Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's for Easter? The in-laws...yum

Time to start cleaning.
My in-laws are getting here tomorrow from Ohio. And they are staying for five days. Ohio. Round on the ends and "hi" in the middle.

We haven't seen them since Thanksgiving. They are very sweet and very old school. My father-in-law repeats his jokes and stories, including saying that he needs to get new grandkids, ones who haven't heard all his jokes before, not that he needs new jokes. Har har. My mother-in-law says exactly what she thinks. There isn't much filtering. It makes it very easy to know where she stands. Very. For better or worse, it's out there.

My father-in-law likes to have political "discussions" with my husband and the two are mostly opposites.  (My in-laws have a lovely signed photo of the Bushes right inside the front door of their home.) The debate style is less than refined. It's not pretty. I walk away, and my mother-in-law usually follows. My husband can't resist, he is like a moth drawn to the flame... "look away from the light," I say... but, no. They will never sway each other to another way of thinking, I guess it's like a sport.

The kids love seeing their grandparents. The grandparents love to play lots of games. A common invitation is, "Who wants to get beat at Rummy?" Or Euchre? Or Dominoes? Or Go fish? Or Othello? Or... You get the picture. They love their games.

All that unbridled, unrestrained honesty and opinion will certainly come out in one way (or a million) with regard to the Foreign Service. I have discussed this before in a previous post and it was discussed in EF'M: The life of an FSO Spouse. It is tricky, explaining why we are doing this, something different, something unfathomable to people who want us close and accessible. Moving to unknown places, meeting unknown people, learning unknown languages. (Yeah, I know, smarty-pants, they aren't unknown, except to us.) I think my in-laws are perfectly happy knowing the people that they know now, up to this point in their lives, why would they need to meet anyone else? Go anywhere else? They've got six kids. That's six places to visit. That's enough.

I am getting myself prepared for the question to be asked (again), "Why in the world would you want to go and drag your family around the world? Is anything wrong with right here? Personally, I don't see why people are so gung-ho about travel."

"Did I ever tell you the one about the priest and the..."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Last night I started off a little weepy, then I cried. And cried. And cried. The full water works.

Sometimes that happens I guess. It hit like a wave ... more like a tsunami.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


This photo was from last week. This is B. He's 9. Nice hair, huh?

I found these baby fingernail scissors on the floor Thursday night when going to bed.
"Hmm," I thought, "Maybe B cut off the itchy tag on his PJ's."

The next morning I realized that B had given himself a haircut. He said that he couldn't stand the feel of the hair on his forehead. So he cut it off. Right up close to the scalp. Just in the front. And he left the hair in a horror show murder scene in the bathroom sink. 

He had to go to school like that on Friday too. With the sides longish and the front to the scalp. Poor kid.

Here is after the barber fixed the do-it-yourself job. I didn't have the heart to take a picture of the chop B did. His eyes were all teared up. Love that kid. He just couldn't stand the hair on his forehead one second longer. 
Kids make you laugh sometimes. Speaking of laughter, this weekend my husband and I went out to dinner and a comedy club and laughed until our stomaches hurt. It was so much fun to laugh that hard. Laughter is good medicine.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How do I prep the grandparents?

This was lunch for C. today. Creative, huh?
Who says I'm not using my expensive art school degrees?

Kiwi for eyes, banana and peanut butter for the mouth, with raisins for the teeth and eyelashes and jalapeno pepper jack cheese for the nose (w/ crackers too). My girl has a self-proclaimed "spicy tooth."
Here is C. reading about Syracuse and Cornell losing last night. "Why is he crying, Mama?" Well, let's talk about turnovers, honey.

So the three kids are going to my Dad and step-mom's again this weekend. My Dad has not said ONE word about the Foreign Service in months. It has been a noticeably absent topic of conversations with me. I think he disapproves. But he is not saying. He just keeps asking for the kids every few weeks. I think he's stocking up on kid-time.

How do you deal with parents and grandparents who may think you are abandoning them and taking away the grandkids by joining the Foreign Service? What's the best approach to take? My father says nothing. My mom has remained (outwardly) positive and encouraging. But I'm her only child. She's single. These are her only grandkids. So, I have guilt. Always with the guilt...

Advice? Teach them how to skype now maybe?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I like to walk.

I walk with my dog. Today we walked along a river, through an old cemetery, through a village, through a park, along a canal, over some locks, down a spit of land with water on both sides. We were just walking along. I walk in any season, but am happiest now that almost all the snow is finally melted. We have woods all around our house. And ponds. And paths. And trails. I walk them. I walk through cemeteries. I walk up hills, I walk through wetlands, through meadows. I am a woman who likes to walk with her dog. I like to think while I walk. But the thinking is so effortless that I don't even remember what I thought about, just that I thought about stuff and the sun shone and the dog was always at my side.

I do not like to run.
But I think I should like to run. I think I should be the kind of person who runs and runs and thinks and sweats and trains for something... but running just hurts. I had meniscus surgery on my knee last year so running makes me a little nervous too. Plus you have to wear the special uni-boob bra, so that's no fun. I can't relax and let my mind wander. When I run I just think, "Can't...get enough...air. Shins hurt."

My husband runs. Fast. Up hills. And he likes it. Weird, right? He "trains" for things. Races.

I know nobody is judging me. Sometimes I jog, but mostly, I just like to walk. So why do I feel like I should want to run? Maybe I just want to be able to brag that I'm in training.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Loop

I appreciate all the encouraging and supportive comments that came from my previous post about waiting and the uncertainty of being on the register. I am amazed at the wonderful community of the FS. I hope to join your ranks soon. Thank you.

I feel like I am stuck in a loop. I'm not sure how to plan or think "forward." I keep asking my husband, "This FS thing is going to happen, right?" He's getting so he just nods like a bobble-head. I mean I KEEP asking. Like, "Good morning, how'd you sleep? It's going to happen, right?" Or, "Would you like more ravioli? You'll get called, right?" Or, "Wanna turn on the S.U. game? You think you'll get called, but when?" (By the way, go Orange! And hello? Cornell?) Or, "You need to pick up your car from the shop before work. You think it'll happen, right?" I think I might be driving him a little crazy.

My kids had no school on Friday so I took them to a lake nearby for some fun and playing outdoors. We brought along the dog. We had fun. It was sunny and gorgeous. I didn't think about the loop for the day.
Oh, who am I kidding?
I did.
I thought about it...
This is so pretty. It is so close to our house. The kids love it here. Will we get called? When? What if we don't? Will we get called? Will we get called?Will we get called?Will we get called?Will we get called?willwewillwewillwewillwillwill...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No. Maybe. Yes. Well...

This waiting is unbearable. I know we won't get called. It is all a waste of time. The last year has been por nada. We shouldn't have bothered with the FS.

Then again maybe we will get called. You never know. It could happen, just wait. Patience. Practice German. Pass the test. Try to enjoy life each and every day, regardless...blah-dee, friggin', blah, blah, blah. Maybe even without the language it'll all work out. Hm.

Yes, it will work out. We will get called. For sure. It will happen. Get ready. This is a sure thing.

Then again, maybe not. Yes. No. Yes. Oh, dammit. Check the A-100 board. No don't check, yeah, check...

Welcome to my brain.

It's not squirrel nests, but it's close, it's the real deal.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Real Deal.

Seven year old S. is a funny kid. He's a blond haired, blue eyed funny string bean. He's strong and flexible and he does flips and many chin-ups on the chin-up bar in his bedroom doorway. Sam has recently started gymnastics. The gym has a real boys team. They do rings and bars and there are teens who do the iron cross and have arms bigger than my thigh. Well, close.

Anyway, we were driving to gymnastics today when S. said, "I wish I brought my book on the war."

I asked him if he meant the book on the war of 1812, because I had seen him reading that.

He said, "No, the book on the Vietnam War. I finished the War of 1812 and World War I. I guess I'll just have to count squirrels nests."

"What? You are a kooky kid." I said.

"Mama, this is the real deal. I am up to 400 squirrels nests. I am aiming to get to 600."

He had his eyes on the trees the rest of the way and found 2 more by the time we got to the gym. Grand total 402.
That's a real deal.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Murders in Mexico

Yesterday there was news of three people associated with the Ciudad Juarez diplomatic community getting killed after being followed leaving a social function. The story here: NYTimes There was an especially graphic photo posted by the NY Times. Apparently the couple in the photo who were killed had a 7 month old baby screaming in the backseat when responders got to the vehicle. Thankfully, she was not hurt, other than being made to watch the killing of her parents. It seems likely that drug related gangs are responsible for the killings.

As my husband and I prepare to enter this life, stories like this are sobering. Obviously, there are risks anywhere. But outside the bubble of apparent safety in the US, it can feel like a free-for-all. Entering the wide open space of "away from home."

One of the positives I have cited (ok, to my mom) about traveling with the Foreign Service is that there is a lot of support that goes with being a part of the FS community. Unlike moving to another country on our own, we will have the support and wisdom of all those who have done it before us. They can help us with where to live, buy food, schools, etc. I get the sense that it is a true community and that the community is shocked and mourning over the loss of some members of that community.

What do I do with this information? It doesn't change my mind about the FS. It makes me think though. I'm not signing up for that Foreign Service. Not the Getting-gunned-down-in-your-car-with-your-kids FS. But, I guess you never can tell.  I could get gunned down in upstate NY.

My mom is out of the country, I don't think I'll tell her about the murders in Mexico. She'd only worry. Oh, and apparently I'm not so different from my mother, who cleans when she's nervous, because today I scrubbed the floors. I scrubbed every floor. On my hands and knees. Those babies freakin' shine.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

German films

In an effort to be supportive and encouraging, I've been getting German language movies from the library for my husband to watch. I googled "German language films" and, starting from the top of the wiki list, am reserving DVDs as available. The plot is irrelevant, it just has to be German language. Well, let me tell you, those Germans have some messed-up movies. Seriously. And the actors aren't exactly good looking. And they smoke, a lot.

As a result of all these movies, I woke up last night dreaming in German. And stressed about it. I remember thinking, "I need to wake myself up so I can stop with this German language stuff." Funny.

The "calls" for the May class have gone out. We didn't get a call, as expected. But if my hubby had the language points, we would have gotten a call. So I'll keep enduring those films. It's for the greater good.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I think migraines would be cured by now if men suffered from them as much as women do. There would be so much research, funding and so many drug trials going on... there would probably be a magic little blue pill for migraines by now.

I have suffered from migraines for 25 years. I've been to neurologists. They don't know what causes or cures migraines. They tell me to try lots of things and... "good luck, try keeping a headache journal." Thanks, Docs, maybe I'll go one step further and create a headache scrapbook, using fancy scissors and colorful stickers! 

The doctors have asked if there is a history of headaches in my family. I said yes, my mother and grandmother had them until they hit menopause. Then they nod and do nothing.

I've been told to eliminate headache-trigger foods from my diet. I've been told to try this medication, that medication, the other medication. But when the pills are over $25 per tablet, it's hard to feel free to take one at the first sign of a headache. Because I think, "Hm, maybe Advil will do, or maybe a cup of coffee might be enough this time." And when I do take the big gun drugs, I am only supposed to take one tablet every 24 hours. And sometimes that doesn't even touch the migraine. Then what?! 

So that concludes my migraine rant. If you have any suggestions or cures that might work, please send them my way. Otherwise, I'm waiting hopefully until menopause.
Hot flashes...bring 'em on!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Laser blast.

When I came down to breakfast this morning, my 7 yr old son, S., was reading a Marvel Spiderman comic book and the Hubbster was reading the newspaper. They were sitting side by side, both silently eating cereal. One was in his jammers and one in a shirt and tie.

"You boys are cute," I said, kissing them both on the head.

After a little pause, S. pointed his hand toward the cereal box and made a laser sound "Zzzzst!" then he pantomimed that the laser bounced off the cereal box and reflected onto my husband with an exploding sound and hand motions. S. grinned and said, "I just turned you into cereal, Dada."

I said, "Boy energy is different, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is, said my husband, as he pretended that the laser blasted him in the chest and knocked him around, as he transformed into Wegmans brand Fruity Pebbles.

In FS news, apparently May calls have started. But we aren't expecting to hear anything. The PD register is up to 107 now. Ugh...and double ugh. We are inhabiting a spot about halfway down the list. So, not expecting a May call. The Hubbster is still reading thrilling books with titles such as, "Conjugating German Verbs."

This waiting is tough. I'm trying to be very Zen about it. But I feel like blasting a Fruity Pebble laser right through the computer at the FS register, melting it into a blob of oozing, smoldering, stinky putrid jumbled numbers. BRrrzzzzzstt!!

Monday, March 8, 2010


This weekend we had sun. Two glorious days of bright sun. And it's sunny now too. yippee

On Saturday morning I turned on the ipod to Vampire Weekend as we were cooking blueberry pancakes. I looked around the kitchen, and I realized every family member was dancing. Not trying-to-impress-each-other-dancing, or being-goofy-dancing. Just dancing, each happy and content. And it was a nice feeling, to see those three kooky dancing kids and a dancing man with a pancake flipper.

Maybe it was the sunshine. Or maybe the music. Or maybe just a happy family.

Friday, March 5, 2010

car wreck

I realize my blog post below was a little...ermm, over the top. I couldn't stop reading those horror story comments. My awe left me unable to edit that middle bit.

In the desire to prove how wrong that article was, the comments seemed to try to point out just how awful and terrible being in the FS is.

It was like being unable to look away from a car wreck. I couldn't stop.

Must look away. Must look away. Avert my gaze.

Not recruitment material.

I was checking out this blog, one of my daily reads. life after jerusalem. The post was discussing a nasty article written by some nincompoop about how cushy the FS life is and how overpaid FS employees are. Here's the article crappy article. Also, it was referenced to in diplopundit. I found it all very interesting.
Obviously, this man, who was fired after two weeks with State, has an ax to grind, and bad information. He is uncredible.

But the credible part was in the comments. There were comments from various FS employees and family members that were refuting the article and adding personal stories as evidence that life is not cushy in the FS. It turns out life is hard. Very hard. Up-hill-both-ways-in-the-winter hard. I knew this. I know this.

But, geez, people, you're killing me here. I'm waiting to enter this life. I need a little more ignorance and bliss. These kinds of comments aren't exactly recruitment material.

"...locally, say in Bangladesh, all the food is contaminated by live sewage or sprayed with viscious pesticides that other countries have outlawed as wildly dangerous. We bleach every leaf of every vegetable we buy in countries like that. So we also eat bleach... 
...My kids could not ride bikes, scooters or other things kids in America could do and my kids were sick about 70% of the time with, at the least, mild nausea, stomach cramps and or diahreah. At worst, and several times, my young children were hospitalized with askaris worms, shigellosis, and one form of e-coli that literally almost killed my daughter...
...You can almost get used to the fact that human feces runs down an open drain that runs along the outside of your house's gate, but you never quite get used to the smell..."
"...watching your kids suffer is torture and anyone who says our lives are a piece of cake would do well to remember this. We had to watch our dog die slowly from a parasitic infection that the vets were unable to diagnose much less treat...
...We were confined to our house for weeks at a time because of civil unrest and violence (to the point that there was so much gunfire on the streets that I wouldn't even let the children play in our yard) and, ultimately, there was an evacuation which separated our family for 4 months... isn't easy to live in many of the places where we have embassies and consulates and I challenge anyone who says it is to actually go do it. I challenge them to uproot their children every 2-3 years, help them settle into a new life in a new country in a new school with new friends and teachers and languages, etc. Then watch them thrive and grow and learn to love their new country-only to rip them out of it again in 2-3 years..."
"...Have you ever awoken in the middle of the night to find your baby daughter in a coma, dying of malaria? Awoken to the sound of automatic weapons fire in the street outside your house? Been shot at (on five separate occasions in three continents)? Stepped over dead bodies as you walked down a narrow alleyway too narrow to walk around them? Had worms and malaria simultaneously? I have. And many other Foreign Service members have had similar experiences.
...In addition to the above, in Mali, when the Niger river flooded, dead animals used to line my road to work. When they got hot enough, they exploded. In Mozambique, there was a war on, and we could see and hear nightly mortar fire from some embassy houses. When landing in Maputo in those days, we could tell we were getting close by the columns of black smoke from trucks burning on the road to South Africa. In Uzbekistan, my telephone was bugged and my comings and goings were overtly followed. In India, I lived in a city which the WHO ranked seventh in the world for air pollution. I also learned that my own apartment had been specifically targeted by Bin Laden’s organization (then not yet known as Al Qaida)..."
"... in the middle of mind numbing poverty, human rights abuses, and on and off again civil war, live in a house in which entire systems may fail repeatedly (what will it be today? Plumbing? Water heating? Electricity? Oh look, my cabinets just collapsed because termites ate them. How wonderfully cultural) and go to work with the knowledge that a rocket may come through the roof of your embassy office...
...populace often so hostile towards foreigners that you run the risk of being beaten by a mob if you end up in a fender bender, in the wrong place at the wrong time...
...water that can kill you if you get as little as a drop in your mouth while showering (or make you feel like you wish you were dead...
...Ever have to live with the debilitating fear that hits you when your child has a disease that has been virtually eradicated in the developed world, forcing an immediate medical evacuation?...
...I know people who would've simply been happy if they could get into the shower without getting a jolt of electricity from faulty house wiring (true story), have a single solid bowel movement, and could eat something other than dal bhat for the 25th time that month or a carrot that doesn't taste like it has been soaked in a Clorox wipe..."
"...I will have a decent place to live in Moscow, and probably will be spied on and followed, plus I will come close to being killed in chaotic traffic, inhale large amounts of pollution, get food poisoning multiple times. Last time we lived there, there were bombs going off in random places, and the theater siege by Chechen rebels. Of course I also get the expenses of setting up house in a new country every couple of years, and the challenges of keeping myself and our children psychologically balanced despite being uprooted and starting our lives over every few years (being far from family, starting out without friends, finding new work for the accompanying spouse, setting up new daily routines, doing all grocery shopping in a foreign language)."
"... served a year in Baghdad. I left my husband and two teenage sons at home to serve my country in a war zone. Yes, we lived in the Green Zone, but people were killed and injured on the Embassy Compound during my time there. Incoming IED prevented us from getting a decent night's sleep. We worked 12 or more hours a day, 6-7 days a week....
...Shall I tell you about the various tropical diseases my family and I suffered? or how my youngest son was born via c-section with local anesthesia because the doctor who claimed he knew how to do a spinal block messed it up? or how my husband had to be evacuated from post three days after our wedding because there was a "credible" threat that the Colombian cartels were going to assassinate some American family members?..."
...willingly ingesting fine dust particles (between 0.5 and 10 micrometres) in the Sudan...
...As to danger pay, that's an allowance for being a moving target overseas. But it would look bad if we start calling it the "moving target" allowance, right?  You may or may not know this but more ambassadors have died in the service of this country in the last 30 years than generals. You can look it up in the AFSA memorial plaque.  As unarmed representatives of the United States, our diplomats and their families put themselves in harm's way overseas simply because of who they are and where they work..."
..."Trust me, anyone who comes into the Foreign Service as an FS 04 could be earning MUCH more in in the private sector, but we choose to take a pay cut to serve our country...   
...the truth is that most FS spouses can not find work overseas... 
...the PTSD people return with after being awoken nightly by bombs, after losing colleagues to IEDs, after narrowly escaping death themselves... 
...Beijing, where one FS spouse has lost her health to the pollution. Her husband has lost his hearing from an unknown virus and poor health care..."
"...I find myself wandering around in my huge, fancy mansion (my house that hasn't had any heat in a week, that's bugged to the rafters so nothing is private, where not even my dog can drink the water)..."
"...Now please excuse me, I have to finish getting my three year old ready for the "school bus". Since we've had five running gun battles in the city over the last two weeks, Post has authorized armored vehicle coverage so he and the other pre-schoolers can safely get to school. Love this posh life!"

OK, folks.
Don't think I'm naive. I know what I'm getting myself into. My eyes are open.
It's kind of like having kids. I love my kids and all the wonderful things about them. Life is richer for knowing them. I have a different view of the world due to them. I wouldn't trade it. I also know childbirth hurts. I know what 10cm means. I read all the books and knew what to expect when I was expecting. And I chose no pain meds, three times. But when I see a friend pregnant, expecting her first child I don't tell her about 10 cm, I don't tell her about stitches or other gory details.

Here's my "10 cm" staring me right in the face...sewage, feces, smells, parasites, diarreah, vomit, bombs, PTSD, exploding animals, dust storms, coma kids, damaged membranes, bugged houses, armored vehicles, overworked, underpaid, disease, evacuated, carjacked, surveillance, loneliness, isolation...Thanks people.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Resourceful and crafty

I got a new haircut. Side swept bangs. Layers. Here are some photos:

In other news, here's what happened last night.

As a future FS family member, I'll need to be resourceful and crafty. Innovative and entrepreneurial. So I was getting ready to open a bottle of wine last night. Let me just say, I'm not a big drinker. One glass of wine a week tops. So...
I got out the goofy cork puller, instead of the regular cork screw, to save the whole cork for use in my son's science fair project which includes the making of a rocket. See? Crafty and thrifty. Always thinking of uses for things. Sacrificing for the greater good.

I wiggled the cork puller down around the cork, put the bottle between my knees and gently pulled the cork out. Gently. Really.
With my massive muscles and the sheer brute strength of my lean, toned and svelte arms (yeah, right!?), I BROKE the neck of the bottle. Truly. WTF?


I gasped, awed at the mess I made. I vacuumed the glass and wiped down the floor.
Should I throw away the wine? It had glass shards in it, surely. Then I figured, why waste the wine? So I broke out a coffee filter and voila!


The only problem is that it is a 1.5 liter bottle. How'm I gonna recork it? So, gotta drink it all...
Just kidding.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Trying to be like a duck. Feel more like a grouse.

Another bout of writers-block. Or rather, writers-messy-disorganized-brain-jam. Lots of things, swirling about me and yet nothing happening. How do I prioritize and order the chaos into something legible and coherent?

The weekend came and went. It ended up being a four day weekend due to the snow days. We shoveled, sledded, shoveled, played in the snow, then shoveled some more. The boys worked on science fair projects. The kids had friends over to play, then went to friends' houses to play. The laundry got done and undone, the bathrooms cleaned and messed up again. Many books were read. We love the library.

It is so strange to be in "limbo-land" waiting for "the call" from the FS. The PD register has swelled to 101. There are usually 18 people taken every 6 weeks or so, meaning that we could be waiting until who-knows-when, since the Hubbster is about halfway down the PD list and new people are getting added every damn day. But he's studying his German. Last night he went to meet with the old Fraus and talk about whatever eighty-year-old German women discuss with a young guy. Fiber? Bad hips? Gardening? Blue hair dye? WWI, WWII? The invention of das Auto? Funny. Two hours of German practice. When he got home he looked spent. I'm not sure if it was the language or the subject matter that was so tiring.

I hope that we end up getting "called" eventually. It sure seems like a lot of effort. I know the FS is all about waiting, uncertainty, going with the flow, "being like a duck and let the water roll off", etc. But it would be nice to know IF this is or is not going to happen. Hubbster's actually going to retake the written test and have another candidacy going to increase his chances. It's crazy. Meanwhile, I wait in the wings. Ready to spring into sorting and packing action...

I've been thinking about the earthquake in Chile. I was an exchange student there in 1988, in Concepcion. I have lost touch with my host parents and 4 sisters as of a few years ago when my Christmas card was returned as undeliverable. So I am thinking about them and hoping they are okay. I tried googling their names, but got nothing. I'm not sure how one would search out somebody so far away. They were so kind to me. So patient with my struggling Castellano.

Oddly enough, our next door neighbors are a former Diplomatic Security family. The wife was in DS and the husband was the EFM. They have 2 young kids. They left the FS after 3 posts. They seem reluctantly enthusiastic about what we are pursuing. I get the sense they think we're nuts. Especially since they tried the FS life and decided it's not for them. But the weird thing is that the husband joined the Army Reserves, got a big cash signing bonus, and is now likely being deployed in June. For a year. To Afghanistan. Go figure.

It's interesting, the paths we all choose for ourselves. For our families.