Coming In For Landing ...

I let the girls play hooky from school for most of the day today. Not that I do it very often (or at all really ... because frankly, I like my alone time). But today was for a special occasion ...

... A once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the Space Shuttle Discovery come in for its final landing here at its new home in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia.

We dropped Grady off at school at 8 am, and then high tailed it over to the Udvar-Hazy museum, (which is fantastically located at the end of the Dulles airport runway), around 8:45 am, where we were hoping to be one of the 2000 cars to park and watch the landing up close and personal. Miraculously, we made it in and got a space, and by 9 am we parked and met our friends.

The excitement in the parking lot and around the museum was contagious. Everyone was holding cameras, iTouchs, cell phones, video cameras, anxious to catch a glimpse of the Space Shuttle Discovery attached to the top of the specially-modified 747.

Docents were circling the parking lot and continually informing everyone how many miles away the Shuttle was and how many minutes before flying by. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait as long as expected, as the Shuttle did its first of two fly-by's before 10 am.

It. Was. Spectacular.

The first fly-by was directly over head and before we even saw the Shuttle, we heard the roaring from the crowd above in the watch tower at the museum. Everybody craned their necks up, grabbed their cameras, and started cheering.

We had a bit of a break before the next fly-by as the Shuttle made its way over to DC, circling the National Mall and Monuments three times, before heading back towards Dulles to land.

For the second fly-by and the landing we moved up closer to the museum, which allowed us to have a higher vantage point and see the Shuttle directly over the trees. Amazingly, we couldn't have been more than a thousand'ish feet away.

It was SO close, it felt like you could touch it!

Riley took the below shaky video of the landing. Sheridan whined in the background. And I snapped a hundred or so photos ... opting NOT to crop the top of the trees out of the photo. Just to show you how close we really were!

What a fantastic day! How lucky were we to brave the crowds and experience this little piece of history.

2 minute video of the Space Shuttle coming in for landing.

L to R: First fly-by overhead ... Second fly-by ... Coming in For Landing


The FS BRU ... A Week Overdue, But Better Late Than Never ...

In the 12+ years we've been in the Foreign Service, I can say without hesitation that hands down, one of THE biggest perks is the travel. No matter where you live in the world, the opportunities to hop in your car, relax on a train, or smush yourself into a cattle-call seat on an airplane are endless!

During our three overseas tours, we had the privilege of visiting fifteen different countries where we ... camped out in the Middle Eastern desert of Oman, rented a car and drove from France to Italy with our 15-month old daughter (and pregnant with our second), took the funicular railway in Budapest, went scuba diving in Thailand and Israel, shopped 'til we dropped in Singapore, hung out with friends in Dubai, and stayed in a spider-filled cottage on a coffee plantation in southern India.

Let's not forget that my kids have also had seen three of the Seven Wonders of the World: Petra, The Pyramids of Giza, and The Taj Mahal ... twice! Experiencing the stuff that most children only read about in history books.

L to R: Camping in the Omani desert ... Petra ... Venice

L to R: The funicular in Budapest ... Pyramids in Egypt ... Coorg, India

L to R: The marina in Monaco ... the Taj Mahal ... Singapore

As I read through everybody's posts, I realize that we (both personally and collectively) are / have been very fortunate to enjoy such wonderful adventures. It's probably one of the reasons we all joined this exciting lifestyle. Of course, over time I've found that friends and family back home, who have had to listen to our stories and tales and chaos, don't find it nearly as "normal" as we do when talking about our trips. I mean, who just packs their bags and hops on a plane to Singapore for a weekend because their daughter wanted to go to the zoo? Well ... about half of the families at our last overseas posting, that's who. But our non-FS friends? Not so much. Anyone else notice that it's hard at times to not sound like you're bragging about your lifestyle when you're home on your R&R's or in between posts on Home Leave? I'm sure this topic could garner quite a bit of discussion ...

I'm excited to reveal the many new submissions for this edition of the FS BRU ... which, admittedly, is a week late in publication ... due to life somewhat getting in the way. Anyone who had kids home during Spring Break understands exactly what kind of "life" I'm talking about. So, mea culpa for the delay.

But, before we get started, as a former pet owner, I would be remiss if I didn't discuss pet ownership and how it affects those of us who have taken a vacation while living overseas. From finding a pet sitter or local kennel before we travel, or to begin with, how our pets even make it to post. This topic about our furry friends has absolutely exploded within the State Department over the past few months, and I urge you to continue following along with your support.

At Post is a blog which features animals in the Foreign Service. People can email a photo of their FS pet with a back story, it will go on the blog, and it will be tweeted and sent on to United Airlines with a plea they waive their new pet shipping policies for us, as they do the military. The new FB group Fabulous FS Pets also has some links and ideas for the 'campaign'.

Sadly, Sadie Abroad found out the hard way how awful it is to lose a pet during transit, after having her beloved pup fly via cargo to her first overseas posting. Read her story and hope that this never happens to you!

Let's now get on with the show!

The Freelancing Researcher earned a nice break recently from his French class at FSI, and got the heck out of the DB bubble for a few days.

She may be pregnant now, but last year at this time, A Postcard From was hanging in Thailand. Maybe even drinking something a little more "fun" than water?

They say you can never really go back to a place you once served, for you look at it through a different set of eyes. Navigating Wonderland did just that last year on a vacation to a previous posting... and her realizations of what "was" and now what "are" really hit home.

Heather at The Wandering Drays took an amazing vacation this past January to Luxor. Can you say, jealous?

I love when I read about other people's scuba diving expeditions. I keep it in my lock box for when we start taking trips outside the US again. And this excursion by a newbie to the FS BRU, In-Flight Movie, in Belize is no exception. Hello gorgeous!

Adrian's son had the time of his life recently as he had the chance to be one of the ball boys at the last home game for the Wellington, New Zealand professional soccer team. He also spent time riding around in a helicopter with his mom. This guy is making THE most at his post!

Kids and Zoos DO go together ... which is why we try to visit them whenever we get the chance. And oddly enough, we've actually been to the zoo Like Nomads went to last year. In Budapest! It's as cool as she says ... and clicking on the picture in the post shows you all the other photos too!

A Zoo Life in Paraguay went on a cruise ... in the Caribbean. To two of my favorite places. WITH their kids. Oh what fun!!

And then there's Bali ... who wouldn't want to visit Bali? I mean ... it's BALI! With another newbie to the FS BRU, stumbleabroad tells us about a recent vacay they took. While pregnant no less. Are we seeing a theme here?

As someone who's lived there can totally agree that it's nice to get out of post ... our friend James at Hello Talalay managed to visit Kuala Lumpur to get a little world fix. Dude. It was needed!

Sometimes vacations are so amazing, that you don't really want to go back home. After visiting South Africa, Wanderings of a Cheerful Stoic, from Guinea, can definitely attest to that!

So when was the last time YOU rode an elephant? Carla Runs The World can tell you ... or moreover, show you!

Frankly, she really SHOULD be posted to Italy ... don't you agree?

Clothing is usually optional everywhere else outside America. It's not often you see it here ... as A Fisher Out Of Water recently did ...

Travel Orders, whose family is recently reunited (woo hoo) shares with us a trip they took back in December. Casa Del Papa in Ouidah, Benin is a popular weekend vacation spot for FSOs in both Cotonou and Lome.

While Melissa in Jerusalem is okay with staying put for awhile, she really wouldn't mind taking a vacation from laundry. Dude ... I'm SO there with you!

Re-reading past posts about vacations always gets the juices flowing. And of course, the Schlink Attack agrees that after visiting Austria, that they need another one of these. Oh me too lady ... me too!

You can't help but fall in love with Thailand. As Here, There and Everywhere agrees. See, I Told You!

Becky at Small Bits has way too many cool places to link up here ... so she kindly put them all in a post of her own. Oh and she added a photo of this rockin' orange rental car. Who doesn't think that's the cats meow?

It's the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. Or Not. Really Matt... it isn't. Is it?

The last big vacation at post is always the most bittersweet. wife-mommy-woman just took hers in Costa Rica and can attest to that one!

I had to do a double-take to see what was so funny about this picture ... and then I realized exactly what it was. Nomads By Nature gave me the BEST laugh in this BRU ... holy backwards batman!

Cyberbones always takes the time to thoughtfully write about the latest topic. And today was no exception. Shannon discusses the past, present, and future vacations for this crazy spider-infested family!

While Emily may not be on vacation, staying here in DC sometimes sure does feel that way! Here they are on a recent trip to visit the Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb Of The Unknowns.

The next edition of the FS BRU will be out on Friday, May 4th, and the next Optional Talking Point Is ... Chaos!

As a mom to three kids, and a husband whose schedule is absolutely asinine, I find that I'm forever running in circles. I constantly refer to our family as Casa de Chaos ... and just KNOW that I'm not alone. So, help me feel a little better about my insanity by linking to a post where you admitted that you were just a wee bit frantic with something as well ... such as life, work, family, moving, where you live. Come on, admit to being ... normal!

Send your links to thefsroundup@me.com by Monday, April 30th.

Until then ...


Why Yes ... She IS A 'Member Of The Tribe' ...

The William & Mary Tribe that is. And today was their very first game.

The girls have had several practices over the past month, and many of them even attended the softball camp offered during their Spring Break last week. But for a majority of the team, this was their first time playing softball. And frankly, they weren't quite ready for game day.

We showed up early thinking there would be time to warm up, but very few girls were there. Sure, the OTHER team was on the field. Looking slick in their matching long sleeve white t-shirts under their jerseys, their matching blue shorts and tall white socks. Practicing their pitching, their fielding, their batting.

Our Tribe? Well, they all straggled towards the field. Mere minutes before the game started. Wearing a bunch of mismatched shirts and sweatshirts under their jerseys, all different types of pants, their way-too-big hats falling into their faces. Oh and the whining. Don't. Forget. The. Whining.

"It's too cold."
"Can I play with my jacket on?"
"Why don't we cancel the game on account of the windy weather."
"Can you make sure my mom is watching me. Hey MOM, you're actually not watching me."
"I'm hungry."
"Can I sit out this inning?"

The coach made a wee bit of a mistake in telling the girls that there were only three innings ... when actually there were six. Normally not a big deal, except tonight it seemed like we reverted back to winter, with the wind chill and temperature hovering around 36 degrees. It was f*&^%#^ing cold outside.

For the first few innings I would have said that our team should have been called The Bad News Bears. There were a comedy of errors that had every parent smirking and giggling under their scarves and down jackets. The swinging high in the sky at every pitch. The dandelion picking in the outfield and cartwheels around the bases. They were awful. AWFUL.

But they were having fun. And that was all the mattered.

Until the 5th inning. When something in these girls snapped. Maybe it was the realization that if they just smacked the cr*p out of the pitches that they'd get home and out of the cold faster. Who knows. And who cares. They just started making contact with the ball. And they started scoring runs.

Three of them actually. To WIN the game! It was awesome.

Cold as hell. Flask-free. But awesome.

Here's to a great season!

Riley was the first batter on her team

She was also the first pitcher

Some of the girls on our team ... taking a good sportsmanship oath before the game.


Do You Hear That?

Me either! That's because the kids are FINALLY back in school after Spring Break.

I can't say that it was a bad week off. Just a LONG ten days. With Matt out of town (of course!) for most of it. Everything that I had planned on accomplishing (like last week's FS BRU) fell to the wayside ... and every free moment I had was taken up by breaking up fights between the girls or chasing my almost 3 year old toddler around.

Here's what most of our week looked like ...

Love this neighborhood!

In other news, the Afghanistan band aid has been ripped off, and we finally told the kids about Matt leaving. We had been slowly working up to this announcement over the past few months, but decided to wait as long as possible to tell them as we know their concept of time isn't the best. We also didn't want to stress them out anymore than needed. Surprisingly, they took the conversation in stride and told us that they were totally okay with it, as long as they didn't have to move for another few years ... AND that Matt's next job would have him home for dinner with the family most nights. Fair enough for us!

Happy Tuesday. I'm going to go enjoy my last few hours of silence ...

But before I do, I HAD to tell you that Stella & Dot just unveiled their new summer collection. Hello gorgeous! Need a little retail therapy? Or something fun for Mother's Day. Check this out ... Stella & Dot. My favorite is the Palamino necklace ... just sayin'!

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