Monday, August 25, 2014

Getting Returns

Our oldest is a bit of a tyrant.  Before he was born, we intended to call him "Will."  But within hours of him coming out, I told Greg this baby - still so new - was just too serious and I couldn't call him anything except his full name.  At 2.5, we joked he was a "benevolent dictator" and thought he would change with the addition of a sibling, necessitating sharing the attention.  Wrong.  If I'm honest, most of our house revolves around keeping his mood steady.  We've learned more than a few tricks in the last seven years, and he's learned to cope with many of his (seemingly neurotic) habits/sensitivities (if you live in the outside world).  Things get better as time goes on, but it still takes an enormous about of effort.  

All along, though, his teachers have noted his empathy, and other parents have commented how much he takes care of his little brothers.  When things get crazy, I try to remember this.  So, when he told me nonchalantly this afternoon he got a "model behavior" award at school for helping "his friend" "A," I had to hold back some tears. 

(I don't know his parents, so don't know how they feel about names on blogs, so I'll just call the other boy "A")

"A" moved here just at the end of last school year from another country (not one we've lived in) and didn't speak any English.  Wm's first grade teacher noted at the end of the year how helpful Wm was with patiently explaining how things work to "A."  My guess is that the teachers intentionally placed "A" in the desk next to Wm at the start of this year.  My other guess is that "A," still suffering a bit of a language barrier, doesn't have many friends. 

I have no idea if Wm remembers being the only native English speaker in his schools in India or the Philippines.  Both were English-medium schools, but I have to assume Hindi/Telugu and Tagalog/Chinese pervaded on the playgrounds at the preschool level.  Maybe subconsciously he remembers what it's like not to intuitively understand and to need a friend to explain things.  Or I could be projecting my peripatetic lifestyle decisions into a positive outcome in my child's behavior, just to make me feel better (if 2-3 years can still be considered peripatetic? maybe not).  

Either way, I was touched he called "A" his friend, and that he went out of his way to help him.  The stubborn autocrat once again shows he has a softer side.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Yesterday, Wm and Patch went to a double sleepover with a neighborhood family with two boys pretty much exactly the same age (within months).  They had a great time.  We had a great time just hanging out with Ian.  Probably the first time ever (?!) Ian has had two parents all to himself.  As Greg remarked at the end, Ian seems the most generally happiest of the three.  Wm is very serious.  Patch is even-kealed.  But, Ian sings to himself (twinkle twinkle, baa baa black sheep, wheels on the bus), babbles, jumps around, and is all smiles in a way we don't remember the other two being.

With the lighter load, we went to a friend's house and actually both enjoyed talking, each with one eye casually on Ian in the play area.  Seriously.  Crazy.  I think we haven't done that since before Patch was born!  And we watched a full episode of Sherlock.  And I cleaned out one of the remaining four boxes in our room (yesterday's blog post about furniture inspired me).

Now, Ian is asleep.  Greg has taken Wm to the baseball game (thanks, Aunt Beth!).  So, down to 1/3 of the usual crew again.  Given that the mellow child is the one left awake ... I'm tempted to just let him watch PBS Kids on the iPad so I can take a nap.  Or tackle another rats' nest in our bedroom.  But, I guess I better ask him if he has anything else in mind, taking advantage of my un-distracted state of mind.

[result two hours later]
I let this kind of nap happen
So this kind of armoire could emerge

Saturday, August 23, 2014

School supplies purchase

one week until school starts - I finally convinced Wm to walk two blocks to staples to purchase his supplies.  Being a girl, I thought he should pick things out to make sure he got the design he liked for the binder, the pencil box, the composition notebooks ...


What was I thinking?  He's a boy!  There is, in fact, nothing to choose if you're a boy other than blue/red/green/black.  Now, if I had a girl, the selection process could very well take hours.  Solid? Print? Design? What kind of design? Coordinate the binder/pencil box/notebooks or just choose independently?  Pastels or brights?  How ever to pick from the 20+ options?

We were in and out of the store in 15 minutes.  It took longer to convince him that we actually really did need to go today than purchase the supplies.  

Setting up shop

When we moved into the new house, I had a flurry of unpacking and purchasing of necessities (i.e., shelves strong enough to hold the entire National Geographic collection, bunk beds for two big boys, a bed for Lea).  I think we were unpacked within a month of receiving all our shipments (as long as you don't count those four boxes still in my bedroom with which I don't know what to do).  Miracle.  Then it was onto the necessary home improvements: replacing the guillotine-like garage door with normal doors that didn't threaten to decapitate our children; patio and steps down to the newly functional garage area; tile by basement doors; bringing chimney up to code; and (last one to be completed soon) a new water heater.  *phew*

Of course, this means I am now starting to focus on how I don't really like how our old living room furniture fits in the living room (not really place for four adults to sit, actually) or that how the size of my grandparents' very nice dining set just isn't quite right for our dining room.

I'd like a new sofa, two chairs, new side tables for the living room; a new dining set (or maybe my mom wants to trade my grandparents' for her buffet, table, and chairs ... some of which of my mom's may have belonged also to my grandparents before they upgraded to the set I have. slightly amusing); and completely new everything in our bedroom.  I'd love to search through yard sales, consignment stores, and flea markets, maybe make it into Union Market or Eastern Market in DC.  Go through all the different showrooms on Rockville Pike.  Have a valid excuse to check out the high end stores in Bethesda (just to get ideas of course!).  Or what used to be my favorite middle ground shop 10+ years ago: Random Harvest.

Putting aside the fact that I have no money for new furniture after all the home improvement activities above, it is bid season.  Which means I have no idea if I'm going to be in this house for a mere 10 months or longer.  And, if we're moving next summer, why buy something to just stick it in storage?  Nope, no point.  Can't bring myself to invest the time and emotion to find the perfect pieces (could take months) to just pack it away.

At least the constant moving keeps me from spending money I probably shouldn't?  Find a silver lining in every cloud.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Time is short...

Two years goes by quickly.  I'm realizing that now that we're one year into our Washington job.  When we moved here, I figured I'd drive up to Bethlehem to visit my 90 year old grandpa every two months or so.  Except, here it was, 14 months after we moved here, and I've been up only two or three times.  The truth is, three active boys just don't mix well with a retirement community full of fragile retirees.  Especially when the community doesn't even have a playground - or even a bench near a field.  So, we didn't go.

Now with bid season upon us, though, I realized we could very well be shipping out across an ocean as early as next June.  School end in MD, sister-in-law's wedding in TX, onward to new country.  Not my ideal scenario, but all the same it could happen.  Which means just 10 more months in the same country with my grandpa.

I've been fretting about this for a week - weighing what to do with the boys while at the retirement community vs. not actually going and our possible impending departure - and the balance left me a bit paralyzed.  (not like me ... I'm usually decisive)  But, luckily, Greg isn't as emotionally tied to my grandpa, nor as phased by boys "not behaving."  And, Greg has a capacity to drive for a long time.  So, per his suggestion, on Saturday we:

Left DC at 11, getting McD's in the car (treat for boys!)
Arrived in Bethlehem just before 3
Greg took two big boys out to a field, while Ian and I sat in the apartment with Grandpa and Rhea (his girlfriend of a few years)
Greg and boys all came up at 5, and everyone played some Rumikub
We ordered pizza and ate ice cream
Said good bye and hit the road home at 7
(well, one pit stop at a near by neighborhood park to let the boys run around before the ride home)

It really only took 3.5 hours to cheer up my grandpa.  And I learned that when Rhea isn't there, he apparently doesn't mind so much if the boys get a little rough on the sofa, especially if he himself is under the pile.  The drive is long to do for just a day, but better to be tired on Sunday than arrive at my next post and regret the missed opportunity.  Hopefully we'll be here beyond June 2015 ... but one never knows.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bid List out

August 1.  Bid list out.  Though, I have to keep reminding myself it will change many times until the final bids are due Oct 15.

Our criteria are simple: a pol/econ job for me, a consular job for Greg, and decent schools for the kids.  Oh, and at the moment, we're not that thrilled about learning Chinese ... though we may have to change our minds on that factor given the preponderance of jobs available in China.  Beggars can't be choosers when it comes to overeas assigments.

First blush as possible bids: Ho Chi Minh City, Rangoon, Delhi, Tashkent, Kampala, Maputo, and Bucharest.  And the maybes: Managua, Ouagadougou, Kathmandu, Kyiv, Chisinau.  And I'm sure that list will change many times.

Sorry for those of you who wanted to visit us in Tokyo, Osaka, Vienna, Paris or London.  Looks like our gardent post job this bid cycle would be staying put in good-old-Washington DC.  Not that that would be a bad thing - we do enjoy serving here - but figure we better try something overseas.