Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratitude #30

30. Today I am grateful for communities. I belong to virtual communities of foreign service folks or moms of children born in October 2007 and real life communities of parents and children who go to the playground after school pickup or people who went to law school with me.  It is instantly rewarding and validating to know that someone will just "get it" if I tell them a particular story, rant, or situation I need advice to solve. They say it takes a village and I don't think it's just about childcare.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gratitude #29

29. Today I am thankful for my children. Often frustrating, occasionally precious (in the good way). Last night in the car home from my brother's house Alex suggested that we all go around and talk about what we're thankful for. I so love that she thought of doing that.

Gratitude #28

28. In honor of Thanksgiving I am thankful for good food. I am sure my mother never would have guessed, in my only-a-piece-of-Kraft-singles-on-a-piece-of-Wonder-bread stage that this would happen, but I have become picky about my food. I don't care what it looks like as long as it's high quality and tastes good. The cooking team responsible for our Thanksgivukkah certainly pulled out the stops!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Gratitude #27

27. Today I am grateful for the daily gratitude project. Every study on happiness shows that expressing gratitude is an important part of a well-lived life. Yesterday I received news that, while not catastrophic, derails plans that had been in place for a good year or so. But after a little cry and some self pity, I pulled up my big girl panties and put everything into perspective. Going through my past 26 expressions of gratitude helped with that exercise.

And a quote from Alex, that just randomly and serendipitously happened to occur last night:
"I like the word "happy" because it is a way that we feel good."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Well, I guess I won't start working in January ...

I learned today that the invites for the January A-100 class have gone out.  People lower than me on the register got invites. I did not, because I am not technically on the register. After 2 years my clearance needed to be "re-upped" so I am currently under investigation yet again. This time it feels slower than any previous time. We had really been planning on me starting work in January, so this is an enormous blow. Please, if anyone's reading this, think good thoughts for this to be done in time for the March class (assuming there is a March class).

Gratitude #26

26. Today I am grateful for family. Since we've been back in the USA we have spent more time with family - immediate, extended, biological and not - from both sides than we had in at least 7 years. I am excited to see my one big brother I haven't seen in more than 3 years when he comes for Thanksgiving, and my mother might just faint when all her children and all her grandchildren are under one roof.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The first lost tooth!!!

Extra, extra, read all about it! After two teeth have already come in - behind the baby teeth, oy can we say orthodonture? - Alex has FINALLY wiggled and waggled that one very loose tooth to its very end. It happened about 10 minutes past bedtime so there are no photos as yet. Now we need to find the tooth fairy's special present (a light-up toothbrush) and figure out her going rate ($1.00, I think).

And now we can start wiggling and waggling the one not-very-loose tooth, because I think these adult teeth will eventually need to more forward.

Gratitude #25

25. Today I am grateful for the kitchen cart my mom got us for Hanukkah (yes, it was given early. I'm Ok with that.)  It has seriously transformed my kitchen experience, and given that I make dinner 9 nights out of 10, cook something for breakfast several days a week, make bread, yogurt, applesauce etc etc I spend a LOT of time in that very small space. Not having to take out half a cabinet to get to the one thing I need that got pushed to the back not because it's less used but because everything is often used is a joy. Not having to wash every single dish or pan before starting the new project because there is zero counter space is another joy.

Thanks again, mom!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gratitude #24

24. Today I am grateful for good fortune and good habits. A short while back, Terry went to the doctor and during the course of the exam the doc performed a test on him. As it turns out, the test isn't covered by insurance and doesn't even come out of the deductible or out-of-pocket expenses (that is the part that truly blows my mind). So it's just cash we're out. Hundreds of dollars.

I'm annoyed, and frustrated, and angry. But I am NOT: scared; worried; anxious. This extra unforeseen cost doesn't change our Thanksgiving, Hanukkah/Christmas, shopping habits or family activities. The number of Americans for whom a situation like this might just push them right over the brink they have been teetering on ... it's more than I want to think about.

It's also a two part blessing, as I see it. Yes we have and have had jobs that allowed a better than hand-to-mouth existence. But we've also always saved no matter what we've earned. And for those things, and the heat in my house turned down because Terry is freakishly hot all the time and not because we can't afford to turn it up, I am grateful.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gratitude #23

23. Today I am grateful to receive good customer service. It really does happen sometime, and (as a piece of advice to any business) it really does engender a sense of loyalty to the store that provides it. One of the kids' Hanukkah presents was not in the Fat Brain Toys box even though the packing slip said it was. I called with little hope. They sent out the item the same day. We already loved Fat Brain and now will be sure to use them and recommend them to everyone we know.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gratitude #22

22. Today I am grateful for naps. I don't know how 10-20 minutes of sleep during the day can make a person feel like they got an extra 1, 2 or even 3 hours' sleep the night before - the math doesn't seem to compute properly. And yet, it works.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gratitude #21

21. Today I am grateful for the DS customer service guy I spoke with yesterday. I have been diligently calling to check my clearance status every 2 weeks since September, only to be told every time that it's "under investigation" and not one word more. The target completion date has passed. Finally, today, the guy I spoke with said that he wasn't seeing what he expected to see for how long my case has been in the works and "not for me" (he was very clear about that) but for his own curiosity he's getting in touch with my case manager to see if something's up. He promised to call me within 24 hours with any information that he can tell me. It may be nothing but at least someone is actually looking into it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gratitude #20

20. Today I am grateful for the neighbor's teenage daughter who came by last night to offer her babysitting services at a totally reasonable rate. Do I hear "date night" calling?

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gratitude #18

18. Today I am thankful for portable electronics. The 4-5 hour trip each way to the cabin is made much easier with my pre-readers due to the existence of portable electronics. It's a treat for them, and I get to read my book :-)  Win-win.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gratitude #17

17. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to travel and live in other countries. There is an excitement I feel just going into an airport no matter where or why. Although Mark Twain was wrong, there are plenty of closed-minded bigots in the international hotels of the world, when properly embraced travel is a huge mind-opener and lesson-teacher. I am fully aware of how fortunate I am/have been to have the time/money/fortitude to engage in all this travel.

And it looks like I am raising a couple of nomads too. Alex has on many occasions expressed her displeasure that we've told her we won't get on a plane for at least a year. She was also somewhat shocked when I told her half a year has already passed.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Gratitude #16

16. I can't believe I waited this long but today I am thankful for the CABIN!!! You are the reason we had to buy a fixer-upper house (darn mortgage!) but you are still so necessary for my emotional health. I sometimes have a hard time giving up my connectivity but when I'm with you I don't even miss the internet. I can hike through our woods much longer than the kids' attention spans permit. I love the traditions we're building (Grotto's and trips to the local library ... I think we are about to add trips to Rickett's Glen too), the trees we're planting, and roots we're giving our mobile children. I love deciding at 7:45pm to build a fire and make s'mores and look at the stars. Alex is already a champion kindling and marshmallow stick finder. Zoltan complains that he doesn't like the "quiet woods" but when we're in the quiet woods he's pretty content.

I am also thankful for this (hopefully) 2 year period when we are here in the USA and with any luck will get to the cabin every month. We already missed October but I have decided that going up on November 1 plus another November trip makes up for it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gratitude #15

15. Today I am thankful for my good health. Especially in the last year, every member of my immediate family suffered or even still suffers from various mild-to-serious problems with their health. Even my blood is cleaner than it should be for my eating habits and level of activity (just had my first real "checkup" in 7 years - it always got pushed to the side while we were overseas).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gratitude #14

14. I am ever so thankful for the library. So many books! All for free! Since we've moved into our house in August I have been to the library at least once a week. More often than not it is in the company of Zoltan, who is also developing a love of the place. The pile of library books threatens to take over the living room and Terry is threatening to impose a borrowing limit. I just got out a Russian novel I currently have no hope of getting through (I could have back in May, according to my Russia teacher who recommended this author). Yes, Russian novels in my sort-of-suburban neighborhood!

The best part is when we go back overseas I'll still be able to use their e-book lending. I am giddy thinking about it. I may even let Terry convince me to put the majority of our books in storage rather than schlep them around the world just in case I run out of reading material.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gratitude #13

13. Today I am grateful for the glimpses I occasionally get of the good people the kids will turn out to be. Terry was sick on the couch last night. Zoltan lovingly drew two blankets over him, then brought out a magazine (Hi-5) and his (Zoltan's) second favorite lovey - the most favorite stays in bed or he'd have brought that one. Then he kissed Terry on the forehead. It made my heart grow three sizes bigger.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gratitude #12

12. I am thankful for the endorphins that rush through me when I go for a good run (well, I'm just getting back into things, "good" is 2 miles). I am finally back into it regularly enough that I feel grouchy when it's been too many days. I love how the human body can let us know what's good for us when we pay attention to it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Renovation Update

Finally the spackle is done enough that it is time for the primer.  In this case we are using white paint since we have a full 5 gallon bucket of it already.  Once the first coat or two of paint is on the wall then we will assess how much more spackle is required before going on to the final paint and eventually the ceiling and floor.  For now there is some progress.

Gratitude #11

11. In honor of Veteran's Day I am thankful for everyone who has, willingly or not (hello, draft!), physically or diplomatically, worked to keep our country and the people within it safe from outside threats. I am equally thankful for those who work to ensure the freedoms of each individual within our country, always remembering that it isn't "freedom" if it tramples someone else's rights.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gratitude #10

10. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to stay home with my children, and also to work part time. If anyone had said 7 years ago this would be my life I would be shocked and horrified. And yet as trite as it sounds, having children really does change everything. I wouldn't want to have missed all this wonderful time (well, from birth to 6 months I could do without, but apparently that is exactly the time children don't fare too well without a mama). The linked piece is that I am grateful to have worked part time for 3 of the 6 years I've been home with the kids. They had a chance to bond with other (wonderful, fabulous, almost better than me) caregivers and later to play with other children all day. My schedule let me be away from them fewer than 30 hours each week so my role as primary was pretty cemented. But having "adult time" is also important for my mental and emotional health, so it was a perfect balance. If only every job had the part-time options!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gratitude #9

9. I am so grateful for my husband. We are truly a team in every good sense of the word. I know he has my back and I have his. He is still the only adult I want to talk to every single day, and I still DO want to talk to him every single day. Together we have produced my favorite two small beings in the world, who alternately sass me and beg me to hold them, often within the same 60 seconds. And I wouldn't want anything else.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gratitude #8

Today I am thankful for seasons. Between Malta and Russia I had forgotten how much I love having four distinct seasons, each of which lasts longer than 2 weeks. As a New Englander there is definitely something missing in my life if the leaves don't turn vibrant red, golden yellow, crisp orange. I wish we'd been taking more photos this year!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gratitude #7

7. Similarly to yesterday, I am grateful for the friends in the DC area with whom I've reconnected. Some are people I never knew very well and some are close friends with whom I have fallen out of touch. In each situation, however, it's been a highlight of returning to the USA to see people I've known a long time.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Comcast. AGAIN

So the guy from the Executive Customer Care division called us on halloween. Guess what? November 1 we are without internet for almost the entire day. I called him and left a message. Never heard back, although I did say it was a "heads up" message.

Today, only 5 days later, we were once again without internet. First the CSR got disconnected/hung up one me, but she did call back so it is possible we really did get disconnected? Then she says the modem is entirely offline and someone needs to come check it out. Then we're back online (???)  The end result is someone will come tomorrow, she said it could be the line is bad so the internet isn't even coming into the house properly. Zoltan will have to go to preschool late but at least someone will check it out. Three reported problems in less than two weeks is completely unconscionable.

Gratitude #6

6. I am grateful for the group of moms friends who have invited me and the kids into their group. Overseas it's pretty easy to make new friends as you move - there's a whole expat community standing in your exact same shoes. In the USA, well, nobody comes over with a basket of muffins and greets the new family with open arms anymore. It's been really nice to hang out with a group of moms.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gratitude #5

5. Terry and I met while we both lived in DC (actual DC, not MD or VA). We don't like the DC area. Well .... we didn't like the DC area. See, we didn't have kids when we lived here before. I now understand all the wonderfulness that is to be found in this area. Parks, playgrounds, museums, activities, sports, the list goes on. If I were independently wealthy and only needed to entertain my kids all day as my job I could easily find something new to discover every single day of the year.

I am  grateful for the wealth of enriching, interesting, and fun activities/sights/events in my area. I am grateful that anyone with time can take advantage of most of them as much in the area is free or cheap.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Gratitude #4 and fifth CSA haul

4.  I am grateful for the CSA. It is so rewarding to do something that is important to me and reflects my values and lets the kids get a better sense of where our food comes from. It's also exciting to spend every Monday figuring out how to use all the good stuff and I love the unique and memorable experiences (rutabaga cake, anyone?). Last week's fennel was absolutely delicious sliced thinly and sauteed in olive oil with a bit of salt at the end. Couldn't stop myself from stealing slices as I got the rest of dinner ready. I'd never eaten fennel before.

This week we got:
- a bunch of carrots
- a bunch of kale
- an enormous daikon radish and something else that may be radish or turnip
- 4 ears of corn
- apples
- one green pepper
- one white eggplant
- a medium sized pie pumpkin
- an enormous head of cabbage
- a bag of potatoes

Gratitude #2 & #3

2. I am grateful for this opportunity to spend a chunk of time in America. In October alone we had visits with 4 sets of family and November looks to be similar with different family members. The kids are actually remembering people from one visit to the next!

3. I am grateful for the opportunity to see the cabin in all different seasons. Actually using our beach club membership this summer as the kids and I sometimes hit the beach both before and after nap; seeing the leaves change and hiking in the nearby state park; and I can't wait to see everything under snow and maybe splurging on snowshoes for everyone to recreate the kids' favorite activity from last year's trip to Lapland.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November gratitude

As a first world person with first world problems, it's too easy to get bogged down sometimes. I loved doing the daily gratitude post last year and will be continuing the tradition this year. Some posts will be redundant, I can't help it, there are some things I am continually grateful for every single time I think about them. That's a good thing, no?

I'm running a bit behind as we went cabin-ing this weekend so didn't have internet (and yes, you can bet the cabin will feature this month).

To kick it off -
Day 1: I am grateful for our enormous pasta pot that lets me cook down a crazy load of apples into several quarts of applesauce. Having control over what goes into my family's food is important, and being able to do it efficiently makes me happy.

(now I must get back to peeling and chopping apples from which to make delicious applesauce)

Giving props when due

Nobody likes Comcast. Normally, we don't like Comcast. But I am forced to admit that actually have the capability to do the right thing.

A week or so ago, I had an awful day exacerbated by the inability to use my telephone or get online due to non functioning internet. I blogged about it. As you can see, a Comcast rep found me and left a comment inviting me to contact him and go over what went wrong. Within the day of me sending the information he requested we got a call. (being a little picky, I will say that the choice of 7pm on Halloween wasn't inspired)

And ... the end result is we were compensated for the inconvenience and even given a rep's direct number for the next time we encounter a problem.  We have also noticed that our service has been much better since then.

I have a feeling if all problems were resolved like this, everyone would switch to Comcast voluntarily.

[Edited to add: the very next day we were without internet for the entire day. I even called  the guy who had called and left a message that was never returned. Ugh. Possibly back to hating Comcast.]

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Third and fourth CSA haul

With all of last week's excitement, I forgot to post what we got. So, here goes

Third week
big head of Romaine
huge head of cabbage
6 ears of corn (score!!)
a fennel bulb
4 green peppers
12 apples
4-5 potatoes
3 eggplant (1 big purple, 2 small white)

Fourth week
5 ears of corn
4-5 big sweet potatoes
a bunch of greens, possibly collard?
a big head of broccoli
a bunch of beets
a bunch of carrots
4-5 green peppers
7-9 apples, red and golden delicious

Friday, November 1, 2013

A bit more about Halloween night

This was the kids' very first Halloween*, at the ripe old ages of 4 and 6.

There's a great group of moms who meet at the playground near school and we've started hanging out with them. They invited us to trick or treat with them and at first I hesitated because it's "all the way" across the one main street and near the school. I am SO GLAD I changed my mind.

We met up at one mom's house (she has the oldest kids so the most neighborhood experience). Alex and Zoltan were seriously about to explode and I eventually sent them to run around a lamp post to burn some energy while waiting for everyone to gather. By the time we left, we had 20 kids and I have no idea how many adults. It was complete pandemonium but a ton of fun to be a huge group.
 When we got home the kids wanted to do some trick or treating on our street. The majority of the houses were dark. We only wanted to go to a few houses anyway as the kids certainly didn't need any more candy. There's an older lady on our street I once met and chatted with who had told me she loved Halloween, she decks the house out and the kids love coming to her house. I made sure that was one we went to and I am glad we did, she had put together a whole little bag of non-candy items like a pencil, stickers, eraser, etc. With that level of attention and effort I am glad we came by to appreciate and enjoy the fruits of her labor!

* Yes mom, I know they were both alive and Alex even went trick or treating at your house but she was 2 years and 2 weeks old, he was 5 days old, and I just don't count it given that they don't and couldn't possibly remember it.