Monday, May 30, 2011

Followed Her To School One Day, School One Day, School One Day...

cat, thinking big thoughts...

I figure no one will believe this, except maybe Connie, and that's only because her cats are over on the other side of town figuring out how to weaponize her spice rack.


Every morning when I take Kyra to school, Kiwi the formerly-stray cat follows us. All the way to school. Just like Mary's little lamb. I can't quite figure out why she's doing this, but if she's in the house when we leave, she escapes however she can and then proceeds to sneak through yards, under cars and across roads, always staying just behind us.

On the days that I drop Kyra off and return home, the cat waits outside the school and trots back home with me. On the days that I drop Kyra off and then proceed to walk or cab into work, the cat disappears. I guess she just heads back home. How does she know if it's a work day or a home day? I have no idea.

But the one day that I stayed in the school for a couple of hours instead of running in and out, I found the cat outside, halfway between home and school, meowing piteously.

There's really no point to this story, other than the fact that I want to remember it years hence. I've never been much of a cat person, but this cat has found her way into our family, claws and all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So This Is Cool...

Today is a national holiday here - we're all celebrating Jordanian Independence Day.

Instead of going to work today, we took the kids to the pool. As we were sitting there, enjoying the perfect 80 degree weather and clear blue skies (sorry - trying to make my friends in Beijing and Bahrain jealous with that extraneous weather report...), a group of fighter jets screeched by overhead. And then another. And another. And a flock of helicopters (another aside: what do you call a group of helicopters? A pack? A flock? A litter? A bunch? I know you know, Afghan Plan. Anyone else?).

Apparently we were right in the path of the Independence Day parade. Very cool, indeed.

Of course, all of my Air Force friends are away for the holiday, so there was no one here to tell me just what kinds of planes were further destroying my already terrible hearing.

Tomorrow, it's back to work as usual.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why, hello, there!

So there I was, minding my own business, waiting in the buffet line at the Hail and Farewell party last week at the Embassy, when the gentleman in front of me turned and said "You know, ever since you got elected to the school board, you haven't been updating your blog as frequently."

Interesting point, I thought. And then, I hope those aren't the last brownies he's got there on his plate. And finally, ohdearlord, he reads my blog? I hope I didn't say anything awful about him.

Well, they weren't the last brownies. And he did have a point about my lack of bloggitude.

It's not the school board, actually, because I haven't started that yet. It's the job. Yes, the job. It's only 20-ish hours per week. But when you add that to the rest of my responsibilities, my workday is pretty much full. Where to find the time to blog? And what to blog about?

Life in the middle east is strange right now. All around us countries are in various stages of disarray, with leaders slaughtering their own people, suicide bombers blowing themselves up, and people arguing over borders. Yet here I am, worrying about what to feed the kids for dinner, signing field trip permission slips, ordering shoes online. My daily life feels quite normal, if you don't count the security checks I go through just to get to work, or the fact that all around me people are speaking Arabic and I'm desperately trying to understand.

Today I went with Aidan's class on a field trip to the Children's Museum, a facility not unlike one you'd find in a decent-sized city in the States. The trip had been re-scheduled from last month, when the school cancelled because a large protest was scheduled in front of the museum. Today we went, and the children ran around looking for "forces:" that is, they were looking for machines that needed to be pushed or pulled, and searching out examples of when wind or water are used as forces. It all seemed like any normal field trip, of the sort you might attend at a public school back in Fairfax, Virginia, when suddenly one of the kids, a local kid whose family hails from Palestine, stopped and pointed at a bank logo on the side of an exhibit. "Look at that,"he said. "We own that bank." Huh.

It's a strange place we're living. That's for sure.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When Life Doesn't Hand You Lemons...

I was chastized on Facebook today.

That's right, my friend Kolbi told me I need to post to my blog today in order to bring a happy smile to her otherwise joyless, Chinese vocabulary-filled existence. That's a lot of pressure to put on a girl.

But okay. I'll do my best.

Here in Jordan, we get danger pay. Why, you ask? Well, there are a lot of people in these parts who don't like us too much. I can't really go into the various ways that this affects my kids, but I can say that they don't have the same freedom of movement here that they had when we lived in Beijing.

So the other day, when Kyra decided that she wanted to make some lemonade and sell it to the neighbors, I nixed that idea. But I didn't want to scare her by saying "Are you crazy? The terrorists will kill you!", so I merely mumbled something about not having lemons and left it at that. I was making dinner, so I admit I was a bit distracted when I heard the front door open and close a few minutes later.

But then the doorbell rang. It was Reda the boab, and he wanted to let me know that my girls had gone out front and were setting up shop on the sidewalk. They had a box, covered with their nana's quilt and topped with a ceramic piggy bank. No lemonade, though: apparently that part of the set-up was imaginary. I guess they'd been listening when I told them I didn't have any lemons.

The front gate was wide open, and the dog was jumping around next to them. I'm not sure why he didn't make a break for it when he saw the open gate, but he was glued to the girls.

Free-range kids notwithstanding, there is no way my girls are going to set up an imaginary lemonade stand on a sidewalk in the middle of the middle east. Lest you think, however, that I crushed their budding entrepreneurial spirit, know this: they struck a hard bargain. They only agreed to come in if I supplied real money for their imaginary lemonade stand, which they promised to relocate inside the house once I forked over the cash. Dinner was burning on the stove, so I quickly agreed to their terms, and the imaginary lemonade stand, once relocated, earned them a profit of about 3.50 JD.

I guess you could say they earned their own danger pay that afternoon.

Here's our recipe for non-imaginary mint lemonade:
2 cups lemonade (make it yourself or buy it)
1 handful fresh mint
1 dozen ice cubes
Run through the blender. Drink. Preferably inside, far away from any lemonade stand-haunting terrorists.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Forgot to Mention...

If you're not a facebook friend, or a neighbor here in Amman, then you won't yet know that I was elected to the school board last week. I gave that speech of mine, scary though it was, and I won a seat. Which means that for the next two years, I'll be even busier than usual.

What was I thinking? Seriously, what?

I'm busy enough, don't you think, what with the four kids and the dog and the cat and the part-time job and the addiction to home-baked cookies and the blog and don't even get me started on the Tetris app for the iPhone.

But okay, I'm in it now, and people have already been stopping me in the corridors at the Embassy to tell me what they think needs to be done over there at the school.

I wish I had some clever way to wrap up this post, but it's late and I'm tired and I still need to go online to zappos and order some new shoes because the dog just ate my very last and most comfortable pair of work-quality shoes. Which means until I get some new ones, I'll be known around here as that lady who won a spot on the school board, you know her? The one who wears clogs with her business clothes? Yeah, what's up with that?

Sunday, May 8, 2011


We'd been in Beijing all of a month or so, and I hated those taxis with a passion. Every time I got in one, which was often, because our car hadn't arrived, I felt sick. Not just a little carsick, but full-on nauseous, almost as if I was...


So I rode my new red bicycle up to the clinic and bought a pregnancy test. Which was positive.

I was not happy. After all, hadn't we just given all of the baby things away before we moved? And hadn't the last OB told me forcefully not to risk having more kids? And wasn't our family complete?

Not. Happy.

When I told Bart the news, he sat down, rather heavily, and sort of half laughed. We sat there, shocked, trying to figure out what this was going to mean for us. A baby. A fourth baby. In China.

And then, about two weeks later, I went deaf. If you've been reading for awhile, you know the story.

I was so very sick. My ear was buzzing and my head was spinning and if I so much as moved my eyeballs, I got violently ill. When I went to the clinic, they couldn't figure out what was wrong. But I warned them, as they tried to figure out what medicines they could give me, that I was pregnant. The nurse asked me bluntly if I'd thought about aborting. "China is not such a good place to raise babies," she said, "and now, with this..."

I told her that wasn't on the table. So they sent me home with some mild anti-nausea meds, which didn't help.

Eventually they put me on a plane to Hong Kong in the hope that an ENT there might be able to determine what had happened to my ear. The diagnosis: Sudden Deafness Syndrome. The oral steroid treatment only had a slight chance of working, and they didn't think they could administer it to a pregnant woman. My other choice, steroid shots directly to my eardrum, had even less of a chance of working, but could be done to a pregnant woman. So I had to choose, right there in the ENT office, with my husband in another country, because time was working against me if I ever hoped to regain my hearing. Did I want the one treatment, or the other? In other words, the way I heard it, was I choosing myself over this still-first-trimester baby?

And it hit me full-force, this clarity of purpose. This was my baby. I had no idea why God chose to send a fourth one my way, when I was so clearly overwhelmed with the three I already had, but there it is. I'd been chosen, and I was going to protect this baby even if it meant I had to lie still while some doctor stuck a needle full of steroids directly into my eardrum. Four times they did that. And it didn't work. I left Hong Kong still pregnant, and still deaf.

I'm still deaf in that ear, you know, and I've never been given a satisfactory answer as to why, exactly, it happened. But I'm not pregnant any more. Three years ago, in a hospital in Beijing, Ainsley kicked her way into this world. I loved her before she ever arrived. Long before she arrived, when I sat in that hotel room in Hong Kong feeling oh-so-sorry for myself, I already loved her. I knew even then that I'd move heaven and earth to keep her safe.

Here it is, three years later, and I can't imagine life without her.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I Need a Weekend to Recover From My Weekend

Thursday is the start of the weekend in Amman, and we started out at a little Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Embassy. I was enjoying sitting poolside, drinking a margarita and chatting with friends, when the skies opened up and it started to rain, with lightning and thunder and everything. We had tons of thunderstorms in Beijing, but they're rare here. And don't tell anybody, but I'm all kinds of scared of thunderstorms.

We packed up and headed home, where I parked the kids in front of a movie. Then one of my friends texted that she was on her way over with a fresh pitcher of margaritas, to finish the celebration. We ended up staying up late, chatting about the whole wife-of-a-diplomat thing. It was fun to compare notes with a friend - why we chose to give up our jobs, what we've gained and lost in return, how to show our daughters that we're more than just travelling spouses when that's mostly the role they see - that sort of stuff. We covered lots of big, important whole-life issues. We also drank too many margaritas.

Which brings me to Friday, when I found myself over-exhausted, for some odd reason. The boys had friends over and I did all sorts of baking. Because, you see, we also had two Big Events this weekend. Ainsley turned three - my baby, my last little baby. And Aidan celebrated his first Holy Communion. Ainsley chose pizza for lunch - not homemade, thank goodness - and Aidan chose sushi for dinner - homemade, but not all that difficult.

Now I am exhausted. Physically and emotionally. It's a weird thing to watch your baby up on that altar, in a suit and tie. I had some serious flashbacks to his baptism, which was followed immediately by his scary health problems, a medevac and a curtailment.

So you can see that I have lots to catch you up on. But tomorrow is Sunday. Not a day of rest, but an ordinary workday, with schoolbuses to catch and Arabic homework to finish and an office to go to. So you'll have to wait for the details.

Oh, but in the meantime, here's an article you might like to read. Note particularly #2. I need another margarita.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What's In Donna's Reader?

I find myself with too many things to blog about these days, but without much interest in the whole fingers-to-keyboard aspect of blogging. So instead of writing, I'm reading, playing catch-up with my google reader. And do you know? There are a lot of really great blogs out there. Here are three of my current favorites: if you don't have them bookmarked, you must run and do that right away.

The Afghan Plan. Okay, so everyone loves this blog. I happen to know the writer personally, so I can tell you that he's just as funny and smart in real life as he is in blog form. Also: he drinks way too many bottles of water on a daily basis, though I never did figure out why. I have already volunteered to edit his book, whenever he chooses to write it - hopefully soon.

Life in the Land of the Long White Cloud. I only found this blog recently, and I don't know the writer in real life, but he is a foreign service blogger. He's also a recovering journalist, which means his blog isn't just a family blog - he's telling travelogue-style stories about life in New Zealand, and he's making me really want to go there - it's a beautiful place, at least in his telling (despite the recent devastating earthquake, which both he and his wife recounted on their blogs).

Hyperbole and a Half. No connection to the foreign service here. But this writer/artist might be the funniest person alive today, with the possible exception of David Sedaris. She doesn't update often, but when she does, you're guaranteed a laugh or four. Every time her blog pops up in my reader, I abandon whatever I was doing - dinner can wait! - and rush immediately to her site.

So. Go check out these blogs, if you haven't already. But first, tell me: Who am I missing? What are your must-read blogs, foreign service or otherwise? I'm looking for some new reads to keep me inspired.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Career Aspirations

"When I grow up," Ainsley told me this morning, "I either want to be a butterfly, a princess or a mermaid."

It's good to have goals.
Please. Write your own stuff.