Thursday, June 27, 2013

Foreign Service Fridays: Unveiling the Truth: The Diplomatic Pouch

Another mortifying day in the life of me. Stop by Most Eligible Family to read about it. And have a very happy Friday!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Sister, the Everygirl

Just had to share this with my followers who aren't Facebook friends. My beautiful, smart, funny, kickass sister was featured on the blog The Everygirl today. Go and check her out, won't you?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mommy Mondays: A Friendly Reminder

Have you ever noticed how life has a way of crushing you back down to size whenever you're feeling just a little too cocky?

You know, like when you're having a particularly good hair day and you're wearing a cute new outfit, and you're strutting down the street feeling pretty darn good about yourself, when you trip and flail like a Fraggle and have to limp the rest of the way to your destination?

Or when, for example, you've just reached 70,000 words in your MS, your husband has been out of town for a few days but you are doing just fine without him, thank you very much, and you have even managed to arrange a coffee meet-up with your two single male friends so that you don't spend your entire day in the company of a demented three-year-old who has been running around in circles yelling "I'm a mosquito!" for the past two hours. You've managed to squeeze in a shower and slap some makeup on your face, you've stuffed your child full of chocolate and ice cream so that you can have an intelligent conversation without interruption, and then you glance over and notice that your child is staring at his crotch with a bewildered look on his face.

And then you realize he has just peed on a fabric sofa in the ONE PLACE in all of Russia you feel comfortable enough to go and write on a regular basis; the very couch on which you normally sit, in fact. And all this just a few minutes after telling your two single male friends that your kid is doing great with the potty training (aside from the whole pooping thing). And as you are praying that the earth will open up and swallow you whole so you don't have to face the poor Russian waiter who is staring at your child's wet pants and the spreading damp spot on the lovely couch, your kind male friends say, "It's okay. It happens," even though you're pretty sure they have just decided they will never be having children. Ever.

So that was MY friendly little reminder from the universe that I do not in fact have my act together and probably never will. Anyone else receive a karmic slap across the face recently?

(And for the record, Jack didn't seem to experience any of my humiliation. He looked up at me, smiled, and said, "It's okay, Mommy. It's just an accident." Sigh.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Foreign Service Fridays: There's No Place Like Home

Feeling a little sad because John just left for almost two weeks. I wrote a little bit about it here. Happy Friday all!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writing Wednesdays: ONE

As I've mentioned before, I don't do a lot of book reviews on here. Sure, I'll mention a book I happened to particularly love, but I don't go around requesting ARCs and participating in book releases because I don't like advertising something unless I really believe in it. Besides, I rarely read something if it doesn't interest me. Too many books, too little time.

Leigh Ann Kopan's and her debut novel, ONE, are a different story. Leigh Ann was in the query trenches at the same time I was last year, but unlike me, she went on to get an agent from one of the contests she participated in. The fact that she had her own stack of rejections and kept on truckin' inspired me, and I loved her blog and her personality. Then, when ONE didn't sell to a publisher, she went ahead and decided to self publish, something I find incredibly brave. So I was thrilled when I won a copy of ONE from Leigh Ann's blog a couple months back.

Here's the synopsis for ONE:
Sixteen-year-old Merrin Grey would love to be able to fly, or even drift along like a freaking ghost - too bad all she can do is float up and down. When almost everyone else is a Super, with at least two powers, or a Normal, with none, being a One is the worst kind of in-between.  

All Merrin has ever wanted is to land an internship at the Biotech Hub. She busts her butt in AP Chem and salivates over news of Hub President Fisk’s experiments, hoping she can get close enough to his research on the manifestations of superpowers to finally figure out how to fix herself.

Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and all her carefully crafted plans fly out the window. Literally. When the two of them touch, their Ones combine to make them fly, and when they’re not soaring over the Nebraska cornfields, they’re busy falling for each other. Merrin’s over the moon - Elias is as good at kissing as he is at helping her fly. Better yet, her mad chemistry skills land her a spot on the Hub’s internship short list.

But when the Hub kidnaps Elias, Merrin discovers The Hub’s sick experiments could take away even their measly single powers - Fisk’s interest in Ones like them might even be lethal. If she stands up to Fisk, she not only risks Elias’s life, she’ll also destroy her chances of ever finding a way to fly solo – of ever being more than a One. 

And the insanely gorgeous cover:

I'm gonna come right out and say one thing off the bat: I do not love sci-fi. I've read a few sci-fi novels, including my own brilliant CP's, and they just don't really do it for me. I loved Ender's Game and I was a fan of Firefly, but I prefer fantasy and urban fantasy to straight-up sci-fi, especially if it gets really bogged down in the science part. My mind kind of zones out and I tend to skim, and then I'm like, "Wait, what? How did that happen?" and it's my own fault because I wasn't paying attention.

So ONE was going to have a hard time winning me over, because I'd read the synopsis and super-heroes aren't really my bag. But then I read the first chapter on Leigh Ann's blog and changed my mind. I LOVED Leigh Ann's description of Merrin from the start - she's small and feisty and unique (physical character descriptions are one of Leigh Ann's strongsuits in my opinion). And then we meet Elias, who is all tall and sparkly-eyed, and I loved him too. So even though I had to force myself not to get lost in the science-y parts, I had two amazing main characters to pull me through.

I also loved the way Leigh Ann handled the romance aspect of ONE. It's something I struggle with, but Leigh Ann manages to make Merrin and Elias's relationship realistic because it's not the over-the-top Twilight kind of love (which isn't always a bad thing, but wouldn't have fit with this story). It's got the right amount of angst and desire and is always true to the characters.

I like the idea of a character with a fierce sense of independence and determination discovering that she actually HAS to rely on someone else to get the one thing she wants most in the world, and how she learns to cope with that and come to love this other person not because he completes her, but in spite of it.

Unlike a few of the self-pubbed novels I've read, it's immediately clear that Leigh Ann can WRITE. I'll never understand how some books make it to the big publishers and others get passed by, but it seems like for Leigh Ann, everything has worked out pretty darn well anyway. Congrats to Leigh Ann on all of her success. It is so well deserved! And if you haven't already read ONE, go check it out for yourself!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mommy Mondays: Adventures in Potty Training

All right folks, it's confession time. As of tomorrow, Jack will be exactly 3.5 years old. And guess what?

He's still not potty trained.


(Spoiler alert: I will be talking about "poop" for the next few minutes. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

So Jack can pee on that potty like a champ. We are diaper free all day (still using a pull-up at night, which I think is okay, right? Someone PLEASE tell me it's okay or I'm going to have to jump off the nearest bridge). He naps for two hours without a diaper with no problem; he hasn't had an accident in months. He flew to Geneva and back sans diapers (four three-hour flights). We've used countless public restrooms and his aim is award-worthy.

But when it comes to pooping, the kid simply will not use the potty. He has total and complete control of the situation. He runs in, demands a diaper, poops, and demands to be changed all within five minutes. If I withhold the diaper, he withholds the poop. For days. He pulls the ol' stiff-as-a-board maneuver once reserved for the car seat if we try to force him onto the toilet. He's so strong even John can't hold him down, and I'm guessing that duct taping him to the toilet isn't really advisable. We've tried threats, bribes, and downright begging. We've tried books, movies (I actually broke down and looked up potty training on YouTube against my better judgment; Jack was all about the kids pooping on the potty, but he'd be damned if he was going to do it himself), potty charts, and shame ("All your friends are doing it." "There are two-year-olds who can poop on the potty." "I've been changing diapers for THREE AND A HALF YEARS!!!"). But when it comes to the poop, He. Will. Not. Be. Moved.

John and I are out our wits' end. I am living under a black cloud of parental shame. I'm desperate for ideas, people. Just to give you a little bit of an idea of what we're dealing with:

While you think of solutions, I'm going to go in search of a bridge. Let me know when you come up with something.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Foreign Service Fridays: Some Thoughts on Second Tour Bidding

If you ain't Foreign Service, you ain't caring about this. But here's the link nonetheless:
Most Eligible Family

Happy Friday all!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Things I Love Thursdays: High Tea, Jane Austen, and Writing!

'They arrived in Bath. Catherine was all eager delight; - her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already'
--Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sorry for the blogging absence. We were in Geneva last week for John's 100k training race for the big 100 miler in just a couple weeks. What's new, you ask? Well, aside from deciding that Geneva is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen (and the most expensive), I just booked a one-week trip to England for July! Because clearly I haven't traveled enough in 2013.

Here's the deal: While I was struggling to find time to write, I realized that if I really wanted to be effective, I needed a solid chunk of time to devote to writing, which I just can't get at home. I considered organized retreats in Europe, but many were sold out or too expensive or the timing wasn't right. I wanted to go somewhere near(ish) but where I could speak the language, because being unable to communicate is exhausting sometimes. John was just in London and had been raving about it, and then it turned out that by sheer coincidence, one of my best friends was going to be in London and Bath for a week for work right around the time I was looking to do my retreat. Since she's working, I won't be distracted during the day, but we'll be able to hang out in the evenings. AND I get a free place to stay. You really can't beat that.

The London Landmark Hotel, where we get to stay! Wheee!
 I'm super excited about this trip because a) I'm flying solo b) I'm going to be hanging out with Kim, who is amazing and fun and hilarious c) I haven't been since grad school and I can't wait to go back to familiar places and see something new d) I'll be writing!! Oh, and did I mention it's also the 200 year anniversary of Pride and Prejudice? Lots of fun stuff to do in Bath (although sadly we are missing the Netherfield Ball by a few weeks).

I am hoping to get the rough draft finished before I go so I can whip that baby into shape while I'm gone. That means a lot of hard work over the next three weeks, but with about 25,000 words to go, I think it's doable (especially since John will be gone for his race in Cali for thirteen days and I won't have anything else to do. Well, aside from the whole job/kid thing.).

Have any of you done a writer's retreat? Any tips for success? Anywhere I absolutely MUST go in London?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mommy Mondays: The Invasion of the Octopuses

I know my child can't be the only three-year-old out there obsessed with something completely random and mildly disconcerting. It all started months ago, when Auntie Sha Sha (aka Sarah) was visiting. At least I think that's where it started. Somehow she and Jack started making little octopuses with their hands, and then Jack's very musical rendition of an octopus noise was born. It sounds like this: (high pitched) "ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh" (low pitched) "ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh." You know, just like an octopus.

In Barcelona, we were standing in the long line to get into the aquarium when Jack saw a picture of an octopus. As soon as we made it inside, all Jack could talk about was the octopus. He blew past the sharks and the rays, the Doris and Nemos, until we finally found an octopus tank. Fortunately they were a particularly lively group of octopuses, and Jack got a real show. Then we finished up our visit in the gift shop (because of course that way the only way to get out of the aquarium). And Jack was allowed to pick out one small toy. Enter Ishka.

Ishka gets around. Here she is at the Frankfurt airport.

I don't know where the name Ishka came from, but Ishka is indeed her name, and she's a suprisingly lifelike toy considering she cost 2 euros. She even has a creepy little mouth underneath her body. Ishka sleeps with Jack every night and has been the inspiration for many a drawing.

The octopus is in yellow.  The blue is "all the water." Ignore the hair.
I turned around and this appeared.

Yesterday as we walked to the river to feed the ducks, Jack decided there absolutely had to be an octopus living in the water, so he screamed, "Let's find the octopus!" repeatedly until we found the ducks and he became obsessed with those for a little while.

This morning, I heard Jack crying in his room and ran in to find him screaming about octopuses. I wasn't sure if he was looking for Ishka or it had been an octopus nightmare. When I came home from work, he was watching a documentary about octopuses.

The third octopus documentary today.

In case you didn't get the memo, Jack has something to say to you:


So, yeah, that's what my kid is into right now. What about yours?