Friday, July 26, 2013

We Made It... Ireland (this time next month we'll be in Mauritius, don't worry!).

We are lucky to have an excellent little traveller, even if she doesn't sleep on the plane!

The trip over was as smooth as a long trip like that can go.  We flew from Dulles to Paris (on the biggest plane I've ever seen/been on in my entire life, an Airbus a380.  It's like a tank with wings - I could hardly believe my eyes!), arriving at 5:30 in the morning and had to wait until 10:15am for our flight to Dublin.  C didn't sleep on either flight but crashed for 3 hours in the stroller at Charles de Gaulle. Thank goodness for these fabulous chaise lounge-esque little clouds of comfort scattered throughout the terminal.  Can't begin to describe how much I appreciated these while C stroller-snoozed. 

We made it to Dublin happily, in one piece.  Aunty R was at the airport to meet us, we were both "so glad to see her" (this is C's favourite thing to say these days, btw).

Yesterday we took a looong nap and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at the playground.

Nothing beats Ireland when the weather is like this.
On this, our second full day in Ireland, we woke to blue skies and warm temperatures.  C and I took the Dart (train) to Howth and spent a perfect morning there - popped in for a quick decaf coffee, went to the playground, walked along to see the seals and the boats.  We tried to go last night and got positively drenched in an American-style downpour!  It was fun, though, I must admit.


Indulging in a chocolate croissant on the Dart home. 

Right now I'm making a late lunch listening to the pitter-pat of my daughters tiny feet getting out of bed.  Since we arrived here, she refuses to go to sleep without me going to sleep in the room with her. This is completely out of sorts for her (she's a fantastic sleeper, normally) and it's driving me crazy as I don't want to start that habit, but so far it's the only way she's getting sleep.  I'm just not sure what to do about it - I've never dealt with a jet-lagged 3 year old before (although I'd better get used to it).  Anyone with tips to share is more than welcome - nearing desperation here!!

Tomorrow we're off to the other coast to stay at my parents house for a while.  Looking forward to a weekend full of family (minus my hubby - missing you!).

Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our Bags Are Packed....

It's hard to believe but today is the day C & I leave the States, most likely for a couple of years.  We're off to Ireland (via Paris) to spend three and a half weeks with my family.  P will join us soon for part of that time (we miss him already) in August, before we head to our new, tropical home toward in about a month.

Last Thursday, the movers came and packed our life up into big brown boxes, to be shipped to us in Mauritius,  (we hope) very soon.  P & I were counting, and in our 8 years of marriage we've seen our lives put into boxes 11 times.  Now you see why the Foreign Service is such a perfect fit for us!

We miss our American family and friends already - please keep in touch!  See you on the other side! 


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

He's in the the Foreign what?

Two of the most frequently asked questions I have received in the past year are "So what exactly is the Foreign Service?", and "What exactly does your husband do now?".  Fair enough - I was fairly clueless about the Foreign Service before P started the application process back in 2011.  And as the departure date for our first Foreign Service post approaches, I'll be referencing this crazy, exciting life we signed up for more and more frequently.  With that in mind, for those of you who are curious, I thought I'd answer those two questions and fill you in on what our life has been like since P signed on the dotted line with the US Foreign Service.

First, a little background:  when P first mentioned that he was going to apply to join the FS to me back in June 2011, admittedly, I only half listened (sorry, honey).  We were living in Dublin at the time and had made the decision that, for many reasons, it was best for our family to move back to the States. Through his work in Dublin, P met an American Foreign Service Office who worked at the US Embassy (which was, quite literally, a block from where we lived).  They chatted a bit about life in Ireland as an American expat and P became increasingly curious about the mysterious life that American diplomats lead and decided to do some more research, which whetted his appetite and prompted him to embark on the process that would ultimately make FS his new career.

The US Embassy in London - site of the first phase exam.  Fun fact: I spent a looooong day there when I was 9, when my family applied for their green cards prior to our move to 'Bama!  Hasn't changed a bit, but I hear it will in the not too distant future....    via

He went online, and applied and registered to take the first phase of a series of tests that would ultimately take a year to complete (you can read all about that here).  We thought that test would be extremely convenient as he could just walk 5 minutes down the road to the Embassy to take the test.  Nope!  He had to fly to London to take it at the US Embassy there.  It was a multiple choice/essay exam - based primarily on US history and government and politics and all that good stuff.  It took a while but we learned that he passed and could proceed to the next phase, which was a personal narrative concentrating on his experience and the "knowledge, skills, and abilities" he would bring to the foreign service.  While we were waiting to hear if he passed that phase, we moved back to the States, to the DC area.  After a couple of months, we heard he passed and could progress to the final stage of testing, the QEP (Oral Assessment).  Around this time, we also learned how competitive this process was and I felt even more proud of my better half.  :)   I think he was a little nervous about this last test - we heard it was very tough and very competitive.  Apparently there are no guarantees that anyone will be accepted at the end of the day (which ended up being a very long day: 7AM - 4PM!).

Home base, Washington DC.  via
Luckily, there was no waiting to find out if he passed.  At the end of the exam, each person was individually taken into a room and told whether they passed or not.  Obviously, he passed, along with only 2 other people out of 35!  I was a proud wife that night and there was much to celebrate, but there still wasn't a job offer yet.  After his acceptance, he was told that he would be ranked by score along with all the other people who have passed.  Then, he had to wait until his number came up.  That could take as long as 18 months and if it didn't happen by then, he'd be off the list and would have to start all over again.  We were told not to make any major life decisions based on the possibility that this might happen, so with that in mind we moved for a short time to Columbus, Ohio, where P worked for a big bank.  Five months into that job, he got his official offer to join the Foreign Service and we packed up and moved back to Northern Virginia to begin a new life and a new career.

Phew! Are you still with me?

So, to answer the first question, the Foreign Service (a part of the Department of State), carries out the foreign policy of the US and helps its citizens abroad.  A Foreign Service Officer (FSO) - more generally known as diplomats - are men or women who seek to fulfil the mission of the FS, serving in any of the 265 embassies, consulates, or diplomatic missions around the world, and at home (UN, anyone?).  Some of these locations are fantastic (think Paris, London, Rome, Sydney), some are not (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc).  When you start out as a diplomat you do 2-year assignments, as you progress they can be 3 or 4 year assignments.  The highest position you can reach in the Foreign Service is ambassador.

US Diplomat Passport.  We just got ours.  Feels kinda 007-ish.  :)

To answer the second question:  first of all, see the answer to question #1.  :)  To be more specific, right now he is spending every waking moment studying French (widely spoken in Mauritius) - quite literally, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  When we move to Mauritius, he'll be working at the embassy as the Political/Military Officer, where he'll be working on issues such as human rights, aid projects, human trafficking, and piracy in maritime Africa.  We move there this summer and we will be there for 2 years.  About half way through that time we'll find out where we're going next.  As P is a new FSO, his next post will (should) be consular, meaning visa processing and American citizen services, probably in another French speaking country.  I'll talk about that more in a future post, along with what our housing situation has been for the last year, what it will be like in Mauritius, and anything else that I  you might find interesting.  We are so excited to embark on this adventure and I hope you'll be a long for the ride!

In case you had no idea where it was.  Don't worry, we were a little foggy on that initially, too.  via

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Life In Technicolor {Photos}

Well hello!  It has been a long time since I posted a real post (anniversary post excepted).  Life kinda got in the way there for a while.  

What have we been up to?  Here's a peek:

~ In February, P & I escaped for a weekend away.  It was our first weekend away by ourselves in a long time and it was much needed.  My sister- and brother-in-law were stars and watched C so we could have some down time in Cape May, NJ - a lovely, sleepy (in the winter) seaside town that was just what the doctor ordered.  We spent our last night in the historic Congress Hall.  It was perfect.
Congress Hall.     
Georges Place.  YUM!

~ On the way home, we detoured to NJ and visited my cousin, her husband, and adorable three little girls (plus friend)!  It was great to see them!

~ My daughter sleeps on her head, which, in the morning, can frequently result in this incredible sight (please note, I did not brush this - it took me 30 minutes to gently comb the tangles out): 

~ Trader Joes had daffodils in March.  Daffodils remind me of the garden of my childhood home in Rostrevor, N. Ireland (one of the most beautiful places in the world, IMO), which had hundreds of the most beautiful daffodils I've ever seen.  They never fail to make me happy. 

~ I made French Onion Soup (recipe from this book, which is a great little read, by the way).  It was DELISH.  

~ I am 'old school' when it comes to children's shoes - I favour traditional styles.  I used to wear ones exactly like this when I was a little girl.   I think there's nothing cuter, although I'm sure she'll grow to hate them by age 7 like I did for a brief time.  Hopefully she'll fall in love with them again when she has little feet of her own to dress. (Photo by C).
Check out my shoes.

~ This exists (#griffendor4eva):

~ We took C to the circus for the first time - she was mesmerised - after which, she had great fun playing the (sassy) tattooed lady.

~ C's subconscious, as-yet undiscovered love for Great Britian reveals itself in the strangest ways...

~ We had a mother/daughter date a Super Why Live!  She looooved it!

~ At an evening of Opera in the Outfield, featuring Show Boat, C had a brilliant time playing dress up in the costumes before the show.  Here, C contemplates possibilities inspiration for her future wedding gown....

...but clearly favoured a more Elizabethan look:

...and she loved watching the show with her little diplo-friend, who is off to Copenhagen with her parents this summer for their next Foreign Service adventure (her Mom, by the way, has a fabulous blog - definitely check it out).

~ We took a much needed family holiday in Florida, visiting my Grandmother-in-law who lives beside my husband's childhood haunt of Pass-A-Grille Beach.  It was relaxing and just what we needed.  It was also C's first time on a beach - we could hardly get her out of the water!

We had a very experienced pilot.
The beautiful Gulf.
The Sea Horse Restaurant - a must on every visit.
My little cutie.

~ We went to a beautiful wedding in West Point, NY.  C danced the afternoon and evening away in a tent in the beautiful gardens of the Superintendant's House.

~ C was VERY excited about her new butterfly and fairy dress from her Aunty R.

~ She also paid tribute to the late Esther Williams by re-inventing the swimmer's underwater ballets on dry land.

~ Saturdays have become Daddy/Daughter donut days - they go get their donuts (and a Starbucks tea for me) while I sleep a little longer.  We all love this new tradition.  :)

~ Despite the wacky weather we've been having, we've been able to sneak in a few days poolside.  It's a tough life for some...

~ This past weekend, we visited by best friend since I was 10 years old.

...She lives with her lovely little family in Connecticut.  Her oldest daughter is 6 weeks older than C, and they hit it off like their Mamas did.  It made our hearts happy. :)

~ We went to Boston for the day where we attempted to go to the aquarium (tourist-overload-fail) and met up with my cousin and his family.

~ And finally, we (and by we I mean C) have spent a LOT of time dancing.  To anything and everything.  But lately, to this movie which, if you know me, you'll know makes me very, very happy.  :)  

~ I won't be able to photograph the tiny little thing that has made us most happy these last few months.  He or she should be joining us around New Years Day, and we can hardly wait!

If you're still with me after the squillion photos I just posted, you deserve a pat on the back.  And possibly a stronger drink than coffee.  :)  

Have a lovely day, everyone!