Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Anxious

Yesterday at 4:30 they called to tell me that the genetics testing was back, and they moved my appointment up to this afternoon. It was so unexpected and my appointment was still so far away that I had not even worried about the results much yet.

I'm on my way to the appointment now, and I am worried. It didn't help th public transportation here is a mess right now, and I missed the train I had planned to take. I had to pay a small pile of extra money to take the high speed train so that I can make my appointment, which is outside the city.

I am hoping for the best, because the alternative would really, really suck.

Monday, July 11, 2016

#Microblog Monday: School Clothes?

We have been at uniform schools for the last few years.  I LOVE school uniforms.  It makes life so very easy on school mornings.  Once school ended this year, I discovered how very hard it is to get SB dressed, in particular.  I bought her a bunch of different summer clothes, and she basically refused to wear anything but ONE skort and ONE tank top (which thankfully came in a number of colors).  I'm dreading school shopping, but know I need to start, because September will be here before I know it!

Both of my girls prefer skirts and dresses.  I can't get either one to wear jeans.  I've been joking that their fashion sense generally comes down to:  a) is it pink; b) could you eat four helpings of Thanksgiving dinner in it comfortably?; and c) would a 65 year wear it to a Jersey casino?  If all three, then it is TOTALLY up their alley.

So now I'm trying to figure out where to shop and what to buy.

Where do you buy comfortable, affordable school clothes?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Summertime

Things are, as they always are in America, hectic.  The girls have finished up school, and have been attending two different summer camps.  SB strongly prefers the camp at her preschool, because they don't make her nap.  She comes home dirty, happy, and gloriously exhausted.  Miss M has not yet attended that camp (her school got out later), and strongly prefers the camp that they have been at since she got out of school.  She has been crying and yelling when we raise the fact that her preferred camp got booked up for the next few weeks, so she will be attending the camp at SB's preschool (which is also for older kids).  SB, meanwhile, is delighted.  She loathes the camp they've been going to, as they make her nap.  The side effect of this is that she is up until 10pm every night.  It is remarkable how little sleep the child needs, and a source of much consternation.  I tried talking to the camp about the nap, but they are utterly inflexible about it.  I think it's weird that they have a rest time  for 4 year olds.  But, we managed to soldier through it, with none of horrible fallout that we had over the school year.  We are soooo looking forward to next week's camp, and are sure Miss M will love it once she's there.  She used to run ahead to get to SB's preschool when we dropped her off, so she had a few minutes to play before I dragged her out of there to take her to her own school.  It truly is a magical place.

We have to sign the contract this week for preschool for next year.  They've been blessedly silent about it until now, so we let it go as we watched to see how things were going to shake out with our international options.  I am in the running for a job in the Caribbean, but we still don't know how it will pan out.  Honestly, although it will be a really tight situation financially, I'm fine with staying another year.  It would be really great if we got to stay another year AND the job in the Caribbean came through for next year.  After (what would then be) two years of chaotic "first world" parenting, slow island pace sounds pretty amazing to me.  The only fly in this ointment is that the job may come through much sooner than expected, like by the end of the summer.  So basically, I'm in the running for a job with an undetermined availability date, as they haven't decided yet when they will fill the job.  And of course, they may still decide to go with another candidate, because that's life.

We had a fabulous Fourth of July.  We did a spur-of-the-moment overnight trip to the shore.  We had a wonderful couple of days hiking, playing in the bay, swimming in the hotel pool, getting ice cream along the boardwalk, eating fresh seafood, and visiting a really amazing sculpture/fairy garden.  It was really amazing to be out in the country.  I felt like I could finally. . .breathe.  Being in the country is definitely my happy place.  Except.  Three days after we got back, I developed the unmistakable tattoo of Lyme disease on my leg.  We did a 3.5 mile hike with the girls, and they did really amazing, and I never saw a tick on me. But the trailhead had huge signs warning of a serious tick problem/Lyme disease in the area, and I vaguely recall feeling something on my leg in the location where the rash eventually appeared, and scraping something small with my nail.  In hindsight, it was likely a tiny deer tick, and I likely knocked it off and left the head; I didn't think to look at the time, because I was busy with the chaos that is little kids.  Ticks have to be on your body for 24 hours to transmit the disease, but if you leave the head, it can continue to exude saliva and infect you, apparently.  Luckily, being from Northern New England, I'm familiar with the bulls-eye rash that is the signature of Lyme disease, and I went straight to urgent care for antibiotics the moment I saw it.  I never actually felt bad, so hopefully there will be no long-term effects.

What else?  The girls have three more weeks of summer camp, and then T and I have four weeks off between us.  We're taking the girls to New England for the month to spend time with family and friends.  They'll do two weeks with me and two weeks with T.  It's a huge bummer that we can't vacation as a family, but T doesn't have any time built up, since he's relatively new in his job, and I couldn't get more than two weeks off this summer because things are a little crazy at work.  Nevertheless, it will be good for the kids.  I'm a little nervous, because we are spending it all at family lake houses, and the idea of the girls around the water without me terrifies me.  But I'm trying not to be neurotic. . .easier said than done.

Oh, and my doctor had recommended cancer genetic testing based on my family history.  It took me six months to get the appointment, but I finally had it, and decided to move forward with the testing.  It is a little stressful, but once I learned that if I am a carrier, there is a 50% chance I could have passed it on to the girls, it was a no-brainer.  Hopefully, I will not be a carrier for any of the gene mutations, and that will be that.  They told me that one possibility is that they'll find a gene mutation that they do not yet know the significance of, which ends up being kind of a question mark.  Ergh.  Hopefully, it will all just be normal and unremarkable.

It looks like it's going to be another scorcher here.  I won't lie.  I LOVE the hot weather.  I'm looking forward to trying out the ginger melon popsicles I made last night, and visiting the local pool.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Crossroads. Again.

It is wonderful to have choices.

It is hard to have choices.

We are again fast coming to a point where we will need to make some decisions, and as I often do, I wish I could KNOW what the right decisions are.

I have enjoyed being back in the U.S., and have enjoyed my job, but my personal life has been chaotic and somewhat difficult.  The house is a bit messier than I would like and there is always laundry to fold and we are always running here, there, and everywhere.  I feel like we don't get enough of a chance to just BE, here in America.  In short, I miss our life overseas.

It has not at all been a smooth year for the girls.  We've had the nightmare that was SB's preschool experience, and the extremely huge, negative impact it had upon her.  We had the poor school fit for Miss M socially, although she has learned a ton educationally and we are pleased with that part of things.  Her teacher has mentioned that she is beyond her peers in terms of her exposure to things, or to put it another way, she has had a lot more life experiences.  That is where we see the Title I school really has been an issue--it's not skin color, or family income, or native language.  It's access to experiences that sets her apart.  That has made more of a difference than I ever imagined it could, even in kindergarten.  Another mother told me how stunned she was to hear my daughter talk about Jackson Pollock in class one day.  She has an insanely good memory, and she is interested in many things, and we take her to do a lot of different things, and she is just an awesome kid who contains a lot of knowledge that she's thrilled to share.  Which makes her stand out from her current peers.  Anyway, it's been a poor fit.

And then there is T. . .he kind of hates his job.  He would probably like it, but the people he works for are unpleasant and treat him rather poorly, and he is miserable.

So, it seems like it would be easy to head back overseas, right?  It's been hard for everyone here (well, except me, but I miss our life overseas), so we should just hit the road again, right?

But. . .

Miss M has been accepted into a great bilingual private school for next year.

We have everything worked out for SB to next year attend the fantastic, amazing, warm, caring preschool that we switched her to a few months ago, where she has THRIVED.

And T has just applied for a fantastic job at a museum that he would be perfect for, and it would be perfect for him.  That is not to say that he will get an interview, even--let alone the job.  But it is a kernel of hope for him, and he is convinced he can get himself the job if he can land an interview.

Which of course means that. . .

I am hearing whisperings of a fantastic job in a very interesting place overseas.  We'd have good weather and decent schools and a good salary and household help and low crime and little pollution and short commutes.  But it means starting over again.  I mean, we are going to start over again in the fall, anyway, in some respects.  But at least we know where the playground and the grocery store are.

I'm just not sure.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Forward Planning

I am back home again, and it is wonderful to be back with my family.  I had a very nice trip, and it was frankly good to see the sun.  It has been so grey and dreary here for weeks, and it is raining yet again.  But even though there is no sun, my world is joyful because I can hug my girls.  It's so good to be back!

While I was gone, I thought a lot about what I want to do next.  There is one overseas job that I am still particularly interested in, but right now there is no opening.  For months, I have heard rumors that a position might be opening up, but it hasn't happened to date. Frankly, our window of opportunity is narrowing for that one, because we need to start making commitments for next year, regarding a lease and school for the girls.  We've signed a contract now for Miss M's school.  The more financial commitments we make, the harder it would be for us to leave.

Setting aside my interest in that one job, I've decided to apply for a teaching fellowship.  There is a particular project I'd like to work on while teaching, and it would give me a somewhat flexible schedule.  It would only be for one year, but would give me some breathing room for that year.  It would mean that we would be here in this city for two more years.  I'm still mulling over whether that is the right decision (as I've written before, our lives feel much less chaotic overseas), but it feels manageable and interesting, and who knows where it might lead.

On top of that, I'm contemplating opening a small business.  It sounds insane, in light of what feels like already overwhelming commitments, but it would only be about ten hours a week, I could do it at night after the girls are in bed and/or early mornings before they wake, and most importantly, it would give me a creative outlet.  I feel like that would bring more balance into my life, in a weird way.  Plus, it has the potential to bring in a little extra income that would defray the costs of some of the extras we'd like for the girls.  I'm still looking at the feasibility of it all, but hope to move quickly.  There is little associated cost, so it's completely low risk.  And I'm excited about it.

The great thing about my trip abroad was that it gave me two solid weeks of quiet mornings and nights to really think about what is working, what is not, and how we might improve things.  I feel like we have some solid plans forward, and I'm excited to see how things play out.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Challenge of "Balance"

Greetings from Central America!  I've been traveling for the last week, and have a few more days to go.  It is a huge pain to be gone for so long, and I miss the girls like crazy.  SB cried big fat tears every time I talked to her the first 3-4 days, begging me to come home immediately.  It made me feel terrible.  I can't wait to get back.

From a professional perspective, it has been a good experience to get down here and see all that is going on, and to meet people I usually only talk with on the phone or via email.  It is good to see things with my own eyes, and to connect with local people.  Nothing beats that in person connection.

Now I am mulling over what to do with that information--how to turn it into something and move things forward.  It is long-term, big picture stuff, and I am far from having all of the answers.  But I can see what is possible, and that is exciting.

I am also thinking about how to balance career and family.  I feel like we really struggle in America.  Mother's Day brought forth articles about balancing, like this one and this one.  What I was left with is the feeling that American mothers have to make choices.  I have heard lots of women say that "you can have it all--you just can't have it all at the same time."  And maybe that's my problem--I want to have it all at once.  But it's not working.

The new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, the first woman to ever hold this position, recently had this to say in an interview with her alumni mag:

"With work-life balance, I tell people that you can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once. There are different times in your life when you emphasize different things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There were times when my kids did have to come first and they needed me, and there were other times when they didn’t understand why I couldn’t do the field trips and the baking brownies and all the rest of it. But when they stood on the stage with Hillary Clinton, they thought that was pretty damn cool and probably worth it."

I want to do field trips and bake brownies.  I also want to have a meaningful, productive work life.    Those are two different parts of who I am.  Now I am pondering ways to make that happen.  We debated her words a bit in my office.  A non-parent was a bit put off by the line about missed field trips and baking brownies, and thought it sounded harsh.  I said it made me feel a bit less alone and guilty for the things I don't make.  But I'm still wondering, were those sacrifices indeed worth it for her kids?  A missed field trip isn't the end of the world, but an accompanied field trip also means something.  The perfect mix is unknowable, though, making it a hard path to carve.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

School Blessings and Other Things

We are so very, very fortunate.  Miss M was awarded a place in the private school, and almost a full scholarship.  I was really shocked by the scholarship, and feel so blessed.  We decided that we had to accept the spot.  It is an amazing opportunity for her, and with the scholarship the tuition is financially manageable for us.  We had to take advantage of the opportunity.  We are really excited for her, and so very proud of her.  I feel like she's found her tribe.

We talked with SB's school, as well, and there is some chance that they will be able to swing a partial scholarship for her.  We are crossing our fingers and all of our other parts, and hoping this works out, as well.  We will have to take on a not-insubstantial amount of additional work to make it financially viable even with a scholarship, but she continues to do beautifully there, and we think it is critical that she stays where she is.  She is literally a different person.  If you had told me three months ago that a school change alone would have made this much of a difference in my child, I would not have believed you.  It upsets me greatly to think about what was going on in her previous classroom that a school change has made such a difference.

A big part of the change is obviously that she is now being treated well.  It's clear that she was considered and called a problem at her old school.  But one of the other important differences is the amount of playground time.  Given her energy level, it is just an imperative.  If we move her back to public school, we're back to 30 minutes a day, which just doesn't work for her, at least not yet.  Hopefully with another year in her current school, she will mature to the point where she is ready for a more sedentary classroom.  Sigh.  What happened to childhood?!  Anyway, we hope, hope, pray things work out with her current school.

As a backup plan, I've also enrolled them in public school.  Just in case.  Because I am so leary of the other shoe falling and something not working out.  Which is slightly neurotic and crazy, I know, but it's been that kind of year.  I need plans B, C, and D for my own peace of mind.

Honestly, I am living in a state of low anxiety all of the time these days.  It is really unhealthy.  There has just been so much stress.  And I'm headed off on a multi-country business trip, which is not helping things.  I just feel like a rat on a little wheel, with so much to do all of the time and so many things to work out and balance.  Now that things look like they are shaping up for the girls and school next year, I am also starting to hear back on positions that might be available overseas.  Ah, well.  Sometimes you just have to throw your hands up in the air at the craziness of it all!