Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sidewalk Sale! Success?

Wellll, not so much.  Everyone in our building was ready and eager to sell his or her little tooshies off, but for whatever reason, no one was buying.  We live on a pretty busy street (in front of a bus stop, no less!) so we thought we were golden.  We were set up by noon--baby toys, baby clothes, adult clothes, shoes, electronics, DVDs, CDs, books--all out on display and ripe for the picking.  We had gone through our closets, dug under our beds and cleaned out our storage rooms in an enthusiastic effort to sell, Sell SELL!  But something a little, shall we say, bigger got in our way.  And that something was God.

Apparently, holding a massive sidewalk sale on Sunday during prime Church hours (between 12 and 3) is not going to draw the masses, no matter how many fliers you tape to light poles or Facebook reminders you post.  They weren't budging from the pews.  That's okay though. All was not lost! 

In the end, S and I sold a used digital camera, three pairs of quality running shoes, and a duffle bag.  Grand total (drum roll please...) $14!  Well, actually $9 since we spent $5 to buy our neighbor's crock pot. But hey, it came with a free cook book!  I couldn't resist.  Great meals will be made in that crock pot, just you wait. Great meals. 

The clothes that didn't sell ended up at Good Will, and the little tchotchkes were boxed up and put on the curb with a big sign that read: FREE.  And wouldn't you know it, by the time we came back from Good Will, that box was picked clean.  Everyone loves a bargain, I guess.  

Note to self: Schedule the next sidewalk sale for a Saturday afternoon.

Now the pressure is really on.  Fifteen days til packout!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Packout Sorting Hat?

You know the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter?  The one each Hogwarts student sits under upon their arrival that determines which of the four Houses they will be assigned?  "Gryffindor!"  "Ravenclaw!"  "Please not Slytherin, please not Slytherin..."

Yeah, well, I need one of those for packout.  Anyone know where I can get one?  Because having to sort ALL our stuff into piles of UAB (unaccompanied air baggage that will arrive in DC about a week after we arrive), HHE (household effects that will go into storage while we're in DC, but will eventually meet us at our first post), Car (what we will pack in our car for the drive down) and Sidewalk Sale/Trash is just not going so well for me right now.  I need a sorting hat to make all the decisions for me. 

This pretty plaid quilt that my son never uses but looks oh, so adorable draped over his crib as decoration -- UAB or HHE?

My nail polish (of which I actually have very few bottles compared to a lot of women I know) -- trust it with UAB or stuff it in my suitcase for the car ride down?  It's summer, ya know.  Weekly DIY pedicures are a must.

That black pair of Banana Republic pants that I wore ad nauseam when I first bought them a year ago, but for whatever reason I haven't worn since  -- UAB or Sidewalk Sale?

See?  These are tough decisions.  Trivial problems to some, sure.  But tough for me. 

And asking S to help me make these decisions is not getting me anywhere. 

"Hey S, should I keep these pants?"

 * S shrugging shoulders*

"Yeah, thanks buddy."

So will someone please tell me where I can find a Packout Sorting Hat?  Does the State Department send them out with the Travel Orders?  Because I am desperate.


Monday, June 18, 2012

The Last Hoorah

Last weekend, S and I took a time out from packout planning and everything Foreign Service related so that we could enjoy what we considered our "last hoorah" in New York City.  Okay, not really.  Because of our child-like excitement, all our conversations still revolved around Foreign Service-y stuff, but we did get to enjoy a weekend of gluttony, and one solitary evening sans toddler.  

S and I have tried very hard to have a "once-a-month" date night since E entered the world, but a little thing called life often intervenes and disrupts our adult time.  But since we're leaving in a few short weeks, I insisted that we have one last adult evening in New York.  S agreed, so we called in the sitter.  

We had dinner at a local Italian restaurant in Clinton Hill called Locanda Vini e Olii.  This restaurant has been along our running route for the past 3 years, but we never really gave it much thought mostly because of the sign out front.  It still reads Lewis's Drug Store, a hold over from the days when the building used to be a pharmacy.  Needless to say, we had no clue there was a fine dining experience awaiting us within. I'm glad we figured it out though, because the food was delicious. A perfect spot for our last great meal in Brooklyn. 

We ordered the chicken liver with risotto appetizer, then we each had a "primi" pasta dish.  For the main course, S had the seafood stew and I had the grilled duck with chick peas and fig preserve.  Amazingness. 

S's Seafood stew

Grilled duck with a glass of wine
After dinner, S and I took a stroll down to the Promenade and grubbed a chocolate, sea salt and caramel cupcake from Crumbs while looking out at the skyline.  We took a few trips down memory lane, both of us admitting that we never in a million years would have imagined getting to such an exciting and awesome point in our lives.  It eventually got too chilly on the water and I was wearing a sleeveless dress, so we called off the remaining romantic gestures, opted for the warmer confines of our car and headed home.

Since Sunday was Father's Day, S (and by proxy, I) got a two-for-one on the food-o-meter.  It was the third Sunday of the month, after all, which meant--Food Truck Rally!  We tucked E into the Bob stroller, quickly logged our 5-miles to burn off the previous night's meal, and then high tailed it back to Grand Army Plaza for some more grub. 

S and I both had some empanadas followed by a few dumplings and one giant buffalo chicken/mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich from one of the most (if not THE most) famous grilled cheese truck in the city, Gorilla Cheese. 
Jambalaya Empanada
Spicy Chicken Empanada

See what I mean?  Totally gluttonous weekend.  But in the end, S and I had an amazing "last hoorah" in the city and S had a memorable, food truck inspired Father's Day feast. 

Now we can go back to our regularly scheduled programming of packout lists, tenant/landlord preparations, pet care logistics etc.  Because one burning question remains unanswered: Just how DO you get one future diplomat, one stressed-out spouse, a rambunctious toddler, a hyper dog and an angsty cat down to D.C. in one piece?  Well, I'll let you know when we find out.   

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where Will We End Up?

Before S even got "the call," he and I would sit around talking for hours about all the possible places we could end up living should he ever get offered a spot in A-100.  Now that "the call" has officially been received, we spend every possible second talking about the possibilities.  Even the most mundane conversations turn into discussions of "what if..." 

Since we won't know anything until Flag Day (that's the day at the end of training when all new FSOs, their friends and families gather into a large auditorium to learn theirs and their colleagues fates), S and I have been running all imaginable countries through the discussion mill.  We're not limiting our talks to one or two specific areas of the world either.  We're talking about everywhere from the Philippines, to Ghana to Benin, Laos, China, Korea, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador...you name it, we've speculated. 

You see, at the beginning of every A-100 class, all new FSOs receive what's called the bid list.  This is the list of all available entry-level positions at each embassy or consulate around the world.  Every FSO is required to bid each post high, medium or low and then a Career Development Officer (CDO) makes the final decision based on the list you submitted.  Since S speaks Spanish pretty well, (but he doesn't, or didn't, speak fluently enough to pass the notoriously difficult Spanish phone test he took while waiting on the Register back in April) it is a strong possibility that his Spanish language abilities get us posted to a Central or South American country.

However, since the State Department provides language training to new FSOs, S still has the opportunity to learn something else like French or Greek or even Khmer, in which case we could go to any one of the countries that speak those languages.  Or we could go to a country that doesn't even require a language.

Bottom line is that even though we have a say in our preferences, we don't have the final say.  So, we really don't know where we will go until S's name is called and he is handed a miniature flag representing his designated country.  That said, let the speculation and dreaming continue. We will have a better idea of our choices once he gets the bid list next month, but until then we're more than excited for any adventure that awaits! 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Red Tape

S and I got married two years ago, and well, I never really, officially changed my last name.  I was sort of dragging my feet about the whole name change thing mainly because I couldn't decide what I wanted to do.  Did I want to take my married name?  Did I want to keep my maiden name?  Did I want to hyphenate?  In the end, I just brushed it under the rug and did whatever I felt like doing.  So for the past two years I have been using three variations of last names.  Take it from me, that's not a good idea. It's become complicated and confusing.  So in an effort to stem the confusion, I bit the bullet and decided to legally take S's last name while keeping my maiden name as my middle name.  And, since S will be joining the FS in a few short weeks, it will make filling out government forms a bit less complicated.

So, on May 7th I went to the social security office in downtown Brooklyn to get a new social security card and legally change my name.  I had the forms filled out, I had my three forms of ID to prove that I was who I said I was, and I had my marriage paperwork proving that I was in fact married and that--oh crap!  No. No, I didn't have my marriage documents.  I had stupidly left them at home on the dining room table.  I quickly called S who luckily was just walking out the door for work and begged him to bring them to me.  He graciously did and all was okay.  Except it wasn't. 

You see, S and I were married in Greece and because of that, we were required to have all official marriage documents translated in both Greek and English.  I took care of that before we left for the wedding and again when we returned.  When I presented the Greek and English documents to the lady at the SS office, she hesitated.  Then she walked away only to return 10 minutes later and explain that my translated documents may not be accepted, but she would submit everything and I would hear back within two to four weeks. 

I considered that the natural protocol for these sorts of things and walked out of the office satisfied.  But when two weeks, then three, then five passed without hearing anything from them, I decided to give them a call. 

I called the main SS office first and after waiting on hold for 15 minutes, spoke with a friendly gentleman who confirmed that yes, my paperwork had been turned in, but that it hadn't been processed.  Say what??

He recommended that I call the local Brooklyn office directly, and he gave me the number.  I called them and after being transferred a few times, I waited on hold for another 20 minutes before someone picked up to inform me that I had dialed the wrong office.  I had been given the number to a local field office in Queens.  Just great.

So I asked to be transferred to the correct office where, of course, I was forced to wait on hold a third time.  Just when I thought all hope was lost, a very friendly woman picked up the phone and actually offered some help.  She told me that their office does not accept documents that were translated by an outside source, so mine would have to be translated in-house.  I asked how long that typically takes and she said two to four weeks.  When I explained that it had been five weeks since I submitted the paperwork, she was surprised.  She promptly put me on hold while she spoke with her supervisor.  

As it turns out, my paperwork required signatures from the translating supervisor, (or something like that) before being sent to the translator.  Well guess what?  She never signed them.  My documents have been sitting on her desk for FIVE WEEKS collecting dust.  But since this sweet lady on the phone could feel my anger and frustration permeating through the receiver, she took action and got the supervisor to sign off on it right then and there. 

I thanked her profusely, and she even gave me her direct number in case I wanted to call and follow up next week.  And yes I will be following up, don't you worry. 

After all that, I still have to wait another two to four weeks for the translation, thus another 4-6 weeks for a new social security card, which will ultimately delay me getting a new passport and driver's license. *sigh*  But at least it's getting taken care of now.  I mean, it could be worse, right?  *sigh*

Consider this a lesson learned.  Don't get married in a foreign country.  Kidding!  If we had it to do all over again, we would.  Red tape included. 

Look at those two lovebirds.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gettin' Stuff Done

Last weekend S and I took our first step in actually preparing for our move.  Our goal:  clean out the storage room in our basement.  It's not a big room, roughly 10 x 10, but it has become a catch-all over the past year.  Baby clothes, an outgrown car seat, a tummy-time mat, even random tools and study guides that haven't been used in ages...it was all sorted into three piles: Keep, throw away or sidewalk sale/donate.

It wasn't so bad, and it didn't take as long as we had anticipated.  The hardest part was sorting through E's old clothes and trying to decide what was worth saving and what needed to be tossed. That became a game of, "Oh S, do you remember when he wore these little pajamas?!  He was soooo cuuuuute!" or "Oh, I remember when we bought these little socks!  They were soooooo cuuuute!"  Notice a trend?  Yeah, I took quite a few trips down memory lane before S snapped me back to reality with a breezy, "Hey, our kid is not going to nap forever, so we need to finish up before he wakes up."  Yup.  Nothing like the threat of a waking toddler to get you back on track. 

In the end, we parted with quite a few blankets that we never used, some burp cloths that were still in their packaging, washcloths for bath time and a bunch of outfits that either never really fit him, or just weren't our "style" to begin with.  All those baby goodies combined with a few odds and ends and random clothes that S and I pulled out of our own overflowing closets turned into quite a stack of sellable items.  My neighbor and I have decided to hold a building-wide sidewalk sale in a few weeks, so I'd say we're all set. 

In other news, the three of us met up with my cousin and her boyfriend on Sunday night for a Louisiana-style crawfish boil of all you can eat crawfish and all you can drink beer at Chelsea Market.  Being a native Louisiana girl, I couldn't refuse such a feast.

They look delicious, don't they?

J's first crawfish!
We had a fun time talking about all the possible places we could move and they swore up and down to visit us in each and every country for the rest of their lives. L and J, if you're reading this, that better not have been the beer talking!  We will always have a room reserved just for you two. 

Spending time with my cuz.
The crawfish were pretty delicious too.  Not as spicy as I would have liked, but definitely flavorful with a bit of a kick.  And S definitely enjoyed himself! 

Nice sippy cup, S.
It was E's first semi-real crawfish boil, and he found them more amusing than tasty, but he'll learn soon enough.  He's a smart kid.