Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sanity Saturday

Is it really considered sanity to bring four children to the National Mall along with about 250,000 other people? There was a moment of regret when we arrived at the Metro station and I was caught in a crush of people while desperately holding onto my three youngest kids, but there was much camaraderie on the train and everyone was very calm and sane.  We all ended up having a great time.  We did have to duck into the Air and Space Museum for a while because my youngest three got a little freaked out by everyone taking pictures of their shirts.  Even Grace had grown weary of the "paparazzi", although she was in heaven at first and did quite a bit of posing. The museum was a welcome break.  It was nearly empty inside and the kids were able to relax a bit and have some lunch in the food court before we re-entered the fray. 

The line to buy tickets at the Vienna metro station
This is just the stream of people coming out of the metro stations.

What the...!  How did this picture of my dusty but super cute new boots get in here?

Can you see us?  Over there, on the left?  Behind those people with the signs?

"Mommy, what's a mustache ride?"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It Depends

I finally got a chance to attend a Foreign Service Spouse Orientation today, since I missed the one they had during Mitch's training due to life/kids/temporary-ish insanity.  First of all, I thought I was fairly dressed up.  And I would have been if I'd been in Seattle.   Nice jeans instead of sweatpants, cute red shoes, black shirt, stylish little jacket.  I was the only one in jeans, and most spouses were wearing suits.  Ugh. I sat in the back.  I felt like it was my first day in a new school and I was wearing headgear and last year's gauchos.

The orientation was from 8am to 4:15, so Mitch was nice enough to stay home and see the kids off to school so I could get there on time.  There was plenty of valuable information and a question answering session.  Most of the answers started with, "It depends."  So, basically, any question you might have about the Foreign Service can be answered that way, and it's a good thing I figured that out, because at 11am my cell phone started angrily vibrating in my pocket.  It was the elementary school calling to tell me that Grace was in the nurse's office with stomach pain.  I rushed to the school to get her, and she said she felt much better by the time we got home.  She said that she was worried about me being gone all day, and her tummy started hurting because she didn't think I'd be available to her.  Ironically, one of the parts of the orientation that I missed dealt with kids in transition and starting new schools.  

In other news, Mitch is headed to Nigeria in a few weeks for his first TDY (temporary duty).  What awesome gift will he bring me back for my birthday next month?  "It depends."  Of course.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Shot in the Arm

Up until last week I wasn't having too much fun here.  I'm still working on trying to unpack the house, but not really feeling inspired by the white walls and not being able to change anything because it's a rental, and because I know we won't be here very long. On Thursday I was lucky enough to get to chaperone Henry's fourth grade field trip to the Kennedy Center to see the National Symphony perform Beethoven.  It was a beautiful day and the music was amazing. The conductor was funny and engaging and had thousands of fourth graders singing "Ode to Joy" at the end (I'm not the only mom who got teary-eyed, either).  It was exactly what I needed to get me out of this slump.  Since moving east, our kids have been able to experience so much that they never could have living on Whidbey Island.  Not that living there wasn't a wonderful experience, too, but we'd pretty much milked all we could out of it.

Rectal Escape Kit

Yesterday we took the Metro in to DC to go the Spy Museum, which everyone seemed to enjoy.  Most memorable to the kids was the Rectal Escape Kit, which is exactly what it sounds like.  They also enjoyed the dog poop transmitter. Maturity has never been a strong suit in our family.

 After the Spy Museum we grabbed a bite to eat.  My budding food critic ordered lobster macaroni and cheese, which really should have come with a defibrillator.  I had one bite and my ass grew two sizes.

We felt the need to do a little walking after the heavy lunch, so we went across the street to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which was by far my favorite part of the day.  When we got home, the girls were inspired to get out their paints and paint portraits for the rest of the weekend.  Jack was inspired to go back to bed for about 18 hours, and Henry was inspired to make a list of things he thought would be important to have in a Rectal Escape Kit. 

Chuck Close's portrait of Bill Clinton


The kids were excited that they recognized a few
famous paintings.

There was a kids' craft area in the beautiful atrium and the girls made hats and a headband while
 Henry scoped out the naked lady sculptures with Mitch upstairs.

Jack's reaction to finding out that the Stephen Colbert portrait was no longer there,
 combined with eating a giant plate of fried shrimp at lunch.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where I am now

This is the rental house we are in for the time being here in Virginia.  We love that we can walk to the metro, the schools are fantastic, it has central air, a huge fenced yard, and a pink oven (maybe you've heard me mention that once or twice already, whatevs).  It is so weird to be in a rental and not have the desire to rip things up and remodel the way we are used to.  Well, we have the desire to, because it really needs some work, but instead we can spend our weekends exploring DC and doing fun stuff with the kids, so yay for that!  The house has a lot of things we don't like (nodishwasher), but we are not focusing on that today, my friends.

I was going to wait until the house was organized and cute, but that's obviously never gonna happen, so here it is.  Welcome!

The backyard.  I stepped on a chestnut shell in my bare feet the day after we moved in when I was running after the dog.  I've been picking prickles out of my foot ever since.
The living room.  Where we do some living.
Up the stairs are three of the bedrooms and one of the two (sob) bathrooms we share.  Here's the girls' room.  Strictly temporary-they didn't want me to put up their canopies or hang their flowery chandelier, because they said it was babyish (sob), so we're going to make it cool as soon as we get a minute.

The master bedroom, which is exactly the size of our master bath in the last house.  There's only room for one adult to be standing at any given time.  So, yeah.

Henry's room.  Take note of the ever-present barf bowl under the bed.  All the kids have them.  It's called efficiencey.  Don't be jealous of us.

The house is a four-level split.  Here is Jack's cave, way down in the lower basement.  The laundry, storage, workshop, and extra closets are also down there.
This is the upper level of the basement.  That door leads out to the carport.  This is the biggest art room we've had yet and the kids trash it every day with glue, paint, stickers, markers, etc.  But no glitter, dammit. Also, take note of the faux stone panels that grace each of the walls in this room.  My architect husband grimaces every time he walks by them.

This is my little corner.  See all the papers I have yet to sort through and file on the drafting table to the left?

The TV room is behind the shelves.  Jack just walked in the house from school and said, "every time I get home from school you have some bad 80s movie on!" Guess what it was today?  And yes, that is a bloody leg stump hanging out of my beloved whale's mouth.  It's a Halloween decoration, along with the piles and piles of skulls and gravestones littering every surface. ' Less is more' means nothing to my kids when it comes to decorating.  Take no notice of the piles of crap everywhere I have yet to find a place for.  Ugh.

And last but not least, we have the pink kitchen and dining room. 
Fresh out of the oven, birthday pie for my better half.  Dang, he's old.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Well. Things have generally gotten better around here. The stinkbugs are slowly disappearing and my migraine finally went away after four days and as many injections of Immitrex. I'm on a wine and cheese free diet for awhile until I'm sure it's gone or we get confirmation of our health insurance, whichever comes first. We did a budget to figure out how much suffering we'll be doing working for the government and it turns out it won't hurt that much after all. Except for the lack of a dishwasher. That hurts plenty. But I'll still be able to get a pair of shoes now and again, and I think I will likely need special shoes for handwashing dishes in. Like a cute apple green flat to complement the pink kitchen. Or something. I uh, really haven't given it much thought.

I started my new job as library volunteer at the kids' elementary school today. I love it. Shelving books appeals to my sense of order and hanging with kids and helping them find good books to read is a blast. The library is huge and beautiful and crammed with books. It's open all day and kids in the upper grades are allowed to pop in anytime to get new books, as often as they like. There is a fair amount of squatting to put the books on the lower shelves, which kills my crap knee, but it's not too bad. The only thing I would change for next time is I probably won't wear low-rise jeans.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And another thing, what's with all the stink bugs?

Been doing a little decorating.  How do you like my new wallpaper?  If I could just get a cleaner to come clean up some of the language on here, things would really be looking sharp.  Other than getting some $7/gallon milk and picking up my kids from school yesterday after their bus was 45 minutes late (and no, the school didn't call me, I had to call them to find out where my kids were), I haven't left the house for five days.  My instinct is to whine about how I've been sick and had a two day migraine and the dog digs in the mud every day and gets it all over the house and blahblahblah, but I'm going to take the high road and keep my complaints to myself.  You're welcome.

We've been having sort of a "what have we done?" week.  We just found out we have no health insurance, although the paperwork was submitted weeks ago and we were assured it was a done deal.  I've told the kids they are not to leave the house and especially to stop climbing the trees until this gets sorted out.  Since Grace gets stuck and needs help out of the tree as soon as she's 10 inches off the ground, everybody wins with this policy.  Also, the pay cut plus the cost of living here are starting to sting, just as the bills are starting to roll in from all the Rewarding Ourselves For Making it Through this Transition.  I have no idea what the new hires do that don't have any savings, because reimbursements take a looooooooooong time.  And did I mention that my kitchen doesn't have a dishwasher?  It doesn't.  Oops, now see what you made me do?  So much for the high road.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Un-pumpkin patch

We have a tradition every year of going to pick out our pumpkins from a real farm (and usually, the pumpkins are covered in mud, considering we've lived in the Pacific NW all our lives).  So, we asked around and consulted Google, and decided on Cox Farms, not too far from our house (really, the name had nothing to do with it!).  Jack had homework, and by homework, I mean he was too cool to go to a pumpkin patch with the hideous creatures known as his family.  And so, we set out on a bazillion degree day.  Seriously, it was in the 90s, which has traditionally not been part of our pumpking picking experience, but hey, no mud!

There was a line of cars about 2 miles long to get in, but we finally were able to park and pay our $15 per person (including pumpkin!).  Only.  There was no pumpkin patch.  Just a bunch of bins from which to pick out a small pumpkin on your way out.  We quickly realized we were at more of an amusement park than a pumpking patch.  There were many, many slides with long lines of hot, sweaty kids.  A bumpy hayride (by far my kids' favorite thing), baby pigs, goats, turkeys, chickens, and cows.  And a pretty terrible live band.  I think the kids had a fairly good time, and we're getting so used to not having our traditions 'just so' with this new lifestyle, we were fine with it.  Mitch was able to buy a giant pumpkin on the way out.  I picked out some butternut squash instead of a little pumpkin, to make squash risotto. Or soup.  Or maybe, so I can forget about it and throw it out next month.  Whatever.

Mitch refused to take my picture under this sign. 

Practicing milking a fake cow, although they soon were squirting each other in the face with the udders.

One of the many slides around the farm

You can buy a cone full of goat food to feed the goats with.  Genius!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Stuff and things

Mitch was originally assigned to the European Bureau at the Overseas Building Operations (woohoo!), but this week he found out it was actually the African Bureau.  Um.  It's hot there, and I know I won't be able to wear any of my boots.  Of course, he assures me that nothing is set in stone, but I know he's doing mental cartwheels ever since he found out.  His loved his time in Swaziland when he was in the Peace Corps, so yay for him, I guess.  Maybe there won't be any deer!  Or mosquitos. Or other bugs. 

The kids are doing okay in school.  So far, Jack has adjusted the easiest.  It's like he was made for a school with 2000 kids.  He's making friends, caught up on the work he's missed, and doing well in his classes.  He actually enjoys his AP classes and was surprised  to see that kids here take part in discussions rather than playing on their cell phones.  Henry was having a really hard time adjusting to the homework and grading system, but he's starting to get the hang of it.  He's making friends and one kid lives on our block, so he's pretty happy with the social scene.

My girls are struggling with their separation.  They've been having the most trouble coping in class when there is any kind of conflict and they don't have each other to lean on.  Grace burst into tears three times last week for no aparent reason during school.  Olivia keeps it together during school, but cries in the morning because she doesn't want to leave Grace, even though she may have just punched her minutes before.  In the past, Olivia has always refused to dress like twins with Grace, going so far as changing her clothes if Grace puts on anything remotely matchy to her.  But!  School picture day was this week and they came downstairs dressed like this:

However, this morning they were back to being dressed like their usual selves:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh, deer.

On my old blog, I remember constantly complaining about the deer eating all my hard work in the gardens. It is one thing I do NOT miss about living in the country, and now that we're in metropolitan Virginia, I have plans for a raised-bed vegetable and cutting garden this summer, with no fear of meddlesome deer.  The girls are missing the garden, too.  Olivia came home from school with a picture she drew of herself surrounded by flowers, with the caption "I miss playing in my mommy's butiful flower gardins" and the little curly-haired girl even had a frowny face (lumpinthroat).  So, gardening with the kids will continue when the warm weather rolls around again, and this time it will be worry free, I can plant any flowers I want without the threat of deer, so yay!

Meanwhile, I have to get back to unpacking.  The movers bitched and moaned and bitched and moaned about all our boxes of books (and we got rid of half of them before this move), and I can kind of see their point, because I feel like I will never be done unpacking them.  One mover even said, "Books will be obsolete in a few years, and are we professors or something?  Who needs all those books?"  Well, obviously not you  (I didn't say).  So, yesterday I go over to the pile of books and what do you think I saw looking in the window at me? 

Go on, guess!

It's funny!  Not funny strange, but haha funny.

Well hey there,  to you and your two pals, madame:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Swearing and swearing in

Well, all our stuff was finally delivered on Wednesday.  The move went okay.  Lots of broken stuff, which I have to try to figure out how to claim, but we're in the house and navigating the mazes of boxes pretty well.  I am currently sitting in Starbucks, because although I set up Verizon (ihateyouverizon) THREE weeks ago, there is still no internet, phone, or tv.  But there has been plenty of swearing, probably loud enough for the church goers next door to hear.  Yesterday, after three hours of trying, I was finally able to get through to someone to cancel the whole thing.  This morning, I called Cox (ilovecox-haha!) Cable and they will be at the house tomorrow morning to set everything up, so YAY FOR COX (hehe.he.he)!

We took the kids out of school on Friday and went to the State Department (where I scored a broken-meter parking place right in front of the building, 'cause of my awesomeness) for Mitch's 116th Specialist Class swearing in ceremony.  After they x-rayed our body cavities (sort of) we were allowed in to the fancy schmancy Ben Franklin room where it was held.  My kids were suitably impressed by the whole thing and were quite well-behaved.

Seriously, it's a shame you can't see the boots.

 Afterwards, we went to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for lunch, and to drop some of the kids' college fund.  Henry loved his steak sandwich so much that we've decided to call it Henry's Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  I will show more pics of the house as things get unpacked, but here is Grace with her playdoh  cookies on their way into the pink oven: