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6 posts from April 2013

April 27, 2013

Who needs a

stuffed animal

when you have a power ranger (slightly hidden) and a Hess truck to hug?

April 23, 2013

Bit by bit

it seems, we are getting there. Inching closer to the move and even faster towards Peter's return.  Given we had a somewhat incomplete unaccompanied tour the last time around, I had no idea what to expect this time.  I had no idea if R&Rs would make things harder or easier, if the kids would have more or less trouble adapting as each passed or if things would click into place each time.

The first time Peter left after R&R, it felt like it took weeks to settle back into our routine.  By 3 weeks in, we were finally settled, though it was the end of the summer and we were rather crazy with the whole back to school/end of summer gig.  By the end of the second R&R, I was ensconced in language school.  I'm fairly sure by the beginning of the second week, we were on track as though he had been gone for months.  This past R&R?  I'm not sure why, but for whatever reason, maybe hours after he left we were back in our routine.

Despite the fact I had the biggest break this time, no real travel, no worries about school, and I'd slept in more days than I should likely admit, everyone just rolled back into the routine.  No muss, no fuss, and just a few tears at the airport.  By the time we were back home, Kelsey was off and running to Girl Scouts, I was planning the week out, and Nick was running around outside enjoying the longer days without a care in the world.

In fact, it was nearly a relief, as the last few days of his visit had me in a tizzy.  I realized the next time he would be back it would be for good.  No more putting off any last minute pre-move to do lists and decluttering/reorganization would have to go into high gear.  I ended up waking up every morning with minor panic attacks just trying to figure out how we would get it all accomplished.  Finally, I just decided to slow down, rein in my fears, tackle one item/area per day and then have one *big* day each week (with help from the uber-organizer & yes, party planner), Dr. Salty Dog.  

Since then, I've managed to tackle half of the kitchen (primarily flow issues), my desk area and, um, the lack of filing I was managing, I've Freecycled quite a bit, set aside items for donation, and yesterday, worked on my bathroom.  Really, a bathroom should not be onerous, but somehow, I've ended up with a collection of stuff.  Organizers filled with sample products from hotels and a mish-mash of things that I have realized that I just don't need.  When all was said and done with my review, I realized that I actually have about 10 products that I need/use on a regular basis.  Just knowing how little I need in that respect is so freeing. 

In fact, I've realized all over the place how little we need.  Yes, clothes and shoes, a collection of books, and toys for the kids.  However, I've been paring down in the kitchen to the absolute essentials and realizing I do have my favorites...but there are many things I've been holding onto for no reason whatsoever, and those will be out the door before the movers show up.

Even Cait has come around to the idea of more being less.  Her only concern with the move was her books.  How on earth would she be able to part with any of her 500+ book collection?  No amount of pushing her on the Kindle idea helped (and I get this, I really do...I am a *real* book lover myself).  However, one day she realized that if she downloaded a book, she could have it the morning it came out instead of that night.  She began to borrow my Kindle sporadically until she realized the beauty of Amazon 1-click with a gift card....and now she is still not thrilled about having to put a good portion of her stash into storage, but has realized that perhaps the digital age does have some benefits.

We still have to work on Kelsey's room and Nick's Lego collection, but the more I get accomplished each day, the less stress I feel.  In fact, the panic attacks have subsided, and I still have over 4 weeks before Peter comes home in order to get that much more organized and out of the way. 

It's funny, if you asked me this time last year how I'd feel right now, I would suspect I would have said 100% anxious just to have Peter home.  While I am excited about his return, I've realized that we've handled this year far better than I thought we could (even with my minor bad parenting days).  The kids have blossomed and are even more independent, and while we do have occasional, "How do I get three kids three places at once?" days, I've found ways to work around that.  And the occasional mom/teenager struggles?  I think it's well-known that growing pains in that respect are universal.  Those will happen whether Peter is here or not, and I'd be lying if I said otherwise.

Whether it's letting Nick stay in daycare for an afternoon or two each week (um, he will actually beg to go), so we can have more free time the next afternoon or hiring someone to drive the girls to their activities, little things can make this kind of year so much easier.  Sometimes, we just take a breather.  I've learned it's okay to say no or pass on things.  We don't have to be busy 24 hours a day, even though I know that it this  area can make one feel like they need to be.

We gotten our routine and it's comforting.  Even on hectic days, Nick and I still have plenty of time to read and have quiet time before he nods off.  In fact, it seems I now have extra time with each of the kids at night and that's a relief.  Even though they know they can call Pete at any time, with only one of us truly present, it's nice to find an ebb and flow that works so that you don't feel insanely stretched thin.  I'm not saying it's easy or we don't have our moments, but compared to even other Stateside assignments, it has not been as onerous as it could have been.

Now, let's just hope this flow keeps up for a few more weeks.  Today I tackle all of the extra piles of clothes that I *think* the kids have outgrown, and then maybe the garage if there is time.  If that doesn't send me over the edge, we should be good to go.

April 12, 2013

{this moment}: Daddy showed me how to do this!

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - only a few words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Photo 2
In that case, R&R #3 was very well-spent.

April 08, 2013

The light at the end of the tunnel

is not only there, I'm about to smack my head on it.  Despite all of our reticence regarding sending Peter back to a rather dangerous area, we had our farewell (I hesitate to use the word last) supper at 3:30 p.m. before dropping him off at Dulles at 4:30 p.m.  I was absolutely fine until I noticed him getting a bit anxious.  I hoped it was due to traffic, but alas...he was just not terribly excited about boarding that plane.

Photo 2-2
I can't really blame him.  It's so very close to the end of the tour and we accomplished so much this time around.  In fact, it seems like he was here forever, hard to believe it was just shy of three weeks. How much did we get accomplished?


  • A family trip to Great Wolf Lodge and Charlottesville, both of which were interesting learning experiences.  GWL, well, I owe a post on it.  Not necessarily what I expected, but the kids loved it.  Oh, and just because it's "spring" break, doesn't mean you should leave the snow boots at home.


  • Doctors appointments galore.  In fact, I ditched my oncologist!  No joke, as I am not taking any medication (if you want to think negatively of me for this, do it elsewhere.  I have extraordinarily good reasons for not taking it nor could the oncologist find a reason to push me.)  We discussed Tabata intervals, yoga, moving overseas and she happily sent me off to enjoy my life and had no doubts I would be fine (and I feel exactly the same).


  • A new front hall closet!  Really, we finally Elfa-ized something in this house and it feels so good!  It's sort of a mixed design, but I found this idea online and just had to run with it.  I was so tired of no one being able to hang up coats or put shoes on the (too small) rack properly. It's already incredibly transformed the space even though it's still a work in progress.


Photo 1
Two shelves up top, three on the bottom for shoes, and hooks all the way around. Not quite complete, but already so much better!  


  • Scheduled more surgery!  Really, this is good.  I have, well, a hernia. My abdominal wall weakened after the DIEP and I've had a good sized bulge on my right side for quite some time.  I kept forgetting about it (except when trying to fit into any pants) until I saw my plastic surgeon in January about the cellulitis.  He about hit the ceiling and asked if I wanted to get it repaired.  Seriously?  We met with the surgeon today, had a very easy and quick appointment, and my repair is now scheduled for May 30th.  More good news:  while my yoga and planking may not have been helping to the extent they could, they were helping a bit and certainly not hurting...and I should be able to get back to them only a few weeks after surgery.

And now, I need to get some sleep as today I realized that 13 weeks from tomorrow, this house will be empty, our stuff will be who knows where, our car will be on a boat, and we will be on a plane to our new home.  Oh, and that light...after two extra unexpected years back in the States, and one of them being another UT,  I guess I really don't care if it bangs me on the head.  Just so glad it's finally there...

April 07, 2013

On a happy note...

as we are trying not to think about Peter leaving tomorrow.  The good news? He will return in 6 short weeks for good.  The bad news?  He's going back over there.  Considering the week friends and colleagues in the Foreign Service have had over there, we really don't want to send him back.  

If you haven't read, one of Peter's colleagues in Kabul was killed yesterday.  We were actually shopping separately at the farmers market when he found out.  As I located him (having obtained a sample of sausage I thought he'd love), I couldn't understand at the time why he blew me off and shouted, "No!" as he was hurriedly scrolling through an email.  Despite their jobs being quite different, Peter and Anne frequently interacted and to say he was in shock was an understatement.  This event occurred just days after another friend's husband had a rather scary day at work in Afghanistan, so now we are that much more shaken.

Despite everything and knowing he has to go back, today had been set aside way in advance for a happy time:  Kelsey's 11th birthday. I was stumped a few months ago trying to figure out what we might do for her birthday.  We try to make parties into fun adventures, but I was running low on ideas, until a friend mentioned her daughter's rock climbing birthday party...and, Sportrock, the company they used, has a location not 15 minutes from our house!  Sold!



I'll give you one guess as to who found this ultra-cool invite that was the inspiration for the cake...

 One might say we went all out again, whether from the invites (totally cool) to the party favors (bandanas that doubled as napkins and water bottles with the guests' names emblazoned on them.). I was stymied at first for a good post climbing snack (pizza was the only offering we could order via Sportrock), when we thought of wraps.  Kelsey took it a step further and decided the girls should do "make your own" wraps.  We took all of the "fixins" and the girls were all over that idea.


Almost there....

And she hits the top!

The best part?  Peter was able to attend the first party for any of our kids since early 2012 and I have to say it was yet another basically stress-less party.  The girls showed up ready to go and the instructors were awesome. Encouraging to those who hadn't really done much climbing in the past (like Kelsey) and super calm.  While Kels was a bit nervous at first, by her third climb, she hit the ceiling and had a round of applause from her friends (a rather high ceiling, too!). 

The spread...

Check out the napkin rings...

And Cait might have found another new hobby today...

After an exhausting, yet energizing 90 minutes of climbing, the girls return to a table laden with sandwich making ingredients.  They gobbled up their snacks and then it was cake time.  No, I had nothing to do with this outstanding design. My friend, Anat, made this amazing cake, as cake baking and designing is her business.  You can check out more of her works of art on her Facebook page, A Special Cake.  And if you are wondering how the cake tasted?  Nearly every girl requested a second helping and I can't say I'm not staring at the leftovers, thinking, "Maybe just one more piece."



After an unexpectedly sad week, it was a lift we all needed.  We aren't thrilled that Peter is returning tomorrow, but it will mark the beginning of the end of his tour of duty.  Once he returns home in May, he is ours for good...


April 03, 2013

Today I had a *cool job* day...

And by job, I mean one of my 4 (or more) volunteer gigs, this one being First Vice-President for AAFSW.  I've extolled the group's virtues many times before (Livelines, Playgroup, local events, SOSA, Happy Hours....) and the offerings are just some of the reasons that I have been working and/or volunteering for them since the year 2000.  I can't tell you in how many ways the group has helped and enriched our Foreign Service experience.


Cait was too ill to attend, so we brought her home a small gift.

Now, not that every volunteer opportunity is not terribly interesting, but today's had a touch of star power.  AAFSW was able to organize a discussion with Tony Mendez regarding his role in the exfiltration now detailed (with a few changes) in the movie Argo.  This event is in addition to the events we have held in the past with Kathleen Stafford (one of the 6 who escaped the Embassy) who is quite an artist and very enchanting in her own right.


Signing, signing, and more signing!

Tony arrived a bit early with his wife, Jonna, and spent over an hour signing books.  I played book cashier and photo op photog, so had the opportunity to hear many a person compliment his service to our country.  In addition to the signing, he and his wife then spent over an hour in the adjoining auditorium discussing the events leading up to Argo, the escape, and interesting tidbits that have taken place since then.  

Not sure why we are leaning, but a photo op is a photo op.

Even better?  Kathleen Stafford was in attendance, and she joined Tony and his wife on stage about halfway through the event.  The discussion became even more interesting as Kathleen added her memories and they continued through the Q&A to highlight the differences between the movie and reality (such as the final scene, when they were not actually chased down the runway...).


After Kathleen Stafford joined the crew onstage.

I had been looking forward to this event for months and I can say that without a doubt, it went beyond my expectations.  I am so very excited to work with such an amazing group of people who unite to make the Foreign Service a community and thrilled with our turnout.  As my term is winding down, I should put out the reminder that we always need new volunteers. Consider throwing your name in the hat if you will be in the area, and you, too, will have similar enriching experiences, I can guarantee.

And, yes, it was just really cool to meet someone who pulled off such an amazing feat.... 


A little treat for ourselves, too...