Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The News From Arlington

And so, it has been a good 20 days since I last wrote and SO MUCH vastly unimportant things have happened since then. Among the leading news in our thrilling lives here.
  1. Fat Cat’s litter, located in the guest’s bathroom (which also doubles as Son’s bathroom) stinks. Not sure why. I could swear it did not do that before we moved in back to the U.S. when we ‘d clean it, like, once a week give or take (on a good week). Now I clean it every second day. WHAT?? Yup. I am on a mission to de-stink it. I went on and found these carbon sheets that everyone swears by. The online recommenders even said to buy many since they can’t find them anywhere and the Amazon runs out. Nothing. Then I got this contraption that attaches on the box. People said it will change my life. It hasn’t. It is just one more thing to watch out for when cleaning. Then I bought a spray deodorizes that boasted that I won’t even notice that I have multiple cats in the house after 2 sprays. It is true, I do not notice such a things as I do not, in fact, have multiple cats. I do have one with very stinky output apparently, and now the cumulative result is the smell of pee mixed with deodorant. Then I bought different sand, something natural, made of something that looks like wood peat. It claimed super natural results. It did not lie – now my bathroom smells of perfectly natural peat, cat pee and odor eliminator. I gave up.
  2. The Diplomat suffered a couple of insignificant injuries while playing tennis, largely gave up the sport, then bought a cardigan and began playing golf all the time. I am considering giving him orthopedic shoes for Christmas and putting down money for a place for him in a decent retirement home for next year.
  3. We had our first parent-teacher conference earlier this month. It was so rewarding – nothing better than learning how amazing and unique your child is, how gifted, pleasant and intelligent he is. And that he was told not to kiss the girls in class. Um, say what now? So then the teacher told us that Son was caught kissing in class but they talked about it and she thought it would be OK. Then, in the uncomfortable silence that followed, the Diplomat all of a sudden chimed in, “Well, he just spent two years in a French school, so….” I guess the implication there was that Son’s past in the French pre-school was full of depravity and early-childhood kissing practice, freely condoned by his debauchee, free-spirited French teachers. Awkward…
  4. I think I am getting old. I went to get my manicure done tonight, and for 45 minutes listened to two recent college grads, having the following conversation: “And so, like, I think Jason is, like, coming to the party on Friday!!!” “Omg, that would be so funny, like.” “Yeah, I know.” (unclear why that would be funny). “Wow, this color is like amazing on you!” (It was not.) “Yeah, it’s so funny.” (not sure what was). “So, like, Jennifer said you should come, like, dressed as a cat.” “Oh, that’s so funny.” (ok, maybe this time I can see how it could be). “So, like, you and Frank, are like, super good friends now, like, went from zero to 50.” “Yeah.” “That’s funny.” (nope, just nonsensical ). And so on, and on and on, with the likes and the funnies. Like, OMG! You know? Lol. The whole conversation made no sense to me at all.
  5. I am so tired of all the Tablet and kindle readers ads on TV! For the love of humanity, how many different types of tables do we need??? Does anyone even remember the world before tablets? We lived, right? I distinctly remember living. Yup. Sheesh! And no, I don’t have a tablet. Ok, I have an iPad, but the Diplomat bought it and is ancient!
  6. I miss not having voicemail on my phone. That way, people could not leave me long, complicated messages that inevitably end up asking me to do something I don’t want to do and make me feel obliged to call back. Outside of the U.S., people would just send you a brief text which goes straight to the point and which I can see instantly in order to decide better whether to ignore or to respond.
  7. I love Portuguese. After just 7 weeks I tested at a 2/2 level, which was the level I achieved after 6 MONTHS of Bengali. It makes you feel good….
  8. It seems that Brazilian swimsuits are microscopic and I would be ill-advised to wear something different on the beaches of Rio. Which is a problem since I distinctly am unable to lose weight or to look even remotely ready for a Rio beach. I am also finding it impossible to exist on apples and cabbage, as I resolutely promise myself every morning. Today, in fact, I actually ate an ENTIRE bagel with cream cheese (gasp!!!). The worst part is that I did not pack my worst enemy – the scales – in my luggage and now I have no idea what is happening in the weight area. My pants still fit though so that's comforting.

Halloween is coming up. I strongly believe that given the nature of the holiday, the costumes should be scary and theme-appropriate. Son will be a ghost, I am a dead woman walking from her grave and the diplomat will be that guy in the orange suit from Yo Gabba Gabba, DJ Lance Rock. I asked him to find himself a scary suit and that is what he came up with. I guess I see his point. Let’s see what the kids think on Halloween. Muahahahahahahahahahaha!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Public Schools and The Working Parents

Well, I had the best intentions to begin writing much more regularly once I was back in Washington, DC and life became boring again. Alas, my relationship with the Portuguese language has proven to be much more time-consuming than I suspected. Plus, I began to cook more. And to clean and do laundry. And shop for groceries. And run dishwashers. And work out. And do all those mundane normal things people in America do. I can tell you this – I miss my life in Dhaka. I continue to plot my triumphant return.
Amongst my first interesting experiences here has been the enrollment of Son in public school. Neither I nor the Diplomat were raised in the United State and thus, we were woefully unaware of the way the system worked. As you would graciously recall, we landed in Arlington the day before school started in Virginia, both for us and for Son. We registered him for school on the first day of class. While we sat there, feeling like the most awful parents who could not find enough time in their lives to register their poor child in kindergarten in advance (like, I imagined, all decent parents would do), another couple came in and did just the same. I brightened up and immediately befriended them. Turned out, there were also a Foreign Service couple. I suppose last minute school registration goes with the territory.
The next day, while dropping Son at school, I noticed other parents who were walking around with thick yellow manila envelopes, which looked important. I timidly asked what that was. The school administrator was NOT amused. Apparently, there had been an orientation night and APPARENTLY (I swear, she capitalized the words as she spoke!) we had not attended. Totally crushed, I admitted as much. She took pity on me and bestowed upon me one fat, yellow envelope. I rejoiced and ran home to read it only to become even more terrified. It was SO. MUCH.INFORMATION! I had to fill out about 47 different emergency contact forms, various releases, activity sheets and promises for good conduct. Then there was the awe-instilling PTA – the parent-teacher association for those of you NOT in the know. I am still unsure what exactly they do but it seems pivotal. I immediately began desiring to be part of it but the Diplomat poured cold water over my earnest eagerness by pointing out that Son will be leaving the school in 6 months so there was really no point to go crazy. I was sad. I had so wanted to be on the PTA.
Then, a few days later, Son brought home the school calendar. While tearfully going through it (I was cutting onions and NOT crying because my baby was now in real school), I noticed things like, “Teacher planning day, school closed,” "parent-teacher conferences, school closed,” "Wednesday before Thanksgiving, SCHOOL CLOSED???," and finally – practically 2 weeks around Christmas “school closed.” Wow, um, wait, what now? Surely this is a cruel mistake. How about parents who work? What are we supposed to do with our kids on those days? Bring them to work? Tie them to a kitchen leg at home, with snacks around and hope for the best until we come back from work?
Not to worry, said the school – we got it covered (well, mostly). We will have alternative arrangements on those days. Phew, I said and relaxed. They WERE great alternatives – days with art workshops, soccer, theater, dance. Amazing – unicorns and rainbows, right? Not so much – apparently, the alternatives cost about $65 a day. Or more. If you want them, of course. Otherwise, you can always go back to the tying-your-kid-to-the-kitchen-table-leg plan. I politely asked Son’s teacher what other parents do and she suggested that he spend some time with extended family members (grandparents, she clarified lest I thought she meant a remote, old, batty, crazy aunt). Clearly, not practical for us. Good talk. Sadly, we are not allowed to take any leave during language training or we lose the per diem. So, YMCA, here we come.

Which naturally makes me wonder - just what, exactly, does our country imagine we should be doing with our children in such times. Let's say, for argument's sake, that families with 2 working parents have the option of one parent taking a vacation and not working in order to care for the child during the winter break. Then how about single parents on a small income? Are they supposed to be able to afford the $55 (at a minimum!) a day camp for a fortnight? It just makes you wonder...Where's the village when you need one.

Other than that, Son has been ecstatic at school and says that he has many friends, even though he can’t remember the names of anyone save for this one kid and I suspect that even that name is invented since Son seems irritated at me for asking for names on a daily basis.

In other news, our government shut down today. Good times.