Monday, December 8, 2014

#Microblog Monday: Summer Care?

It has been a crazy couple of weeks, with piles of out of town holiday guests, and I am thoroughly and totally exhausted.  Now I am frantically trying to get my holiday shopping done, while still looking for a new job, while planning things for the kids to do (they are on summer vacation), while also planning for moving back to the US (if we do that next summer--in addition to the US job, we have some other possibilities, including in Africa--but more on that later).

But here is what I have been wondering, amidst the other madness:  what do American parents do these days with their elementary school aged children during summer breaks, and how much does that cost?  As the possibility of returning to the US looms large, I'm pondering the logistics of being a family with two working parents, and I'm totally stumped on this one.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Utter Chaos

I haven't been writing because I am feeling overwhelmed.  All sorts of things are happening at once, and it's just. . .a lot for me to deal with.  I don't even know what to pay attention to first, and I feel a little bit like a dog chasing flies. . .I bite at the air in one direction, then another, then another, because all of these things are buzzing around me and driving me crazy, but I'm not actually doing much to stop the madness.  I feel like I can't give anything the time it deserves--let alone the people in my life.

The job situation is still not finalized, but it looks like we are headed back to the U.S.  I'm having mixed feelings about it--the job isn't quite what I wanted to do, but the more I think about going back, the more relieved I feel, and so that has made the job seem more appealing.  The last 18 months have been great, but mentally exhausting, and it will be good to recharge my batteries in the U.S.  But since it's not a sure thing (and I may not know for sure until after the holidays!), I'm continuing to interview. . .which sucks.  I'm ready to be done with that part of things.

But even though I'm still interviewing, we have to prepare like we are going back, because it's just about school lottery time.  We are committed to bilingual education for the girls, so that basically means moving in-bounds for a good bilingual public school (which are mostly high-end real estate markets), winning the lottery (literally), or getting a healthy scholarship to a private school.  So I am researching schools like crazy and trying to figure out if I can find time in my schedule to travel back to actually visit the schools we are applying to.

The school search is complicated by a few factors, one of them being that we don't know where we will be living, exactly.  And, until the job thing is set for my husband and I, we don't know exactly how much cash we will have in our housing budget.  Ideally, we'd like to buy a place that needs a bit of work, so we can renovate it and make it our own, then probably sell it.  It gives me a headache to thing about schools and work and potential commute times, because there are so many unknowns still.  And reasonably priced housing is hard to come by, regardless if we were going to rent or buy.

I have to travel for work this week.  I hate leaving the girls and T.  Enough said.

Miss M's school year has come to a close, but she's been asked to attend for the next two weeks, but only for half days.  Can we say logistical issue?

T finally started his new job.  Yes, just as the school year ended.  School doesn't start again until the end of January.  This created a lot of daycare angst for us.  We were going to put SB in preschool, but then realized that would leave Miss M at home by herself, which doesn't make a lot of sense.  So, we added some hours to our nanny's schedule, and then hired a second person to come in for a few hours a day to help play with the kids and basically take the burden off her a little bit.  I know this sounds extravagant, but I'm pulling 11-12 hour days right now, and if I want to spend any time at all with the kids, that means someone else needs to do the laundry and clean the house.  At least if I want to have any shot at keeping my sanity.  And I have been SO spoiled, having a stay-at-home husband.  The household was way more relaxed before he started working.  But, it's also been really healthy for him to get out of the house a little and have a life of his own, and I can't deny that the second income is nice.

We have about 30 people coming for Thanksgiving.  I've bought new plates and glasses and silverware, but haven't planned the menu at all, beyond ordering a turkey and a ham.

We also have 11 people visiting for Thanksgiving week from out of town--5 of them under the age of 5.  We are super excited and can't wait to see everyone.  But, it's also going to be a bit of a madhouse.  The first guests arrive on Saturday.  The guest room is FULL of children's clothes that we are in the process of sorting through, and toy overflow, and odds and ends that we've been storing in there.  It will need to be cleaned out before guests arrive, or they will have nowhere to sleep.

And finally, I will need to have my next round of follow-up in a few weeks re: the tumor/surgery I had last December, and it's started to weigh on me.  I find myself crying at odd times, worrying about the future.  I hate the anxiety associated with the follow-up, and wish I could just relax.

Yeah, so that's what we've got going on.  And I am constantly exhausted.  I booked myself at a nice hotel for my business trip (it was oddly less expensive than the hotel I stayed in last time in the same city, but looks SO much nicer).  Hopefully I'll at least get a good night's sleep.

Monday, October 20, 2014

#MicroblogMonday: Winning the (School) Lottery

This whole job thing has taken an unexpected (i.e., U.S.) turn, which has really thrown me for a loop.   I was merrily going along, really focused on staying abroad for a few more years, bobbing happily upon my personal ocean of school selection ignorance, with no plans to move back to the U.S. and have to make any real efforts to find the "right" school.  But then this whole job thing went in a different direction, and now I'm like. . .oh, crap!  I'm a small town New England girl.  Where I'm from, there is only one game in town, and everyone goes there.

But now we're seriously contemplating moving back to the U.S. for a while, to a big city with lots of choice.  And in the U.S. these days, "lots of choice" means school lotteries.  I really, really, really want to keep the girls in bilingual education.  They both are speaking Spanish really well and have great accents, and it's something that is just important to me.  I really want to raise bilingual children.  And I've deluded myself into thinking that it's totally doable, so I've got that going for me.

The thing is, I've never lived in the U.S. with school age children, and I was never a city kid, so I know nothing about lotteries.  And, as I research the bilingual education options, I've come to realize that I'm really going to have to participate in one or more school lotteries in order to have a realistic shot at getting them into a bilingual school.

Anyone out there have any wisdom to share about managing a school lottery process?  Do those school fairs that they hold in one location, with dozens of schools represented, have any use at all?  Should I really attend an open house at every school we are looking at, or can I just prioritize based on my research and then just visit the ones we get into?  What do you wish you had known before you went through a lottery process?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TGI Almost Friday

This week has been a roller coaster on the job front.  The job that looked so promising vanished into thin air; another hasn't decided on who they'll hire; and a third apparently, according to my inside source, had already decided on someone else when they interviewed me (I don't understand this, but whatever).  But, two more jobs have popped up, and hope springs eternal.

A while ago, Miss M's teacher told me that she had some concerns about her physical/ fine motor development, and suggested we have her evaluated.  We agreed, and the school subsequently did a psychological, physical, and occupational evaluation.  Today I had the meeting at school to get the results.  In Spanish...yay, me!!  (I am still amazed that I can do these things.). They think she's a healthy, bright, strong-willed, independent little thing.  Also, she's spoiled.  That cracked me up.  Can you imagine an educator saying that to am American parent?!  They did, quite bluntly.  But that was beside the point.  They also feel she's got fine motor issues, and that it's impacting her ability to write and also to sit still and function in class.  They think her coping mechanism is to talk, ask questions, and divert attention from the fact she's having trouble, and she's both missing out instruction herself, and is a distraction to other kids.

I'm not so convinced that muscle weakness or development is causing her to be unable to sit still.  That aside, I'm increasingly noticing her inability to sit still and pay attention without fidgeting or messing around with something.  She takes a swim class, and all of the kids take turns doing things, and when it's not her turn she is literally attempting to dive to the bottom of the pool, or fidgeting with the lane marker bolts, etc, etc.  Her instructors have to give her instructions repeatedly.  So, yeah,  there is something there.  She wants to zoom ahead, constantly, and has trouble staying in the moment and focusing.

Their recommendation is two hours of therapy a week.  I'm not convinced it will work, but it can't hurt.  It will be during school, and they will send projects home for us to work on with her.  They're going to start next week.  They don't think it will take long, but I forgot to ask how long, exactly.

And now, off to bed for my 4am wake up call.

Monday, October 13, 2014

#Microblog Monday: What I Cooked Today

It's impossible to get decent Lebanese food here.  The taste is off, or the texture is off, and no, there is no such thing as "authentic Lebanese empanadas," no matter what the menu may claim at one local place.  It's not even possible to buy hummus at the store, or tabbouleh, and forget about finding some solid baba ghanoush ANYWHERE.  It pains me greatly, because two cities ago, I used to make a regular pilgrimage to a place with homemade pita bread and baba ghanoush just for lunch.  I LURVE it.  Needless to say, tahini is also impossible to find.

Today I decided to make my own everything.  Chickpeas are only available dried, so I soaked them.  I roasted sesame seeds, and whirled them with sunflower oil.  I baked puffy pita bread from scratch, chopped up parsley and tomato and onion.  I prepared rice, marinated beef for kebabs.  Work, work, work, work.

In the end, it was all pretty good, except for the hummus.  The sesame seeds looked white, but I think it truth they were brown.  It made super dark brown, very nutty tahini, and it was a bit strong for my tastes.  All in all, not a bad first try.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What A Week!

I had to travel on business again this week.  This time, it was to a much warmer climate.  I remembered to pack appropriate business clothes, but utterly forgot that it's rainy hurricane season in the Caribbean.  Hence, I brought no umbrella, and only cute shoes, and it rained buckets, and the roads flooded, and my flight was cancelled, and I had to stay an extra day. . .and while I was dealing with all of that, in other parts of the world people were not on business trips and it was not raining and their shoes were not soggy and uncomfortable, and they wanted me to have interviews via phone for job prospects for next year.  Which was lovely and wonderful and exciting, and terribly inconvenient.

I didn't do anything terribly exciting while I was gone, other than sleep through the night in a big bed all by myself, and miss big hugs from my wonderful children.  I think this was the longest (4 nights) that I have ever been away from them since either of them was born, and I missed them terribly.  I was really excited to get home and see them, and extremely disappointed when I realized that my flight was not getting out and I was not getting home on time.  The hotel had a large, inviting pool, and I had brought my swimsuit, but I consistently went to work so early and worked so late that I never made it there.  I have to go back next month, so maybe then.  So, it was work, work, work all week while I was in a lovely tropical place.  Well, at least it was warm.

So, the interviews.  Right now, we think we are actually going to head back to the U.S. for a while.  We were initially thinking that we wanted to stay abroad for a while longer, especially now that the girls have such a good Spanish base.  The U.S. jobs were a bit of a surprise, actually, but I'm interviewing for a few jobs that I am excited about, and it just sort of feels right.  I won't know for a while yet, but things are looking good.  I'm starting to think about neighborhoods and schools, and getting kind of excited.  It's hard to believe that in just about 7 months or so, we will be out of here.  And there are still so many things that we want to do!  I have at least 4 trips planned in my head, and then a few long weekends on top of that.

When I got home, I discovered we had loads of social events planned.  There were 16 people at my house last night for dinner, and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed.  It was fun to see everyone, but my word, so exhausting.  And even though the girls were up for hours after their regular bedtime, somehow they still made their way into my bed at 5am for snuggles, and with demands for yogurt and bagels.  :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Peace in the Face of Disappointment

I still have this expectation that if you work hard, do more than is asked of you, try hard, produce good stuff, etc., etc., that good things happen to you in return professionally.  And so, I was totally expecting something to happen at work, something good.  But it didn't.  And I'm a bit. . .surprised?  Stunned?  It didn't just involve me--it involved a number of other people who also worked hard, who are good people, who were deserving of good things happening to them.  And yet. . .good things didn't happen.  I am more surprised and disappointed for them than I am for myself.

When setbacks like this happen, it makes me question the wisdom that hard work brings rewards.  I think that idea comes from my Puritanical New England roots, and in moments like this, I start to think it's a bit outdated.  I think I probably do not give enough credit (and attention) to connections and networking and good, old-fashioned sucking up, and the rewards those things bring.  Which is also a bit cynical.

In any case, I was initially very disappointed.  But then, it struck me that I did everything I could.  EVERYTHING.  Except maybe spending a lot of time sucking up, but I can live with myself not having done that.  I worked really hard, over an extended period of time, and I gave it my best.  And this time, perhaps my best wasn't good enough for someone else to recognize, but I am good enough for me.  I am satisfied with a job well done And for today, that's enough.