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Thursday, December 30, 2010

He Found Us!!!

So, he went to Lagos, then to Houston, then to Chicago and finally to Livermore, CA and he found us there!!! Yes, Santa made it to my parents' home!!! I wish I would have known that Santa was coming because I would have had my camera out before he arrived. The look on Jeremy's face was absolutely priceless!!!! He was so surprised. Elizabeth was a little scared...but was a little more accepting when she realized that he was pulling out really neat things for her from his bag of presents.:)
Jeremy posing for a quick pic with Santa Claus! Until next year!!!:) Thank you so much Santa!!!:)

My grandpa found a few gifts in the crawl space at his home. My grandma had gone shopping early this year and bought a few gifts for the kids before she passed away. It brought tears to my eyes, but it was also a really nice was like she was here with us. This is one of the gifts she bought for Jeremy before she passed away. Every year, she went to Hallmark ( her favorite store) and bought Jeremy an ornament for how old he was each Christmas. This year, I decorated the tree in Lagos and thought of her when I hung his 1-4 year ornaments on the tree and felt sad because there wouldn't be a fifth year ornament from my grandma this year. I couldn't be more wrong...what a wonderful gift!!! I know she is watching over guardian angel.:)
My parents gave us an AWESOME picture of the Palio..a race held in Siena, Italy each year. We went to Siena with them in April.:)
I think Jeremy got everything known to man that could be Spider man!!! Check out the webbing on these p.j.'s!!!!

Among tons of other presents, Lizzy got matching p.j.'s to go with her Bitty Baby.:) Nighty, night!!!:)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Message from the Swamp Dog

I just received this note from Bernice a little while ago and since I have not gotten my Christmas cards out yet, I thought I would post it on the blog. I will be sending out Christmas cards next planning wasn't so good this year....but hey, now you can look forward to a New Year's Card!!!:)

Swamp Dog Newsletter

Greetings from the “Center of Excellence” in Lagos, Nigeria. Yes, that’s right I said “excellence”. That is what is on all the license plates from Lagos State. I don’t get off the compound very much, but that is what my mom says is on the license plates on all the cars, and when she says it she can’t stop herself from laughing…..I haven’t figured that one out yet.

So, I am typing out my 11th newsletter for the Salinas family. It is December 24, and I am just now getting around to getting it done. As a matter of fact, one of my very best friends in the whole world, Happiness, is helping me out. I am dictating to her as she types.:) She is a cook, housekeeper, gardener, nanny, personal shopper, dog walker/groomer, and now I can add secretary to her resume.:) My legs just aren’t working like they used to. The arthritis is really bothering my legs and it is making it a little harder for me to get around…not to mention type out a letter. (Thank goodness Mom found a good vet here, and he gave me some great meds!!!) I am 11 years old which makes me about 77 years old in dog years. Why isn’t someone else coming up with what to write in this dang letter anyway? I am the oldest in the family now!!!:)

Let’s see, this year was a busy one. In January, Mom, Jeremy and Elizabeth came back from visiting family and friends in the U.S. We had a pretty quiet February. Jeremy started his first season of tee ball here in Lagos. Then, in March, Mom took Jeremy and Elizabeth back to the U.S. to visit her grandma. Elizabeth also turned two!! In April, they all left me again and went to Siena, Italy to see all the beautiful sights and meet up with mom’s mom and dad and brother over Easter. I also heard that mom did a lot of wine tasting there.:) There was also a story about something mom said in Montepulciano, but I think you have to talk to her personally to get the whole story.:) April was also a good month because some new families moved onto the compound with children just about Elizabeth and Jeremy’s ages. Their moms and dads are pretty nice also, so mom and dad also have new friends. It’s always nice to have such nice people around when you are so far from your own family and friends. In May, Jeremy finished up school, and Mom and the kids took off in early June to do their yearly ”Tour of America” beginning in California, then to Michigan, Illinois and Texas. Lots of doctor’s appointments, and of course the packing of the annual shipment to Nigeria…..I heard that was a lot of work!!! Dad flew over to meet mom and the kids in July and then, they all came back together the end of July. (BTW, Mom turned 34…not sure if she wanted me to mention that!) In August, Jeremy started up pre- k and turned five!!! Elizabeth also started at a little preschool this year a few times a week. The house is a little quieter when she is gone in the mornings, I can use that time to catch up on my sleep.:) The end of August, they all flew back to the U.S. for my Uncle Greg and Aunt Julia’s wedding in L.A. In September, Guy had his 37th birthday. And sadly, Mom flew back to the U.S. when her lovely Grandma passed away. We will always keep her in our hearts…she was a very special lady. October and November seemed to go by quickly with all the school parties, play dates and get togethers. This brings me to this December. Right now, the flat is quiet, my water and food bowls are freshly washed and I am able to really reflect on this past year. It has been a busy one as usual, but I am always surrounded by my family who loves me (except right now of course because they left me again to see their families in the U.S……maybe I am not always surrounded by my family…I guess that is for another newsletter). But, at least when they are gone, I have Happiness here to take really good care of me. I hope you all find your own “Happiness” this year in your hearts. Don’t forget you can always write to me at Guy Salinas ExxonMobil – Lagos, Nigeria (MOP C-11-D) P.O. Box 4490 Houston, Texas 77210-4490. My phone number is (713)431-8500 ext. 22954. Remember, you can take the dog out of the swamp, but you can’t take the swamp out of the dog! Cheers! Bernice A.K.A. The Swamp Dog

Merry Christmas!!!!

Hello from snowy Chicago, Illinois!!!! We landed here to visit Guy's family on Wednesday. I know I grew up almost my entire life in Illinois, but I am really not used to this cold weather anymore!!! Elizabeth is pretty much on board with me in that area as well! Although, Jeremy, born in Guatemala and most of his life spent in Houston, acts like he could stay outside in the cold forever!!! They had a great time outside on the day before Christmas Eve playing in the snow with Grandma. I think Elizabeth stayed out for about five minutes!:)

All dressed up to go to the childrens' mass at Grandma and Grandpa's church. I'm glad I got Elizabeth to stand still long enough for me to take the picture.:)

Lizzy and her daddy at was a packed house!

We went to Guy's aunt's house for dinner after church......I almost got a good picture of Lizzy and me together.:)
Christmas morning breakfast before tearing into the presents!!!:)
Uncle Robert was good about helping the kiddos open up their gifts.:) I took these pics with the new camera I got from Guy. I am still figuring out how to use it.:)
How many Transformers does a five year old really need????:)
Cute hat from Grandma and Grandpa.:)
We went back outside to play in the snow tonight. Jeremy was pretty excited that he found an icicle hanging from the eve of grandma and Grandpa's house. Guy pulled it down for him and we put it in the freezer.:)
When we came inside, we had some cupcakes that grandma had made.:)
Better eat your cupcake, Lizzy, before Grandpa gets it!!!!! Merry Christmas to you all!!!:)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Programs, Little Gym, Build -A-Bear and Parks

This post is kind of long because we have been so busy the last week. I wanted to just put up some pictures to give you an idea of what we have been up to both before we left Lagos and after we arrived in Houston. I think the kids and I are finally adjusted to Houston time.:) Last Wednesday, Jeremy had a Christmas program at school. The children all dressed up like snowmen ( thank goodness I had a scarf and gloves....a very difficult thing to find in Lagos!!!) They sang "Five Little Snowmen". It was so cute to see the all up on the stage.:)
This week, on Monday night, my friend's daughter had her Christmas program. Jeremy loved it because he could sing right along with all the Christmas songs the children were singing. Elizabeth decided in the middle of the program to have a "fashion show" and put on her glasses and hat.:) Her big brother followed suit.
On Wednesday, we were off to Little gym. Jeremy used to take classes there before we moved away, and the instructors were so great. they remembered us when we came in. Jeremy took a class along with my friend's daughter. They had a really great time....I think Jeremy even remembered some of the things he learned there.:)
Last night, Jeremy's godmother, another dear friend, took the kids and I out to Build -A-Bear. The kids had a blast and were so excited to see that they could make Rudolf from the movie. We had a great time seeing the kids pump the machine to fill up the toys and then, rub the heart and make a wish before putting it inside.:) They even got to give their new friends a bath!!!:)

Today, we went to have lunch at the park. The kids loved running around outside without dripping in sweat...and there was a breeze!!! Very unlike Lagos.:) So, that sums up what has been going on over the last week.:) Hope you are all doing well!!!:)

Monday, December 13, 2010

We Made it!!!

The kids and I made it to Houston on Saturday at approximately 8:43 a.m. in the morning local time. Total travel time including the trip to the airport in Lagos and layovers was about 24 hours. I have to say that the kids did a great job on the plane. I think they are really becoming professional travelers.:) I, on the other hand had a "hot headed" moment at the Lagos airport before we boarded the plane....but thank goodness that is in the past now.:) The kids are having a great time playing with their friends and enjoying the cooler weather here in Houston. ( I know that sounds weird, cool weather in Houston...but yesterday, the kids wore coats and hats outside.) I have to say, it is nice to be able to spend time with my wonderful friend and meet the latest addition to her family....her new baby boy.:)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Merry Christmas....A Little Early:)

Merry Christmas a little bit early to all of you from Lagos!:) Since our family never really is at our own home for Christmas, we had the kids open up their gifts from us on Friday night. ( All the things I bought in June and packed in the shipment...thank goodness they are still interested in the things I packed).It is getting more and more fun to see them open gifts each year. Elizabeth really has the hang of ripping open presents now!:) Below is a picture of our front door. The wreath was made by my lovely grandma before she passed away. Elizabeth and Jeremy made the great candy canes and Santas on the door.:)

Bernie doesn't always appreciate her picture taken, but she is in the living room showing off the Christmas tree.:)

Her stocking is hung up ...with a few treats inside.:)

Jeremy had to give her one while He was opening up his own stocking.:)

The kids each got a new umbrella so they are ready for the next rainy season to start.:)

Opening up the stockings:)

Elizabeth in her Princess Tiana wedding dress and Jeremy in his new spider man p.j's

Where did Jeremy go? I only see Batman!

He was so excited to open up Mack!

A little blurry, but you can kind of see all the wrapping paper everywhere!!!!

Lizzie and her new baby carrier and doll house.:)
The kids had a great time opening up their gifts and it was fun to watch them.:) On Friday, we head to Houston to see some good friends and then to Chicago...and finally we end up in San Francisco! We hope you are all having a great Christmas Season so far!!!:)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Sign of the Times

This is a picture of the center of our dining table. As you can see, there is a candle holder ( made by Jeremy at school) from the Indian holiday of Diwali, a nativity scene for Christmas and a Menorah made from bottle caps to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah ( made by Jeremy at school). It is really neat to see Jeremy come home from school and learn about all these different holidays and cultures of the many children from all over the world which make up his class. He told me when he brought home the menorah, "Mom, it's a candle holder for Hanukkah, can we put some candles in it?" It is so nice to see how accepting he is of others...such a change from so many things I hear and see on T.V. Happy beginning of December to all of you!:)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I am sure the guy who was operating this crane was really wishing that he had read the manual on how to operate this machinery. This was a scene right outside Guy's office building.

Maybe he wasn't paying attention when his teacher was teaching the class about weight and that lighter pieces of machinery can't pick up a heavier pieces of equipment. This got me started thinking about directions in general. It would be so nice to have a direction manual about how to deal with drivers, people on strike...and even my daughter...

Tonight, she picked up a paper and asked me what it was. I told her it was a set of directions (on how to play one of Jeremy's games). She said, "For me?" I started laughing...I really wish I had directions for her...that would make life so much easier if my children came with a direction manual. It's ironic, though. When we have directions for something, we really don't use them. But, when we need directions, they are nowhere to be found.:)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family in the U.S. You can see by my little pilgrim and Native American, we are getting into the spirit of this holiday.:) I miss being in the U.S. for this holiday. Obviously, it is not a Nigerian holiday so it is not observed over here. It is just another regular day. Last year, Thanksgiving fell on the Muslim holiday of Eid ( which is also a Nigerian national holiday), so Guy had the day off work. Today, he left for work at his regular time. But, we are going to have a fantastic turkey dinner tonight with some friends on our compound. (Yes, we brought a Butterball back in our suitcase from the U.S. It has been thawing for the last three days):) I have to remember all the great friends we have made while we have been here and give thanks for that! After all, it is Thanksgiving.:)

The kids made some decorations for Thanksgiving which we hung on our door.:)

You always know the Holiday season is coming when you are in Lagos. No, there's no snow......or I guess you could say that it is the Nigerian form of snow.....harmattan. Harmattan ( the dust that blows in from the Sahara Desert) comes around this time every year. Usually I can look out my kitchen window and see the Atlantic Ocean. Today, I came into the kitchen and couldn't even make it out through all the harmattan.:)
As I close, I want to tell each and every one of you how thankful I am for all of you. I look back over this year and treasure all the great memories I have had with my friends and family and look forward to the upcoming year and all the wonderful things it will bring. Happy Thanksgiving!:)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yes......I can!

Just in case some of you think I forgot how to use a stove....I wanted to show you that I can still operate one.:) I had Elizabeth help me make Rice Krispie treats the other day. ( I did have to look up the recipe on the Internet , though. It had been a while since I made them.)

She really likes to cook, though.....
Maybe coming to Nigeria wasn't such a bad idea. At least Elizabeth likes to cook...maybe she can cook for the family when we move back to the U.S. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

You know you are in Nigeria when...

You have to blow dry your hair in......your kitchen!!! Yes, that is where I ended up today after plugging and unplugging the appliance I use everyday. It all started with pushing the button on the blow dryer in my bathroom....and it didn't work. It turned out that the outlet just doesn't work anymore. So, I went to the kids' bathroom and everything was working out just fine, when POOF!!! a spark shot out of the outlet and the blow dryer turned off. That was it for that outlet...and the adapter. Then, the search was on for another adapter. After one was finally located, the last place I could go and dry my hair was kitchen. The only good thing about drying my hair in the kitchen was that I could be entertained by all the crazy okada drivers I can see out my kitchen window.:) On top of that, Elizabeth was up way too early this morning which was evident by her constant whining and refusal of putting on her Belle, Cinderella or Princess Jasmine panties......of course she wanted the Princess Tiana ones ( which were the first ones I pulled out of her drawer and rejected I might add!). I think she is getting up so early now because she is in her "big girl" bed and is not "jailed" in by her crib.:) Between her and the quest to blow dry my hair today, I was ready for a glass of wine at 7 a.m. No, just kidding......but never underestimate a great cup of coffee to make yourself feel better.:)

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Last night, I was up with a sick child. Jeremy had a fever and I was up every four hours to check on him and give him medicine. Needless to say, I was exhausted when I finally had to get up for good this morning. I felt a little crazy until I was looking through some pictures I took from the car last week, and they made me realize that my life isn't as crazy as I sometimes think it is.:)

I thought I'd share these pictures with you. The kids and I saw this truck carrying bulls "to market" as Fatai says. Elizabeth looked out the window and asked me "Why the cows fallin' down?" Sure enough every time the truck stopped ( which was a lot in the traffic we were in) the bulls would fall forward on top of one another. Jeremy asked me if they were hurt. I am sure they weren't feeling too good. I am not sure what he USDA would have to say about the transportation of these bulls.

I'm glad I don't have the man who is sitting in the back of the truck's job.:)

This made me laugh out loud when I saw this public bus. This is an example of a true Nigerian exhaust system. It comes complete with a chain to hold up the muffler.:) So, I now realize my life isn't so crazy after all. Sometimes I think what I see here is crazy, but for many Nigerians, it is just life as usual.:) Maye if I stay here long enough, I'll start to think like a Nigerian........on second thought...nah!:)