Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I hate the Oakwood. There, I said it. I know I am supposed to grateful and, um, diplomatic as per my husband's request, but I can't keep it in anymore. I have been grateful and diplomatic for almost 7 months and what have I gotten in return? I have been ignored, mistreated and then ignored some more. So, Oakwood, there you have it, I HATE you!
I hate you for your lack of charm. I hate you for your abysmal customer service standards. I hate you for the fact that you happen to be completely under-construction and my children haven't napped on a weekday for the last three weeks. I hate you for never so much as offering an apology for aforementioned construction. I hate you for all the calls I've made and gotten no response. I hate you for dangling the carrot of moving us to a renovated unit without construction noise and then never getting back to me give me further information one way or another. I hate you for leaving me, a chef, with a broken electric range. I hate you for choosing DISH network as a cable provider because it loses its signal at every climax. I hate you for making me use a code every time I log on to the internet and for letting me load an entire jumbo size dryer full of wet baby clothes and not telling me that IT'S OUT OF SERVICE! Ugh. I could go on, but I won't. Oh, there is one other thing: the goddamned vegetable peeler! Come on.
The good news: I have just over a month of suffering to go and then we are off to our new HOUSE in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, a beautiful French-speaking commune in the heart of Brussels. Yes, the wait is over. The housing folks finally located a beautiful, little house for us and we couldn't be happier. There's a lesson here for new Foreign Service folks: if at first, your housing option makes you want to kill yourself, ask for another option. Chances are they will try to make you happy. In our case, they found what amounts to a perfect situation for us. It has four bedrooms so we all have our own room, plus a room for guests, which I anticipate needing frequently (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). There's a garden for us all to play in (girls), garden in (me), and lay about in (furry ones). There's a garage for our car, a nicely-appointed kitchen, and a separate playroom for all the toys and kid-related clutter. It's a dream, really. I am so happy and grateful to be leaving this hell-hole and going to a place that feels like a home!
Thursday, October 14, 2010
But I have a hang up. When I fill out paperwork that requires me to list my occupation, I always dutifully write: Mother. And there's no better occupation. I am proud and incredibly grateful that I am currently a full-time, stay-at-home mommy. But, there's the lingering reality that in the not too distant future, my girls are going to go off to school and will only need my physical presence before 8AM and after 3PM. I don't want to lose sight of this reality because if I don't stay focused on who I am independently of them, I could end up bored and even more purposeless than I was before I had these children of mine. Of course, me being me, I spend the time that I should be singularly focused on child-rearing, worrying about what I am going to do to fill my time when I am no longer child-rearing. Such is the plight of the neurotic.
I have cooked up an idea (pun intended) that I hope will serve to fill in the gaps while we are pursuing Stef's dream career. I am, by training, a chef. I graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 2003 and have worked on and off as a chef for the last 7 years, the most significant "job" being the one where I ran a catering business in San Francisco. I know many would dispute the "cheffiness" of this job. I wasn't running a robust, professional restaurant kitchen. I was running a ramshackle business out of my own kitchen-- cooking for anywhere from 8 to 300 people. The only full-time employee was me. The rest were hourly workers, mostly friends, who were able and patient enough to deal with the long hours and unconventional setting, not to mention my own questionable brand of organization-- handwritten lists on greasy paper towels and post-it notes on everything from the fridge to the range hood. It was crazy, but incredibly fun and rewarding. It required a specific type of focus and quick thinking, in addition to a lot of creativity.
But alas, I reached a point when I had to either "man-up" and get a professional kitchen or flee the business all together. My crippling fear of failure sent me fleeing to the world of marketing, copy-writing and event planning where there was little risk of failing and no hard-core personal investment. I don't regret it, though. If I had jumped headlong into business ownership, I wouldn't be here... I might not even be married to Stefan and then, I wouldn't have Addy or Flora. Everything happens for a reason, right?
So, now, here we are. We are heading to Brussels at the end of next month. My oldest daughter is approaching the age where preschool makes sense (god-willing she's potty-trained sometime in the next year). And my youngest daughter is not far behind. It's reasonable to think that this time next year, I will suddenly have a lot more time on my hands. Having taken a pretty major hiatus, I am now ready to return to cooking, in some shape. Trouble is: working in a restaurant usually means leaving your family (and any social life you may have) in the dust. Long, odd hours on the weekends and in the evenings are not well-suited to successfully raising a family. So, I am in the midst of considering how to combine two occupations, which are indisputably at odds with each other: cooking professionally and being a dedicated mother.
Until we get to Brussels and get settled in and I truly explore my options, I have nothing to do but "consider" the possibilities. So, for now, I am still a mommy and I am up to my elbows in Halloween costume construction (Adela's "half-cooked" Butterfly costume is pictured below).
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
As I have done before, I am going to have to ask for a pass because I am naive and new to this whole process. I am just not accustomed to having so little control over my own life. I feel like I am a fish out of water... with no fishbowl in sight. Of all the things I anticipated being problematic for me, this one is proving to be the most so. I need something to hold onto, especially since I have completely lost patience with the Oakwood and I am really hoping that our next "home" is a nicer, roomier and less "under construction" kind of place.
There are things that those of us in the Foreign Service come to see as "acceptable" that people in the outside world would find impossible and astounding. I think not knowing where exactly you will be living until a few days before you arrive is one of those things. Yeargh. I am sure everything will be fine and that we will end up in a place that is completely adequate, but it's just plain weird to play a passive role in all of this. This is especially true for me-- someone who reads the Real Estate section of the newspaper with a microscope and fantasizes endlessly about the home I will someday own. Even when we've rented apartments in the past, I have taken such care to imagine where the furniture will go, what plants I will grow, how I will lay out the kitchen to its best advantage. I want desperately to be able to think about our new home in Brussels in this way.
I am hoping that writing this blog will spur some kind of celestial action...
Moving on, we went to the NYC area this weekend to celebrate my mother in law's birthday. We decided a month or so ago that given the size of our family, we needed to get a hotel room. The party being in Brooklyn, we tried first to find a hotel there, but were met with one figurative "no vacancy" sign after another. There was some event in Brooklyn that had claimed every room. Of course, Manhattan hotel rooms are completely out of reach for an entry-level Foreign Service family. Having moved to Falls Church, VA from suburban NJ (yet another fiscal compromise!), I had an idea: a brand new W Hotel opened in Hoboken last year and the room rates were reasonable and the proximity to the city unbeatable.
This was our view during the day:
And this was our view at night:
And this was the view of a local t-shirt shop:
I didn't say it was without compromise, but they were well worth it. We had an incredible suite with an incredible view (as evidenced above) and we were just minutes from Manhattan and Brooklyn. I highly recommend this route for anyone looking to stay in the area who isn't able to drop a thousand bucks a night or who is unwilling (or unable) to squeeze into a sardine can.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Being cooped up in our tiny Oakwood apartment with little more than leashwalks to keep them entertained, Otis and Rudi have probably suffered the most in all of this. Its the sad plight of the dogs who came before the children. Once upon a time, their needs were at the very top of our priority list. But now, they have fallen sadly to somewhere near the bottom.
No more! Thanks to a convoluted discovery of the Shirlington Dog Park, the boys are back in action and I have some time to reflect on how very important these critters are to my sanity. For anyone with dogs, I urge you to make a trip over. It is a long stretch of park where they can frolick sans leash and take a dip in the stream that runs the park's length. Ever since we came upon this canine oasis, we've all been quite a bit happier and more relaxed.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
First and foremost, I am so lucky to have found Stefan. He's absolutely and without question, my soul-mate. I know that because when I wake up in the morning and see him next to me, I feel excited, alive and very safe.
I also know that "he's the one" because he got me exactly what I wanted for my birthday-- an Eve VanDalsen messenger bag! It's so pretty and unique and practical, a hard combination for even the most well-established designers. I see a very, very bright and prosperous future for our friend Eve and I am thrilled that I have one of her early (ish) bags. I can say, "I knew her when" and have a grey and aqua messenger bag to prove it.
Secondly, I have the most beautiful children on the planet. Adela is turning out to be happy, confident and self-assured. These aspects of her little burgeoning, personality make me most proud. I tend to think that she feels very safe-- emotionally and physically-- and I know I played a big part in that. Flora has an unbelivably well-developed sense of humor for such a tiny thing. It is with great irony and self-assuredness that she wears this silly cupcake hat my mother made for her:
Thirdly, I have become very close to my extended family in recent years and I am proud to be able to share my life with them and for them to share theirs with me. It's a rare and wonderful gift that one can call her 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins not only family, but also her best and most cherished friends. This past weekend, we went up to New Jersey to celebrate my cousin Meghan's engagement to her fiance Fred. We stayed with my other cousin, Hillary and her family. The entire weekend was a total blast. The party was beautiful-- gorgeous food, great music and the best company. And even though I woke up on Sunday with the worst hangover I've had in years, I have no regrets about dancing into the night and eating three extremely decadent cupcakes... because I was doing it with the people I love most in the world. Hillary's incredible children got into bed with Stef, Flora and me when they woke up and it was such a perfect reminder of how important it is to stay in close touch with these amazing people.
And finally, I have a diverse and varied group of friends all over the country and the world, from Vancouver, BC to San Francisco, CA to Chester, CT to NYC, NY to London, UK and all stops in between who seem to actually like me and for that, I am grateful everyday of my life. There is no substitute for friendship and no better reflection of the person you are than the quality of the people who surround you. So when I am feeling low or as if I haven't accomplished enough by this stage in my life, I think of my friends and feel like I must be doing something (at least a little) right.
And now, my girls have given me the best present of all: they are BOTH napping at the SAME time. So, just when I thought my birthday couldn't get better, I have the rare opportunity to take a much-needed nap myself!
Friday, October 1, 2010
In addition to that, a funny, coincidental thing happened (You might not think it's a coincidence because you're probably sure that my mother reads my blog... but, she doesn't. Weird. Right?). Anyway, as I was wrapping up a phone call with her, she told me she was going to send me a picture via MMS. "Okay," I said and hung up. I waited a few moments before I heard the familiar "ping" of an incoming message. This is the picture she sent:
And do you have any idea what that is? Well, I did. It's a "Handmade Cupcake Hat" for my daughter, Adela. And do you know who made it by hand? That's right: my amazing, wonderful, talented-to-no-end mother made it.
I immediately texted her back:
"Is that a handmade cupcake hat. And did you MAKE it?"
"Yes. I did. Why do you sound so familiar with it? Have you ever seen a handmade cupcake hat?"
"No, I never have, but I'm smart."
"Yeah, I made it. I'm knitting again. What else do you want?"
This is a very, very big deal. It would seem that in some small way, the universe is listening to me.
Thanks for all your support!