It is that time of year again, where the folks that are planning to transition during the summer of 2020 are starting to research potential posts…unless they’re like me and start doing it as soon as they arrive at their current one. What can I say? I like to be prepared.

If you are considering bidding on Washington, specifically FSI, I can offer you my personal pros and cons, which I’m sure say more about me than DC. 😉

Pros

  1. Convenience – You are back in America after all. Everyone drives on the right. English is the official language. Customer service is actually a thing. You can get your Amazon Prime orders in the mail the next day instead of waiting for six weeks to get something through the pouch. You can have hundreds of different restaurants and grocery stores deliver to your door…or even pick up your McDonald’s order, should you so choose. If you work at FSI and live in Falls Church, the commute to schools and housing is extremely short and pleasant. I can usually be to work after dropping my son off at before-school care in 20 minutes or less depending on traffic.
  1. Proximity to U.S. Friends and Family – I am making it my mission to visit as many of our family and friends that we normally don’t see when we’re overseas as possible. In May, we visited one of my best friends from college whom I hadn’t seen in about nine years. In August, we’re heading up to Alaska to visit some extended family that my son has never met. And in November, we’re going to Wisconsin to see one of my cousins and his family. The last time I saw him was at our grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary in the mid-1990s…so about 20 years ago! His son is pretty much my son’s only cousin around his age…even though technically he’s a second cousin. But he’s super excited to meet him. 🙂
  1. Positive Work Environment – I can’t speak to life at Main State, but working at FSI is extremely pleasant. As I mentioned in my last post, the campus is gorgeous throughout the year. There’s a ton of parking, and an annual parking pass is very reasonable. There’s a cafeteria, ATM, convenience store, library and gym all on site. Flexible work schedules are available, and everyone’s pretty laid back and relaxed.
  1. Variety of Activities & Culture – There is a TON of stuff to do here. Whether you’re single or have a large family, you can enjoy everything from DC site seeing, restaurants, and bars to beaches, battlefields, amusement parks, world-class museums or pick your own farms. There is truly something for everyone. I particularly love the regional food fairs, the cherry blossoms in spring, and the fireflies in June that you normally can’t find west of Texas.
  1. Local History – This could probably go under the “Variety of Activities” heading, but I wanted to make it its own bullet, because I have developed a new and sincere appreciation for the amount of history in this area. This is the fourth time I’ve been in DC, and I never really paid much attention to it before. Growing up on the West Coast, I was vaguely aware that that the Declaration of Independence was here. Been to nearby Gettysburg, check. Mt. Vernon, check. But I’ve been able to find amazing things over the last 18 months…specific, off-the-beaten path, storied treasures like those that I found all over when we lived in Europe. For example, the original stone markers that indicated the boundaries of DC in the late 1700s; still-functioning English taverns scattered across Virginia from the 1600s; and the abandoned fleet of 230 wooden ships from World War I in Mallows Bay, MD, that are now a National Marine Sanctuary. It makes me happy.

Now on to the things that make me less happy…

Cons

  1. Cost of Living – OMG, I will never again complain about the cost of living overseas. Any place where you have your housing paid for is a win. While not quite San Francisco prices, the cost of housing in the DC Metro area is absolutely ridiculous. Our rent and utilities, including cable and internet, is just shy of $2,500 a month for a small, somewhat beat up, two-bedroom apartment. Granted, I chose it for its location to work and a particular school, so that’s on me. But this little chunk takes up about 70% of my crappy government salary…so I’ve had to dip into my savings on a monthly basis to cover the rest of our living expenses…and travel, of course. I cannot WAIT to get back overseas.
  1. DC Attitude – A lot of people in this town are a bit arrogant. You can really see it in how they drive. People scream up behind you and start honking even though you have nowhere to go to get out of their way. Or they completely block the middle lane of a six-lane road so they can make a left turn across a double yellow line and three oncoming lanes of rush hour traffic and don’t give a crap how many people are backed up behind them. I myself only give people a polite honk (cough) when the light has turned green…and they’re still texting on their phone.
  1. Bursting the Home Illusion Bubble – This could also be a bit of a pro, but being back in the US bursts that little “everything works better at home” illusion that one might develop when one has been overseas for a while. We often had power outages in Belize, but we had a generator, so they didn’t last long. During the last big thunderstorm in DC, power was out at our apartment complex for about 15 hours. In London I thought it was insane that it took six weeks to get an appointment to hook up our cable. After moving here, it took two months for Dish Network to figure out that they couldn’t upgrade my cable because the new boxes weren’t compatible with the system in our apartment. Customer service is important, but you can still get crap service, which makes it even more irritating. My apartment has a locked security door, so packages are often dropped off (and sometimes lost) at the front desk or returned to sender. These things are good to remember when you’re trying to get settled abroad and are frustrated by the process. It’s a reality check.
  1. Hot Summer Weather – Again this might be a pro for some, but…ughh…I hate the heat. And I hate humidity. The average summer temperature from June through September (a good four solid months) is in the mid-90s with at least 50% humidity, which quickly shoots you over the 105F heat index. I have found this to be much more manageable this time around, because I have a car and don’t have to stand melting in the sun waiting for the shuttle or the metro like I did on previous stays. But if you’re here for a long TDY or language training, it would suck.
  1. Transitioning from a “Domestic” Tour – Speaking of language training, if you are lucky enough to get a language-designated post and get to come back to FSI between overseas tours and be paid by the US government to learn a language, State will also pay for your temporary housing and give you per diem to cover meals and incidentals for the duration of said training. HOWEVER, if you are transferring from DC (aka a “domestic” assignment) to overseas, you…are…on…your…own. No subsidized housing, no per diem. So plan to spend another year or so on that ridiculous rent until you pass the language test.

So there you have it folks, the things I have enjoyed, and the things that I have not, while living and working in the DC area.

Happy bidding!!

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Arlington Hall circa 1943 (photo course of Wikipedia).

One of the many things I like about working at the Foreign Service Institute is its history. I’ve been slowly working my way through a great audiobook on my daily DC suburban commute called Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy.

Our entire campus used to belong to an all-girls’ college called Arlington Hall that started in 1927. During WWII it was “commandeered” by the Navy, and the USG never gave it back. It became home to the Foreign Service Institute in 1993. I love that I can see the building above through the window in my office.

As you can tell by the book’s title, it’s all about the women…most of them students at prestigious women’s colleges or career teachers…that had been recruited to be code breakers during the war. It really brings the women’s stories and the campus during that period in history to life.

Some of them focused on decoding messages about Japanese plans and movements in the Pacific, which would’ve directly affected my paternal grandfather who was deployed to that area as a gunner’s mate on a destroyer at the time.

Many of the women were housed in temporary dorms called Arlington Farms. They were demolished in the 1960s, but once stood where the visitors’ center and the Women In Military Service For America Memorial currently are in Arlington National Cemetery.

Comparison map of Arlington Farms (courtesy of Wikipedia) and current Arlington Cemetery (Google maps screenshot).

A photo of life in Arlington Farms housing by Esther Bubley (Library of Congress Archive).

The lives of the women were documented by government photographer, Esther Bubley, who had a pretty amazing career herself. In addition to government work, she shot pictures for Pan Am, Pepsi-Cola International and the Irish Tourist Board. You can visit her online gallery here.

So if you’re a Foreign Service employee and bidding on FSI this summer, which will be the subject of my next post, the local history is definitely one of the “pros.”

Splashing in the Chesapeake Bay.

This is our second summer in DC, and we FINALLY went to the beach. I’m pretty familiar with West Coast beaches and Florida beaches, and I have a clear picture in my head of New England beaches. When I think of Mid-Atlantic beaches, I think of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. When I hear “the Eastern Shore”…I think of New Jersey reality TV. I figured Virginia beaches were somewhere in the middle.

So I’d been researching lots of options. I scoured articles with titles like Coastal Living’s “10 Best Small Towns on the Chesapeake Bay” and Southern Living’s “The Eastern Shore: Virginia’s Best-Kept Secret.” I’ve been hearing about Chincoteague Island since I joined the Foreign Service, so it’s definitely on my bucket list…but it also takes three and a half hours to get there from our house, which is a lot of driving for a short weekend.

Lots of people in the DC area go to Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City in Maryland for a quick jaunt up the coast. But they sounded really crowded…and one co-worker confirmed that the vibe is a lot like Daytona Beach, which isn’t what I was looking for. Basically I wanted the Mid-Atlantic version of a my ideal New England beach…sailboats, seafood and beautiful airy accommodations. So I settled on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay Area.

When looking at accommodations online, I quickly learned that it is best to avoid the beach on a long holiday weekend. The Hilton Garden Inn was already sold out for every weekend in the summer. And the ACTUAL Chesapeake Beach Resort had a two-night minimum. I also quickly trashed my ideas of a dog-friendly getaway. So I planned for a regular two-day weekend and decided to go big on the hotel, since it was just for one night, and hope for some ambiance.

The Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club (photo courtesy of http://www.mainlinetoday.com.)

I chose the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club. It was certainly pretty, with a cute beach theme, two restaurants and an outdoor fire pit. But for the price, I found it kind of annoying that they weren’t actually by the beach; they couldn’t separate my king bed into two, so I had to sleep with my 8-year-old (who rocketed out of bed at 3:30am to vomit in the bathroom), and there was no room service for a lazy Sunday breakfast. (And the neighboring Chesapeake Beach Resort was so much cuter!!!) But it was only an hour’s drive from our house.

The room wasn’t supposed to be ready until 4:00, so I decided to have a leisurely morning leaving the house, drop the dog at boarding, and tool our way to the beach…the beach at Dirty Dave’s Tiki Bar.

The beach at Dirty Dave’s Tiki Bar.

Tropical drink selfie.

Before you judge my parenting choices, rest assured that Dirty Dave’s is not named after a local pervert; it’s named after the owner of the attached Kentmorr Restaurant and Crab House and his occasionally dirty kitchen apron.

The tiki bar was fantastic. Located right on a child-friendly private swimming beach with buckets and shovels for the kids, hammocks and palm trees, it had a thatched roof and served yummy tropical drinks and decent snack food like pizza, burgers and hot dogs. The water was surprisingly cold, but I still spent a couple of wonderfully relaxing hours with my toes in the sand while A played in the water.

Trying to kill some time before 4:00, I had planned to visit the nearby historic downtown of Stephenville, but it was too hot to be wandering the pavement. Instead, we popped into Chesapeake Chocolates, and my son had fun picking out his favorites among the nautical-themed shapes…sharks, crabs, sailboats, lighthouses. All kinds of cute stuff.

Then we cruised over to the hotel. Our room was ready early, so we checked in, then immediately went out and swam in their new pool, which was also rather chilly. That evening we met up with a friend from the Antarctic who currently lives on a boat in Annapolis with her boyfriend and a couple of seafaring cats. I had last seen them in Iceland a week or so before we left, so it was lovely to see them again stateside.

We met them at the Bridges Restaurant for dinner a few miles down the road in Grasonville. The restaurant was more crowded than I expected, so I’m really glad DR made reservations. But it was right on the water, and they poured a healthy glass of wine. I had a delicious crab pesto pizza with roasted tomatoes, spinach, mozzarella and provolone. And DR seemed to enjoy the shrimp and grits with grape tomatoes, smoked Andouille sausage, yellow onion, lemon and light Tabasco sauce.

I had thought of trying the soft shell crab, which is an area specialty. According to Wikipedia, soft shell crab is “a culinary term for crabs that have recently molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft.” I thought of having it deep-fried, but the fact that it looked like a large tarantula made me change my mind. So I was happy that I’d ordered the pizza.

Crab pesto pizza, fancy breakfast coffee and crab eggs Benedict.

The next morning, I continued my crab theme with crab eggs Benedict in the hotel restaurant. They put them on a very dense biscuit instead of an English muffin though, so that was a little disappointing. But we were now fueled up and ready for Sunday’s next adventure…on a pirate ship.

I knew that I wanted to get A out on the water and had thought of going out on the Schooner Woodwind. But I had actually been on the Schooner Woodwind before…with my ex-husband…on our honeymoon…and that wasn’t the energy I was looking for. Pirate Adventures across the bridge in Annapolis was the perfect second choice.

Most of the other kids were a bit younger than A, but the trip was hysterically funny. They got to paint their faces and dress up, and the crew was in full character the entire time. When onboard, they played games and searched for treasure in the water that had been planted by the staff and marked with a buoy.

But the best part was the water cannons. Both sides of the ship were lined with water cannons, and the kids got to blast a competing pirate floating in a nearby dinghy. They even got to shoot consenting restaurant goers on the pier armed with giant squirt guns. I seriously cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard. My son had sooooooo much fun…and we didn’t even get sunburned.

Pre-sail face painting.

Our pirate ship…sailing to tunes of “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Consulting the treasure map.

Shooting tourists with a water cannon. 🙂

I would definitely go back to Dave’s Tiki Bar, and I would like to actually eat at the Kentmorr Restaurant and Crab House sometime. I would also highly recommend the pirate adventure. I wouldn’t stay at the Inn again…maybe try to find a vacation rental instead, but they often have a minimum stay of 2-3 nights, so we’ll see.

Anyway, I would say our first excursion to the beach was a success. And I think next time, we will try a new destination…St. Michael’s perhaps. Stay tuned!

I thought I’d do a little blog post on my experience of divorce in the Foreign Service…and try not to be too biased about the whole thing. There are a few good articles on the subject out there already.

One excellent FS blogger wrote this one for AFSA: “Surviving Divorce in the Foreign Service.” This post on Diplopundit also has some good info: “It Happens: Divorce in the Foreign Service.” And here are some general State Department resources again from AFSA. There is also a work-life program that offers legal referrals and discounts.

But everyone’s experience is different and completely dependent on their personal situation. Five key things caught my attention during our divorce that folks contemplating the same path might want to pay attention to: timeline, residency, direct-hire status, financial costs, and child custody laws.

Timeline

Considering the fact that our divorce was extremely straight forward, this whole process took a LOT longer than I was expecting. It wasn’t contested; we didn’t really own any property, so we just split all our junk down the middle when we received our HHE. He didn’t seek custody or alimony or ask for any of my retirement, and I didn’t seek child support. REALLY simple. But from the time I approached my lawyer last March, it would be 15 months before our divorce was finalized.

Two main things can contribute to this. First, if your spouse checks out of the whole process early on and leaves it up to his lawyer. If he chooses to, he can sign the papers at any time, but if he chooses not to participate, it has to go through the court system, so a judge can rule on things like custody and division of assets along the way. So I had to appear in court twice…and the trials lasted for less than 30 minutes each. Nothing too dramatic or emotional…just expensive and time consuming.

The second thing that slows the process down is if your spouse’s lawyer misses court dates…basic ones about scheduling that you didn’t have to attend. Apparently if they miss a court date, it has to be rescheduled…sometimes it’s rescheduled for an entire month later. But YOUR lawyer will probably be there, so they will still bill you for however long they spent in court that day waiting for the other lawyer to show up. And so it drags on.

Residency

Before I could file, I had to prove that I had been a resident of the State of Virginia for six months. So even though we split up in January, I had to wait until August to file. I have NO idea how this would work if we were still overseas. So the fact that we had been reassigned to DC made that part a lot easier.

But we still had to figure out what date to use…the date that we arrived in DC in January, the date when A started school in February, or the date I signed my lease or received my official government transfer orders in March? In the end, we chose the earliest one that could legally meet residency requirements.

Direct-Hire Status

I thank the Universe every day that I am a direct-hire employee. I’ve read too many stories about how the spouse (Foreign Service or otherwise!), who has dedicated the last however-many-years of his/her life raising the kids and running the home, finds themselves in a desperate situation…suddenly separated, asked to leave post with or without the kids, no home to go to, no career to fall back on. It’s terrifying.

Where do you go?? How do you pay your bills?? How do you take care of the kids, if you have them?? How do you pay for a lawyer?? (If you are now concerned about my husband as a FS spouse, never fear, he is being well taken care of, and his parents paid for his lawyer.)

Costs

Many people don’t like to talk about money. I’ve worked for companies where people are discouraged from asking each other about their salaries. So forgive me, if you feel this is too much personal information, but I think it’s a very important part of the process to consider.

Our divorce cost me about the same as our wedding cost my parents…a whopping $10,000. So be prepared! If you’re lucky, you have a back-up plan, a good savings account, and family and friends to rely on for emotional support. Hopefully, you BOTH have people that are standing by you.

Child Custody

Most Foreign Service families spend the majority of their careers overseas. When families separate there are some major laws around who is allowed to take the children, when, where, and for how long. If you have joint custody of your children, you need serious documentation from the other parent showing that you can take the children overseas.

So you need to know the difference between “physical” and “legal” custody. We agreed that I would have sole physical and legal custody of our son for many reasons…not the least of which is so that we don’t run into legal problems when we transfer to our next foreign post.

And that’s my experience in a nutshell. Some people have it easier; some people have it much, much worse. Some people have a shocking ability to hide who they truly are and what they’re capable of until it’s too late.

I will end this blog post with a thankful heart that I get a second chance and send you all blessings and hope for a bright future whatever your situation.

Saguaro cactus in the Sonora Desert near Phoenix, Arizona.

One of the things I’m trying to accomplish during the two years that we’re in the States is to see as many of the awesome friends and family as possible that we haven’t had a chance to visit with while we’ve been overseas. So for some of them, it’s been a while!!

I was super excited to plan a trip to Arizona for the long weekend and see my friend and college roommate LH and her hubby. I literally had not seen her since I was pregnant with A…so about nine years. (Where does the time go??) And it’s soooooooo nice to reconnect with someone you’ve known for a long time. You get to catch up on the details of their lives and get that warm, fuzzy and grounded feeling all at the same time. 🙂

Their two kids are grown and out of the house, but A did not lack for entertainment. We met up with some of LH’s friends who also had an 8-year-old boy and visited the Goldfield Ghost Town. It’s a super cute little Old West town complete with a (really high) zipline, ice cream, restaurant, and lots of fun kitschy shops. My son’s favorite part was the zipline, once he finally got up the courage to go on it. He was also itchin’ for an old-fashioned cowboy gun and a sheriff’s badge. I’m sure he would’ve liked a 10-gallon hat as well, but it wouldn’t have fit in our luggage.

Part of the main street in Goldfield Ghost Town.

120-foot high zipline.

The second day we spent a couple of hours at the OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, which wasn’t as big as the Baltimore Aquarium, but it was pretty impressive for being in the middle of the desert. A is currently on a shark kick, so anything to do with sharks makes him happy. Part of the wall in the ground-floor bathrooms was made up of viewing glass for the shark tank, which was a unique feature. And the aquarium itself was part of a much larger complex that also had a Titanic exhibit (of all things), mirror maze, butterfly wonderland, animatronic dinosaur world, bumper boats, and a splash pad with music and bubbles. I found out later it also had an ice bar, so we’ll have to visit that next time. 😉

OdySea complex, home to the aquarium in Scottsdale.

Some aquarium highlights.

But the best part of the trip was hanging out with LH and her hubby at their place. They had a lovely heated pool in the backyard, and A was in it as often as he could get someone to watch or join him. The day that we left he showed up in the living room after breakfast in his swimsuit. I told him we wouldn’t be able to swim because we had to head to the airport. And he said, most indignantly, “What about my morning dip??”

The only thing that marred our good time was the flights. I had intentionally packed only carry-on luggage since we were just going for a couple days and figured it would save time in the airport. I’d streamlined my liquids and cosmetics to make sure they were all under the required amounts and would fit in a quart-sized Ziploc. But we ended up having to “gate check” our carry-ons because they’d overbooked the flights and supposedly didn’t have enough space.

Except…they didn’t “gate check” them, they threw them under the plane with the checked luggage, so they had to be retrieved from baggage claim both times. AND there ended up being a ton of empty overhead space. So the whole thing really pissed me off for some reason.

ANYWAY, we had a great time while were in Phoenix, and I’m really glad we went. Next time we will have to stay longer! I do love the desert…in the spring before it hits 100F. And it was pretty amazing to be there when the cacti were blooming. That was a first for me. I didn’t get a good shot myself, but here’s one I borrowed from the internet. Enjoy!

Viking in costume.

Yep, you read that right. We went to a Viking festival in Manassas, VA this weekend. Apparently this isn’t the first place that most people think of when they hear the word Viking, and I’ve been on the receiving end of a few raised eyebrows when I describe our weekend activities. But it was great fun! I even enjoyed it more than…gasp…the one in Iceland.

I had a fairly difficult time trying to find any kind of dedicated website about it, but they do have a FB page with some info. The festival was started last year by two women…one of whom is from Iceland but has lived in Manassas for the last 30 years. The other woman is of Norwegian descent and sits on the board of the Sons of Norway in Fairfax.

And it was much bigger than I expected! It was even larger than the Scottish festival that we went to last summer. They had music and dancers, food trucks, vendor stalls, reenactments and even a Viking ship that “sailed” down I-95 from Philadelphia. Everything you would hope a Viking festival would be.

A checking out the shields.

Pottery vendors in costume.

We went with a friend and her two daughters (the same ones with whom we’d visited an actual Viking ship last October). We were super lucky and found close street parking, then wandered around until the kids had had enough, which was conveniently right before it started to seriously rain. The kids seemed most interested in watching the reenactments, checking out the wares for sale (they each picked out a faux fox tail), and watching a guy make chain mail.

After the festival, we dropped them all home and stayed for pizza, beer, video games and good conversation. It was a great day all around. 🙂

“The Norseman” visiting from Philadelphia.

I love wildflowers. When we lived in London, I planned our fifth anniversary weekend around the hope of seeing carpets of bluebells in the Forest of Dean. Unfortunately we only found a small patch. It was lovely, and the medieval forest was really wild, so to speak. But I was a little disappointed.

Common bluebells in the Forest of Dean, UK.

In Iceland, my wildflower needs were filled in the months of May and June by the fantastic lupine that has spread all over the country. It was so gorgeous!! Loved it.

Stunning lupine near Geysir in Iceland.

So when I saw that the nearby Riverbend Park was advertising Virginia bluebell tours, I couldn’t help dragging my son along. Virginia bluebells are slightly different than common bluebells in that they have a sweet little trumpet shape.

We didn’t make it on the tours themselves, but I plotted out on the map where they had walked, so we got to meander along at our own pace for free. It still wasn’t quite the “carpet” of flowers I kept visualizing…for one thing they were a bit too tall and bushy and far between. But they made me happy. And it was a fun outing in a lovely park.

Fun Fact: A portion of the 710-mile Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (PHT) runs through the park for those much more motivated than I am.

Virginia bluebell.

Bluebell path and fallen trees.

Thorfinn trying to throw himself into the Potomac at every opportunity.

The pleasant waterfront picnic area.

Technically Mr. Mom was a stay-at-home dad played by Michael Keaton in 1983, but I thought calling myself “Ms. Dad” sounded weird. So I’m sticking with Mr. Mom. This is the part of myself I sometimes call upon as the single mother of an 8-year-old boy.

Don’t get me wrong, some of it comes naturally and isn’t what I would consider a “dad” function at all. I personally love many of the things that he’s into…like science, math, earthworms, books about ninjas and mythology, and the occasional fart joke. I’ve always helped him with his homework and talked to him about his growing body. I taught him how to play chess and always figured I’d be the one to teach him how to drive because I was the more patient parent.

But sometimes I am more conscious of the fact that I’m his mom and not his dad, maybe just because his dad used to do certain things with him…like taking him to a Father & Son barber shop. Or practicing his martial arts moves with him at home so he can pass a skills test. Or taking him to a video game arcade.

He’s asked me a few times if I can hurry up and get married again so I can get him a new daddy. But I’ve already told him that I don’t really plan on getting hitched a second time. So he’s just gonna have to get used to having me for a daddy…Mr. Mom.

…I’d have no luck at all. Or so the saying goes. As my friends on FB already know, this is how my day went yesterday:

So my car suddenly died in the parking lot while picking up Thorfinn [dog] after work. I felt like I was being so organized calling USAA roadside assistance and organizing a tow, while simultaneously downloading the Uber app and requesting a ride so that I could pick [my son] up before after-school care closed. Too bad I didn’t think to take my house keys off the ring when I left them in the car for the tow truck driver.

I’m generally a positive person, and I don’t think focusing on the negative is very productive. But I have noticed a certain trend over the last year…one thing after another has gone wrong…to the extent where I’m starting to wonder if the universe is just messing with me.

So I thought I would take an objective inventory of the last several years to see how often these things really happen. Not including one-time life-altering events like death and divorce, these are just really annoying things that seem to require a lot of time and money…and possibly bad luck.

Belize 2011-13 (two years)

  • Child Health Emergencies/Visit to the ER: 3 (one massive head bump on the tile floor, and two choking incidents requiring baby Heimlich maneuver.)
  • Times child ran off and disappeared in a large crowd: 0
  • Cat visits to the vet not related to travel: 0
  • Dog visits to the vet not related to travel: NA (didn’t have a dog yet)
  • Car accidents: 0
  • Car problems: 0
  • Broken appliances flooded the house: 0
  • Got locked out of the house: 0

London 2013-15 (two years)

  • Child Health Emergencies/Visit to the ER: 1 (one massive bump on the head from bouncing on the bed and hitting head on the windowsill)
  • Times child ran off and disappeared in a large crowd: 2
  • Cat visits to the vet not related to travel: 0
  • Dog visits to the vet not related to travel: NA (didn’t have a dog yet)
  • Car accidents: 0
  • Car problems: 1 (battery died due to lack of use)
  • Broken appliances flooded the house: 1 (our washer flooded the apartment below us)
  • Got locked out of the house: 0

Iceland 2015-2018 (almost three years)

  • Child Health Emergencies/Visit to the ER: 2 (one systemic allergic reaction, and one possible concussion)
  • Times child ran off and disappeared in a large crowd: 1 (holiday in Edinburgh)
  • Cat visits to the vet not related to travel: 1 (cat was a little stressed after quarantine)
  • Dog visits to the vet not related to travel (or neutering): 0
  • Car accidents: 0
  • Car problems: 1 (battery died on holiday after son left dome light on)
  • Broken appliances flooded the house: 0
  • Got locked out of the house: 0

Washington, DC 2018-2019 (one year)

  • Child Health Emergencies/Visit to the ER: 2 (possible concussion, and possible pneumonia)
  • Times child ran off and disappeared in a large crowd: 0
  • Cat visits to the vet not related to travel: 1 (urinary tract infection)
  • Dog visits to the vet not related to travel: 10
  • Car accidents: 1
  • Car problems: 1 (battery died due to loose cable)
  • Broken appliances flooded the house: 1 (the washer above us flooded one of the bedrooms in our apartment)
  • Got locked out of the house: 10

So here are my observations based on the data:

  1. It seems that most things are happening at about the same frequency as they have in the past…although so far it’s all been front loaded in the first year of this tour.
  2. My one traffic incident is directly related to driving in a big city. (Belmopan population 14,000; London didn’t drive; Reykjavik pop. 122,000; DC metro area pop. 6,216,589). It’s amazing I don’t get in an accident every week (knock on wood).
  3. The amount of times I’ve locked myself out of the house is directly proportional to how often I take the dog out, which my husband used to do.
  4. Living in an apartment exposes my dog to a ton of other dogs and their assorted contagious illnesses compared to our nice quiet sanitized space in Iceland.
  5. No longer having another adult around to help take care of things highlights each issue and makes it more stressful because I’m the only one who can deal with it.

I’m happy to say that I do not appear to have any worse luck than usual and that most of my current problems are purely situational and can be attributed to now being single and living in Washington, DC. Here’s hoping things calm down for the last year of our tour. Have I mentioned lately that I’m bidding in September? 🙂

The lobby of the Willard Hotel (photo from hotel website).

Today was the last day of the Cherry Blossom Festival for 2019. Over the last week we managed to squeeze in two more un-official events: cherry blossom gelato at Dolce Gelati in old town Alexandria with friends and a mommy-son cherry blossom afternoon tea at the Willard Hotel in downtown DC.

The gelato was much better than I’d anticipated. I thought it would probably just be cherry ice cream with a fancy name, but it tasted like they’d put a bit of rose water in it, so it actually had a lovely floral flavor. Unfortunately our ice cream date with friends ended abruptly when my son wiped out while running on some large rocks at the Alexandria waterfront and shaved the top layer of skin off his knee. My friend NS was really thoughtful and went and grabbed my car from its parking spot so my kiddo wouldn’t have to hobble for blocks all bloodied up.

But he survived the rest of the week unharmed, and today we drove downtown for a special afternoon tea at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. The Willard is two blocks east of the White House and was created in 1847 when the owner, Henry Willard, leased six existing buildings and combined and extended them into a famous luxury hotel.

Part of the tea menu and our tea tray.

The dessert plate…mmm.

Funny anecdote from Wikipedia: “The first group of three Japanese ambassadors to the United States stayed at the Willard with seventy-four other delegates in 1860, where they observed that their hotel room was more luxurious than the U.S. Secretary of State’s house. It was the first time an official Japanese delegation traveled to a foreign destination, and many tourists and journalists gathered to see the sword-carrying Japanese.”

Fifty years later the city of Tokyo donated 2000 cherry trees to the United States. And I never knew this until we moved here this time…but when the trees were inspected by the Department of Agriculture, they found an infestation of insects and disease. So President Taft had the trees BURNED, and the Secretary of State had to write a letter to the Japanese Ambassador expressing their sincere regret. Two years later, Japan responded by gifting another 2000 trees, plus 1,020 more, for a total of 3,020 beautiful cherry trees.

And a brief 107 years after that, we found ourselves at the Willard enjoying the cherry blossom-themed  afternoon tea, and it was fantastic! The sandwiches were creative and super tasty with lobster, boursin cheese, lemon-scented cream cheese, strawberry chicken salad…and my favorite was the smoked turkey with pecan and pimento cheese mousse. They had a traditional scone and a green tea scone that my son covered with marmalade and inhaled.

But, of course, the best part of afternoon tea for any kid is always the desserts on the top plate. My son’s not a fan of the sandwiches, so he had a side of fries and a glass of milk. But he enjoyed sharing my sweets, particularly the cherry éclair and the jasmine tea shortbread cookie. And his mind was absolutely blown by the little cherry tree made out of chocolate and cotton candy. We both give the cherry blossom afternoon tea at the Willard two enthusiastic thumbs up!!

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