Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Forty Five

That's how many people are expected at my house for Thanksgiving tomorrow. How did Bart's office get so big?

Right now I am elbow deep in turkey brine, bread cubes, sweet potatoes and chocolate. I love this holiday.

Back soon with a recap. Meanwhile, enjoy your Thanksgiving, wherever you are in the world - I have friends and family cooking up feasts in Bahrain, Beijing, Japan, Jerusalem, New York, Nouakchott, Malawi, Virginia, Senegal, Seattle, Canada, Los Angeles, Afghanistan, Austin, Baghdad, Scranton, Santa Barbara, Kenya and so many other places across the globe. And for all of these people, who have kept me smiling and standing all these years, I am truly, deeply thankful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Marine Ball 2011

This year the Marine Ball was held at the Dead Sea. Given the massive quantities of vomit that were flying around our house as recently as Thursday evening, I was seriously concerned that we would have to cancel. But somehow everyone managed to be not-sick on Friday, and so we sent our eldest child away for a sleepover and asked the nanny to stay overnight with the other three.

Then off we went to the Dead Sea Marriott, where, upon check in, no one complained about being hungry, and no one bopped anyone else on the nose with a backpack, and no one called anyone else a dummyhead, and no one fell off the bed, or otherwise required medical assistance. It was ever so strange.

We had a great time, eating and drinking and yes, even dancing, despite my firm belief that there is nothing on this earth more ridiculous looking than me, dancing. Apparently I hang out with a bunch of enablers, because every time I'd finish off a glass of something, someone would refill it. Bart's strictly a soda water guy, so it was mostly just me with a constant refill. But at least I wasn't drinking out of a bottle with a straw, as was one of my friends. And I didn't accidentally stick the back of my heel through my dress, so there's that. And no one had to kick me out of the place at 3 a.m. - I didn't even make it 'til midnight before I turned back into a pumpkin.

We had a great time, but I think I'm glad it's over for the year. I'm exhausted! Next up: Thanksgiving dinner for forty.




Thursday, November 17, 2011

That's What Friends Are For

Kyra is finally on the mend as of yesterday. She's eating solid foods again - and keeping them down! - though I'm afraid she's developed a frightening addiction to Popsicles over the last couple of days.

Last night we had an event to attend, but it was Aidan's night for basketball, and he desperately wanted to go. So when a dear friend offered to take him, we happily accepted. At the appointed hour, he ran out the door to join her boys in the car, and while they headed to the gym, we went to our little party.

When we returned a couple of hours later, Aidan was lying on the couch, clutching his stomach and moaning. It turns out he'd been stricken with the stomach bug during basketball practice, leaving our poor saint of a friend to deal with the aftereffects. First he vomited in the gym, so she had to track down a bucket and mop to clean up the mess. As if that weren't bad enough, he vomited in her car on the way home. In her car. Is there a sorry-my-kid-threw-up-in-your-car Hallmark card? Because I need one, apparently.

Aidan was up every 30 minutes or so last night, vomiting. And, because God wanted to make it convenient for me, Ainsley got sick, too, around midnight. Twice the vomit, half the sleepless nights. Thanks, God.

Now 75% of my kids have gotten sick (did I do the math right, EconKate?), and since Bart and I have a big date planned for tomorrow night, I suppose my astute readers can guess what's going to happen to the other 25% within the next 24 hours.

My life. It's like I'm a walking advertisement for birth control.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Too Late

Thanksgiving is next week.

And do you know what that means?

It means I'm too late for Christmas.

A notice went out, oh, sometime before Halloween, reminding us that the deadline for holiday shipping was fast approaching. But at the time, I was scouring the Internet, looking for Halloween costumes. There was no time to think about Christmas.

And then someone asked me: have you finished ordering gifts yet? But this was a couple of weeks ago, and at the time, I was still saving up for my phenomenally expensive overseas turkey. You know how they give turkeys away free-with-purchase in the States sometimes? Give thanks, people, give thanks. Because shipping a frozen butterball overseas ain't easy, and the cost is exorbitant. It's easy to blow $50 on a turkey, and you still haven't sourced the bread that you need to personally cube and dry if you want to make stuffing. And... well, you get the idea. I am currently thinking about Thanksgiving.

Not Christmas.

But if Santa has any hope of getting here on the 25th of December, I really need to stop thinking about cranberry substitutes and start surfing over at amazon. Like, yesterday.

Ba humbug.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Us

Wow. Just, wow.

My little post went viral, and I've had quite a few extra visitors these past few days. Welcome, new people! I don't usually run around calling people morons, so don't get used to it.

Lots to say, but I'm having trouble forming words over here. It's nothing as simple as writer's block, no. You see, there's some nasty bug that's been striking down kids all across Amman. Just about every parent I know has spent some quality time this week cleaning up vomit. Last night, it hit us, and poor Kyra is down for the count. I was up half the night washing linens, so this morning, I'm feeling somewhat incoherent.

But hey, there's good news! Before Kyra started throwing up, I was able to get on the phone and order a new computer. Which means that, assuming it makes it through the DPO (and do you know how expensive it is to ship a computer over here? Yikes.), I'll soon be back in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, I figured out a complicated work around so I could post a picture here. It took half of forever. But here, as promised eons ago, is a picture of us, in Petra. Enjoy. Oh, and wash your hands a lot - you don't want this vomit thing spreading to your house, trust me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'll Bet I've Met More Diplomats Than Rick Perry Has.

I've met lots and lots and lots of diplomats over the past decade or so. Heck, I even married one.

But of course, I'm not a diplomat myself. Which is why I can say, very undiplomatically, that Rick Perry is a moron. Go read this and see if you don't agree: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/07/perry-questions-intentions-of-american-diplomats/. Said Mr. Perry: “I’m not sure our State Department serves us well. I’m not talking about the Secretary of State here. I’m talking about the career diplomats and the Secretary of State who, all too often, may not be making decisions, or giving advice to the administration that’s in this country’s best interest.”

Here's the way it works, Mr. Perry, since you're clearly not too familiar with how the Foreign Service operates. The U.S. Department of State looks for the smartest people it can find, and then, if it can interest them in a low-paying, lonely and dangerous job, somewhere in the far reaches of the globe, it hires them.

We have Republican diplomats. We have Democratic diplomats. We have gay diplomats. We have diplomats who oppose gay marriage. We have Muslim diplomats and Jewish diplomats, and girl and boy diplomats. Single parents can be diplomats, as can childless singles. We might even have (or at least we might have had, until today) diplomats who are Rick Perry supporters. We have just about every type of diplomat you can imagine, because we represent a fairly diverse cross-section of America.

What we don't have, Mr. Perry, are diplomats who joined the Foreign Service because they wanted to give screwed-up advice directly to President. You won't find a single person in the entire State Department who joined solely to get rich, or to advance a personal agenda at some great cost to our nation.

People don't always agree with each other in the Foreign Service, and people don't always get along on a personal level. But Foreign Service officers always advance the agenda of our government, without fail. And they work together, no matter their personal beliefs. Because that is what they were hired to do. Imagine that, if you will: Democrats and Republicans, all working together on behalf of our nation - it happens every single day in the Foreign Service.

I'm guessing our pal Rick Perry hasn't actually met a Foreign Service officer before. But he probably knows there aren't a whole lot of them out there (I'm told it is still true that there are more military band members than there are FSOs). Since there aren't a lot of FSOs, maybe he figures it's okay to insult the whole lot of them - after all, even if every single one of us votes against him, we don't have enough votes to collectively guarantee a loss for him. And here's the kicker: if he somehow manages to pull off a victory, those very same Foreign Service officers whom he just mindlessly insulted will stand up and support his policies across the globe.

Because that's what the Foreign Service is about. Diplomats support American ideals in every country across the globe, often at great risk to themselves and their families. Diplomats (and their boss, the Secretary of State) don't set their own policies. Rather, they serve as boots on the ground, the eyes and ears of the President in every corner of the globe. Diplomats report back what they see and hear and think in these countries that Rick Perry has probably never considered visiting. They present the facts - and yes, they present their own educated opinions - so that our President has the information he needs to create and direct policy. Once the President decides on policy, these same diplomats work to advance his agenda. Not their own agendas, mind you. Never their own agendas.

If they feel strongly enough that they can't support the President's policies, they resign. It happens, on occasion. If you suddenly find that you can't support current policy, you resign, and you go look for a job in the private sector, where you are allowed to disagree publicly with our nation's policies, and where you probably make more money, too.

But the rest of those diplomats work for the United States of America. They don't work for the Republicans, and they don't work for the Democrats. They work for us, for our country. Always.

And shame on you, Mr. Perry, for suggesting otherwise just so you could win a few votes. Shame on you.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Another Day, Another Jordanian Get Together

This time, it was at Kyra's school. I love the girls' school, truly I do. It is a mix of nationalities: Russian, Japanese, American - but mostly Jordanian. Classes are taught half in Arabic, half in English, with 30 minutes of French thrown in for good measure. Small class sizes, great teachers, and walking distance from home. What could be better?

They tend to have a lot of parent-type days, like sports days, or concerts, or holiday celebrations. One other thing they have, which I'd blocked out after last year, is We Are Jordan day.

I was summoned to the school last week for We Are Jordan. The kids in Kyra's class were split into three groups, each at a separate table. Our group consisted of me, Kyra and 4 Jordanian families. We sat down together at a table covered with cardboard, play dough, bags of sand and other arts and crafty type things.

Now might be a good time to tell you that I SUCK at arts and crafty types things.

The teacher explained, in Arabic, what we were supposed to do, but it was loud and Arabic, so I understood not a thing. I asked her to repeat, for me, in English, while the other moms and kids feverishly set to work. Turns out, we were responsible for making Wadi Rum, the desert wonderland in southern Jordan, not far from Aqaba. The other parents in our group were making camels, or bedouins, or campfires. Kyra and I were assigned to make a tent.

A tent?

Yes, said the teacher, handing me a footlong square of burlap and two wooden meat skewers. A tent.

I tried every way I could think of to make that tent. I stabbed the sticks into the cardboard base and propped the canvas on them, but the whole structure collapsed. I wrapped play dough around the sticks, to no avail. I stuck bits of play dough around the edges of the burlap, hoping it would hold the heavy fabric in place, but - can you guess? - the tent collapsed again.

Next to me a mother son team were busy making paper camels with play dough saddles. Another kid was making an orange play dough campfire while his dad built another tent out of red and white checked fabric. His tent was square and sturdy and almost finished. My tent, shakily propped up with bits of toothpicks and cardboard, threatened to topple over at any moment. The mom to my right leaned across me to prop her kid's camel in front of the burlap tent. It perched there proudly, seeming to mock my tent. The mom to my left leaned over and handed me a piece of play dough, suggesting that I turn it into a saddle for that jaunty little camel. I pushed it onto the camel's back, where a saddle ought to be, and the camel prompted collapsed. The mom to my right glared at me. The mom to my left focused on her own project, even though it had been her suggestion that prompted me to mutilate the poor kid's camel.

I was miserable. All around me parents and kids chatted happily as they cut out tiny camels and people, or made tiny clay furniture that was supposed to go inside my tent. The furniture all stayed outside the tent, as it was clear the tent would blow away in the first desert breeze.

Perhaps sensing my misery, one of the moms smiled sympathetically and said "they gave you the hardest job."

Kyra was oblivious to her mother's complete lack of craftiness. She eyed the bag of sand and decided that our tent would look much better if we added sand. So she happily spread sand under and over the tent, sprinkled it on the campfire and poured it over the camels.

The tent, that poor sad sack of a tent, collapsed again under the weight of all of the sand. All the same, I pronounced our tent "perfect" and Kyra, who apparently has never seen a tent in her short life, happily agreed. We retired to the sand bottle table, where the kids were busily filling bottles with funnels of colored sand. And I rejoiced in the knowledge that We Are Jordan was over for the year.

That is, until I found a note in Ainsley's lunchbox that afternoon, summoning me to her classroom next week for her We Are Jordan event.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Just Your Average Mammal

The rainy season started, officially, last night.

Which is a tad bit annoying.

I mean, yes, I know I'm living in the fourth water poorest country in the world, and so we need rain in order to stay off of the winner's podium, but did it have to start on the first day of a week-long vacation, when my husband is winging his way back to the Land of the Giant Commissary and my nanny is enjoying her well-earned vacation and I am here alone with four children, plus their various hangers-on and all of their laundry?

Could the rain not have waited until next week?

But rain it did, and rain it is, and so I did what any sensible mammal does on a rainy, beginning-of-winter day: I went to the store and bought butter. And sugar. And flour and chocolate. And a whole chicken, for soup. And dried beans, for more soup. And a jalapeƱo, for salsa, because of course chips and salsa would be delicious on a rainy day.

And then I bought more butter.

It seems it is a good thing that my computer is dead and buried, because I cannot post any pictures via the iPad, and I have a sense that if I actually carry out all of my plans for butter comsumption, my pictures will be scary, indeed.

I have the chicken simmering on the stove and some butter softening on the counter. I plan to put my eldest to work baking cookies this afternoon, because then they will be educational cookies rather than woe is me summer is over cookies, and it's always easier to stop after three or so educational cookies. The woe is me cookies generally need to be eaten until one's stomach hurts, wouldn't you agree?

And for any grandparents out there reading this, if you happen to find some girls' raincoats and umbrellas out there for sale in the wide world, feel free to ship some our way. Apparently the girls outgrew last year's coats somehow.

Must be all that butter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Passed

I passed the FSWE. Next up: the QEP.

Loving the acronyms. I was asked to sit in on a meeting this week, and the lady threw out so many acronyms that I simply had no idea what she was trying to tell me. I eventually tuned out and turned my attention to studying a map of the West Bank that was hanging on the wall. Here I thought I knew enough acronyms to fake my way through my day. I think someone out there has a full time job just thinking them up.

Maybe that's the job I should apply for. Acronym Thinker Upper. ATU.
Please. Write your own stuff.