Life Unparalleled

Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 38° 50' N, Alexandria, Virginia USA

Fall 2019

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The last five months in the US have flown by. New home, new schools, new friends, new activities. Here is a quick over view of our August- December.

We absolutely love our house. When we were looking at coming back to Virginia for training we knew we would have a few hiccups to utilizing they typical government provided apartments. First of all there would be 2 months at the beginning of our stay and 2 months at the end of our stay where Ben wouldn’t be with us(so the kids could complete a full school year) which meant our housing wouldn’t be covered by the department during those times. The bids to stay in government provided housing for those months were insane, close to $6,000 a month, for 4 months was $24,000 we would have to pay out of pocket. Issue number two was the largest government housing available was a 3 bedroom apartment, which we can utilize but it isn’t fun. Number 3 after being in an apartment in Lagos for 2 years and destined for apartment living again in Barcelona we would love to have a yard for us and for the dog. We decided paying $24,000 for a small apartment with no yard didn’t sound fun so we decided to find our own place and then have some of the housing covered by Ben’s job and make up the difference ourself. We found another foreign service officer who had a 5 bedroom house with a yard to rent. It was more than we had hoped to pay and she wouldn’t allow our cat but we decided to go for it anyways. We are glad we did. The house is great. Large enough for visitors, a huge yard with BBQ, fire pit and hot tub. There are nature trails to walk and ride our bikes and it is close to shopping and about 2 miles from FSI where Ben is taking language training meaning he can walk or ride a bike.

There is a fabulous dog park near by which includes access to a stream where the dogs can swim and play.
The boys decided to swim as well.

The kids started new schools. Oliver in elementary in 4th, Everett in 7th at middle school and Dannica and Harrison in 9th and 11th at the high school. The kids have been happy. Made friends and in general have liked being back in the US. I miss them all being at the same school but only half a year more and we will be back to that again. The kids are doing really well academically and even though they are in “advanced classes” are feeling more relaxed and confident and feel that school is easier here than it was in Nigeria. I can’t wait to experience the school in Barcelona for some perspective. I felt like the school in Lagos was fine while we were there but the further I get from it the more I think there were some serious concerns. Harrison especially is much happier here.

Junior
Freshman- who is now 5 foot 9+
7th
4th
Enjoying smores by the campfire which has been repeated over and over
We met up at Oakwood Falls Church- our previous apartment in VA- with old friends for BBQ
We got our 900 pounds of air freight safe from Lagos. Man I like my own kitchen items.
We enjoyed perfectly beautiful and ripe produce.
A few of the kids got new bikes and we pulled the rest out of storage and we have enjoyed riding freely on the streets.
Kiva and I enjoy 3 mile forested walks almost every day. It has been soothing for our soul and both of us are slimming down a bit.
We have rejoined our congregation and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington and it is great to be surrounded by like minded people who actually work hard to apply positive change in the world.
The kids have enjoyed the youth groups and here Oliver is playing in a bell choir.

One lovely thing about being back stateside and having a house large enough to host is that we get to see friends and family. My sister came to stay for 3 weeks and Jeff got to stay for a week. It was great having them here and enjoying what DC has to offer.

Dannica was lucky and got to have Aunt Vivian get her ready for homecoming. Not many teens have a professional makeup artist for an aunt.
She had this dress custom made in Nigeria and she has gotten good use out of it using it for three different dances.
I sure love this kid!
More hiking and exploring the beauty of Virginia.
My sister brought her miniature poodle Vella with her so the kids got to enjoy having a puppy around and see how naughty they can be. She kept digging and eating the dirt from the yard.

Oliver had a birthday, the big double digit 10!

He has a small party with two friends over to play and requested a doughnut cake and cold cereal for dinner. Easy and done! What a nice break after the crazy big parties in Nigeria.
All Oliver really wanted for his birthday was a bow, arrows and a target. He has thoroughly enjoyed his gift and we have enjoyed having the big yard and putting it to good use.

Halloween, the Gordon’s love it! This years costumes include…

Wizard, not a hobbit.
Stick man.
Who knows.
Jelly fish, the neighborhood kids were crazy about it when we went trick or treating.

My dear friend Michelle came from Utah to visit for a week. We had a lot of fun girl time including brunch and scootering around the city.

My kids don’t even realize how lucky they are to play at national monuments on a regular basis.
Just a normal bike ride.

Dannica is enjoying the drama department at her new high school. This lady loves musical theater! She was able to excel at the role of Bonnie in Anything Goes. Playing this role was quite a challenge with so much tap dance and jazz but she worked hard and was fabulous. It was funny watching her is such a flirtatious role. She had a total of 9 costume changes. She also helped quite a bit with costuming and set building. The whole department is sad she won’t be here for next years show.

Grandma Kathy came for a visit and was lucky enough to enjoy the joy.
We are so lucky to have supportive friends everywhere we live. In this photo are Marc-a friend of 25 years all the way back to Flagstaff days and his daughter Naomi. Tayler and Melissa friends from the state department who also went to Lagos and now are back for training,.New friend Derek who is our property manager who we have loved getting to know, brothers and grandma.
We have a huge yard and huge trees. Everyone has gotten the full east coast leaf experience. Kiva loves them!

We enjoyed a nice relaxed Thanksgiving with friends from Lagos. They are here learning French. It was nice to cook this traditional meal with ingredients regularly available at any grocery store down the street. Thanksgiving in other countries is often creative. I remember when I traveled to Africa the first time in 2000 the chef with the tour company I was traveling with was a bit distraught I would be missing Thanksgiving. He wanted to throw a Thanksgiving meal. Almost all the people in our group were form Britain, Australia and New Zealand. He searched and searched for suitable substitutes but we were in the middle of no where. Ultimately he stuffed lamb chops with a local thick kasava porridge and herbs and covered it with cherry jelly. It was a sweet gesture and everyone sang Happy Thanksgiving to you to the turn of Happy Birthday to You.

My first lattice top and it turned out pretty perfect.

We attended a tour of the capital building and Library of Congress. Oliver always stands right up front eager to ask question of our guides. This guide had a microphone that sent his voice to individual headphones to everyone in our group of about 40. That way multiple tours can be attempted at a time without it being obscenely loud. Because of this microphone everyone else in our tour group got to hear all of Olivers questions as we walked from room to room. “Where did the US get all this gold?””How heavy is this statue, are you worried the roof will cave in?””Have you ever met someone afraid of escalators.””Why did they pain Roman gods on the ceiling Greek Gods are far more interesting, let me tell you all about them…”

The Library of Congress building was beautiful. I can’t wait to go back to look at the mosaic alone.
We spent a couple of days brushing up on our ice skating.
We are in love with Liberty Puzzles. We were given one as a gift from Ben’s sister and brother in law last year and they and his mom got us another for Christmas this year. It is so satisfying to see these beautiful wooden puzzles slide together. And the pieces are caved in shapes true to the puzzles. It is hard to describe. Don’t click on this link unless you want to become enthralled and shocked at the price. <3 Liberty Puzzles  

Oliver loves his teacher and I am so lucky I get to help out in his class every once in a while.

His school is very multi cultural and I love it!
Is elementary school anything other than pajama parties and junk food? Some of his friends mentioned that I am almost always the only mom who comes to things in class and I quickly pointed out that Oliver is lucky I don’t have to be at work all the time, we have our own car, or have younger kids I need to care for.

Everett Roger has really gotten into art and drawing. It is fun to watch him work and improve.

Everett has gotten back into Tae Kwan Do and is so good at it. He has moved up two belts since we got here, half way to black belt. We need to find a class in Spain.

Sadly Harrison had another mystery heart issue that we ended up in the ER for. He has had a CT scan and MRI and we still don’t know what is going on but it seems like whatever it is it isn’t affecting his heart muscle so that is good. He was also diagnosed with POTS so he is taking tons of salt capsules every day with lots of extra water to keep from passing out. He is happy and enjoying school though. He swims at the rec center across the street so isn’t missing our pool from Nigeria as much any more.

He is loving playing violin in an orchestra. There isn’t one in Spain :(.

Danni had a few friends over at the beginning of spring break and we had some hot chocolate to celebrate. 3 years out of homeschooling and I am still sad when my kids go back to school after long breaks. They are thriving though. Danni is taking advanced IB classes and doing very well.

Friends over including baby Arthur who is visiting from Barbados.

Christmas was just us but we had a great time.

Decorating the gingerbread house.

Danni turned 17. We had a fun family day seeing the new Star Wars movie, eating Dippin Dots ice cream, and she got her ear pierced.

I love them! 7 years apart but couldn’t be closer.
A friend of Danni’s invited us to their family Christmas party which was so sweet of them. We spent the night talking to multiple people who had lived in Barcelona and they surprised Danni with birthday cake. So thankful for friends who are like family that we make wherever we are.
We invited friends from Ben’s A-100 class to a night of Hanukkah. Greasy food, good company and lots of talk about language. They all already speak English and Dutch, learned Spanish for their last post, and are currently learning Russian. Goals!

The kids are so grown up they took over our traditional Christmas breakfast prep. Ben and I made the Christmas Tree Bread the night before but they did everything the morning of.

Thankful!
We went eco friendly for most of our holiday wrapping. A friend gave us a huge box of scarves that belonged to his deceased mother and they were perfect to wrap with and he was thrilled to see them used for years to come.

A new family tradition is now putting together puzzles. We love the beautiful wooden puzzles from Liberty Puzzles in Boulder Colorado. Each shape is also a representative of the puzzle theme. This one was a gift from Bens family and was all about Barcelona.

My good friend Maggie from Lagos. So glad we got to be in Washington D.C. for this year together.

Have I mentioned we love, love, love our house in Virginia. The yard it huge with lovely large trees. The kids got to enjoy the joy of leaves and enjoy the work that comes with them. Three times a year the county brings a huge vacuum truck and sucks up leaves that you pile by the side of the road.

This girl loves her leaves!
This is a huge pile, the photo doesn’t do it justice. We had two this size.
Our dear friends Sam and Jordan were in town from Lagos visiting family and they made a special 4 hour trip to spend a day with us. We are so sad that with this foreign service life we have no idea when we will see them again.

We have loved our time here and can’t believe it is halfway finished!

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