Sunday, October 28, 2012

Down the MED Rabbit Hole We Go

I exaggerate only slightly when I say that no bureau instills fear in the heart of Foreign Service families quite like MED. I don't mean this as a reflection of the individuals who work in Washington and around the world; in fact I've had generally pleasant experiences with the doctors and nurse practitioners who have the sometimes daunting task of making sure we not only survive even our most exotic postings, but that we maintain a modicum of sanity while we do it.

For the past seven years, I've enjoyed the much-coveted Class 1 medical clearance. All of us must have one to be hired--all new hires must be worldwide available. I was hired as a single person, so it never occurred to me to worry about anybody else's clearance until a few year's later. Husband is similarly healthy and, for our first tour, Boy secured a Class 1 without any problem. Girl followed suit.

Why does your clearance matter after being hired? Simple: it determines where you can serve (or, in the case of dependents, where your family can join you). Not all Class 2 clearances are created equal, so those depend mostly on what services are available at each post for your specific medical or educational needs. A class 2 is scary because it makes what is normally a high stress bidding process go off the charts with hand-wringing. You do your normal lobbying, but then you have to submit a list of bids to MED so they can yay or nay each post for the health concerns of the family member(s) or employee in question. You may have your hearts set on Nowhereistan, but unless Nowhereistan has epi-pens widely available at hospitals, your child with a deathly peanut allergy just can't go, and so on. A class 2 is scary because it happens as soon as it's warranted, whether it's in the middle of your tour or when your on R&R in the States or...


So, like most FS families would do, when Boy received OT and other services through Fairfax County while we were in language training, we didn't make a big deal out of it with MED. We mentioned it briefly on his clearance update paperwork, and hoped they won't take notice. At the time, it seemed like losing our assignment after language training, etc., would be the worst thing that could ever happen. We were confident he would continue to improve.

Here we are, almost 2 years after his initial IFSP through the county, starting the process all over again.

After our meeting at his school, we had a talk about his needs, our priorities, and what we need to do as parents. Sorry, Taxpayer, though it feels the opposite on some days, I have to remain a parent first, a public servant second. We took a gulp and reached out to the regional psychiatrist, who referred us to the doctor and social worker in charge of the developmental assessments. We have a referral from Boy's school in hand, and I need to submit that together with his initial IFSP from Fairfax County to start the process to evaluate him all over again. And of course I have that IFSP, because what type of parent wouldn't have such an important document? Who wouldn't keep the assessment and services plan for your small child?

Um. Erf. Um.

SO. I have the binder with the county's services. I have the assessment from the counselor. I do not, for the life of me, have a copy of his IFSP, or at least not that I've found. I know we had it. It discussed where he scored on his speech, PT, OT, and social/emotional assessments. It's important.

I'm going to spend the rest of today digging through absolutely everything and, if that is to no avail, I'll email Infant-Toddler Connection and request a copy. No guarantees I won't tell them the dog ate the first one. I fear judgment.

(BTW, if you FS families out there in Fairfax are wondering about their services--they're great! They respond right away once your pediatrician refers you, and I loved our occupational therapist.)

I don't know what this will mean. We've advertised for a new full-time nanny, thinking that worst case scenario he can be taught at home while he matures and those impulse control synapses start firing. Perhaps we'll keep him in preschool part time with a nanny on the other days and some more OT or other services. Perhaps they won't let him come back. I don't know. We'll jump of that bridge once we get there, I suppose.

Until then, here we go...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Last night, while coloring engines on his paper airplane, Boy declared that if I keep living and living and living, I will die. And that if Husband keeps living and living and living, he will die. And Girl, and Boy himself. He didn't want to die, he said.

There are talks I dread, though they aren't the ones that seem to fire people up. Where do babies come from? That's a fact-based answer, and it's easy to make it an age-appropriate answer as well. Why does the new kid in school have dark skin? Fact-based too. These things I can talk about.

Will I die?


Boy knows death is the sad fate of goldfish and a potential side effect of running into the street. Someday he would have to learn that it is, in fact, the sad fate of all of us. Even his beloved parents. Even his precious little self. This was the conversation I dreaded.

I didn't want to lie. What would be the point? The first human death he experienced would then be such a betrayal. I didn't want to pepper him with promises of an afterlife that's all gumdrops and rainbows, because I don't know if it's all gumdrops and rainbows or if there's an afterlife at all. When you're four, you want certainty. You want your mother to declare that that certainly won't happen to you. You want her to say that's not true, that's not what happens.

But she didn't say that. She said, instead, that it's true that that will happen, but with any luck it won't happen for a long, long time. That there's no point in worrying about it, because she worries about it for you.

Welp. Good job, Mom. Yes, you will die, you probably won't for a long time, and your mother worries about it. I'm lucky he slept at all last night.

We had a conference with the director of Boy's school and, predictably, he hasn't suddenly become the glue holding the class together. He's incredibly disruptive and makes it nearly impossible for the other kids to learn. Why do you think that is? she asked. Does he watch too much TV? Is he like that at home? Does he need to try sports?

I strung together a few sentences. We know he's difficult. He becomes easily overwhelmed. He tries, but he only has so much self-control in him.

He has much weightier things on his mind, I should have told her. His own mortality, for instance.

You have so much to learn and see and do, I should have told him. You have a person to become with a life to lead. You do not need to worry about it, full stop.

I wish they saw the boy we do, in the way we do. He's very challenging, no doubt. He's creative, building complex LEGO creations with no assistance or suggestion from us. He's affectionate and curious and loves poop jokes. He is learning and seeing and doing, and becoming a person with a life to lead. He is four years old and worries that if his parents live too long they'll die.

Instead they see the kid everyone hopes won't show up that day. I was a teacher. I get it--I really do--but it's breaking my heart.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hygiene: A Decision Tree

Before I had kids, my morning routine involved my staring into my closet, wondering which pair of adorable heels I'd wear with my adorable size 4 ensemble. All while yawning, because I had only squeezed out 8 hours of sleep.

I hate that person. And I hate that she ever thought she was fat and that her shoe options were inadequate. She sucks.

Parenthood changed everything. Now I search for the clothes that are the least wrinkly and go together kinda while matching them with the flats I can a) find and (only if I find multiple pairs--not a given, I should add) b) don't have obvious holes. When my SAHM friends imagine out loud how nice it would be to do their hair and makeup everyday, I wonder right along with them. What must that be like? I've forgotten.

Here's my shower decision tree:

I'd present my wardrobe decision tree, but it's straightforward: Clean Enough Dress + Clean Tights + Clean Enough Cardigan or Blazer = Everyone Should Be Happy I Didn't Show Up in Pajamas. I attempted for a while to manage a nice stock of suits, but that was way too much Dry Clean Only to ever work, so I stick with dresses + another layer to cover tattoos/turn it work-y. Plus, it played nicely into my patented screed on why suits are another tool of the patriarchy to keep us chicks down (entitled, "Why Do I Have to Dress Like a Man to Be Taken Seriously?" or, when I'm being honest, "I Just Really Don't Like Suits, Okay?").

No matter what I put on, it will end up with child smudged on it before I walk out the door. What exactly "child" is is almost always a mystery.

But seriously, Patriarchy, did you know that the Estonian word for a woman's suit is "kostüüm"?