Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just like riding a bicycle

I'm a law school drop-out. It's true. I went to law school, a million years ago now, finished my first year even. But, the first day of my second year I was sitting in Corporations (the study of how companies form, grow and eventually take over the world, within in the confines of the law, that is) and I thought, "this isn't it." You know what I mean when I say "it," right? That thing we're all looking for, that we're confident exists, that we assume is just beyond the horizon. I didn't know then what "it" was for me, but I KNEW, without an iota of doubt, that it wasn't law school and it certainly wasn't growing up to be a lawyer. So, I left that class, went to the Dean's office, packed my life in my little blue Toyota and drove away.

That a was a watershed moment in my life. For a decade before that moment I had planned to go to law school and become a lawyer, and suddenly, there was no plan. And, I'm a planner. I'm not a hyper, can't adapt or deal with change type of planner, but I like to have a general idea of where things stand and what's next. And at that juncture in my life, I didn't. I was confident of two things as St. Louis disappeared behind me. 1) I had made a difficult decision, but it was the right one. And, 2) Although I didn't know what the near future would bring, I knew someday I would go back to graduate school.

That someday is today. Today, and for the last seven weeks, I am a graduate student. With a little, okay a lot, of encouragement from my husband and ridiculous amounts of help from parents, siblings, friends and former professors I jumped through all the hurdles of applying and was, miraculously I think, accepted into a graduate program. I'm studying democracy and governance, which is a new field for me. I've devoted my entire academic and adult life to the study and practice of American government, but I thought trying something new would be interesting and challenging. It's both and I love it. Never mind the fact that I am more than 10 years older than almost everyone in my program, and all the other programs too, for that matter. Or that I have kids and a husband and a mortgage, not exactly the description of your average grad student. Forget the fact that when I'm not on campus I play tickle monster and make cookies and finger paint. I'm a bonafide grad student.

It's hard, being a mom and going back to school after so long. But, here's the thing about me, I adore school, always have. I thrive in the classroom. I crave the orderliness of assignments and tests and finals. Maybe that is the result of being raised by teachers and knowing they spent their days teaching not just us, but other people's kids too? In my experience, school is easy, compared to life. Life is messy and complicated even if far more rewarding. But, as much as I enjoy the predictability of being a student, I love the perspective that time away from school, actually living my life has given me. I don't care about the grades, not really. I just want to learn the material, enjoy the experience and come out of this feeling like it was worth the sacrifices my little family is making.

I took a midterm last night, my first midterm in 13 years. I was nervous, panicked even. I studied, of course. Not as much as the non-Mom student of my former life would have, but I was prepared. It didn't matter though. I read "midterm" on the syllabus the first day of class and the panic set in. Despite my very managed expectations (a B- is passing), I could not suppress the dread I felt about getting back on the bicycle of formal education. What if I froze? What if I've forgotten how to be a student? What if I crash and burn? Gasp! Horror! And then, inevitably, there I was, blue book in one hand, exam questions in the other. One deep breath, read the questions, pick up the pen and pedal. I did not pop a wheelie or catch air, but I also didn't biff it. It was, well, just like riding a bike.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We Love Washington, DC, #3

I visited the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial for the first time shortly after it opened in 1997. Of the major monuments to Presidents of the United States in Washington, DC, it is my favorite. The memorial is divided into 4 sections, each corresponding to a different term of office in FDR's presidency. Each section has a water feature of some sort used by the memorial's designer to depict important moments in each term and the increasing turmoil of the country at that time. During the nearly 12 years that FDR was president, the United States experienced some of the most dramatic changes this country has ever seen, those too are represented in the sculptures built alongside the water. I have always loved this monument for it's accessibility. Caleb and Isaac were entranced by the water and wanted nothing more than to throw barrels of coins in the pools and follow them in head first. There are signs everywhere stating that coins damage fountains, so we fought the urge to toss some in, but the boys did get a little wet, despite our best efforts.

dangerously close to the falls

Posing with Eleanor...


...and the unemployment line.

a rare family group shot
thank you random stranger for offering to capture us en masse

Monday, October 25, 2010

We love Washington, DC, #2

A wonderful benefit to coming back to DC in between overseas posts is that so many dear friends are still here and we can virtually slip right back into the lives we left behind. The only real indicator that things have changed is that now most everyone has kids and mortgages. Happily, our boys are quickly becoming fast friends with our friends' kids.

The little girl in these pictures is our new friend Nancy. She is the same age as Isaac and his instant pal. Nancy has a seemingly never-ending supply of great toys and a huge backyard where she can entertain her guests. Her house has 2 cats, yummy snacks and an adorable baby sister, all things that make her uber-cool when one is in the 4 feet and under club. For all these reasons and many more, we were delighted to finally become acquainted with Nancy. She is also far better at cooperating for pictures than her new companions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We love Washington, DC, #1

When we learned our next disembarking point on the foreign service world tour would be Washington, DC, we promised ourselves we would make the most of our 2 years there/here. We, the adults in our family unit, love DC. It is where we met and fell in love and became a couple and then a family. It runneth over with favorite memories, people and foods. It is full of life and culture and history and excitement. It is a couple of political junkies idea of Mecca. And, perhaps most importantly in our increasingly homeless existence, it is where we feel most at home.

There is so much to do and see and experience and we are determined to soak it all in...or as much as we can. My schedule as a newly minted graduate student is mostly unforgiving, but thank goodness we are doing this parenting thing as a team. Kenny and the boys are using every minute of his spare time to embrace all that DC offers, and when I'm really lucky, I get to tag along too.

First stop: The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The boys and I had been there once before, 2 years ago. But, they were too young to really absorb any of it's vast collection and size. And, if you imagine you are 4 years old and you think that airplanes and aircraft are just about the neatest (because at 4 you are still using words like "neat") things in the universe, you would realize it is impossible to over-visit this museum. They loved it, of course. They squealed with delight and used completely the opposite of museum voices. They jumped and laughed and danced and surrendered to utter merriment. They ran around like crazies. They ran so much they barely stopped long enough to capture the joy of this outing.

Cool huh? Next stop...The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ode to

Raise your hand if you LOVE hosting (not perusing) garage sales.

Hm, almost no hands.

Okay, raise your hands if you LOVE loading up your car and driving to your nearest thrift store, only to be told they can't take some or all of what you're offering.

Ah, fewer hands.

Finally, raise your hand if you LOVE having odd clutter around your house that you just can't think what to do with, but know it would be criminal to throw away.

Not surprisingly, no hands.

If you're like me, and didn't raise your hand once, and you live in a reasonably large community (this is sort of key to what's coming, so if your town is smallish, stop reading now), I am about to share with you a fabulous find.

What is, you ask? It is something like Craigslist, but free and so much more satisfying to use. It's a huge online garage sale, but again, EVERYTHING IS FREE! People send out emails announcing what they have, when and where it's available, and all you have to do it claim their stuff. Really, that's it. And, there is some pretty cool stuff out there. People are lazy and this is a great way to embrace your laziness and still purge, who doesn't want to get in on that? And, you can even request stuff. For example, let's say you're like "someone" I...ahem..."know" and you're looking for a desk. You send an email to your freecycle peeps and voila! Within hours, sometimes minutes you will find yourself in possession of a perfectly serviceable, sometimes fabulous, but always FREE desk.

I know what you're thinking now, how can you too join in the fun? SO EASY! Click on the above link, type in your community, send an email and wait for confirmation of membership in your local freecycling universe. Once confirmation magically pops into your inbox...WHOA NELLY! The free stuff will be flying and you will find yourself thinking, "maybe I do need various pieces of balsa wood" or "we've been looking for a economical jogging stroller for ages, can't do much better than free." It is incredible the stuff that is available and even more incredible what people want. Just in the last 24 hours we have unloaded a floor lamp with no shade (broke in storage), a single 25 lb. barbell, and 2 boxes of law books from 2003. Our trash, now their treasures, and all we did was send an email. Think of the possibilities!!

One final thought, I am still a big advocate of donating to charity and with this post am in no way suggesting that charities should not be your first stop for the more typical donation items. But, we've tried and failed to give stuff to our local charities more than once in the last month and this website has been a very painless solution to a more than mildly frustrating problem. Especially the law books, NO ONE wanted hardcover, slightly out of date text books and the thought of putting them in a land fill just made me ill. But, they have now gone to a happy home and freecycle gets all the credit. Try'll see.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sick, again.

I know they don't look sick, but they are. Especially Isaac. For weeks now he has had all manner of yuckiness flowing out of every orifice imaginable. It's gross, he's gross. I feel terrible saying that about my own child, or I should feel terrible, shouldn't I? But, really, it is...GROSS.

We went to the doctor today, for Isaac anyway, Caleb's really not sick enough to warrant a doctor visit. That's my mother's influence coming out right there. If it's not bleeding (too much) or falling off, if you're still ambulatory and talking, you really don't need a doctor, right? That approach worked for me and my siblings just fine so, why not?

It was our first time at this Pediatrician's office, and it was GREAT. 20 doctors in one practice, what? We didn't even have time to fill out the forms before being whisked away to an exam room. It took longer to park, than to see a doctor -- a lot longer. To be fair, I could have paid $17 for the parking garage and we would have dispensed with that part of our morning in mere minutes, but I was too, um, frugal to do that, so we circled the block once or twice.

We got a flu shot and H1N1 too. So, apart from the fact that Isaac has been treated for this same ailment more times than I would like to think about, he is now totally inoculated against the winter nasties. Okay, so I'm not that naive, but with any luck he'll at least avoid the flu.

The hardest part of this whole ordeal, and by the time we were done it could only be described as an ordeal, was getting the prescription filled. Come on CVS, 1.5 hours for ear drops and antibiotics?!?!?! By the time we were done Isaac was sobbing from exhaustion. The problem with having miracle sleepers (and I do recognize that they are miraculous in this), is that when the sleep gong strikes, they must obey or meltdown stage is inevitable. Poor guy, he fought it, but he wasn't strong enough and eventually was forced to throw himself down on the floor at CVS and fall apart. Luckily, there were all sorts of people paying attention to his tantrum so I was able to ignore it and finish my transaction. It's always nice when strangers lend a hand like that.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

It's on Halloween

Only October 2nd and we've already got our Halloween game faces on. The boys have tried on their costumes and picked out their treat bags. We've put pumpkin carving, cookie decorating and, of course, trick-or-treating on the calendar. We're ready for you American style Halloween. Bring it!


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