Sunday, October 25, 2015

the Joy of Finally Going To The Trouble Of

My to-do list is always a mile long.  I can barely get all of the "musts" done, let alone the optional "but it would make me happy" stuff.  I typically find myself spending more money than I should on things that I need, because it solves the problem quickly.  It strikes me that you either need a lot of time, or a lot of money, in order to keep up in the crazy pace of America..  Or maybe you need better organizational skills than I possess.

Anyway, I often find that when I finally go to the trouble of doing some of the things that have been lingering on my to do list, my life is easier, lighter, better in some small way, and I think "why didn't't I do that sooner?!"

Which brings us to The Girl on TheTrain.  I have wanted to read it for months, but I refused to buy it, because we live near an awesome public library, and they had a million copies.  Only, there was a long wait list, and I hadn't figured out how to add myself.  And I hadn't managed to figure out the digital lending thing either (are you sensing a theme?).  But then I read this blog post by Julia, and I was inspired to try to finally get myself set up digitally, and it took all of ten minutes to set it up and put myself on the waitList.  And I was number two!  And time flew by, and now it's my turn, and with a quick click, the book is mine all mine.

Ten minutes.  Why didn't't I get to this sooner?

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Festival

I had Friday off from work.  We had received multiple flyers touting the school "festival," which was also supposed to function as a fundraiser for field trips.  Of course, they only gave us about a week's notice, and they wanted us to make food.  Not just any food, but rather food that was representative of our heritage.  This amused me.  We are from northern New England.  What is our "heritage" food? Shellfish?  I asked the girls what they wanted to bring, and one said macaroni and cheese, and the other said cake, so that is what we brought.  Hey, it was homemade Mac 'n cheese!

We were also invited to a lunch with SB's class.  There were supposed to be games that you could pay to play, with morning events and afternoon ones.  Anyway, when we got there with our food, I discovered that only two people from Miss M's class had brought anything, and one item was fruit cups from the store.  There were few or any parents there.  sB's class was a bit better--most parents had brought something, but only three or four were actually present.  I began to wonder how the fundraiser was going to work, without parents present to pay for games.  It turned out that there were not any games.  The classes went into several other classrooms for a few minutes, but they did things like read books and watch a video about fall.  It was really disorganized.

Then we got to lunch.  In addition to bringing the food, we had to pay $7 to eat the food with our kids!  I was a little put off.  We were invited to a lunch and asked to bring something for a potluck.  Then, the teacher had our kids' art and photos everywhere, and she expected us to buy everything.  She went so far as to take the photos and approach me when I didn't immediately open my wallet.  I ended up shelling out $25 for the day, which was fine, but there are a lot of low income students at the school.  Our preschool teacher seemed to be driving the whole thing, and I don't know what she was thinking.  She also gave my husband a hard time for not contributing more.

Anyway, it was super disorganized, but it gave me a chance to see SB in school all day.  It was hard to see, but helpful.  She's not herself at all.  Rather, she was sad and anxious all morning, even with me there.  She was terrified that I was going to leave her, even after I had reassured her that I was staying all day.  She was a bit tearful.  In short, she was not my exuberant, happy handful of a child at all.  I quickly could see why.  Her teacher is cruel.  She's not working with her at all--she's beating her down.  At one point early on, SB didn't want to sit on the rug with the other kids, and the teacher told her that if she didn't behave, I was going to leave!  I was completely horrified.

In the afternoon, there were supposed to be more activities, but the teacher put all of the kids down for nap time, and then didn't wake them up for over two hours!!  It's no wonder SB has been up until 9 every night.  T had mentioned to me that the kids have still been napping at 3 a few times when he's gone to pick her up.  The teacher is clearly letting them sleep too long.  It certainly makes her job easier.  But SB hadn't napped in months before starting school, because she was not sleeping at night.

I kept her up at school, since I was there, thinking that the kids would only sleep an hour and we would do afternoon activities as we're on the schedule.  Nope.  The teacher had the kids sleep until 3, then woke them up when it was time to go home.  I would have just taken SB and left, had I known, but I also needed to collect Miss M, and her class was actually doing work.  Instead, SB and I read books and played games.  Finally, it had dragged on too long, and SB started to whine a little.  Her teacher started to lecture her.  I had had enough at that point, and I cut her off.  "She's bored," I said.  The teacher actually seemed surprised.  "Oh.  Well, she can paint."  So, that's what she happily did for the rest of the day.

I don't think I am capturing it well here--the teacher's indifference, her lack of patience, her sanctimonious lecturing of both T and I throughout the day about how she's using positive reinforcement and behavior modification "to great success."  SB is afraid of her.  Period.  There is no warm, nurturing relationship there.  I'm not sure what she is saying and doing when we are not there, but it is not anything a true professional would recognize as "positive reinforcement".  Her teacher, it is clear to me now, is a bully.

After watching the other kids all day, I'm sure my kid is her toughest.  She is VERY high energy (indeed, some of the other kids appeared lethargic in comparison--and this is a class of 3 year olds).  But there are a few other kids who are in the same realm, and it takes a talented, patient soul to harness and channel all of that energy.  Which she is not.  It's not so much, though, that SB is a "bad" kid (and I hate that word--these are three year olds!), as much as she is a busy kid who needs to be engaged.  Without a task, she can be unruly.  The teacher doesn't seem to grasp that.

Anyway, today the kids have no school, because we have parent teacher conferences.  I can hardly wait to hear what SB's teacher has to say.  I am still deciding how to approach it.  I think I am probably going to politely give her a piece of my mind, but I sort of feel like this may be beyond fixing.  The real problem is that it is next to impossible to secure a preschool slot around here, so we are lacking good options.  Plus, I love the PK4 and K teachers, so I wonder if we should ride it out and see what we can do to work with this teacher.  I'll have a better sense later today.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Hello There

Has it really been since July?!  What can I in America is so...busy.  At first it was nice to be back in the land of Target and jarred tomato sauce, but it's only been four months, and I am exhausted!  Our life abroad has such a different pace.  American work hours are uncivilized.

And things at home have been challenging.  sB has had a very rocky move.  LOTS of behavior issues...tantrums, screaming at us, hitting us.  It's been hugely distressing, and makes me so sad for her.  She was really starting to internalize that she was "naughty," because we were doing so many timeouts.  But then, mercifully, school started, and we signed up for a parenting class to teach us some new tricks, and between the two, it seems to be getting a bit better.

The only thing is that her teacher is quite strict, and she does not really like her.  It is really sad to hear a three year old tell me that she want to go back to her old school and old teacher in our old city. Which happens very frequently.  So, we are hanging in there for now, but I worry about her being the "bad" kid, even if things are a bit better. Her teacher is not nurturing at all, and frequently sends us passive aggressive texts about our parenting skills.  No joke.  She seems to think we neither discipline  nor use positive reinforcement at home.  Sigh.  I think she's kind of a jerk.  So, I'm contemplating moving her. I don't want her to develop a dread or dislike of school because of teachers who find her a nuisance, nor do I want her to internalize any more than she has the negative stuff about her behavior.  On the other hand, learning to live with a situation you don't love is an important life skill, and I think it is causing her to grow.  I just wish her teacher was more nurturing.  So, I go back and forth.  Given how much we move, I'm also reluctant to change schools again.  They've had enough change for this year.

Miss M appears to be thriving in her class.  Oddly, she's a bit behind in reading comprehension.  They recommended we read at home more, but we've literally been reading to her every day since she was a baby, so that's not the issue.  I guess we've never quizzed her on what she was taking away from the stories.  Once I started doing that, I saw their point.  She focuses on what is of interest to her, rather than what another person might see as the main plot. it's rather endearing, and I'm sure we can straighten it out in short order.  Otherwise, she's learning a ton and doing well.

And me...I really like my job, but there is too much of it.  I have not taken a day off since we got here.  Tomorrow is my first day off.  I'm going to the kids school for a festival.  It should be fun.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Slowly Getting There. . .But Getting There Nonetheless

I keep constructing blog posts in my head, but they never quite make it here.  I am so exhausted by the time I make it home, eat dinner, and spend a little time with the girls.  Things are manageable chaos, but chaos.  T leaves for work super early in the morning.  Right now, I get up around 5-5:30, shower (often with SB, who has discovered she likes the shower, and I can't fight with her at 5:00 in the morning), get ready, prepare dinner, eat breakfast, chat with the girls for a bit, and head into the office around 7-7:30.  I generally work like a demon all day, including through lunch (frequently skipping lunch), and haven't been leaving work until after 6pm, and sometimes after 7pm.  By the time I get home, my family has already eaten, and I eat and chat with them.  Rinse, lather repeat.

Work is fine.  I like it okay.  We'll see.  Sometimes it's really interesting, and sometimes people drive me nuts.  It's a job where everyone has their own agenda/remit, and it becomes the war of the just causes.  Really, I'm happy so far.  I'm just having a down day because someone was kind of a jerk to me.  I hate it when someone is a jerk.  Why is that necessary, especially when I am trying to help them?

The girls are doing better.  A few days ago, Miss M told me, quite seriously, that she doesn't want to move again--that if she makes new friends here, she doesn't want to move and leave them again.  It broke my heart.  She really misses her old school and friends, and talks about wanting to go back.  But, she is also quite happy here.  I think she misses having friends and being part of a posse.  Since it's summer and a lot of people are traveling, they haven't yet made friends that they regularly hang out with, and this is hard for her, especially.  We had some VERY challenging behavioral stuff going on for the first 6-7 weeks after the move, but now that the house is almost unpacked and we have something of a routine worked out, things are starting to even out.  Miss M was about SB's age the last time we moved, and I had forgotten how challenging that age (3) can be post-move.  They can't yet express their anxiety over moving (Exhibit A:  Miss M's current expressions of sadness), but it really impacts them.  We were having massive tantrums, hair pulling, hitting, kicking. . .awful stuff.

The bad behavior really had me questioning my ability as a parent. . .our ability as parents.  It was really, really challenging.  I did some reading, looking for what felt like the best approach, and decided that straight up behavior modification was key.  The advice I read suggested addressing JUST your most vexing problem (clearly, hitting/kicking/hair pulling--dear me!).  So, I got our nanny and T to commit to putting SB in short timeouts in her room with the door shut every time it happened.  It took a few days of being really consistent about it, but honestly, she's like a brand new person.  (She hates being alone in a time out.  It's literally the ONLY punishment that matters to her.)  Between settling into a routine and being really consistent with expectations and punishment. . .I feel like a slightly less terrible parent.  She was really starting to internalize her bad behavior ("I'm naughty"; "it's all my fault", etc--I have no idea where the "it's all my fault" came from, incidentally.).  But now, she seems to delight in delivering the news that she was good all day, and I am clinging to that.

T's job has been if not exactly what he hoped for, not entirely terrible either.  It is in his field, and I think it will grow on him, as he gets a better idea of what they want, and as they start to trust him.  It has been a transition, but so has absolutely everything that we've done over the last few months.

The house is ALMOST unpacked and set up.  We have a few more boxes, and two rooms (formal living room and the dining room) which are not set up yet.  But I'm almost ready to declare success.  The house is looking good.

We are getting there.  As soon as we feel really settled in this new city/house/schedule/life, school is going to start, and add a new level of complexity.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Favorite Children's Book That...

Has a good moral, teaches about a new subject matter, AND is fun to read?  What's your suggestion?

Currently, ours is "Rosie Revere, Engineer," by Andrea Beaty.  It has some really clever lines in it that speak to me, too, about dreams and ambitions.  It has a terrific message about trying again after you fail, and features a girl engineer.  And it is fun.  So fun.  My girls ask for it almost nightly.

But we're looking for other great books.  Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Settling In

For me, the worst part of moving is what I think of as the "in between" part--the packing up and saying goodbye and moving and unpacking and setting up and starting.  It's all chaotic and kind of unpleasant.  I'm in the tail end of the process now, the unpacking and setting up.  In no particular order, and because I'm feeling lazy:

  • The girls, and particularly Miss M, are really missing their friends.  I think it's also structure and routine.  We are working hard to create new routines, and thankfully we have our nanny with us, so there is that continuity. But I still haven't found the box with art supplies and we haven't made any neighborhood friends, so it's still a bit hard.
  • Our house looks like the inside of the kitchen junk drawer.  We had the worst movers this time--they were dumping boxes upside down and leaving them.  It was a total disaster.  I had to ask them to stop unpacking us, and now we have mountains of boxes and piles of junk everywhere.
  • It's one thing when you have a place to put stuff.  It's another when you are trying to simultaneously paint and unpack boxes and rearrange furniture and decorate.  I hate unpacking.  Really I do.
  • My new job has been insanely busy.  I'm new.  No one should expect me to work this much.  Did I mention I'm new?  What happened to easing in slowly??!  I have missed dinner pretty much every night since I started a few weeks ago, and sometimes I miss bedtime, too.  That sucks.
  • In all seriousness, I like my job thus far.  It is challenging and interesting and I'm learning a ton.  But given how busy it is, the learning curve has also been steeeeep.  
  • It's really fun to be back in the U.S.  But also expensive.  I've been living a puritanical existence these last few years, compared to how much money I've spend this month alone.  Good lord.  I had forgotten that people shopped for sport.  And I'm only buying things I actually need!  
  • Groceries are insanely expensive here.  My grocery bill has doubled or tripled over what I was spending.  To be fair, all I bought in South America was rice, veggies, meat, and cleaning products.  Here, I am buying hummus!  And crackers!  And ice cream bars!  And milk that comes in big jugs!  In large part because I can, and it tastes yummy.  When you can't buy expensive processed food, you save a lot of money.  And calories.  I'm going to have to work on this bit.
  • Some of the house is coming together nicely.  The playroom, the sitting room, the kitchen and breakfast nook are all in good shape, and it's going to be a really great place to live, eventually. You know, when we finish unpacking all of those damn boxes.
Okay, I have to go do something productive.  Like sleep.  All of the chaos is making me EXHAUSTED.  Well that and the intellectual challenge and the small children who need the reassurance of my bed in the middle of the night.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The End of Vacation

We've had a whirlwind three weeks in America.  We started off in Florida; spent a few days in the mid-Atlantic region to pick up our new car, get the keys to the house that we are going to be renting for the next year, and inspect the other school that we were accepted into; drove up to New England in the new car and spent time with my husband's family; traveled to see my family for a few days; traveled back to spend a few more days with T's family; then drove back down the eastern seaboard yesterday and the day before; and spent all day today cleaning/unloading furniture from the Uhaul (it had been in storage in New England).  And, I start work tomorrow.

Florida was a lovely relaxing time, but we planned to spend way too few days there.  We were trying to cram a little family time into our "vacation," before running around to catch up with family and friends.  If I had it to do over again, I would have cut that part, or extended it and made it longer.  Longer wasn't really an option this trip, because of other obligations, but the last three weeks have been so hectic that I can't wait to start working again.  It will feel relaxing!  But the kids had a blast, and that is what really matters.  We gave them a really magical three week vacation full of memories, and that is what I wanted for them.  We had pool days and Disney days and days with friends and lake days and beach days and days with both grandmothers and visits with grandfathers and favorite aunts and cousins and museum trips and zoo trips and a trip to my favorite childhood candy store (it's now Miss M's favorite, too--the giant array of penny candy sealed the deal).  Miss M has really blossomed during this time.  She is having such a blast, and she is such a joy--so happy and full of curiosity about the world, and so eager to share her theories about how something might work or how something might have unfolded.  I love it. 

SB has been her cheerful, if challenging, three year old self this vacation.  She is vibrant and happy, and constantly sings and dances.  The arts-based preschool we had her in while in South America was really good for her.  She is constantly coming up with a dance routine or a new song.  It's really cute.   Less cute is the penchant for hitting that she seems to have picked up for an older boy in her class.  Any time she doesn't get what she wants, she turns into a little caveman.  It's all about the brute force, and her tantrums are epic.  We've tried every punishment under the sun, and the only thing that works is kindly, calmly, picking her up and putting her in a room by herself.  It's no easy feet, with her flailing arms and legs.  She literally pinched me, pulled my hair, slapped me and kicked me while I tried to pick her up the other day.  I was so horrified.  Now that we are back in our own space again, we will definitely be focusing on working with her on her behavior.  I know she understands that it is wrong, because she changes her tune very quickly after being put in another room by herself, and settles down and becomes compliant.  Sigh.  She is such a love, and so very sweet and charming.  But  as my mother says, when she grows those little horns, watch out.

This next thought is probably worthy of another post entirely, but I'm short on time, so I'm going to dump it here.  We had a chance to tour the second school that we got into, after they agreed to extend the deadline by which we had to respond.  I specifically told them that I wanted to visit the classrooms where my children would be next year.  Honestly, I expected to love this place.  It has a lot of hype surrounding it.  When I got there, I didn't love it, though.  I thought it was indeed a nice little school that's trying to do some good things, but. . .that's it.  The school we have already enrolled in had more resources, bigger classrooms, and a nicer physical plant.  And, despite my request to see the classrooms, they told me they were doing work, and I couldn't see them.  Argh.  But in the end, even that did not matter, as I just was not terribly swayed.  Academically, I discovered that there would be mostly a new crop of English speaking kids in Miss M's class (with no prior Spanish), which I thought would hold Miss M back, since her Spanish is way ahead of where the class will be (in the school she's in, pretty much all of the kids have been in for 1-2 years already, and/or come from native speaking homes).  While the new school was a bit more diverse than the school we are currently enrolled in, it was strangely not as diverse as I had thought it would be.  And, I hated the location.  It was much less convenient than our current school.  So, we declined to enroll.  

Finally, I am wrapping up a course of antibiotics.  About a week into our vacation, I got a sinus infection.  I tried to use a neti pot to get rid of it, to no avail.  Antibiotics can really do a number on my digestive system and kick into gear some other problems I have, so I really try to avoid them.  But after two weeks of misery, I finally broke down.  Little by little I am getting better, but I am still a fountain of yellow snot, and my nose is peeling from blowing it so often.  JUST the impression you want to give on your first day in a new job.  And with that, I'd better go to bed.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


The final days before doing an international move are always really painful for me, both emotionally and physically.  I hate endings, so I am always sad about leaving and all of the lasts.  I always have more things to do than I can possibly accomplish.  I never sleep.  It is just seemly endless and unpleasant.  I loathe the final days.  As the plane takes off, though, I can literally feel myself shedding the weight of all of it.

And that's all behind me now, and I'm just so happy.  I'm sitting on the patio of our condo in Florida with a glass of red wine and my laptop.  The sky is clear and a full moon is shining softly down on us, as a warm wind blows through the palm trees next to me.  The quiet hum of the building's air conditioning compressor purrs below me, almost drowning out the sounds of the kids that are still in the pool.  Our girls are asleep after spending literally five straight hours in the pool/pool slide/lazy river.  Tomorrow we are going to the Magic Kingdom.  It's just so heavenly to be able to just chill out.

Our nanny is with us, and it's honestly so much fun to show her our country and to see it through her eyes.  She can't get over how little traffic there is and how much green space there is, and how inexpensive everything is at Walmart.  She's about my age, and she's raised four kids on her own in a big city on next to no money, and she's never been much further than 50 miles outside that city.  I am trying to give her as much free time as I can to just enjoy the experience and spend some time on her own.  It's probably been 20 years since she did anything for herself.  I know she needs the break, and once we start work again, it will be hectic and we're going to need her to do more.  I want her to have a little bit of time for herself to just have a vacation.

In other news, the second school that we got into agreed to extend the registration deadline for us until the end of the week, so we are going to be able to do a tour then and see which school we prefer.  After everything that happened last year to us (which I haven't really blogged about, but needless to say, it was bad, and involved making a decision based on limited information), I realized that even if we don't decide to change schools, I really need to see the second one and feel like I've explored all of my options and made the best choice possible.  I've really been blaming myself for not doing that last year, even though maybe we would have made the same choice.  But I need to know that I am making the right choice based on all of the information available to me.  So, at the end of the week we will go and check it out and see what we think, and I am so thankful to have that opportunity.

It is SO nice to be back in America, the land of rubberized playground surfaces and endless varieties of jarred tomato sauce and clean air and good cheese and inexpensive wine.  America, I've missed you.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Counting Down the Days

It's always weird to celebrate a very American holiday overseas.  Memorial Day is one of those.  I had the day off to take care of some last minute things. So, I shopped for some earrings I wanted  to buy before I left, then had a relaxing lunch with friends, then a final parent-teacher conference, then end-of-day beers with friends, more errands, then dinner with the girls.  We were supposed to do some family photos, too, but the photographer canceled.  We're go to try to do them tomorrow.  I'm crossing my fingers that it all works out, because I'd really like to take those memories with us.

It was a bit last free day here.  The girls were in school.  I'm working the rest of the week, and then we fly out next weekend.  I'm ready to go and sad to leave.

I had a final meeting with Miss M's teacher so that I could talk with her about what we need to work on over the summer.  She basically said routines, habits, and the auditory part of reading/writing.  Miss M is apparently too much of a social butterfly, talking in class, getting up from her chair, etc.  she only makes it halfway through her independent work (ie, 7-10 minutes in) before she gets up or starts talking.  The teacher thinks she needs to work on her concentration and focus.  I think it's actually frustration, because she is doing great in math.  She also apparently sits patiently at the table during meals--just not her reading/writing/language classes.  So we will work on those things over the next few months.

The teacher said at the end that they are really going to miss Miss M, and it totally made me cry, which was kind of embarrassing.  I have such guilt over the move, about her needing to leave her friends.  It's just the way that it is, but still.  Her teacher said that the classroom was a totally different place when we were traveling back to the US a few weeks ago, and they are all going to miss her.  She said they would welcome us back if we ever returned, which was kind.

So here we are, a few days out.  And I still have quite a few things on my to do list!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

School Choice

Miss M's class recently received their report cards. The school had scheduled for the parents to meet with the teacher on a Saturday a few weeks ago, and I thought we were going in to speak with the teacher about the report cards, but it turned out to be a Mother's Day celebration (which was nice, don't get me wrong). But as I'm counting down our final minutes living here, my to-do list is absolutely enormous, and I am a bit pressed for time.  So I wasn't thrilled to discover that I needed to make an appointment on a weekday to see the teacher about the report card, especially when I learned she was only making appointments at 10am or 1:30 pm.  The school is some distance from my office, and mid-day traffic here is horrendous.  I really wanted to speak with her about where Miss M is on a few things, and any suggestions she has for working with her over the summer.  She is still struggling a bit with identifying letters, and she is frustrated by her inability to discern say "p" from "b," and I want to get the teacher's input.  So, I dutifully took yesterday afternoon off, and appeared at the school for my appointment. . .only to discover that the teacher had taken the day off from school.

The front office called her, and she said she had sent me an email. . .on my daughter's school email account.  Which I don't check every day.  She has my phone number, but didn't bother to call her text me.  Argh.  I did manage to get a few errands done, nonetheless, but I was incredibly frustrated.  So now we have the appointment on this coming Monday.  I need to FINISH things, not keep moving them around.

While we are on the topic of school, we received an email this week that has thrown me into a bout of indecision.  It was something that I really didn't expect to happen.  Both girls were accepted into another bilingual program for next year.  We have to decide in the next week what we are going to do.    I'm just not sure what the best option is, and desperately want to tour the new school, but we won't be back for another two weeks, and we have to decide THIS week.  Argh again.

The big things the new school has going for it are:  more racial diversity than our current school (where there are basically no white kids); many more native Spanish speakers; more socioeconomic diversity; active parents.

The things the new school doesn't have going for it:  there is no playground (they walk the kids through a very urban environment to get to a playground during the day--our current school has a small but not fabulous playground); the classrooms are reportedly small (the school we are currently enrolled in has big, beautiful classrooms); the new school has only been around for a few years and they have not published any test scores yet, so they are unproven (not that test scores are the be-all, end-all, but they do provide something of a benchmark); the new school has new/young teachers (this means they are probably enthusiastic, but I really liked the experienced, native speaking teachers that I met at our current school); and finally, the new school is expanding significantly next year, and will have (gulp!) around 200 children age 5 and under enrolled in the school.  This seems like a lot, and they are growing by a fairly large number of students--in fact, the school will be about double the size of our current school.  Oh, and it's a longer, more complicated commute.  

T is not interested in switching schools.  He is concerned about the size of this new school, and the loss of individualized attention.  He is worried our girls will get lost in the mix.  He is also not crazy about the idea of the girls (well really, the unpredictable SB) walking through the city to get to a playground.  I'm not, either.  

My problem is that I just don't know how important the diversity piece is.  I don't know if it matters--not just racial and linguistic diversity, but also socioeconomic.  I like the idea of more native Spanish speakers.  I like the idea of a very racially diverse school, as that inherently feels more inclusive to me--but that doesn't mean it is.  The data seems pretty clear that higher socioeconomic status generally means kids who are better prepared to learn--but not always.  And more active parents tends to mean more opportunities for the kids.  

Topping all of this off is the fact that my own (white, well-educated) peers would almost certainly, and very quickly, choose this new school.  But I feel like so much of that is tied up in issues of race and class, and not necessarily on quality of education.  I am really focused on quality of education, and whether my kids are going to be happy and excited to go to school every day.  And it's particularly impossible to make a decision like that when you can't visit the school in person and see for yourself.  Sigh.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Moving and Such

This is the part of a big move that I hate. . .the part where the packing is done and the house is empty and big projects are wrapped up, and now it's just the goodbyes.  While I still have things to do, the big things are done and behind us, and the stillness now is making me sad.  I am not sad for myself, to be frank.  While we have many friends here, I know I will see the people I like again, so it is not breaking my heart to leave, for myself.

But my heart is breaking a little.  It's the girls.  And SB is still a bit too young to have those tight attachments, although she has a little posse of girls at her preschool. No, it's Miss M that is making me tear up.  We just wrote three notes (handwriting homework from school), and in each she asked the little girl to visit us in our new city.  Which is unlikely to happen.  And it makes me so very sad that she's been in her school for the last year and a half, and she's made all of these friends, and she is thriving, and she is happy, and now we must go.

The teacher just sent an email to her classmates, telling them they will host a going away party for her at school on her last day, and asking each child to bring in $2 so they can purchase a going away gift for her.  It's so thoughtful, and I'm so touched. . .and just so...sad.  I am bawling as I write this.  I love beginnings, but I hate the endings, and watching Miss M say goodbye to the life she has known for the last few years is way harder than I imagined when I took this job a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Getting What You Want

I tried to be as strategic as possible in dealing with Dolores Umbridge, and I think it has mostly worked out.  I'm not getting everything I was advocating for, but I think I'm probably getting what I need most, and sometimes being a grownup is like that.  Sometimes people disappoint you, and you just have to be graceful about it, get what you can out of the situation, and move on.  So I'm trying to both be graceful and move on, although I know that if I have calculated wrong and I have not gotten as much as I think I did out of this exchange, there will be possibly major fallout for me a few months from now.  But hopefully I have not calculated wrong.

Changing gears entirely, my other big obsession of late has been the school stuff for the kids.  We are moving to a city that holds a lottery for school.  You always have the right to attend your nearly local school (your so-called "in boundary school") for kindergarten and higher, so for Miss M, we could have simply moved to the neighborhood of the school we wanted.  Except, this city also has many charter schools, for which there is no "in boundary" status.  And, there is only "in boundary" preference for K and up--for PK3, there are some public programs, but not every school has one, and there is no in boundary or other preference (unless an older sibling gets in, in which case the younger sibling gets pulled to the top of the wait list, if there is one, which there is for any place decent).  And, it's almost impossible to get a slot anywhere "good," and the wait lists number in the hundreds for PK3, especially. So, we dutifully selected a dozen schools for each child, and waited, expecting very little.

We were ultimately matched with our #6 choice, and both girls were matched, which frankly was a shock.  It turned out that we had pretty good lottery numbers for both kids (and we have fairly low wait list numbers at the other 5 schools we listed as higher priority).  The school ticked many boxes for us:  it's bilingual, it's small, the test scores are pretty good (especially compared to many other bilingual schools, which generally have a lot of English language learners who score poorly on English language standardized tests), and the commute, while not ideal, is also not too terrible.  When we visited the school, I really liked the vibe. The principal knew all of the kids' names, and interrupted our tour to say hello to them.  The facilities are nice.  The kids were happy, animated, engaged, well behaved, and one little second grader that I spoke to had good Spanish despite not being a native speaker.  The teachers are native Spanish speakers.  My girls' classrooms are big and bright and beautiful, and right across the hall from each other.  It's like a little educational oasis in the middle of the city.

But there's that downside:  it's a small, very urban school.  It's not in the greatest neighborhood in the world.  And what I keep hearing from my colleagues and acquaintances is "you are sending your kids to school WHERE?  The schools in that city are terrible!"  One woman actually said to me "Are you going to live in X [nearby upscale suburban area outside of the city] or Y [another even more suburban neighborhood a further distance from the city, known for its excellent schools], completely ignoring the possibility that I might actually choose to live IN the city.  I had to tell her three times that we were going to be living in the city, and sending our kids to school there.  It was literally like she could not comprehend the information that I was delivering.  And behind the words, behind what people actually say to me, lies what I can tell they are really thinking:  my kids are white and we are doing okay, and the city school kids are brown and poor, and what the hell are you thinking?  Race and class tinge the discussion every time, even if no one mentions them.

If it were just one or two people, I could ignore the noise, but it's basically been every person I've spoken to.  To be honest, none of them seem to be overly well versed on the city schools--they are going off old stereotypes.  I believe this school to be solid.  But it's more than just the cacophony of incredulous voices.  It's that there is a liquor store down the street, with people loitering outside.  It's that the commute will most likely have to be by public transportation, with all that entails.  I was by myself on the subway while we were back, and a woman (either high or mentally ill--I couldn't decide) spent the entire ride screaming at me (I was dressed in a suit), saying silly things, like that I had "been born with a silver spoon in [my] mouth," and that she wasn't "going to steal [my] purse--I don't need your purse lady!"  Etc., etc.  It was starting to get a little aggressive when I got off.  It's nothing that would make me think twice normally, but combined with everything else. . .it made me wonder if I am making too difficult of a decision for my children.  If life in the big city is maybe a bit too much at their young age.  And yes, it's also that my kids will be the minority, by a long shot.  Not like that's odd to them--they are the minority here, too, by far.  But I worry that I am kidding my liberal self that this is really no big deal back in the U.S..  Because I think it's really no big deal.   But what if I'm wrong?  Baltimore was unfolding while we were back, and it gave me pause.

There is one more thing, too.  The house that we are renting happens to be located in boundary for one of the "best" schools in the city.  It's a school that people seem to aspire to.  But, it's basically entirely white, it's not at all diverse socioeconomically, and it's not bilingual, which isn't what I want for my kids.  I want them to know diversity from a young age, and I want them to retain their Spanish.  And, we don't know how long we will live in this house.  If you move out of the boundary, you lose your school spots.  Whereas, if you win a spot via lottery, you can live wherever you want in the city.  Finally, the school doesn't have PK3, so I would have to send SB somewhere else, and drop off at two different schools is something that makes my head explode.  But when people heard that we are in boundary for School A and intentionally chose School B for our children. . .well, it was not pretty.  I felt like a laboratory specimen every time this came up, the likes of which no one had ever seen before.

Anyway, it's no one thing, really, but the sum total of all of this had me doubting myself about our decision.  I feel like a little fish, swimming upstream against the expectations and prejudices of other people.  This school feels like a good fit for my family, the right fit for us given where we are right now, and where we expect to head.  But it feels like at every turn, someone is telling me that I've made a bad choice, that I don't belong there.

Now that we are back here and away from people who are questioning our choices, the self-doubts have subsided a bit.  My friends have been supportive, telling me that I've researched it thoroughly, chosen it for a reason, and that I always have the choice of making different decisions if it doesn't work out.  And they are right.  It's funny. . .I was so worried that we wouldn't get accepted into a bilingual school, and now that it has actually happened, I have way more doubts than I ever would have imagined.  Life is funny.

Monday, May 4, 2015

So Tired

As a warning, this is just going to be a rant, so that I can just get it out of my system so that I can deal with something I don't want to deal with.

I currently work with a bully.  She is an interesting bully, though, because face to face she appears to be super nice and cooperative and collaborative.  But then she does the exact opposite behind your back.  When you confront her on things, she completely denies them and explains them away like you must be CRAZY to even think that she would do such a thing!  Except, she will lie to your face about things that you have in writing that you know she did.  She is totally Dolores Umbridge, actually, right down to the fake sweetness.

And I am currently being Dolores Umbridged.  And it is making me so. . .tired.  I'm sooooo tired of the bullshit.  I know I am out of here soon, and will never have to deal with her again, but I have some final stuff I have to work through with her, and it SUCKS.  I am pushing back as much as I can and trying to advocate for what I think should happen, but I find at every turn that she is denying, denying, denying that there is a problem with anything, and then totally undermining me, and then pretending she isn't doing it.  It is incredibly maddening to be trying to deal with a situation when someone pretends like there is no situation to your face, and then tries to undermine you behind your back.  It's like she's insisting to my face that the emperor's new clothes are beautiful and there is no reason to do anything, and then behind my back she is trying to hire a tailor, and making sure everyone knows that she has found the tailor, and then telling everyone that I did nothing to try to get a tailor, and complaining about how terrible am I for not getting the tailor.  Argh.  The funny part is that we are not peers--she's a few levels up the ladder, so I totally don't get why she is behaving this way.   It's not like we are in competition.

I just wish that people could see her for what she is.  It's the second big thing I've had with her where she has pulled this, and I just don't get why this kind of behavior flies in any workplace.  And I'm not the only one she is doing it to.  It is such a bummer to see legitimately hard-working people crushed by this person, and to see this person nonetheless flourish on the backs of others that she has treated like crap.  Let's hope that hell truly does have a special place for women who don't help other women.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tales From America

But before I get to it, am I the only person who saw Kate and William posing on the hospital step with their hours old newborn and thought. . ."is she really wearing a WHITE dress, heels and bare legs, hours after giving birth?"  I can't even imagine.  But then, she IS a princess. . .

So, we have returned from our whirlwind trip to the U.S.  It was a long and chaotic trip there, and I think that Ft. Lauderdale wins by award for worst international arrivals terminal ever.   What a dump!  Although, with our FOUR HOUR layover, we discovered a few decent places to eat (there is some kind of television-based restaurant that I can't remember the name of), and I had a fabulous coconut shrimp po' boy.  It was delicious.  Sigh.  I heart American food, and its use of spices.

But once we finally got to our destination, things worked out pretty well.  We stayed in the house we are renting, and it's terrific.  It has a gorgeous backyard--big, sunny, and full of beautiful plants.  The fruit trees were flowering, and it was quite spectacular.  The house itself is an old Colonial.  the rooms are on the small side, but it's perfect for us.  There is a small master suite, a room for the girls that shares another bathroom with the guest room, and then another office/guest room that has its own half bath.  There is a big sunroom, a formal living room, a playroom, and another private suite in the basement that will be perfect for our nanny.  It's a little bit of a hike to the nearest subway stop, but it's not too far.  There are also some pretty good parks nearby.  The street its on is kind of busy, so I know I will always worry about the kids running down the driveway, but we are going to finish fencing the yard so that the play space is more secure, and the owner is fine with that.  I'll still worry. . .SB has been less than fabulous at listening lately.  So anyway, the house is great.

Miss M passed her Spanish exam with flying colors, and the girls are enrolled in school.  I really liked the school.  It's small, and has an old-school feel to it--like my own elementary school.  The school was renovated a few years ago, so the facility is nice.  Coming from suburbia, the library is shockingly small, but we will visit our neighborhood library a ton, so I'm not super worried.  The girls' classrooms are ENORMOUS, especially compared to their current schools, and I had a chance to meet each teacher.  Both teachers are native Spanish speakers, and they are older (although not old), which I like.  The school has a really warm feel to it, and the kids seemed engaged.  I'm still worried about whether I am making the right decision, which I need to blog about (basic gist is that I'm getting lots of negative feedback from a certain race/class about our school choice), but I'm going to go with it for now, because it feels right.

T's making good progress on getting everything done for his job (there was a lot of paperwork to be done), and hopes to have a start date soon.  I went by my new office and met everyone while we were there.  It seems like it will be okay.  It was really too brief of a visit to tell, and there is going to be some management turnover.

And, we sold our old car before we left, and then bought a new car while we were in the U.S.  We had done all of the research before we left, and were just planning to test drive the two finalists while we were there.  But then we decided it made sense to just do the whole deal, so that we can pick it up as soon as we get there.  We were going to rent a car for a while, but this just works out better, especially since we have a big Northeast road trip planned for shortly after we arrive.  The dealership is doing a few things to it, and it will be ready when we return for real in a month or so.

We also visited my mom while we were back, which was nice.  It was a quick visit, just a long weekend, really, but the girls were happy to see her, and she seemed happy to see them.  They are finally old enough that I feel comfortable leaving them with her for a few hours, so T and I used the time to run around and do American errands while we were there, too, which was nice.

I have to admit, I didn't want to come back here after our trip.  It was so nice to be in America. . .everything is just so easy.   And, I wasn't looking forward to all of the moving stuff that has to be done.  But we are here, and it's going okay.  We start the packing on Monday.    And I'm even almost ready!

Monday, April 20, 2015

It's All Coming Together

When I first started looking at jobs in the U.S., the idea of moving back seemed overwhelming to me.   After all, my the company I am currently working for provides a tremendous amount of support when we are working overseas.  They are very, very good to us--they help with finding (and paying for!) schools, housing, and even spousal employment (well, admittedly that last bit is hit or miss--but it's something!).  For the jobs I was looking at in the U.S., however, we knew we would be totally on our own.  And although it seems obvious to anyone who has transferred jobs without the amazing support my company has provided to us in the last few years, that meant finding:  a) housing for ourselves; b) schools for the kids; c) a job for T; d) taking a pay cut (overseas jobs in my field typically pay way better, especially if you are willing to live somewhere that is a bit challenging); e) selling our car (which I LOVE), and f) moving our mountain of crap prized possessions back to the States.  I couldn't imagine how we'd accomplish all of that.

And yet, here we are.  We have rented a house back in the U.S..  The kids have been accepted into (the same! Spanish-English bilingual!) school.  T has been offered a job.  With T's job, the pay cut isn't nearly as terrifying as it was when I first thought about it.  We have accepted an offer on our car for about $4,000-$5,000 more than it's U.S. value (I will miss it, but the extra cash will fit in nicely for our plan to buy something that seats 7-8).  The movers are booked for two weeks from now.

The weird part is that I'm more stressed out now than I was when we were just starting to try to arrange everything.  T keeps looking at me like I have four heads, and can't understand why I am not more relaxed.  But I am not.  Now that we are so close, and have so little time to sort out any bumps in the road, I find that I am MORE stressed out, because I am so worried that some piece of things is going to fall apart.  Like, we meet with the owner of the house this week when we head back to sort out some things. . .what if the house is really a dump, or the lease falls apart for some reason?  What if Miss M doesn't pass her entrance exam at the school?  What if T's offer is withdrawn (his request for a higher salary is still pending, and I'm paranoid they are just going to say "this guy is too much trouble," even though some small part of my brain does recognize that negotiating salary is pretty ordinary)?  Was the car deal good enough?  Did we cave too soon?  Will I have the donations weeded out in time for the movers?  Will they break something?  Will they steal something (cherished pewter Christmas tree ornaments, of all things, went missing during our last move)?  And so on, and so on.

I know it is a little crazy.  Plus, although I have two of my three final big projects done at work, I still have one massive one to complete, and I'm worried about it.  I set the bar really high for myself on this one, and I'm not going to be able to deliver what I was hoping to deliver.  I think everyone will be fine with that (I'M the one who set the bar high, and I acknowledged from the beginning that I might not be able to deliver what I was hoping to deliver), but I'm still worried about that.

And we have this trip this week, which will be an action-packed race to set everything up for a month from now, when we move back.  We have crazy connections in both directions because we used frequent flier miles, and SB is going through a screaming phase, and. . .yeah, I'm not looking forward to this trip.

But it IS coming together.  Really it is.  I need to just breathe.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

On Babies, and Men

I have three different friends who are pregnant with their third child right now.  One has always wanted a big family and was planning #3 almost as soon as #1 was born; the second really wanted a boy (after two girls); and I'm not exactly sure about the third, although I knew she was trying for another.  Part of me says "awwww, a BABY!", but most of me says "hell no!"  I am so happy with our family size, and really with our life.  I feel so blessed.

Friend #1 is grumpy and uncomfortable, now nearing the end of her pregnancy.  I've been trying to send her encouraging thoughts to get her through these final weeks, but I totally feel for how uncomfortable she is.  This third one has been hard on her physically, and she's had more trouble than with her first two.  Friend #2 is also nearing the end of her pregnancy, and she is literally radiant and gorgeous and happy.  I saw her a few nights ago for dinner, and she both looked great and appeared to be in a really great place.  And Friend #3?  She's halfway through her pregnancy and finds out the gender of her baby next week. . .and her husband just told her he wanted a divorce.

I know that there is never a good way to end a relationship, especially a long one that involves small children.  But. . .some ways are less terrible than others.  It is actually possible to have a little grace and compassion for someone that you once loved, even if you don't love them any more.  Unfortunately, at every turn, my third friend's husband has behaved in the most terrible way possible.  And here she is, on top of everything he has said and done to her, pregnant and unemployed, with two small children.  I am so devastated for her.

She should have a few more months to be grumpy and uncomfortable, but eagerly awaiting her new arrival.  Or she should have a few more months of radiant, beautiful anticipation.  She shouldn't, under any circumstances, be facing a sad, anxious, unexpected and very uncertain future, all because her husband failed to be honest with her months ago.  I hope hell has a special place for a man who intentionally fathers a child that he knows he's going to walk out on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Projects and Potty Training and Job Offer, Oh My!

I finished one project today, and I have another one that I absolutely have to finish tonight.  I'm writing something, and I only have a page to do it in, but I must touch upon a million points and make really good use of the space I have, and it's incredibly complicated.  But I can do that, right?  It's just a page!  I'm exhausted from not sleeping from worrying so much, though, which isn't ideal headspace for writing something that requires high focus.  Ugh.  But I really HAVE to finish it tonight.

It definitely made me de-stress to get one project out of the way.  And, we got some more good, good news yesterday:  T indeed got the job offer he was hoping for.  The salary was not quite as good as I was hoping (he is not surprised by the offer, so he is happier than I am).  He is currently negotiating for a slightly higher salary--fingers crossed that they hear what he is saying and agree that he is worth a bit more.  He'd like about 15% more than they are offering, so it is not an unsubstantial amount of money.   He has worked in his field for literally decades, so he is definitely worth every penny.  But, he also hasn't worked in 5 years, so I totally get why they would offer him less.  Regardless of the salary, it's a great job and it's in his field, so he is really very excited, and I am so very happy to see him happy.

SB continues to make good progress on potty training.  She has not had a single accident at school, and hasn't been having accidents at home, either.  Well, except for yesterday, when she fell asleep on the sofa while wearing underwear, and peed in her sleep.  She apologized to me when I got home from work, which I thought was both sad and sweet.  Poor kid--she was so bummed about it.  But as I told her, accidents happen.  And pee washes out of upholstery. . .mostly.

Okay, enough procrastinating, and back to my project.

Monday, April 13, 2015

#MicroblogMonday: Anxiety

I know that I am stressed out, because it's 12:35 am here, and I am wide awake, yet exhausted.  I can't get my mind to shut off.  I haven't felt this way in years.  In my old job, I was constantly so stressed out that I had what I called "middle of the night insomnia":  if awakened by anything, I couldn't fall back asleep.  After I left the job, I started sleeping, and I realized the problem was external.

So, hello my old friend, anxiety.  I know exactly why I am awake.  I have three projects at work that are pressing down on me, squeezing the air out of the room.  I just need to finish them.  I need to stop letting the great be the enemy of the good.  So I can sleep again, if nothing else.

How do you calm down and sleep when your mind won't stop?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Forks in the Road

As the kids sat and played on the family room floor last night, I sat with my laptop on the couch making our vacation plans, looking to see which beaches are closest to Orlando and also good for families.  It reminded me of a time when T and I seriously considered moving to Florida, and that led me to thinking about all of the big forks in the road in my life.

When we were contemplating the possible Florida move ("the weather's great, we love to vacation there, why not move?!" we said), I applied for a pile of jobs, and flew down when I landed a job interview.  It went well, and T had passed the time sitting in a thatched-roof beach bar in a marina where you could live aboard your boat.  He was all for the move.  But we hadn't talked about salary during the interview, and this was before so much was available via internet, so I had no real sense of the possible salary range.  When they called me to offer me the job, the salary they offered was so jaw-droopingly low that I would have been unable to pay my student loans.  In the end, despite T's dream of living on a boat next to a thatched roof beach bar ("but you can walk to work!" he argued), we decided it was too much of a financial gamble, and I declined the job.  The rental sheet from the marina was posted on our refrigerator for well over a year.  I think it was particularly hard for T to give up on that dream.  I would have loved the job (it was public sector and serving a low income population), but I also think it would have been very difficult financially, and I never regretted declining the job.

At around the same time, I interviewed for another job in western Massachusetts.  It was also a public sector job serving a low income population.  I would have loved it.  It was the perfect job for an idealistic kid right out of grad school, which is exactly what I was at the time.  It was work that I could both be passionate about, and which I could be proud of and feel good about.  But again, the money held me back.  The starting salary was abysmal.  It would have been less of a gamble, because we were living in Boston at the time, and it wouldn't have been as big of a move.  They so badly wanted me to accept the job that they called me back a second time after I declined it, hoping to persuade me to take it.  I have always regretted that I didn't take the job.

I ended up looking for a job for months.  It was miserable being out of work, watching all of my grad school friends bond over their new jobs and new experiences, while I was sitting home and mailing out resumes all day (MAILING!  How very 1990's!).   Ultimately, after many months of nothing, I was offered a job that paid about $15,000 more than those other jobs I had turned down.  It was a miserable job and I hated going to work every day.  Professionally, it was probably good experience, as I got to do a lot of different things, and it gave me time to figure out what I liked, what I didn't, and what I was good at, so in that sense I am grateful that I had that experience.  We lived in a gorgeous apartment during that time period, a converted factory with soaring ceilings and giant windows and exposed brick.  I would lay in bed in the morning and stare up at our beautiful wooden ceilings and think that I didn't even want to put my feet on the floor.  

I lasted two years in that terrible job, and then I lucked into a job that I LOVED and worked at for almost a decade.  THAT job defined my adult life in many ways.  So much of my sense of self comes from that job, which I worked at from my late 20's to my late 30's.  It's where I grew up.  It was 80 hour weeks, extreme highs, extreme lows, but a mission I cared about deeply and work that I am still immensely proud of.

And then there is what I am doing now.  I am not passionate about all of it.  I am passionate about pieces of it.  I like it well enough, and it pays well enough, and it has been good for us for the last few years.  I can see the potential to be doing work all of the time that I am really passionate about, which is why I think I am still doing it.  I'm basically putting my time in and working toward that point, because I recognize that everyone has to pay their dues.

But as I was perusing job listings recently, ostensibly for T, I ran across some listing for jobs that were similar to my last job, the one I worked at for 9 years, and I felt a longing to do that kind of work again.  I miss the highs, the thrill of being really good at something, the passion I felt for the work.  I was so burned out that I needed to leave the field, but I confess that it increasingly beckons.

The challenge, I suppose, is balancing the passion and 80 hour workweeks with raising a family.  I know that I don't know how to do that.  I am not sure I can be anything but all-in at home AND at work.  I can't see how I could manage my old job and my family.  But looking back, the only regrets I've felt were over taking jobs that I didn't love, and right now, I am only lukewarm on what I am doing.

Which is not at all where I meant to end up.  I meant to say that I like to think that no matter which choice I'd made when the fork appeared with any of these jobs, that I would have ended up in this same place, with these children playing at my feet.  Happy, content.  But as I was writing, a whole other thing came up.  And this is why I love blogging.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Goodish and Great

First, the goodish:  we THINK T will get offered the job.  They basically told him that he had the job, without actually offering it to him.  They said it will be a few weeks before they let him know.  It's a bit frustrating that they didn't make him an offer on the spot, but they apparently have to work through some bureaucracy and can't do that.  So, I'm continuing to cross my fingers and hope, wish, and pray that he gets it.  He is really excited about the job, and it's a really good fit with his experience.

And now the great:  SB is potty trained.  Like, completely potty trained.  We had two days of accidents and then. . .she totally and completely got it.  She's been going to school in underwear and has not had one accident.  She still sleeps in pull-ups, because I'm less sure about that part, but she has been waking up dry all of a sudden (which was not happening a week ago--she was waking up soaked every morning).  She is super proud of herself, and we are super proud of her.

We also have a departure date from this country, and are counting down the days.  We decided to make a stopover in Florida for a week on our way back.  As much as we can't wait to visit with our families, family visits are also distinctly different from vacation, and T and I both really want some family vacation time with the kids.  So, we booked a condo at the same resort we stayed at last year.  We are going to just do one day of Disney this time, and then spend most of our time doing crafts at the complex and playing in the awesome pools there and basically just hanging out.  And maybe drive to the beach for a day.

To be honest, we hemmed and hawed about whether we should take this vacation.  It's a time of transition, as we move back to the U.S., and there is already so much going on.  And every time you move, you invariably spend a pile of cash, and it seems imprudent to spend money on vacation at a time when we are spending cash on a thousand other things.  But on the other hand, when you are flying back to the northeast from Latin America, it's generally most convenient to connect in Florida, and we discovered that it wouldn't cost us anything extra to stop over for a few days, so it was really just the price of the condo, which was fairly reasonable.  And, we haven't had a vacation since last year.  And, if T gets this job, it will be a while before we take some time off, because both of us will be starting in new jobs and we'll both be getting settled.  And in the end, it was too appealing to pass up.

Monday, April 6, 2015

#MicroblogMonday: Fingers Crossed

T felt like he had a pretty good telephone interview for the job on Friday.  It's in his field, it sounds really cool, and it felt like a good fit.  He had offered to fly back to interview, but they said it wasn't necessary.  They also told him there was only on round of interviews (last week), and that they would be selecting a candidate this week.

This morning, they got in touch with him, said they felt like the interview had gone well, and asked him to fly back for a second interview.  He's flying tomorrow morning, and interviewing on Wednesday.  I am hoping, wishing, praying that this is because he is the leading candidate, and they just want to meet him in person to make sure he doesn't have four heads.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Mind Was Playing Tricks on Me

After I wrote my last post, I went back through my last posts about potty training Miss M.  I'm not sure why, but in my memory, Miss M never had pooping accidents when she was potty training, and as far as I was concerned, she potty trained at about 3 years 3 months.  It's a good thing I blog, because as SB would say "That's not truuu-uuue!"  Miss M was three and a half (holy god, what was I thinking?!), and she had lots of accidents--it's just that we were at the beach then, so it was not a big deal.  One of my own lines really spoke to me, though. . .I wrote that Miss M needed to be able to have a lot of accidents to learn to use the potty, and I had not given her the space to do that.

I had forgotten that part.

And I was doing it again with SB. . .expecting that she would learn to use the bathroom without having accidents.  Which is completely and totally nuts.  Thank god I listened to myself.  :)

So for the last few days, SB has been in underwear, and practicing.  It's rainy season again, so it's lousy out, anyway.  I had four days off from work.  We've had nothing but inside time on our hands.  She had a ton of pee accidents at first, and one more poop accident, and then. . .she seemed to get it.  We went to the mall yesterday for about 4 hours (indoor playspace, dinner, then ice cream), in underwear, with no accidents.  She's used the potty every time today without accidents.  I'm sure there are more accidents in our future, but we are getting there.

In other news, we are going back to the U.S. for a week at the end of April.  Miss M will do the interview she needs to do for school, and assuming that all goes well, we'll enroll the kids in school.  I've mostly decided that we are going to register at the school that where both have been accepted, and be done with it.  One, I've decided I am not going to worry about the racial composition of the school.  They are too young, and unless and until it becomes an issue, I just don't think it's worthy of worry.  Two, I think the school is really solid.  That's the feedback I have gotten so far.  As long as the commute isn't completely nuts (I think it will be 20 minutes in the car or 35 on public transportation, and another 20-30 to work, which isn't great but isn't horrible), and the facilities and teachers seem solid, this option makes the most sense.  We have too many other things up in the air with the move, and I can't also be planning around possibilities.  That said, I may feel differently if the phone rings and it's our top, top choice.  But I'm going to move forward like the phone is not going to ring, and put it out of my mind.

We're going to stay at the house we've rented, which will be the first time we'll see it.  We rented it sight unseen, so it will be our first chance to see what needs to be cleaned/fixed/painted, and we will be able to start to plan for the rest of the things that need to be done in connection with our move in, including sorting out furniture, etc.

We're also going to try to go and visit my mom for a few days while we are back, so it's going to be an action-packed weekend.  She hasn't seen the kids in almost a year, so it will be nice to visit with her.  It's about a three hour drive or so from the city we're moving to, so it definitely adds to our chaos, but since we will not yet be settled in the house, it just makes more sense.  Plus I found an unbelievably inexpensive rental car.

And then we will head back here for a few weeks, and then we'll be heading back to the U.S. at the end of May.  The next few months are going to be a whirlwind.

T also interviewed for a really great job yesterday via phone.  Fingers, toes, and everything else crossed that he gets it.  It is EXACTLY what he wants to do, so he is really excited about it.  After staying home for 4 years, and then taking a job outside his field just to get out of the house, it would be so fantastic if he got a job that he loved in his field.  I am praying it works out.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

More Puzzle Pieces

First, potty training took a turn for the worse today.  SB took a massive dump in her underwear.  It was kind of horrific.  I had shit under my fingernails, despite my best efforts to minimize the mess while peeling her clothing off.  We don't yell at her, of course, when she has these accidents, but we did talk about it being time to use the potty now, because she's a big girl.  At first, she thought it was funny, but after I explained to her how yucky it was, she apologized about twenty times.  Earlier, She had screamed, then sobbed when I tried to make her pee on the potty (I knew she had to go).  After sitting there for 10 minutes without any progress, wailing her head off, with giant tears rolling down her cheeks, I finally relented.  Five minutes later, she peed herself while sitting on a piece of furniture.  I am going to give it one more week, since I'm off much of the week, and then I am going to shelve it for a while, if we haven't made any progress.

In happier news, we seem to be making progress on schools.  We learned this past week that Miss M and SB have both been accepted into the same bilingual school.  I am both over the moon, and full of self-doubt.  I think it's a solid program, and I'm thrilled to get them into a bilingual program, but it has basically no other kids that are of their racial background.  On the one hand, I don't care.  On the other hand, I worry that I SHOULD care.  Will it matter to other people that we are there?  Will it be weirder than I think it will?  We are one of a handful of families at our current school who are of our race, and no one really cares (well, perhaps the oldest gets a bit spoiled by the positive attention she seems to get by being different, but nothing negative).  It's probably not a big deal, but I still worry a little that I am not as worried as I should be, if that makes any sense.  I am also worried a bit about the quality of the bilingual program, because it's not a school that people tend to rave about.  But, it's also a smaller school, and I like that aspect of things, and it's impossible to get into, and that's probably a part of why it doesn't have a lot of buzz.

The complicated thing is that we still don't know what will happen with a small handful of other schools.  We may still get in, we may not, and worst of all...only one child may get in to a few of the schools.   The hardest part is that it seems like Miss M has a better chance of getting into two very good schools than SB (one because they don't have PK-3 at all, and the other because I already know the PK-3 class is full).  That begs the question of what we would do, should Miss M get into one of those schools.  One the one hand, I obviously want to get the kids into the best bilingual program I can, and one of those two very good schools is a much closer commute for us.  I would hate to deprive Miss M of that opportunity, should she get in, and I would love to have her close to home.  On the other hand, there is something to be said for having them both in the same school.  It would be good for them, and good for me, especially since I am likely to be doing more of the pickup/drop off.  Additionally, at this point, we are only guaranteed to be in the US for two years, through 1st grade for Miss M and PK4 for SB.  It's not like we are looking for a good Ph.D program.  I want a solid, safe program where they can learn.  But then again, we may stay for longer, depending on how things work out.  Sigh.  This is hard.

The other thing is that it looks like we will likely get accepted at two more schools.  They aren't as good academically as the first two.  It's hard to compare them to the school we got into this week.  One is a longer commute than the school we currently have the offers from, but it has almost three times as many Latino and native Spanish speakers (it has more English language learners, which is part of how I know there are more native speakers).  I think it's good for the kids to be around so-called heritage speakers, so I would welcome that.  I see how much language my kids have already learned from their peers, and I think that's important (as a side note, our nanny told me that my outgoing, talk-to-everyone three year old has been racially profiling at the park.  She speaks to white-looking people in English and Latino looking people in Spanish).  I also think SB will get in to that school. It has a beautiful building, apparently, which is a nice plus.  But there is the longer commute, and the question of how it measures up academically.

The other school I think we will get into is a much better commute for us than the school we have the offer from, and has twice as many Latino students as the current offer.  It would seem to be a no-brainer, but SB may not get in there.  And, the building is apparently horrible, and there is some new construction in the works.  I worry about how that will impact us if we go there.

This post is getting long.  The end result of all of this is that we are likely going to have to fly back to the U.S. in the next few weeks.  We need to check out schools and do a million other things.  Miss M also needs to have a personal, in person interview at a school.  I was hoping we would not have to fly back before we move, but it seems there is no way around it.  I think it will put my mind at ease in making these decisions, if we can visit some schools in person, so it's probably a good thing.  But it's a pile of cash and one more logistical thing on my to do list.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I erred. . .

My moving-back-to-the-U.S.-in-two-months to-do list is wildly out of control, but every once in a while I feel like I am making a bit of progress.  We have been talking about what to buy when we get back to the U.S., and decided that now that the kids are getting older, we really need something a bit bigger.  I love our current car (a Volvo), but it only seats 5, and if we have visitors or want to take the kids' friends, it really does not work.  So, we are looking at the AWD options that are out there (we plan to do lots of road trips to visit family, in snowy parts of the country), and which also seat 7-8 people.

I was really surprised to see how few options there are.  In addition, I also don't want to drive something overly large, and I want something reasonably good on gas.  So, we narrowed it down to a few vehicles.  Given that I am prone to type-A obsessive researching on whatever we happen to be buying, be it an iPod speaker or a car, I have a membership to the Consumer Reports website.  While I was doing some research on the site on our short-listed cars, I noticed that you could click a button to get actual quotes from car dealerships.  Hurray for the internet!  Instant quotes!  But. . .

My advice to you:  if you, too, are doing research online, do not ever, EVER click that button.

I immediately received 6 quotes for our two top vehicles.  They were good, solid prices.  I was delighted to find them.  And then. . .the phone started ringing.  It has not stopped.  We've received dozens of calls, thanks to the VOIP service that we receive.  And ENDLESS emails.  I have no sooner told one employee at a dealership that we aren't actually buying for another few months, when another employee will email, or call.  I don't know why there is no coordination internally at these dealerships, but I accidentally requested quotes from SIX dealerships, and we are being inundated with attention.  Yikes.  I inadvertently started a feeding frenzy amongst the sharks.

Monday, March 23, 2015

#MicroblogMonday: The Ups and Downs (Mostly Downs) of Potty Training

Pretty much every child over the age of 2 is potty trained in this country.  Wipes are crazy expensive, diapers are crazy expensive, and all of the little tinies are trained to use the bathroom when they are, well, tiny.  Exceptionally tiny, by American standards.  They can't even talk, and they can use the bathroom.  So it is with great chagrin that we send my very special youngest snowflake off to preschool in diapers and to swim lessons in swim diapers.

Numero Uno was highly articulate, woke up dry every morning, and steadfastly refused to use the potty until she was 3 years, 3 months old.  But she was my first child, so I foolishly assumed that our second go at potty training would be so very different.  I was SO SURE that having a big sister would make all of the difference in the world.  I was SO SURE we would be out of diapers by now.  I was SO SURE that the second time had to be easier.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

SB is just as highly articulate and just as stubborn as her sister.  We have tried not to make it an issue, we have tried not raising it at all, we have tried to wait until she showed some interest.  But you know what?  That is not working.  She is NEVER going to show any interest.  All of the kids use these cute little toddler-sized toilets in her classroom.  Has that made her interested?  Nope, refuses.  Even better, she refuses to let anyone at her preschool change her diaper.  She says only mommy, daddy, and our nanny are allowed to do that.  Older sister takes her to the potty and uses it at the same time to encourage her.  Has that made her interested?  Nope.  We have a fancy new potty chart with fancy new stickers, and a big present wrapped and hanging in the bathroom for when she uses the potty enough that all 12 stickers are on the potty chart.  Has that made her interested?  Nope.

I have no ideas.  She has peed herself EVERY time we have let her do diaperless (we have tried many times, including for the last three days).  She has not peed on the potty once.  I would give up and say that maybe she's not ready, but the pediatrician ensures me she is ready by every physical and psychological measure, and. . .

This morning after she woke up, she took her diaper off by herself and sat on her potty.  "What are you doing?"  I asked.  "I'm pooping," she said confidently.  And then she did.

There's hope, right?  We'll get there?  Please tell me we'll get there.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


We are starting to hear back from the schools that we applied to.  As I think I mentioned (didn't I?  I'm not getting enough sleep), SB has been accepted into one bilingual program.  She is very low on the wait list at another, with basically no chance of getting in.  She is also likely to get accepted into a third program if we pursue it, but that one is private, and crazy expensive.  And, we should hear from some more schools next week.

Miss M has not been accepted into any programs yet.  She is low on the wait list at the bilingual school that SB was accepted into, although the school has sibling preference, so if SB enrolls, Miss M will likely jump to the top of the list.  But, there may not be any spots available for kindergarten, so she may never get in.  The other two programs that SB applied to do not offer K, so Miss M is out of the running for those entirely.

Thus far, we MAY get them both into the same school, but I think it is more likely that they end up at different schools.  For Miss M, we always have the ability to enroll her at the local school near where we are living.  It's a very good school, but it's not bilingual.  We would have to enroll Miss M in Spanish enrichment to keep up her Spanish, but even that would not be the same as being enrolled in a bilingual school.  If we were to go that route (not because we want to, but because she does not get in anywhere else), it would be nice to have SB nearby.  But, the only preschool option for SB nearby is private, and expensive.  But, it's bilingual.

Argh.  I keep moving all of the pieces of the puzzle around, but every piece seems to be contingent on a bunch of other pieces working out.  I'm worried about cost and after school care and cost of THAT and hours and commute and. . .it's so maddening.

And I was never able to come up with a childcare option for the summer.  The options for 3 year olds are quite limited, and then I have the 5 year old, too.  So, we settled upon something that I hope works out:  there is something in the visa law that allows people who primarily work abroad, who are transferring back only briefly, to bring their nanny with them to the U.S. for the time that they are there.  It's still fairly expensive (room, board, at least minimum wage, airfare, healthcare, visa cost, passport, etc., etc.), but at least it has the benefit of a) being someone we know and trust, b) a smoothness transition for the girls, c) more reasonably priced than two kids in the daycare programs I have been looking at (which would have been more than $3600 a month for my two kids!), and d) the girls will be able to keep up their Spanish over the summer.  So we think that is what we are going to do.  Fingers crossed that our nanny is awarded a visa, and this plan all works out.  She is excited to go, as she has never left this general area, and she is saving money toward a house.  She should be able to earn a big chunk of the house payment by working for us over the summer.  And, if T finds a good job, she will likely stay and be our after school care.  I hate the idea of the kids being at school from 8am until 6pm every day.  I feel like they are too young for that.  But, there is no way we can survive on one salary back in the U.S., and T really wants to work in his field.  So like I said, fingers crossed this all works out.

I am still hoping to get into one of the bilingual programs that is near we will be living.  And I'm hoping T gets a job he wants and enjoys.  And I'm hoping our nanny can stay with us for a while.  If we could get these last few pieces into place, I would feel really good about moving back--I would feel like I could manage the juggling act between my career and my personal life.  Sigh.

Monday, March 16, 2015

March Grab Bag

I am, as usual, exhausted.  The kids have this horrible living-in-a-polluted-city-in-the-mountains respiratory thing that has been dragging on for weeks, and neither is sleeping well.  We have literally 5 different medications for them, and slowly, slowly it's resolving, but in the meantime. . .blech.  Lots of whining in the middle of the night, punctuated by utter sobbing due to the associated ear pressure.  Poor things.  And SB sounds like she has whooping cough.  (It's NOT, right??!)

We just found out we have been accepted into not one, but two preschools for SB.  One is crazy expensive but would be a few blocks from where we will be living; the other is exponentially more affordable, but a hellish commute away.  Fortuitously, both are bilingual, so I am very pleased to have options.  T thinks we would be utterly insane to even consider the expensive one; he thinks it would be nuts to spend that much on preschool.  I had to remind him that we spent nearly that amount on Miss M when she was that age, and that the benefit of the giant payment is proximity and our sanity.  He is still not convinced.  We are still waiting to hear from a few more places, and I'm hoping that she gets into another place, and it will be that magical combination of both affordable and easily commutable.  Sigh.  It's all so very complicated.

Finally, finally, we seem to have a departure date.  We'll be heading back to the U.S. at the beginning of June.  I really have to start cleaning out closets, now that we know when we are leaving.  I don't know how we've managed to amass so much crap in just two years.

I've been working with Miss M on some school-related things, and I immediately saw what her teacher was talking about when she told me that when things are hard for her, Miss M does not like to do them and tries to avoid them.  She gets frustrated, angry, and/or very tearful very, vary quickly.  It surprised me, because I haven't seen her behave like that.  But, she is very upset at her inability to identify some letters of the alphabet (d, p, and b are particularly hard for her).  The teacher says she is behind; the pediatrician disagrees, given that she just turned 5, but schools are strict here (play based learning hasn't exactly made its way to this city, as far as I can tell--even SB sits at a desk and chairs at age 3).  I am guessing that because of the pressure they put on little kids here, she is behind her classmates, and that is embarrassing to her, and accounts for her frustration.  And, given the severity of her father's learning disabilities and the high probability of him passing those genes on, there is a chance that is part of it.  But whatever--I am trying to make learning FUN, and support her and make her feel confident and happy about her ability to play/learn, and make her understand that hard can be FUN, too.

I have had several surreal experiences lately that remind me of The Help, but I am too tired to continue.  But, I have to remember to blog about them, because. . .well, just because.  When life looks like 1950, it's worth mentioning.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday, SB!

To my very dear SB on your third birthday:

Happy birthday to my very exuberant, independent, feisty, fun, happy little girl!  We treasure every day that we spend with you.  You are so full of energy, so full of life, and so very funny.  You are a little spitfire, and everyone who knows you enjoys you so much.

We are in swim class now, you and I.  Up until this week, I had to go in the pool with you.  You only became interested in swim classes recently.  Before now, you weren't all that interested on the pool.  When we were on vacation last May, you wanted to spend all of your time in the hot tub (no worries--it wasn't actually hot--more like bath water, which was still too hot, given how hot out it was).  But you loved lounging in there.  You could have cared less about the pool.  But suddenly, at a birthday party a few months ago, you decided you loved it, and asked for lessons, so we signed you up.  They said I had to be in the pool with you, since you'd never had lessons.  So in I went.  You were the oldest in the class by far--it's really for babies.  Apparently, they start kids young in swim lessons here.  But then last week, you struggled with me a bit.  You are so independent.  You wanted to go underwater and blow bubbles and jump in the pool without my help.  I realized then that you didn't need me in the pool any more, and that you would probably learn more if I sat on the sidelines and merely cheered you on.  But when I asked about a slot for you in a different class, they claimed not to have one.  And then this week, you were even feistier with me, and the professor suggested that we really needed to put you in a class on your own, and lo and behold, they found one for you.  My little girl is growing up so fast!

You are so inquisitive.  Your favorite questions is why.  You want to know about absolutely everything.  You even ask strangers--in Spanish, often--what they are doing, and why.  It startles people like the grocery store clerk, who are used to being invisible.  You will talk to anyone, and do.  You chatted up a guy, again in Spanish, yesterday while we were in line to pay our cable bill.

You and your sister adore each other, and also have tremendous fights.  No one is closer, and no one can come between you. . .but no one annoys each of you like the other.  I love how close you are, and hope you will always stay close.  You stick up for each other, even when one of you has been seriously misbehaving, because you each hate to see the other punished.  I hope you will get over the fighting part, and soon.  :)  My rule is that if you can't work something out between yourselves, without whining to me or your father, then I take away whatever the item in question is.

I love the sound of your laugh.  It is infectious.  You are VERY funny.  And you smile not only with your mouth, but your whole self.  I love the way your eyes light up with you laugh.  You have a very bright light inside you.

You eat pretty much just fruit, although you like pretty much everything else.  But fruit, you love.  You have learned how to help yourself to the fruit bowl.  I recently found a few bites taken out of an avocado, skin and all.  No wonder you put it back after a few bites!

You are not a good sleeper.  You take forever to fall asleep, and you wake up early.  You literally talk yourself to sleep at night, telling stories that often involve the word "because."  Your sister falls asleep long before you do.  You are often talking a blue streak for an hour or more after she has fallen asleep.  You frequently beg me to sleep with you.  "But mommy, I CAN'T sleep alone!" you protest.  When you wake in the middle of the night, you often come into my bed.  Sometimes you are so sneaky that I don't even wake up, and find you curled up next to me in the morning.  You love to snuggle.  Sometimes, though, you get into my bed in the middle of the night and start chatting with daddy and me as though it is morning!

You have an enormous vocabulary.  While you were opening your birthday presents, you got a My Little Pony toy that came with a few other little pieces, and you said "look mommy--it came with accessories!!!"  You also speak your mind to anyone and everyone around you.  When we toured preschools recently, you decided you didn't like one place, and you said--quite loudly, and in front of the English-speaking director--"I don't like this place.  I want to go to the other school."  But mostly, I love the way your mind works and the things that you think of and say to me.

Your Spanish is also coming along nicely, too.  I hear you having entire conversations, and it is quite impressive.  Preschool has been so good for you.  You love going, and look forward to school days.  You spend your time there painting and playing and singing and dancing and coloring and playing with play-doh, and love every minute of it.  Although, you REFUSE to use the potty, and REFUSE to let anyone there change your diaper (in fact, you pitch such fits that they called to ask if they could just send you home wet, and we agreed).  You are a girl who knows what she wants, and you aren't afraid to tell anyone what you think.  We are hoping you change your mind about potty training, and soon, because we know that as soon as you WANT to, you will.

You love your piggy bank.  Except, that's not what you call it.  Any time you find change around the house, you grab it in your little hands and coming running to me, asking for your "guinea pig."  Your grandmother, daddy's mother, gave you a little ceramic bank a while ago, and every time she sends a package, she sends you and your sister quarters taped to an index card, so you can put them in your "guinea pig."  You love it.  It cracks me up to hear how excited you are to find change, and how excited you are to claim it as your own.

We are moving soon, and I am so very much looking forward to this next year with you in our new city, because there are so many wonderful things there that I want to show you, so many wonderful things I want to explore with you.  I can't wait to see you enjoy them.  I am so excited to watch you grow and develop, to continue to snuggle with you, to hear your thoughts, and to listen to that contagious little laugh of yours.  I love you my SB, forever and always.


Monday, March 2, 2015

#MicroblogMonday: Decisions, Decisions. . .

We've been hemming and hawing a lot over the school decisions for next year.  We'll be heading back to the US this summer, and really want the kids to maintain the Spanish that they've developed since they've been here.  They have come so far, and I really, really want them to have the benefit of being bilingual.  I talked with Miss M's teacher at a parent-teacher conference this week, and she says that Miss M has a pretty good level, compared to the local kids.  She says her vocabulary isn't quite as large as the "native" speakers, and she sometimes makes up words, but she has a really good accent and a pretty good ability.  Sometimes I make up Spanish words, too, and I don't have the great accent she has.  :)  Her teacher thinks she'll be able to pass an entrance exam, if she needs to.

We have a number of bilingual school options in the city we are moving to, but since we are not there to actually go and visit the schools, it has taken a LOT of research and a LOT of soul-searching to figure out what was right.  Especially since we have to lottery into most of the schools we are looking at, in order to secure a place.  It was so incredibly hard to sort out what was right, and especially hard because we were doing it for both Miss M and SB.

As of today, we've finalized our lottery list.  It's submitted.  We did the best job we could.  Now, we jut have to hope it all works out in the end.

Okay, that wasn't all that short.  :0