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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Over and Out

We're sitting in the Dulles Airport right now, with Joseph in tow, waiting for our flight to Frankfurt.  Joseph's ticketing issues thankfully worked out easily, and we didn't continue melting our credit card with a last-minute flight purchase.  

The movers came yesterday, and we were underweight.  Today was a crazy day and Brandon was right and I was wrong about how long it would take to get everything done.  When our shuttle arrived, all of the bags were packed and exactly fifty pounds, but it was a close-run thing.  I'm getting tired of packing for international flights.

We got to the airport early enough to stuff everyone full of dinner so they can avoid any food except fruit snacks for the next eighteen hours, and now it's just a matter of waiting until we show up in Baku.

Since we'll be in temporary housing, I can't speak for our internet connection, but I will update when I can.  I have a few posts about Christmas, but ran out of time to put pictures in.  So you'll just have to go somewhere else for your daily dose of interesting.  Or maybe just keep going there.

Off to Baku we go!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Third Time's the Charm?

For those of you who aren't counting, we are leaving in six days.  We have our shipments arranged, I'm cooking dinners with what we have in the cupboard, I've made packing lists, and scheduled an airport shuttle.  Everything is ready.  Except for Joseph's ticket - it isn't bought yet.

To get to post, everyone has to have two things - an airplane ticket and a passport with the appropriate visa.  When Edwin was born, we had a lot of trouble with the passport and eventually travelled with a tourist passport instead of the diplomatic one we were aiming for.  When Joseph was born, we worked our hardest to make sure that wouldn't happen, and he had his passport by three weeks old and his visa a week and a half later.

So, of course this time it's the medical clearance that is causing the trouble.  Edwin's medical clearance took about twenty-four hours to approve, so I didn't worry about Joseph's.  He had his appointment at four weeks, and I sent in the forms a few days later.

A few more days went by, and I hadn't heard anything about his clearance being granted, so I emailed the office.  Oh, they said, I had to wait 48 hours before the paperwork was updated in the system.

Life got busy, and a week or so later (Tuesday), I emailed again asking about the clearance.  'Oh that clearance?' I was told, 'yeah that will take five to six weeks.'  My stomach dropped as I thought of waiting here and then flying by myself with all four children.  I sent a panicked email back, and was told that if I wanted it reviewed sooner, Brandon was going to have his HR tech (who is so notoriously unreliable that Brandon overheard someone at FSI comment that their CDO had given warning about them) send an expedite request.  Then if the request was granted, the clearance might be done by the end of the week.

So I called Brandon and sent him on the trail of his HR tech while I looked up flights on Kayak and appealed to livelines for help about getting paid back after purchasing our own ticket.  Brandon had no luck contacting anyone, but I was able to find out that we can get paid back, with approval prior to purchasing the ticket.  I was also advised to contact MED/foreign programs, the same people who held my hand through Edwin's birth.

So I contacted them, and was given the numbers of the director and deputy director of clearances.  When I threw myself at the feet of the deputy director, he kindly offered to review Joseph's case by the end of the day.  I said a silent prayer of thanks for everyone's help and did a little dance.  Whew.  Crisis averted.

Brandon called his HR tech Tuesday, with still no answer.  I emailed her and received the dreaded out of office reply.  Not wanting to wait until Thursday to have Joseph added to our orders, Brandon called a supervisor and was told 'well, I don't know anything about it [so don't bother me and can't you just wait until Thursday?]'

So this morning Brandon emailed, and then called his HR tech.  Joseph was added.  Done? Not done.  Now it gets to go to budget so that they can approve the four figures being spent on Joseph's ticket.  Which has to be bought tomorrow or the airline will cancel his reservation.  Back to square one.

Being resourceful, I called Carlson, and tried to have the purchase date changed so we have another day of time to wait for budget to get things done.  The latest day it can be changed to is December 26.  Which is a holiday, so everyone is closed.

When I asked the Carlson lady what I should do, she looked at the flights and advised just to wait and see; if the reservation did get cancelled, there should be enough seats to simply just make another reservation for Joseph.  After all, how many people are trying to go to Baku three days after Christmas?

So here we are in limbo again, awaiting the whim of bureaucratic processes.  I'm sending in that request for reimbursement, just in case we do have to put another $3000 on our credit card that State will eventually pay off.

So now I know about passports and medical clearances.  I'm going to have to have another baby just so I can use all of my hard-earned knowledge and finally do things right.  Hopefully.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Crafts

I am not a crafty person.  Sure, I'll spend three days making a delicious dinner, but crafts?  You can't eat them, and they are just one more thing to haul around the world.

The one exception to this rule, however, is Christmas.  Last Christmas we made snowflakes, gingerbread houses, and wrapping paper.  Everything worked so well that we decided to have a new tradition.

Last Saturday we made wrapping paper.  Edwin started off the festivities early when he discovered the red acrylic paint during my shower and displayed his new-found skill at opening things.  I came out to find paint all over Edwin, the bathroom door, and carpet.

Luckily it was acrylic and several buckets of water and piles of towels later, you can't tell the difference.  I swear.

In the evening (after putting Edwin to bed as he'd already had his fun with paint), we cut potato stamps and made the wrapping paper.

And when the girls were in bed too, Brandon and I made our own paper.

Of course it's all going to be ripped up and thrown away in about a week.  But we had fun.  And we don't have to haul it anywhere with us.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Edwin's Second Birthday

Thursday was Edwin's birthday.  I have always pitied people whose birthdays come on or around Christmas.  Everyone gets so wrapped up in Christmas preparations that those birthdays often get overlooked.  My birthday is almost a month after Christmas and I find that much proximity obnoxious.

Edwin has had the triple distractions of Christmas, Joseph's birth, and moving to contend with his birthday celebrations.  Luckily for him and us, he has no concept of birthday, presents, or celebrations.  When Sophia turned two, we had spent the previous two weeks singing Happy Birthday to anything we could think of.  Thursday morning the girls and I sang to Edwin.  He just looked at us and ran off to play with his cars.

Although he is oblivious of celebrations, Edwin can certainly appreciate food.  So when we made cupcakes (going with the theme this year of making things easy on ourselves),
he was happy to lick everything given to him.

And fish out of the sugar canister, for good measure.

That evening we sang to him again, lit the candles, and had cupcakes.  

Edwin broke tradition by actually eating some of his birthday (cup)cake.  But only because he didn't know that present was coming.

And he was thrilled with that only present - a big dump truck.  Happy Birthday, Edwin!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Would you like some cheese with that?

Warning: This post contains unnecessary, self-centered, and gratuitous whining.  For those of you who don't like that sort of thing, or those that actually have lives who deserve whining, please tune in next time for something more humorous.  And that includes the comments, too.  [you know who you are, anonymous]

So, this year has been a... crazy... year.  I reserve 'bad' for things that include trips to the hospital and or consultations with the insurance company.  So it hasn't been bad, just crazy.

And I think that I've done a relatively good job dealing with it.  Perhaps if you talked with my children or husband they might disagree, but as they don't write this blog, they can't tell you otherwise.

I like to pretend at least that I'm an optimist person who just deals with situations while at least attempting to stay cheerful and looking at the bright side of things.  Evacuation?  It might mean being away from home for awhile, but it's a good excuse to read a lot of books and order out a lot.  See?  Less cooking.  A good thing.  And I love libraries in the US.  Having a baby seven weeks before moving overseas?  Sure, it's a little fast, but see the above about cooking and books.  Plus, I don't have time to be worried about baby not sleeping well.  Good attitude.  Go me.

But with twelve days to go before departure, I'm starting to feel this year catch up to me.  I can deal with moving.  Again.  I'm okay with living in temporary housing when we get to post for an unspecified time.  Again.  While I'm not looking forward to paying a driver $180 a week to get things done, I can deal with not having a car for several months.  Again.  I can even deal with a five week-old baby and all of its vagaries.  For the fourth time.

But when that five week-old baby decides to fight me every single time I nurse and tries to scream and cry every single time I put him down to sleep when I know he's tired and just wants to sleep already, and repeat every 2 1/2 to 3 hours, I get a little tired of the show.  And then I have to decide what makes the cut for stuffing into our eight suitcases because we don't know when we'll be in our real (hopefully, fingers crossed) house and so we have to fit everything we might need for three four children crammed into a three-bedroom apartment in January in downtown Baku with just Drexel Heritage to keep us company for an undetermined amount of time, I might feel a little more stress.  And then of course there are still those three children to keep occupied in the three-bedroom teeny-tiny townhouse we're in already in December with no parks in walking distance and no desire to leave because it takes 45 minutes to get everyone out the door and in the car, I might admit to hiding out from them.  But only sometimes.  Oh, and add in the wonderful feeling of bleeding cash out of every pore as Sophia breaks the GPS and we buy a new one and the car requires $700 of repairs and we have to pay to have the house cleaned and carpets cleaned and oh! Brandon has only two suits with him which won't work for an undetermined amount of time before we're in our (hopefully) house and can get the rest of our things so let's go take all four of the children suit shopping.  And don't forget about the tailoring.  And don't forget Christmas. And that lovely red-eye international flight with said fighting, crying baby.

I think I could handle all of that except the baby, but when the baby is thrown in, I'm done in.  I can hardly handle the baby under normal circumstances.  Newborns are not my favorite.

So, I'm going to do the reasonable thing and leave the children and go to Ikea and Potomac Mills tomorrow.  All.  By. Myself.  Because what we need right now is to spend more money and acquire more things to ship overseas.

End of rant.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Time Distortions

A few days ago, I was thinking about the things to be done before we leave, and my mental calendar reminded me that we have two and a half weeks left before we leave.  'Two and a half weeks!' I thought, 'is it still that long?  How am I going to be able to live two and a half more weeks before we get out of here!?'

This year has been chopped up into lots of pieces, none of them longer than three months, and I've spent all of those pieces (except the first one, because I had no idea what was going to hit me) counting down until they were done.  Three months on evacuation.  Three months in Cairo.  Six weeks on home leave.  Two months until Joseph came.  And seven weeks until Baku.  

Moving around and waiting around have warped my sense of time.  A year ago, six months felt like something just around the corner.  Now six months is an absolute eternity, three enough to really settle down and call somewhere home, and two and a half weeks a really good long stretch, long enough to not even think about packing.  Or pack out.  

I'm not sure what I'll do with myself when we move to Baku and I have two whole years stretching out endlessly before me with nothing but a couple of R&Rs to break up the monotony.  I'll have to take up some sort of hobby.  Maybe base jumping?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

... and why was this conversation necessary?

While in the shower this morning
Sophia: hmmememm warrrrinnngnsnn
rrrrrrwwwweee serrrrsisss!
gnnnennnnnwbbwerbbbb lllfasfsf!!
blllllenensnesnn wmmemmemms!!!

Me: (finally giving up on pretending I can't hear her) Sophia, I'm in the shower and can't hear you; open the door and tell me what you're saying.

Sophia: (opening the door) Mom, are you in the shower?

Me: (stating the obvious) Yes.

Sophia: I need to use the bathroom.

Me: Can you use your bathroom?

Sophia: Oh, okay!  (happily runs off to use her bathroom)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

When I was growing up, every year I begged my mother for a real Christmas tree.  And every year, her answer was the same.  No, they're too expensive, and we have a perfectly good one up in the attic so why buy something we would just throw away in a month?  Plus, those needles get everywhere.

So every year I swore to myself that I would buy a real tree when I got to make the decision.  Thus far, whenever possible I've bought a fresh tree.  This year I decided to have some fun - which is code for me thinking up a complicated scheme that inevitably ends up driving Brandon crazy when some part of it inevitably goes wrong (because with three four small children something always does) - and go to a tree farm and cut down our own tree.

So this past Saturday morning that's what we did. 

Everyone had a fun time choosing which one would be ours.

Edwin was very interested in the mechanics of how exactly one cut down a tree.

Sophia and Kathleen decided to be reindeer with the branches.

And after hauling the tree in from the fields and having it shaken and baled, Brandon tied the tree to the top of the car to take it to it's new (for the next three weeks) home.

On the way home, our GPS decided to lose it's logic chip and point us in all sorts of bizarre directions that resulted in the obligatory complication and extra time in the car.

That evening, after meeting friends for ice cream, we decorated the tree.  Or rather, Edwin and Joseph slept, Brandon kept us company, I strung the lights and the girls decorated the tree.  It didn't necessarily result in even ornament distribution, but they had fun.

And then the girls went to bed and Brandon and I finally got to rest.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

In the last three weeks

So, things have been busy.  With a new baby, life always gains the odd quality of being busy with no definable gain by the end of the day.  There seems to be a lot of sitting around, changing diapers, and feeding children with a lot of stress about the whole thing.  And when you throw in trying to get not only your child but your household ready to move to another country, life gets even busier.

My sister was kind enough to come and help out for the first week, for which I was tremendously grateful as Joseph thought he would try our patience by not sleeping at night for the first week he was home.  After Brandon spent two straight nights without any sleep, I took extreme measures and things quieted down during Brandon's mother's visit for the week before Thanksgiving.

Which was good as Brandon and I drove down to Richmond to fetch Joseph's birth certificate the day before my sister-in-law came with her six children for Joseph's baby blessing.  The children had a wonderful time with their cousins making havoc of our small townhouse, which I'm sure was never intended to house fourteen people.

The same day everyone left, Brandon and I went downtown where Joseph applied for his first passports and we booked plane tickets to Baku.  When I commented out that we could buy a Civic for the price of the tickets, Brandon pointed out that we would have a hard time driving a Civic to Baku.

Brandon's mother left the day before Thanksgiving, so we went to Maryland to join my Aunt and Uncle for Thanksgiving.  The next week I sent off another shipment, this one containing a swing set, dome jungle gym, digital piano, set of tires, and 150 pounds of sugar.  Our three final shipments, UAB, HHE by air, and the car have been set up for the week we leave.

Brandon picked up Joseph's diplomatic passport and finally turned in the visas applications after two failed attempts, and Joseph has a medical appointment scheduled this week so that he can be cleared and allowed to travel.

We've scheduled out the last three weeks we have in country and have plans for several dinners, a Christmas party, Christmas tree shopping, Christmas shopping, medical appointments, a visit from my brother, work consultations, Christmas itself, those aforementioned pack outs, and of course, flying halfway across the world with four small children.

One day I'll get some rest (and maybe even more than three hours of sleep in a row), but it won't be for awhile.  And until then, I'll have chocolate to help me out.  Thank heaven for chocolate.