Sunday, January 3, 2021

New Years Resolutions 2021

I have occasionally bragged about how well I tend to do at my list of New Year’s Resolutions. Well, as they say “pride goes before the fall”. This year really, really kicked my ‘boom-boom’ as we say in this house. But the list still served to point me in the right direction so I’m glad I made these plans, even if it’s now a little embarrassing to share my (lack of) progress here.

So how did I do? 


First the Hall of Shame:

  • See a dermatologist - I saw plenty of health care providers, but no dermatologists.  As predicted, it has been increasingly difficult to do things for myself now that there are three little ones demanding love and attention at home. And since we were social distancing for much of 2020 anyway I didn’t actually make much of an effort.
  • Blog once/month - oops. No real excuse here. I just didn’t do it.  
  • Write 100 pages - I am sad about this one. I actually really enjoy writing and would happily have done more if I had more time to focus.  Maybe 2021 will be different. (Ha!)
  • Eat 90% of our meals at the table - total mom fail. Not only did we not achieve this goal, there was actually a 2-3 month period in there where I’m pretty sure my two year old didn’t eat a single vegetable and maybe took a bath once.  He’s gone full cave-man and is only just now re-emerging into the civilized world.  I blame covid.

Ok - that’s enough of the confessional. Here are the things I did get checked off the list: 

  • Complete duolingo Arabic (level 3) - I modified this part-way through the year since they’ve been adding some lessons and finishing the entire course was a bit of a moving target.  I realize that this doesn’t make me able to speak Arabic… at all. But it does lay a foundation, particularly for reading, if I ever get to take a full Arabic course in the future.  As it is I can sound out words - slowly and with many errors - and say some extremely simple sentences in whatever version of Arabic they are using (MSA?). I am proud to have stuck with something intellectually challenging through the early baby days and I’d like to keep it up at a manageable pace.  
  • Learn to make tomato sauce and stir fry without a recipe - yes. I have a great tomato sauce that I make now from a New York Times piece. I didn’t make stir fry quite as often, but I think I now have the gist down.
  • Solve Rubix cube - yes, but… not on my own.  After working through a couple of strategy books/webpages I have solved it but I am convinced I would NEVER have done so on my own. My brain does not work that way and even with instructions in front of me it took many tries to get it right.  
  • Finish Suzuki book 1 - Yes! I finished learning the last few pieces from my back-up keyboard in the US.  
  • Make bagels from scratch - as part of our office baking challenge I made a recipe I found on YouTube. It was so easy and so great. I highly recommend a try.
  • Take one international trip - glad I got this done in February! I visited Argentina (again) and Uruguay (first time) on the cruise with my parents.  I wish we would have seen more, but the little guy made it hard.  In any case I really liked what I did see and I will have to come back someday. 
  • Watch the AFI top 90 films - done. They weren’t all good (in fact, several were stinkers) but I sat through them all.
  • Take one Brazil trip - Yes! To Iguacu falls. One of my favorite vacations ever. So glad I can say I did at least this one trip within Brazil. (Especially since covid might mean I won’t get the chance to do any more.)

And now for the new set!

New Year’s Resolutions 2021

  • Finish the second Suzuki piano book 
  • Complete duolingo Arabic (levels 4 and 5) or levels 1-3 in Hindi
  • Make homemade pasta
  • Visit one new country OR Rio - depends how things are looking by the time we’re set to leave post
  • Finish the AFI top 100 films (there are six remaining)
  • Make two extra (10k) mortgage payments 
  • Complete any of my unfinished writing-related goals from the past few years (write 100 pages, get an article published, submit two articles for publication, blog once a month)
  • Host something, anything, that would qualify as a “large gathering”, the moment we’re allowed
I honestly feel like this list is missing something, but I don’t want to spend all year waiting on inspiration for that one last item. So this list is a pretty accurate representation of my life right now - a work in progress.

Here’s to a truly joyful new year for all of us.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Fall update

So much for my resolution to blog once a month! I get the feeling 2021 will be better though.  For one thing, there should be a LOT more happening and by the end of the year I hope to have all three little ones on the same schedule so I might have time for a few of my own activities again.

What have I (and my miniature circus) been up to since September?

Well, we celebrated Halloween and my oldest's second birthday. The birthday was admittedly a bit of a fail on my part.  We didn't have a special cake or a party and he got approximately 1 gift from me.  I just had too much going on.  We did, however, do Halloween to the max.  The oldest was a lumberjack and the twins were logs (it seemed like the best way to keep them warm and happy while trick or treating.  And it was, magically, the only good weather Halloween I have ever experienced at my childhood home. 

We also celebrated Thanksgiving.  The kids slept through it, but that just left more food for me. 

We finally got all the boys' paperwork - after a number of covid related delays - and their medical clearances.  

We flew back to Brazil along with my folks.  We ended up stuck on a really inconvenient itinerary due to all the rules around government fares.  My oldest didn't get to nap all day long and we managed to lose his security blanket in transit :( - but we made it safely. And thankfully he was only a little suspicious that his beloved blankie spent 3 weeks in 'the laundry' before showing up on his bed one day smelling unnaturally clean. 

Since we arrived we've also been eagerly settling back in - cleaning out my fridge, replanting the garden, decorating for Christmas and setting up the nursery. I hadn't anticipated how nice it would feel to be back in my own place.  I actually managed pretty well living out of a half suitcase's worth of clothes for 8 months, but I didn't realize how much I had personalized my apartment for our particular lifestyle.  For instance - I now have access to my many, many asian food ingredients. I will definitely be taking advantage of that now that we've finished cooking (and eating) all of the mandatory Christmas cookies. 

And in work related news, I accepted a handshake for one of my top bids.  The boys and I are all headed to New Delhi this spring/summer. I'm looking forward to the portfolio which promises to be both interesting and challenging, and on a personal front India will be great for my family while I still have three who are too young for school.  I know pollution is a challenge in India, but we'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

That's it for now.  Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and Halloween!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Welcome home, boys!

As of the last week of August I have two more Eligible Family Members - and the Offspring is no longer an only child. After 9 months of anticipation the boys made their appearance at about 3:30 in the morning in a speedy (8 minutes!) but ultimately healthy delivery. 

Baby “A”

Baby “B” - they are fraternal, though these pictures don’t make that particularly clear

Since we got back from the hospital almost every waking moment (and you know the waking moments go all night long) has been spent trying to establish breastfeeding. This is challenging enough with one - waiting on the milk supply to meet “demand”, teaching them to latch, getting them on a schedule - and even more so with two. As they get better though I’m approaching the point where I can cut out pumping and even feed them simultaneously which ought to save me hours (and hours) each day. Very happy to be getting some glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Big brother has been adjusting pretty well - treating the babies with either indifference or occasional concern but never hostility - and thankfully he doesn’t really care to engage them in his rough toddler play. Changing all these baby diapers does make me anxious to get him potty trained, but that project has been shelved until mommy starts getting sleep again.

I am, of course, on maternity leave (not the 12 week parental leave that the department will begin to grant for babies born Oct 1 or later, but just sick leave like I used for my first). I have been pretty good about stepping away from the work emails, but it’s bidding season so I can’t go completely off grid.  Between my family and career goals for the next few years I am tentatively happy with the available jobs and my top 20 are pretty diverse. I’ve got some huge posts and some tiny ones, representing all aspects of consular work, vastly different climates and levels of development, and five of the six regional bureaus. All this to say that I have no clue yet where we might end up but for my growing family I’m sure that wherever we go it will be an adventure!

That’s all for now! Hope you and yours are safe and well and enjoying what you can during this crazy season.

And stay tuned for the saga of getting the twins on my orders and our eventual return to post!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The home stretch

 Sadly I’m not sure if this counts as the Covid-19/telework home stretch, but the term does apply to one important aspect of my life right now - the pregnancy! While I really, really, really wanted to have these babies in Brazil that just wasn’t in the cards and I am still counting my blessings that we are all safe and healthy and have ended up in a very good place indeed.  The hospital in Brazil was potentially the best in South America,  yet the one here in the states happens to be one of the best in the US, especially for high risk pregnancies. This isn’t really a high risk pregnancy but it’s reassuring to know that if anything did go wrong I’d be getting the best possible care. And how close to the end am I? If the babies don’t show up on their own then they will be lovingly evicted on Friday morning, meaning less than a week! 

Suddenly I feel woefully unprepared. I spent the morning finally reading through all the car seat and stroller instructions. (Who writes those? They are terrible!) And I am going to have to put in some serious time coming up with middle names, which to this point have inspired nothing but writers’ block on my part. Really though, I do pretty much have everything I need. It helps having been through all this once before.

One huge blessing of being back home is that, unlike during my first pregnancy, I have a ton of supportive relatives nearby.  They threw us the sweetest (social distancing compliant) shower last week and honestly it meant the world to me to have everyone there to celebrate.  Single parenting can be super isolating on its own, and single parenting in the foreign service even more so.  So I was relieved to get a glimpse of the “village” there to support me and the little guys. And my Brazilian village has been such a blessing as well. They coordinated to ship me all my baby stuff from Brazil so I could use it for the twins, and everybody has been so accommodating as I try to wrap up all my work responsibilities in time for maternity leave.

And what else have we been up to? In truth, very little. The last week was a total wash - a huge storm knocked out power Monday and it wasn’t restored until Friday afternoon. Even internet and cell data were down. While we didn’t have any big damage it was really draining to deal with all that on top of the boredom and isolation of social distancing.  I guess it's good every once in a while to see exactly what I am dependent on and how much. This summer has been an eye opener in that regard, that’s for sure. 

Oh yeah, and one other thing is happening - bidding!  The top criteria are: affordable child care, a job that is both realistic but also challenging, no language (while I love learning languages a year at FSI would cost a mint in day care fees right now),  and somewhere reasonably healthy and safe for the family.  I have been in touch with my top bids and so far have a pretty diverse set of posts - big and small, high and low hardship, spread across several continents. No speculation just yet,  but I think things are going well and wherever we end up I am sure it will be an adventure. 

Well that's all for today and probably this will be my last post as a mother of one.  Thoughts and prayers would be appreciated on Friday and I hope to have some wonderful news to share with the world soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

29 weeks of pregnancy and 12 weeks of Authorized Departure

I know I said I'd blog more often this year, but I just can’t think of anything momentous from my personal life to write about lately and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  The offspring and I are still spending authorized departure with my parents which has been great for him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his (English) language skills have just taken off in the past couple of months. When we came back to the states he could say maybe five words. Now I’m not sure I could even keep count. He’s got his favorites of course (okay, wow, mamãe, ciao-ciao) but he has added in quite a few new ones that I love (honey- that’s him, naughty - also him! car, fan, light) and he’s had a lot of success repeating new words, even if he doesn’t get a chance to use them as often. I like this phase so much better than the baby days and I’m trying to savor the one-on-one time before the great baby invasion. We won’t talk about the mom guilt involved in bringing two usurpers into his life, but it’s intense, trust me.
Covid inspired baking - a Swedish princess cake
It came out pretty well except for the lack of white food coloring which led to the color travesty at the bottom there

Authorized departure (AD) keeps getting extended so we may end up in the US for quite some time - especially given the fact that starting around 32 weeks I may have trouble getting boarded for an international flight (and even if I could I would be nervous flying in late pregnancy with twins). And if the babies have to make their appearance in the US then I’ll end up here for several weeks after the delivery as well - getting passports, visas, updated travel orders and all the rest. So, if I can’t leave in July I probably won’t leave until the end of September which feels like an eternity from when this whole AD started.  I can’t complain though. We’re both healthy (as are the babies) and safe and I have a secure job. I know these days none of that can be taken for granted.

And of course, the staycation picnic.  Offspring LOVED this as he's currently going through a phase where he wants to be outside 1000% of the time.

And we've moved back from my original AD location - my house in Florida - to my parents' house in the midwest.  While the beach is lovely and isolated and quiet, it's no place to be giving birth - particularly in a higher risk pregnancy.  The nearest hospital with a labor and delivery unit was an hour and a half from my house - which could be a frightening drive if labor happens fast.  At our current location, however, we're about 30 minutes or less from one of the best hospitals in the country for neonatal care.  So I think this move was absolutely the right one for my family right now.  Even if I do miss my place on the beach. 

Next time maybe I'll regale you with stories of the (early) bidding process.  In the meantime, stay safe, stay well.

Ate logo!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

March - no scratch that - April

I seem to have completely forgotten about the blog in the month of March. Oops.

But I’m back on track now! And this month has obviously been a big one - I’m sure it’s not just me.

First off, we are safe, healthy and feeling very blessed to be that way.

Second, no real pregnancy updates. I feel an awful lot of kicking so that’s a good sign, but the babies were in the wrong position during the last ultrasound and we couldn’t tell the gender. Maybe tomorrow at the 21 week appointment (couldn’t get in at 20 weeks) I’ll have an update.

Third, the Offspring and I are in the states. We went on orders called Authorized Departure - meaning we are temporarily allowed to leave post for our own health and safety. This seemed like the wisest choice given the fact that we just couldn’t practice social distancing with the nanny (and sometimes her preschooler) coming and going every day - and work would have been impossible without her. So I paid her several months in advance, packed up our bags and we left for my house in Florida. The flight up to the US was surreal - empty airports, almost empty planes... frankly we were lucky to make it with all the regional flight cancellations. I’m teleworking now and my parents have graciously been providing child care so I can work without (too many) distractions. The beaches have been closed which makes for even fewer distractions and we are in a very isolated part of the state so I feel as safe as possible here. I think we’re all anxious for normal life to resume but we’re also really aware of how lucky we are to be together.

The Offspring is growing and picking up new skills every day. He’s trying out lots of new words - like Grandma and cookie, he can climb anything, he is surprisingly good with a touchscreen, and knows the whole baby shark dance. He is more dramatic with the tantrums but also more fun with each passing day.

As for me I am making good progress on the New Years Resolutions - well, except the rubix cube. I have some ambitious baking plans now that I have several sous chefs and co-eaters, and I am really behind in planning to be a parent to three. I figure as long as I get car seats and strollers set the rest will sort itself out, right?

Ate a próxima!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Well, where to start?

As promised, this month is a big one in terms of updates.

Offspring and I started off the month on vacation with my parents. We cruised the high seas - to Montevideo and Punta del Este, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was lovely to skip the cooking and cleaning for a week and so nice to be able to travel internationally with the offspring without having to fly. With a more baby friendly cruise line I would totally do it again.  And even though it was incredibly hot every day we did have fun. We saw tango, bought wine, shopped and walked and generally took life easy.

life on board ;)

Watching tango in La Boca (Buenos Aires) - offspring loved this, even with the intense heat

My parents stuck around a second week for some Brazil time and we spent two days of it in Iguaçu falls. Honestly, it was the best. I used points to book the Belmond hotel and it was so worth it. Especially when we got upgraded for no reason whatsoever. Our rooms had private pools attached. Seriously. And the restaurant was amazing. 

They were seriously SO kind to my 1-year-old despite the fact that he was very much behaving like a toddler in their fancy hotel - would go back in a heartbeat

Another perk of being at the Belmond was that you have the falls to yourselves at sunrise, the coolest and prettiest time of day. Given the crowds and intense heat at midday this perk more than made up for the expense. In addition to hiking on the Brazil side and hanging at our super awesome hotel we also did a boat trip up to the falls (fine, but didn’t mesh well with baby nap time) and a super awesome helicopter tour. Something else to cross off my life list- thanks Dad for splurging on that one! It was scary and beautiful at the same time and my little adventurer did a great job.

I swear he did enjoy this once he got over not getting to sit by mommy

Back on the home front we stayed in São Paulo after coronavírus cancelled a work trip I had planned for the week of Carnaval (and it was much too late to plan anything else that late in the game). Honestly it was a relief not to have to turn around and pack my bags all over again so soon. And we both got the stomach flu anyway so traveling would have been miserable.

learning to shave with dad-dad

Oh, and I promised some potentially big news. Now that things have been cooking a little longer I am proud (and a bit scared) to announce that I’m having twins! The due date is September but multiples tend to come early so look for a bigger announcement sometime near the end of August. Meanwhile I will be busily googling “how to take three kids under two to the supermarket”. Wish me luck and happy February!