Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Moments of 2012

Welp, New Year's Eve is upon us, which means it's time to reflect upon the most memorable moments from 2012.  I'm new to the whole blogging thing, but I've noticed others providing their top moments, so I figured I would do the same.  So, here no particular order...
1. Getting the Call - S had worked toward his Foreign Service dream for nearly two years before he got "the call" to join A-100, and it is definitely a moment neither one of us will forget.  S was in back-to-back meetings on the day we expected calls to start going out, so I didn't expect to hear from him at all.  When I got a text that simply said "got it" shortly after lunch time, I knew our lives were about to change.  And change they did. 
2. E turned 1 - This was the year we celebrated our little nugget's first birthday.  It was the year we watched him transition from a fumbling baby into a little boy.  He runs everywhere he goes as if walking is something he can't be bothered with, and he loves books and dancing.  He will unapologetically steal the microphone from you during family karaoke sessions in his best effort to out-sing you, and he has an undeniable crush on Alicia Keys, who he fondly calls "Keesh."  He knows how to say "water" in three different languages and will always be the first to devour any type of fruit within a 5 foot radius.  He's our little dude and we love him. 
3. Family - We spent a lot of time with our family this year even though they are all scattered to the four corners of the country.  We took a family vacation to Las Vegas back in April to visit S's parents, while his mom and sister and her family came to visit us in DC over the summer.  We also took two trips to Louisiana to visit my family, plus we enjoyed a couple visits from my mom and got to spend the past six months surrounded by a slew of cousins who live here in the DC area.  We were not lacking in quality family time this year, which is good because who knows when we will get another year with such luxuries again.
4. Flag Day - This was the day that determined the direction our lives would take for the next two years.  Flag Day was something S and I talked about and dreamed about for years.  It was all that we expected it to be--overwhelming, nerve-inducing, surprising--all rolled into 60 minutes of pure excitement.  It was the day we found out we will be moving to Adana, Turkey in a few short days!
5. Saying Goodbye to New York - As I have said numerous times on this blog, New York was our home for ten years before we joined the FS, and it will be missed dearly.  We said goodbye to all our old haunts, like Prospect Park, The Brooklyn Museum, favorite restaurants and farmers markets, but we also enjoyed some spectacular events before we left.  Our trip back a few weeks ago was a wonderful final farewell.  I heart New York.
6. Friends - We said goodbye to a lot of friends in 2012, and we miss them everyday.  But we also made a lot of new friends this year too.  We have become very close with one FS family in particular, and my goodness will we miss them when we leave.  I have a feeling that with this lifestyle I will be relying heavily on what I learned as a girl scout many moons ago: "make new friends but keep the old." 
7. Yo Gabba Gabba Live - Okay, this was not a memorable moment for me and S, but since this is a family blog and E is part of our family, I'm adding it. Because honestly, if he could cast his vote, he would list this as number one.  Hands down.  His best moment of 2012. 
8. Presidential election - S and I were happy at the results of this year's election.  More importantly, Obama is one of S's heros, and he's very excited for the opportunity to serve under him for the next four years. 
9. Saying goodbye to a full-time job - This was the year I packed it all in and said goodbye to the 9 to 5 routine.  Sure I will continue working, but it will be on my terms and I can make my own hours as I see fit.  There is something so liberating about the idea of it all.  I just hope the reality of it is just as awesome. 
10. Starting this blog - Starting this blog was a big step for me, and I am so happy that I finally took the leap.  I enjoy writing about our life and look forward to what our future has in store.  Sometimes life gets busy and I post less frequently than I would like, but my resolution for 2013 is to keep it up.  I enjoy having a living history to look back stay tuned.
I guess that's it. Happy New Year!  Cheers to an amazing 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holidays and Moving Update

Well that was fast.  Christmas has come and gone, as have our holiday guests including E's Nana whom we said goodbye to today. 

Nana and E inspecting the planes.

We had a wonderful holiday complete with oodles of quality family time, an abundance of food (that included my mom's delicious gumbo), and lots of entertaining moments singing karaoke, opening presents and indulging in cheap good wine.  In other words, we couldn't have asked for a better Christmas before we leave.  I was a little sad my sister and her family couldn't make it, but seeing them in November almost made up for it. 
E and M-dog posing in front of the makeshift Christmas tree.

Checking the stocking loot.
Blowing bubbles.  The way to my kid's heart are 99 cent bubbles.  Just FYI
But now that the festivities are behind us, we have refocused on moving prep.  I am happy to report that we are almost ready.  S and I took a trip to Hagerstown yesterday to sort through our HHE and to let the movers know what items we want shipped to Turkey and what items will spend (at least) the next two years in the lovely warehouse. The storage facility was quite impressive, and the sorting went much faster than I anticipated.  They were super organized which meant we were in and out in about 30 minutes.  Barring any travel delays or customs trouble, our things should arrive on our doorstep roughly three months from now. 
We also took the pets for their final vet exam and will be receiving their travel certificates in the next couple days.  The car has also been tuned up and all the paperwork is in order for its exportation.  It too will likely arrive around the same time as our HHE, so we will be making do without the car for the first few months.  An excellent excuse to explore the city on our own two feet!
For now I am sorting through toys, books, clothes, you name it.  My three separate piles have begun to take shape (things we don't need/donating/trashing, things to be packed in our suitcases, and things to be shipped in our UAB).  Our air baggage was under weight when we left New York, but since we have picked up more than a few items in the last 6 months, we are hoping we aren't over weight this time.  One good thing I have to say about frequent moves is that it really forces you to do away with all the crap you don't need.  This is definitely not a hoarders lifestyle. 
One more holiday here in D.C. and then it's Merhaba Turkey!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Real Santa Claus

When I was a kid, the nuns at my Catholic school didn't let us get through the Christmas season without taking great care in reminding us that Santa Claus was indeed real. He was called Saint Nicholas and he lived a very, very long time ago.  But that was pretty much where the story ended.  Or at least, that's all I really remember.
So imagine my surprise when my sister emailed me a link the other day detailing the origins of the real  Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, and I discovered that he was from Turkey.  Of course the region he was from, Demre, was culturally Greek and under Lycian rule at the time, but still.  He was from Turkey. 
Apparently there was a memorial erected in his birth town of Patara, and at the Church of Saint Nicholas, annual celebrations are held on December 6th, the special day dedicated to him.
Needless to say, we're already planning a road trip for next year.
For more information on good old St. Nick, you can find it here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

In Defense of Raising a Foreign Service Kid

You know how there are certain people in your life who exist as mere acquaintances, people you say hello to in passing, share casual conversation with every now and then, and move on?  And you know how those people never really say anything relevant to you or your life (and vice versa) and you never really think about them or what they have said until the next inevitable casual encounter? 
Well, what if one of those people, one who is meant to exist in the perimeter of your life, said or did something that left you reeling, frustrated, pissed off beyond comprehension and questioning your future life plans? 
Last week, that happened to me.  An acquaintance whom I have only known for about a year, started asking questions about our upcoming move to Turkey, S's job, and our future plans after we leave Turkey.  When I explained to her that we will be in Turkey for two years, then moving back to D.C. for more training before taking off to another country, etc., her response was one of disgust.  And she uttered the following words that left me feeling like I had been punched in the gut and slapped in the face at the same time. 
She said, "That is no way to raise a child.  I can't believe you're doing that to your son."
Yup, that one hurt. Big time.  And it left me feeling like the worst mother in the world.  At the time, I just clenched my teeth and smiled politely while trying to defend mine and S's decision to move forward with the Foreign Service, explaining that it would be a wonderful opportunity for E, yadda yadda.
But what I really wanted to do was scream.  And I wanted to tell her to mind her own business, to raise her children as she sees fit, and I will raise mine as I see fit.  I wanted to tick off all the great things about the FS lifestyle, like the educational opportunities, the chance to learn other languages, or opportunities to travel to places some people can't even dream of.  I wanted to tell her about all the positive things this life will hopefully bring to our family.  But all those thoughts were drowned out by my own guilty conscience. 
You see, if there is anything I have ever doubted about this life we have chosen, it is the impact it will have on E.  You name it, I have worried about it.  Will he make friends easily?  Will he do okay in school?  Will he adjust to living in a new home/new school/new country every few years?  Will he be okay with a Skype relationship with his grandparents, or will he be upset that he doesn't get to see them very often?  Will he grow up to resent us for moving him around so much, never really giving him roots? 
I am sure I am not the first or last FS parent to have these doubts, so to have this person boldly tell me this was "no way to raise a child," not only made me angry, it also made me stop and really think.   And the fact is, I don't know.  The answers the above questions can't be answered right now, but neither could they be answered if we hadn't chosen the FS life. Raising children is hard and as the old cliche goes, you aren't given a manual when the kid is born.  You make decisions that are in the best interest of your children, and hope those decisions help them become smart, caring and well-adjusted adults.
In the end, I firmly believe S and I made the right decision about joining the Foreign Service.  We know this is not just a career, but a lifestyle.  And it is one we thought long and hard about.  It is not decision we made lightly. And we chose this life because we feel it will be a great way to raise a child, not the opposite.
Yes, this life will have its challenges, but so would any lifestyle for that matter.  Life, no matter if you live in the same small town for 50 years or all over the world before the age of 21, is hard.  It has it's ups and downs, it's good times and bad.  But as parents, we do the best we can.
So to the acquaintance (who I will never speak to again because yes, I am holding a grudge) this is the way we are choosing to raise our child.  And we feel it is a damn good choice, so deal with it.  And next time, think before you speak.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New York State of Mind

Warning: Long post below
Last weekend we traveled to New York to spend a few days enjoying the city and meeting with friends before saying our final goodbyes to the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Two things prompted us to go: the Rockefeller Center tree had just been lit and Yo Gabba Gabba Live! was performing at Madison Square Garden.  So we packed up the car and hit the road.
We got a rather late start Friday night because S’s A-100 classmates were hosting a Happy Hour for those soon departing for post.  Since S was part of that group, he couldn’t very well miss his own party, so we stopped in for some quick mingling before getting on the highway around 7pm.  Leaving so late meant that E slept in the car for a good part of the trip (which was excellent) but it also meant we had to wake him at midnight and put him back to bed in an unfamiliar place.  We stayed with my cousin and her boyfriend, who happen to live at a busy intersection, so we listened to him say “beep beep” to the buses and cars for a good hour before finally drifting back to sleep at nearly 1:30am. 
He was in good spirits the next morning, though.  In typical New York fashion, I sent S to Russ and Daughters for fresh bagels and coffee because really, New York City has the best bagels.  And I have missed bagels. I needed a good bagel.

Morning view from my cousin's roof.
After breakfast we donned our coats and set off for a walk around the East Village, ducking briefly into the playground at Tompkins Square Park to let E burn some energy.  He wasn’t interested in playing this time, however, and preferred to run around gaping at the dogs at the dog park. He was also completely transfixed by this couple playing ping-pong. 

We eventually realized the poor kid was freezing (we forgot to pack his gloves) and decided it was time to head for the warm confines of the car, and go to Brooklyn.  While there, we quickly checked on our tenants, collected some mail, and then grabbed lunch at one of our favorite taco places. 

Oaxaca Taqueria is located on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn (technically on the outer edges of the Park Slope neighborhood) and S and I used to eat there all the time.  E loves it too.  The kid can seriously put back some black beans and guacamole. 
After lunch we cruised over to the Brooklyn Museum where we met up with E’s old daycare buddy, B, and his parents.  E and B spent every day together from age 3 months to 15 months, but since they are still so young, and because they haven’t seen each other since July, we weren’t expecting them to have any recollection of each other.  Boy were we wrong.  Not only did their faces immediately light up in recognition of each other, but they instantly tried to escape their strollers to play with each other.  Once we let them out, they literally danced around the museum lobby giving each other hugs and screeching at the top of their lungs.  Needless to say, we were all quite shocked and amazed.  We spent the next hour and a half walking around the museum chatting with B’s parents (they’re expecting their second child in April!) and watching E and B explore, play and otherwise have fun together.  We all had a blast and we were definitely glad we squeezed in the time to see them.  Future trips to New York will always include a visit with B and his folks.
Next, we attended a basketball game at the university where S used to work.  Being there gave him the chance to see old colleagues, which was great, and E had fun watching the game (and the dancers!).  But, he started to grow restless by the end of the second half.  Books and crayons had lost their appeal and he was ready to go. 
Our post-game plan was to meet up with another friend for dinner, but E let us know he was NOT having it.  We had dragged the kid all over the city and he was exhausted.  So, we scrapped our dinner plans, decided to meet for breakfast instead, and took E home to bed.  He passed out by 8pm and he slept straight through to 7:30 the next morning.  Such a little trooper.
While E slept, we ordered Chinese noodle take-out (amazingly delicious!) and hung out with my cousin and her boyfriend for the rest of the evening.  We drank wine and chatted while watching some strange show about gold miners in Alaska.  I had never heard of it before, but it was pretty interesting.  Once delirium set in, we called it a night and headed for bed.
The next day, Sunday, we finally met up with our friend for breakfast.  She was a doll for agreeing to switch plans with us at the last minute, and was completely understanding of sometimes making adjustments at the whims of a toddler.  Thank you, SD!  We will miss you!
Then, the pièce de résistance: it was time for Yo Gabba Gabba Live!  As I have discussed on this blog before, E is a HUGE fan of this show. He knows all the characters by name, can sing just about every song and has seen each episode so many times that he can practically recite certain scenes word for word.  You think I'm joking, but I'm not. 
We rushed to get to the theater on time and arrived five minutes before the start.  Once we got seated, E was in awe.  He was like a teenager going to his first concert: nervous, excited, not sure what to expect, and on some toddler level, he was trying to maintain an essence of cool.  His eyes didn’t leave the stage for the entire show.  All three of us enjoyed every bit of it, and to be quite honest, I don’t know who had more fun: the parents or the kids.  I mean, the parents knew every single word to every single song.  And we were not the least bit ashamed of it.  The best part, however, was when Biz Markie (who has a regular feature on the show called “Biz’s Beat of the Day”) came on stage and started singing “Oh baby youuuu, you got what I neeeeed."  Every parent in the theater was on their feet singing and clapping.  The kids enjoyed that part too, but of course they were a bit confused as to why mommy and daddy knew a song they didn’t.   Oh, old school 90s rap. Stay awesome.
Excitement before the show

During the show...

The stage
After the show, we met up with another friend/former colleague and her family for lunch ,followed by a walk to Rock Center to gawk at the tree.  I love seeing the tree every year.  Ten years later and it still hasn’t lost its appeal with me.  Yes, it was really crowded and quite difficult to maneuver three strollers through the thick mass of people, but regardless, it was fun catching up and spending time with my friends one last time.  And we got a pretty cool family picture out of it too.

Last but not least, we headed back out to Brooklyn for one final visit with another couple and their son.  They had cooked dinner (delicious baked ziti with homemade meatballs.  Yum!), and invited us over to stuff our bellies before the long drive back to D.C.  We dined, talked, and watched the boys play together before finally deciding it was time to go.  We had to practically drag ourselves out of their apartment because we really didn’t want to leave.  Just one more day?  Please?  But alas, we had to say goodbye.  
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I miss New York.  It was home for 10 years.  That’s an entire decade of my life spent living in one of the most amazing cities in the world.  I will always miss it, but it warms my heart to know that no matter what, we will always come back.  We will always have our friends to see, our favorite restaurants to dine in, and our favorite places to visit.  New York was where I met S, where we bought our first home together, and where our son was born .  New York will always hold a little piece of our hearts.