Saturday, January 23, 2016

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

I have had that song stuck in my head frequently this past week. Do you remember that game? Was it for Sega? I think my ten year old self really liked that game.

Big news in the Collett household: We received our bid list. First and second tour employees in the Foreign Service are known as entry level. Generally, you gain tenure during your second tour, or you have a chance to gain it during your third tour if you didn't tenure in your second. (After a third, I assume you get kicked out if you haven't tenured by then.) Before you tenure, bidding for your next post is controlled by the powers-that-be in Washington DC.

Thus, on Tuesday, Jeffrey logged into the system and found a list of twelve cities all over the world. We have a month to learn as much as we can about those twelve cities. Then we submit a bid summary to DC complete with our ranking of preference and our rationality behind our rankings.

The powers-that-be in DC want their Foreign Service diplomats to be happy, so they try their very best to put us all where we want to be. But obviously if six of us all choose the same place as number one, then that's impossible. So we rank the whole list and hope for the best!

Drum roll, please . . .

When I sent this list to my family, my brother responded: "Mexico is just America with a sombrero compared to those places."Amen to that.

The heart is where our parents are: Cincinnati and Detroit.

The sombrero is Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where we are currently living. We are slotted to leave here during December 2016. We have one more year to enjoy Juarez!

The stars are our options for 2017 and 2018.

  • Paramaribo, Suriname
  • Libreville, Gabon
  • Yaoundé, Cameroon
  • Kampala, Uganda
  • Nicosia, Cyprus
  • Kuwait City, Kuwait
  • Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
  • Manama, Bahrain
  • Dushanbe, Tajikistan
  • Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Chengdu, China
  • Beijing, China

So, what do you think, friends? Have any of you been to any of those places or know anyone from those places or have any advice to weigh in our decision making?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Life lessons from pop culture

Sometimes I feel like I live in the car.

Other times I love all of the driving of my kids everywhere, because cars are actually a pretty good place for conversations. They can't walk away, and there are very few distractions.

Here is a conversation that happened today. (A friend named Bobby was in the car with us.)

Bobby, Daniel, and Jill jumped in the car.

Jill: "Mom! Don't tell Bobby and Danny, because I know you know the answer."
Me: "Um . . . okay."
Jill: "Bobby! Daniel! Do you know what a dictionary is? Agh. No! Not a dictionary! What is it called??!!"
Me: ". . . do you mean a diccionario?"
Jill: "No! What is it called?!"
Me: ". . . do you mean a thesaurus?"
Jill: "No! I can't remember."
Bobby: "Do you mean Jurassic Park?!"
Me: (laughing)
Jill: "No, no, no. You write in it, and Marisela had hers at school today."
Me: "Oh, do you mean a journal or a diary?"
Jill: "Yes! Bobby, Danny, do you know what a diary is?"
Bobby: "I do! A diary is when if you have a basilisk tooth, and then you stab a page in a diary with the tooth, someone dies!!"
(silence in the car.)
Me: "Well, yes, that happened in Harry Potter, but Jill means a regular diary or journal where someone would write secrets or hopes and dreams."
Bobby: "Oh."

Clearly a normal, Muggle diary is a huge let down.

Jill really wants a diary right now. She also looked through our bookshelves and found my old diaries. Eek! I might have to hide my teenage and married life ones from her. Maybe I can find some of my earliest ones to let her see.

I've been thinking about that conversation in my car, and it makes me wonder. When I read Harry Potter, I was already in middle or high school. (I don't remember when I started reading them, but the first one was published when I was in sixth grade, I think.) I already knew what a diary was. 

I told a friend that thought, and she wondered aloud how many children have only heard of phone booths due to Dr. Who. What if there is a generation of children who have no concept of using a telephone booth to make a phone call but think they are time traveling devices?

I've always loved fantasy and science fiction novels, so I'm not advocating to keep them away from children, but it did make me wonder. We're reading Harry Potter to our kids right now. We're in the second book. When I read I actually sensor out all of the shut ups and whenever someone says they hate something I change it to don't like. Am I doing a disservice to my kids? I don't know. But I've never heard my kids say shut up (and since they go to school in Spanish, they aren't learning it at school), and I could probably count on one hand how many times my kids have said they hated something. I just don't want them to learn from Harry Potter that you can hate a person. Even if that person is a bully. There is already too much hate in this world for me to be teaching my kids about it. There will, unfortunately, be plenty of time in the future for that.

Before reading the book to a six year old and four year old, it never occurred to me I would sensor parts of Harry Potter.

Sometimes I wonder if censoring the book is robbing me of teaching opportunities. Again, I hope I have plenty of time for teaching opportunities when they're a little bit older. 

Thoughts? Advice? Have you encountered this with your children? Or do you remember from your childhood something you learned (perhaps incorrectly) due to pop culture?

That reminds me of something my friend overheard in her car while transporting girls to gymnastics. Jill and her friends love Taylor Swift, and her friends had a very serious discussion as to whether Taylor Swift really had the power to turn bad boys good for a weekend. They ultimately decided that only God had that particular power.

In other news, Daniel turned five!

His birthday week was crazy. I made a cake for his birthday at home with family, cupcakes for his party at preschool, cupcakes for his birthday party with friends, and a chocoflan for a baby shower. Lots of chocolate baking! 
(It's crazy that we've been here a year already!)

I recently taught Jill how to use the telephone. 
(She already knew how to FaceTime. She learned how to do that when she was four.) 
She still has a little trouble with dialing (holding the buttons too long, not waiting too long in between numbers, etc.). But when she gets through to one of her friends, she is thrilled!)

Piñatas here are HUGE!

Someone thinks he is a big boy! Gah. He's going to be walking soon!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Review of 2015

Well, the yearly letter has had a little trouble happening this year. I ran out of stamps, and the bridge express lane services are being taken over by the government, so I currently can't pay the toll for the advance lane, and I just don't have it in me to wait for over an hour to cross a bridge, SO I have not gone to El Paso to buy more stamps. Some of you have received it. Some of you haven't. Sorry about that. Either way, I'm going to go ahead and put it here.

We moved to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on December 31, 2014, and rang in the New Year in our new house in a new country. And 2015 has been a great year!

Jeffrey has adjusted to his new job as the Facility Manager of the largest American consulate in the world. He manages a great team of about thirty locals, comprising of grounds crew, handymen, janitors, electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, and engineers. Together they keep the Consulate and diplomatic housing in tip top shape! He plays on a basketball team in a local civic league, and he takes tennis lessons three times a week. He is also kept quite busy at church, where he serves as the Young Men’s president, which means he’s the youth leader of the teenage boys, 12 to 18.

Michelle has been much busier than she imagined, and she can imagine quite a lot of busyness! She had no plans of working, but the children’s school offered a part-time position teaching English, and it seemed like a fun opportunity and something that would look good on her resume in the future when she may actually feel like working again, so she took it! She’s been teaching English all year to children ages 3 to 12, preschool through sixth grade. She also is busy with church work; she is the music chair person, choir director, and teaches music to the primary children (also ages 3 to 12). Full disclosure? She’s also surprised by how overwhelming it is to have four children—not to mention children in school and activities.

Jill turned 6 last April. She played soccer for the first time this spring, and she began tennis in the summer and added on gymnastics this fall. She just competed in her first gymnastics tournament, at the beginner level, and had a lot of fun and did very well. It has been a lot of fun to watch her learn Spanish and flourish in her new school. Her favorite subject at school is math, and she loves being able to read and write now. Big moments this year for her were taking the training wheels off of her bicycle and learning how to roller blade.

Daniel turned 4 last January. He also played soccer at the beginning of the year and is currently playing tennis. He may be starting soccer again soon though, because he’s starting to show a lot of interest in it, which his mom is thrilled about. His favorite activity at home is break dancing. He loves his preschool and is just starting to speak Spanish. He went through a delightful stage where he would use what little Spanish he knew and then fill in the rest with English words spoken with his version of a Spanish accent. It was really cute.

Alice turned 2 last February. She’s a little spit fire! At the parent teacher conference at her preschool, her teachers delicately called her a leader, but we know the truth. She’s super bossy and expects to get her way. She’s also very loving and fun to have around. She’s currently in a mimicking stage. She likes to repeat every single thing everyone says, entire conversations word for word immediately following the speakers.

Gordon Philip Collett Boling was born on April 1, 2015, here in Juarez. (Mexican naming laws require the paternal and maternal last names.) Thus far he has been an incredibly chill, easy going baby. He’s crawling all over now and pulling himself up. He loves smiling at everyone. It really has been amazing to have such a happy baby. He receives a lot of love from his older siblings—sometimes too much.

Family highlights were having Mimi’s parents and grandmother and Jeff’s mother visit us in Mexico, making it back to the Midwest for Mimi’s grandfather’s 90th birthday, and going to Houston for Thanksgiving with Mimi’s grandmother and extended family. We have loved eating delicious Mexican food and improving our Spanish. We’re all looking forward to another year in Mexico.

We miss you and love you and hope you have a wonderful 2016!