Summer in the U.S. of A.

Wow! It has been a long gap since my last post. Last I wrote we were in Cairo finishing up our assignment there. Since then, we spent 3 months in the US and then moved to Ankara, Turkey. I’ll write about Ankara in another post, so this one will focus on summer in the States.

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June

The first half of June was a whirlwind of activity finishing up Cairo, including DD completing kindergarten and all of our stuff getting packed up. Not to mention many, many goodbyes to people leaving in the days and weeks before us and to those we were leaving behind. However, in this lifestyle it is often not “goodbye” so much as “see you later” as you often end up crossing paths at a future embassy or in an airport somewhere!

Kids and I moved back to the US a week after school ended and spent the end of June getting adjusted to the time difference and life in America. Woo for drinking fountains! And sidewalks! And stores that open before 11!

We started off our time in America with a playdate with friends from Cairo! Which was great because Lucy was sick the day of her “last playdate” with her best friend and was horrified to miss it. Luckily they were spending some time in VA and we got to see them.

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Leesburg Animal Park
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They loved gardening with Nan!
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The newest member of our family

We also got to meet one of our two new family members as both my brother’s wife and DH’s sister had little boys. DH’s sister had hers just a couple days after we landed in the US, so we got to meet him at just a few days old and DD was thrilled! We got into the house and she immediately wanted to hold him and cooed over how cute he was. DS? He went immediately for the cars and toys! Though he did eventually come say hi and enjoyed holding him as well.

DD and I left DS at Gramma’s house and we had a Girl’s Night Away and did Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg.  We had been learning about it, and she loved seeing the sites AND having time just with Mommy. And of course, DS loved alone time with his grandparents.

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Jamestown ship

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Colonial Williamsburg

July

Upon our return we celebrated the Fourth of July the good ol’ fashioned American way–with a kiddy bike parade led by a fire truck! Earlier we also celebrated in my mom’s town and got to see some very cool helicopters land and the kids got to sit in them. DS was in Heaven!

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Blackhawks came in for a Fourth of July Event
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What celebration would be complete without a kid and bike parade?

Grandparents earned major points by keeping both kids while my mom and I had our own Girls’ Weekend! We explored Richmond, ate delicious food, visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, and saw several museums including Jefferson Davis’ house, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, the Virginia Holocaust Museum, and the Civil War Museum. The Virginia Holocaust Museum in particular was very well done and I highly recommend it.

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Very cool Lego exhibit at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
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James River in Richmond

We enjoyed trips to Luray Caverns, my great aunt’s house, my step-grandmother’s house, and my brother’s house (twice!) where we got to meet my other new nephew who was 4 months. My kids love going to their aunt and uncle’s house as they have cousins similar in age who like similar things! Win! Our first visit there, we did a belated celebration of both of my kids’ birthdays with family. DD got a trip to the nail salon with her cousin and both mamas. She thought it was so fancy!

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In my mom’s town, we really enjoyed the playgrounds, eating ice cream, and walks to Main St and Great Harvest Bakery. Being walking distance from there is dangerous! We could also walk to the library and enjoyed many story times. We lucked out and had two playdates with friends from our previous Sterling home–one set came out for pool and icecream and the other we met at a children’s museum!

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We started reading the Little House series to DD

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“Fried Eggs” at Luray Caverns
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My nephew’s 3rd birthday was at a fire station. They loved seeing the trucks!

August

August started off with an awesome trip to the beach with DH’s dad’s family. We go about every 3 years and really enjoy our time. And this time I didn’t have a baby and could stay up later and relax a bit more! The first time I went DD was 12 weeks and the second time DS was 6 months! So much easier with a 6 year old and a 3.5 year old, especially when they had other kids to play with!

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Each family was in charge of dinner one night. DH and I (and a number of sous chefs) made Egyptian food! I was so proud of our spread!

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The highlight of the beach was watching baby turtles get released into the water. As nests hatch, volunteers dig out the nest 3 days after the hatch to count how many successful babies there were, how many did not hatch, and to help out any still stuck in the nest. Our first nest the kids and I went to for a 7 am dig with their grandparents. There were 102 eggs and 13 hatchlings needed help. It was so exciting to watch them move down the sand to the water!  The second nest we watched was a 7 pm with DH. 143 hatched, 4 unhatched and ALL the hatchlings made it to the water on their own. While this is less exciting for those watching, it is better for the turtles.

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A cool fact is that the beach we were at had a record of 41 Loggerhead nests that year. The previous high was low 20s. The ranger said that turtles don’t lay eggs until about 30 years old and that 30 years ago or so they started conservation efforts to increase hatchling numbers (protecting nests, tracking data, etc). So it looks like their efforts are paying off! Talk about a long time to realize if conservation is working.  Mother Loggerhead Turtles lay 2-4 nests over a summer typically with often more than 100 eggs in a nest. To fit that much in their body they don’t eat all summer–there is room for food or eggs in their body (since their shells don’t allow their body to expand). They only lay nests about every 3 years or they would starve.

Along with the beach, we also took a quick trip out to Southern Illinois to visit DH’s grandparents. Eleven hours of driving plus stops and we did it all in one day each way. 2 full days there and returned. The kids love riding on the lawn mower and we went to the city pool and a playground while there. Not to mention saw lots of family.

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We also did a trip to my dad’s house for some boating, feeding ducklings, and making s’mores. By the end of August DH was back at work and the kids and I continued to stay with my mom while we waited on visas.

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September

Over Labor Day weekend, the kids had Nan Camp and I joined DH in DC for a belated wedding anniversary getaway–10 years of marriage! Checked out the relatively new National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was very well done and very large, but still very packed! Weekend entry still requires tickets which are hard to get, and while I got in during a weekday afternoon without a ticket, there were crazy amounts of people. It opened 3 years ago and is still very popular!

We also did Ford’s Theater, which had an excellent museum on Abraham Lincoln and his life and role in the Civil War. It also covered the aftermath of his death and how it affected life. Reconstruction would have been very different if he had been alive!

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We went to a going away happy hour for a friend and met a couple there who had just left Ankara and so we picked their brains! I love the small world that it is. We also stuffed ourselves with meat at Fogo de Chão, a favorite Brazilian Steakhouse.

We did another trip to my brother’s house for cousin and family time. The boys love playing trucks together and the girls happily play dress ups and dolls. And they all loved the wagon rides they got when my brother hooked up his lawn mower to a wagon and pulled them around the street.

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Working on learning Turkish

We got visas early September and spent a week quickly prepping for our departure! We flew out on Sept 17th and after 24 hours of travel door-to-door, arrived in Ankara!

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