Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Moments of 2012

Welp, New Year's Eve is upon us, which means it's time to reflect upon the most memorable moments from 2012.  I'm new to the whole blogging thing, but I've noticed others providing their top moments, so I figured I would do the same.  So, here no particular order...
1. Getting the Call - S had worked toward his Foreign Service dream for nearly two years before he got "the call" to join A-100, and it is definitely a moment neither one of us will forget.  S was in back-to-back meetings on the day we expected calls to start going out, so I didn't expect to hear from him at all.  When I got a text that simply said "got it" shortly after lunch time, I knew our lives were about to change.  And change they did. 
2. E turned 1 - This was the year we celebrated our little nugget's first birthday.  It was the year we watched him transition from a fumbling baby into a little boy.  He runs everywhere he goes as if walking is something he can't be bothered with, and he loves books and dancing.  He will unapologetically steal the microphone from you during family karaoke sessions in his best effort to out-sing you, and he has an undeniable crush on Alicia Keys, who he fondly calls "Keesh."  He knows how to say "water" in three different languages and will always be the first to devour any type of fruit within a 5 foot radius.  He's our little dude and we love him. 
3. Family - We spent a lot of time with our family this year even though they are all scattered to the four corners of the country.  We took a family vacation to Las Vegas back in April to visit S's parents, while his mom and sister and her family came to visit us in DC over the summer.  We also took two trips to Louisiana to visit my family, plus we enjoyed a couple visits from my mom and got to spend the past six months surrounded by a slew of cousins who live here in the DC area.  We were not lacking in quality family time this year, which is good because who knows when we will get another year with such luxuries again.
4. Flag Day - This was the day that determined the direction our lives would take for the next two years.  Flag Day was something S and I talked about and dreamed about for years.  It was all that we expected it to be--overwhelming, nerve-inducing, surprising--all rolled into 60 minutes of pure excitement.  It was the day we found out we will be moving to Adana, Turkey in a few short days!
5. Saying Goodbye to New York - As I have said numerous times on this blog, New York was our home for ten years before we joined the FS, and it will be missed dearly.  We said goodbye to all our old haunts, like Prospect Park, The Brooklyn Museum, favorite restaurants and farmers markets, but we also enjoyed some spectacular events before we left.  Our trip back a few weeks ago was a wonderful final farewell.  I heart New York.
6. Friends - We said goodbye to a lot of friends in 2012, and we miss them everyday.  But we also made a lot of new friends this year too.  We have become very close with one FS family in particular, and my goodness will we miss them when we leave.  I have a feeling that with this lifestyle I will be relying heavily on what I learned as a girl scout many moons ago: "make new friends but keep the old." 
7. Yo Gabba Gabba Live - Okay, this was not a memorable moment for me and S, but since this is a family blog and E is part of our family, I'm adding it. Because honestly, if he could cast his vote, he would list this as number one.  Hands down.  His best moment of 2012. 
8. Presidential election - S and I were happy at the results of this year's election.  More importantly, Obama is one of S's heros, and he's very excited for the opportunity to serve under him for the next four years. 
9. Saying goodbye to a full-time job - This was the year I packed it all in and said goodbye to the 9 to 5 routine.  Sure I will continue working, but it will be on my terms and I can make my own hours as I see fit.  There is something so liberating about the idea of it all.  I just hope the reality of it is just as awesome. 
10. Starting this blog - Starting this blog was a big step for me, and I am so happy that I finally took the leap.  I enjoy writing about our life and look forward to what our future has in store.  Sometimes life gets busy and I post less frequently than I would like, but my resolution for 2013 is to keep it up.  I enjoy having a living history to look back stay tuned.
I guess that's it. Happy New Year!  Cheers to an amazing 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holidays and Moving Update

Well that was fast.  Christmas has come and gone, as have our holiday guests including E's Nana whom we said goodbye to today. 

Nana and E inspecting the planes.

We had a wonderful holiday complete with oodles of quality family time, an abundance of food (that included my mom's delicious gumbo), and lots of entertaining moments singing karaoke, opening presents and indulging in cheap good wine.  In other words, we couldn't have asked for a better Christmas before we leave.  I was a little sad my sister and her family couldn't make it, but seeing them in November almost made up for it. 
E and M-dog posing in front of the makeshift Christmas tree.

Checking the stocking loot.
Blowing bubbles.  The way to my kid's heart are 99 cent bubbles.  Just FYI
But now that the festivities are behind us, we have refocused on moving prep.  I am happy to report that we are almost ready.  S and I took a trip to Hagerstown yesterday to sort through our HHE and to let the movers know what items we want shipped to Turkey and what items will spend (at least) the next two years in the lovely warehouse. The storage facility was quite impressive, and the sorting went much faster than I anticipated.  They were super organized which meant we were in and out in about 30 minutes.  Barring any travel delays or customs trouble, our things should arrive on our doorstep roughly three months from now. 
We also took the pets for their final vet exam and will be receiving their travel certificates in the next couple days.  The car has also been tuned up and all the paperwork is in order for its exportation.  It too will likely arrive around the same time as our HHE, so we will be making do without the car for the first few months.  An excellent excuse to explore the city on our own two feet!
For now I am sorting through toys, books, clothes, you name it.  My three separate piles have begun to take shape (things we don't need/donating/trashing, things to be packed in our suitcases, and things to be shipped in our UAB).  Our air baggage was under weight when we left New York, but since we have picked up more than a few items in the last 6 months, we are hoping we aren't over weight this time.  One good thing I have to say about frequent moves is that it really forces you to do away with all the crap you don't need.  This is definitely not a hoarders lifestyle. 
One more holiday here in D.C. and then it's Merhaba Turkey!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Real Santa Claus

When I was a kid, the nuns at my Catholic school didn't let us get through the Christmas season without taking great care in reminding us that Santa Claus was indeed real. He was called Saint Nicholas and he lived a very, very long time ago.  But that was pretty much where the story ended.  Or at least, that's all I really remember.
So imagine my surprise when my sister emailed me a link the other day detailing the origins of the real  Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, and I discovered that he was from Turkey.  Of course the region he was from, Demre, was culturally Greek and under Lycian rule at the time, but still.  He was from Turkey. 
Apparently there was a memorial erected in his birth town of Patara, and at the Church of Saint Nicholas, annual celebrations are held on December 6th, the special day dedicated to him.
Needless to say, we're already planning a road trip for next year.
For more information on good old St. Nick, you can find it here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

In Defense of Raising a Foreign Service Kid

You know how there are certain people in your life who exist as mere acquaintances, people you say hello to in passing, share casual conversation with every now and then, and move on?  And you know how those people never really say anything relevant to you or your life (and vice versa) and you never really think about them or what they have said until the next inevitable casual encounter? 
Well, what if one of those people, one who is meant to exist in the perimeter of your life, said or did something that left you reeling, frustrated, pissed off beyond comprehension and questioning your future life plans? 
Last week, that happened to me.  An acquaintance whom I have only known for about a year, started asking questions about our upcoming move to Turkey, S's job, and our future plans after we leave Turkey.  When I explained to her that we will be in Turkey for two years, then moving back to D.C. for more training before taking off to another country, etc., her response was one of disgust.  And she uttered the following words that left me feeling like I had been punched in the gut and slapped in the face at the same time. 
She said, "That is no way to raise a child.  I can't believe you're doing that to your son."
Yup, that one hurt. Big time.  And it left me feeling like the worst mother in the world.  At the time, I just clenched my teeth and smiled politely while trying to defend mine and S's decision to move forward with the Foreign Service, explaining that it would be a wonderful opportunity for E, yadda yadda.
But what I really wanted to do was scream.  And I wanted to tell her to mind her own business, to raise her children as she sees fit, and I will raise mine as I see fit.  I wanted to tick off all the great things about the FS lifestyle, like the educational opportunities, the chance to learn other languages, or opportunities to travel to places some people can't even dream of.  I wanted to tell her about all the positive things this life will hopefully bring to our family.  But all those thoughts were drowned out by my own guilty conscience. 
You see, if there is anything I have ever doubted about this life we have chosen, it is the impact it will have on E.  You name it, I have worried about it.  Will he make friends easily?  Will he do okay in school?  Will he adjust to living in a new home/new school/new country every few years?  Will he be okay with a Skype relationship with his grandparents, or will he be upset that he doesn't get to see them very often?  Will he grow up to resent us for moving him around so much, never really giving him roots? 
I am sure I am not the first or last FS parent to have these doubts, so to have this person boldly tell me this was "no way to raise a child," not only made me angry, it also made me stop and really think.   And the fact is, I don't know.  The answers the above questions can't be answered right now, but neither could they be answered if we hadn't chosen the FS life. Raising children is hard and as the old cliche goes, you aren't given a manual when the kid is born.  You make decisions that are in the best interest of your children, and hope those decisions help them become smart, caring and well-adjusted adults.
In the end, I firmly believe S and I made the right decision about joining the Foreign Service.  We know this is not just a career, but a lifestyle.  And it is one we thought long and hard about.  It is not decision we made lightly. And we chose this life because we feel it will be a great way to raise a child, not the opposite.
Yes, this life will have its challenges, but so would any lifestyle for that matter.  Life, no matter if you live in the same small town for 50 years or all over the world before the age of 21, is hard.  It has it's ups and downs, it's good times and bad.  But as parents, we do the best we can.
So to the acquaintance (who I will never speak to again because yes, I am holding a grudge) this is the way we are choosing to raise our child.  And we feel it is a damn good choice, so deal with it.  And next time, think before you speak.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New York State of Mind

Warning: Long post below
Last weekend we traveled to New York to spend a few days enjoying the city and meeting with friends before saying our final goodbyes to the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Two things prompted us to go: the Rockefeller Center tree had just been lit and Yo Gabba Gabba Live! was performing at Madison Square Garden.  So we packed up the car and hit the road.
We got a rather late start Friday night because S’s A-100 classmates were hosting a Happy Hour for those soon departing for post.  Since S was part of that group, he couldn’t very well miss his own party, so we stopped in for some quick mingling before getting on the highway around 7pm.  Leaving so late meant that E slept in the car for a good part of the trip (which was excellent) but it also meant we had to wake him at midnight and put him back to bed in an unfamiliar place.  We stayed with my cousin and her boyfriend, who happen to live at a busy intersection, so we listened to him say “beep beep” to the buses and cars for a good hour before finally drifting back to sleep at nearly 1:30am. 
He was in good spirits the next morning, though.  In typical New York fashion, I sent S to Russ and Daughters for fresh bagels and coffee because really, New York City has the best bagels.  And I have missed bagels. I needed a good bagel.

Morning view from my cousin's roof.
After breakfast we donned our coats and set off for a walk around the East Village, ducking briefly into the playground at Tompkins Square Park to let E burn some energy.  He wasn’t interested in playing this time, however, and preferred to run around gaping at the dogs at the dog park. He was also completely transfixed by this couple playing ping-pong. 

We eventually realized the poor kid was freezing (we forgot to pack his gloves) and decided it was time to head for the warm confines of the car, and go to Brooklyn.  While there, we quickly checked on our tenants, collected some mail, and then grabbed lunch at one of our favorite taco places. 

Oaxaca Taqueria is located on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn (technically on the outer edges of the Park Slope neighborhood) and S and I used to eat there all the time.  E loves it too.  The kid can seriously put back some black beans and guacamole. 
After lunch we cruised over to the Brooklyn Museum where we met up with E’s old daycare buddy, B, and his parents.  E and B spent every day together from age 3 months to 15 months, but since they are still so young, and because they haven’t seen each other since July, we weren’t expecting them to have any recollection of each other.  Boy were we wrong.  Not only did their faces immediately light up in recognition of each other, but they instantly tried to escape their strollers to play with each other.  Once we let them out, they literally danced around the museum lobby giving each other hugs and screeching at the top of their lungs.  Needless to say, we were all quite shocked and amazed.  We spent the next hour and a half walking around the museum chatting with B’s parents (they’re expecting their second child in April!) and watching E and B explore, play and otherwise have fun together.  We all had a blast and we were definitely glad we squeezed in the time to see them.  Future trips to New York will always include a visit with B and his folks.
Next, we attended a basketball game at the university where S used to work.  Being there gave him the chance to see old colleagues, which was great, and E had fun watching the game (and the dancers!).  But, he started to grow restless by the end of the second half.  Books and crayons had lost their appeal and he was ready to go. 
Our post-game plan was to meet up with another friend for dinner, but E let us know he was NOT having it.  We had dragged the kid all over the city and he was exhausted.  So, we scrapped our dinner plans, decided to meet for breakfast instead, and took E home to bed.  He passed out by 8pm and he slept straight through to 7:30 the next morning.  Such a little trooper.
While E slept, we ordered Chinese noodle take-out (amazingly delicious!) and hung out with my cousin and her boyfriend for the rest of the evening.  We drank wine and chatted while watching some strange show about gold miners in Alaska.  I had never heard of it before, but it was pretty interesting.  Once delirium set in, we called it a night and headed for bed.
The next day, Sunday, we finally met up with our friend for breakfast.  She was a doll for agreeing to switch plans with us at the last minute, and was completely understanding of sometimes making adjustments at the whims of a toddler.  Thank you, SD!  We will miss you!
Then, the pièce de résistance: it was time for Yo Gabba Gabba Live!  As I have discussed on this blog before, E is a HUGE fan of this show. He knows all the characters by name, can sing just about every song and has seen each episode so many times that he can practically recite certain scenes word for word.  You think I'm joking, but I'm not. 
We rushed to get to the theater on time and arrived five minutes before the start.  Once we got seated, E was in awe.  He was like a teenager going to his first concert: nervous, excited, not sure what to expect, and on some toddler level, he was trying to maintain an essence of cool.  His eyes didn’t leave the stage for the entire show.  All three of us enjoyed every bit of it, and to be quite honest, I don’t know who had more fun: the parents or the kids.  I mean, the parents knew every single word to every single song.  And we were not the least bit ashamed of it.  The best part, however, was when Biz Markie (who has a regular feature on the show called “Biz’s Beat of the Day”) came on stage and started singing “Oh baby youuuu, you got what I neeeeed."  Every parent in the theater was on their feet singing and clapping.  The kids enjoyed that part too, but of course they were a bit confused as to why mommy and daddy knew a song they didn’t.   Oh, old school 90s rap. Stay awesome.
Excitement before the show

During the show...

The stage
After the show, we met up with another friend/former colleague and her family for lunch ,followed by a walk to Rock Center to gawk at the tree.  I love seeing the tree every year.  Ten years later and it still hasn’t lost its appeal with me.  Yes, it was really crowded and quite difficult to maneuver three strollers through the thick mass of people, but regardless, it was fun catching up and spending time with my friends one last time.  And we got a pretty cool family picture out of it too.

Last but not least, we headed back out to Brooklyn for one final visit with another couple and their son.  They had cooked dinner (delicious baked ziti with homemade meatballs.  Yum!), and invited us over to stuff our bellies before the long drive back to D.C.  We dined, talked, and watched the boys play together before finally deciding it was time to go.  We had to practically drag ourselves out of their apartment because we really didn’t want to leave.  Just one more day?  Please?  But alas, we had to say goodbye.  
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I miss New York.  It was home for 10 years.  That’s an entire decade of my life spent living in one of the most amazing cities in the world.  I will always miss it, but it warms my heart to know that no matter what, we will always come back.  We will always have our friends to see, our favorite restaurants to dine in, and our favorite places to visit.  New York was where I met S, where we bought our first home together, and where our son was born .  New York will always hold a little piece of our hearts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No More Work, But Still Busy!

Exactly one week ago today marked my last foray into the world of full-time employment.  I had been with my company for two years, and when S got the call to join the Foreign Service, my employer was very accommodating in allowing me to relocate to the D.C. office.  Seeing as our time here is now winding down, I wrapped up my casework last week.  I tied up all my loose ends with both the D.C. and New York office, turned over my keys and bid my farewells. 
But that doesn't mean I won't be working when we get to Turkey.  I will continue working remotely on more of an as-need/sub basis, which means some weeks or months might be hectic and busy, while others might be slow as molasses.  Also, being that things can be unpredictable when relying on just one company for work, I'm making connections with other companies who hire on an as-need basis.  Because you know what they say about eggs and baskets and not putting them all in one place...
So what exactly have I been doing since last Wednesday?  Well, Thanksgiving preparation and celebration aside, I am happy to report that there is plenty keeping me busy. 
First of all, there is still a kid that needs to be dressed and fed every morning.  But thankfully, since he is still in daycare for a few more weeks, my days aren't consumed with actually taking care of him.  Not that I wouldn't relish the idea of being with my little nugget all day, but having  "grown-up" free time definitely has its advantages. And by that I mean I can actually conquer my ever-expanding to-do list, which, and I don't know if this happens to everyone else, seems to grow as soon as I check things off. One task done, two more take its place.  Like dark magic.
So far I have scheduled a vet visit for the cat, made doctor, dentist and eye appointments for myself, taken a trip to the med-unit for the mandatory vaccines and made necessary Craigslist purchases for our upcoming move.  We've gotten our diplomatic passports, I purchased a new laptop (my old one belonged to my employer) and as a way to relieve stress, I've hit the gym. Hard.
I also started Christmas shopping on Monday, and I have already knocked five people off the list.  It's not even December, people!  I'm way ahead of the game.
Speaking of Christmas, I am also in the process of completing an obscene amount of photo projects for various members of my family, which means I have spent an almost criminal amount of time in front of the computer screen editing, copying and pasting photos into what I hope will be delightful surprises for everyone.  That combined with the blanket I recently decided to crochet for my sister-in-law's new baby, well, I'm definitely finding ways to fill my time!
I still have a few movies that I would like to squeeze in too.  Because you know what they say about all work and no play! Here's to hoping I can actually make that happen...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks

I know yesterday was Thanksgiving, but it's never too late to give proper thanks, right?
We spent yesterday afternoon with a few of my cousins, aunts and uncles at their home in Maryland. The food was plentiful (and delicious), the obligatory football game was blaring loudly from the TV in the living room, and overall everyone enjoyed themselves over glasses of wine and good conversation. 
Food and football aside, we have a lot to be thankful for this year. We are forever thankful for our sweet little E, our family and of course our pets.  We are thankful for our friends, both new and old.  We have made some amazing friends since S joined A-100 back in July and we will miss them terribly when we leave, just as we miss our old friends back in New York and elsewhere. And we are also grateful for the technology that keeps us all connected. 
We are thankful for our health, and having a roof over our heads.  We are grateful for E's little friends and his wonderful daycare.   We are grateful for beautiful running trails, parks and museums, and everything else this city has to offer.  We are grateful for Yo Gabba Gabba, at least E is.  E is also grateful for books, puzzles, toys, music and everything else that keeps him entertained (and us sane) on a daily basis.
And last but not least, we are thankful that S got the "call" 7 months ago to join the Foreign Service.  He worked extremely hard for nearly 2 years to get his dream job, and I am very proud of him.  Not only for the job itself, but for the opportunity this job will provide us as a family.  We are grateful for the opportunities to travel and immerse ourselves in new cultures.  We are thankful for the chances to learn new languages and meet new people.  And I am thankful that my husband never gave up on his dream. 
As our time here in DC grows shorter and shorter, we are getting excited for this new adventure to begin.  I'm sure this upcoming year will give us even more to be thankful for.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Natural History

One of the most amazing things about living in DC, however temporary, is the free admission to the Smithsonian museums all over the city.  Sure, we've shelled out the $25 per person for The Newseum because S and I are news junkies who couldn't be stopped, but that is not the case with the Smithsonian.  They're open to anyone, money not required.
So last weekend, with friends visiting from New York, we explored the National Museum of Natural History.
E loves animals.  From dogs to turtles to elephants to monkeys, the kid can't get enough.  Since our friends have a son only a few months younger than E (whose current obsession happens to be penguins), we figured it was the perfect spot for them to explore.  And we were right.
We started our adventure in Ocean Hall where we saw the giant blue whale hanging from the ceiling, and E's favorite, the sea turtle. 

Despite the look on his face, he was having fun.

S and I took turns walking him around and pointing out all the cool under water creatures, and we giggled as he squirmed out of our arms to get a better look at this:


We made our way through Mammals Hall, gaped in wonder at the giant elephant on display in the Rotunda and explored more exhibits on the first floor before taking all of our toddlerness out to the National Mall to burn more energy.

Have I mentioned that our kid loves to run?  Well, he does.  So we let him do it every chance we get.  Last Saturday was no exception. 

There are still a few must-see museums on our list before we leave for Turkey, and I'm hoping we can make those visits happen.  Our time here is growing short.  With so much to do and prepare before we move, the holidays have just snuck up on us.  Time is flying by.  I hope we can take at least one more step back to enjoy where we are before we say goodbye.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Southern Comfort

This past weekend we all flew down to Louisiana for my best friend's wedding.  As I've mentioned before, M and I have been besties since high school, so it was quite an exciting time to be back in our hometown for such an amazing celebration. 

M and J were married at a beautiful plantation where the champagne was flowing, music was pumping and the bridal party was bustin' all the right moves, Gangnam Style.  In other words, we had a fantastic weekend, and I am so happy to see my friend married to the man of her dreams.  M and J, if you're reading this, we love you and hope you had a magnificent honeymoon!

But the weekend didn't just involve wedding festivities.  We also spent time catching up with my grandmother, letting E run up and down the levee, and celebrating my mom's birthday with  a couple of her closest friends. 

On Sunday, my dad and S took E out to the farm to play with the goats and cows.  And in true southern fashion, my mom and I sat in the rocking chairs on my brother's front porch while the menfolk were out in the pasture. We later gathered up enough energy to pick pecans that had fallen off their pecan tree, and my mom used our pickings to make some delicious, oh-my-god-melt-in-your-mouth pralines later that night.  We had a final family dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, and that was that.  It was probably the last time we will see my family before we leave for Turkey, so I was happy we got to spend such fun-filled, quality time with them.   

And now, since I missed Snapshot Tuesday yesterday, I bring you the weekend in pictures.  Enjoy!

Beautiful wedding location
Me and my little man

Me and S at the wedding reception

Having too much fun in the wedding photo booth

E was really getting into his farmer character
"Helping" pick pecans
E with his Nana and cousins
Playing on the levee downtown

Checking out the view

Monday, November 5, 2012

Preparations for Departure

Things are really starting to come together around here, and the final countdown to our departure has begun. 

Last Friday S received confirmation on our housing and we were delighted to learn that the much stressed over fate of our pets has a happy ending. 

You see, when we bid Adana high, we did so under the impression that having pets at post would be okay and that there were very few in-flight and in-country restrictions.  However, as we discovered after the fact, it was sometimes difficult to acquire housing that allowed dogs, and we were left to wonder whether our precious pup would ultimately make this journey with us.  We had our back-up plan ready (S's sister agreed to take our four legged child if need be) but we were sick just thinking about going two years without M-dog.  Fast forward to this past Friday and not only did we receive confirmation on what sounds like an amazing apartment, but both of our beloved pets are welcome to come along.  We were ecstatic upon hearing the news and immediately began making plans for vet check-ups, vaccines, and the purchase of new pet carriers. 

We also are in the process of getting our diplomatic passports and visas, and making sure little E isn't missing any vaccines before we depart. 

Of course there have been countless hurdles along the way (i.e. finally getting my new social security card that reflects the name change 6 months after filing the first round of paperwork, a lost travel passport and missing birth certificates *sigh*) but those little things are slowly correcting themselves and things are starting to take shape.

There are still many unanswered questions about Adana (mostly regarding child care options) but we're getting there.  It feels like several small weights are being lifted off our shoulders one pound at a time.  It feels good to be making progress!

So let the counting continue. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


We just got back from E's first trick-or-treating experience.  The apartment building decided to host a little kid party in the lobby, and then we all traipsed floor-to-floor, door-to-door begging for candy.  E hasn't quite gotten the hang of saying "trick-or-treat" but he knows knock-knock, so I let it slide.  Close enough, right?  

He was a trooper when it came to wearing his costume, too.  Every now and again he would realize there was a heavy blue monster face sitting atop his head and attempt to yank it off, but for the most part, he was quite agreeable.  And pretty darn cute if I do say so myself.  

A cracker?  Really?  I thought I was getting candy out of this deal...

 Don't let the cracker fool you, he got LOTS of candy.  And he made a few new friends too.

Hey there Mr. Firefighter, what's in the bag?

This was a private monster-dragon meeting, folks.  Chocolate was definitely on the agenda.

His "scary" pose.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

All in all it was a fun afternoon. Now it's time to sit back, relax, and polish off all this candy while he's sleeping.  Shhh, he won't even know what happened.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Snapshot Tuesday: The Aftermath

Well, we fared pretty well here in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but the same can not be said for my beloved New York City.  Sadly, as I type this, 18 lives have been lost in the city alone, nearly 80 homes were destroyed by a fire in Queens, major flooding ravaged lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and subways near the Battery and Ground Zero are still under several feet of water.  It's so sad to watch the pictures and videos of familiar places nearly unrecognizable now, destroyed or under water. 

Thankfully, we got a call from our tenants this morning saying that they were fine and our condo was not damaged save for a collapsed backyard fence compliments of Sandy's 90+ mile per hour winds.  Nothing a hammer and a few nails can't fix.  Our old neighbors and my cousin were equally lucky, although my cousin is still without power in lower Manhattan having been one of numerous victims of the huge Con Edison plant explosion last night.

My heart goes out to all those who suffered loss and damage during this storm, from North Carolina to Canada.  It's just all so unbelievably sad. But I watched several friends and family members rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, and I know it can and will be done again by those living along the East Coast. Just stay strong! 

That said, in an effort to honor Snapshot Tuesday, I leave you with a few photos of post-Sandy New York.*

This was actually taken in Hoboken, NJ just across the Hudson River
from Manhattan.  The city is still under water.

Jane's Carousel in DUMBO in Brooklyn. 
The Jet Blue tarmac at LaGuardia airport.

Lower East Side in Manhattan.

And the city goes dark.

 * I did not take any of these photographs.  I do not own them.  I gathered them all from public, online sources.*

Friday, October 26, 2012

Preparing for Frankenstorm

Welp, apparently there's a crazy storm barreling toward the East Coast right now.  It could make landfall anywhere from D.C. to New York City, and it's supposed to hit as early as Sunday night.  This storm is predicted to be ugly.  As the weather personalities tell it, a cold front and a hurricane will collide to create a storm so unbelievably insane it will be even more perfect than The Perfect Storm.  Imagine that. All of this just in time for Halloween.  And sadly, I don't think George Clooney or Marky Mark will be making a cameo for this one.

Will this storm pack the punch that everyone is predicting?  Who knows.  I usually try to tune out the hype because let's face it, the media loves to hype a natural disaster.  Just look at the apocalypse that was predicted last summer when Hurricane Irene was set to wipe out lower Manhattan. 

But that doesn't mean we can't be prepared.

I grew up in south Louisiana, so I have lived through my share of hurricanes and tropical storms.  We know how to fill up the bath tub with water, load up on batteries and flashlights, and stock up on ice.  And those long lines at the gas station?  Definitely waited in those before.  So has S.  He lived in south Florida for a short period, so he knows what's up too.  We both know how to prepare.

Sure, in my college days being prepared meant stocking up on beer, wine and Doritos, but these days, now that there's a kid in a picture, we're a little more mature about the situation. 

So, we just got back from Target and CVS where we purchased two cases of bottled water, a few days worth of snacks, and beer.  Because you still always need beer. And we got some new arts and crafts to keep the little guy entertained for the duration.  Because while there's a Frankenstorm brewing outside, we hope to prevent an E-storm from erupting inside.

Here's to hoping this thing decides to head back out to sea!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One of the 52 Things

While waiting in the airport for my return flight last weekend, I stumbled upon a book titled 52 Things Kids Need from a Mom. Not being one who usually picks up books like these, curiosity got the best of me, and I took a peek anyway.

On the list were familiar things you would expect like "give lots of love and cuddles"and "indulge their silly." But one thing stood out among these tidbits of advice and that was, "keep a family blog." The author explained that it's a great for kids to read and follow as they grow up, but it also provides a family history they can "log into" and read as adults too.

When I first started this blog, it was intended as a means of keeping family and friends involved with what we were doing, where we were going.  It never occurred to me that it would be something E and our future kids would enjoy reading too.  I guess it was silly of me not to think of something so obvious, but it definitely puts blogging in a new light.  I want my kids to look back and be proud of the things we did as a family and happy remembering all our experiences.  I want them to be able to look at pictures of our adventures and read a story that goes with it.

I can't even begin to count the number times my parents and I have questioned certain family events as we rummaged through old photo albums from when my siblings and I were younger.  The photos get mixed up, the memories fade and we lose track of what we lived through, where we were, and what the mood was like in that moment.

I hope this blog helps me avoid that with my own family.  Because now I realize this blog is meant to be more than something for others to follow.  This is more than just a Foreign Service blog.  Ultimately, this is a family blog and exists for my own family to read and follow as well.  It will be there to help recall the best (and worst) parts of their lives. 

Consider at least one thing on that list checked. Although, E is definitely not lacking in the cuddle department, nor is he in need of a parent to indulge his silly!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One Good Flight

Pleasurable travel experiences don't happen often, so when they do, they must be savored. Last weekend was one such experience for me.

First of all, a lot can be said for living in an apartment building that shares a lobby with a major hotel.  Since my flight was so early, I had decided to take a cab to the airport rather than deal with the Metro. My plan was to hail one in front of the hotel since that's where they're always gathered. But when I walked toward the front entrance, a guy appeared out of nowhere, scooped up my suitcase, handed me a tag and said, "Reagan, right?  What airline?"

I was confused, but I still managed to stammer out a weak, "Delta." 

"Hop on," he said as he pointed out the front door to an idling shuttle bus.  "We'll be there in five minutes."

And thus my good travel karma began.  What was originally supposed to be a $10-$15 cab ride turned into a hotel shuttle bus ride for only the cost of a tip. 

But it got better.  I had planned to take my bag as carry-on to avoid paying the baggage fee, but when I was waiting at the gate, the check-in agent announced that they were offering to check bags for free to any passenger willing to do so.  I guess they were worried about all the carry-ons fitting in the overhead compartments, or something.  So I volunteered.  They checked my bag right there and I retrieved it when I got to Florida. 

The flights themselves were nothing special.  No first class upgrades or anything.  Except I did notice that Delta has been making improvements to their seats.  They were all newly upholstered in clean blue (pleather?) leather. And I swear, maybe I was hallucinating, but it felt like there was more leg room?

The flight home was when the customer service really shined. Let me start by saying that I truly commend Delta for their professionalism and their willingness to not only do their job in a pleasurable manner, but to go above and beyond. 

You see, when I originally booked my return flight, I was given two options: 6:30a.m. or 6:30 p.m.  Since this was to be the end of a bachelorette weekend, I was not inclined to wake up before dawn if I could help it. So I booked the p.m. flight.  Except, I didn't realize check-out from the condo was at 10 a.m and thus, it would mean spending all day at the airport.  Sigh. 

Anyway, I'll spare you all the details and just cut to the chase. When I got to the airport, I requested an earlier flight, and for a mere $50 transfer fee, I was put on a the next flight at 2pm. Not only that, they allowed me to gate check my bag again and I didn't have to pay the baggage fee.  So, instead of arriving home at midnight like I was originally scheduled to, and instead of waiting in a small Florida airport for like, 8 hours, I was able to get home before 7pm (the layover in Atlanta couldn't be avoided) and make it home in time to hug my nugget, give him a bath and put him to bed.  It was a good night.

I've traveled a lot and I have dealt with some snarky and downright mean airline employees from just about every airline, including Delta.  But this experience was bar none, the best I've had.  Everyone was nice.  Everyone was accommodating.  Everyone looked me in the eye, said please and thank you and talked to me like an adult who mattered, not a child.  Color me impressed, Delta.  It's the little things that go a long way.

My next flight will be to attend the wedding in a few weeks, and it's on a different airline.  I only hope that experience will be half as good. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Snapshot Tuesday: Weekend View

I was just going to post this photo without explanation per usual, but then I decided that it might need a bit of context.  

Last Friday I flew to Florida for my best friend's bachelorette party.  M and I have been besties since we were angsty little 15-year old girls, and since I am a bridesmaid in her wedding, there was absolutely no way I was missing the final celebration of her singledom (is that a word?). 

So, seven of us met up in one of our favorite beach towns and spent three days and nights sipping wine, painting our nails, reading trashy gossip magazines and talking about life.  Of course we did go out one night for an evening of debauchery classy celebrating at a local bar, but mostly we just enjoyed each other's company while sinking our toes in the sand.

Despite the fact that I missed E terribly (it was my first time being away from him), it was good to get away and reconnect with my girls...a bit of a recharge, if you will.

But now I am back and I have plenty to blog about, including my amazing Delta experience.  Seriously, I have good things to say.  Stay tuned!

Monday, October 8, 2012

On Running After Having a Baby

I ran a 10K yesterday.  The PR Run for the Parks started just north of the tidal basin and curved its way down along the Potomac River, and then back up so the race started and finished in the same spot.  I love running along the river, and I think the view would have been spectacular had the weather not been so drizzly, cold and gray. 
Weather aside, it still wasn’t a great race for me.  In fact, it was the slowest 10K I have ever run.  No I’m not that fast to begin with, but still, it was pretty slow.  Couple that with my dreadful showing at the Marine Corps Marathon last October, and I’ve finally reached a conclusion about my body when it comes to running:   it takes a LONG time for the female body to recover after having a baby.  Or at least, it takes MY body a long time to recover, and I’m not sure it ever will.  But I am okay with that.
First, let me back up to that marathon I just mentioned. 
When I signed up to run that race in 2010, I was excited because it was to be my 4th marathon on my admittedly obnoxious quest to run one marathon in every state.  But shortly after registering, I discovered I was pregnant with E and that I would be roughly 4 ½ months along come race day.  Not wanting to risk anything, I deferred until the following year.  Jump forward to race day in October 2011, roughly 6 months after I gave birth to E, and I was having my doubts.  Could I really finish this marathon?  Am I crazy to run 26.2 miles 6 months after having a baby?  The answers to these questions were yes and yes.  
The marathon started as uneventful as any...a steady pace, ear buds in and music blaring.  I was feeling great up until the 12 mile mark when I was suddenly crippled by lower back pain and spasms.  I stopped to stretch, hoping that would do some good, but it didn’t.  I had suffered tremendous lower back pain while pregnant with E, and the spasms I felt during the race were reminiscent of those pains.  So I slowly jogged another mile before whipping out my phone to call S.  That’s when I proceeded to break down into sobs of frustration and explained that I didn’t think I could finish.  My back was killing me, my IT band was tightening up and I was in a lot of pain.  I hadn’t even reached the halfway mark, and I was falling apart.  I was cursing my body for doing this to me, for not “bouncing back” like I expected it to.
S calmly told me that he was at the 16 mile marker (with E in the stroller) and that if I could just make it there, we would go home.  He said there was no shame in quitting if I was hurt.  He said I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone.  So, I pulled it together and walk/ran toward mile 16 with thoughts of a cup of coffee, a heating pad and a hot shower on my mind.
At mile 15 I saw a medic tent and limped in begging for some pain medicine.  I knew I needed something to get me through the next mile.  They were only allowed to give Tylenol, so they gave me the max dose, wrote it down on my bib number (so if something happened to me, the EMTs would know what I had taken) and I continued on.   The Tylenol kicked in rather quickly and between that medic stop and mile 16, I realized something.  I realized that, while S was right, I did not have anything to prove to anyone else, I did have to prove to myself that I could finish this marathon.  And that’s what I was going to do, injured, post-baby body be damned.
By the time I spotted S and E bundled together at mile 16, I took one look at E’s sweet little baby face and thought, I can do this.  I told S I was going to finish and he just smiled and said, “I knew you would change your mind.”
So, 26.2 miles and a total of 5 hours 15 minutes later, I crossed the finish line.   The Tylenol had worn off at that point, but I was so happy to have finished despite the fact that it was my worst marathon ever.  I had proven to myself that I could foolishly run a marathon 6 months after having a baby.  Not only that, I had proven to myself that I wasn’t a quitter and I didn’t let my crazy body get the best of me. And boy did I have a lot of pain in my crazy body.  Clearly, I had a long way to go to full recovery.
It was after that race that I started to wonder, “Would my body ever recover from having a baby?”
So far, 18 months after bringing E into this world, the answer is still no. 
Sure I can proudly say that I got back to my pre-baby weight rather quickly—I met that goal even before I ran the marathon.  And yes, my body looks (sorta) the same as it did before having E, but something has changed.  It can’t do what it used to do.  When it comes to running, I can’t do what I used to do. 
Am I blaming my child for this?  Absolutely not.  Am I blaming anyone for this?  No.  I am not placing blame anywhere at all.  I am simply coming to terms with the fact that the human body is a bizarre and wonderful thing, but that everyone’s body is different and everyone’s ability to do certain things is different as well. 
Some people bounce back and go on to win the New York City Marathon less than 10 months after giving birth.  Just ask one of my favorite runners, Paula Radcliffe.  Simply amazing.
But most people aren’t built that way.  I’m obviously not.  And most people don’t have the time to effectively train either.  I obviously don’t.  Besides, if I prefer to skip a 3-mile run to play with E after work, then so be it.
It may take years for my body to recover and feel “normal” during a run.  And it will probably take years to get my pre-baby running pace back too.
But even if I don’t, I am okay with that.  At this point in my life, I am just running for the fun of it, and with the goal of a finish in mind.  I don’t care about time.  I don’t care about pace.  I just want to know that I can still finish and I can still show my kid(s) that exercise is important and that no matter what, you should never give up. 
Which brings me back to yesterday’s 10K…those 6.2 miles finally opened my eyes to all of this.  I was frustrated and annoyed for the first half because I couldn’t pick up my pace without getting out of breath and feeling pain.  But once I decided that I didn’t care; that pace wasn’t everything; that having fun and just finishing was more important, I relaxed and came to terms with it.  And now I’m in a much better place.
Because all of it: running, life, family--it should always make you happy.  When it stops making you happy, that’s when you’re doing something wrong.  Now, I look forward to my future races, pace and finish time be damned.