Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Sweet Girl

Not Thinking About it!

We should have Ed's test results in one to three weeks now.  Honestly, I am trying to push the FS out of my mind as much as possible.  Six months of consistently thinking about it has turned into me not wanting to think about it at all.  Partly because I don't want to be disappointed if he doesn't pass.  Time will tell.... 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


On Monday evening we played Bingo as a family.  Olivia has been asking for weeks to play the game with the balls.  I figure it a good game for Olivia to recognize numbers and find them on the paper.  Lucy, wanting to be a part of the fun, was put in charge of the ball cage.  She had a grand time turning the cage, collecting the balls and passing them to Ed to read.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Random Things my Children do

Lucy loves buckles.  I have found it is one of the best ways to entertain herself.  She will easily spend a good half-hour doing the buckles.  Although I do have to be there to undo them every minute or so.

Olivia found one of our traveling eye masks that we use when we mainly travel overseas.  For the past week she insists on wearing it to bed.  I have checked on her at three in the morning and she is still wearing it.

 The other odd thing with Olivia is that she likes to put a smaller pillow on top of her large pillow to sleep.  She says the yellow one is for her hair.  I have no idea what she means by it, but I figure it's not causing any harm.

Surprise Valentines

After a Valentine's Day party at Grandma's house, we weren't going to do much on the actual day.  But we came home and was surprised by Ed with sweet cards and flowers to share.

Olivia with her Valentine.  I love her smile in this picture.  

Every girl loves flowers!

Lucy with her doggy Valentine.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

3.5 hrs later . . .

I've been asked by Nicol to write about my experience taking the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). First, I will like to make it clear that I cannot give ANY specifics about the questions I had to answer. My integrity is worth a lot and I am bound by a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement). As you start this process, you will realize there are hundreds of acronyms, however I digress.

I took the test Friday morning at a community college in my area. The exam is computer based and proctored by ACT. You do the entire exam on a computer and the test is 3 hrs long. No kidding. 3 hrs! By hour 2.5 I was beat. Anyway, I checked in and filled out a form, they took a photo and directed me to a small room where 2 other test takers were taking the same test. There were cameras in the room, but at least the room temperature was nice. Anyway, you can take bathroom breaks as long as you tell the ACT person at the counter.

There are four parts to the test. Everything I will be discussing here can be found in the official state department website. Please do not ask details, remember that pesky NDA? I read this on one of the Yahoo groups, the FSOT test is 1" deep 3 miles wide. A great source is the Yahoo Group FSOT. They have a wealth of information there.

The first part is the Job Knowledge Section. Here I was asked what seemed random questions ranging from how the Internet works, history, culture, basic math, management, US government, The US Constitution, geography, current events, etc. I don't think this portion of the test was meant to find out how much I know about the Consular Cone (that is the career track I chose), I think that part will come later on the process. This was VERY general.

The next part was the Biographical Section. You can't prepare for this section. Here you are asked to provide very short examples of how you demonstrated some of the 13 dimensions. Then they ask you the same questions in a different format, this is probably to check your honesty, but I don't know. This part of the test felt like a personality test. You can find the 13 dimensions here.

The third part was the English Section? (I can't remember the exact name). Here you are shown sentences with mispelleengs and grammattikal errors. You are supposed to be able to re-arrange and catch the mistakes. I don't think I did very well on this part.

The last portion of the test was the English Expression?, here you get to write two essays to support your thesis on two different prompts. You do not get to choose the prompts, they were given to me. You are given 30 mins each, the clock starts when you are shown the prompt. I think my prompts were about the international banking and multiculturalism.

At the end of the test I received an email letting me know the results will be provided in 3-5 weeks. This was my second time taking the test, the last time I took it was in 2008. There were two main differences, in 2008 the computer told me right away that I did not pass and there was only one essay to write.

If I don't pass the test, I will have to wait another year to take it again. If I pass it, the next steps will be a Personal Narrative (PN) that will be reviewed by the QEP (Qualifications Evaluation Panel). Til then . . .


A Typical Night

A typical evening at our house.  Tonight Ed ended up playing a doctor, speech therapist, veterinarian, and countless other things.  This is why my girls are "Daddy's Girls."

Valentines Party

Sunday, February 13th we went to Grandma's annual Valentine's party.  Typically all the cousins come, but this year it was our little family and my sister's family.  The girls started out by making a craft with foam hearts and Valentine dogs.  This was the first year that Lucy was really able to assemble a craft.  Both Olivia and Lucy enjoyed putting them together.

After the craft it was time to eat the yummy treats that everyone brought and play with Grandma's toys.  The girls love playing with Grandma's toys.  Lucy kept sneaking pieces of chocolate and usually had chocolate drool.  Funny to see but not so fun with the laundry I have to do now.

Towards the end the girls exchanged Valentines with their cousins.


Family Outing -- Letterboxing

After a morning of deep cleaning, we decided to get out of the house Saturday afternoon and do a little Letterboxing.

Happy girls in the car ready to go.

The hard thing about Letterboxing this time of year is the snow and wind.  There were a few cold moments, but overall very pleasant.

Ed and Olivia off looking for a Letterbox hidden between the trees.

Opening the box.

See the contents and getting ready to place a stamp in our books.

One stamp location was near a wetland preserve so Lucy got to see some pretty cold looking ducks.

Putting the stamp in our book at the wetland.

While we were out and about we decided it would be a fun treat to stop at the Oquirrh Temple.  Olivia loves to see the temple and talks about how she's going to get married in a tall one.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Off to take the test

Ed left 15 minutes ago to take the test.  Man, my stomach is in knots.....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Preparing- Cleaning, Inventory, Legal

I am a planner.  I like to think that I make my life a little easier by planning and trying to prepare for things even if those things are uncertain at this point.  While we wait to see if Ed passes the FSOT or if he gets invited for an Oral this fall, I feel that I must do something to prepare.  Naturally I don't want to do anything that is only FS related so I'm working on things that need to be done no matter what.

There are three major things that I am doing right now.

1.  I am deep cleaning my house.  Going through every box, sorting, purging, organizing and getting rid of anything we don't need or use.  My thoughts are:  If we do the FS I'll be one step a head of pack-out.  I'll still have a lot more to trim down, but this will be a huge start.  If the FS doesn't work out, I get to have a clean and organized home.  I'm a clean person and love order!

2. I'm making a home inventory.  Thoughts:  Again will be needed for pack out and if our things get lost or damaged.  And if we don't move out of our house for the next 10 years, I'm prepared in case there is a fire or water loss.  

3. Legal Documents.  Tomorrow we have an appointment with our attorney to draw up our wills, power of attorney, trusts, etc.  Something else that is needed if we live overseas but also much needed if we stay here.  

Who knows where life will take us, but either way I'm preparing!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pancake Day

Yet another holiday at the Montero house.  Pancake Day to us is just that, a night where we get to eat yummy pancakes.  Tonight we made Cinnamon and Pecan Pancakes, complete with maple syrup and whipped cream.  

Lucy still likes to wear her food.  

Hurray for Pancake Day!
I have been asked many times over the years if we celebrate Carnival or Mardi Gras.  We don't and the best of my knowledge the only place that really celebrates these in the United States is New Orleans, Louisiana.  (A state in the Southeastern part of the country).  In my religion we don't celebrate Shrove Tuesday which is also today.  So to make the day fun we're doing the pancake portion.  

This is what wikipedia (love wikipedia!) says about Pancake day.

 In Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, pancakes are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, which is also known as "Pancake Day" and, particularly in Ireland, as "Pancake Tuesday". (Shrove Tuesday is better known in the United States, France and other countries as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.) Historically, pancakes were made on Shrove Tuesday so that the last of the fatty and rich foods could be used up before Lent.
Charity and school events are organized on Pancake Day: in a "pancake race" each participant carries a pancake in a frying pan. All runners must toss their pancakes as they run and catch them in the frying pan. This event is said to have originated in Olney, England in 1444 when a housewife was still busy frying pancakes to eat before the Lenten fast when she heard the bells of St Peter and St Paul's Church calling her to the Shriving Service. Eager to get to church, she ran out of her house still holding the frying pan complete with pancake, and still wearing her apron and headscarf. Pancake Day is widely celebrated in Australia.
Every Shrove Tuesday since 1950 the towns of Olney and Liberal, Kansas have competed in the International Pancake Race. Only local women may compete; they race, and their times are compared to determine the international winner. In Olney the main women's race is augmented by races for local schoolchildren and for men.
For my international friends, our pancakes here are a little different then what would be found in England.  This is what wikipedia says about our pancakes.  

American or Canadian pancakes (sometimes called hotcakes, griddlecakes, or flapjacks) are pancakes which contain a raising agent such as baking powder; proportions of eggs, flour, and milk or buttermilk create a thick batter. Many recipes remind the reader that the ingredients should be mixed until they are just combined, even if lumps remain, as the lumps will smoothen out during the cooking process. Sugar and spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg are sometimes added. The pancakes can be made sweet or savory by adding ingredients such as blueberries, strawberries, cheese, bacon, bananas, apples or chocolate chips to the batter. This batter is ladled or poured onto a hot surface, and spreads to form a circle about ¼ or ⅓ inch (1 cm) thick. The raising agent causes bubbles to rise to the uncooked side, before the pancake is flipped. These pancakes, very light in texture, are usually served at breakfast topped with maple syrupbutterpeanut butterjellyjam,chocolatenutsketchupfruit and/or honey. Some places also serve pancakes with whipped cream. In the Southern United States, cane syrup and molasses have also been common toppings. Some pancake recipes call for yogurt to give the pancakes a semi-thick, relatively moist consistency.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pile of Nerves

Ed takes the FSOT in 5 days!  I seems like just a few weeks have pasted since we made the decision to pursue the Foreign Service.  My stomach has been in knots thinking about what Friday may bring my family.  I keep thinking to myself,  Did he study enough?  Will he pass?  How soon after will we have the results?  The last question I have a vague answer to.  If he doesn't pass the first part of the test he'll know that day.  That's how we found out when he took the test nearly three years ago.  If he passes and has his essays read then we'll know in roughly a month.

A month.  A month of thinking and wondering if he did everything he needed to.  No matter what I must continue to have faith that if it is meant to be then it will be.  We're certainly not jumping into this decision.  This has been a LONG thought out process.  But naturally I have days where I think I'd rather stay here, especially after all the evacs going on in Egypt and Tunisia.  I think about all the wonderful benefits and opportunities that my children will have and it keeps me going.     

Friday, February 4, 2011

Black-Eyed Monkey *Updated Again*

Lucy is a climber.  Not the occasional climb on something to explore, she climbs on anything and everything.  Our kitchen chairs have taken up a permanent place on top of the table for the mer fact that she will use the chairs to climb on top of the table.

This afternoon I caught her trying to climb out of her crib after her nap.  Mind you, she may be 15 months old but the size that Olivia was at 9 months.  She's too little to be doing this sort of thing.

At snack time today I strapped Lucy into her high chair.  I always use straps.  I was standing right next to her when she wiggled her way out, stood up and tumbled onto the tile floor below.  She quickly calmed down to reveal a bloody tongue and the start to a black-eye.  Lovely!

The start of a black-eye
She will be my child who ends up with broken bones and stitches.

How is her eye looking a few hours (first photos are a few minutes) after her fall?

Yep, I'm expecting it to be black and blue tomorrow morning.

Saturday morning:

It's actually not as dark as I thought it would be, thankfully.  Hopefully it doesn't progress any further.

Lucy's black eye is finally starting to turn that yellow/green color.  You can see how big it actually got.   Thankfully it didn't end up as dark as I thought.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year!

This year I am focusing on making some fun family traditions & memories and with that why not celebrate Chinese New Year!

I made some felt fortune cookies last month that I've been so excited to use.  But with being sick I completely forgot to pick up some Hershey Kisses to put in the middle.  So we didn't use them.

I wanted to see what they would look like filled so I stuffed them with tissues.  Lucy quickly thought it would be fun to empty them.  At least they got a little use out of them until next year. 

Our decorations:  The girls have loved looking at the dragon above the table all day.

Chinese New Year wouldn't be complete without the children opening Red Envelopes.  Olivia was excited to see that it held money.

Dinner of course was Chinese food.  Olivia loves using Chopsticks and these made it super easy for her.  If you look closely they look like giant clothes pins.  Genius idea!

Lucy wanted to have a try with chopsticks too.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Children learning a Foreign Language in FS

Recently in a FS Blog Round up the topic was on learning the language.  I had asked one of my FS contacts this same question several months ago and want to share her reply.  Not just to be helpful for someone who is going through the same search as I, but also so I have a place to refer back to what I learned.

My question for her:

I've been thinking about learning languages at each post.  I know from your blog that your husband spoke Spanish prior to the FS.  So I assume that you probably didn't get to go through the training programs in DC to learn Spanish.  How much were you able to learn while living in South America?

I have kind a similar situation.  My husband is fluent in Spanish.  It's actually his native language.  I would hope that if this all works out for us that our first post would be somewhere that speaks Spanish.  I want desperately to learn Spanish as well as my two daughters.  My in-laws speak little English so it would be great to converse with them and have my girls be bilingual.  I figure that since my husband is fluent he wouldn't need the language training and I wouldn't have the chance to go through any programs either.  What kinds of options did you have to learn Spanish other than Rosetta Stone (that is what most people seem to mention on their blogs)?

Did your boys pick up Spanish pretty easy?  What are you doing to keep them from losing it?

Her Reply:

I did not speak any Spanish before we went to our first post.  But, just before we left I took a class at night through a university in DC.  Then, when we arrived, I had a private tutor and then later I was in a class with one other student.  Also, we had a live-in maid so that helped with my Spanish.  It was hard because I had a baby and didn't socialize much with other locals, but having the tutor was the best thing we ever did.  The Embassy offered language classes for spouses, but for only a couple of hours a week...and that's just not enough.  My Spanish is pretty good.  I have a reasonably large vocabulary and I can usually understand what is being said and/or get my point across.  My subjunctive usage is pretty poor and I don't always conjugate properly in the past tense, but I feel very comfortable conversing in Spanish. 

The kids are another story.  They are only 4 and 2 and have spent their entire lives, except for the last 4 months, in Spanish speaking countries.  We had them in Spanish preschool and now my oldest goes to a bilingual school and my youngest has a babysitter who only speaks Spanish.  We also try to speak Spanish at home as much as we can and we have them watch television in Spanish and read stories in Spanish.  You have to be vigilant though, because it is so easy just to revert to English.  We do know lots of FS families who have bilingual kids and kids who speak nothing but English.  It is clearly a choice for those families.  We choose bilingualism, but that is not common.  And, if you want them to learn, they will.  Their minds are so agile, it is amazing to watch them go from one language to two right before your very eyes.  Having said that, we will be in China in 1.5 years, so we'll see what happens then.  Our plan is to send the kids to Chinese schools and for my husband to speak Spanish exclusively to them and for them to get English from me and the other Americans we will interact with.  I want them to keep their Spanish, but I also know that Chinese is more important for them to have in the long run.  I'll let you know how it goes in a couple of years.

Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day.  I know some people who say that it really isn't a holiday, but for children it is a fun day.  It was actually a day that I looked forward to as a child so naturally I planned some activities for my girls to do.

I wasn't about to let our colds get in the way today. (We've all been sick!)  We started off watching this year's prediction from the Groundhog celebration in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania.

What did the Groundhog predict today?

An early Spring!  This has been a long and COLD winter.  I don't remember this many days being below freezing.  It's another cold day today so hopefully he's right.

We have several Groundhog Day books that we enjoy reading or listening to on CD.  We made it through most of the books.

Then a craft.  Last year we made Banana Groundhogs and this year we made a Groundhog coming up out of his burrow.

Olivia and Lucy working on their puppets.  This is our new school room that I just finished putting together last week.

Olivia with her puppet.  There is a craft stick that moves the groundhog up and down in the cup.

For my foreign friends you might be asking what Groundhog Day is.  This is what Wikipedia says:

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.

The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day, already a widely recognized and popular tradition, received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name, Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney and featured Punxsutawney Phil. (the name of the groundhog).

The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather lore, wherein a badger or sacred bear is the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. The holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval Catholic holiday of Candlemas. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1 and also involves weather prognostication and to St. Swithun's Day in July.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

15 months

Lucy is 15 months old

At her well baby check at the doctor's yesterday she is:

Length:  29.5 inches  22%
Weight: 19 lbs 2 oz  4% (This means she is still technically too small to be turned around in the car)
Head Circumference: 44.25 cm 9%

She is certainly a small baby but healthy and developing normally.

She loves bananas, chocolate, and macaroni & cheese.

Favorite animal are still dogs. But also loves to watch the birds in the morning outside our window.

She signs finished, drink, please, eat, and more.

Loves to play with Olivia and tries to act just like her.