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Embassy Christmas Party

Here are a few pictures from the Embassy "Holiday" Party. Because, you know, we wouldn't want to be Politically Incorrect and call it a Christmas party - even though that's what it was! Oh wait.... they did have a game of Dreidel. I guess there had to be some justification for calling it a "holiday" party.

She shoots...


FIRE!!! Right through the hole,

Checking her loot bag.

Van rocked Dreidel. He came home with a bag full of candy!

In search of Snow.

We were promised Snow over the weekend. When Sunday afternoon rolled around, and there were still clear blue skies overhead, Jared decided to get pro-active about the situation. We donned our very warmest snow gear and set out in search of the stuff. With minimal protest from me, we put the G wagon into 4 wheel drive and headed up towards Mt Aragats, figuring if there was snow up there in the middle of July, there was bound to be at least a little bit in the middle of December. We were not disappointed. Not only did we find snow, but the unplowed roads that went with it! We went as far as we could safely go, and then pulled off around the area where we watched the meteor shower during the summer. Van and Ava were so excited to leave the nice warm car and play with the cold snow in freezing and below freezing temperatures. I was less than excited... But we all played and had a fun time. Ava made snow angels, Van played Marines from behind the wall that he and Jared made. Then we all came home and ate some warm soup that I made from scratch!

Love lost

Last Saturday we took the kids down to Vernisaj Market to buy a kitten. When we saw this tiny little Siamese kitten we all immediately fell in love. Although there was a lot of chaos surrounding us, the moment Van picked her up she cuddled against him and started purring. After paying a rather large amount to the woman from whose flea infected kennel the kitten came, we drove home completely content. With a surprisingly little amount of debate, we decided to name her "Snowflake." (vs the name Van wanted - "Stryker" from The Sands of Iwo Jima) When we got home, we came to fully appreciate the sweet disposition of this kitten. Most cats hate to be flipped onto their bellies. Snowflake, however, would purr even louder and stretch out in order to maximize the surface area that could be rubbed. She let Ava carry her around the whole house, and laid patiently in her lap while she read her books. When ever anyone would sit or lay on the floor, she would climb onto their lap, or sit in the small of their back. As an added bonus, she took to her litter box right away! That night as Jared and I were watching a movie, Snowflake started breathing funny, and then threw up. We didn't think much of it. We thought that the change in food might have cause her stomach to become upset. When she threw up the next night we became a little bit worried. On Monday we called the Vet, and he was scheduled to come over the following evening. Snowflake remained sweet as ever. When the kids and I got home from school/work the next night, Ava was so excited to get her kitten. She ran up the stairs ahead of me and ran to Snowflakes little cat house. I heard her say, "Mommy, there are bugs on Snowflake..." Then she said, "Wake up Snowflake!" My heart dropped and I ran up the remaining 5 stairs and rushed over. Ava was holding her kitten, whose arms were sticking straight out. I gasped, and Ava screamed and dropped the cat. She was dead, and the remaining fleas were jumping ship. I quickly shut the door, and grabbed Ava in my arms to console her. By this time, Van had reached the top of the staircase and was immediately alarmed by the tears he found streaming down both our faces. I took the kids into the family room and we talked about Snowflake. For the next hour the kids were un-consolable. Van was genuinely distraught, and Ava didn't understand. I tried to explain to her that Snowflake went to sleep and died peacefully and that she is up in heaven now. Wow, THAT was the wrong thing to say. Ava was completely freaked out. She kept asking "why." Why did she die? What made her sick? Was she going to die if SHE went to sleep? and on and on and on. Van of course started to deal with it in his own way - he tried to make the situation lighter by making jokes. Well for one of his jokes he told Ava that Snowflake died because a Zombie bit her. That was the end of Ava's ability to handle the situation for the night. She would not let us put her down, she was clinging to us with a surprising amount of force. Trying to pry her hands off my neck in order to brush her teeth and put her jammies on was a feat. Needless to say, she slept with us that night. And even though after the flow of tears, Van put on a tough act, I'm pretty sure he cried himself to sleep.

PS That night we had a friend who spoke Armenian contact the lady we bought Snowflake from.  She denied any responsibility, refused to give us our money back, or to replace her with a different kitten. To add insult to injury she vehemently insisted that we had somehow caused her death. Great. Thanks for that.

Lost in Traslation

While sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner with some of our dear local friends, there were times when conversation became interesting, due to translation discrepancies. Almost every guest spoke English to some degree, but when people fluent in our language started speaking too quickly, a glazed look came over the eyes of those not able to translate the conversation fast enough. When anybody noticed this happening, someone would quickly give a synopsis to the person needing it, and the conversation would resume. When not speaking in English, our friends would speak in Russian since I could pick through the conversation a little bit. Well towards the end of the night our friend Nune picked up my oven mitts and had them on both her hands, saying they made a good accessory to her outfit. Well her husband Ashot, starts joking that the reson Nune was wearing them was because she had frozen her hands off in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Well, I was not able to quite follow his story since he was using both Russian and English words. So I asked him to repeat it slower, and what I heard was,  "When Nune was in Nagorno-Karabakh, she was a prostitute..."

I interrupted and said, "Wait Ashot, what did you say? You said Nune was a prostitute?"

He responded, "Da, Nune was prostitute."

I turned to Nune and said, "Nune, I think that I am not understanding Ashot. He just said that you were a prostitute."

She got so mad and said something in either Russian or Armenian. It was so fast I couldn't make out any definite words. Ashot just started LAUGHING! He laughed for a good minute before he was able reply to Nune that he was trying to say that she had frozen her hands off. The Russian word is: [spelled phonetically] "prost-ood-its-ya." Ashot, Jared and I thought the mix up was hysterical! Nune? Not so much.

Racist Dog

Van's puppy, Pepper, is a racist. At first I thought that maybe there was a little too much inbreeding going on in the poodle population here in Armenia. He was just not a normal puppy. He refused to cuddle. From Day one. He would tolerate being held for a certain amount of time, then he would go off and sit by himself. I tried countless times to get him to come watch a movie with us. He would end up on the opposite side of the couch. And don't even get me started on potty training... So during our Thanksgiving Dinner a few weeks ago, my friend mentioned that her Aunt had a little black poodle that she loved very much, and it had just passed away. I jokingly asked if she wanted a new one. Well turns out - she did! The woman is disabled, and dogs really help her. So my friend offered to take Pepper off our hands to help her Aunt. I was hesitant because I didn't want to give such a flawed Dog to someone with disabilities. She assured me that her Aunt was fully capable of handling him. We sat down and talked to Van. It was surprisingly easy to convince Van to give his dog away. We talked about her disabilities, and the fact that we are unable to be with Pepper all day, since I am working, and that this woman would be able to love him the way he wanted to be loved. He agreed in less than 4 minutes!! The morning we parted with Pepper, we went to the market and picked out the most beautiful Siamese Kitten. (More on that later) When our friend came to pick up Pepper, Van and Ava barely noticed. They each gave him a hug, and without any tears shed, waved as he was driven away! I talked to my friend toady to see how Pepper was doing. She said he is a perfect Dog and doesn't do ANYTHING like what I had described to her. He goes to the door when he needs to potty, sits with them on the couch, and generally behaves like a normal dog should. I am convinced it is because they are Armenian... Maybe he didn't understand English. Or maybe he really is racist.

Nightmare bugs

Last night Van told me that he doesn't sleep with his lamp on because he's scarred, he sleeps with it on because the light from his lamp kills nightmare bugs. Fair enough.


This morning while getting Ava ready for preschool Jared told her, "You are so stinkin cute!" She replied, "Daddy, I'm not 'stinkin' I'm just cute."

Conversation with Ava's pre-school teacher

There are a lot of interesting beliefs here in Armenia. To list a few, they believe that pregnant women should never swim because they will drown their babies; the believe that if you shave a little girls head when she is 3, her hair will grow in thicker and shinier (so you see a lot of bald little girls in the summer time); they believe that sweating causes the flu, and that being cold actually causes the common cold.

Yesterday, when I picked Ava up from pre-school I started talking to her teacher about all the wonderful things the children learned that day. They had a guest speaker come in to talk to them about germs! Ava learned that germs cause sickness. She learned that she should cover her mouth with a tissue when she coughed, and to wash her hands. Important stuff. After her teacher was done recapping the high points of the day, she noticed that Van was not with me. She asked about him, and I replied that he was home sick.

"What is wrong with him?" she asked.
"He has been throwing up," I answered.
"Maybe he ate something bad?" she asked
"No, It has been going on for 2 days, I think he just caught a bug," I replied.
Her response, "Oh, well he probably just got too cold and that is why he is sick."  

Really? REALLY? Did you not listen with your pre-school kids about germs? *Bang head here....

Few Pic's

The following pictures are dedicated to my brother Jon so that he will stop virtually berating me through multiple emails. These are for you...

Van learned about Meditation at school, and thought this was an appropriate place to practice.

While we were waiting for the Police to get to the scene of the accident I noticed how Beautiful Mt Ararat Looked in the distance. 

Ava and Mt Ararat

Hanging out in Hell's Canyon while Jared drilled some new climbing routes

Van, trying to create his "Flame Thrower" (aka a burning stick)

Marine Corps Ball 2010

I am going to write an actual post about the Ball this year, but I'm super tired. So here are a couple of pic's for now, more to come later. I don't want my little brother Jon to yell at me again for not putting anything up. Hahaha Love ya Jon!

All the Marines and Ambassador Yovonovitch

Crashing and Climbing

While following Jared home from work Friday night, I watched as the traffic light turned yellow, separating us, as Jared completed a left turn. Suddenly the car in front of Jared slammed on his brakes, the sound of crunching metal and broken headlights was unmistakeable. Helpless, I watched them pull off to the side of the intersection and impatiently waited for the light to turn green again. I went through the intersection, pulled off in front of Jared, and proceeded to check out the damage. Luckily the damage was minimal; bumpers and lights were the only casualties. But the fun was just beginning: Because we were screwed out of Language training by a particular Master Sergeant that will remain unnamed, we were completely unable to communicate with the driver of the other car. We handed him our accident card that explains in Armenian that we are associated with the American Embassy, and to remain at the scene of the accident until a representative from the Embassy arrives. Even though the card pretty much spelled out the situation, he still tried to communicate with us. My limited Russian only encouraged his attempts at communication. Every time I responded to a word that I was able to pick out, he would talk more and more, expecting me to understand. I'd shake my head, and he would start over with the words he knew I understood. Unfortunately for us, I was unable to suddenly grasp the meaning of the words he repeated, even when they were said LOUDER and s l o w e r.  Finally I called one of my good friends and she translated over the phone. Then our friend Ashot showed up and made friends with everybody! We were all laughing and bonding by the time the Embassy Rep showed up. Ashot and the other driver were joking that because we worked at the Embassy, we could just give the Driver 2 green cards and everything would be ok. We laughed and the drivers friend said, (through translation from Ashot) "Hey my car is over there, will you hit my car too so that I can get some green cards?" They were pretty funny. Anyway, we got that mess all figured out.

The next day we decided to take a trip out of the city to one of our favorite climbing spots - Hell's canyon. We had one of our friends, Mkhitar, with us. We were driving through a mountain pass when suddenly a car came cruising around a curve, crossing the painted lane divider line.  Jared swerved to the right, avoiding a head-on collision, but the other car still sideswiped us. The mirror was ripped off, the drivers side door was dented, scratches went down the length of the car and rear bumper was cracked. Awesome. The other car was a brand new Nissan Prada. There are really two types of cars in Armenia. The first type is about 20 years old and drives about 40 MPH tops. This is the majority of cars that are seen driving the streets of Armenia. The other type belongs to the top echelon of society here, the ridiculosly rich Al En Garte families. (I have no idea how to spell that and after googling unsuccessfully for the past 1/2 hour, gave up and wrote out the phonetic spelling.) This car decidedly belonged to the later of the two groups. There was no joking or smiling during the LONG process ahead of us. We were an hour and a half out of the city. We called the Marine Post at the Embassy, and they dispatched an Embassy rep for the second time in less than 24 hours. About 45 minutes later, the local policeman arrived on site and started sketching the scene. In the meantime, the Armenians called some of their friends to come "help" the situation. When the Mercedes pulled up with a 44pu444 license plate, we knew things were quickly heading out of our favor. (The very rich and "persuasive"  members of society (read mafia) have signature license plates with repeating numbers. For instance the Presidents brother has a license plate with all 7's. )  One of the 44 guys took the policeman aside and started talking to him. Mkhitar told us that he was trying to get the policeman to see things his way. (read BRIBE) Our Embassy Rep was still not there, and we were starting to sweat. Finally after what felt to be an eternity, our Rep Alex showed up and things drastically turned around. Turns out, because we were in the depths of Armenian village country, the policeman was not aware of the term Diplomatic Immunity. He wanted to take Jared down to the police station and give him a blood alcohol test. Because, you know, I'm sure that they washed the needle after poking the last guy.... Alex explained the terms of Diplomatic Immunity and calmly stated that we would indeed NOT be accompanying him to the local Police station to be held heavens knows how long. Rather than opening a can of worms from the American Embassy, the police officer wisely chose to write the report according to the facts and not according to Mr Deep Pockets from the 4's. After he reched that decision the rest of the process went very quickly and we finished the afternoon climbing in Hell's Canyon. Jared even drilled a new route which he aptly named "Sideswipe."

After navigating Yerevan city traffic without the use of a drivers side mirror, we arrived safe at home. What a weekend.

From Van


I was feeling a little aggressive and agitated today on my way to the gym this morning. People were driving like... well, like Armenians,  and my blood pressure was about to hit the roof. So when I arrived at the gym, I headed to the stair stepper to work out some of my aggression. After climbing the Eiffel tower (only fitting because Jared will be in Paris today) I headed over to the bikes to finish getting back to my happy place.  The bikes do not have T.V. monitors attached to them, so I grabbed my ipod, strapped it to my arm and headed into a series of hills the machine had planned for me. I begun to pedal, only to realize that my ipod was putting out very weak sound. Thinking that I had bumped the volume while it was in my bag, I reached over and cranked the volume. It was still not the greatest sound, but I attributed that to my crappy ear buds. They have been on the fritz lately.  The first song ended and it started into the next song, "Americana" by The Offspring. It fit my mood perfectly. I guess it wasn't the song so much that fit my mood, more the copious amount of profanities that Dexter Holland shouts out at random intervals throughout the song.  Anyway, so I was rocking out and I noticed that this older man kept looking over at me. It's not uncommon here, pretty much everyone stares at us everywhere we go. I inwardly rolled my eyes and kept peddling up the hill. About 30 seconds later he looked over at me again. At this point I'm thinking, "WTF is your problem?" He wasn't ogling me, he just kept staring at me. So I decided to be done with cardio and move on to a different area of the gym. I hopped off the bike, grabbed my bag and took the ear buds out of my ears. The music however did not stop, I could still hear it pretty clearly. Momentary confusion set in as I looked at the ear buds, trying to figure out why the music sounded so loud. Moments before I was barely able to hear the music with the ear buds pressed into my ears. Then I realized the the cord was not completely pressed into the ipod. I had been "sharing" my music with everyone in a 10 foot radius. It was muted to me alone because I had about 20% of the volume coming through the ear buds. Luckily few people here speak English, though I'm pretty sure the old man does. Awesome.

Safe House

Last week Van's class read "The Three Little Pigs." After the story each child was asked to draw a picture of the type of house they would make to keep the little pigs safe. This is Van's picture, with the narration he gave his teacher:
"The house has a Dynamite closet and this smoky bomb closet and there is a knife above and when the pig pushes a button it swings shut and cuts [the wolf]. It goes on the wolf and the Guard poisonous snake bites the wolf and the wolf dies. Bar wire goes around the door and the door is locked. The pigs killed the wolf."

I think that Van's pigs would definitely be safe!! I especially like the "guard" poisonous snake!!

Curls & Twirls

I remember going to bed with the foam curlers as a little girl. I would try to sleep so softly on my hair so the curlers would not fall out.  When I saw that they still make those curlers I was so excited to put Ava's hair up in them. So I put her in the bath and told her that I had a big surprise for her, fearing that she would be less than enthusiastic about sitting still for 20 minutes while I rolled her hair. I produced the curlers and told her they would give her "Princess hair!" So of course she wanted me to put them in right away. Fight avoided!  I did a small victory dance in my head, and started the rolling process. Upon completion she just looked adorable, and was so excited!!
She woke up in the morning, and I was a little bit scarred of the intensity of the curls!

But after a few hours, the curls relaxed and stayed perfect all day!!!

I also got a bit crafty today. I bought the most adorable dress for Ava right before we left the States. When I put it on her, I realized it did not fit at all. So I turned it into a skirt. Ava loves it, she calls it her "Mommy skirt" because it is like the long skirts that I like to wear! I think it turned out pretty well!!

Murphy's Law

You have probably heard of "Murphy's Law." You might be unaware of "Murphy's Law of Deployment," which is similar to the original with a minor addition. (Minor in the sense that it adds few words, but the ramifications of these few words can be catastrophic.)  Murphy's Law of deployment states: "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong the moment he leaves on deployment." Countless military wives can attest to the validity of this law. Some have had their cars break down the day after he leave, others have their houses flood, or washing machines that get unbalanced and literally fall down the stairs.  Good times. I have found that this law also applies to TAD assignments as well. (Temporary Additional Duty) In the 24 hours that Jared has been gone,  we have had some fun things happen. (insert sarcasm here) Van sliced his face open, not deep, but noticeable. So I grounded him from pocket knives. While he was up in his room quietly thinking about the consequences of "training" with real knives he decided that it would be a good idea to get one of DADDY's knifes and look at the blade. I was downstairs with Ava when I hear Van yell down, "Mommy. Mom!!!! Come here please!" (what a polite kid.) Then a millisecond later I hear a slightly panicked voice yell, "MOM!" I didn't even get an answer out to let him know that I was on my way before it turned into "Mom! MOM! MOM!" As I round the corner and start up the stairs I see him standing on the top stair holding his hand. "Van! What happened?!?" He was in a state of panic as he opened his hand and blood started dripping out.  I screamed and bounded up the stairs and grabbed his hand and rushed him to the sink. I was already going over the numbers I would need to call to reach the medical department at the embassy so that he could get stitches. As the water cleared away some of the blood I realized that the cut was not as deep as I had first thought, and knew stitches would not be needed. I hugged him and consoled him and grounded him from knives for the second time. This time around I got a little bit smarter and actually gathered up all the knives I could find (we have a surprisingly large number of pocket/hunting style knives) and removed the temptation. 

A few hours later I was in the kitchen preparing dinner when Van tells me that he found a scorpion. This is a game that he plays quite often because he thinks it's funny to watch me cringe in disgust at the mere mention of this dreaded creature. I didn't want to leave the stove right then so I played along, asking him all sorts of silly questions such as, "Wow, is it as big as your whole foot?" To which he responded, "No, it's about as big as my pinky." Weird... he usually comes back with some crazy retort about how it is bigger than the whole couch. So I kept on with the game: "Is it as black as pepper with red eyes?" He replies, "no, mostly yellow." Now I'm confused. So I asked him straight up, "Van did you really see a scorpion?" He replies all casually "Yep!" I still didn't quite believe him. It's the whole "boy who cried wolf" syndrome. So I finished getting dinner off the stove and asked him to show me where the scorpion was. He walked to the front entry way, and pointed. Sure enough, half hidden under my shoes was a big disgusting scorpion. I looked down at my bare feet, then over to the kids' bare feet, and ordered everyone into the living room. Van asked me what I was going to do, and I truthfully told him that I was going to kill it. Thanks to Jared's ingenious idea to let Van keep the half dead scorpion they found outside in a spiders web last month, Van was under the illusion that I was going to somehow catch this scorpion and we were all going to live together happily. Yeah, I squished that dream quicker than squishing the actual scorpion. After securing the kids and the puppy, I ran to the coat room and put on one of Jared's shoes. After several attempts at getting close enough to the scorpion to actually squish it, I slammed my foot down on top of the shoe the scorpion was laying under, and felt the crack of his exoskeleton, or whatever the hell it is that they have. I felt triumphant!!! Then I turned and saw that Van had followed me into the entryway, and saw his eyes well up with tears. Honestly, I was still pretty darn proud of myself for killing the evil home invader, but knew that I had to do something to help Van feel better. So I offered up a compromise: The scorpion was already dead, which is what I wanted, but I offered to let Van keep the body in a jar. Good enough for him. It was worse trying to pick up the dead scorpion with tweezers than it was to squish it with a big shoe on. I screamed several times, and Van laughed and laughed. I finally got him in the jar, and Van now has something "really cool" to take to show and tell. Yuck.
My point and shoot camera does not have a macro lens, so the picture is a touch blurry.  This is the dead scorpion in the bottom of a mason jar. So Gross.

Old Friends

So let me be clear on one thing: coming to Armenia was for the most part my idea. About a year and a half ago, Jared was working very hard in his new MOS. I was receiving phone calls and gifts from Sri Lanka, Jordan, Maldives, Hong Kong, Djibouti, Dubai, Malaysia and Thailand (just to name a few).  Not only was I ready to have a husband who stayed home for more than 3 weeks at a time, I was ready to be a part of the adventure, not just to hear the stories second hand. When I heard about the overseas Defense Attache  positions I urged Jared to sign up. I had dreams of living overseas in exotic places. When the list of available positions came up we had a choice of Yerevan, Armenia or Ghana, Africa. Not exactly on my top 5 or even top 20 list of "exotic places" I had had in mind, but I remained firm in my resolve to see the adventure through.  I have moved more than 10 times. I don't have roots in some small town where everyone knows my life story. But I have always made my home in whatever place I was living in the moment, from Colorado to Hawaii. I think the thing that made this possible was that even though the scenery changed, the people and the general way those people think/handle things and approach situations remained the same. Some claim that America does not have her own "culture." I beg to differ. I love American culture, it makes me feel at home because it is my home.  I have always loved the nation of my birth, and living away from her has only strengthened my loyalty. I am very glad that we were able to bring our family over to this country and that we are able to experience the culture of Armenia. But there is something to be said about the comforts of "home." I have enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends. But there is also something to be said for the comforts of old friends. Friends who have seen you at your worst and still love you. People for whom you don't have to put on the public face, you can be yourself; laugh, cry, bitch, moan, pour your heart out or say nothing at all. I was fortunate enough to have friends like that come out to visit this past week. When we lived in Hawaii we expected friends and family to come visit. Who doesn't want to go to Hawaii with free room and board?!? However only a true friend will visit you in the "developing country" you live in, just because you are lonely and need a friend! Heidi and Paul are the greatest! Although we did so many fun things while they were here, the best part of their visit was just hanging out and laughing about stupid things, usually at my expense! Hahahaha I have tired to pick out the best pictures to highlight the time we were able to spend together.
Vernasage Market- basically a place to buy souvenirs

I had to take them to the fresh produce market. It is National Geographic come to life!

Mother Armenia overlooks Yerevan
At the park around Mother Armenia there was this guy who had a monkey on a leash. So we paid him like 500 dram to take a picture withit. Moments after this photo was taken, the monkey jumped onto the top of Ava's head, grabbed a handful of hair and let out an ear piercing squeal. She was not excited after that.

Van was not adversely affected at all by the monkey's behavior towards his sister. If anything it served to make the monkey more appealing to him, as you can tell by this picture where he is still laughing.

The boys

I just had to include this picture of Ava. She looks certifiably crazy.

Kor Virap Monastery - look closely & you can see Mt Ararat behind us.  

Norvanq Monestery

We even managed to get in a little bit of climbing in Hell's Canyon!!

Garni Temple

One of the nights they were here we got a babysitter for Van & Ava and had a adult night out. We went to dinner, and then wandered through the Pedestrian walkway and ended the night with the fluffiest cotton candy I have ever seen.

Ava dubbed this the "Knights Room" and didn't want to leave. We sat in that room and talked about princesses and knights for probably 20 minutes!

Amberd Fortress
I had the best time with Heidi and Paul! I just want to take a second to thank them for coming out and for always being there for me. I love you guys!!


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