Thursday, April 25, 2013

Foreign Service Fridays: Here We Go Again

Yep, it's that time again. Bidding time! In a few weeks John and I will find out where in the world we're going next. Read about the process here. I'll be in Spain for the two weeks, mostly concentrating on writing and (hopefully) relaxing, so I probably won't be posting much. Hasta luego!

Things I Love Thursdays: Ruche

I'm not sure if I should love Kim or hate her a little for sending me the link to Ruche this morning, since it's full of adorableness but is also sure to make its way to the top of my procrastination list, right up there with ModCloth. In fact, some of the same items are available on both websites, which just proves that if you're a ModCloth lover, you need to get yourself over to Ruche, stat. Unless you have work to do, in which case, avoid it like the plague.

Here are just a few of the items I'm coveting at the moment:

Adorable sleeveless blouses (the one on the left has camels on it!)

Dresses that go from day to night

Peplum sleeveless tops and colorful flats (loving yellow and red right now)

The perfect peach and cream ensemble.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mommy Mondays: Patience and Persistence

Lately I've been feeling a little down about my writing. I watch as one by one my fellow writers succeed, signing with agents or getting book deals, while I continue to linger at the starting line. At times like these, it's easy to think about giving up. How much easier would my life be if I didn't have this constant nagging voice in the back of my head telling me what a complete and utter failure I am? Wouldn't it be nice to just go to work and spend time with my family and not feel so unsatisfied all the time? But there is a small part of me - a rather persistent and stubborn part, it turns out - that refuses to give up. And when I need the occasional reminder that some things are worth the struggle, I have Jack to turn to.

When you're three, the battles you face on a daily basis involve seemingly simple things like fastening a pajama button or pouring your own milk into the cereal bowl. And it's easy for me as a parent to say, "You're killing me over here, kid. It's cereal, not rocket science." But I have to force myself to take a step back and look at things from a different angle. If I don't let Jack take the time he needs to learn these basic skills, I'm not just making life a little easier for myself (although there is something to be said for making my life a little easier); I'm also taking away his independence, not to mention prolonging the development of important motor skills. Do I want to be pouring milk into my kid's cereal when he's 15 because I couldn't take the time to let him figure it out as a toddler? Probably not.  

Patience has never been my strong suit. Persistence is actually a form of impatience, in my case; I can't stop desperately clawing my way forward because the thought of staying still is agonizing. But if Jack has the patience to spend twenty minutes buttoning up his damn monkey pajamas - hell, if I have the patience to watch him spend twenty minutes buttoning up his damn monkey pajamas - surely I have the patience to wait for my own hard work to pay off. I'm not religious, but it would be nice to think that someone out there in the ether is watching my daily struggle from the sidelines, smiling knowingly at my failures and saying, "Hang in there, kid. You'll get it right one of these days."

(A little demonstration in persistence - Jack and the Footie Pajamas, in three acts)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Things I Love Thursdays: A Positive Spin

Today's Thing I Love comes courtesy of our good friend Mike, who, after reading Monday's (admittedly self-pitying) post, shared this wonderful phrase from a Swedish friend:

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mommy Mondays: On My Own

Most of you probably know we are the only people at post with a kid. There is one other couple coming to replace the one that just left, plus another married couple coming in August, but no one will be bringing kids to post. Basically what that means is, Jack is the only child at post, and I'm the only mom.

For the single people here, and even the married people without kids, I don't think that sounds like a big deal. But if you're a mom, you know that having mom friends around is one of the most important - and one of the best - aspects of motherhood. My best mom friend, Courtney, and I hung out almost every single week for a year and a half, sometimes several time a week. I spent some days praying Courtney would call just so I could get out of the house and talk to a normal person, by which I mean an adult. Courtney was not only my mommy sounding board, but also the person I laughed (and occasionally cried) with when my child started exhibiting the early signs of toddlerness, aka insanity. Meanwhile, Courtney showed me what a great mom looks like, and her daughter showed me what my life might have been like in an alternate universe wherein I had a little girl and hadn't lost my mind. Those were the good old days.

I have exactly two mom friends here in Yekat, both of whom are leaving this year, which means not only will my friends be leaving, but all of Jack's English-speaking friends will also be leaving. There are dark days ahead, I'm sad to say. Dark days that involve very little English.

On top of not having mom friends here, easily one of the hardest aspects of this post, I am the only person at post right now who is not a Foreign Service officer. Of course I am interested in John's career, and at least I know what the heck goes on at the Consulate every day thanks to my job, but diplomacy is not my life. It's not the thing I want to talk about at every meal, it's not the thing I have in common with the other young people at post, and while I love being a CLO, it's not exactly my dream job. We all complain about things here, just like everyone does wherever they live, but at a certain point in the conversation, there is the inevitable consolation: "At least the work here is interesting." This is also the point in the conversation where I want to scream, "I'm not an FSO!" I may have done that at lunch the other day. I'm pretty sure I didn't scream.

For the first time in a long time, I find myself feeling very much alone. Sometimes - okay, most of the time - I just wish I could teleport one of my girls here for coffee and a good old fashioned bitch-fest that doesn't revolve around politics, housing, bidding, hardship pay, or Russian (sometimes I want to throw a little potty training into the conversation just to remind people that's what's going on in my life; fortunately for them, I'm not that mean). While someone works on the whole teleportation thing, I'll continue to remind myself that even though it sometimes get a little lonely here, at the end of the day - and in the ways that really matter - I am not alone at all.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Foreign Service Fridays: The Beat of Our Own Drums

In today's Most Eligible Family post, I realize yet again how strange my child is, and accept it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Things I Love Thursdays: Geography as Art

In the past year, I've come across several world maps that aren't just educational; they also make great wall decor. I'm kind of obsessed with this trend. These items would all make great gifts for Foreign Service families, but I think anyone who loves to travel will find them equally amazing.
Map cork board from ModCloth

Print of hand-drawn map, complete with map pins, from Catbird NYC

World map sticker from MIMI'lou. Seriously amazing.

Remembering My Grandma

I've been putting off this post for a while. I haven't wanted to accept that my grandma is really gone, because she has been such a warm, comforting presence for my entire life. I don't want to waste time here being sad, though; instead, I want to share some of my favorite memories of my grandma. They won't mean much to most of you, except maybe (I hope) to remind you of some of your favorite memories of your own grandmothers.

I don't know much about my grandma's early life, other than that she spent her childhood on a farm in Utah, and that she had pet sheep named Fleecey and Weecey. I've always found that to be the most endearing story, though I suspect Fleecey and Weecey met an untimely end. I got into a debate with my grandma once about the phrase "knee-high to a grasshopper," which she used when she was referring to herself as a child. "Does that mean your knees were at grasshopper height, or you were the height of a grasshopper's knee?" I asked her. I think we decided on the latter. Either way, in my mind's eye, she was an extremely tiny girl.

 When I was little I spoke in a squeaky voice, and my grandma called me Mara Mouse. She bought me mouse-related things, like books and toys, and always read me my favorite mouse stories when she babysat. She also made up an entire series of tales for Sarah, Aaron, and me called "The Birdy and the Worm." The Birdy and the Worm were the main characters obviously, and we would throw plots at her, like "The Birdy and the Worm Take Karate" (I remember that one in particular). She always did the voices when we asked her to. I can't recall her ever turning down an idea.

My grandma with her partner, Orin, and Sarah. Spring of 2012.
Going to my grandma's house was always special. She had the most immaculate house I've ever seen; even the garage floor was spotless. Her house hardly changed at all during my entire life, so every time you walked in you knew exactly what to expect: the matching set of mugs hanging from the baker's rack; the butterfly magnets on the fridge; the little porcelain egg inside a whisk hanging from the wall (as a kid I remember wondering, "How did that thing get in there?"). She usually had a little bowl of pastel-colored nonpareil mints (which I have just learned are called Smooth N' Melties) on the dining table; my whole life they've reminded me of her, and they remain one of my favorite candies, although you don't find them very often.

Jack with his great-grandparents.
She kept a set of Barbie paper dolls in the spare room that we were allowed to play with, as long as we were very careful and didn't bend the tabs. In her bedroom, she had an Asian painting of a dragon next to the bed, and I remember that we were all very scared of it when we were young. Until the day my grandma told us that he was a friendly dragon, of course, and then I was only a little scared of him. When we took baths at her house she would give us this ancient Tupperware to play with, and somehow they seemed like the best bath toys of all time (especially the funnel!). She had a collection of stuffed animals that we were also allowed to play with very carefully. When I was little I had a bizarre habit of wrapping and giving things away, including a stuffed gray cat with a pink bow on its neck that I gave to my grandma. Every time I'd visit, I would look at that cat and wish I hadn't given it away (I don't think I've ever admitted that out loud before). Of course, I never would have dared to ask for it back, and it stayed perfect on my grandma's shelf over the years.

My grandma kept several hummingbird feeders on her patio, because she loved hummingbirds. Sometimes they would make nests outside her kitchen window and she would show us the eggs or the babies. Her favorite flowers were pansies. She had the softest skin on her hands, and her hair never went gray, even at 89. She was an amazing cook and always made it look effortless. Her lasagna recipe is the only reason I eat lasagna. For years and years she drove an old yellow Subaru with wooly seat covers. Whoever was lucky enough to ride shotgun got to help shift gears.

Aaron, me, Grandma, and Jack in April, 2010.
My grandma could be extremely silly, especially when my mom, Sarah, and I got together with her. We were in a hotel room one time, and I think one of us most have been looking in the mirror complaining about something. Somehow it turned into a funny faces competition. The duck face made it in there (long before that was a "thing," for the record), along with that hideous one where you pull the corners of your eyes down and the corners of your mouth up, and use your pinkies to make a piggy nose. But when my grandma did it, she would somehow make it the saddest face you'd ever seen, with these pathetic little noises. We all laughed so hard we peed.

But my favorite memories are of the times my grandma got to see Jack. It was never often enough, but it made her so happy. She loved being a great-grandma, and I have no doubt that if she had lived a little longer, Jack would have remembered her with as much love as I do.

Helen Herzog
August 22, 1923 - March 5, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Things I Love Thursdays: Cath Kidston's Train Print

Okay, this is a bit specific for a Thing I Love, but it's a thing, and I love it. That's pretty much the criteria, right?

Some of you may recall my adorable red bunny iPhone case (as seen on New Girl) that I got back in the fall. I loved that case, even if it earned me looks of derision from my coworkers. But alas, just a couple of weeks ago Jack decided to rip one of the ears off, and a bunny iPhone case with just one ear doesn't really look like anything. So I had to throw it away (I'm amazed it lasted as long as it did considering I only paid $3 for it). After a long mourning period, it's time to find a new case. I thought about this one:

But it's admittedly a little impractical. In my hunt for something cute, unique, and functional, I found this beauty:

Cath Kidston Mini Trains iPhone case
I love that it combines Jack's train obsession with something vintage-looking and whimsical. Unfortunately, nearly $40 is too much for me to spend on an iPhone case, especially when that adorable bear is going for about $10. However, there are a bunch of other items in the Cath Kidston train line that I'm tempted to get, some for much more reasonable prices. Observe:
$24, and laceless for the toddler-shoe impaired (aka Daddy)

The train sweater is equally adorable, and it comes in Mommy size.

I think I this sweater! Ha!

There's also a dress, a bunch of accessories, even a little handkerchief. When it comes to this print, it's safe to say I'm "on board" (sorry, had to).

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mommy Mondays: The Bionic Woman

Despite the title of this post, I'm sorry to say that I am, in fact, human. Today, however, I'm feeling a bit like an android thanks to all the lovely electrodes taped to my torso and the decorative gray fanny pack resting on my hips.

It's not a big deal - I have an arrhythmia that John has been bugging me to get checked out for ages (okay, for three years; I don't think it's a coincidence I developed palpitations right after Jack was born). Since we're in Moscow and have access to decent medical care, now seemed like as good a time as any to see a cardiologist. Of course, I wasn't counting on having to wear a holter monitor for twenty-four hours, or have an ultrasound of my chest (which is a lot like having an ultrasound of your abdomen, except it's on your boobs. Good times.) at a Russian hospital. The ultrasound was normal and I'm sure my arrhythmia isn't anything to worry about. Still, it's a little awkward trying to hide this lovely get-up under work attire.

(I was going to include a photo of myself wearing the monitor, but then I thought maybe that wasn't what I wanted to pop up in a Google image search for my name.)

Even now, as I glance down at my keyboard, I see five colored wires hanging out from under my sweatshirt. How special! If for some reason something does turn out to be wrong with me, I'll be sure to let everyone know, and provide an address so you can all start sending me those care packages you just haven't gotten around to mailing yet.