Thursday, September 27, 2012

Clever little bugger

The kids and, now, I, have colds.  Zoltan has slept awfully the last 2 nights. Thus, I have also slept awfully. We're all close to our breaking point. Oh, yeah, and Terry's away this week.

Tonight I tuck the kids in. 45 minutes later I am in Zoltan's room for the dozenth time (or so). He tells me he wants me to kiss Blabla (his sleep lovey). As I do, I caution him that he better not call for me for anything else tonight unless it's serious - he hurts, he's too hot, needs water, had a bad dream, etc. Not to tell me he had a drink of water and isn't coughing. Not to tell me his feet aren't cold. Not to ask me to hug and kiss Blabla.

So the next thing he says?  "Now I want you to hug and kiss me again!"

Grrrrr. And, awwwww.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Date Certain

I have a date for the Russian language exam: December 10. Now I really need to buckle down and study rather than freak out and how soon that is.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A conversation you never hear

Manager: I'm going to call [name] right now and make sure you don't get paid any more.
Me: Great, thanks.

Back story: I used to be employed in the Consulate as CLO. I am no longer employed. Unfortunately, the paychecks keep coming. I expect I will need to pay some of this money back (some is legitimately the last paycheck you always get after leaving a job, but some is definitely inadvertently paid).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Longest Day

Travel day started normally enough, we got dressed and went to breakfast like we did last week when Terry left. Got home early enough to hit the playground for about 45 minutes before having to get ready to go.

Fewer than 10 minutes before we were to leave, Alex starts crying she got a mosquito bite and it hurts a lot. I had seen a bee buzzing around near where she had been playing and when I looked at her arm, yep bee sting. At least the stinger wasn't still there. We run home, get ice while I Google what to do (deciding grandma's home remedies didn't cut it when we were supposed to fly in a couple of hours). Drama. In the end she's quite swollen at the bite spot but apparently not allergic so we get ice in a Ziplock and a paper towel and get ready for the car, which came early. Turns out we needed every extra minute and then some, as the 2 car seats we'd rented were a disaster. The first one was a brand I didn't know and the car itself was much newer and nicer than any I'd ever put a car seat into so figuring it out was awful. And as I am panicking and ranting about how unsafe the kids would be, the driver kept trying to console me with how careful he is on the road. Um, sir, you can't control the crazies on the road so you're just pissing me off right now. We finally figured out that there was a LATCH thingie on 2 of the seats in the car - not the seats I'd planned to put the kids in, but whatever. Seat #1 get LATCHed and no longer flies about at every breeze.

The 2nd car seat is one we have, and I figured it would be easy. Except that I LATCHed it before checking to see that it was configured for the tiniest baby and Zoltan would never get his arms into the straps, much less be able to get the straps buckled. Un-LATCH and go to change the straps to a different level and realize an important part of the seat is missing. I cobble something together that I believe is better than him sitting on my lap and we're finally ready to go.

Nothing too eventful on the ride down or at the airport itself. For some reason the only movie either kid will watch right now is Alvin and the Chipmunks, which I am happy to say is still showing on the USAir 700/701 flights. They kept flipping between that and the 3 - yep, all of 3 - cartoon shows for kids on the monitor (for comparison, there were about a dozen children's movies). I way overpacked as they stuck with that mostly and a bit of their coloring. I even overpacked on snacks, although in my defense I had no way to know the kids' meal would include fresh grapes, soft rolls and chicken nuggets made with something that approximated real chicken.

As expected, the kids didn't sleep even though I really encouraged them. Oh, wait, they DID sleep. AFTER the plane touched down on the ground, I saw eyelids droop. Oh, no, this is not happening, I thought. Except it was. They got about 15 minutes in between the landing and getting to the gate. I packed us all up and we were the last people off the plane. One very kind flight attendant even carried an awake but groggy Zoltan halfway up the aisle.

Frankfurt was frustrating. Here's a suggestion - if you are going to make everyone with a stroller use a different security screening area, maybe you could put up a sign saying so, rather than let us walk all the way across the terminal only to be turned away and sent exactly where we came from, but about 10 feet over. I got to gripe about this with another woman going through the exact same thing, except she only had one kid and a stroller (we had the Trunki and the Uppababy so someone had to walk as it was an incredibly crowded part of the terminal).

The kids started to get really silly, crazy and antsy in the airport - as expected for kids at their bedtime who hadn't slept all day, which is what their bodies thought was going on. The good news is that airports have a lot of airplanes coming and going, and the kids are obsessed with airplanes, so once we got to our gate they were glued to the window.

Here's where I rave about USAir. When I went to get a gate check tag for the stroller, the guy offered to just take it then. During the flight, 2 or 3 of the flight attendants checked in on me several times, one of them asking if I needed coffee or a glass of wine :)

I had a sadly belated epiphany and decided to tell the kids they would get no more toys or screens (Leapster Explorer or either tablet) until they gave a legitimate attempt at sleeping, mommy is final arbiter of what's legitimate.  Too bad the whole flight was only 2.5 hours. We all slept for an hour, then the "we're landing" process began and I woke up. I pretended to sleep until a flight attendant touched my arm to tell me the kids (laying down) had to be belted and the armrest put down. Done, and done, while they continued to sleep. We landed, I packed us all up and put their shoes on them, while they continued sleep. They handled the awakening amazingly well and dutifully stayed with me as we headed to immigration.

Here's when I I rant about ... I don't even know who. Russia didn't give immigration cards to the airline so we could fill them in on the plane, so I had to do all 3 in the arrivals hall. While the 2 of them tried to go back to sleep. The most adorable moment was when Alex went flat on the bench-style seating (face down) and Zoltan, finding nowhere else to go, climbed on top of her and lay down too. I would have captured it on film but I was writing as quickly as humanly possible. Sadly, it must not have been comfortable for Alex because she started crying. This was our nadir. One or the other was crying the entire time I had to fill out those damn cards, because there wasn't space for them to both get comfortable and they were at their end. When I finally did finish they didn't want to get up, didn't want to walk (Petersburg returns strollers at baggage claim, not planeside). We got through it, had our fastest time in the immigration booth, and because of all the previous delays our bags were ready for us when we got into the baggage claim.

Alex had sat on the Trunki and Zoltan had to take the floor while we waited our turn in the immigration line, so I had to give first dibbs on the stroller to Z. Alex had a massive meltdown, I ended up having her ride on the suitcase (glad we got the hardback spinner type!) and we all practically threw ourselves into Terry's arms when we crossed those 50 yards and that doorway to where he was.

Unsurprisingly, the kids were asleep before we left the parking lot.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The worst part of flying - airlines!

I just tried to check in online for tomorrow's flight. Our reservation is through Lufthansa but the first leg - the long haul - is USAir. I first tried Lufthansa. They can't check me in because their leg is more than 23 hours away. I call USAir. They can't check me in because I changed my flights last week and they see that Lufthansa appended our original Lufthansa leg to the reservation (so there are 2 Frankfurt-Piter flights) and I need to tell Lufthansa to cancel the original leg so only the new one is in the system, then I will be able to check in.

I call Lufthansa again and report my frustration. Their reply? The original leg is cancelled and nowhere in their system. Also I can't check in for their leg anyway (more than 23 hours away) so USAir shouldn't be bothering with the Lufthansa leg and be happy to check me in for the first - USAir - leg.

Hey Airlines! If you are going to code share with each other and pretend you are so close, TALK THE @O*&^#(*!@# TO EACH OTHER.

My money is that the USAir people were just making stuff up, they saw they couldn't check me in for the Lufthansa leg and made up a reason for it. I guess I've just added something to my "morning before the flight" to do list.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I don't know what to say

but I am trying to sort it out. I didn't personally know any of the 4 people killed in Bengazi today/yesterday (time zones) and I keep hearing how amazing Ambassador Christopher Stevens was. I am sure he was. The only other name so far released strikes a much stronger chord in me though. Sean Smith was on TDY in Bengazi. TDY means he was there temporarily, it often happens when a post is short on people and folks serving at other posts are asked to come for a short while to keep things moving along. You see, Sean was an IMO. That's what Terry does. To bring it even closer to home, the other guy in the 2-man section Terry runs was supposed to go TDY to Bengazi next month. If the murderers hadn't decided to commemorate 9/11 I might not be able to say I didn't know any of the dead personally. Even writing this I start to choke up. We all say the foreign service isn't all fat cat fancypants. We all say we endure real hardships and suffer real danger. I just hate that we had to go and prove it so viscerally.

My most sincere condolences to the families of the deceased, and to all the people of Libya, who I hear lost a real champion in Ambassador Stevens.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sniff, sniff, he's heading home...

...and we still have 8 days left. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers. because if the kids have been monsters on the diet of new places and faces for 5 weeks straight, how much worse will it be coupled with "daddy's gone"?  I think the prospect of Terry at the other side of that wall after baggage claim will be the only thing that keeps me sane through the nightmare that will be our journey home.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mommy, why did that lady come over here?

This was asked by Alex, when our waitress came to check on us. She wasn't bringing any food or drink, we hadn't motioned to her to come over, and she wasn't bringing the check. One more way the USA is not like everywhere else in the world.

Oh, and booster seats.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sleeping babies

I never get tired of watching the kids sleep. Note that Zoltan deliberately moved the pillow to be halfway down the bed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Forced Family Fun: Great Wolf Lodge

My nephew is now a teenager, and my brother and SIL jokingly refer to certain occasions as "Forced Family Fun". I was lucky enough to be in the area while Terry was in training, so the kids and I went with my brother's family and my mother to Williamsburg to Great Wolf Lodge for a mid-week vacation.

We've spent plenty of time in Virginia with their family, they have come up to PA a few times too. Some of the family even came to Russia. With the cousins ranging between 15 and not-yet-3, though, the times all together have been too few. As many FS folks know, distance from family is one of the hardest parts of living overseas.

My 2 favorite memories from the 3 days together:
1. My 15 year old nephew shooing his dad out of his chair at dinner so he could sit next to Zoltan.
2. Alex asking to switch seats with me to sit next to her aunt.

Whenever someone is in their own home, there are too many distractions, too many chores. Going away together really gives people a chance to spend time together.