbyes for expats. This was an awesome read as I am already in mourning over being ripped from my happy life and thrown into the unknown even if it is my home country. 
Favorite quote, "Here is permission to not have your whole life figured out in one week or one month or even two years.  Here is permission to just survive for a while.  Here is permission to just do what you are able for today.  Here is permission to celebrate the little accomplishments {even if they don’t seem big to other people}.  Here is permission to not have all the answers about what happened overseas or what you are doing next.  Here is permission to take a season focused on recovery and not on serving.  Here is permission to just be yourself {even if it is a messy and confused self.}

I wish someone had told me that the answer to re-entry was not figuring out something to do that would give me a new identity, but rather just being myself in this new place."

All I know today is grief is real and necessary when something precious is lost. That's how I feel about our move. It is awesome here and we were deeply happy. We don't know why but God wants us in Texas next so we will "go and do what the Lord has commanded" because he wouldn't ask it if we couldn't do it with his help.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Saudi Summer Arrived Too Early

I was trying so hard to have a good attitude about the heat and not complain until I checked in thinking it was probably about 100 F today. I was totally wrong. It's only April 12 and it hit 108 F today!!! Moving out of Saudi sounds like a great idea now.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Heath Care in Saudi

Brian had a check up tonight and I have to say after that experience how much health care scares me in this country. The doctor actually asked, stethoscope in hand, "where is your heart?" 

But she was cute so we will forgive her her shortcomings and probably visit her clinic again soon. I was highly entertained when she kept taking into the stethoscope and then pulling it away because it was so loud in her ears. Such an amazing thing to figure out it made her laugh.

What Made You Red?

Ashlyn was giving me a massage tonight. She pushed my shirt up a little bit and poked my belly button. Then she saw on my side a mark and asked, "Mommy, what made you red there?"
"You did."
"All my babies did it."
She thought that was pretty cool and started listing off all my babies I had that made that mark. You know, "Ben and Maddie and Jacob and Ashie and Brian and Gina. All my Zufelts did it. Mommy is Gina a Zufelt?"

It's Hot

We can't leave the front and back doors open all day every day anymore. After over 3 years in Singapore it has been amazing to be cold, have a winter and leave my doors and windows wide open for gorgeous fresh air to fill my home. I'm sad to say goodbye to nature as it gets hotter and hotter here until it's unbearable. Part of me wants to leave now while I can't remember how horrid the 144 F heat index days were when we arrived last August.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Way to High Five?

We had an interesting conversation as the kids were heading to bed last night:

Madison:  Jacob and I high-fived with our tongues before.
Dad:  You and Jacob high-fived with your tongues?
Madison:  Yeah.
Dad:  That is sort of like kissing your brother.
Ben:  Yeah, only a lot grosser.
Madison:  Its like licking a lollipop stuck to your brother.
Ben:  How did it taste?
Madison:  It didn't taste like a lollipop for sure.

We had a difficult time to stopping laughing after this one.

We Have to Move. Again.

Wednesday was announced that ExxonMobil will relocate all children out of Saudi Arabia. Many of you have been aware that we have been locked down in our compound more than we ever dreamed. It’s been on and off since September. In December/January we were down for 5 weeks – our friends were for 48 hours. This time we locked down again first of March and basically understand that we will not be released again. We will just move.


You should know that corporate made this decision based heavily on events in 2004 when they were not fully prepared. There was an event then and they had to evacuate everyone in hours. They are the only company planning this move right now. All our friends and neighbors thus far are staying and we are lead to believe there is no discussion of leaving at all right now though no other company is locked down like we are.


Men and wives are able to stay because our housing compound is very secure, we travel in armored vehicles with GPS tracking at all times and the plant where the men work is secure. The issue is the school location.


All families with children will return to their home countries and we have now confirmed that we will be heading to Houston.  The company would like us to go immediately but will allow us to stay together here as a family until June at the latest. We do not feel at risk in any way at home. We will see what the school has to offer to support our kids for completion of their current grades in school with me as the teacher. I am looking at home school programs. We cannot buy a house fast enough to enroll the kids before the last couple days of the year in Houston because they end the year in May.


Don’t worry. We are being watched over by Exxon and from above. We have been stretched spiritually here in ways we have never known and learned to trust the Lord and it has been a great experience. We love Saudi!


We will let you know when we know any more information.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Knee Verdict - Osteoarthritis

I liked this orthopedic doctor at the local Almana Hospital way better than the guy at Saad Specialist Hospital. The last guyistened for me for a second, touched my knee cap a little, had me move my leg to see where I felt pain and diagnosed me with tendinitis. I'm not saying I doubt that I have that. He just didn't actually try check the motion of my knee or anything much at all.

Today he moved my knee join in all possible directions and instantly said, "Yes, you defininitely have a problem!" as it cracked, popped and made awful grinding noises. Brian mentioned that my dad and brother had both already had knee surgeries. The doctor told me straight out I was WAY too young to have osteoarthritis though it fit.

He ordered an X-ray and had good news bad news from what he saw. Osteoarthritis that is medium severity on the way to bad enough for surgery. For now I do thigh strengthening exercises and walk. No jogging. I got 4 medications to use. One to lubricate the bad joints (within 4-5 months of beginning a daily dose of it), one for pain today, vitamin D (because as he said everyone here has vitamin D deficiency because they don't spend enough time in the sun) and a topical cream called No-Dolor (which means "no pain" in Spanish.

I told him I don't exercise because exercise is what causes the pain. If I don't exercise I used to feel better. He told me the brace I am wearing us weakening my muscles so I will stop that and start doing weighted exercise to strengthen my thigh and take the stress off the joint again.

My favorite question confused me at first. He asked if I sit on the floor. I had to think for a minute. Yes, occasionally I sit on the floor with the kids or something but I probed to make sure I understood and he clarified, "Culturally you don't sit on the floor do you?" As he looked at my fair Caucasian face and light brown hair. Oh! "No. I don't sit on the floor." I realized he meant did I sit on the floor for all my meals etc. But in my head I thought, "No way! That would kill my knees!!" 

So no surgery recommended for now though I still hurt every day. And sometimes I hurt a lot. It won't improve quickly, especially because I need to quit wearing the knee brace which is guaranteed to add to the pain threshold for several weeks.

I just don't know how this mid-thirties body will ever survive to old age without being utterly miserable if it started breaking down at the age of twelve. Sad but true.

On the Agenda Today

Cook dinner from whatever vegetable Ben grew in the front yard.

Go to the doc and get my knee troubles seen about again.

Tennis lessons for the kids. With no school the coach has offered so many bonus unexpected lessons I decided to declare our offical family spring break activity "Tennis Camp".

Play with Brian because he took the day off work to chill with us in the compound.

Make chicken cordon blue for dinner.

Make leave rubbings and write storybooks.

Watch three big kids Heeley all over the house.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Composing New Lyrics

I love spring break! When else would Madison and I have time to sit and compose new lyrics to a Suzuki violin song? We are really enjoying ourselves together this morning.

We are working on Gavotte today from Suzuki Violin Book 1. Here is what we came up with:
You can find a blossom in all colors here
In my flower jungle I grow lots of cheer
Velvet petals covered in the morning dew
Swaying in the wind saying, "Hi!" to you.
Repeat verse 1
When the sun goes down my jungle comes alive
Busy, busy, busy like a grand beehive
Getting dressed and cooking for the festival
Life at night is never very, awfully dull.
All my royal subjects bow to me.
Waiting, watching, all wanting to see
Three baby blossoms new to our home
Pipsy, Popsy, Tipsy all three.
Repeat verse 3
"Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!" they say.
Ready for a great big rest at day.
Moonlight is fading quickly away
Lighter, brighter. Welcome day!
Repeat verse 4
You can find a blossom in all colors here
All the flowers see the baby blossoms bloom
Watching them with pride, as they grow quickly up
Stretching to sunlight, they wait for rain.
Then the garden gates unlock and people come
Basking in the beauty of the garden sun
Flowers shine and glow and beautify the world
No one knows about the midnight festival.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Chicken Lollipops for Dinner?

Another cool find here. Zing Chicken Lollipops. In the freezer section and appear to be dinner food rather than dessert as I would think of as a lollipop.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Happy Kids on Career Day

Today is career day at school and the kids get to dress up. I brought some fun clothes from Hong Kong as souvenirs for the kids and hadn't given them out yet because I was too darn tired to unpack my bags. Last night I had a plan for the boys at least. I asked everyone to write down five career ideas and we would figure out how to dress like those things. 

I knew that Ben would write soccer player and I was fairly sure Jacob would too. I had Manchester United jerseys to give them. Madison was just pure dumb luck. She wrote down movie star. I bought her an Elsa dress from the movie Frozen. Our clan was excited for school this fine career day morning in Saudi.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ashlyn Eye Improvement!!

We had our first follow up with the eye doctor today. After six weeks of patching six hours a day Ashlyn's vision went from 20/70 to 20/40. Madison started at 4 years old and went from 20/200 to 20/70 in six months. After four years she was able to get to 20/40. All of these numbers are WITH GLASSES ON.

Patching is such a wonderful, difficult blessing. Kids hate it. Parents hate it. But the benefits are so evident. I'm so thankful for the eye tumor scare at the pediatrian visit four and a half years ago that put us in the right office to get Madison so real help all those years ago. No tumor was found but we never would have known what could have been because the doctor we had been seeing didn't believe in patching at all.

Ashlyn will check in again in six more weeks and then we go from there. I have high hopes for her and love this doctor. Ashlyn is quite pleased that he recommends 30 min to an hour of her patching time to be with close work helping solidify the link between eye and hand. Ipad was top of his list. No complaints from her on that persecription.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Familiar Asia

I'm off on a fun adventure this week to Hong Kong with my girlfriends from Saudi. Four years I missed this weekend retreat with Singapore ladies for one reason or another while I lived nearby. Now that I'm crazy far away and it's way less convenient, I've found a way to make it happen. I recruited a few Saudi friends and we booked tickets!

I'm excited on so many fronts, not the least of which is the joyous reunion I am about to have with my Singapore sisters. From what I see on facebook, 10 + of my dear friends are coming to Hong Kong this week too. One of whom, sweet Teena, is coming three days early with us to tour and shop and play before the conference even begins!!

I'm currently sitting watching the inflight map with a little digital airplane creep across the tiny TV screen. I am getting more giddy by the hour. (That would be American giddy, not Singapore giddy which means feeling like you may pass out. Haha.) Just fifty five minutes left until I am in proper ASIA again!!! 

When we approached the gate to board this flight, I began to feel a little more at home. There were so many Asians! During the flight I slept then got up to brush my teeth and stretch a bit. As I stood waiting for the stewardess and her cart to move slowly along so I could return to my seat I stood in the dim cabin peering around at the beautiful sleepy faces on board with me and I got a little choked up. These are my people. I yearn to live in Singapore again. To be able to walk freely and safely among the people and shop in Chinatown or get chicken rice at the hawker. To sweat as I wait for a bus or train, to carry my groceries home in a granny trolly from the local market and know the weather will be the exact same all year long. And I miss Gina. 

My Saudi home is my home now. My family is happy. I am happy there too, but I feel so incredibly torn. Seeing my Asia love spike again today floods my heart with happiness. I want to feel attached to Saudi, to feel fiercely loyal to the people and the culture but compound living with drivers and rules about everything is so exclusive. Abayas and security worries and company lock downs hamper that effort every single day. I have wondered how I will ever feel a part of my new place. It isn't impossible. And the more good Saudi women I have the chance to meet the more my heart will grow loyal to a new people. I'm sure in our three years it will come. I even bet that six months into Singapore I still felt a similar out of place-ness, like a spectator in a silly game.

So, this week I will revel in the fun of Hong Kong. Shop and eat. Soak up the sisterhood of renewing old friendships. Listen and learn how to be brave and have courage. That is what I am here for. A refresh to bouy me up another few months to make me a better wife and mother to my sweet family. And soak in Asia!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Inside the Lines

I'm trying to figure out the car pool for next week when I'm away and Brian is on duty with the kids. So I printed this week and crossed out the day the kids have no school. Then to make sure I didn't mistake it for another week I wrote in big, sloppy letters across the top "Hong Kong" but Ashlyn says it's a big fail.

She's feeling an incredible amount of consternation over my schedule and has instructed me that "Teacher Vera says trace the things like this and don't go out of the lines. 

This is the right spot to write.

This is the wrong place to write.

She's been chastising me for about five minutes.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


We loaded the kids in the car to run out shopping for a garden hose today. Of course they asked what we were going to get so Brian told them we were going to get something so great it was better than their wildest dreams. So Jacob immediately requested a lion, Ashlyn two giraffes and Madison a unicorn.

We may need a bigger car to get all this home.

I Need an Answer

Having a driver is a blessing and a curse. I do a whole lot of riding these days since it's illegal for women to drive and its about an hour to take the kids to school in the morning or pick up in the afternoon. So I either talk and play with Ashlyn or make use of my data plan on my mobile phone. But today I had some legit stuff I needed to do in the tiny window of time during the drive and Ashlyn was super chatty. Finally I knew I was too deeply involved in my research when I noticed from her car seat she was saying, in a very stern parent voice, "Mom! I need an answer from you!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

M & M Disease

I have a diagnosed condition called M&M Equality Disease. I can't just eat and enjoy my M&Ms. I have to sort and match them by color. Then I eat them in sets of twos and I must chew them with one on the left side and one on the right side of my mouth. A bit quirky I realize but I didn't know it was passed down via my genes the same way I passed along my rotten, eye-glass-needing eyeballs.

Ashlyn just got a little pile of M&Ms as her daily reward for wearing her eye patch. She matched up the oranges then held up the red one and said, "This guy doesn't have a match M&M."

And about the patching, she's actually doing very well. We started last week. She hates it of course and doesn't want to wear it but after three days she has given up fighting and is willing to wear the patch, even at school she leaves it on and I can trust it to still be on when I return to pick her up.

Friday, February 13, 2015

White Kids Everywhere!

Dec 31, 2014

First thing I noticed in the Istanbul, Turkey airport was all the white kids! I forget we stick out after just a few short weeks abroad. It's just who we are, so the absence of those who look like us doesn't register until I am transplanted back to a place where the hair color extends beyond black and the skin tones lighten.

Second was tha I felt like I was in a high end shopping mall, not an airport. There were shops and ambience. 

More Observations

Immigrantion/security check at Geneva had signs telling the wifi password for your phone in the waiting area. All other countries I can recall say absolutely NO PHONES.

Before we left for Switzerland the temp in the car read 15 deg C and I felt it was a bit cool.  When we landed and drove home I saw it was 11 C and thought how warm it was. My Utah blood most certainly came out while we were away and it only took two days before I noticed I could go out for a little bit without a coat on anymore at 0 C.

January 9, 2015

She Fought the Law and the Law Won. I Think.

Ashlyn had turned to crying to get what she wants. Loudly. Often. Always. I vaguely recall each of the kids had this phase. I just don't recall it being this aggravating or lasting this long. She cries when she wakes up. She cries when she gets dressed. She cries when she eats breakfast, gets dressed, brushes teeth, puts on shoes. And that's just in the first hour of the day. It goes on all day long but it can stop in an instant if someone catches her attention with something alluring. In short, it's fake and it's a test. How long does she have to scream and how loud does she have to be to get each and everything she wants.

Today after I picked her up from school she was happy and chatty and fun. Then we got home and I made lunch. She wanted it until she didn't want it. And she demanded a different sandwich and refused to eat the single slice of apple I put on her plate. And I refused to change my mind about being a short order cook for a spoiled princess. 

The options remained unchanged: eat the lunch on the table or we skip the lunch and head up for the regularly scheduled nap time. She laid down on the floor because that always helps emphasize the point that she is unhappy about the choices before her. After a long, loud time she finally consented that she wanted to just go upstairs to nap but she demanded that I carry her. Not with that attitude I won't. She'll kick me as soon as I pick her up and say rude things as I carry her. Nope.

So there she stayed. And now she is fast asleep on the marble floor by the kitchen door. No the dilemma: do I carry her up or leave her be? Don't want to wake the beast. She definitely fought the law today but did the law actually win?

Maddie Chat

Thanks for coming on a walk with me Maddie.
You're welcome. 
I don't get to spend alone time with you very often so it's special for me to do something fun with you. 
You're fun mom. 
What do you mean?
No, you're fun because you play games with us and help us do stuff. 
Thanks Madison. I thought I was boring to you guys.
Well, sometimes you're boring. 
When am I boring?
Well, like those clothes are really boring. (I was wearing plain blue jeans and a plain white polo shirt.)
But at least sometimes you coordinate so that's good.
What do I coordinate?
Like I coordinate play dates?
Well yeah but I mean sometimes you coordinate your clothes. And I like when you wear a necklace and ear rings too. 

All About Quickly

Around here my kids think they are fast. They proclaim they move at the speed of lightening. They don't understand why the most common phrases out of my mouth all have approximately the same meaning from dawn to dusk. They come in many forms. "Come on. Hurry up. You have to the count of three. Focus. Didn't I already ask you to do that? How many times did I ask you to do that? How long do you think it should take you to do this job? Let's go. Move it. Where are you? Now you are late. Because you ____ we don't have time to ____ now."

They all mean the same thing though: "Move faster."

Yesterday I had a bit of a revelation about where their heads might be coming from. Jacob was super proud to show me this cool lego creation and explain all about it in impressive detail. One particular feature however sticks out in my mommy brain far more than the others.

See the two spears stuck tightly into the back way behind the soldiers? Jacob felt that to give the soldiers best access to their weapons to use to defend their lives that they should be stored in this handy location.

"So when they are driving along and they get surprise attached then the two guys just quickly pull over their car, climb down to the ground and run around the back and grab the spears."

Did you see if? Did you catch the quickly? He believes they will be able to be fast and effective in battle still. I'm pretty sure they will be dead by the time they get to the spears. It's all in perspective and now I have just a little better picture of what my six year old thinks counts as "quickly". Now we go about the work of finding a middle ground defining "quickly" at our house. 

Can't Sleep In

Our house is the biggest in the compound but it isn't really big. All four bedrooms open to one landing. The landing has a bit of a balcony overlooking downstairs and the entire house is marble floors and cement walls. That all translates to a very LOUD space - if someone wakes up you can hear them.

This morning was like many weekend mornings. Ashlyn is in her bed and starts yelling. This happens anywhere between 5:30 am and 6:30 am.  She isn't really trying to be a pest, that's just what happens when you are two years old and you're done sleeping. She yells as loud as she can from her room, "Is it time to get up?" When no one answers - because we are all asleep - she yells again. And again and again. She yells until someone answers. If you say "no" then she yells and hollars her disapproval until you change your mind about your answer. If you concur that it is in deed time to wake up then she happily gets up and talks as loud as humanly possible to everyone upstairs, planning who will do what for breakfast - who gets out the bowls and the spoons, the cereal and the milk.

Today was the best one yet. The typical wake up yelling insued and once Madison took pity on her to answer her high decibel babbling Ashlyn got excited and pronounced it was time to wake up dad. I guarantee he was no longer sleeping by this point but she came into our room at a full volume jabber with Maddie Mae. Then she flipped a switch in her little head realizing it was time to be quiet when you are waking someone up. She whispered as quietly as she could, "Dad, the sun is awake. It's cereal time." It was a curtious try at least to gently wake him but the deed had already been done.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

How to File Medical Insurance Claims from Over Seas

Brian was working on finances and medical insurance claims came up because of some of the obscure deposits I hadn't accounted for yet. "How does this match to that?" was the general question...so I told him how I file our medical claims these last four years.
  1. First you review all your medical receipts and add your own hand written notes about what things were for and why you saw a doctor and try your best to make their illegible chicken scratches on the junkie receipt understandable. Sometimes you have to write the ENTIRE receipt in besides the final cost and the name of the clinic because that's all they bothered to put on the paper. Oh yeah, and make sure it's all in English please.
  2. Then you scan everything into the computer.
  3. Email the receipt, a claim form and a bank deposit slip to your claim address and be grateful you no longer have to make photocopies of everything to use snail mail.
  4. Congrats! You just filed the claim. But....it's still in a foreign currency.
  5. Now the company will input your claim into their magic computers. They line item everything.
  6. They convert to USD and DON"T show what it used to be in foreign currency - you must do that yourself for every single item.
  7. Then they pay some parts of the claim straight away and deny others and ask for still more information on on others.
  8. Next they process three different claims for three different people in the family. They choose to pay some of those line items for each individual - but not all.
  9. The company then issues an explanation of benefits and mail it to us.
  10. Three to six weeks later we receive the paper form in the mail telling me what was paid and what I need to respond with more information - within 30 days of course. So I'm already late.
  11. While you were waiting for the explanation of benefits to see which things you must fight they issue a check for three random, unrelated medical expenses within those claims. You know, like child #1 cavity filling but not the doctor consultation, #3 child doctor consultation but not burning off the wart and #4 child pediatric MMR immunization but not chicken pox because it goes by a different name in your country of residence so they missed that they should have covered it in full.
  12. The check is magically sent to your US bank and deposited. Thank the Lord again they don't send you paper checks overseas to wait 2-6 weeks to arrive and 2-4 weeks to go back to the USA for deposit.
  13. Now you see on your bank statement a wild number of smallish deposits. You realize that not a single one of those checks has any information about what was paid for with those funds. Now the REAL fun begins.
  14. Take each line itemed expense and try to match it to your original receipts in a foreign currency. It pays to be good at currency conversion in your head.
  15. Realize you'll never figure it out anyway.
  16. Go eat a cookie or two before your driver comes to pick you up to go pick up the kids from school.
And that folks is why I just gave up trying to get it figured perfectly. It's impossible. As long as they approved the expense, I just say a prayer the money ends up in my bank account. Rotten way to do it but it's where I'm at these days with insurance. And for the record, my sweet husband did not tell me I needed to change and do better. I think he is happy to hear I try at all.
Mostly I just thank the Lord we still have insurance!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

International School Kids

All social media seems to be inundated with links that say "22 Signs You Are Southern Bell" or "15 Things Only Cheerleaders Would Understand" or "18 Most Famous Movie Quotes". A bunch of stuff to waste our time and simultaneously make is smile. Today I was snared by one that said "22 Signs You Were An International School Kid" and I couldn't resist clicking to read it and it didn't disappoint.

It got me thinking of how my kids reality is so different that my own as a child and I made a list of what I see in them as it compares to me in my school days.

You Know You Are an International School Kid If:

Someone in your class is always jet lagged.

If there is a three day weekend many of your classmates go explore a nearby country with their families.

It is a common occurrence for a classmate to miss 2 weeks of school to go on holiday with their family. Teachers actually expect it to happen.

Going to the embassy or consulate to sort out your passport and visa issues is as common a reason to miss class as a doctor or dentist appointment.

You talk to non-international school kids and realize just how awesome the stuff you did at school your international school really was.

Playing volleyball/soccer/baseball/swimming against another high school may involve passports, visas, hotel, chaperones, an entire weekend and a plane ticket.

Your class is like a meeting of the United Nations with at least 13 countries represented in every class of 22 students.

Your best friends native tongue isn't your native tongue.

You celebrate holidays and traditions you adopted from countries you have lived in across the globe even though they aren't your heritage culture.

International Day celebrations are amazing with the food and the costumes everyone has to show off.

Lots of the food at Internatioal Day was actually cooked by the live in house maid.

Your friends parents are seriously important people, either in business or government. But you'd never know they were important people because they get grounded just like you.

Being the new kid in school is hard but you know that a minimum of 25 % of the entire school is also new this year so your not alone.

On the first day of school you find out how many kids made it into the country and how many are "waiting for visas still but will join us within a week or two".

Ten percent (or more) of the student body misses the first day of school because the kids or parents were too jet lagged to get up that morning since they only landed in the country in the last 16 hours anyway.

You don't stay in your "home" over the summer because the entire expat community vacates for two months. Everyone goes "home" to somewhere else and it's all over the globe.

Lunch time in the cafeteria can really tell a lot about where your friends are from because of what their mom (or maid) packs in the lunchbox.

Kids you play with have maids, drivers, cleaners and gardeners. Enough that they actually refer to them as the "house staff."

It's hard for you to answer the question, "Where are you from?" You want to clarify before you answer the question by asking in return: Do you mean where do I live now? What is my passport country? Where did I spend most of my growing up time and therefore identify with that place? Or where were my parents living when I was actually born?

You have to practice fire drills like everyone else but you also practice and discuss, in age appropriate ways, what to do if there is a terrorist situation, bombing, etc at school.

You have had to add pages to your passport because it was full.

You get birthday wishes from across the globe for a few days before and a week or two after the actual day because time zones are complicated and people couldn't catch you at the right time of day thus extending the celebration and making you feel like a rock star for two solid weeks.

You run into friends from elementary/middle/high school while vacationing in other countries.

You meet people where you live now that knew your good friends from another country three moves ago when they were good friends with them.

When you move to a new location your parents start planning trips based on who they know that lives on the continent so you could visit old friends, some of whom you've never met.

Your five year old brother knows exactly what to do to get through airport security and immigration and asks before you leave the house for a trip if your parents have his passport.

You have opinions on what airlines are good airlines and have frequent flier miles on at least 4 different ones.

You think a 5 hour airline flight is fairly short.

You have opinions on McDonalds in different counties because you know they all taste different.

You know what meats are banned in certain countries so you can anticipate which McDonald's will serve hamburgers and where you can only get a chicken burger because the cow is holy but you also know which countries won't have bacon for the BLT because the pig is dirty.

When you see the Pizza Hut or KFC sign you feel a sense of relief because at least you will know what you are eating this time instead of the sketchy street food.

You catch yourself doing something in a new country that was illegal in the last country, like chewing gum in Singapore. You quickly ask your mom if you can actually do that here in Saudi Arabia.

When searching for a toy to buy with your own money you first query, "If I wait until we go home to America this summer how much would it cost me there instead?" Then you know if it's worth the cost to have it now or worth waiting.

The end of every school year means the loss of many close friends. Either they move or you do. It's a fact of life.

You had 5 or more stamps in your passport before you could even speak.

You probably won't learn to drive a car until you go to college because it isn't allowed and you won't be able to have a paying part time job in high school because you only have a dependent pass under your parent not a work pass in your country of residence.

When doing homework for the first time in a new country you have to ask your mom, "Do I write the date with month first then day or day first then month?" She doesn't always know the answer.

Your little brother hears your mom tell the store clerk she will pay for the groceries with a Visa (credit card) and interrupts her asking, "Do we need a visa to come to this store?" You are able to explain the confusion to him about Visa credit cards and visas that are granting permission to enter another country.

You collect coins of all the countries you have been to and get perturbed when a county uses the US Dollar so won't give you local change because your a foreigner or coins aren't used anymore and all you can get is paper bills. Now your collection is ruined because you have nothing from the country.

Your mobile phone has an app to tell you the time zone of each of your best friends and grandparents so you know who is awake when to plan your skyping.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Too New

We got this late last night. 

Dear parents,
According to the directive from the Government officials, all schools are closed tomorrow, Sunday, January 25th.  ISG will be closed on all the seven campuses tomorrow.
We are sending the condolences to all the local community upon the death of King Abdullah.

Kindest Regards,

It is interesting to be so new here. I feel bad not to be properly mourning the loss of the king but I have no history with him really. We are just too new in country. I do wish peace on all those of his nation however as they mourn their king today.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Overseas Kid Problems

At lunch with Ashlyn: “Here’s a cracker, Ashie.”

She takes it and turns it over and over. “Where’s the crack in it, mom?”

That’s what comes of letting her think they are called biscuits!


I am also beginning to think she is mourning the loss of Gina. Again. We haven’t left Saudi Arabia since we landed in August and she understands that Gina is a long, long airplane ride away. As we started to get closer to our winter break vacation we started talking about the trip to Switzerland more and more. And she started talking about Gina more and more and praying for her to come to our Saudi Arabia house. Poor girl was convinced that we were going to see Gina no matter what we told her we were going to do.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Our Winter Holiday Fun Began Differently than Anticipated

Nothing is as planned yet on our winter holiday in Switzerland but it's still awesome! Flight delays = missed the last day of Santa's village in France. New Years Day = EVERYTHING IS CLOSED, including grocery, gas station, I mean everything all day long.

We spent the entire day with the kids playing in the parking lot of the little hotel and the small hill across the street in a construction zone with left over, refrozen icy snow.

Best sledding spot? The gravel pile.

Best place to find ice to build a fort? The gutter on the street.

What souvenir did they keep from a neighborhood walk? More ice chunks and trash for forts and snowmen.

It's 0 C/ 32 F or below and they don't care one bit. The big kids played outside for about 8 hours and are in heaven sledding on a card board box and finding rocks and sticks to decorate the snowmen. Ashlyn seems to be getting sick so she napped for 3 hours inside with a runny nose and cough.

There are six smiling faces heading to bed now.

Happy New Year!!