Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bon Appétit!

My friend Jill at The Perlman Update has some sort of sick obsession with puke. And since she's resurrected the Foreign Service Bloggers Round-up (!!!!), I owe her.  This edition's theme?  Puke.

Vomitting. Hurling. Bowing to the Porcelain god.  Up-Chucking.  Ralphing.  Spewing.

You get the picture.

Our family's most recent pukefest is sadly still fresh in my mind.  Three week, two days ago to be exact.  It started innocuously enough.  Abby went to bed saying her tummy hurt a little.  It was the end of Christmas break, and I figured she was just unhappy with having to go back to school the next morning.  I tucked her in and went to bed myself.

And then at 4AM (of course)...I woke up to her crying.  I went into her room...and stepped in a gigantic puddle of puke.  Plus, I noticed that she had another puddle on her bed.  Yes, she was practically swimming in puke while I was wading through puke to get to her.

My poor sweet little girl.  I felt so bad that I had ignored her earlier pleas of tummy-achiness.  I helped her change her jammies and brush her teeth and gave her some of my super-secret-stash of anti-puke meds that I brought from the States.  I helped her find a clean pillow and blanket for the couch.  And then started the massive task of cleaning up the puke.

Unlike the general population, puke doesn't faze me. It's like a super power skill I possess.  I've worked ER, I've cleaned up many a pile of disgusting body fluids.  Over lunch, I've talked puke and poop and boogers with my RN besties while eating my meal.  There's very little that grosses me out or churns my stomach.  And if it does - watch out, because it must be truly, incredibly gross.

HOWEVER, having said this.  I can also say we're not a puking-kinda family. It's not like cleaning up puke at home is a weekly or even monthly event for me.  I have girlfriends who say their kids puke so frequently that they keep ziploc bags in the car, in their rooms, in their backpacks, everywhere. And that their kids are so adept at grabbing the bag, barfing into it, and zipping it closed when done.  WHAT!?  I personally haven't puked (well, before this blog entry) since Christmas 2007.  That's right.  Four years ago.  In fact, now that I think of it, the last time I can remember any of the kids puking is like three years ago when we were in Los Angeles and Owen and Abby were hurling into buckets by their bed, down with a bad case of stomach flu.

In any case, puking is just not a common phenomenom in our family.

But of course, like any good, loving family...if one gets sick, we all get sick.  Abby was (obviously) the first to be taken down.  Followed by myself, dominoing to the baby, then Owen, and finally, the fab hubby. 

My woes started similarly to Abby's.  At work the next day, I felt 'icky'.  Grumpy tummy, odly nauseaous.  By that night I was puking my guts out.  Unlike Abby, I was able to make it to an appropriate recepticle to puke in (the toilet).  I finished my task and took a long, hot shower.  I crawled into bed and read a bit, trying to calm my angry guts.

But sadly, Kellen caught it that night as well. I heard him crying about two hours after I had tucked him in bed. I assumed it was a bad dream that had awoken him.  I managed to peel my own sad, sick body out of bed.  I went into his room and pulled him up to my chest, hugging and soothing him.  And then noted the puddle of puke.  The smell.  The texture (which was by now also smeared all over my own pajamas, my face, and my neck).  I did the only thing I could do at that point.  I cried.

Jason came in and saw me in my worst meltdown.  Kellen and I were covered in puke and I was crying.  And although Jason can hardly stand the smell, he helped me clean it up and get the dirty linens into the washer.  I bathed Kellen and gave him some medication.  I tucked him back in and took a much-needed shower (again) myself.  I crawled into bed and instantly fell asleep.

I took the next day off work to recover, sleeping nearly 15 hours straight.  That night I managed to keep a little bit of dinner down.  Abby and Kellen were downright chipper, happily eating their entire meals.  I thought the worst was over.

But of course, it wasn't.

This time is was 2AM.  I awoke to Owen yelling "MOM!" I ran into the hall, and slid through yet another pile of puke.  This time, it was Owen who said "I couldn't make it to the toilet, but I made it to the hall!" (He was proud.)  ::sigh:: The clean-up was monstrous.  Our hallway is hard wood floors, and so it had splattered all over the floors, onto the walls, and onto the doors.  It was practically dripping off the ceiling.  I got Owen cleaned up and back into bed and began yet another chore of puke clean-up.

But wait, there's even more! During all of this, I had called for Jason to help me, but he had responded with "My stomach is killing me!"  He was doubled over in bed, fighting a lost cause against the viral infection that had systematically taken down the rest of us.  I had no choice but to clean it all myself.

The fab hubby actually managed not to ralph his guts out, but he did end up spending the next day in bed.  He was miserable.  We were miserable.

When we packed for Luxor the next night, I took an arsenal of medications.  Anti-nausea, anti-vomit, anti-diarrhea.  We would not be taken down by this!  We were going on vacation one way or another.  Mostly because the airline tickets were non-refundable.  That and the fab hubby had little-to-no chance of getting time off anywhere in the near future.  Nor would I be able to for that matter.  We. Were. Going.

But this puke story DOES have a mostly happy ending.  Our flight to Luxor was pretty anti-climactic considering how sick we had all felt.  Not one of us barfed.  When we arrived in Luxor, we opted to spend the entire first day at the resort, resting and recovering from the viral attack.  And then the rest of our vacation sightseeing.  And a little bit more relaxing.

At breakfast the next morning, Owen said he was feeling a bit queasy.  He was still making a great attempt to eat though, because he said he was hungry.  But near the end of our meal, I looked over at him and noticed he had *THAT LOOK* -- closed mouth, puffed-out cheeks, eyes wide open in terror.  I grabbed a napkin and held it under his chin.  And he puked.  Amazingly I was able to catch it all.  Jason looked at me in awe.  Yes, I am that awesome.

The next two days were uneventful, at least in terms of puking.

On the last day of our trip, we spent lunch at a pool-side restaurant.  Having made it this far through our vacay, I relaxed.  We were all feeing better, laughing, and enjoying lunch.  We ate our meals and appreciated the view of the infinity pool and the Nile River. I looked over at Owen across the table, who had just finished most of his pizza.  He had *that* oddly green look.  His mouth was closed. His eyes were bulging.  His cheeks puffed out.  "NO!!!" I said and scrambled to reach across the table with a napkin.  But it was too late.  He leaned over his plate and ralphed out his entire meal.  WE HAD TO GET OUT OF THERE.

Just as Jason and I had made eye contact and were about to scramble to grab the kids and make a run for it, the waiter came up and said "BON APPÈTIT! Can I get you anything?" and then looked at the puked-upon plate.

*Awkward Pause*  *Uncomfortable Silence*

"Can I get him...another pizza?" he asked.  Jason and I screwed our faces up and managed not to howl in laughter.  We paid and left as fast as we could, thankful that we were returning home in just a few hours.   Because there was no way we ever could eat there again.

Sorry, no pics for this blog entry!  Puke never photographs well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shout-Out to a Beautiful Resort in Luxor

One of the things we noticed in Luxor on our recent vacation was the obvious lack of tourists, especially Americans. It's not only true of Luxor, it's also true of Egypt in general.  But the lack of tourists in Luxor seemed even more pronounced than it is in Cairo.

I know, it's because Egypt had its revolution last year and people are nervous about traveling here.  And right now it's the 1-year anniversary of the revolution.  All of us here are really hoping for peaceful demonstrations over the rest of the weekend and a smooth transition during the upcoming elections.  Because Egypt is a really cool place to live.  To see.  To experience.

If you have ever had a desire to visit Egypt, to see the sights, now is a really good time.  The country desperately needs it's tourism industry to perk up.  The historical sights are all but empty - whenever we've toured the Pyramids, the Citadel, Luxor, Karnak - there were no crowds.  Absolutely none.  Even Khan Al Kalili (the large market in Cairo) has had a very difficult time with the lack of tourists. Our beach retreat to the Red Sea in early January?  We were the ONLY Americans there.  And we only noted a handful of Europeans.  We pretty much had the beach to ourselves.

If you come to visit, you'll find merchants desperate to sell their items, hotels with reduced rates, and even flights that are considerably cheaper. You won't be fighting long lines at the sights, and you can relax and enjoy.  Plus my beloved Egypt will prosper.  Really.  Consider a vacay here - you won't regret it!

So, of all the places we've visited so far in Egypt, Luxor/Karnak are my favorite.  Especially Karnak.  It's absolutely breathtaking!  We spent hours touring through the Temple.  Luxor itself is gorgeous.  The Nile River is so blue, the air is so clean, and the people are very friendly.  Here's last week's blog about our vacay, just in case you missed it!

If you do get the chance to visit Luxor, we highly recommend the Maritim Jolie Ville Kings Island.  The resort is spectacular and the service is amazing.  I don't usually take the time to give a specific shout-out to a resort, but this place is truly amazing.

Hidden on a private island (Kings Island - used to be 'Crocodile Island'), the Maritim Jolie Ville is a cluster of villas.  We booked two adjoining rooms so the we'd have the space a family of five needs to say sane for a four-day getaway.  The rooms are modern, spotless, and have great amenities.  The shower IS AMAZING.  Free WiFi (common in the U.S. - but trust me, NOT common in Egypt!) and TV with some English-speaking channels.  There are five restaurants on premises, an ice cream shop, a convenience store and souvenir shops, a bank, multiple pools (including a no-kids pool if you prefer your vacay sans kids), a jogging path around the island, a gym, a mini zoo for the kids to enjoy, and a playground.  Each night for dinner, the waiter knew our children by name and went out of his way to make them happy.  Make my kids happy and I'm happy.  Plus the food was incredible.  Total win-win.  Felucca rides, boat rides (that's how we traveled to Luxor and Karnak), a kid's club, a giant chess board in the garden (very cool), and lots of scheduled activities.

OH, and I can't believe I didn't think to mention the Spa.  A-MAAAAAYYYYY-ZING.  The fab hubby enjoyed a deep-tissue massage and steam shower.  I opted for the full 2-hour spa treatment and had a body scrub, body wrap, sauna, steam shower, and relaxation massage.  My spa treatment was a mere 500LE (That's 90USD).  At my favorite Aveda Spa in the U.S., this would have cost me well over 250USD.

I really can't say enough about this resort.  Luxor was wonderful to visit, but this resort really made the trip extra special for our family.  And with that being said, I'll allow the photos to do the rest of the talking.  Go and visit! Tour Luxor and Karnak and the Valley of the Kings, and then spend the rest of your time relaxing at this resort - we're already looking forward to going back next year.

Infinity Pool - along the Nile River.

Valley of the Kings in the background!

Bubs loves the water!

Water baby.

Sunset along the Nile.

Awesome big brother!

Happy Bubs.

At the mini zoo - yes the bunny nibbled his finger.
No, he wasn't happy about it!

Even Owen enjoyed the petting zoo.  He'd like us to think
he's getting to big for such things.  But we know better.

My favorite moment.

The resort has it's own fields and grow some of their own food.
I love how green and lush it is.  A stark contrast to the nearby desert.

My early-AM run along the trail around the island.

Awesome run trail!

Camel sighting during my run!

Along the Nile River, mid-point of my run.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Luxor, Karnak, and Boating the Nile!

Yes, I've been MIA a few weeks on my blog.  My apologies!  First was a monstrous household pukefest (do not despair - I'll be blogging about that soon), and then was the second round of sick, and then we were on vacation.

But I'm back!  And with a story and photos to tell about the awesomeness of our Egyptian vacation to Luxor.

Coming to Egypt, I had a list of sights-to-see:  Giza Pyramids (check), Alexandria (still on the list), Coptic Cairo (still on the list), The Citadel (check), Khan al Khalili Market (multiple checks), Coptic Cave Churches (check), Red Sea (check), and Luxor/Karnak (CHECK!!).

We've been planning this trip for a few months.  We heard from friends that the weather was pleasant in Luxor in the winter (60's-70's), so we thought that we'd head down there in January.  The fab hubby knew of a gorgeous resort on a private island, and I was school-girl giddy after looking at the resort pictures online.

We debated on where to go - yes to Luxor Temple, yes to Karnak Temple, no to Valley of the Kings.  Kellen is only 15 months and while he walks, he walks like a drunkard and falls over uber easily. Not to mention he has the uncanny baby knack for getting into absolutely everything he shouldn't.  The Temples are stroller-friendly, but Valley of the Kings is not.  And while he's ok with the being tied on to me in the mei tai - I'm not so keen in carrying around a nearly-30 pound baby for hours and hours.  We kept it simple.  Stroller friendly = acceptable vacay destination.

We arrived very early in the AM last Friday and checked in early at the resort.  We opted to spend this day just relaxing at the infinity pool and watching the feluca's drift by on the Nile.  We loved the fresh, clean air and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
Who knew that boats could be so stroller-friendly?

On Saturday we took a boat to Luxor and visited Luxor Temple.  The kids LOVED the boat ride!  Ok, I totally admit it -  so did I!  It's beautiful along the river. And there's so much to see - people working in the fields growing crops, camels hanging out, Valley of the Kings on the west bank, Luxor on the east bank.  We docked into Luxor near the renowned Winter Palace and walked to Luxor Temple.

In the U.S. we're well-versed on the DO-NOT-TOUCH regulations at most monuments and museums.  But Egypt is way more lax.  The kids got to touch, feel, run, and climb through Luxor Temple.  It was fantastic!  After our tromp through history, we went to a local market and allowed the kids to try their hand at bargaining.   We've never taken them to Khan Al Kalili in Cairo, mostly because it would be seriously overwhelming for them (and us).  This market was smaller and not so busy, perfect for them to check out some local goods. They got some trinkets, met some really wonderful people, and we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

The 2nd Boat Ride!
The next day we opted to take another boat ride along the river, but the trip from the resort to Karnak Temple is pretty far - and would take the boat out of it's river region.  However, we lucked out - our boat captain had a friend who worked along the river near Karnak, and midpoint, we hopped boats.  In the middle of the river!  The kids were ecstatic.  And the ride was beautiful.

Karnak Temple is impressive.  It's huge and the detail on the art is amazing.  I'd even call it overwhelming. It's difficult to take it all in, but we took our time and lingered for quite a bit through the temple.  When we were done, we opted to take a horse and carriage ride from the temple to Winter Palace to enjoy a late pool-side lunch.  The carriage ride was especially amusing, since we had to hoist the monster jogging stroller up into the carriage.  Kellen giggled much of the ride and the kids enjoyed sitting up-front with the driver.

We spent our last day of vacation at the resort, another beautiful day of relaxation at the pool, a bit of ice cream, a leisurely lunch overlooking the pool and the Nile, and a run around the island for me!  Our flight home was late (arriving in Cairo at 9:45PM) and the kids were kinda peeved about having to get up for school early the next day.  But they got over it real quick when I told them we'd NEVER TAKE THEM ON VACATION AGAIN if they whined about it.

Ahhhhhh.  Mad Momma Skillz!

Luxor Temple.
I told Owen the dude on the far left said something
really disrespectful to his parents - and look what
happened to him....
Sweet ship, with Valley of the Kings in the background.

Camel sighting!

Hungry Bubs (Kellen's nickname) - the bread maker at the resort
loved him and treated him to this snack before we boarded the boat!


Kids playing on the west bank.

Inside Karnak.


Owen pulling an impressive Indiana Jones move.

View up.

Sleeping Bubs - Kellen slept thru the ENTIRE Karnak trip!

View over the massive stroller in the carriage ride!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Getting Out of Cairo and Celebrating 13 Crazy, Awesome Years

Life goes by in a blur.  And then you look back and see snippets of time and wonder where it all went.  On this day in 1999, that's right! - 13 years ago! - I married my best friend, my soul mate.  At the risk of sounding corny and mushy and downright lovey-dovey...I still can't believe how lucky I am.  It's been an awesome 13 years.  Three beautiful children.  Ten years at our sweet home in Ohio.  One fabulous year in Los Angeles.  And now, nearly six months into our awesome two-year assignment in Cairo.

13 Years Ago.
My husband, who didn't hesitate to say "Do it" when I said I wanted to completely change career paths and be an RN.  Who spent nearly two years as a stay-at-home dad while I focused on my career; he still says it was one of his greatest jobs.  Who four years ago said, "I want to work for the Foreign Service - let's move overseas" when we talked about moving away from Ohio.  No idea too crazy, nothing that couldn't be accomplished if we so chose to do it.

13 years.  It seems like it should feel like a long time, but it seems like just a moment ago we got married.  I've loved every twisty turn, every crazy idea, every sweet moment we've ever shared.

We've spent our wedding anniversary in lots of fun places - San Diego (5th year), Cleveland (8th year), Los Angeles (11th year) Baghdad/Ohio (separate, last year, not so fun), and now Cairo.  Usually, we try to spend our anniversary sans kiddos, but this year we decided to get away with the kids for a few days.  Since our trip to Hurghada was cancelled in November (remember my Thanksgiving post?) I was still really craving a beachy trip.  We decided to hit Ain Sokhna, a nice resort area on the Red Sea and within driving distance.  I booked a hotel with a two bedroom apartment-style unit available on booking.com (which, BTW, is spot-on in reviews about resorts) and we packed up the SUV and braved the Egyptian roads for some fresh air and sea.

View from our hotel room.  Awesome!
And it was absolutely wonderful. Our hotel, though seriously outdated and full of lots of broken items - namely the microwave and room heaters (plus, I honestly questioned the cleanliness of the linens, but at least there were no bugs!) was charming with lots of activities for the kids.  American restaurants on premise (always a bonus with kids) and local restaurants, too.  Multiple swimming pools, playgrounds (with a cafe right beside one of them!), and access to the private beach.  Crystal clear, beautiful water.  What more could I ask for?

Kids, including the baby, swam in the sea.  I enjoyed many a cup of 'Nescafe' while the fab hubby drank hot tea.  A TV with three English-speaking channels!  And a view of the Red Sea to die for.  Time with the hubby, time with the kids, and time to relax.  Out of the smoggy city.  Away from the constant noise and traffic.  Because sometimes, just sometimes, Cairo can be overwhelming. And no matter how much you love it, you sometimes just need to get away from it.

And so this trip was exactly what we all needed.  A great celebration of our marriage, and a way to unwind from the hustle of the city.

Happy Anniversary to us!  It's been 13 crazy, awesome years.  Together.  And I can't wait to see what we'll be doing for the next 13 years.

Lots and lots of kiddie activities!

Kellen's middle name is "Murphy" and it means "sea warrior."
Obviously, it fits.

Such a beautiful moment.

The fab hubby took the kids out for a ride.

And back in the crazy we are!