Friday, August 29, 2014

Which Vacation Would You Choose?

In the midst of all of the new-job-finding-stress, I find myself in need of a vacation.  Oh sure, vacations are not really vacations any more, not with a two year old and a four year old running around.  No more lazing by the pool or mornings sleeping in or day drinking for us!  But we've found that action-packed adventure actually suits our curious little ones.  As long as we keep things moving, build in time for naps, and plan for some swimming-in-the-pool time, it seems to work out pretty well.  They both are pretty amazing on airplanes now:  they buckle themselves in and settle right down with their respective Leap Pads and the bag full of activities I always bring.

So, I've been thinking about a trip.  I'd love to go to the Galapagos or to Machu Picchu, which are both relatively close to hear, maybe early in 2015.  I'm having trouble deciding.  We'd definitely do a land-based Galapagos trip, maybe visiting only one or two islands.  Given that I have a pile of frequent flier miles, neither trip is cost-prohibitive, so I don't look at it as some sort of once-in-a-lifetime trip that I wouldn't repeat, so it doesn't bother me that we might miss out on a bunch of stuff on a land-based tour.  I'd just like to experience SOME of it at this point, and I think the kids would get a kick out of the animals.  Plus, we have friends we could stop over with on the way there, and then other friends we could visit on the way back, if we route the flights correctly.  Machu Picchu, on the other hand, has parts that I think would be interesting for my kids (they'll be about 3 and 5 by the time I'm thinking of traveling in early 2015).  But, it also has parts they aren't going to care about.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Talent Show

While in the U.S., you might invite friends for a party a week or more before the event, and you might notify parents of significant school events a month or more before the event, I've noticed that the norm here is to do everything at the last minute.  We might get a kid's birthday party invitation a day or two before the party (super convenient when you discover you need to shop for a gift in the middle of the week--so, I've taken to stockpiling "just in case gifts"), and not much more for school events.

Late last week, we got a school notice saying that there is a talent show at the school this coming weekend, but there were few details.  The key piece of information that was missing was who would be participating, and how to sign up.  Two days ago, we received a note with three tickets attached, instructing us that we should be about $2.50 apiece for them, in order to attend the show.  It's not much money, and it's a fundraiser, so I didn't mind--but, there was still no information about participating in the show.  

When I asked Miss M about it, she told me quite emphatically that she was wearing a dress and singing and dancing in the show, and that they were going to give her a microphone.  I assumed her class was doing something, until I got an email from her teacher that said that only two students from her class were participating--and neither of the girls listed in the email was my daughter.  I went back to Miss M and asked her again, but she was quite adamant that she was performing.

I sent her teacher an email to inquire, and got a curt email back.  She said that only two girls who were involved in an after-school class (belly dancing--as an elective--I have a whole other rant about the appropriateness of that, but anywho. . .) were participating.  She also said that Miss M had to sign up in May to participate.  May.  MAY.  It's the end of August, and dear Lord, the child is 4 years old.  She had to sign up in May?!

My husband broke the news to Miss M after school yesterday, and she was quite upset.  I sat down with Miss M last night to prepare her, but when I talked to her, she refused to believe that she wasn't in the show.  It was rather adorable, actually.  She said that her teacher must have been joking.  So, I did what any cowardly forward-thinking mother would do:  I told her that she should talk to her teacher about it today.  And, I told her that if she wasn't able to participate in the talent show at school, that we would hold our own talent show at home.

I also emailed the teacher, and let her know that Miss M was quite convinced that she was participating, and suggested that perhaps she could talk with her about it.  The teacher must have, because when I asked Miss M about it tonight, she told me that she wasn't in it.  But, she then said that it didn't matter, because we were having our own talent show.  :)  

I know that my daughter's teacher thinks she is hopelessly spoiled.  And, in this country where the average person earns a few thousand dollars a year, comparatively speaking, I'm sure she is.  But I also think that there is no reason to needlessly disappoint 4 year olds.  They've got their whole lives for that.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Next Step

So yes, I finally got my act together and concocted a resume for myself, and applied for a pile of jobs.    Well, maybe "pile" is a bit of an exaggeration.  But a fair amount. . .a few in Europe, a few in Latin America, and a few in Southeast Asia.  I've had some fairly positive feedback so far, although it's a slow moving process.

I have a line on a job here, raising the possibility that we could stay where we are for 2-3 more years.  I am intrigued by the possibility.  First, it's exactly what I want to do next professionally.  We love our apartment here, and would be quite comfortable staying a few more years.  We are happy with Miss M's school, and SB could enroll when the new school year starts in January.  It would give both girls a few more years to solidify their Spanish (maintaining it beyond that is obviously a different story).   It would mean extended employment for T, because he could stay in the job he recently got (whether he'll want to for a few years is also another story).  We have lots of friends here.  Plus, we love our housekeeper/nanny, and it would mean that we get to keep her for a bit longer.  As weirded out as I was initially about having household help, it's made my life immeasurably easier and calmer, and she is lovely, and our girls adore her.  For lots of reasons, it would be a good move to stay here.

I've also gotten some good feedback on a few of the European jobs, as well.  I'm excited about the possibility of those, because the jobs are also what I'd like to do next, and Europe is. . .well, Europe:  good food, lots of travel opportunities, and not terribly far from the U.S..  On the other hand, it's also expensive, we'd have to figure out how to maintain the girls' language ability, and who knows whether T would be able to find a job.  Oh, and we couldn't afford household help there, which means back to utter chaos.  We'd have to start over, socially.  Moves are also financially expensive.  There are always things you need to buy, which you never anticipate and which always cost far more than you've budgeted.  It's inevitable that problems arise with international moves, and due to stress, timing, lack of familiarity with the culture, and an overwhelming desire to settle in as soon as possible, you solve them by throwing money at them.

And I guess I'm still in the running for the Asian jobs, although I don't think I'm a serious candidate, in their view.  But who knows.  Anything is possible.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mean Girls

Last weekend, I took the girls to the park while T was off at the gym.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and they were delighted to be there.  We saw one of Miss M's friends from school, and I thought "oh great--now she has someone to run around with."  But that's not what happened.

The girl was with her older sister, and they were with two other friends, who looked to be just a bit older.  The four of them were skulking around the playground like teenagers (the oldest was probably all of 8 or 9), not actually playing on anything, and acting too cool for school.  I was chasing after SB, but noticed within seconds that Miss M, after a brief initial interaction with the girls, was no longer with them.  I turned to see her sitting dejectedly on a stone wall.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" I asked.  Her shoulders slumped forward, and she didn't meet my eyes.  "Anna doesn't want to play with me."  It turned out that the other girls had rejected her.  They didn't want her around.  She was devastated.  I tried to distract her, to no avail.  She wanted to play with her classmate and friend, and couldn't be dissuaded.  She approached the girls several more times, only to be rejected again and again, quite meanly in fact.

This classmate is all of 5 years old.  Her older sister is 7.

Miss M wanted me to make them apologize to her for hurting her feelings, and to make them play with her.  I explained as kindly as I could that I couldn't make them do anything, and that sometimes people are just unkind.  We talked a bit about how bad this makes you feel, and how this is the reason we are always careful to be kind to others. . .because it feels bad to be treated this way, and we don't want to make anyone feel this way.

Ultimately, I could see that no matter what I said, it was eating her up, so we left the park.  Mercifully, just after leaving, we ran into another friend who has two girls of her own, the same ages as my girls.  They were headed for a playdate with new friends.  We went back to the park with them, and Miss M and SB ran around with these two other girls and a bunch of new friends.  I could see Anna and her sister looking enviously at the group.  Soon and much to my relief, they left the park.  The day ended well for us, with Miss M having a blast.

T had been telling me for days that he thought Anna and her sister are mean girls.  He'd seen them do unkind things during drop off and pick up, and at a birthday party they'd all recently attended together.  I honestly didn't believe he was right.  They are 5 and 7.  How could they possibly already exhibit that kind of behavior? And yet, they did and they do.  I think that they do not have the nicest home life.  I get the sense that there is discord between the parents.  The mother talks about her husband in a really angry way, which makes me suspect there is a lot of strife in the household.  I attended an event with them a few months ago, and was surprised by the rancor between them.

But still, I just didn't think it started this young, and it makes me so sad for them, and for Miss M.  She's only 4 years old, and I am a bit at a loss that I already need to start preparing her for cruelty.  Whatever happened to the innocence of childhood?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I am supposed to be updating my resume, because I MUST get on with figuring out where we go from here.  But you know what?  It's boring and I don't feel like it.  I simply don't want to obsess on how to present what I've been doing in the best light to get the next job that I want.  I don't want to obsess over how far back my resume should go, and whether it looks weird that I've left out decades of stuff.    I just. . .don't.

And as for what I'm looking for, well, um. . .I'm interested in a lot of things, and highly skilled at a few, and there are a few more that I'm PRETTY sure I'd be good at. . .so we're looking at a bit of this in Latin America and a bit of that in Europe, with a smattering of Southeast Asia thrown in.  (And if any of you Laos folks are out there, please comment on the current state of healthcare there. . .as in the, my kid fell and needs stitches, broke an arm, hit their head, etc. emergency kind.)

Honestly, it's all a bit overwhelming.  I try to do a bit each day, but there are never enough hours in the day.

And oof, are we dealing with the throes of TWOness with SB.  She is incredibly charming, with her sparkly eyes and chubby cheeks and curly hair and dimpled grin.  When she knows she's done something naughty (which is basically about every three minutes, because she is an inquisitive, strong willed child who takes "don't do that" as a personal challenge to achieve), she immediately owns up to it, with an impish grin, hands behind her back, "I'm sorrrry, Mommy!"  And when I try to punish her, "But I want to apologize!"  And then she pours on the charm.  When I try to put her to bed, it's all "mommy, will you snuggle with me," and then, if I manage to get out of the room, "mommy, I have to tell you something important."  It is equal parts hilarious and maddening.  Oh, but the temper tantrums if she doesn't get her way.  These are the classic throw-yourself-on-the-ground and curse the earth tantrums, which we never had with our oldest.  I get so embarrassed when we are in public and it happens.  I look like such a jerk trying to put a flailing child back into the stroller.

The super hard part is that we have not found one.single.punishment that works.   She is not quite two years and five months at this point, so I'm quite at a loss for how to handle it.  She simply doesn't care, ignores us, and/or is a smiling little imp whenever we try to discipline.  It is SUPER frustrating.  And unfortunately, completely adorable much of the time.  I have to hold very strong to keep from laughing.  Which I swear isn't the problem, because I do manage to discipline her with a straight face.  But oh my, are we at a loss.  What do you do when nothing you're doing works?

But that wasn't the story I was going to tell you today.  I was going to tell you about how I found myself outside a Latin American women's prison today, and how it was every bit as depressing as you might imagine it to be.  Dingy, dusty prison walls.  Sad, frayed people waiting their turn to enter, each with a spartan handful goods to deliver to their loved ones.  The worn face of the woman selling coffee for 75 cents a cup outside the prison doors, yelling to the waiting crowd over and over again "there is black coffee, there is herbal tea, there is coffee with milk!"  The pot-bellied man who sold cell phone minutes to anyone who would buy them.  What really broke my heart, though, were the contents of the clear plastic bags that the visitors were bringing in to deliver to the women:  diapers, and wipes, and other baby goods.  I've been thinking about it all day.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ladyparts Irony

So, it took us a couple of years, a couple of miscarriages, and a couple of rounds of Clomid to conceive our first child, Miss M.  For my entire life, I did not have normal cycles.  Wonky, weird, ovulatory, annovulatory, super long, super short, 35, 45, 60 day cycles, ovulation on day 20, 22, or worse...that was me.  That was why we needed the Clomid--it helped me have normal cycles, and helped us quickly become pregnant.  I would have preferred to get pregnancy naturally, but you do what you have to do.  When it came time to conceiving our second child, we went straight to Clomid, and once again had success, for which I am so grateful.

I also didn't have periods for about a year after each child was born.  They didn't return until I stopped nursing, more or less.

And now, at almost 42, when we are done family building?

I have perfect, 28 day cycles.  I have textbook cervical mucus halfway through my cycle.  I ovulate exactly on time.  Every.Single.Month.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

At the Playground

There is a beautiful new playground near our house.  The local government spent like a million dollars renovating this park.  It has gorgeous open space, good lighting even after dark, a sandbox, toddler-friendly playground equipment, a rubber surface, and an armed guard.  Yes, you read that right...private, armed security.

Now, I don't live in the safest place on the planet.  Latin American countries have well known crime issues, and armed guards are pretty much the norm here.  There is literally an army of private security guards working throughout this city, in the lobbies of upscale apartment buildings, in shops, in restaurants, in schools, in offices...everywhere.  You can't walk a block without seeing private, armed security.  I don't even think much about it any more when I see a guy with a machine gun outside a shop.

But, the playground gave me pause.  I mean, we play on plenty of playgrounds that have no security.  Are we in danger when we do?  Before they upgraded this playground, there was no security.  Did it become more dangerous?  Do they know something I don't?  Or, is the security there to protect their investment, rather than the people?  And what happens if there is a security threat?  Will the officer pull his weapon?  Will he shoot?  And if he does, is he even likely to hit his target, or will it be a child?

In the end, I'm not sure how I should feel.  Should I feel MORE safe, because there is armed security on the playground in this very security conscious place?  Or should I feel LESS secure, because there is now a greater chance that my child will accidentally get shot?  Because the reality is that there are often many dozens of children playing on the playground.  If an armed intruder decides to attack, it's just not likely that the guard will take out just the attacker.

As an American, this seems all a bit absurd.  But then, it also seems a bit like where we are headed.

How would you feel about armed guards at your playground?  Would you still visit (imagine that it's the best playground around)?