Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween in Jordan

This post would be for the grandparents: heavy on photos, light on words. We went trick-or-treating at the Embassy - you can see that Ainsley was over-the-moon with excitement. She and Kyra were both princesses - no surprise there. Aidan was, well, I'm not sure what he was, exactly. He took matters into his own hands and borrowed a costume, knowing as he did that his mom is a complete slacker in the costume ordering department.

As usual, the Embassy went all out decorating the hallways. The kids had a great time and got just the right amount of candy - nothing too obscene. Afterwards we all hung around and had dinner in the Embassy cafeteria. Nothing fancy - just chatting with friends while the kids ran around in costume.

All in all, a nice night.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Somebody Sent Me This and I Just Think It's Weird

Keep in mind that when I met him, he was a graduate student.

He wrote his dissertation on 19th century Russian Romantic poetry.

He taught college kids how to properly conjugate Russian verbs. That's how we met in fact - we both taught Russian as part of our graduate school duties, but he went on to become a full-fledged professor.

When we were newlyweds, I'd go to work every morning at the ad agency. When I got home, no matter the hour, there he'd be, sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by dictionaries and poetry collections and stacks of notecards, typing.

That was years ago.

So why do I still think this is so strange?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

She Said/She Said

We finally got a chance to go out to dinner with the GlobeHoppers last night. (It only took three months.)

Michele and I have joked about doing a "She Said/She Said" blog edition, wherein we go do something together and then blog our competing views about the ensuing hijinks.

As it turns out, last night's adventure would have been perfect for a dueling set of blog posts. Because my post would probably read something like: "We drove to the GlobeHopper's house so we could caravan to the restaurant. I jumped into their car, and her husband hopped into ours, so no one would get lost en route. We drove to the restaurant. Ordered tons of food. Ate. Talked. Laughed. Gawked at the bizarre fruit tray that the waiter brought to our table. Agreed that we should do this again, and soon. Went home and went to bed."

Whereas her blog post would probably read more like: "Donna and Bart drove to our house. Bart got out of the passenger side of his car, casually strolled to the curb in front of our house, then approached the passenger side of our car and holy hell did he just throw a newborn kitten into our car?"

Do you think maybe this is why we have so much difficulty making friends? Because seriously, my husband didn't even have his feet on the ground for ten seconds when he somehow spotted a newborn stray kitten, in the dark, in the bushes, and proceeded to make it their problem.

Sorry Michele. Maybe next time we should leave the husbands at home?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scandinavian Forest in Jordan

During our very second weekend in Amman, two long years ago, some of Bart's new colleagues invited us to go with them on a short hike through the Scandinavian Forest, just north of Amman. Fun trip, but we haven't been back since.

We have a 4-day weekend for Eid Il-Adha, and unlike the rest of Amman, we made no plans to go anywhere at all. So while most of our friends are in Tel Aviv, or Jerusalem, or even "just" at the Dead Sea, we are here.

We decided to take the kids back to the Scandinavian Forest for the first time since that long-ago weekend. We brought Yogi, too, and other than the one time that he took off down a mountain but then couldn't figure out how to get back up, he did pretty well staying with us. Of course, the shepherds and sheep that usually roam up there were gone. I assume they were all hanging out at the sides of the roads leading into Amman - Eid Il-Adha is, after all, the holiday when devout Muslims are supposed to buy a sheep, slaughter it and share it with the poor, all in honor of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his own son for God.

(Aside: the story of Abraham might be my least favorite Bible story of all time. Seriously, God? How could you toy with poor Abraham that way? I'm 100% positive I'd fail that test, with pride.)

Anyway. We walked up. We walked down. We looked for scorpions (without success). We stopped for snacks. We watched the thunderclouds building up to the north of us. And we made it back to the car just as the clouds descended, bringing not rain, but an awful lot of stinging dust.

And that was our day.

Shay was the official photographer; here are a few photos, mostly his.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

110v vs 220v: A Comprehensive Guide For Bidding on Overseas Positions

I've been a part of the Diplomatic Security family since the last century. Yes, I'm that old.

As such, I get a lot of emails from other DS spouses who want to know: what's your secret? How have you managed to stay overseas for almost the entire duration of your husband's career?

In DS, you see, there are more agents than overseas positions, so lots of people have trouble getting out and staying out. Bidding season is a mad scramble of folks trying to get something, anything, so they can stay overseas. But us? We're on our fifth overseas post.

So what is our secret?

I'll tell you. The secret, it's, well, and this is sort of embarrassing, but...

The secret is hairdryers.

That's right. It's hairdryers.

Now, maybe you're thinking that I've finally lost it. Maybe you assumed my husband was just really good at lobbying, or strategizing, or something. But no: it isn't him. It's all me. I'm the reason we've stayed overseas so long. Me and my hairdryer.

It all started back in Armenia, if I recall correctly. I was drying my hair one cold winter morning, half way through our tour, when my hairdryer died. It was a 110 volt model, bought in America and lugged overseas in our air freight. Whenever I needed to dry my hair, I had to plug it into a gigantic metal transformer, which enabled me to use it in our 220 volt house.

Now, those transformers are heavy, huge and ugly. But you need them, scattered strategically throughout the house, if you want to use your 110 volt appliances overseas. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they send appliances to early graves - our 110v gadgets can't always seem to handle them. I don't know if there is scientific evidence in support of this belief, but I can tell you that any spouse who has used 110v's overseas will swear up and down that her blenders and mixers and curling irons and bread makers and food processors always seem to die an early death.

Transformers: can't dry with 'em, can't dry without 'em.

So there I was, wet hair and no hair dryer. I contemplated my options. I could, of course, brave the Armenian markets in search of a 220v hair dryer, thus ridding me of the ugly bathroom transformer. But we were practically done with our tour! And if we went back to the States soon, that 220v appliance would be worthless. So I did what any lazy shopper would do. I called a relative and asked her to ship me a shiny new 110v hair dryer.

(Remember, my children, this was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. You couldn't just fire up your newfangled high speed Internet and order a new dryer through amazon or Target. Also, it was right at the height of the anthrax scare, when the pouch was virtually shut down for approximately forever. Also, I had to walk uphill to the Embassy. In the snow. Both ways. With wet hair. But I digress.)

When my 110v hairdryer arrived in the mail, I plugged it in to the transformer and reveled in the ability to straighten my hair, an ability I would surely enjoy until our tour ended, and beyond, when we returned to the States and I was once again able to plug my hairdryer directly into a wall socket, as is my God-given right as an American.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Yes, well, after our posting in Armenia, we didn't return to DC. We moved to Kazakhstan. Where, once again, there was an ugly metal transformer living on the floor in our bathroom, because I had chosen to purchase a 110v hairdryer instead of a 220v version.

But we learn from our mistakes, as they say, and so, when my dryer died yet again, one year into our tour, I went to some overcrowded tin-roofed open-air market on the outskirts of Almaty and negotiated for a 220v hairdryer. I was free at last! No more stubbing my toes on transformers in my bathroom.

So. Clever readers amongst you might be able to guess what comes next.

Within days of my purchase, we flew back to the States to get baby Aidan baptized. While there, we discovered that he was terribly ill, and we were "retroactively medevaced." I never returned to Kazakhstan. Bart flew back to pack us out before returning to DC - his only extended tour in the States, ever. I never saw that 220-volter again. I went out and bought a brand new American 110v hairdryer once it became clear we weren't going back.

Three years passed before Aidan was medically cleared to return overseas, and off we flew to Beijing, China, where the dumplings are delicious and the electrical current is 220 volts. Midway through our tour, I dropped the glass blender in the sink and it shattered. Now, I can't live without a blender. I use it about 3 times a day, and that's before margarita hour even starts. So I drove down to Carrefour and bought an overpriced, cheapass plastic blender that wheezed and shook when I tried to puree frozen berries and flaxseeds. It was a 220 volter, and this time, you're thinking I know what happens next, but you don't. History doesn't always repeat itself.

It's possible that somewhere deep within my psyche I wanted to getthehelloutof China, and so bought the 220v machine hoping we'd get PNGed or otherwise reassigned to Hawaii. Because, let me tell you, while the dumplings are indeed delicious, the pollution is disgusting, and midway through our tour I was growing weary of riding my bike across the bridge over the swampy river near my house, the river that looked the color of antifreeze and smelled like whatever chemicals they dumped in there in the dark of night.

But it was immediately apparent that the 220v blender was not going to survive my blending style. So I hedged my bets: I ordered a 110 volt top o' the line KitchenAid blender from amazon.

And all was right with the world. The 220-volter died before we could get reassigned to Washington, but the 110v KitchenAid lived on, blending soups and smoothies and sauces on a daily basis, all while plugged into the gigantic grey transformer that crowded my ash-green cracked formica countertop.

The 110v/220v crisis had been averted.

Or so I thought. Until the hairdryer died. Again.

(See what I mean? Transformers absolutely murder appliances, I don't care what your GSO tells you.)

At the time of my hairdryer's tragic demise, Bart was talking about hanging it up and returning to the mothership. Three years in China was enough for him, thankyouverymuch, and so once again, I crunched the numbers and decided to purchase another 110v hairdryer.

And that, my friends, explains why his blackberry dinged shortly thereafter with an email announcing "Congratulations! You're going to Amman!"

We've been in Amman for two years. I have a big ole transformer hiding under the cabinet in my bathroom - every few days I drag it out and plug in my trusty hairdryer. (Actually, no. I don't wash my hair every day. Get over it, people.)

This morning, the dryer sort of gasped and coughed when I plugged it in. By now, I am intimately familiar with the sound of hair dryer death throes. I know what's coming.

And so, once again, I face a momentous decision.

My husband has just turned in his bid list, with a healthy mix of overseas, AIP and DC assignments on it. He is currently writing the required emails to the people at his top-choice overseas posts. And get this - he's so cuuuute! - he actually thinks that those emails are going to matter somehow.

But I know better.

It's up to me now. Will I purchase a new 110v dryer through amazon, thus virtually guaranteeing that we get another overseas assignment? Or will I drive over to Cozmo and buy an overpriced 220v model, which will give him a chance to prove his worth to his bosses in Virginia?

I'm on the fence here. 110v? 220v? This one decision is going to determine our fate for the next 2-4 years.

Tell me: What should I do?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Of Parties and Dust Storms and Fate Itself

This past weekend a friend of mine - I'll call her, huh, let's see... Major Winerack - invited me to her house for a girls' night out party.

There was just a handful of us womenfolk there. A couple of women who are serving in the military, and a few women who are married to someone in the military, and decidedly un-military me.

I looked around at our little group and thought back to my days in LA, when I mostly hung out with grad students and artsy types. Back then, it never would have occurred to me that one day I'd spend a weekend evening drinking wine with a bunch of military folks in the middle of the middle east.

Weird, the twists and turns our lives take to get us where we're supposed to be. Is it fate? Is it luck? Pure happenstance? I don't know, but I frequently catch myself wondering what, exactly, I am doing on this exact patch of earth at this exact time. I drive myself crazy trying to figure out the reason. But maybe there is no reason. Maybe I just lucked into that girls' night out, simply because I was there. Because I am here.

Here is a weird place to be right now. People keep sending me links to things they read in the paper. (Go ahead and click on that link, or this one, unless you're my parents or my in-laws. Them, I'd advise not to click over.) Still, here is a good place to be, for me, at least, and for the most part. It was nice to sit for a few hours with friends and just laugh and gossip and generally act silly, without the distraction of kids or husbands or jobs. It was nice to forget about bidding for awhile, to forget about the other things that weigh on me over the course of an average day.

Today I'm back to my usual work and worry and not-enough-sleep. The dust is blowing in, my eyes are stinging, and the forecast calls for rain. The long Eid weekend is coming up, but most of my usual crowd is skipping town, so it'll be just my family, hanging around in an Amman that is turning to autumn at last, if by autumn you mean wind and dust and cloudy mornings.

And I'm left wondering, because autumn always turns me pensive: why, exactly, am I on this particular patch of earth at this particular moment in time? The dust storms seem to portend something significant, a big change of some sort. But what and why?

A random segue: from parties to dust storms to fate itself. But trust me - it's all connected in my mind. So I sit and watch the dust settle in the cracks, and I'm grateful for the friends I've made here, and happy that they pulled me out of pensive autumn, if only for a few hours on a random Friday evening.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Night and Day

I was wide awake at 2 in the morning, thinking things over. I had all but decided to do a "virtual cleanse:" to shutter my blog and disconnect Facebook for awhile. (I know, Kolbi, I know: it would crush you. Believe me when I say that this thought weighed heavily in my nighttime ruminations...)

But then, this morning, I awoke to three new things: an email from my mother-in-law, who had heard some nice things about my blog from a third party and wrote to share them; an email from my mother, who was linking me to an article about staying true to your story and writing through the doubt; and a Halloween care package from fellow blogger Dorothy, whom I've never met in real life, but who took the time to send me a little gift out of the blue.

Thank you all, really. Impeccable timing on your part.

I guess I'll stick around for awhile longer.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

End Games

Everything feels off this bidding season. To stay? To leave? What's next? And why?

It's just one foot in front of the other, at this point, until the fog clears. Then it'll all make sense. For now, though, we wait. I wait.

Meanwhile: a favorite poem of mine.

The Journey
By Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Glamorous Life of a Foreign Service Officer

We've all heard the stereotype: the Foreign Service Officer as a wine sipping, party going, international elitist.

If you believe that image, it is going to blow your mind when I tell you what I got to do last week.


I got to drive an hour north of Amman, in the direction of Syria, to attend - wait for it! - a groundbreaking ceremony for a waste water treatment facility.

What? Not quite so sexy as you were picturing?

Yeah, me neither. It was, well, waste water. Not a glass of wine or a fancy tart to be seen.

Truthfully, though, I'd have to say that this was a pretty realistic view of what the typical Foreign Service officer does. And, while it might not be the most romantic place in all of Jordan, it's probably a pretty important place nonetheless.

Here's how it happened. The Ambassador was invited to go to the groundbreaking ceremony for the As-Samara Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion, which was funded in part by the U.S. - we provided $93 million in supporting grants to help the Jordanians get this expansion built. When it is finished, it will give Jordan 133 million cubic meters of treated water - more than 10% of their water supplies will come from here.

It's kind of a big deal, here in Jordan, because in terms of water, we're the fourth-poorest country in the world.

Okay, but let's back up. Before he went to the treatment plant, the Ambassador wanted to stop by Hashemite University, up in Zarqa, and because I technically manage a little program up there, one that he wanted to visit, I got tagged to go to Zarqa.

And that's how I happened to be the only girl in the room when he met with the president of the university. After that, we all walked over to the American Corner at the library to sit down and chat with some students about the future of Jordan, and the ways in which our two countries work together. It was interesting to eavesdrop on both of those conversations.

I'm right behind the Ambassador. For some reason the photographer didn't think I needed to be in the picture. Go figure.

But I snuck into this photo! Look at me, all carrying my notepad, ready to write down important things!
I'm not in this picture either. But I was there, taking photos of my own...

From there, I was all set to hop in the car and drive back to Amman. I figured I'd make it back in time for a late lunch. But just as we were packing up, I got word that I needed to join everyone else for the trip to As-Samara. So I jumped into the caravan of cars and headed to the next event, not quite sure what my role was supposed to be.

Loads of people turned out for the ceremony. I couldn't get anywhere close.

As-Samara Waste Water Treatment Facility. Ain't she a beauty?
We drove over dusty, bumpy, windy back roads, and by the time we got there, I was feeling both carsick and in need of a restroom. But no time for either sensation! There were crowds of people waiting for me! Okay, well, I suppose technically they were waiting for the Ambassador, but you get the idea.

I jumped out of the car and started trying to photograph the event, in competition with the actual real live professional photographers who had been sent from various news outlets to take pictures. I could feel their withering glances as I dashed around with my tiny point-and-shoot, but no matter: I was there, darn it, and I was going to take pictures. (Oh, ADA, how I could have used your mad photography skills...)

At some point we all headed into a giant tent to listen to speeches, in Arabic and English, that used phrases like "sludge management." Which would have been fine with me, except that they were serving lunch. Mansef was on the menu - in case you don't know, it's a famous Jordanian dish of lamb and rice. That you eat with your hands. In a waste water treatment facility. It's okay, though - I was still busy pretending to be a professional photographer, so I decided to take more pictures instead of eating. Also, the situation in terms of the restroom was getting desperate, but I couldn't find one. The irony: I was in the middle of a gigantic waste water treatment facility, and I couldn't find a restroom.

(Eventually, I snuck out of the tent and into a nearby administration building. I wandered the hallways until I finally found a nice gentleman on one of the upper floors who was able to help me locate a restroom. Thanks be. I did not want to drive all the way back to Amman in such a terrible state. Even more importantly: I did not want to get left behind when the caravan took off again for Amman, all because I was wandering around in search of a bathroom.)

I made it back into the tent as dessert was being served to the guests. Across the room, I spied a colleague standing next to a USAID representative, who was being interviewed by a reporter. My colleague waved me over. I have to go help the Ambassador, he said.  You stand here and act like a press officer.

So that's exactly what I did. I pulled out my trusty little notebook and stood at the edges of the interview, nodding sagely when the USAID guy said something profound, and scribbling importantly when the reporter asked another question. They didn't seem to notice me, which I took as a sign that I was doing something right. Only a few minutes into my stint as a press officer, the Ambassador's control officer stood, and it was time to go.

I was back in Amman by 3 in the afternoon, starving and nauseous as can be - those back roads are awful if you get even the slightest bit carsick.

But, all in all, I'd have to say: it was an interesting day.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Happy Anniversary to Me!

This month marks my five year anniversary of going deaf in my right ear.

Strange that it's been that long - it still seems so raw and new to me sometimes. I still forget which side I need to sit on when I'm in a group and want to hear what's being said. I still get frustrated when I can't hear people joking and gossiping around me at parties. I know it still drives my husband up the wall when I ask him to repeat himself, over and over again. And I still get incredibly embarrassed when I mishear something and give a totally inappropriate response when asked a question.

But five years, wow. We were brand new in Beijing back then. I was pregnant with Ainsley. I'd never even thought about living in the middle east - I was still trying to learn to count in Mandarin.

To celebrate, I went back and looked at a few of my blog posts from the time.

That's the beauty of having a blog. I can cruise back into the archives and remember where I was. I can see how far I've come. And I know how much further I still have to go.

I hate being deaf. I hate the tinnitus, that wave of imaginary sound that lives in my deaf ear, day and night, louder than any of the real sounds around me. I hate that I still lose my balance when I stand up quickly because I'm missing all of the balance cues that ordinary people have. I hate that I can't hear the whispered jokes in crowded places.

But it's been five years, and it's who I am now.

Here are some of my old posts, in case you want to look back and celebrate with me.


Shot #1.

No Tumor.

Brain in a Bag.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Halloween, Two Weeks Early

I have about five posts writing themselves in my head right now, but none are quite ready to join the world.

So instead, here is a photo of Ainsley, dressed for Halloween:

That's right: Halloween. Because the big Eid holiday falls at the end of October this year, the school pushed the usual Halloween celebrations up by a few weeks. Yesterday, Ainsley's class had a Halloween party in their classroom, and she chose to dress up as "baby Ariel" (hence the thumb in the mouth: "that's what babies do, momma").

We'll have a Halloween party at the school this weekend, but I have no idea what the kids are going to wear. I completely slacked off in the costume-ordering department, so they'll have to scrounge something up out of their drawers, I guess.

Since we're celebrating Halloween early, I'm going to link you to a Halloween-themed article I wrote while we were still living in Beijing, all those centuries ago.

And I'll be back soon with another post, just as soon as I figure out what I want to say.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

You Can't Help Everyone. Sometimes, You Can't Help Anyone.

I'm in a mood today.

There are all sorts of reasons, of course: mostly boring.

No work today, because of the Columbus Day holiday, and so I decided to go get my hair cut. The salon is built into a hill, and one enters on the main floor, but then looks down the hill, two or three stories down, to the trash-strewn street below.

I had them turn my hair brown. Brown-ish. Not blonde, at any rate. Like I said: I'm in a mood.

So the guy was washing the stuff out of my hair, and when he finished, I sat up and had a clear view to the street below as he toweled off my hair. There was a skinny old guy down below, dressed in orange, carrying a broom and a cardboard box: the street sweeper. Nothing usual in that. But there was another guy there, too: a big dude with huge arms and a tight black t-shirt. He was approaching the street sweeper, and he looked angry, coiled, ready to strike.

I watched all of this idly from my perch above the street as the salon guy wrapped my hair in a fluffy towel. The muscled guy moved in toward the street sweeper, and from where I sat he appeared to be laughing an ugly sort of laugh. The street sweeper backed slowly away, holding his broom and box in front of him, blocking the muscled guy. But Muscles kept moving toward him. There was a security guard down there, too, pacing back and forth on the fringes of the scene, waiting - to help? To harm? From where I sat, I couldn't tell.

The salon guy gestured for me to stand up. I stood, and I watched as the street sweeper below turned to run, with a clumsy, staggering sort of gait, toward a huge pile of garbage in the road. The muscled guy followed at a trot, seemingly unhurried in his pursuit.

The salon guy was impatient for me to return to my seat: he seemed unconcerned about, or maybe oblivious to, the scene below.

It seemed likely to me that the street sweeper was about to get hurt. But what could I do? I was a whole two stories up, with no exit to that street - not that I had any plans to take on Muscles. The windows didn't open, so I couldn't yell at him to stop, to go away. There's no 911 that I could dial. And no one else in the salon seemed to care.

I couldn't think of any option other than to turn my back on the scene below and hope that the street sweeper would make it out of harm's way, or that Muscles would grow tired of toying with him. So I turned my back. I went back to my corner, where they proceeded to cut my now-brown hair and blew it straight.

When they finished, I walked by the window again and looked down. But there was nothing. No indication of how the altercation had ended. No telling where Muscles and his street sweeper had gone. The security guard had returned to his post and was sitting lazily on a chair, tapping his knee.

I've been feeling bad, and sad, ever since I witnessed that scene. Because how can you turn your back on someone who is suffering and not have it come back to bite you in the ass, somehow, some place, some day? It's wrong.

It reminds me of another day in China, when I witnessed something equally troubling and did just as little to stop it.

And then, too, it reminds me of another time, much further back, when I was still in college. I was walking alone one day in a not-so-nice section of Los Angeles. It was mid-day. Crowded street. A big white guy, sloppily dressed, was walking toward me. As he drew even, with no warning, he grabbed me and started dragging me toward the street. I was so surprised that I didn't even react, but I was aware somewhere in the back of my mind that there were people everywhere, and that one of them should notice what was happening. But they were all walking past, eyes averted, making space, even, for the guy who was dragging me down the road.

I hadn't yet found my screaming voice when a huge black guy approached and grabbed ahold of the white guy. The white guy let go of me to turn on the black guy, and I ran. I didn't look back to see what happened between the two of them. I just ran.

I never went back to thank that guy, the one who stepped in, because of course I couldn't return to that place. But I think about him sometimes, and send my thanks his way in my mind.

Because what if he hadn't stepped in? Everyone else just moved out of the way. He was the only one to stop, and see, and react. What if he hadn't?

And maybe, just maybe, that's why scenes like the one I witnessed today bother me so, so much. Because somebody once stepped in for me, at risk to himself. And so I believe I owe it to that moment, and to that man, to step in myself where I can.

I know today wasn't that moment. I'm pretty sure my calculation was correct - that I couldn't have fixed the situation. I couldn't even read what was going on down there, not from where I stood.

But I know I need to stand up when I can, and I know I fail in that regard, over and over again.

No need to comment on this post, friends. I know what you're going to say, and I've heard it all before. I don't have an answer. There is no answer. I just wanted to write this down, to make it part of my public record here, while it sits so clearly in this brown-haired head of mine.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sasquatch and the Stubborn Child

Over the years, I've heard far-fetched tales of parents who have compliant kids - you know, the ones who hold hands to cross the street, and don't run away in the grocery store. The kind of kid who would never take a stranger's hand and walk away from her mother in the middle of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar (cough, Kyra, cough).

To me, stories of Sasquatch seem more believable. Because not a single one of my children is that way. They are, to a one, stubborn and opinionated and not-to-be-swayed in any matter, large or small.

(I'm pretty sure they get it from their dad, genetically speaking.)

Here's an example. It might seem funny to you. I'm still working to find the humor.

There is a child in Ainsley's pre-school class who is allergic to peanuts. So the entire classroom is a nut-free zone. Okay, fine, I get it. But Ainsley doesn't. The only food that is acceptable for lunch time consumption, in her opinion, is peanut butter and jelly.

I tried, when school started, to talk up the cheese sandwiches. "All the kids in PK2 eat cheese," I told her enthusiastically, and "Now you can be just like Shay - he loves cheese sandwiches!"

She was skeptical. But for the first week, she went along with it, and she ate the cheese sandwich.

The second week, she didn't complain. But she didn't eat the sandwich, either. It came back every night, unwrapped, uneaten, shriveled up in the bottom of the Hello Kitty lunch pail.

The third week, she mounted a protest. "I want peanut butter," she'd wail every morning when looking in her lunch box. And every morning I explained, to no avail, why she couldn't have it.

Yesterday morning, she peered into the depths of the Hello Kitty lunch box, extracted the sandwich and put it back in the refrigerator. "I only eat peanut butter," she announced.

Intense diplomatic negotiations ensued, during which both sides presented the facts as they saw them, and the sandwich made it back into the lunch box.

Ten minutes later, she put the sandwich on the counter. "I don't want this," she repeated. But again, I convinced her that cheese is yummy! And gives you strong bones! And all the big kids eat it!

She reluctantly put the sandwich back in her lunch box. I patted myself on the back for avoiding a meltdown, kissed her goodbye and put her on the bus for school.

Flash forward a couple of hours. I'm happily working away at my desk in the Embassy when my email lights up.

It's a message from Ainsley's teacher, Miss Nadia.

And it's titled: Ainsley's Lunchbox.

"Good morning," it begins. "Ainsley's lunchbox was empty this morning. She only had a chocolate milk. We took her to the cafeteria and bought her a sandwich. Please make sure she always has something to eat for snack and lunch because..."

The message went on from there, but I couldn't read further because I was preoccupied with slamming my head repeatedly into my desk.

Apparently my stubborn little angelbaby decided to mount a hunger strike and tossed her lunch out the window of the bus in protest against the inhumane rules of PK2 lunch hour.

You hold that precious little bundle in the hospital and tears come to your eyes at the miracle that is 5 toes and 5 fingers and one squashy small nose.

And you have no idea that one day that small creature will have the ability to humiliate you and bring you to tears over the contents of a sparkly pink lunch box.

We talked last night, Ainsley and I, and we agreed that maybe she can have her peanut butter sandwich for breakfast from now on if she'll bring the cheese sandwich to lunch. I didn't tell her she has to eat the cheese sandwich - god knows I can't win that battle - but at least if she brings it, the teacher can't accuse me of neglect.

And this morning I went to the store to stock up on yogurt cups and foil-wrapped cheese triangles and string cheese in the vague hope that this will entice her to eat something that I pack in there.

Meanwhile, I cling to the hope that some day, when she is the CEO of a major company, or the dictator of a small island country, this stubbornness of hers will serve her well.

Please. Write your own stuff.