Friday, July 30, 2010

Bun in the oven…

I saw an online discussion on slang terms for being pregnant – things like preggerz, with child, on stork watch, in the family way, knocked up, preggolicious… Well, I am all that.

Yes, it’s official, we are expecting. And we are thrilled! Just had an ultrasound to stage the pregnancy today and our due date is March 15, which means I am about 8 wks pregnant. I am not sure I believe that though because I feel and look way more pregnant than that. I guess I got chunky preemptively, you know, in anticipation of the pregnancy.

We are also apparently going to be geriatric parents. My new OBGYN, who looked way too young to be a doctor, pointed that out to me. My age was a definite risk factor, she said and proceeded to inform me about the increased risk for all kinds of serious problems for the baby if the mother is over 35. I’m 38. I was already aware of the risks and was stressing out about them. Of course, it’s her job to share that information with me but I was hoping for something a little more reassuring along the lines of “Congratulations!” Yeah, didn’t happen…

We have been trying to get pregnant, on and off, for several years now. We didn’t plan to take this long but life can be unpredictable. We had to wait out several periods when one of us was laid off and the insurance situation was less than optimal. Then, of course, there’s the fact that getting pregnant in your thirties is not as automatic as they want you to believe when you are 16. Either that or we should have been trying in the back seat of our car… Anyway, it took us a while and here we are pregnant at an age when some people may be getting close to becoming grandparents. Oh, well…

Be that as it may, we are all thrilled about being pregnant. Nia has been asking for a sibling ever since she learned that we sorta held the key to that particular puzzle. She seems to change her mind about wanting a brother or a sister. Lately, she’s been saying she wants a baby brother, so she can see his pee-pee – can you think of a better reason? My mom has been pleading and cajoling for another grandchild for years as well. She’s beyond happy. We told my dad via Skype yesterday and he cried tears of joy. We also called Paul’s parents and the news totally made their day.

Being happy and excited is part of it. The rest, of course, is being nervous and worrying. With every milestone, I think, “Once I get there, I will be able to relax.” But the truth is, you can never relax because as soon as one milestone passes, there’s another one to worry about. I want to make sure that everything is OK with the baby and all those genetic tests that they say you should take, especially if you are over 35, are making me very nervous. I am particularly scared of the two invasive ones, the Chorionic Villi Sampling and the amniocentesis because while they do tell you whether your child has genetic problems, they carry an uncomfortably high (to me) risk of losing the baby. We discussed those tests when I was pregnant with our first child but opted not to do any of them and were lucky to have a healthy baby. Things are different now though as I am over 35 and the stakes are higher. What has your experience with these been?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fingerprints, Flour and Whiskey

I am sure you’re wondering what those things have in common. Well, let me “splain.”

I took my mother to get fingerprinted for her US citizenship application today. The office where she had to appear for the fingerprinting procedure happened to be in Alexandria, but more specifically in the Mount Vernon area. I had never been to that particular office and wanted to leave plenty of time for the drive in case there was traffic. So we ended up getting there about an hour early. Shortly before we got to the office I noticed signs for George Washington’s Gristmill and Distillery. One of Paul’s brothers lives in that area, so we had driven by the gristmill/distillery many times. I always wanted to go see them because they seemed interesting but for one reason or another we never went. 

With an hour to spare, visiting the gristmill and distillery seemed like the perfect thing to do. So off we went. We got  our tickets, which were reasonable ($4 for adults, $2 for kids) and went to the gristmill first. It was pretty neat. My mom and I had seen mills back in Bulgaria and this one was similar but Nia hadn’t, so it was neat to show her how wheat is ground into flour and corn into cornmeal. She liked the big grinding stones and the huge waterwheel. We also learned that George Washington made really fine flour that he sold in Pennsylvania, New York, Boston, the Bahamas and Europe.2010-07-27 ikea & distillery

Then we headed for the distillery, which is only a short walk from the gristmill. There we learned that George Washington was the largest distiller in America in the late 1700s. We also got to see how whiskey is made. My mom was especially interested in the process and asked a lot of questions. I could see that she was thinking about trying to make whiskey. That is really not as crazy as it sounds because my family (on both sides) have been making wine an brandy for generations in Bulgaria. Some of my relatives even made wine and spirits industrially before the communists came to power in Bulgaria and nationalized their vineyards. When I was very young, I remember these huge 2-3-story-high wooden casks/barrels sitting in my family’s barns, which they had used for making wine (and had to eventually burn as firewood because they warped after sitting there unused forever).

But even though my family couldn’t make wine and spirits industrially anymore, they continued making some for our own consumption. I used to help by picking grapes and doing other odd jobs every year. To this day, my parents make their own red and white wine as well as brandy each year. Their wine is really good. The brandy (called rakia in Bulgarian) is very strong, kinda like vodka or grappa. I personally can’t stomach it – it’s too strong for me.

That was a long way of saying that my mom really knows about making spirits and it was cool to see her excited about whiskey. She wanted to know the proportions of grains and how long each part of the process took. Whiskey is another drink that’s not for me (guess I am a total lightweight), so it doesn’t much matter to me but it would be interesting to see her and my dad try to make whiskey in Bulgaria. I think it will be quite an experience for them. And yes, it is legal to make small quantities of wine and spirits for your own consumption in Bulgaria.

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As neat as our visit to the gristmill and distillery was, we had to go back to fingerprinting. It took a little waiting and some paperwork but the fingerprints are done and the next thing is for us to hear about my mom’s naturalization interview. We got a book to help my mom prepare for the US history, civics and English language portions of the citizenship test. Because my mom knows very little English, I will have to help her with her preparation but I don’t mind. It’s the least I could do. Plus, it will help me remember some key facts for the FSOT, which I foolishly plan to take again next year.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Project Downsizing

This project actually started in February when my husband got the Foreign Service offer. We sold and gave away (mostly gave away, really) a lot of our furniture and household stuff before the move. Then when we moved to DC our stuff was in long-term storage for a couple of months but when Paul got his DC assignment we had to take all of our stuff out of storage and try to fit it into our apartment. Since the apartment is smaller than our house, there was just no way to fit everything, so we found ourselves making donation piles again. We would have loved to get a little bit of cash for it but we donated most things to Goodwill and similar charitable organizations, so it will go to people who need it more than we do and we will get the tax write off.

And since we weren’t using our second car after moving to DC, we sold that too. We ended up taking it to Carmax and were able to get  Kelly Blue Book value for it, so we were cool with that. It had been a good car to us but there was no point letting it just sit in the parking lot.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the stuff we said goodbye to in the last few months. Note the bright green dresser. Several women fought for that thing. Ditto for our chest freezer and a couple other things. Those craigslist people are hardcore, especially when you are giving things away! You don’t want to be between them and the object of their desire because things can get ugly!

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Next up… our house in FL…, which has been kinda problematic, so wish us luck with it!

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Cooling off at Deep Creek

We took a trip to Deep Creek, MD last weekend with our FS friends the Fowlers, the Pratts and the Shows. One of Paul’s brothers, Ray and his family let us stay in their summer home there. Thank you so much, Ray and Mary!!!

It was fabulous to go to the mountains, get away from the heat and hang out with good friends. Here are several pictures from the adventure:


Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Skinny on Ambassadors

(from a kid’s perspective)

We were driving somewhere with Her Cuteness (our almost-7-year-old daughter Nia) last night when the topic of countries getting along came up. We were just about to explain to her what ambassadors were when she said, “Oh, I know what ambassadors are. They are people, who get embarrassed all the time.”

So now we know.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

FSOT Score Breakdown

I got my FSOT score breakdown yesterday. Not proud of it but thought posting it here will motivate me to do better next year. (That and I am just a sucker for pain and public humiliation.)

So, here we go: I needed a minimum of 154 on the multiple-choice part of the test to get my essay read. My score was lower, so my “brilliant” little essay was irrelevant.

My Job Knowledge and English Expression were not too shabby. They were not the highest I’ve seen but I am pleased with them, though I know I can improve them a little. 

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However, it’s the Biographic Information (Bio) section where things got really “epic.” Seeing my Bio score felt like falling flat on my face! It may well be the lowest Bio score I’ve ever seen! Part of it is that I didn’t finish the section but that can’t be everything.  A score this “epic” seems to suggest that I didn’t really get what that section was all about. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really prepare for it either. I looked at my resume a couple of times and that’s it because that section was all about me and what I’ve done in the past. And I’m supposed to know myself, right? Wrong!

So, it will be back to square one with the Bio section. Because with a score this bad, the only way to go is up, right.

One tip I got from the yahoo FSOT group that would have helped me with the time, if I knew it before the exam, is to answer all the questions that don’t require examples first because they are less time-consuming and then go back to the ones that require examples. This way even if you run out of time you’ve answered all the easy questions and perhaps most of the time-consuming ones.

If you have any other ideas/suggestions on the Bio section, please, send them my way. I would greatly appreciate them!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Nia has been playing teacher with her dolls a lot lately. She is very strict. When the dolls misbehave she sends them in “demention.”

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Monday, July 5, 2010

4th at Air Force Memorial

Our first 4th after joining the Foreign Service was spent with several other Foreign Service families.

First, we spent a few hours by the pool and the grills at the “mothership” (Oakwood Falls Church). Then around 6 p.m., together with the families of three of Paul’s friends from a-100, we headed for the Air Force Memorial (which apparently is where Life after Jerusalem also went for the fireworks, though we didn’t realize that at the time). All told there were 13 of us including seven kiddos (ages between 1 and 7) and two grandmas.

This was our second year watching the fireworks from the Air Force Memorial. We watched them from the same place last summer when we came to DC for Paul’s Foreign Service Oral Assessment. We really liked the location on a hill behind the Pentagon overlooking DC though there seemed to be a lot more people there this year than last year.  It would have been great to watch the fireworks from the Washington Monument but there was simply no way we’d drag the kids downtown. So the Air Force Memorial fit the bill nicely and there was a concert at the memorial, which provided the background music for the show. That and there are actual bathrooms there, not just porta-potties!

Things got a little crazy when the sprinklers suddenly went on and a bunch of people got soaked. Guess someone forgot to turn them off for the 4th. We were fine as there were no sprinklers near us and they managed to turn them off eventually. The fireworks didn’t disappoint and everyone had a good time. Getting home took a while though not nearly as long as it would have taken us had we gone downtown.

Four diplomatic families; Mackenna and Nia; Nia and Daddy.

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Nia, Babi (my mom) and Paul: the Air Force Memorial; the fireworks.

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