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17 posts from May 2012

May 29, 2012

A piece of

quiet was my gift from Nick today. After our trip to the pool and just as I was about to hop into the shower, he asked me if I would like that. What mom or dad wouldn't? I said, "Yes," quite eagerly and took my shower with an amazing amount of peace and quiet.  Actually, too amazing.

I heard peals of laughter and screams as I stepped out of the shower and frantically tried to get dressed as I had a sneaking suspicion Nick was up to something. I envisioned it just before Kelsey ran upstairs to tell me about it: Nick had decided to forego underwear or clothing of any kind (he might have put on boots) and had gone outside to play.  This was extraordinarily entertaining for the neighbors, mortifying for Kelsey and, in the end, I was merely mildly amused.  After all, I had my quiet shower.

Later on this evening, I again noticed a calm about the house.  Nick had been happily playing in the living room and waiting on me to run an errand.  Suddenly, it was just too quiet.  I glanced out the living room window and there he was:  atop the "little car" talking to himself and waving his lightsaber around.

I started to stress about this newfound hobby then realized I needed to thank my lucky stars as: 

  • he clearly is agile and has fantastic balance
  • his is very self-entertaining
  • he is very outgoing and not too worried about what others think
  • he has not yet once made me call poison control or whip out a bottle of syrup of Ipecac

I know for a fact one of Nick's parental units put her mother through the ringer.  From falling on her face (time after time after time) to eating yew berries and Renuzit* (yes, the bathroom air freshener...which was the exact same color as a blue raspberry Mr. Misty from the Dairy Queen), she kept her mother on her toes.  Everything in her childhood home was plastered with a Mr. Yuck sticker as otherwise it was fair game for this child whose ability to confound her mother knew no bounds. Yep, I'll take a little nudity in the neighborhood over having poison control on speed dial any day (and now I'm hoping I didn't jinx myself)....


*Out of sheer curiousity, I just Googled "child ate a renuzit" and it is apparently quite a popular search.  At least I wasn't the only one?

May 28, 2012

Yes, I cried.

Finally, almost 7 days after Peter left, when I least expected it, I had my first breakdown.  The funny part?  It wasn't the kids, the house, the cars or anything else.  It was reading through all of the Memorial Day updates on Facebook and thinking about the day in general.

Now, I know you are thinking, but, uh, Pete's okay and he's not military, so...this is true.  However, it is still a national holiday, one that generally brings people together (whether to gorge themselves on grilled meat or mourn the loss of a loved one) and we are nearly 7,000 miles apart.  He's over there busily serving his country, I'm here and it hit me all at once.  Then?

Then it was gone.  It was the true definition of a good cry.  I wept, composed myself and realized I was still fine.  I was crying more for him than because he was gone and knew the best way to prevent further tears was to carry on with our day as planned....

We swam at the pool (my first swim since the last surgery), grilled and finished up dinner with s'mores.  The kids helped with everything, from prepping the table and cleaning the grill to helping with the clean-up after dinner (to include Kelsey doing the dishes and garbage while I put Nick to bed).  It was an amazingly relaxing evening and the burgers were 'so good' that Kelsey said it might be one of the best dinners yet.  And my reward?  Thank you hugs from both of them as dinner was "so tasty" (as good as Pete's burgers...whew!).  So, our first holiday without Pete (and hopefully one of the few) a success as far as overall family member happiness.

In other news, I am still insanely jealous of Cait.  Today was a day of horsebackriding at Laxness. She apparently (according to her FB update), had a fabulous time and she learned (or re-learned) that galloping is far easier on one's bum than trotting.  The weather is still utterly gorgeous  and I'm thinking Berta is going to have to drag her onto that plane on Saturday...but I can't say I blame Cait on that one!  And if that smile on her face doesn't say this trip was the perfect idea...I don't know what does.






May 27, 2012

Yes, I'm a bit green

with envy.  Cait landed in Keflavik safe and sound this morning and not only had a perfect flight, but has already had a whirlwind trip around Reykjavik.  Well, I think she had a perfect flight.  Her one message to me was:

In Iceland. Fine, and not kidnapped. kk bye

I know, she's crying buckets over missing me, clearly!  Actually, this just proves to me that the timing couldn't have been more perfect for this trip.  Now because today was Whitsun, Cait had to miss a trip to the bakari this morning on the way home from the airport.  However, that didn't mean that she couldn't make several other important stops later in the day.  



At the lake
Hanging out by the lake in Reykjavik, not far from our old house.



Cait by the yellow house
In front of our old house and yard on Suðurgata, which is now sans the rotting fence that used to surround it (a big improvement!).


Downtown Rvk
Cait and her friend, Heiða.



Cait and my friend, Berta, in front of Harpa (which was just in the primary stages of construction when we left.)


In the lava field
Cait and Heiða hanging out with the pup in the lava fields...ruff life, eh?

She has a jam-packed week planned and I have a feeling I'm going to be a bit jealous all week long. From the horseback riding to the hot pots...sigh...guess I'll just have to get back there myself sometime soon!


Forget college

I'm a wreck just sending my baby overseas by herself for the first time!  Yes, this wee one (in the pink blanket)...


packed suitcases, boarded a plane and is somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean as  I type this post. Okay, yes, the baby really looks more like this these days:


Tonight was the beginning of *the* big trip.  She has been counting down since February, when we first mentioned the idea.  My friend, Berta, headmistress of the International School of Iceland, had invited her to spend a week with her family.  Berta was an amazing support and friend to us while we were in Iceland, and her kids hit it off magically with my kids.  I couldn't imagine a better way for Cait to celebrate Confirmation, the end of 8th grade or forget about the beginning of her father's year away.

We applied for a new passport, bought the ticket, dug out the luggage, bought new clothes and did not forget the swimsuit (oh, the hot pots....).   She started loading up last night while simultaneously doing several loads of laundry.  Despite oversleeping a bit (guess no worries about jet lag), she was ready to go by the time the babysitter arrived.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner and then arrived at Dulles nearly 3 hours early (note to self:  waaayyy too early).  This gave us plenty of quality time which translated into Cait hitting both Cinnabon and Dunkin Donuts.  Whatever, right?

We arrived at the gate an hour early (an hour and 15 minutes before the plane arrived) and just relaxed and chatted (you knw, played angry birds and watched Harry Potter).  It was so odd to look at her and realize that in just a bit, she would board the plane by herself and would then be off to a week of visiting old friends, hanging in lava fields, swimming in any kind of weather, and horseback riding, to name a few.  I began to wonder if I was truly sad or just extremely jealous.  Then they announced it was time to board. 

Technically, she went on a bit early.  Guess she had either that Saga Class look to her or like someone who needed a little extra time.  Either way, I accompanied her nearly to the boarding pass check and she (appropriately) looked extremely embarrassed when I suddenly threw my arms around her and told her to have fun.  Yes, I could have cried. 

Not even a glance back...

After all, not only was my baby going off on her own, but she was doing something I never could have done at her age.  I never had this type of travel opportunity and even if one had presented itself, I wonder if I could have gone through with it.  Despite being only 13, she has an amazing sense of self and independence.  I was so proud that she was not fretting about traveling overseas by herself, but only mildly concerned if she would fill out the customs form correctly and remember where to go (my bet is yes).  I'm so excited that she has an opportunity like this and have a feeling it will be an experience she will never forget. 

She made it on the plane...

I know it is an one that will never fade in importance for me. It's the type that makes you realize just how much knowledge your children have soaked up and how they capable they really are (not that you didn't know that already).  She was not afraid to pack up and leave her safe world behind for a week (granted, trading it for another safe world), and for that, I am so incredibly proud.  Have fun, Cait!  Hopefully, this is just the door to a whole new world of traveling for her, and for that, I am once again so grateful....and just a wee bit envious?!



May 25, 2012

{this moment}: The look on Cait's face....

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. Idea courtesy of Soulemama.



Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  

May 23, 2012

Now it really begins....

as Pete is officially BOG (boots on ground).  It means all sorts of things can kick in now, like paycheck adjustments and ISMA (well, when the correct OF-126 is filled out and returned....don't ask me why the incorrect version is still out there, but it is!).  Most importantly, I suppose, the clock is now ticking in anticipation of the first R&R which will be...

who knows?  It's basically dependent on the needs of post and we are simply hoping for something August/September-ish.  We just need enough time of Pete here during the kids summer time so we can get in a beach trip (minimal travel on this R&R) and a good bunch of relaxation/family time.  We aren't particularly stressed about dates, especially as I'm just hoping to have the whole regular R&R scenario vs. what happened last time.

So Peter has landed, moved into his new abode, unpacked and should be working soon.  By all accounts, he seems fine, other than a bit jet-lagged.  We, on the other hand, are a tad bit, well, tired?  It's not really the single parent thing, as I must admit I was horribly lazy and just let the boy watch Star Wars today.  I think it's just the whole, you know, everything.  And I'd be ready to complain about it, but for one thing:  

It's really not much different than our lives when Pete is here.  In fact (gulp), it's almost easier at times.  How could that be so?

1.  Lowered expectation, attire-wise:  When Pete is here, I'd like to think I'll shower at least once a day (well, bathe in some respect) and maybe wear something other than sweatpants.  When he's gone, it's yoga pants and t-shirts all the time, baby!  Another reason I don't care to use Skype with him.  No worries about how I look and I'm not stuck in the kitchen staring at a screen, when I could be walking around and chatting.  Therefore, I should apologize to those at Whole Foods in Arlington tonight.  I got a few looks and can't help but wonder if my not-so-chic ponytail and Girl Scout t-shirt are no longer at the height of fashion?

2. Lowered expectations, food-wise:  Thus far I have done fairly well.  Last night was pesto pasta (basil for pesto picked from our front porch 'garden') and tonight was roasted chicken with white wine and veggies (in the crockpot).  Now, I have no intention of not feeding them wholesome meals every night (especially since Nick and Kelsey adore my cooking...sniff, sniff), but I have a feeling if one night I fell apart and couldn't cook, they just wouldn't care...and neither would I.  However, given how much I enjoy cooking lately, I really don't see that happening often.  Plus, the farmers markets are in full swing and, oh, the veggies are amazing!

3. Lowered expectation, house-wise:  I don't have to worry at night about what I didn't get finished during the day around the house.  The irony is that it is very organized right now and since the kids are helping more with chores (setting, clearing, dishes and sweeping the floor without so much as a peep), I'm less stressed about it than ever.  I do still have basement and bedroom stuff to organize, but the mid-level is holding it's own, even with the world's largest Lego collection stored nearly everywhere you look (and step)!

4. Lowered expectations, day-wise:  When Pete was here, I felt like we had so much to cram into each day, especially as his departure loomed.  His day at work started at 6:45 a.m., ended at 5:45 p.m. and he could have gone to bed the minute he got home.  However, that's just beginning our 'family time'. Unfortunately, then schedules went haywire as he wanted more time with the boy and our quality time ended up being me watching cranky people on House Hunters while Peter snored next to me.   With our time difference now, it's possible for us BOTH to be awake during conversations and it's a pleasant change!

5.  Lowered expectations, behavior-wise:  Kelsey has mentioned again that she misses Peter.  Nicholas has talked about how Pete is in his "new job" in "you-know-where" and Cait is freaking out because she hasn't packed completely for Iceland.  Daddy who?  I therefore started to think I would be perfect this time around and never get cranky when it hit me yesterday (are you ready for this revelation?):

I get cranky whether Pete is here or not!  No joke!  

So, there is no need to stress myself out being the perfect mom, cause then the kids would think I had been kidnapped or at least body (mind) snatched.  You know, sort of like when my mom died suddenly several years ago and well-meaning people told me to never cry in front of my kids.  I thought this sounded odd, as one might figure kids would theoretically miss grandparents and also shed a tear once in a while.  So, I thought since Peter was gone, I should magically be in a good mood.

Except that sort of advice is all well and good until you are driving your kids around one day and you see something that reminds you of said mother (or husband) and you burst into tears (or crankiness).  Lie to the kids and they know (and trust me, it hurts kids when you lie to them).  Tell them the truth: "I miss my mom" or "I'm cranky cause Dad is gone." and they understand.  Oh, and chances are you'll get a hug and a few nice moments vs. having to explain why you need to go to the bathroom for the 20th time to cry or be cranky.  Plus, if you have a 4 year old boy, there is NO WAY you are being allowed to go to the bathroom by yourself.  

All in all day 2 went very well.  Not perfectly, but it's getting there.  It's not the most ideal situation, but we know where Pete is, we can reach him and we have everything we need here.  And, now we are two days down and I am so hearing a House Hunters episode calling my name....


May 22, 2012

I did it!

Woot!  A whopping 29 hours since I became a single parent for the next umpteen days/weeks/months and I didn't even notice when I hit the one day anniversary. I've only been truly cranky 5 times today!  I'm thinking I should celebrate, but I can't decide between a glass of wine or a nap.

Day One miraculously included only one breakdown this morning, from Kelsey (thank you, child, for waking yourself up when my alarm failed me!).  She woke me up, asked me what was for lunch and promptly burst into tears.  I was more worried about Nick, so that one threw me for a loop.

Cait?  Nope, that girl is already (figuratively) on the plane to Iceland (notice the clever scheduling of her trip?).  She is the land of fiskur og franskar, Nói Síríus, lava fields, hot pots and all- you- can eat kleinur (and, she WILL, ahem, bring some back with her!).  She has oodles of plans and her biggest worry is how many books she can carry on board with her (please, do not utter the words Kindle, nook, or e-reader around her...it just won't happen).  

We've already had two Skype sessions with Peter who tried to make us jealous with his fabulous fancy hotel room and plush hotel bathrobe, as he has not quite reached his destination.  As IF I am jealous?! Hello, I have laundry coming out of my eyeballs, oodles of end of the school year events, the cat box to empty and the guinea pig cage to clean.  I'm swamped! 

I almost hate to admit it that we are okay.  I did have a few slightly sad moments today, but overall we are doing well.  I don't know if it's timing, that we are so settled and involved here, that we have the upcoming post or that 'that of which we don't speak' is basically over (you know, the blip), but we are hanging in there thus far, making plans and really, are quite happily busy.

I was so busy, already, that I almost forgot what happened last week!  Or maybe it's because I was being a "self-indulgent narcissist."  I know I wasn't supposed to read the comments on the Washington Post last week, but you know, it's like staring when it's just plain wrong: I did it anyway.  (This is also where I insert a huge THANK YOU to my friends, Mom2Nomads, 4Gs, Spectrummy Mummy, Daring Adventure and others for their thoughtful replies to such odious comments.) 

Just an FYI, I would never, ever call someone who blogged about such a topic a self-indulgent narcissist. Trust me, if you think talking about my cozy is self-indulgent, I will happily go back and regale you with the exact details of each and every surgery.  Then I'll find all my friends who have dealt with such issues and have them do the same.  You know why?  Because those of us who have been through a blip sort of thing like knowing others have been through the same and are willing to share.  It makes us feel better knowing what to expect or (gasp!) that things *might* get better!  It's the joy of the internet...don't want to read it?  Go to a new page!

That's not the point, though I just had to vent for a moment.  My real point:  I had not one, but two stellar appointments last week.  The first was with my plastic surgeon who is nothing short of a miracle worker. The man is talented beyond belief and was thrilled with my progress.  I was given the green light to start running (tomorrow, I swear) and he was just beyond satisfied with the outcome of the surgery.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  the man is a genius and I would highly recommend him should you need...well, whatever.

The second appointment had me a bit more freaked.  It was time for a visit with the radiation oncologist.   If you recall, when I had my last visit with the breast surgeon, she advised me not to see the RO for another 6 months (I was set to see her 3 months later).  So, by the time I saw her last Thursday (a special anniversary treat!), so many things had happened in our lives (new postings, surgeries, recoveries...) that I didn't know where to begin.  She, did, however, with the standard exam (yippee). Normally, not very exciting.   However, at this appointment, she gave me a lecture of sorts, an "I told you so."


Well, what she had told me was (in slightly different words) was that I really controlled the outcome of what would happen to my skin.  I could pamper it, take exceedingly loving care of it, slather it (8x daily) with Calendula, be sure to stretch religiously, have regular massages and MLD and I would be rewarded with skin that was nearly perfect.  So, I did.  The results?

She was utterly amazed by how healthy everything appeared to be, on top of being incredibly impressed by the surgeon's handiwork.  She said, "YOU did this.  I tell my patients, it's not the radiation treatment, it's how you handle the care of your skin and you did a fabulous job."  

Well, I certainly needed to hear that!  Especially considering what a rough time I had with radiation, despite running in a 5K a week after finishing.  It's just so difficult to look ahead when you are so mired down with the treatments...well, and busy being so self-absorbed and all!

In fact, here I am being so narcissistic again, that I forgot to mention the outcome of Kelsey's first day sans dad:  just fine.  She went to school and realized that even though she wasn't thrilled he was gone, she didn't need to cry anymore.  She was surrounded by her friends and activities and while she didn't forget, she realized that things are okay for now.   

The beauty of it:  things are fine.  I'm sure we will have ups and downs, but I'm so grateful that all is going smoothly thus far and exceedingly thankful for so many friends who have us in their thoughts and prayers right now.  It truly means the world to us. 

May 21, 2012

With one final wave,

he was gone.

Today, other than the departure, was a lovely day.  I was treated to the pleasure of sleeping in (on a weekday!) and breakfast in bed (Pete brewed an excellent cup of Jen-strength coffee) to start my day.  We picked Nick up from school, ate lunch at the "Get your own food/spicy chicken" place (the Delhi Club), retrieved Kelsey and hit both Staples and Red Mango for last minute treats/necessities.

Not long after Cait arrived home, it was time to load up the car and head out to Dulles.  I managed to be exhausted by this point, and apparently, I was not the only one.  Poor Pete spent half the drive talking to himself as the rest of us napped soundly.  Before we all knew it, he was parking and it was almost time to bid farewell.

I must say, I had the feeling I would not cry. Not that I couldn't have, but, this time, I'm ready.  We are here, we are settled, NO ONE is getting sick (well, not like last time!), we have an onward assignment and we clearly have so much support.   We even managed to have dinner tonight with friends who know exactly what we are going through with the departure, a real treat!

Oddly enough, I've actually been ready for him to go for several days.  To go, get started and before we know it, he will be back for an R&R.  I'm so happy that he is going in May (vs. the original thought of August) as having him start now is far easier than at the beginning of the school year after a crazy move.

I know it won't always be a cinch, but then again, neither was 3 years on the Secretary's Detail.  At least this route allows us three solid breaks when he does nothing but spend time with us and (theoretically) relax.  Once it is completely over, it will be time for our next move and we couldn't be more excited about that.



Nick practicing his pout regarding Pete's "leaving for his job."


One last picture with Dad.


Okay, maybe just one more...


I'll never hear the end of it for posting this picture....but a great photo...and is she tall or what?!


The obligatory lightsaber photo.


Perhaps *the* moment?  As Nick watched Peter walk towards the check-in, he shouted,

"Dad, may the Force be with you.  Bye!" 

If I didn't know better, I would have sworn that I saw Peter wipe away a tear.  I know it's not going to be a cakewalk, but if we could handle the cr*p life threw at us two years ago and get through it relatively unscathed, a little separation won't kill us...it will just make us stronger.  


May 19, 2012

A day late

but no less meaningful.  

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words* - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. Idea courtesy of Soulemama.


Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  

Normally no words, but this photo needs a bit of explanation.  It was Cait's confirmation last night and we were lucky enough to have the Archbishop for Military Services presiding.  This particular person just happens to be Cait's Great-Uncle's (Uncle David's) boss.  Cait was baptized by (Great) Uncle David, had her first Communion at the Naval Base in Keflavik and was confirmed by the Timothy Broglio yesterday evening.  Very neat, considering our lifestyle, to have service to our country,  our lives overseas and extended family intertwined with the celebrations of our lives.

Photo courtesy of Grandpa Kirk.

May 17, 2012


Before I write anything else, the following needs to be said:

As of 12:36 p.m. (or so), I have spent 15 years being married to one rockstar of support and general awesomeness.  Love you, Pete, and may we have many, many more years of happiness (and craziness) together.

As far as everything that has happened in the past 24 hours.  Unexpected?  Completely and totally.  I wrote a post yesterday as I was hurt by an explanation that made little if no sense to me.  When I am hurt, I write.  It's cathartic.  I also felt like sharing, as I had received so much support from the State Department in the past.  From the way my husband zipped home from Iraq to his follow-on posting that allowed him a good amount of flexibility.  I had the support of the FS community, bloggers and otherwise. Yet, now I was being told that my one post was somehow inappropriate?  

I did what I felt was right.  I shared that with my friends, with my tribe...my FS community. They weighed in and shared their thoughts and feelings, so much so that yesterday I received a call from the Washington Post (I did not contact them) and as of this afternoon, two stories have been published. Other media outlets also picked up the story.  I did not do this for attention or to have my name out there.  I did this because I needed a release.  I felt that I was being wronged, not because I was removed from the blog roll, but the reason why.  

I could have handled any of a thousand explanations, but I did not get that and, yes, it stung.  No, it's not my list.  Yes, they can update the list anytime they want.  However, they came to me.  They asked me to participate and I felt a little notice or a reasonable explanation as to why I was removed was not out of the question.  

I honestly have no idea what has happened in the blog roll world at State today.  I do know that by 12:08 p.m., my blog was back on *the* list and for that, I am thankful.  I am grateful that it was realized that perhaps I do provide a service to others, even if I use words that may not be comfortable for everyone's eyes or ears.  However, sometimes, we need to hear those words.  Sugarcoating life doesn't make it any less messy.  It just makes it much harder to navigate when we truly need assistance.

Thank you to everyone who has shown their support via blog posts, comments, emails and via FB and Twitter.  And, yes, that includes the State Department, who also posted this notice late this afternoon: http://careers.state.gov/engage/forums.


I apologize for the short posting, but 15 years only comes around so often and we must celebrate this special "nanniversary" (according to Nick).  Before I depart for the evening, though, I'd like to leave you with an even longer list of blog posts* that bouyed my spirits and reminded me that I am not the only one who enjoys a little honesty now and again.  Enjoy!

Tuk y Tam

Spectrummy Mummy


A Daring Adventure


Sadie Abroad

Four Globetrotters

The Wandering Drays

We Meant Well

Noble Glomads

Well That Was Different

Whale Ears and Other Wonderings

Like Nomads, But With More Stuff

Life After Jerusalem 


dp's Blog

Land Of the Long White Cloud

A Lil' Welsh Rarebit


*If I missed your link somehow, I'm very sorry.  Please send to me or leave in a comment and I will include.



May 16, 2012

Wanted: Stories of the 'Real' Foreign Service

All others need not apply.

You see, as I mentioned in my last post, this blog was recently deleted from a blog roll.  Never mind the fact that its presence on that site was specifically requested well over two years ago.  The online community specialist managing the page (at the time) was eager to list it, glad for my input and seemed grateful for my participation.  I always thought it was a rather arbitrary list, but it seemed like a work in progress and names were being added, not subtracted (at first).  Recently and without warning, that inexplicably changed.  Care to guess why? 

I used the "n" word:


Sunday evening, when I noticed the blog missing, I wrote to the online specialist who had contacted me way back when.  The next day I heard from a new community specialist.  I was told in no uncertain terms that my blog does not have "content relevant to the U.S. Foreign Service".  When I replied back with a description of the content that is more than related, I received a response from yet another new person.  The response from that person?  

Hopefully, you can understand that some topics covered in your blog are very personal in nature, e.g. nipple cozies, and wouldn’t necessarily resonate with the majority of potential candidates who are interested in learning about the FS life overseas. Through our years of recruitment experience, we found that FS prospects want to learn more about the work that’s conducted, the people and cultures with whom they will interact, the travel experiences, and the individual stories our employees* have to share.  

Oh! They want travel experiences and individual stories.  I'm sorry, have I not been providing that information?

So you mean describing stories about life after a diagnosis of breast cancer while your FS husband is serving in Iraq on an unaccompanied tour 6,219 miles away is not an individual story?  You mean detailing how you got through said issue, how you managed to pick yourself up off the floor each day despite feeling like your world had completely fallen apart (oh, wait, it had) and managed to somehow dust yourself off and keep going with your Foreign Service life is of no interest?  Guess that means I am the *only* one who will ever have to deal with such a thing.

The fact that we ended up doing a second unaccompanied tour?  Booooring.  Or that I had what, 4 surgeries in the past 18 months (scheduled AROUND my husband's most recent posting, so that he would be able to complete his obligations?)?  Um, hello, that's *too* personal, repugnant even!

You know, like life in the Foreign Service.  Unless my life is somehow different and everyone else is perfect.  Do others not have family issues, worries about elderly parents,  kids with special needs (medical or otherwise), curtailments, and  health or safety issues overseas?  Apparently, with the exception of our family, for the other 10,000 or so folks, FS life is charmed.  Right-O.  

Now, if I had received some remotely logical explanation that they decided to rotate blogs (which would be fine, except that they didn't), or something even a teeny bit diplomatic, I might not have thought twice about the situation.  However, there is no way on earth that I can be told by someone who works in recruiting (and, to my knowledge, is not actually in the FS) that my blog is not relevant for FS candidates or their families.  

In fact, today I have been told repeatedly how valuable it is to others, something that made me teary-eyed, but in a good way.  Quite a different response than I had when I read the email from the recruiter, particularly the above in italics, which just struck me to the core.  How could the person manage to pick the *one* issue that would stop me in my tracks and leave me shaken beyond belief?  How could my past illness and my desire to share what I went through (God forbid anyone else in the FS deal with it) be suddenly held against me? 

All because I used the word nipple.  And you thought the lack of world peace was scary?  That's got nothing on my nipple!  

So, want the *perfect* Foreign Service experience?  Well, avert your eyes, it's not to be found on this blog!

Want real life FS experiences?  Stay tuned....because if you thought all bets were off before, you haven't read anything yet.  


A huge debt of gratitude goes out to those who have supported me in this matter today, to include those currently on the *official* roll and those who are not or were also removed or, even more inexplicably, never asked.  Many, many thanks to those who have posted (everywhere) with support, including those who are linked below:

It's the Little Things

I Guess I'm Not As Important As I Once Assumed

You're Just Not Quite FS Enough...

What Makes a Blog an FS Blog?

*Yet not all blogs (to include mine) are those of employees, but somehow I'd guess that wasn't realized.  You know, what with the focus on my nipple and all!



May 14, 2012

Did you know?

I am officially (gasp, weep, sob) no longer a Foreign Service blogger. Take me off your blog rolls*, unsubscribe, throw away this URL.  That is correct, I do not (I am assuming, *ever*) have Foreign Service content in my blog.

I was informed of this today by...oh, the who isn't important.  Apparently, despite my, oh, nearly 14 years of experience as a DS/FS spouse, a long-time volunteer with AAFSW First Vice-President & currently moderating two Yahoo Groups), having moved how many times, worked overseas, having had recently published articles in the Foreign Service Journal (gee, thought I blogged about them...), and having written about almost all of it:  my blog is of no use to the Foreign Service Community.

I must say, one WEEK before my husband leaves on an unaccompanied tour (where he could deal with, well, use your imaginations), this is a real slap in the face (you know, in addition to the year away).  I guess I forgot when I blogged about the recent event I created and planned for AAFSW that I don't write about Foreign Service issues.  Or maybe it slipped my mind when I wrote this post about how Peter was (at that point in time) departing in 19 days.  Or when Cait and I had our discussion about living overseas and I penned a post on that conversation.  That's right, because if we were in the Foreign Service, we wouldn't discuss moving overseas and issues related to it.  

I wouldn't have signed the form today that allows me to receive ISMA while Peter is gone for a year.  We wouldn't have spent the weekend clearing out the garage and staging his gear for his pack-out on Wednesday.  I wouldn't be writing about how he leaves in exactly 1 week and 1 hour from now.  You know, I'd only do that sort of thing if we were in the Foreign Service.  Thankfully, however, someone has reminded me that I don't touch on that issue.

Maybe the problem is we aren't overseas?  Anyone remember why we aren't overseas? Oh, that's right! Remember that whole bit I went through two years ago while Peter was in another you-know-where scenario?  Of course, not like I wrote about that or any of the issues we had to deal with because we are a Foreign Service family.  'Cause, like I said, we aren't.

Right?  So, I'll go back to my not-FS life now and forget that post I was penning in advance of Peter's departure next week.  After all, who would want to read about that since it has nothing to do with the Foreign Service?  After all, no one in the FS ever lives in the U.S. (for training, UTs or otherwise) or has to curtail a post due to a medical issue.  Nor does discussing those issues apparently count for anything....but somehow, I think I already knew that.


*Clearly, I'm kidding.  Unless you are a certain 'official' blog roll, in which case, you have already thoughtfully removed me from your list. You know, the list that I was asked to be on  two years ago?  After all,  I'm not a Foreign Service blogger because my blog "currently focuses on topics outside of the U.S. Foreign Service."   Now off to help my husband shop and pack for his UT and continue to purge for our move to Managua.  Maybe when we live there I can be an FS blogger again?  

May 12, 2012

Babies, Boobs & Breastfeeding, oh, my!

What a week.  If you haven't been on the internet this week, you might have missed it, but there was a bit of a hullaballoo over...babies & boobs.  Time Magazine decided to do a piece on Attachment Parenting and it ended up being more of an explosion over *extended* breastfeeding.  Or, as most of the world calls it, breastfeeding.  Why do I write that?

Despite AAP and WHO guidelines, it would appear that commenters, particularly those in America, have forgotten that breastfeeding into toddlerhood is normal and accepted around the world.  It is not something that is shameful or needs to be hidden.  Women are not trying to flaunt their parts or "whipping it out" (perhaps my *favorite*  term!), they are just trying to satisfy a need for their child.  Breastfeeding a toddler is not bad, weird, gross, dirty or wrong.  It is simply feeding them.  Contrary to some commenters' thoughts, it is not a replacement for regular food and it does not need to stop when a child can chew.  

I have not discussed this topic for, well, years now, for obvious reasons:  it just makes me too sad.  If you've read my blog, you know what happened in November 2010.  I was literally forced to wean Nicholas and still remember rocking and nursing him the very last time on that side.  Amazingly, I got through it without too many tears.  Due to no fault of my own, his nursing relationship was abruptly being cut short.

This is not to say that he nursed frequently as a toddler, but he did when the need arose.  High fever or stomach issues?  He nursed.  Morning time or a bit at night before bed?  Yes, those were nursing times. Throughout the day?  No, generally not.  He was too busy playing, going to school, eating real food (yes, really, he did!) and enjoying life.  Nursing was not his everything, but a supplement that gave him extra nutrients (the milk changes over time to satisfy the growing child's needs) and did especially help out in those few moments when he could tolerate nothing else.

Such as the time when he was 22 months old.  Peter was back in the DC area for high threat training and Nick had a fever of 102-103?  It wasn't just the fever, though, but also a stomach virus that caused him to throw up no fewer than 5 times in a couple of hours.  I watched him like a hawk and feared sleep. Finally, when the vomiting seemed to have pass, he began to nurse again.  For the next day, he nursed frequently and gradually added in other foods.  I would have been more worried, but I knew that by nursing, he was rehydrating and filling his body with needed nutrients, but not overdoing it.  He also had the extra comfort of being near me when he needed it.  In turn, I was grateful that I didn't have to try outside supplements that he may or may not like, and no doctor's visit was necessary.

Nick is not the only one who has benefited, though.  In fact, he and Kelsey can both thank Caitlin for their abilities to able to (almost) self-wean.  You see, I quit with Caitlin.  I tried...really I did, but I just felt like I was no good.  I was so stressed out.  I had a newborn and a husband with a new job that required way more of him than I had originally been told.  Travel was frequent and the only support I had at home was the dog (helpful with keeping me company and the floors clean, but not so much with everything else).  I nursed her frequently, but then on the poor advice of a pediatric nurse, began to supplement and everything unraveled.

I was told she had weight gain issues.  No, she was not a fat baby, but nor was she unhealthy.  She simply needed to eat more frequently (NOT every 3 hours, but on demand), but I was not given that advice by the pediatrician.  I was too nervous and scared to head to the Lactation Consultant (and had not liked the one in the hospital) and after a horrible experience with attempting to pump at work (was barged in on while pumping on the toilet, the ONLY place to pump at a well-known non-profit in Alexandria, VA), gave it up.  I kept up morning and night-time nursing, but Cait was in daycare, Peter was never home and I was at my limits.  I felt the guilt, however.  I should have tried harder and should have kept it up.  I should have fought for my rights at work and found a decent place to pump.  I didn't realize this until later, though.

Kelsey and Nicholas reaped the rewards from this, however, as I began to use the internet more, to realize that there were laws about pumping and breastfeeding and that I should have and could have fought harder (or at all). Then we moved to Venezuela.  I still remember walking around and seeing women breastfeed with their shirts unbuttoned and not a care in the world.  Women didn't stare, call it gross or point it out.  Men didn't gawk and it was just so natural.  I loved it and vowed from then on that I would do my best with Kelsey. Whether it be fighting for a space to pump or nursing in public (you know, feeding your child?), I was not going to be deterred.  I had a few setbacks, but did my best to work through them.

I had no idea at the time, but I was later so grateful for my turnabout in thinking.  Approximately 13 months after Kelsey was born, she was diagnosed with craniosynostosis.  A month later, she had a 4 hour long cranio-facial reconstruction.  While her recovery was amazing (she was in the step-down PICU by that evening), it sped up even more when she was put into a regular room.  Why?  She was still nursing, so when she couldn't tolerate (or see) regular food, she could nurse.  I was able to nurse her to sleep and while she was in pain.  While her 9 year old self could understand post-surgical pain, her 14 month self did not have the capability.  The nursing eased the pain and I was so glad to be able to do something physically that helped her.

She ended up nursing a total of 21 months.  She was in the process of self-weaning when my mom and I took a 10 day trip to England.  I regretted the timing of the trip at that point in time, but later realized it was the last good long chunk of time I had with my mom.  Sometimes moms know best, eh?

For years we tried to have a third child and had nearly given up when Nicholas came along.  By the time I gave birth to him, I knew several things:

  • I was going to exclusively nurse him for the first 6 months...no formula at all and I would use a lactation consultant as my nursing advisor, not a nurse or pediatrician
  • He  was going to nurse on demand, any time, any place. I'll never forget being called super mom at the grocery store when Nick was 5 or 6 months old.  I started nursing him in line while unloading groceries.  Guess what?  NO ONE saw my boob, no one freaked out and my baby was happy and fed!  Not that I did not feed the girls as they needed, but especially with Cait, I worried more than I should have about where I fed her...and was hassled about feeding Kelsey in public (I was grossing out customers in a store by quietly nursing her in a corner).
  • I was not going to freak about his weight, should he not gain as fast as formula-fed babes.  I knew to expect a long, thin wee one and was not surprised when he arrived as such.
  • I researched and researched and found supportive websites.  Kellymom became my best friend.  I loved that we were living in Iceland where breastfeeding was the norm and expected.  Formula wasn't verboten, but no freebies at the hospital and no nursery (only a NICU...rooming-in was also expected).
  • I had no preconceived notions of when he would wean.  I knew it would happen at some point and seriously doubted he would still be nursing by age 5 (guess I was right?), but refused to put a timetable on it.  I had a feeling he might be my last (naturally born) child and was not going to let anyone else tell me what I should or shouldn't do.

Which brings me to another point:  support.  One might assume that because I nursed Nicholas for so long or that I had the turnabout with Kelsey, that I must have had amazing support with both.  I did have a lot of support with Nicholas.  Kelsey and Cait? Not so much.  Peter's job required so much of him, my mother tried, but was not around, and I cannot tell you how much negative commentary I received with Kelsey.  From the fact that she needed to eat constantly or that she hated bottles (when I did need to pump), I was not immune from criticism.  Guess what that did? Yep:

It just made my decision to have Nicholas's nursing experience be the best possible that much firmer.  

To my surprise, it didn't actually end as soon as I expected.  While I did need recovery time, one day a month after my surgery, Nicholas randomly wanted to nurse on the other side.  Up until then, I had been in too much pain, but we tried, and it worked.  This went on for a month or so, until I had my follow-up procedure and then he just stopped.  We ended up nursing just shy of 3 years and while some parts of the experience were not ideal, it worked for us.

So, do I know have a clingy, unhappy child who can't do anything by himself?  Um, no.  We have always encouraged independence and use nearly every experience as a teaching experience.  There seems to be the thought that attachment parenting (or parenting, as I like to call it), is somehow wrong, stunts growth or causes a parent to be a helicopter parent.  This could not be further from the truth.  I was by far the most attached to Nick and while I don't like to compare, he is far more independent and outgoing than his sisters were at his age.  It could be any number of things, but I worried so much less with him...and co-slept more, breastfed longer, and carried him more.

Now the article wasn't supposed to be all about breastfeeding, but the title and the cover just shocked people (Kroger actually took it off the shelves...shame on them!).  Are they going to remove the candy and magazines with scantily-clad models, too? Or they might have watched the follow-up Today show episode and seen the 3 year old who was a bit tired and wanting of his mom's attention.  For those who watched that and criticized the parent, did you take into consideration that the child had been on a plane three times in one week?  Did it occur to him that maybe he was just exhausted

This post isn't really so much to delve into the topic of my boobs (again, sorry it's just rampant on this blog), but to draw attention to the parents who have helped us and are now being criticized for caring about and nurturing their children.  A friend of mine, Dionna, who writes over at Code Name:  Mama, was the third photo of the six (pictured with her son and daughter).  I have followed her blog for years and loved that her son was just a bit older than Nick.  I felt like I had additional guidance, especially as having a son (vs. another daughter) forced us to consider other things we hadn't with the girls. 


You might also remember Dionna from this post in October 2010.  She encouraged me to write about the experience I was going through.  It was extremely cathartic, exactly what I needed at the time.  She later organized efforts to send me good thoughts and wishes via NPN* and some folks went so far as to treat us to magazine & Netflix subscriptions, as well as books and emails to cheer me up (it worked!). 

So before you pick up that issue and think, ew, gross!, read a bit more about the people who make up the issue.  Read what my friends have written on the topic.  Throw away your preconceived notions and think that maybe what works for each family is best for them.  The people in the Time issue are moms (and dads) just like you and me.  They don't all do everything exactly the same, but have one thing in common:  they care about their kids.  Just like we do.  Really, in this day and age, why do we insist on finding fault with that? 


*NPN is Natural Parents Network founded by Dionna and Lauren, who writes at Hobo Mama (another amazing resource!).






May 11, 2012

{these moments}: Surprise photo shoot!

{these moments} - A Friday ritual. Two photos - no words - capturing moments from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment(s)' in the comments for all to find and see. 



Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  Photos courtesy of Jane Martin (Thank you, Jane!!).


May 10, 2012


I'd like to think so.  Last week, as a part of our initiative to provide an even wider variety of activities and programs, AAFSW hosted the first ever UT (Unaccompanied Tour) Happy Hour.  Like the other happy hours we have begun hosting, we gathered at central Foreign Service-y meeting area and mixed and mingled prior to an evening of panels and Q & A.

You see, when the FSO/DS Agent/OMS (the list goes on and on) goes overseas to an Unaccompanied Post, there is plenty of training.  What to do (what not to do) and lots of manuals about insurance, contingencies and what-ifs that we hope will never be thought of again.  The spouse of the person headed overseas, however, does not get the same kind of training.  There are classes on basic regulations and allowances and security seminars, but all target those going overseas together. Since there are so many different departments out there working to try and assist family members, we at AAFSW thought perhaps it was time to bring them all together.  After all, we are *the* Foreign Service family support organization.

So, we did!  I created the idea of the UT Happy Hour and even managed to plan quite a bit (with help from other AAFSW board members) while recovering from surgery.  We had staffers from several different departments at State speak on the various UT topics and also had a panel of EFMs (Eligible Family Members) discuss issues that affected them during their tours.  Don't worry, I only talked a wee bit and therefore, avoided completely depressing folks with my "woe is me" B'dad tour of 2010.

We had a very full room and while I am sure we did not capture everyone, we did manage to take copious notes that will be shared with AAFSW members.  While maybe not the magic bullet that will suddenly make the UT a fabulous time, it is a wealth of information that ties together the different areas of assistance (with live links, of course).  

Wondering what we discussed?  A few of the benefits, such as ISMA and the travel of separated families.  How to keep in touch without overdoing it and trying to keep all family members at a modicum of happiness even during such trying times.  Discussing methods of communication, various options (where to live and how to decide), and even just ideas for vacations.  Stay at home or take a whirlwind trip?  

While we may not have been able to give each and every person the exact answer that was being sought, I felt like we had a great gathering with a lot of information.  I received feedback that the event was extremely helpful for all who attended, not just those seeking information about UTs, but also those trying to assist family members.  The end result seemed to be a night full of advice and experience, a good lesson in planning for me (it actually went very smoothly overall) and, yes, the thought that we will be doing this again soon.  I don't want to pat myself on the back, but must admit I am very proud of the way the evening came together and excited that AAFSW is creating such new and necessary programs!




May 06, 2012

{this moment}:

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. Idea courtesy of Soulemama.


Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  (The moment was really finding the drawings she scanned into iPhoto.  Hard to capture that in a photo, so thought I'd share her talent a bit....)


May 02, 2012

T-Minus 19 days...

I think.  I've been so busy with recovery from surgery, creating and planning an Unaccompanied Tour Happy Hour Event for AAFSW (gee, if that isn't up my alley...), and with the house and kids in general that there are days I forget Pete leaves in fewer than three weeks.  Might I say thank goodness I remembered it Monday?

It was my first day truly back in action.  I thought I was feeling just fabulous and decided I was going to get back (to the extent I could) into my fitness routine with a vengeance.  I wisely went ahead and told Nick's school he would stay for daycare, went home, took a nap and then had a very fast power walk (almost felt the urge to run at times), came back home, took Kelsey shoe shopping, started feeling weird, and barely made it to the grocery store.  Halfway through the grocery store I was nearly doubled over in pain and wishing to God Whole Foods had those little power carts you see at Giant or Safeway.  The walk that had felt so good at the time came back and bit me in the rear (actually the abdomen) with a vengeance.  I quickly texted Pete and let him know that once I finished at the store, picked up Nick and made it home, I had a date with the recliner for the rest of the evening...he readily agreed and it worked out quite nicely...that night.

Then it occurred to me that 3 or 4 weeks from now, the aforementioned scenario will not be possible in the slightest.  Oh, sure, I can put Nick in daycare or go for a too-fast walk, but if I overdo it, I'm completely and utterly on my own at night, well, at all.  Sigh.  This is where I remind myself at least I didn't wait to do the stage 2 of the reconstruction while Pete was on R&R;  that would have been a total waste of time and a recovery/logistical nightmare.

Luckily, Tuesday, for most of the day, I managed to forget.  Despite not being 100% physically, I'm more with it mentally this week (woot!).  I've been wrapping up the details for tonight's event, working on my schedule for this weekend (I'm sort of half-attending a Girl Scout camping trip), trying to not forget that Cait's chorus trip is Friday (she has to be at school at 5 A.M.!) which is also Pete's last day of work.  I'm also finally scheduling forgotten doctors appointments, finding a new dentist for the kids, remembering that I am being elected VP of Kelsey's PTA next week (yes, ME?!), the need to get Kelsey to an orthodontist (and now that the UT is looming...will be much easier on the wallet), trying to firm up summer plans for the kids without going overboard, but not forgetting to take little breaks now and again.

Like this morning.  Nick will again attend daycare this afternoon, which makes me look like a bad/selfish mom, but gives me the time I need to prepare for this evening's event, maybe rest up a bit, finish paperwork for Kelsey's sleepaway camp and review what she needs for the camping trip this weekend.  I also have to take it a bit easy, as I did nothing more than normal stuff yesterday (okay, and a wee bit of organizing in the basement) and woke up feeling like I'd run a 5K (since walks do me in right now...).  I just remind myself that he enjoys daycare since he is with his school friends, it doesn't cost a fortune and it's really my only option.

I guess I'll be reminding myself of that off and on for the next year or 43 of the next 55 weeks?  Or maybe I should just think about the move next year.  Eyes on the prize and all of that.  Monday night I dreamt that we had just moved to Managua and I must say, I woke up in just *the* best mood.  Yep, eyes on the prize, Jen, eyes on the prize...