Sunday, June 26, 2016

Breaking up is Hard to Do

... no, no, don't worry, Terry and I are fine.

With 5 weeks to go in my tour things are winding down. Many of my kids' friends - whose parents are often our friends - have started leaving for their summer holidays, only to return after we've left.  My kids spent the last couple of weeks bickering with their friends more often and some friendships ended on such terms that there was no goodbye. Cultural differences I used to think enriched out experiences, and even found endearing at times, are grating on my nerves and offending my sensibilities. We're starting a lot of sentences with "When we are in the USA..." and "When we get to Germany..."

We all know the end is nearing, and it is easier to say goodbye if we are also saying "good riddance."

It isn't you, Astana. It's us. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016


I had a business trip this week that required me to overnight in a hotel. 

This was sitting on a shelf above the mini-bar, right next to the complimentary bottle of water.

While this was not my room, my room's door was strikingly similar.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Finishing with Panache

Open apology to my mother's mah jjong and canasta groups - Sorry, my mother is going to be insufferable for the next week. I'm sure you have all had your turn as well.

Today was "Speech Day" at Haileybury, where award were given and speeches made. Alex, it turns out, won the academic excellence award for her class - she was the top student (pupil, as the British say). She accepted her award and medal in front of the assembled students (pupils) and parents.  For various logistical reasons, she was actually the very first child to receive her award.

Well done, Alex!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The First Farewell

We have friends whose kids attend a school with a more Kazakhstani schedule. That means school's out!  They head home for the summer later this week. When they return to Astana in August we will be gone.  We had them over for brunch this morning. When we said goodbye we knew that we didn't know where or when in the world we'd ever meet again in person (but, thank you internet) but that it wasn't going to be in Astana.

The leave taking begins.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016


My kids bicker and fight. Yes, most siblings do, but mine always seem to take it up a notch. We've tried numerous solutions, involving both carrots and sticks (metaphorical, folks, metaphorical sticks) and not one thing ever worked.

Then we tried a points system.  They get a point for being kind or helpful to each other, for doing chores, eating unfavored dinners without complaint, and just generally helping us.  The get points taken away for being rude, for fighting, for complaining about chores. If they make it to 2 points by an appointed time each day (somewhere between the end of dinner and the start of getting-ready-for-bed) they get a treat/dessert. The size of the sweet is dependent on the number of points (4 points gets twice the treats of 2).  After 2 points they can trade points for extra allowance instead of dessert if they wish.

Not only has the fighting screeched to a near halt, but they are cooperative and, best of all, simply happier and more loving generally.  As these things become habit we'll raise the bar, but for now we are thrilled to realize we actually need to buy more candy because they are earning treats so many days in a row!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My quick trip home

One of the downsides of foreign service life is how often we miss our extended families' big moments. This time managed to be an exception - sort of. My nephew had his bar mitzvah last weekend. We are 20 hours of travel away, we return home within 2 months, and the kids have school.

So, I came alone and represented.

Best. Decision. Ever.

I don't get much jet lag, so the fact that I spent all of 5 days in the USA wasn't too bad. I have a Kindle so the 20-24 hours of travel didn't kill me (I did read 4 books!)  I ate spicy Thai food and Chipotle. I got some quality time with various family members and although we all wished the rest of my nuclear family could have been there, it was just easier. Also, I picked up a bunch of things that will see us through until we return to the USA (a pack of hot dogs, some cheddar, pig and turkey bacons, a box of blueberries, soy cheese shreds).