Saturday, August 28, 2010

The joy of having a child

This has definitely been one of THOSE days. This is what went down, in this order:

7.15 am-the Diplomat woke me up to tell me he was leaving for NYC (believe it or not, we STILL have crap in the apt there that we imagine we need here so he is driving there for the weekend to pick it up). I mumble incoherently, buried under the sheets in the darkened room. The Diplomat decides to ask me a few inane questions, apparently expecting a coherent answer. I remember to remind him to take the keys to the apt, he dangles something from the other end of the room, I confirm those were the right keys (I would have confirmed those were the right keys even if he were dangling a dead rat over there--the room was dark, I was asleep and did not wear my glasses).
7.30--despite my desperate attempts to remain asleep, the Diplomat, about to leave, announces that Son is up. I select a choice of unpleasant words and pretend to wake up. Son appears to be bursting with energy and very intent on playing with his zillion cars. I give up, get him our of the crib, mumble irritably and go to attempt waking up.

7.50 am--Son plays with a wine glass on the coffee table, leftover from our celebration of yesterday's events last night. I nicely tell him to leave the glass as he will break it. He proceeds to toss it on the table and, naturally, break it. I yell very unmotherly-like and send him flying to his room until I collect broken glass and whip out the vacuum. Good morning, Saturday.

8.15 am--Son is eating Cheerios and demands to have the entire box. I surrender, thinking "what bad could happen?" Few minutes later the entire contents of the Cheerios box is lying on the floor and Son is lying in the middle of it making Cheerio angels in the pile. He seems way too happy to be scolded. I make a feeble attempt at discipline and ask him to collect and put them back. I ask him to stop when he happily starts collecting them, licking each one of them first and then depositing them in the box. I whip out the vacuum again. I LOVE Saturday mornings.

9 am--I start making bread. I take out the bread machine and Son insists in sitting on the countertop to watch. I gladly oblige. I pour water in the machine and turn around to grab flour. When I turn back, I notice that Son has just dropped my cell phone in the water. Again, he seems way too happy to be tossed out of the window so I refrain. I might have felt like crying though.

10 am--As Son is apparently bouncing off the walls at home, I decide to take him out shopping. In the grocery store, he notices the olives stand and insists on eating 756olives, or else. I surrender and give him the olives. People look at us strangely but we disregard them.

We go to the park where good times are had by all. We come back and a few mins later, Son runs horrified to me to tell me he had pooped in his underwear. I clean up with a resigned air and go to our bedroom to change when I suddenly notice a big pile of poop on the carpet. I turn around in agony and notice Fat Cat giving me the evil eye. I shake my finger at him and clean his poop too. I am NOT happy.

1.15--Son goes to nap. I try to relish the free time but instead spend 30 mins on the phone with the cable company.

1.45--the Diplomat calls angrily to tell me that the key to the NYC apt is not on the chain even though I told him it was there. Rather tersely (it is possible that I have yelled) I explain that he knows what the key looks like and he should have checked it himself. I suggest he call the real estate broker who has a duplicate copy.

1.55 pm--I call the Diplomat to see whether he got hold of the key. He informs me that he had just dropped the car keys in the drain in front of the building, and no, he has not heard from the broker yet. I hang up, making firm plans to move to live in a cave in the woods, far from the world.

Son wakes up after only one hour of sleep. I am starting to pack for the cave. Son, however, is in a stupendous mood and runs around in circles, stopping to kiss me now and then. Life suddenly turns fantastic. Son remains in great mood for the remainder of the day and I forget every single little thing that had happened today. And for the millionth time I realize--having children might be the most maddening, difficult and frustrating thing in the world but it takes one little, crooked smile on their face and that same world somehow all of a sudden just brightens up!

I am ready for tomorrow!

PS--in case you wonder, the Diplomat fished out the car keys with a wire hanger and the broker showed up with the key.

Friday, August 27, 2010

We are going to Dhaka!!

Well, folks, it is official--we attended the infamous Flag Day today at the Foreign Service Institute. A fabulous ceremony if there ever was one--rarely has a place been packed with so much tension and neurotic laughter, while the Fledgling Diplomats and their enthusiastic spouses were awaiting to hear where they will be sent to serve.
Do you know where Dhaka is? It's in Bangladesh and that is precisely where we will be going next June so that the Diplomat can be a consular officer for the following two years. I cannot say anything about it yet because I don't know much about it. Do you?? I will, however, be studying Bengali soon. How ironic (if you look at my post from yesterday...). I suspect I need to equip myself with boots. I believe though, now that I am finally writing this "out loud" and the adrenalin from the day is subsiding, that I am getting quite excited. I will tell you all about Flag Day tomorrow--it's a neat event.

In another piece of great news, after a couple of interviews today, I got a temp job, which will hopefully keep me occupied before we go to "the Desh" as it is apparently very fashionable to call it these days.
Now, I am going to retire with a large martini after this major roller coaster of a day and contemplate life in SE Asia.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shoveling gravel and biting girls

You don't know what physical labor is until you shovel some gravel under the hot sun. I know. I did some serious shoveling today. Then I used a sledge hammer to hammer some stakes in the ground. I love Habitat for Humanity. Especially since two fascinated male youths (about 20 years old each) stood there, staring and gawking for over half an hour next to me while I was shoveling the gravel for deserving, low-income families. I admit that at some point I had a strong urge to go and smack one of them on the behind with the shovel. Instead, I rather tersely asked them to move. They left, shaking their heads in disbelief. Later in the day, it took 5 of us to construct a square from four long 2-by-4 pieces of lumber. Let me give you a hint--it would take one person 10 mins to do the same. It took us 15 mins, but the sense of camaraderie that exercise fostered? Priceless!

Life has been pretty monotonous here in Arlington, VA. Of course, things are about to be seriously shaken up by Flag Day tomorrow--stay tuned to learn where we will be posted! Last night I went out with fellow spouses of Fledgling Diplomats. We had quite the blast and spent the night discussing the ends of our own careers, rearing many children to come and the life-long benefits of learning Bengali.

In other news, Son has bitten a girl in daycare. This is a problem. Even though he does it as a gesture of ultimate affection (I think he considers it a kiss...). So, we spent the evening repeating--"Biting-bad! Biting--bad!," at which point Fat Cat rolled its eyes and went to fume on the balcony. Fat Cat does NOT think that biting is bad. I have the marks to prove it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Petting lambs and playing Taboo

Another wild weekend in Arlington, VA is over. In just two short days we managed to squeeze in pool, geese, BBQ, camels, groceries, several particularly involved tantrums, two thrift stores, feeding lambs from a milk bottle, two study group sessions, four fried catfish, friends, friends and more friends and a feisty game of Taboo! Phew, thank God it's Monday :).

On Saturday, our good Italian partners in crime M&M and their son E came for a night of BBQ and some pool time. Son tossed an irritating amount of his cars in the swimming pool, which meant that the Diplomat had to keep undressing and go into the somewhat chilly water to retrieve them. He still managed to tend to the grill in the meantime, for which we are eternally grateful. We finished the night with an awesome game of Taboo--the Diplomat did fairly well but I am a bit disappointed that he did not guess who I meant when I said "...naked on a cold day!" Do YOU know who I mean???

Sunday found us wondering what to do with ourselves when I had the brilliant idea to find a petting zoo for Son. After 3 mins of thorough Internet research, we found the Reston Zoo, advertised as a "wild animal zoo." Hoping for some serious lion chasing, we called our new friends from the FSO (we'll just call them the Hawaiians) and their two adorable kids.. Well, there were no lions, but the kids spent a blissful one hour feeding lambs and goats and all kinds of other bleeting critters that I am unfamiliar with. I fed a few lambs myself until one big goat mama tried to nibble on my skirt at which point I called it quits. The Hawaiians' little girl was gracious enough to help out with Son--she carefully held his hand and gently but firmly guided him in the right direction at the farm. Thank you! Among the sheep and bulls and pigs and similar kinds of typical farm cattle we also saw, somewhat surprised, two zebras (one of which thinks she is a goat) and two camels. I suppose that was the "wild" part of the zoo. They did not allow us to pet them, which gravely disappointed me.

This week is marked by one VERY key event: on Friday, we hear where the good ol' State Department has decided that it wants us to spend the next 2 years of our lives. Stay tuned....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Habitat for Humanity and the Retreat

The Diplomat went to a class overnight retreat this morning--the Fledgling Diplomats are having a sleepover in a place mysteriously called "The Woods." I wonder if it is in the woods? I am not sure what they are doing there, but I know for sure that there are Follies and a great bar (the Diplomat just called me from a basketball court (???) to tell me that "the party is just staring!)" So, if any of you ever wondered how diplomats get prepared for their crucially important careers, it is through Follies and overnight partying in the woods. Shocking.
I am not sure I have mentioned this, but the Fledgling Diplomats have happy hours almost every night. Thusly, I have taken a semi-offended stance on the subject and have started organizing the spouses and partners languishing in Washington, DC for a happy hour next week. We also need to prepare for our careers in the Foreign Service, you know.
Today I went for a day of volunteering at Habitat for Humanity in NE Washington. The day could not have started worse, really. I knew that traffic would be horrendous, so to make it there by 8 am, I wanted to start as early as possible. Then the Diplomat tells me he cannot take Son to daycare because the Magical Mystery Tour bus to the Woods leaves super early in the morning. He leaves after waking me up 46 times to ask me various inane questions regarding the location of his socks, and similar personal effects or to bang pots and pans and coffee mugs in the kitchen and I am pretty sure there was a bull there this morning that went through my formal china at some point. He finally leaves and 6 mins later my alarm goess off. Cranky as hell, I get up and try to print the Liability Release form for Habitat. Naturally, my printer would not print. No clue why. Just because.
Then I wake up Son, who is very excited to see me and his numerous cars. The problem is, he is unwilling to part with them in order to get dressed. He proceeds to have a tantrum and in the process butts me with his head on the right temple. I think I might have passed out for a sec. Dressed one way or the other, we run out of the door. The stroller is in the car so I am carrying him in my arms during the elevator ride to the garage. Once there, I cannot find my car. I run up and down the stuffy, humid underground passages, dressed in long jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt (rather than a barely there minidress, which is what I usually wear in hot DC), because of my Habitat work. 15 mins later, I realize that the Diplomat had taken the car out for an errand the previous night and did not tell me where he parked it. I make several frantic calls and finally an audibly excited voice informs me that he is already on the Party Bus and the car is 35 levels or so further down in the garage. Hurling copious amounts of profanities in his direction and teaching Son to say, "Daddy is bad," I find the wretched vehicle and swimming in sweat, drive off to the daycare. I dash inside to leave Son, only to be stopped by the flegmatic guard at the door who demands to see an ID. With blood-shot eyes, I run back into the car, bring the blasted ID and burst into the classroom 20 mins later than I had intended. Son decides that I am leaving him forever, so he clutches at me with every fiber of his body. The daycare lady unglues him from me and I leave over his screams for dear life. Wow. With a morose expression, I drive off to serve the public.
Now, Son is in bed, and I have some nice, quiet time. I need it. Goodnight, Ballston.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The UAB is here!

I am happy to report that the precious 600 lbs of craptastic domestic goods I was so eagerly expecting is finally here. It took ONLY 2.5 weeks to get it from NYC to Arlington, VA. I suspect they were pushing it along the highway on tiny trolleys. All seems to be well, except for one box whether a massive bag of powdered sugar had spilled, along with a box of Splenda (it is almost as if the two sugars were trying to outdo each other). Now, 1/3 of my possessions are covered with a fine film of sweet white dust. Fat Cat is beyond himself with excitement--he has spent the day wallowing and darting through the massive heaps of discarded brown packing paper.

To understand how the whole Foreign Service packing process works, I am going to share with you what fellow FSO wife wrote to me today: "Well the UAB is here, and even though the invoice said 5 boxes, and there were indeed 5 boxes, we are missing some of my shoes and our fan. Thank God they packed a trash can with trash included, I am sure we would have missed that very much." Yes, we FSO wives are a funny lot.

The bid list is ready and is a mixed bag of posts whose name no one has ever heard of and exotic locations that sound very cool on paper but apparently endure 6 months of nonstop rain or blistering heat. Either way, fun will be had. By some. We will know the results on August 27th.

Son has calmed down considerably. Drop off at daycare was quite good today and he threw only one notable tantrum the entire evening. He did proceed to eat a dinner of Wheat Thins (courtesy of the great parenting skills of the Diplomat) only. I can't blame him--only three nights ago I did precisely the same, with the added bonus of ginger ale. These things are viciously addictive.

In other rather underwhelming news, I have a work interview tomorrow for a legal temp agency. I realized that while I had packed in my limited allowance very useful clothes like my skiing jacket and a neat selection of flip-flops, I had forgotten to pack any work suits. So, at 5 pm today I made a mad dash for Macy's across the street--Macy's has everything and I always find what I need there. Until now, in NYC, at 34th street. Not in Ballston, VA. Here I found a startling selection of brown pant suits with red floral jackets, starting at size 14w, along with a series of austere black suits in petite, starting at size 18. At the verge of a nervoius breakdown, I found a lonely Calvin Klein suit rack, where I managed to get a skirt in my size, but the smallest jacket was two sizes larger. Due to is impeccable tailoring, however, and out of sheer desperation, I bought it only to be informed by the sullen, indifferent sales person that the suit goes on sale tomorrow at noon. My interview is at 11 am. I did ask if I can get the discount if I show up then(some stores have that policy), but she looked at me as if I had bunnies jumping out of my hair and gave me a firm and disgusted "No." So, at any rate, cross your fingers. For the interview, not the discount. Well, for the discount too, I guess!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Snuggly for Dogs

I thought I had seen it all. And I have seen some preeeeetttty weirdo things out there. Well, folks, today I went to a pet store to get food for Fat Cat and I saw a "Snuggly for Dogs--keeps you warm while your paws are free!" Well. Apparently someone out there thought that a dog might need this. Amazing.

I am excited because tomorrow the Diplomat and I are meeting with his Career Development Officer to discuss the bid list. This is particularly exciting because I get to walk on the FSI campus and breathe the diplomatic air once again. The brain power that infuses that air is almost like the extra oxygen that they pump in the casinos in las Vegas to keep you happy and awake longer. I feel much smarter through osmosis. I should go there more often.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bidding, going back to NYC and an abstract painting

I have spent the past few days locked in the Foreign Service Institute, watching videos from various posts to help us with the decision. Sadly, most videos are made by kids. Yup, kids. Apparently, there is some program within the FS to have FS kids make videos of their lives, and management has deemed those representative enough so that it now offers them to budding and bidding diplomats deciding on their preferences. After watching a particularly painful, jumpy video of a little girl's yard and front steps in Somewheristan for over 10 minutes, I had to stop--I actually got motion sickness from the constant chaotic movement of the camera. If the little girl is reading this blog...sorry :(. Guess which was the best video, done professionally--yes, the Chinese one. It was superb and made me want to run to the airport, throw my bags on the plane and beg to be flown to Beijing this very moment.

On the home front: I had to go back to NYC this past weekend as I decided that we do not have enough crappola to live with so far. Our 600 lbs shipment of spices, cookbooks and evening gowns has not yet arrived and I plan to entertain this weekend. That will be interesting...

On the way to NY, it took me 7 hours of mind-blowing traffic to get home (NYC home). Since I left the boys at home (DC home), I decided to crack the top of the covertible open on the way up there, and look supercool for a change (despite the huge carseat in the back). As you can imagine, that was a particularly stupid move given that the sun was blazing and the temp was over 90. While I was in motion, given the speed, my face and arms went numb from the windtunnel. While I was stuck in traffic, the sun painfully scorched my limbs. I am currently sporting a a very attractive white strip across my chest left from the seat-belt. Being cool comes at a price.
Horrified by the traffic, I decided to leave early on Sunday to drive back to DC. On my way down, I stopped at a food plaza and, OMG, I saw the group from the Jersey Shore (not that I have watched that intellectually stimulating programming, but I have seen enough of them in the tabloids, which I read religiously)! Whoa! Wait, no! It's not them, it's a bunch of kids from NJ going to the shore. Then I turned around and saw another group, JUST LIKE THEM. And another, and another. So, it turns out that people like that DO exist in NJ in real life. Who knew...
I made it back to DC in record 4 hours. I was slowed down momentarily by a huge minivan full of animated Indian aunties who had hogged the left lane on I-95, driving 60 m/h (good for them!), and would not budge to my honking and flashing of lights. When exasperated I finally took them over on the right, they all yelled and gesticulated madly at me with what I gather were not especially kind words. I waved back pleasantly. That drove them into a fury. I sped on happily.
Son has been moved into the toddlers-over-2 room at daycare--I believe he is happier there than he was in his previous room with the smaller kiddos. He is being very clingy when I drop him off and refuses to let me go. I am puzzled by this since he loved his previous daycare and didn't give a flying fig about my presence there. Even though I love the daycare facility and the women who work there, I must say that I see the difference between his previous place, which was a Montessori school and here. In the school, they actually taught them things; here, it seems they just get to play a lot. I did burst with pride yesterday though--as I entered his room, I noticed a big easel with a huge yellow abstract painting, the type that made Picasso famous. It had Son's name on it. My pride subsided somewhat whe I saw that part of the abstract painting had found its way also on Son's shirt and pants and shoes. Oh well, sacrifices in the name of art!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spouse Day and Security Clearance

I can tell you that the most often heard expression in my life these days is "security clearance." Everyone keeps talking about it. Everywhere. I almost asked the cleaning lady today--Do you have security clearance? (Btw, I am sure she does...). A good friend of mine with whom I had drinks last night was telling me about the new love interest in her life--without thinking, I blurted out, "oh, does he have security clearance?" to which, without batting an eyelash, she responded immediately, "yes"! Welcome to DC.
Life in the fast lane of the Foreign Service has been interesting. On Wednesday, I attended an overly informative Spouse Orientation Day. Every hour or so, a new group of excited, enthusiastic and dedicated folks would drop by the classroom filled with confused wives and three husbands, and happily inundate us with huge amounts of info, sprinkled by many six-letter acronyms. By the end of the day, we were all so lost in the myriad of health, security (!), child care and family assistance information, that we would have gladly taken a post in Burundi immediately just to get away from that room.
As a reward, that same afternoon, the Fledgling Diplomats were given the "BID LIST." For those uninitiated folks who don't know what that is--it is the list of posts available to a class of foreign service officers, and they get to rank/bid on each post depending on their country preferences. Now, don't get the silly idea that the list has Paris or Rome or London on it. No, no. The Fledgling Diplomats can choose among exotic locations like Bujumbura, Abijan, Ho Chi Min or Hermosillo, MX among others. The crazy part is--we LOVE it! So, we have 2 weeks to rank preferences for our first post, and we find out about what we picked out of the diplomatic hat on August 26th. Cross your fingers for Burundi! Yes, I was kidding on that last one.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Children in Bars or how we got thrown out of a bar

And a hearty Virginia hello to you all! We have safely landed in Arlington and have slowly settled in our fabulous corporate housing. Ok, I lied about the fabulosity of it all. It is not bad. It is, however, all white and that is starting to grate on me just a tad—the walls are white, the towels are white, the bed linen is white, the lamps, the tiles, the bathrooms, the floors—yup, all white. That much white gets depressing after a while. Thankfully, Son has already spread all of his cars all over the place (and tossed some out of the terrace for good measure), I have my innumerable boxes and little boxes and tiny little boxes all over the bedrooms and the walk-in (!!) closets, and the Diplomat has continued to be his (dubisouly) wonderful messy self, so the place is starting to look more like a human habitat and less like a hospital bathroom.
Yesterday, the Diplomat had his first day at the Foreign Service Institute and Son –his first day at the FSI daycare. Both had excellent time. OK, I lied again. The Diplomat spent the day from one bureaucratic line into another getting his ID and whatnot fabulous FS paraphernalia. Son spent the day running all over the daycare facility yelling happily from the top of his lungs and flirting with everything female dressed in pink. The daycare is huge, brand new, bright and wonderful. I am in love with it.
Today, the Diplomat took us to a happy hour in Continental, a local bar to hang out with his fancy new friends, the Fledgling Diplomats. Upon entering the bar, I was apprehended by a stern, pumped-up guy who told me severely, “M’am, children are NOT allowed here but since he is so little, I will allow it!” I said, “Yes, Sir, thank you, Sir” with as much gravity as I could muster. Then I promised him that Son won’t be doing any drinking. Two minutes later the stern guardian of the bar came to me to remind me “to watch the child,” to which I, perhaps somewhat tersely, retorted that I AM in fact watching the child. Mercifully, the Diplomat then approached with two beers. A sip later, the child police embodied by the stern doorman came back to me to inform me succinctly, “He has to go!” and then murmured something about his ass being chewed by management but I must say, his ass seemed fairly healthy to me. Trying to be sarcastic, I haughtily said to Son, “You must go!” I am fairly certain that my refined sense of humor was lost on this pillar of the bar security. We left. Which brings me to my often-debated question—should we bring toddlers in bars? How about they make bars with playgrounds?? Ah? Not a bad idea, no?? I thought so. I will propose it to the Continental.