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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Time to go home

It is official - the evacuation is being lifted tomorrow.  Now begins the insanity of preparation to get gone yesterday.  Before I head off to the airport, we have to arrange pickup of a UAB shipment, arrange tickets on a flight that isn't full, I have to drop off things at my aunt's house for fall training, things at my cousin's house for my father to pick up, and find somewhere for my car to live for the next four months.

All hopefully before Sunday.  That would be Brandon's plan - leaving on Sunday.  But as with everything in the Foreign Service, this all depends on lining up the ducks just right.  So we'll have to see.

I am incredibly relieved that a rumored last-minute push to extend the evacuation did not go through.  I am looking forward to being with my husband and leaving single parenting to those who have stronger constitutions than mine.  These last few weeks alone have been exhausting, physically and emotionally, and I feel like I'm stumbling towards a far-distant finish line.  Can't rest until I'm on that plane.

Of course, flying with three children under five is no picnic either, but at that point, it's just a matter of waiting out the pain for a fixed amount of time.

So, we're going home.  I'm happy.  I'm relieved.  And boy am I tired.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Needs of the Service

Recently, Brandon received an email from his CDO.  He forwarded it on to me, and I read it while preparing breakfast for the children.  Something had come up in Baku, and they needed us a little earlier - August 2011 instead of July 2012.

My thoughts were 1. hooray!  Now I can skip trying to find a house, living temporarily in DC, and move to our next post; 2. shoot, what about those things we were going to purchase and ship on while in training; 3. I suppose I'll make all of those visits I was planning on next go around; 4. boy, that National Aquarium membership was a waste of money; 5. and the GPS, too; 6. well, maybe the GPS was still worth it; 7. oh, what about that baby?

And then I remembered the baby.  And how we had specially planned things to take advantage of living in the US to have a trouble-free birth.  One that didn't involve trans-atlantic plane flights alone with three children followed by three months of living out of suitcases (again, for the second time in an eleven-month period), separation from Brandon, separation from my things, and separation from my life.  Again.

I think that if this news had come while I was happily living out my life in Cairo, it would have been less distressing.  I've done one medevac.  It's no picnic, but like most things in life, it's bearable.  But the thought of another evacuation, another separation, a whole new set of logistics to work out after working out the logistics of this evacuation, moving back to Cairo for three months, home leave, shipping our car, our things, and 2,500 pounds of consumables to Azerbaijan was a little much for me to handle.

But, this is what I signed up for.  After all, that's what happens in the Foreign Service - unexpected things.  I just didn't know that I was signing up for a year of turmoil, multiple separations, three-month stretches of stability, and six (yes six) trans-atlantic flights with three children under the age of five.

And then I counted weeks and realized that I would only have to deal with four flights - because I wasn't going to Baku (while Brandon was) until after baby number four is born because of dates.  And then I finally cried.  And maybe threw something against the wall.

But thankfully, there is mercy in this world, and she currently works at State.  Brandon emailed his CDO, explained the situation, and asked if perhaps we could delay our arrival in Baku until December, with all six of us together.  She said she'd talk to the appropriate people and see what could be done.

In a mercifully short time, the answer came, and that part of my troubles were solved: we were allowed to take language training and stay until everything is settled with the baby.  After such a crazy year (and it's only April!), I'm grateful for a such a happy ending to a potentially horrid situation.  My thanks go out to all of those involved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Note of Explanation

This morning, when I talked to Brandon, I learned that perhaps I had jumped the gun a little on announcing our return.  I certainly haven't been packing suitcases (in fact, I finally vacuumed up that oatmeal last night), and I hope nobody else has either.

When I said we’re all going home that was speculation and the EAC vote seemed to indicate this was the direction things were heading. However, the Department has to make the decision and even with EAC recommendation the Department may not be ready to let us return. It all depends on their discussion of things with post. Sorry, to have fanned the flames of rumor and gotten everyones’ hopes up.

But, hopefully, the speculation will turn into reality.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More packing... but for the last time

Today when Brandon and I talked, he had good news.  The EAC at post voted, and we're all going home.  We just don't know when exactly.  Since there are so many dependents who are still here in the US, they're trying to have a staggered return (anyone want to co-ordinate the return of 800+ people in three days?).  So we'll have to see how soon we'll return, but we do know that we will be going back.

When I told the girls, they gave me blank looks, and then I think Kathleen said something along the lines of hooray.  Sophia just kept looking at me.  We heard that we might return while at my aunt's house for the weekend (another round of packing, but just for overnight), and so they asked when we packed up to leave yesterday if we were going to Cairo.  Not yet, darlings, but soon.

I confess that I'm a little relieved that we're not going in three days.  After driving up from NC on Wednesday, moving solo Friday, and going up to Maryland Saturday and coming home Sunday, I'm beat.  While we were unpacking Friday, oats got spilled on the carpet, and they're still by the coffee table, slowly making their way around the house.  Thankfully I unpacked everything on Friday, but the suitcase from this weekend sits in the front room, slowly disgorging its contents.

Instead of cleaning up, however, I laid on the couch this morning reading, and took the children to the park this afternoon (where we met a fellow FS blogger).  I will miss all of the lovely parks.

So we're all excited to go back.  We all miss Brandon and home and space and Egyptian food and normal life.  We're happy.  And tired.  But most of all, happy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dear Oakwood,

Thank you for giving me a new apartment.  I have already used the washer and dryer.  I have enjoyed rearranging the furniture and kitchen to my liking again.  I think that by the third apartment I should have everything just about perfect.

I have a few complaints.  That key you gave me?  It didn't work.  And my internet code was changed this morning, and nobody told me the new one until I called and asked.  I had to call myself on my cell phone to find out what my new phone number is.

But what has really been the most annoying is when I called Sarah Indian and tried to find out where my food is, an hour after I ordered it.  When I found out that the delivery driver had waited fifteen minutes while calling repeatedly, I called with my cell phone and the number was busy, repeatedly.

It is now 6:30, 30 minutes after my 16 month-old's bedtime, and I have no dinner.  The delivery driver should be here in about 15 minutes to make the delivery, again.  I gave them my cell phone number this time.  Hopefully my children haven't destroyed your brand-new apartment while waiting for their dinner.

Ashley Sherwood

P.S.  I am sure that white suede chair bottoms look very nice in your promotional photos, but they are on a collision course for disaster with my children.  Perhaps for the studios?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On why I am never living in an apartment without a washer and dryer again

Yesterday everyone was tired.  We (I) had packed up our things and driven from NC to DC with little or no naps.  Edwin went to bed at 5:30.  The girls went to bed at 6:30, and were asleep by seven.

After everyone was asleep, I settled down with a book and fell asleep myself, finally rolling off the couch around nine.  I got ready for bed, sent my nightly email to Brandon, wasted a few minutes online, and then climed into bed myself, ready to get my pregnant eight plus hours of necessary sleep.

And then Edwin started crying.  I initially ignored him, hoping he'd go back to sleep, but after a few minutes maternal guilt kicked in and I got up to check on him.  When I opened the door to the room, the smell hit me.  Vomit.  I don't like vomit; I don't think anyone does.  And I've never actually dealt with anyone's but my own, and that itself has only occurred twice since elementary school.  Thankfully each previous incident with the children had been taken care of someone other than myself, which was good because I was also pregnant each time.

No such luck this time.  I was alone.  My husband was four thousand miles away, my mother two hundred and fifty, my mother in law nine hundred.  And it was ten o'clock at night.  So, holding my breath, I stripped the sheets, changed Edwin's clothes, washed out his ear and hair, and said a silent prayer of gratitude that Edwin's other blanket was not in the crib when he vomited.

After calming him down, I dressed him in new pajamas, got out the only other crib sheet we have, and grabbed his blanket from the couch.  I put him down, and got myself ready for bed again.

And then he started crying, again.  More clothes went into the bathtub, awaiting morning light to be washed in the community laundry room.  Edwin went to bed on an extra twin sheet from the girls, Sophia's piggy pajamas, and Sophia's little blanket (thankfully, he will sleep with his sister's blanket).

This time I didn't bother turning off the light, and got out a book.  Half an hour later, he started crying, and I rushed to his room, and managed to get him to the sink before most of the vomit hit, saving the blanket, but not the pajamas.  This time we settled down to watch the last forty-five minutes of Ocean's 11 with a bowl on hand.  I had to save that last blanket, or all would be lost.

Edwin waited until George Clooney had tricked the mean casino owner to toddle around for three minutes before the now-familiar sound started.  I had the bowl ready, despite his objections, and caught only a small amount, what looked to be the last contents of his stomach.  So, off to bed in more of Sophia's pajamas.

Thinking of that one last blanket, I read until 12:30, and then went to sleep myself, praying that I could sleep until morning.  Which I did.  And then I took a filthy heap downstairs, to do the laundry.

Unpacking, and then packing, and then... unpacking

Yesterday, we got back from my parents' house in North Carolina.  While driving down Leesburg Pike, Kathleen exclaimed, "Mom, I think this looks just like Virginia!"  They are having problems understanding where we are going next.  This morning Sophia asked if we were going on the airplane to Cairo.  She was disappointed to only be taking a car to Virginia.  I was disappointed too.

Usually when I get to a destination, I unpack.  I don't like my clothes vomiting out of suitcases, although sometimes that doesn't necessarily translate to unpacking immediately.  This morning all of my clothes are still in the suitcases, without the least effort to unpack them.  In fact, I'm trying to keep as much in them as possible.

Because we're moving today.  I got a call a few days before Brandon left with the chipper Oakwood man generously offering us a newly renovated apartment.  I didn't call back because I didn't want to bother moving with three small children while pregnant without my husband.  He tracked me down at my parents' and repeated the offer.  No thanks, I told him, I'll hopefully only be staying two more weeks anyway.

Well, it turned down that the offer was less of a nice gift and more like an eviction notice.  Oakwood is renovating, and all apartments in a column are renovated at once.  And it's all of the -03s in C building.

One day when I am old and tired I'm going to move into a house.  And then I will unpack all of my things.  And then I will never leave they pull my cold, dead body out in a coffin.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And Baby Makes Six

When I married Brandon, I realized that I was marrying into various conditions; I would be living around the world, I would have to put up with Homestar Runner on a regular basis, I would have to develop some interest in politics, and I was going to have a large family.  None of these conditions were imposed by Brandon, they were simply unalterable truths that were simply there, take them or leave them.

And so, nobody who knows us should be surprised that we're adding another child to our family.  We, of course, are excited.  The children aren't sure what to think, but last time I checked they don't have much say in those matters anyway.

Timing of children is always a personal matter, and before I was married, I thought it was a subject for deep personal reflection and divine inspiration.  Then I got married, and I realized that the romance wasn't quite what the movies portrayed it to be - it was mostly a matter of looking at each other, counting how long it had been since the last one, and deciding that it was time again.

And then we joined the Foreign Service.  Now there is absolutely no romance, replaced instead by pure, calculating logistics.  Since most of the countries we'll live in have abysmal medical care, any planning for a child has to take into account the three months of necessary medevac to the US.  And I don't like being separated from Brandon.  

The planning for this one commenced at least nine months ago, with various schemes and plans for when the baby would be born vis-a-vis home leave, my family's annual beach trip, and our departure for the next post.  

So when we were assigned to Baku with eleven months of language training, a lot of the logistics cleared themselves up.  It would have been pure foolishness not to take advantage of living in the US to have a child.  So call it what you will - use of a good opportunity, taking advantage of the needs of the service, or welcoming a new child into our family, we're excited.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stolen from my parents' blog

Photographs courtesy of my father

As most of you know by now, Brandon flew out late on Thursday night, and arrived in Cairo to find the apartment in good shape, in fact amazingly clean. This would be explained by the fact that Rere had been kept on retainer, but has had no one to mess the place up.
Left behind with the kids, Ashley decided to take advantage of our invitation and come to Raleigh for a little while. She packed up the Pilot and headed south, stopping only for french fries at Wendy's along the way.
As always, it's been a delight to have her and the Sherwoodian gang around.
There has been lots of swinging,
and some intrepid climbing,
and some not-so-intrepid climbing.
Of course, a guy has to have a stick in his hand at all times.
Put a stick and some water together, and you're in 15-month Nirvana.
The girls also liked disturbing the long-suffering fish, who had just survived the long winter and the marauding blue heron.
The kids, including the Nedwinator, were amazingly well-behaved watching General Conference with their Mom and grandparents.
So, we're glad to have them for a little while. We hope that they get to be reunited soon with their Dad and finish their Cairo time peacefully. Meanwhile, there's fun to be had, pancakes to eat, toys to be rediscovered, books to be read, and bubbly baths to be enjoyed.