Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I've told anyone who would listen, and at least three who wouldn't, how I was certain I was going to have a heart attack today. Just fall over and that would be it. Why else would my left arm hurt, my heart thump wildly, my thoughts race?

I even walked into the nurse's office and declared Welp, sorry, probably going to die on you today. Don't worry, I'll make sure they call you. She offered me some magic drops that would do something magical, but considering I had decisions to make regarding border security and some of our taxpayers to meet that night, I declined. Seemed irresponsible to do otherwise.

We submitted an offer on a house tonight and we're awaiting the answer. So far this experience of trying to buy a house--our first--has felt uncannily like having a horse step on my chest. I've googled a lot of things about buying a house and while I'm proud I finally understand what escrow is (kinda), googling "horse stepping on chest" and "earnest money" yields few useful results.

In order to have the best chance of a successful offer, we wrote a letter to the property owner, per our excellent agent's request. It took me only a few minutes to tap out our reasons for the house. We've lived everywhere, we've lived together, we've lived apart. We have a child with special needs and Husband's going to Afghanistan. We need sun and support and a community. Please please please take our offer.

So we'll see. We have no orders, no firm flight plans. Boy is hanging in there, though last week he came home from school and declared that he bit "lots of people." Today, though, we learned that he drew this:

During his IQ test in Baltimore, the only task he performed only at the 4 year old level was drawing a person. I maintained it was because he doesn't actually like people and has no interest in drawing them. Check out his sense of perspective on the airplane. That little omega-looking thing is a mouse hole. Look closely and see a little tail and mouse bottom sticking out the right side. His cat is already better than mine.

No orders, no firm flight plans. But possibly a house, and definitely some hope.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Don't Know Nothin' 'Bout Nothin'

I grew up in Virginia--southern Virginia. Taaahdwahter. Well, that's partially true. I spent ages 8 to 18 there, but those are some pretty formative years.

I always attended Catholic school. Always. The habit was hard to break, so even grad school was a former Catholic college.

The nuns hated, absolutely hated, when we said "ain't." Which we did. A lot. It was a struggle to get me in shoes and to actually shower regularly.* My neighborhood friends and I spent our afternoons playing in the ditch that ran behind our cul-de-sac, catching tadpoles, minnows and snails, and not paying nearly enough attention to the location of water moccasins and--of slightly less concern--muskrats. Of course I said "ain't." My dad's dad, who lived in Chicago and wore a suit to church and on a plane and would never say "ain't," regularly accused me of being a downright hillbilly when I ran around the house barefoot.

I was always barefoot.

I started wearing paddock boots when I finally got to spend all my free time with horses.

This did not improve the condition of my feet.

I stopped riding horses when I went to college and I had to pay tuition and Georgetown rents instead of show fees my folks had to pay tuition and Georgetown rents instead of show fees, but I went back to being barefoot as much as possible, often while sitting in a tree. I lacked a certain gravitas. Still do, most days.

After college, I kicked my way to a black belt to alleviate stress, lose weight, and feel bad-ass. This did not improve the condition of my feet either.

Today Girl catches sight of my feet and points, exclaiming in horror, "Boo boo!" This tickles husband to no end, although that quickly ends when I punish him by putting my foot on him. Oh, the squeals! Delightful!

This was going somewhere.

Oh yes. Virginia to ain't to hillbilly to barefoot to horses to college to Tae Kwon Do to parenthood to Don't know nothin' 'bout nothin'. The nuns wouldn't have liked that one either, but it surely seems to apply as we navigate the purchase of our very first (as of yet unidentified) house. I would get into the specifics that confuse me, but I don't understand them so I can't.

In the meantime, I pop up to take a deep breath and realize the colossal reality shift we are about to experience. Husband will be back in a War Zone and I won't have to wear shoes. It seems so unfair for him and both so delightful and terrifying for me. Do I really have to do this all on my own? No housekeeper this time? Does he really have to Skype his kids every night? With a bigger time difference? Can we really just take a road trip to see our friends in Tucson? I mean: Can we really just find a pet sitter and then take a road trip to see our friends in Tucson?

Am I ruining Girl? Will she resent this some day? She reportedly stood at the door of her daycare this evening, waving goodbye to each child, declaring Homseni! ("Until tomorrow!") She loves school and is quite good at it.

On the other hand, she was the first child in and the last child out. That can't be good either.

I can't even begin to list the questions I have about Boy. I really hope I don't mess this up.

Oh, the opportunity costs. That's how I'll sum up all of this. Every single bit.

Oh, the opportunity costs.

*Pre-puberty. Figured it out in middle school. Unlearned it in parenthood.

Friday, January 11, 2013

On the Other Side

As we prepared to leave for our R&R a year ago, Boy's school said it might be good for him to have a few weeks away from the social pressure of group rules and norms. They were right. While our trip was never easy, really, we all breathed a little better. Some space and a lot of sun did Boy some good.

Somewhere during that trip, or shortly thereafter, we started wondering if we were doing this parenting thing all wrong. Was it worth it to drag our kids around the world? What would we do if we weren't dragging our kids around the world? I, for one, am completely unemployable in the private sector.

I love my job. I do. Along the way, though, I felt like I couldn't do it well or parent well or at least not both at the same time. A small doubt crept in and blossomed into surrender. I'm not cut out for this. Every other officer who is a parent makes it work. What's wrong with me?

Well, as the avalanche of articles on doing it all would attest: no, not every person makes it work. And, for better or worse, many Foreign Service families have one parent at home to work as the family manager and do the heavy lifting when life gets difficult.

We brainstormed and brainstormed, wondered how we could survive on one salary (what salary? at what job?) and eventually decided the best thing we could do is deal with it in summer 2014 as we left Tallinn. No need to rock the boat. Got some tattoos instead.

I made one mistake, though, which is assuming I'd have to seriously consider leaving the Foreign Service after Tallinn to care for my children.

Boy's medical clearance for Tallinn was revoked this week. We knew this was a possibility when MED sent us to Baltimore and we agreed with MED that we would do whatever we had to do to address his needs now, even if there were no viable options in Estonia. That email, though, sent me into a tailspin of guilt. I felt I let Post down, let all of working womanhood down (seriously, Rachel, get a grip), let my friends who are coming to Tallinn to replace Husband down. How? I don't know. By not being a better parent and solving this without turning the world upside down? I should file that under "Would if I Could."

Then, in a moment that was almost embarrassingly emotional, I felt more than anything that I've spent the past two years letting my son down. Buried under layers of guilt is an immense sense of relief: I can deal with this now, and in a way I couldn't if I had to work full time in a foreign country. 

The kids and I will go the U.S., and Husband will go on another unaccompanied tour to allow us to do so. Turns out, if you email the Department in December and say you might not be able to stay at post because of your kid, but maybe you'll be able to stay at post, but you don't know so is there anything in AIP* available just in case?, they will find something in AIP. 

I hated to tell our front office. I hated to tell Washington. I hated to tell our friends. To a one, they have all been supportive. 

Here's the deal: this job is inherently not family-friendly. Potentially long hours, high pressure, lots of travel, increasing amounts of responsibility, no local support network. That's diplomacy, my friends! The Department, however, has shown itself to be incredibly family-friendly on this one. Let's be clear: this is inconvenient for everyone, and not cheap. No one has told us to do anything other than what works for the family. I thought I had to give up this career, but now I know I can hit pause and try again in a year or so. It's not ideal, but that's life. I'm thankful to everyone who has made it possible to be the mom I have to be, so I can ultimately be the employee I want to be.

And now to pack out.

*Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Title Goes Here

Before I get down to business, I am happy share Girl's new (and only) joke:

G: Knock knock.

Me: Who's there?

G: Diapers! [pronounced dia-puhs]

Me: Diapers who?

G: [belly laughs] Knock knock!

(and so it goes...)

Last year I dutifully came up with twelve resolutions for 2012. That was ambitious and ultimately completely unsuccessful. This follows the trend of the past couple decades of resolutions, so yea for consistency!

I can't come up with 13 resolutions this year. We have too many question marks. A million, per yesterday's accounting. 

The good folks at MED and the good folks at the renowned Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore managed to get Boy in for over a week of evaluations and therapy sessions. It's no small feat to get appointments at KKI in just a month and a half. We found out we were traveling only three days before we were wheels-up and we ended up extending our stay once we arrived.

It was excellent and I wish I could have stayed. The behavioral psych therapy sessions were a huge insight into his behavior and how to manage it, and I wish I had one a week or one a month to look forward to, so I could bring our frustrations and confusion to the therapist and have her guidance in developing solutions. We only scratched the surface.

What was clear is that it's going to take incredible consistency from all caregivers to see actual improvements. As promised, it's gotten worse before it's gotten better. In fact, we're still waiting for better.

What was also clear is that he is smart. We always knew that, but man. That kid smoked his development/IQ test. The developmental pediatrician said it's going to be critical to challenge him and for.the.love.of.God don't hold him back from kindergarten a year.

He turns five in August.

So there's a lot. I've only been in the office for 4.5 days since December 6th. I am so far from figuring out how to do right by Boy, do right by Girl, and do right by the Foreign Service that I'm running in circles trying to get started.

My only resolution for 2013 is to figure out what it is my kids need and to give it to them. Stay tuned.