Map of Iceland by Giraffarte at Dreamstime.com.

Bidding for the 2019 Summer transfer season is quickly approaching. We’re not on that cycle, so I’m not overly focused on it, but I thought I’d give my two cents on the Pros & Cons for folks that might be considering throwing their hat into the ring for a tour at Embassy Reykjavik.

Pros

  1. It’s Iceland!! And Iceland is really popular right now. So friends that might not have come to visit you yet might do it now! Icelandair is still running their free stopover program that started in the 1960s (!) and really took off in the 2000s. So you can either stop there at no cost on your way to Europe or go directly on Icelandair or on their discount airline, WOW, which has some pretty decent fares. Both are adding new US destinations all the time. From the East Coast it’s only a 5-hour flight, depending on your departure point. And some Icelandair flights even simulate an aurora for passengers with colored cabin lights on night flights. 🙂
  1. Housing – All the housing that was in our housing pool was amazing. Most commutes were under 20 minutes. Some folks lived in larger houses in the suburbs, which still weren’t very far away, and others lived in apartments downtown…most with sea views. Our house was 15-mins from the embassy, had two stories, a basement, a fenced backyard, a garage, and two solariums. And it bordered a park where we walked our dog every day. Some folks even had saunas and hot tubs. It was awesome!
  1. Proximity to Mainland Europe – There’s not much in the way of Baroque architecture or 1,000-year-old castles, but Iceland is still part of Europe and has a long and interesting Viking history and Nordic culture. For a small capital city with only 200,000 people in the metro area (London had 13 million), it has an impressive amount of international cafes and restaurants. Even though flights to mainland Europe weren’t always as short and cheap as I would’ve liked, it just depended on your destination. You could get to Edinburgh in two hours, where Athens took the better part of a day. But they’re still shorter and cheaper than coming from the US!
  1. Family Friendly – Icelanders don’t love kids the way Italians love kids, but they trust them, and they trust other people. So it’s a very safe society where children are allowed to run around and be themselves without being micromanaged by the government. They actually do leave their babies in the stroller outside the restaurant or café when they’re inside…without fearing a visit from Child Protective Services. And it’s a very active society, so you can get your kids out in nature instead of being glued to the electronics.
  1. Nature – I could follow this point with no words and a few hundred pictures of how gorgeous the landscape is (do a Google image search on “Iceland nature”). But I’ll try to keep it somewhat brief. Waterfalls, glaciers, ice bergs, hot springs, black sand beaches, basalt columns, geysers, auroras, snow, volcanoes, lupine, puffins, whales, swans, horses, seals, sheep, reindeer, arctic fox, and every outdoor sport you could possibly imagine.

 

Jack Nicholson’s character at the end of “The Shining.”

Cons

  1. Climate – Twenty hours of daylight/darkness…whichever you like least. I loved the dark winter…it’s cozy and cuddly and promotes great sleep. But I hated waking up at 3am in the summer to go to the bathroom and being blinded by the sun, then tossing and turning for hours because your body now thinks it’s time to get up. Some people hate the cold or the rain. If so, don’t bid on Iceland! I love the snow, so I would actually put climate in the “pros.” 🙂
  1. Isolation – Like the daylight/darkness, this might bother some people more than others. I think it might be easier for families that are naturally plugged into certain social structures like schools or churches. We had a very small Embassy staff and still had two people curtail…both were single women. A lot of local folks are related to each other and already have all the friends and family that they need, so it can be a tough society to break into. It can also create a bit of a pressure-cooker effect. If you have any personal issues that need dealing with, Iceland can blow them wide open…again, that also might be a good thing.
  1. Island Time – Even though it was an island in the North Atlantic and not the Caribbean, no one was particularly in a hurry to get things done. I suppose some people might view this as a positive thing, but it could get a little frustrating if you actually wanted to accomplish something. It took a repair guy over six months to fix a tile he had broken in the solarium floor when looking for a leaky pipe. He would never email us or take our calls, but he would show up unexpectedly at the house at dinner time, and if we didn’t let him in right at that moment, we wouldn’t see him again for months. Which leads to my next point…
  1. Communication – Three weeks into the school year, the local school was still making changes to the class schedule. Many people that were invited to embassy events would never RSVP; they would just show up…or not. Half the time our business contacts would simply not respond to email. Word of mouth was a big thing, so if you weren’t in the loop, you just didn’t hear about things. It once took me three months to pay a bill for having my car detailed because no one would return my calls or emails to tell me how much it was.
  1. It’s REALLY expensive. More expensive than London if you take out housing and just compare the cost of living…particularly restaurants and alcohol. And things like hotels, parking and admission to the Blue Lagoon increased even in the two years that we were there to take advantage of the booming tourist economy. The Blue Lagoon now scales the price throughout the day according to how busy it is during the hour that you want to arrive. But it’s still cheaper than living in DC and paying for your own housing!

So those are my thoughts! Iceland will always have a special place in my heart. Half way through our tour another 18 months seemed like a really long time. But in the end it went so fast, and we had a hard time letting it go.

Best of luck!!

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My little Hyundai. ❤

After six long months, my beloved personal vehicle finally arrived from overseas and was delivered to me safe and sound first thing on Tuesday morning. I purchased this car when I found out that I was pregnant with my son, and it’s been to every Foreign Service post with us.

Even though the State Dept has very strict rules about shipping your vehicle stripped and empty, mine was shipped from my last post in May with the studded winter tires still on it, and the summer tires loaded in the back. So I was happily surprised to find that the summer tires were still in the car when it arrived and had not been stolen. Since the vehicles are not locked in order to be moved, it’s a definite risk. And I’ve known people who have even had their hubcaps stolen in transit.

With this in mind, I was even more surprised to find that every single item that was in the car when I unknowingly left it Iceland in January was also still in it…and even a few more from my husband’s vehicle…like car seats, children’s gloves, windshield frost scrapers, a parka, an empty soda can, and about two dozen of my music CDs and audiobooks. So again, very thankful that none of it disappeared en route.

Now the big item on the agenda was to get it registered in the state of Virginia, which first requires an emissions test and a safety inspection. Since they removed the license plates before shipping it, I had no tags. When I tried to get a DMV trip pass online, it wouldn’t go through because I don’t yet have a Virginia driver’s license. So I took a chance and surreptitiously drove her on down to the testing and inspections place around the corner from our apartment. Unfortunately, they weren’t doing inspections because they were out of stickers. So I took the car to the next closest place on Google maps, which was about a 10-minute drive into Arlington.

I waited in line for an hour and passed my safety inspection. But because it had been sitting in a container for the last two months, it failed the emissions test. The guy at the counter told me that I needed to drive it an additional 75-100 miles and then come back. Exqueeze me?? 100 MILES?? Knowing that I still had studded tires and no plates, I tried to figure out how to avoid becoming one big moving violation.

I decided that there was really no way around it, and the Dulles Airport access road would be the best bet for a somewhat isolated route that would cover a decent amount of mileage in a short period of time. From Arlington it’s about 20 miles out to the airport, so technically I would have to make two trips. But I figured that “75-100” was a fairly large swing, and I crossed my fingers that one 40-mile roundtrip would be sufficient. Needless to say I was a little nervous when I passed the police car parked at the construction site on the side of the road…and when a black Acura decided to randomly tailgate me for about 5 miles when there was no one around in either direction to prevent him from easily passing. But nothing came of it, and I finally returned and passed my emissions test.

Next was the Dreaded Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The curse of the VA DMV is that no one is ever able to get what they need done in one trip. (Read my fellow FS blogger’s post about their five trips to the DMV here.) So I was extra careful to print out the checklist and make sure I had every single piece of documentation they could possibly want: proof of emissions test, proof of safety inspection, proof of address, proof of insurance, title, ID, and a completed registration application.

I went online to see which DMV within a 15-mile radius had the lowest wait time and headed over to one in Arlington, which was the only one showing less than an hour. When I arrived there were about 120 people waiting, but they had 22 customer service windows open, so I did manage to get in in a little over 65 minutes.

I was confident that this would be my one and only visit and that I had everything I needed. Of course I was wrong. It took them about two minutes to find my name in their system and see that I had lived in VA before I got married…and of course had a different last name. So even though I have been married for over 10 years, was able to show them no less than five forms of government ID with my current last name on it, and have held drivers licenses in two other states…they refused to register my vehicle without first seeing my marriage license. I WAS SO PISSED.

I was even more annoyed when they agreed that if I had never lived in Virginia before and had walked in off the street from some random state that it wouldn’t have been a problem. But because I already had an account, they had to change my name, and the DROPDOWN box for a name change only had three choices. Time to think outside the dropdown box, people!!!

I finally just accepted the fact that I had no choice. And my customer service agent was actually very sweet and apologetic, and promised that if I retrieved the marriage license before 5:00pm that I wouldn’t have to wait in line again and could just walk right up to her window. Happily I actually DID have my marriage license at home among my vital records, otherwise it would’ve been sitting in a box with the rest of our household goods in the Port of Baltimore. So I did retrieve it and was finally able to get my brand new VA license plates…and picked the one with the little lighthouses on them, which made me a tiny bit happier.

As a resident of Falls Church, you are also required to register your vehicle with the city so they can get your tax money. But at least it only takes 10 minutes, and they’re not nearly as ridiculous. So I knocked that out on the way to pick my son up from camp at the end of the day.

The final challenge was to get the studded tires off my car. I had left it at the shop where it was tested and was driving around in a rental car. They said it would only take a couple hours, and they’d give me a call when it was ready. When they did call, it was to tell me that my tread was gone and that I needed new tires. I did know this, so I agreed to purchase a new set.

What I didn’t realize was that they didn’t have them in stock and were going to order them from another location. So they were NOT ready by the end of the day. Nor were they ready by the end of the next day when it was time to return my rental car. This also pissed me off, so I decided they could stick it (which was very satisfying after my experience with the DMV)…and I was going to retrieve my vehicle regardless and just take it somewhere else. But they offered to knock $50 off the price, so I picked it up anyway and plan to bring it back on Saturday morning.

So I’m still rolling around on studded tires hoping to make it through the next 24 hours without getting a ticket. I didn’t realize how LOUD they were on normal pavement, and the security guards at work are now giving me a good-natured hard time. But hopefully it will all be resolved this weekend, I can take the extra set of tires out of the back and take her for a thorough cleaning. And then all will be right with the world.

A lovely lunch with EB at Rus Uz in Arlington.

I love to eat. And I love to try new foods. I don’t particularly like to cook, so eating out is one of my favorite pastimes when we’re overseas. Happily the DC area has a ton of restaurants, annual food festivals, food trucks and neighborhood food fairs. They also have an impressive amount of ethnic eateries.

I’ve decided that in lieu of overseas restaurants, I’m going to spend the next two years checking out the foreign fare that’s available locally. I started doing this a couple months ago without realizing it when I had a craving for shawarma. There’s a great little place in Reykjavik called Ali Baba, and we used to go there for lunch fairly regularly.

I didn’t find any shawarma in my immediate area at the time, but I did find some Mediterranean flavor at a Greek place called Plaka Grill. Conveniently, they have two locations in Vienna and Falls Church. I visited the one in Vienna, and it was a great spot with lots of options. I’ve been there a few times now and have tried the lamb and chicken gyros, dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves), calamari, hummus and baklava. All very tasty. My son even ate the better part of a chicken souvlaki skewer when I took him.

Plaka Grill (internet photos).

Last week I finally tracked down a shawarma place conveniently located between work and our doggy daycare. It’s called Haifa Grill. Technically the address is in Falls Church, but geographically it’s in Bailey’s Crossroads. Their shawarma was about twice the size of the ones in Iceland for half the cost. It didn’t quite have the same flavor, of course. I think the folks that owned Ali Baba were from Pakistan, and I have no idea where the family that owns Haifa Grill is from…maybe Haifa! 😉 I’ll have to ask them. But it was yummy. I think next time I’ll try the smaller pita version.

Haifa Grill (internet photos).

Today I tried something completely new…plov! It is the national dish of Uzbekistan and made up mostly of seasoned rice, lamb, carrots, onions and raisins. It was super yummy, and I would definitely have it again. I met up with EB, a friend that I met while working in London, who has become my lunch buddy since we arrived back in January, and went to Rus Uz. Another great family-run restaurant, Rus Uz in Arlington serves both Russian and Uzbek dishes with favorites like borsch, caviar, blinis, beef stroganoff, and chicken Kiev as well as plov, manti (Uzbek dumplings), and lots of other things in between.

I first read about this place in a fellow FS blog, Collecting Postcards. Currently in Australia, the author was posted in Uzbekistan for her first tour. You can read her review of Rus Uz here…and follow her adventures!

Rus Uz interior (my photo 🙂 ).

Well, that’s it for the moment. I’ll see what other exciting places I can find and keep you posted. Bon appetit!

Strawberry picking at Hollin Farms in Delaplane, VA.

One of the things that’s always bummed me out about my favorite Foreign Service bloggers is that they inevitably cease blogging once they get back to DC. We’re from the West Coast originally, so in every practical sense, the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia area) is just another two-year post to be explored, documented and shared…which also motivates me to continue to try and find new things to do…and not go crazy with a bouncy seven-year-old and two animals in a tiny apartment.

The first day of summer isn’t officially until June 21, but as far as I’m concerned it started on Memorial Day Weekend, because that’s when they FINALLY opened the pool at our apartment complex. Ironically we didn’t actually try out the pool until last weekend as they immediately closed it again because they were having a problem with their contract lifeguards. When we finally did get into it, A was completely underwhelmed and announced that it was “so boring and doesn’t even have a water slide.” Almost every suburban pool in Iceland has a water slide. It really should be an international requirement. 😉

But never fear, we still got our feet wet that weekend and spent some quality time with friends. Our friend VK and her family live in Bethesda and belong to the Bretton Woods Recreation Center up in Germantown. So we had a mommy-kid outing by the pool, and it was so lovely and relaxing in a nice quiet and leafy spot. It reminded me of how I’ve always imagined summer camps on the East Coast might look. (Not completely off topic, here’s a fun article on real summer camps used as filming locations from favorite movies like The Parent Trap and Meatballs.)

The pool at Bretton Woods Recreation Center in Germantown, MD (internet photo).

On Memorial Day we met up with another lovely friend and her two kiddos, and after some visiting and catching up, we walked a few blocks to downtown Falls Church for the local Memorial Day Parade. I’m not a big fan of big-city crowds, so I was very happy that there was a good turnout and clear enthusiasm and support for local organizations, but it was not a mad crush of people. We even brought Thorfinn in order to get him out of the house and include him in the family fun.

Memorial Day Parade, Falls Church, VA.

Speaking of dogs, I’ve been trying to find more dog-friendly events and venues and have found a surprising number of dog-loving vineyards in Northern Virginia. So weekend-before-last A and I drove out into the wilds of Virginia farm country to pick strawberries and cherries and to investigate one of the aforementioned vineyards. We didn’t actually bring the dog as he wouldn’t have been allowed in the strawberry patch, and it was waaaaaaaaaay too hot to leave him in the car. The air temperature was almost too hot for me.

The strawberries were pretty much picked through, but we got a nice little basket of cherries before heading over to Barrel Oak Winery for lunch. They had a tasty and refreshing iced sangria and were serving fresh Virginia oysters on the half shell. A had a great time digging in a massive pile of dirt while I tried to cool off at a picnic table in the shade. We’ll definitely have to take the dog back there sometime but might have to wait until the fall when it’s not so hot and muggy.

Vineyard and picnic tables at Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, VA.

And now school is out!! And summer camp has begun. Not that that really changes anything in my day, but it’s something new and fun for A. After our rather disorganized experience with the Icelandic summer camp system, it’s nice to be able to register for day camp one single time through the same website as his after-school program, and he’s set for the entire summer.

Stay tuned for more summer fun in Virginia!

I’ve always found horoscopes to be entertaining. I’ve never planned my life around them, but it’s usually fun to look at them after the fact and see how many predicted things actually happened. The ones from Elle magazine are a favorite…those and the little scrolls from 7-Eleven. And I must say that their annual prediction for 2018 has been startling accurate so far. I’ve italicized the interesting parts…and included their Wonder Woman gif because it’s awesome. 🙂

Capricorn:

“This is a major moment in your personal history, Capricorn. Your ruling planet, Saturn, has returned to your sign for the first time since 1991, marking the closure of a long cycle and the start of a new one that will span the next 30 years. Hosting the taskmaster planet isn’t the easiest, TBH. Outmoded structures will collapse—from relationships that have passed their prime to a job you’ve outgrown to habits and beliefs that no longer serve you. This reinvention tour will last until December 2020, so you’ve got the next three years to tear down and rebuild your identity. You’ll emerge a leaner, stronger and more authentic version of yourself—provided you pay Saturn’s dues and do the hard work of self-reflection.

“Luckily, you could find a tribe of people who will hold you accountable and inspire you to think outside the box. Until November 8, 2018, expansive Jupiter will be in Scorpio and your teamwork house, drawing you out of hermit mode and sparking fruitful new collaborations. Your social circle could triple in size and reach (both IRL and online, as the eleventh house rules technology). With multicultural ambassador Jupiter at the helm, you could team up with people from diverse backgrounds, both for friendship and world-bettering causes.

“One special person might rise above the fray this summer, when a July 12 solar eclipse in Cancer whooshes into your committed relationship house. Stay tuned for unexpected developments with both love and business over the coming six months. For couples, this could be a moment to renew vows or make things official, whether with a ring or some formal gesture of togetherness. Your finances and living situation could also go through big shifts thanks to four game-changing eclipses on the Leo/Aquarius axis in January, February, July and August. You might change jobs, buy or sell property or get involved in a lucrative joint venture. Eclipses can bring surprise endings and beginnings, so if a source of income or emotional support is “eclipsed” away, rest assured that a new one will soon be coming in.”

 

I know we technically didn’t sign our lease until March, but we’ve been in DC since mid-January, and June is almost the middle of the year, so I feel like we’re almost six months in. As much as I’d love to be counting down on a 24-month calendar for our two-year tour, I’m sure we’ll probably have to start the clock from now rather than January since A will have to finish the school year before we can move again, so I’ll probably be extending a bit.

But things are slowly coming together in fits and starts (literally and figuratively). After two months of arguing with Dish Network over why the satellite receiver box didn’t work, we finally got our extended cable package…which is essentially the exact same channels we had when we moved in. So now I feel like I’m plugged into the wider world again and can watch international news on the BBC…or just stay up until 11:00pm cuddled up on the couch with the dog and a glass of wine watching old ‘80s movies.

I’ve pretty much sorted through all the stuff we had in storage and have donated over half of it to the Salvation Army. Soooo happy they pick up! Although I had to do it in two installments as they were a little surly about how much stuff I was getting rid of. Seems to me they should be happy to have more items to sell, but they were fussing about how their computer system had left off a line about how many boxes there were, and now there wasn’t enough room in the truck, so they only took half of it. I was tempted to donate the rest of it to a different organization, but the guys that picked up the second round were much kinder and more appreciative. So I will roll up my sleeves and start all over again when our HHE arrives from Iceland.

With the help of GSO at the embassy in Iceland, I was able to sell our second car that I had picked up locally in Reykjavik. Apparently I paid way too much for it the first time, because I couldn’t get anyone to buy it until I reduced the price by almost 30% of what I paid for it. We’d only had it for two years, hadn’t put too many miles on it, had invested in some new parts, and included a set of winter tires, which are outrageously expensive themselves. Normally I would write it off as a huge loss, but the exchange rate seemed to work in my favor for once, so it could’ve been a lot worse.

Thus our massive moving checklist is almost complete:

  • Rent a car.
  • Find housing, sign lease and initiate utilities.
  • Find and register A for school.
  • Find a job and submit transfer paperwork.
  • Ship the animals and pick them up at the airport.
  • Buy dog license.
  • Organize release and delivery of items from gov’t storage.
  • Buy local cell phone and return gov’t phone to post.
  • Packout and ship our UAB, HHE and primary POV (car).
  • Purchase E-ZPass to stop getting fines on electronic toll roads.
  • Sell secondary POV.
  • Unpack UAB and storage items and donate unwanted personal items.

Still to come:

  • Unpack HHE and donate unwanted personal items.
  • Get temporary plates so I can remove winter tires, get emissions test and registration for vehicle.
  • Return rental car.
  • Pay all final overseas bills and close Icelandic bank account.

THEN we will have officially relocated to the United States. 🙂

Thorfinn as a puppy. 🙂

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably read about our dog, Thorfinn, named after a famous Viking jarl in Orkney, Scotland. Thorfinn also happens to be the name of one of the first Icelandic explorers. He is a sweet and beautiful cream-colored Golden Retriever that we purchased in 2015 from a responsible breeder on a farm about an hour north of Reykjavik as a Christmas gift for our son. We figured he would be a great companion since A is an only child, and moving a lot can be lonely and isolating.

They didn’t hit it off as well as we’d hoped in the beginning. A is a pretty sensitive kid and reacted poorly to being scratched and nibbled on by sharp puppy claws and teeth. But they both enjoyed a good run on the rocky beaches near Reykjavik, and as they’ve gotten older and a little calmer, they’ve started to bond more, which makes me happy. I still think they’ll be best friends given enough time.

Boy and his dog on the beach in Reykjavik.

Unfortunately, the dog has also been a ridiculous challenge for me both physically and emotionally since we’ve moved back to the States. I don’t mind walking him as it gets me off my butt. But he has a ton of energy and is a fairly large dog, loves socializing with people and other dogs, and gets really excited when he sees them. So he’s done a number on my knees trying to restrain him on walks to keep him from pulling me over. This was an issue for my 6’2”, 200-lb husband in Iceland as well, so I knew I would have a struggle on my hands when he could no longer help take care of him.

Happily, this problem was completely solved by a wonderful invention called the nose leash that a fellow dog-owner recommended. Thorfinn’s trainer in Iceland had suggested a choke collar, but he would still hit the end of his leash running and then just stand up on his hind legs to ease the tension while slowly choking himself. Ugh, it was awful. So I was more than happy to get the “Gentle Leader”, and now he trots along happily at my side like the best version of himself I could possibly imagine.

The biggest problem has been doggy bathroom accidents in our fifth-floor apartment. He was fine the first six weeks, after adjusting to the initial time change and travel, but then three things happened at once. We went away for Easter break and put him in a kennel, he contracted Giardia, and I started back to work. To make a long story short, I’ve cleaned up over 20 dog messes in the last two months. It is disgusting and exhausting, especially when he goes multiple times in the middle of the night, and has almost pushed me over the edge.

Needless to say my emotions were already a bit raw the first few months that we were here, and I have dissolved into a puddle of tears on more than one occasion. He wasn’t interested in the Porch Potty that I purchased after using it a single time. But I refused to give up, and after taking yet another stool sample to the vet who determined that he was now a perfectly healthy dog, I acknowledged the fact that this was possibly a behavioral problem, and that it might be best to find him a new home environment where he would not be left alone for 10 hours a day and would be happier.

Thorfinn sniffing the air on the back deck in Iceland.

I talked to my son about it a few times, and after much screaming on his part and crying on both our parts, I decided that I couldn’t give up quite yet and continued to search for solutions. The absolute last thing I wanted to do was to traumatize my poor child even further by getting rid of his puppy companion. My mother did the same thing to me with my cats in sixth grade, and I have never forgotten it. Plus he was such a GOOD sweet dog in every other regard. The idea of not having him in our lives broke my heart.

So I did some more research online and seemed to find a fairly simple solution. He needed more exercise to regulate his bowel movements, and I needed to feed him less, and STOP giving him canned food and treats of fruits and veggies. These things were fine in Iceland when he could access his yard anytime he wanted to but did not work in an apartment.

So we have adjusted his diet and started taking him to a quite reasonably-priced half-day of doggy daycare twice a week, so he can get some good fun exercise. And I am thrilled to report that this approach seems to be working, and he has not had a single accident since…not counting this weekend when he drained his water bowl, got feisty, and peed on the entertainment center while the technician was installing our new cable box. But we both love him and will keep the carpet cleaner handy. ❤

Thorfinn and his boy in our apartment in VA.

Donald Frady Park in Falls Church, VA.

This was my first Mother’s Day as a single mom, so I was very happy to spend part of the day with my lovely friend VK and her family. My son adores her two children, so it’s always extra nice to spend time with them because the kids are happy, and we get some girl time. 🙂

The day got off to a bit of a rough start though. Our dog started whining urgently around 6:30am. I figured he had to go to the bathroom, but I didn’t want to take him outside quite so early. And I really wanted him to use the new Porch Potty that I’d purchased for him. He’d peed on it successfully when we first got it but then hadn’t touched it the rest of the week.

So I opened the patio door and went back to bed. I prepared myself mentally for that the fact that one of two things was going to happen: either he was going to use the potty, or he was going to crap on the living room floor, and I’ll have to clean it up. I resolved not to get cranky if he did the latter, which is good, because that’s exactly what he did. I was fairly disappointed though. Why had I bought this thing if he wasn’t going to use it?

I’m now considering Plan D, which is to start coming home on my lunch break to let him out. Although, in retrospect, he’s rarely had an accident when we’re not home. It’s usually in the middle of the night or early in the morning when he’s not feeling well. But still he clearly needs more opportunities, and I hate leaving him alone all day. I have vowed to myself that our next post will be one where the housing has YARDS available.

After I cleaned up the living room, we had a quiet breakfast, enjoyed our free Sunday donuts from the apartment clubhouse, and then we managed to make it to church for the first time. We’d never really gone while we were overseas, but it was something I’d been wanting to do after things calmed down a little, and we could incorporate it into our weekly routine.

Falls Church, as its name suggests, has many lovely churches, and I enjoyed the one we went to. My son chose to stay with me rather than join the children’s program. He kept saying it was because he was shy, which he’s not, but I wasn’t going to push him. And he managed to stay somewhat calm and quiet through the entire service, which was a miracle in itself. Afterward he said it was because he didn’t want to leave me sitting alone on Mother’s Day. Aw, what a sweetheart! If I do say so myself.

From there we spent the afternoon at VK’s. The kids got to play, and we got to chat and wander around the neighborhood. We checked out their annual spring street fair, which was a little quiet due to inclement weather. But I’m happy not to be in crowds, and they had ice cream and a cake walk. 🙂 (We had done a bit of wandering around our own neighborhood the previous day and found a beautiful Victorian park in the middle of town that reminded me of London.)

Unfortunately A developed a migraine by the end of the day and ended up vomiting into a zip lock bag on the way to the car. But he napped in the car, rested a bit once we got home and was fine by bedtime.

So Mother’s Day was a bit like our life at the moment: a bit messy in parts but mostly positive with some good friends and quality time. I was thrilled that he still came home from school with a handmade Mother’s Day card, and I even managed to score a couple of roses. As far as I was concerned, it was perfect. 🙂

Today is the 10-year-anniversary of my marriage. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that since my husband and I separated in January. This is the first time in 10 years that we will not be together on our special day. When you walk down that aisle and imagine your future together, you never think this is where things are going to end up.

I’m not going to use this as a platform to vent about it as the whole situation is just overwhelmingly sad for our whole family. But unfortunately it is the right thing as well. I only mention it here because this is a blog about our life in the Foreign Service. If the structure of that life changes then so does the blog and what and how I write about it.

So I will take this moment and simply reflect on the good times we had over the last 10 years. And we will see where things go from here.

Checking out some local cherry trees in Kenwood, MD.

Another month has flown by, and summer is swiftly approaching…not that that will make a real difference in my life at the moment. But A will get to experience his first American summer break from school.

On the business end, I’ve started work at FSI (woo hoo!!). So happy and thankful that it all worked out. And the campus is gorgeous right now with all the cherry blossoms in bloom. Things are finally in motion, and we should be getting our household goods packed out from Iceland this week.

Here in our current home, we had our rental furniture removed and our stuff delivered from storage, which has been interesting. There are a few things we put in there back in 2011 when we joined, a few things from when we left Belize in 2013, and all of my mom’s things from after she passed away.

So I’ve been lovingly going through each box and deciding whether to keep or donate. I’d love to keep everything of my mom’s for sentimental value, but some things just aren’t that meaningful…like a random set of 12 white coffee mugs. Not even sure why she had those. But I’m happy to keep a lot of the knick-knacks she had from when I was a kid that so remind me of her.

On the fun side, we made it out to California to visit friends and family for spring break, and we had such a wonderful time. I don’t see my dad and step-mom as often as I’d like, so it was really lovely to spend some time with them. They’ve been in the same house since I was a kid, so it’s very grounding and comforting and warm and happy, which felt extra good after the chaos of the last few months.

While we were gone, I boarded the dog at a local kennel. It had potential, other than being twice as expensive as the kennel in Iceland, but it had some concerning results. Like he contracted giardia and had diarrhea in the apartment several times before I could get him to the vet. Ugh, SO nasty and disgusting…especially now that we have carpeted floors.

He also had a massive scab on one side of his face. I don’t know if he got that trying to escape from his crate at night or from another dog. Either way, I wasn’t impressed. He’s such a little love bug, there have been a few times at various dog parks here in the States where the dogs have been mean or aggressive, and he’s ended up hiding under a bench. Poor little guy. I’m sure he’s missing his home in Iceland. I know I am!

On a more positive note, we continue to try and get out and about locally and spent Easter at a friend’s house, complete with egg-hunt for the kids, champagne, a lovely dinner and wonderful company. We also caught up with some friends from Antarctica and went out to dinner one evening and to the Air & Space Museum at Dulles the next day.

Speaking of food, I’ve also signed up for Hello Fresh! We had our first box last week, and A and I had a lovely time cooking up a fancy burger meal together. So things are puttering along toward normalcy. When our HHE arrives, and our apartment is finally in order, I will finally begin to feel settled. Wonder what’s on the bid list for 2020.

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