Monday, May 26, 2008

Greetings from Afghanistan

A good friend of mine works in international development and is usually a half step behind the Army in arriving in war-torn countries. Right now, it's Afghanistan. He dropped an email to a bunch of us recently that really puts it into personal perspective. I thought you might like enjoy benefit from hearing a first hand account:

Greetings from Afghanistan ! It’s been a long time since a wrote anything about my travels lately, mostly because I prefer to not spend what little off time there is out here recalling the days events. In comparison to Iraq , Afghanistan has sometimes been called the “forgotten war” but I find it decidedly difficult to forget, so I am much less inclined to dedicate even more time to remembering it. However, I have been particularly bad about keeping up with my email in recent months or even just keeping up, so I thought it would be timely to at least let you know that I am still on this planet, albeit on the other side of it. Perhaps I feel a bit guilty about falling so out of touch, but mostly I am writing because I am looking forward to getting home.

Over the past few months, my program here has grown to nearly $100 million. Given that the US is presently spending $12 billion/month in Iraq , that jump may not seem like much in the bigger picture, but it is a giant leap if your job is based on aiding rather than invading. When I leave, sometime near the end of the month, we will have nearly hundreds of employees on staff in numerous offices all around Afghanistan with a complex array of politics and partners working in some of the most remote areas of Afghanistan. We are building and repairing schools and health clinics, building roads and bridges, and in one case, even teaching motorcycle repair courses. We have such a wide array of possible projects, the largest thing we’ve been asked to do is build an airport and probably the smallest thing we’ve been asked to do is fund a puppet show (we declined the former and obliged the latter).

It’s been a giant nightmarish mess since it all started, but it is now starting to take some shape, even if the shape keeps changing. In January, I didn’t know if we would be able to spend all the money budgeted for this project. Now, I don’t think we will have enough! A big part of the frustration in trying to manage development projects in places where development is just a marketing tool is that very little can be deliberate and measured. As much as you may hear, or just want to hear differently, Afghanistan is still a war zone. War and development, particularly in an election year, make very strange bedfellows, but here we are trying to tuck them in together and pretend that we’ll all get a good night’s sleep for it. It doesn’t really work that way, even if you pull the sheets all the way up.

On the bright side, our staff recently negotiated a bridge placement among conflicting communities. Old war wounds, tribal disputes, etc. resulted in requests for nearly 10 different bridges to be built across the same river. After much negotiation and settling – our team got agreement for one bridge to be used by all the villages. Because of this, we can make it big enough for carts and small vehicles so that people can actually bring more than they can hand-carry to and from nearby markets. Amazing!

Now that sounds like development! However, around the same time, we were advised into a lock down because of intelligence reports of suicide bombers targeting Kabul over a few days. We try to make the best of such situations, and some of our ex-military staff members got lucky enough to be on the base when a shipment of Corona arrived. We got perhaps more than our fair share, had a cookout, and climbed to the roof of one of our secured buildings in Kabul . All in all, not a bad way to wait out a lock-down in Kabul .

What we didn’t know at the time is that the security threat was actually an 11-year-old boy, who quite assuredly didn’t even know he was a security threat. Some people strapped him with explosives and told him to walk over to one of the Kabul district police stations. Then they blew him up by remote control, killing three and wounding five. How many bridges and puppet shows does it take to get to the bottom of that kind of malice? I don’t really know, but I suppose the answer is as many as you can do. So that’s what we shoot for, even if it doesn’t seem like enough.

After all the money and time put invested in rebuilding Afghanistan it appears that its major industry seems to be centered on being the world’s leading producer of irony. Too bad Toyota can’t make a hybrid that runs on irony. That way at least there would be some payback for funding a war that nobody wants to finish because of another war that shouldn’t have been allowed to start. Perhaps then there would be something to show for the past 8 years other than $4.00 per gallon prices. George W. would be a hero, and that alone would eliminate our dependence on foreign irony for the next millennium.

In the mean time, we can rely on Afghanistan to pump out all the irony we can consume. As a case in point, I have attached a video clip that is the quintessential example of people coming together in Afghanistan as we hope (and pay) for, to produce a result that exemplifies the foreign policy directions of the past 8 years.

Enjoy this real slice of Afghanistan life. Chances are that you paid for that truck anyway.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

No Matter What

Yesterday afternoon, we are once again out on the school playground, RC happily and peacefully playing in the sandbox with his girlfriend, Sophia, me, chatting it up with the other mommies, and HRH...

I heard a funny "click" sort of noise and turned to see HRH completing his pitch, arm returning to his side. "What did you just throw?" I ask. "A rock," he answers.

And as I stand there, I can hear a strange hum and look to see the LARGE plate glass window of HRH's preschool splintering into a million little spider-webby cracks. It took me a minute to process and called to another mommy-friend to make sure that I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. Sure enough, HRH had broken the window - but good. Marilyn says, "you need to go tell the Director." Um...yeah...

I call the two boys and head for the school's entrance. HRH grabs my arm and I turn to find him crying. "Please don't tell Mrs. Stoffel!" He pleads. "I've got to, buddy. This is a big deal." He doesn't want to follow and I eventually tell him to stay with Marilyn while I go in search of a teacher.

As the director and I examine the damage, she sighs, "it's the big window." Of course it is. It's also shatterproof glass so although it's smashed into a million pieces it's still intact, for the time being.

Afterward, RC and I go back to the playground to get HRH. He's no where to be found. The other mommies said he'd followed me into the school. I begin searching the school and calling for him. The remaining teachers and Director hear me and begin looking as well. Minutes that felt like weeks later, his own teacher finds HRH hiding behind a large bush in the front of the building. She calls to us and when I arrive, she's hugging him and telling him it's okay. He is sobbing and his face is blotchy red.

I get down on my knees and hug him telling him how worried I was, that he should never hide when he's afraid, that although I didn't like what he did, this was an accident, it was okay, and all the other soothing mommy things. He looks at me and says, "I didn't think anybody would want to see me again." I answer that I love him and everyone understands it was an accident. He says "I didn't know if you'd still love me after that." I answer,

"Babe, you know how I always tell you 'I love you, no matter what'? Well, this is no matter what. And I love you. Let's go home."

We've discussed it. We've talked to Daddy. We learned that he was throwing the rock at the playhouse in front of the windows, not at the windows himself. What we did not do was punish him. If the goal of punishment is to help the child learn from his mistakes and feel a sense of remorse, I didn't have to do a thing. Except catch him when he fell.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

One Liners

Overheard in our little Cabina Contenta:

Andy: Why don't I make us two more Gin and Tonics?
MM: Have you seen the week I've been having?
Andy: Yeah...
MM: Do you really think it's a good idea for me to begin tomorrow with a hangover?
Andy: Point taken. Water?


Andy: I can't find the remote.
MM: Well, RC did get into the fireplace today. Did you check there?
Andy: Nope. Just graham crackers.


Bossy's Ten Word Tuesday Challenge. Life Out of Control Edition:

RC: fish food, and water and, Marshmallow Fluff, oh my!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dirty Little Secrets, Dirty Little Lies

My long-lost, fraternal twin, Denise over at Real. Life. Ramblings. tagged me to provide my list of 10 Guilty Pleasures. Coincidentally, a while back, KC at Where's My Cape was supposed to have written about five songs she's embarrassed to admit she liked. As it turns out, for all the bad songs she likes, she's not a even a little embarrassed. KC was on my mind when I was thinking about pleasures, which are guilty and which are just embarrassing. Mine reflect a little of each.

1. Starbucks 2% Venti Iced Tazo Chai Latte, with eight pumps.
This is a guilty pleasure on two fronts, the first being the CALORIES (oh, Lordy, I wish I hadn't linked there just now), which equate to a small meal, and the second being cost. We're talking around $4.35 each. Not to mention I've usually got at least one kid in the car with me, so there's an extra $1.50 each for a Vanilla Milk.

2. When I outlast Andy emptying the trash.
Andy has garbage detail. I handle almost all other internal cleaning, bed making, etc. Usually, Andy will take a look-see in the morning before work and take it out if the bag is almost full. Some days, he forgets. On these occasions (for the most part), I can fit a day's worth of garbage into the remaining 1/2 inch of available space. This is truly a guilty pleasure because I do feel bad about doing it but I also find satisfaction in waiting him out.

3. I can't believe I'm writing this for the world to see but...Romance Novels.
The really cheesy Harlequin Romance variety that you can buy at Stop and Shop. I like to say that it's because my mind is so busy elsewhere that I need to read something besides magazines but not something I have to work at. Yeah, that's the ticket.

4. 70s Music
This is where KC's list comes into play. I too have no shame. I realized this driving around 80 mph with all the windows open listening John Denver CD and screaming along with the lyrics.

5. Pedicures
I'd say on average I've gotten a pedi every 3-4 weeks for the past 12 years. A few years back, I brought my then 10-year-old niece for her first pedi. An older woman at the shop commented on it and I told her it was indoctrination. I went on to say out loud that my own husband doesn't find it in the least odd that I don't cut my own toenails.

6. US Weekly/People Magazine
You know what they say; the first one's free. I used to travel a lot for work and buy them at the airport. Then I bought them when I was in the long checkout lines at Stop and Shop. I have no more excuses. I read them. I've never seen an episode of The Hills/Gossip Girl/The Kardashians (sp?) but I know about their stars from reading these rags.

7. Mommy Popsicles
I live on a cul-de-sac with ten houses and a seven kids ages five and under. As a result from the time the snow melts in the spring until it starts again in the late fall, we're outside playing. The reality is that it's also somewhat wearing to police a group of pre-schoolers intent on rolling the Cozy Coupe down a steep driveway, running through the non-child-bearing neighbors' gardens, drawing on our cars with chalk, etc. (I know; boo-hoo. I don't feel sorry for me either). So some afternoons, my fellow SAHM and I will break out the Corona Lites. Suddenly, it's 6:20, Andy's pulling up in front of the house, and the closest I've come to dinner is slicing a lime.

8. NPR - National Public Radio
I love it. I've been listening for years. My absolute favorites are Talk of the Nation/Science Friday and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. When RC recently gave up napping and I began the Snooze Cruise, I confessed to my friend that I was very excited to be spending time with my brainy, liberal lover again.

9. Weddings
I don't know if this qualifies as a guilty pleasure or just odd. I always give a nice gift and am very social. I like dancing a. lot. Particularly if I've had a cocktail or five two. And during these dance marathons, should a song like say, I Will Survive (no hyperlink necessary here) comes on, I'm acting it out in full histrionic gyration. And I'm probably taking you with me.

10. Blogging
Shocking, given my "phone-it-in" status of late but this is definitely a pleasure for me. The guilt comes into play when I neglect the little things in life (children, food, housework) in favor of reading and writing the minutia of everyday life.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Psst. Look Over There ------->

Thanks to my friends who commented regarding my earlier question about changing the name of my blog. I know some lurkers people may be hesitant about commenting so I added a poll so you can anonymously vote for or against retitling my blog. Where The Child Things Are.

So, let me know! 'Kay?


Zoo Field Trip - A Pictorial

This is the Zoo:This is the school bus carrying HRH and his classmates to the zoo. MM is driving the SUV directly behind the aforementioned schoolbus as everyone knows the schoolbus is the route root of all evil.This is RC sobbing into his blanket because he is not registed at HRH's preschool until fall and therefore cannot ride the bus.These are some suicidal flamingos "preening" in stagnant, smelly, brackish water that the Zoo wants you to believe is their preference. This is the train for which RC found the start button as other kids were boarding.

Untitled. Understood.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

High School Note

Circa 1983/Freshman Year. Written between my friend, Chris and me. I will try to capture spelling, caps, grammar, etc. She starts.

Dear Chris,
How's life? Mine's good, you should have heard Crick (another friend) last night. It was wizza funny! Joey (Chris' older brother -- in COLLEGE!) walked in and she was bouncing up and down and he trew a pillow at me, he saw Crick bouncing up and down and after that, she felt like a fool. So I went downstairs w/the pillow and he was waiting for me. So he jumped up from the cabinets and scared me half to death.

w/b (write back)
*&*% (strange symbol meant to look like her signature)

Youe You've got good taste in guys. Gary is lucous lucious!

But your bROTHER is GORGEOUSer! I think I'm in love (seizure) definitely orgazm (I'm guessing inside joke?).
I'm glad he's your brother and I'm your friend. So friend can I move in with you. This is not just a physical thing either. Although he is GORGEOUS. I refuse to drool or spend my life waiting for him to bend over. Like some people who shall remain nameless (CRICK and SHERYL)
#$5% (my "signature")

oh yeah, #$%$, real nameless! I love Gary. I've been in love with him ever since June. But I'll always like him. I don't mean to sound conceited but we both like eachother. It's just 'cuz of our age difference. Even though I'll like somebody else as time goes on for a while I'll always feel something special for Gary.
His brother (sitting behind us) isnt too bad either but he's about 23 (?). It's bad enough that Gary's 20...but who cares, I don't! He is so luscious Jodee nor Gena think he's too hot. They're blind!!! Seizure or orgazm you ask??? Well, I pick ORGASM!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Advice Giver
Appropriate Weight Pajama Decider
Bad Joke Laugher
Bathroom Cleaner
Birthday Present Purchaser
Boo-boo Kisser
Christmas Card Mailer
Clothing Purchaser
Dishwasher Unloader
Doctor's Appointment Maker
Dog Groomer
Dry Cleaner Deliverer
Easter Basket Assembler
Emergency Room Visitor
Field Trip Chaperone(r)
Fingernail Trimmer
Floor Washer
Food Preparer
Food Purchaser
Gym Attender
Hair Length Judger
Hand-Me-Down Donator
Helmet Enforcer
Illness Identifier
Immunization Restrainer
List Maker
Lost Item Locator
Lunch Box Rememberer
Meal Planner
Name Giver
Picture Taker
Santa Claus
School Project Coordinator
School Researcher
Seasonal Wardrobe Switcher
Sheet Changer
Sickness Historian
Slide Catcher
Social Agenda Scheduler
Sweatshirt Carrier
Swing Pusher
Teeth Brushing Policer
Tie Matcher
Tylenol Amount Doser
Vacation Planner
Weight Loss Struggler
Yoga Lover
Zen Seeker


Thursday, May 1, 2008

We Can't Have Nice Things - Birthday Edition

And with the third birthday, comes the third birthday present from Nana. Behold, the Fisher Price Batmobile ATV: Last night, fearing potential rain damage, I grabbed it from the front lawn and deposited it in the dining room. Rookie mistake.
This is what the hall floor now looks like. The round-ish scrapes are actually about the size of a quarter and go right down to the bare wood.

It's an outside toy. Serves me right for trying to shower.

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