I Thought This Day Would NEVER Come!

It's the first day of school for ALL three of them ...

Hello my 4th grader, Preschooler, and 3rd Grader

AND, the first day of peace for me since June 8th ...



It's Been Rough ...

I'm in the final stages of loading up the family truckster for the LONG drive out to South Bend, Indiana tomorrow. My 3rd visit in the past eight months. To attend the most gut wrenching funeral ... for my dad's younger brother. A young man taken FAR too soon.

To say I'm in shock would be an understatement. Which is nothing compared to my aunt and my cousins. Or my father and the rest of his siblings. Our family has truly been blessed with living long lives ... I'm at a loss for words.

My uncle's passing, coupled with Sheridan's recovery from her tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, and turbinate resection (also known as the week from hell), along with the bevy of workers who have traipsed through my house over the last week, have left me drained. Exhausted. Pooped. Sheridan had a hard week with the pain, the excessive vomiting, the nausea, not sleeping well, and the mom who's insisted she stay hydrated and medicated. There were moments that were quite difficult to bear ... for seeing your kid in that much agony is not easy.

We've had a busy summer. And Matt's absence has left me wearing many different hats ... such as sole parent, friend, schlepper, disciplinarian, maid, cook, shower giver, dishwasher emptier, laundry folder, play-date organizer, and toilet trainer extraordinaire. I've also been busy with the PTA, the softball team, the swim team, swim lessons, summer camp, hosting parents and in-laws and friends, working with the State Department, my Stella & Dot business, and attempting to not lose my marbles.

I tried ... but I just don't know if I succeeded.

If you have any extra bottles of energy, sanity, or clarity laying around, please forward them my way ASAP. I'll need them tomorrow as I make the 12+ hour drive. I'll want to pass them out to my family members as we cry and mourn together. Unlike my grandfather's passing just a few short months ago, these next few days won't be as easy.

My only saving grace in all of this insanity ... what is truly getting me through this awful, no good, very bad week ... is that early Monday morning (regardless of what time we get home on Sunday night) is the kids first day of school!! And you can bet your sweet bippy I'll be popping open a bottle of champagne at the bus stop.

After a summer like this ... I know I've earned it.


The FS BRU ... Is YOUR Next Home On This List?

As the end of summer draws near, bidding season has once again fallen upon us. You know, the time when emails start flying, noses turn brown, and the Foreign Service message boards are lighting up with requests for information on every post from Athens to Paris, Hong Kong to Buenos Aires ... and everything in between. It's these next few months when we start to see an influx of reviews of overseas life at Tales from a Small Planet. With friends sending out email messages on Facebook asking if we know of someone who's been posted here or yonder. And tail feathers raising and flaring as people become territorial over positions that they want ... though may not necessarily get.

A foreign service friend once told me, "Bid lists are for people who don't have friends." A bold statement, that probably has far more truth than tale, the higher one climbs in their career.

I never paid too much attention to the Embassies / Consulates people were asking about, primarily because until recently, nobody seemed to want to go to the places we'd previously been posted. We were "directed" to the New York Field Office for our first assignment, and three years later it took 37 bids (for those who aren't DS, that's 3 rounds of bidding) to get to our first overseas post. In Muscat, Oman. Where at that time, nobody (including me) even KNEW where it was, nor that it was such a jewel of an assignment.

Bidding IS different for each and every section within the State Department. For some folks, they'll spend their entire career overseas, with their only time in DC devoted to language training. Others, will opt to do an unaccompanied tour with a linked assignment afterwards (unlike those of us in DS). Some people take their bidding VERY seriously and truly exemplify worldwide available. Others take a look at the list and cross off anything that ... has a "-stan" at the end of it, is in the Middle East, has tropical weather, is a consumables post, doesn't have an APO, has an animal quarantine, makes you dress conservatively, doesn't let you import a left-side vehicle drive, is at altitude, has no high school at post, is an unaccompanied post, is in Africa, is in Europe, is in Asia, is in Central or South America, is domestic, is in a country with high every-day crime, is in a country with high terrorism, is in a country with a high COLA (cost of living), is in a country with danger pay ................ etc, etc, etc.

As a somewhat seasoned bidder, I've seen it all. And I can say with absolute certainty that bidding is like a box of chocolates ... you just don't know what you're going to get!

Last week Matt and I turned in our list for our next post. Our eighth tour ... and fourth consecutive bidding season. So I've been anxious to see the below links and what people thought of their current postings. As you read them, take note of the author's marital status, familial situation, number of pets, kids, and previous postings, to gain a broader depth of these bloggers opinions. Don't forget these ARE but one person's opinions. And you know what happens if you make any assumptions ...

Although called the Pearl of Africa, Uganda has not always been the perfect jewel of a post. Life in Kampala, a post with 25% hardship differential, has it's happy moments and not so happy times.

Naoma, blogging in Kenya, at Lees On The Go, shares her list. But let me spoil it for you ... she actually couldn't come up with 5! Though I'm not going to tell you which direction.

Spectrummy Mummy in Johannesburg gave us 10 of EACH. I was actually surprised with a few of these too.

Hannah is in Tripoli watching and living history in the making.

Alex got a negative comment after her review of living in Benin. Um ... hello. It's in Benin! As in ... in Africa. Negative comments not accepted!

Shannon and her son Alonzo BOTH wrote posts about Malawi. Let me just enlighten you. Unlike her son, spiders are in HER cons list!

Hooray for Half-Breed Outlaw to submit her take on living in Botswana. I didn't see any spiders on her list. So could it be your possibility?

Theresa is often asked about raising a child in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I like her answers!

This continent needs no commentary. Just enjoy their links from afar ... especially if you're DS!

Sunny writes at Fabling in Brussels.

Well, That Was Different in Vienna, Austria gives us her top TEN.

Erica tells us what it's like for her to live in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Life After Jerusalem lives in Estonia. And LOVES it. Though she does have one complaint.

What DOESN'T make Chela, at the Mas Alla, happy about living in Amsterdam?

Poppies and Polka Dots in Madrid, gave us 25! AND she knows my husband from Iraq!

Zoe, in Milan, wants us to believe that there are actually cons on her list. Whatev ...

A Fisher out of Water, in Shenyang, China gave us her list ... and it's BIG!

Stephanie in Hyderabad, India gave us her highlights ... and lowlights!

Lynne, at Like Nomads, in St. Petersburg had trouble coming up with a cons list.

Kolbi, in Chengdu, China wrote a really thoughtful list about her experiences. If you're a DS family, I also urge you to read her post on bidding ... which is spot on!

It's hard to come up with a list when you've JUST moved to a new post. Emily, at Our Life, in Sri Lanka sure did try!

Carla Runs The World in Manila finally wrote about a few of her cons ... and may have gotten a wee bit carried away!

Sara is also new to Manila, but managed to give a thoughtful list as well.

And Diane, at Mobile Home, who just finished a tour in Manila, gives us her perspective as well ... and said that despite writing this over a year ago, she wouldn't change anything she wrote!

Daniela, who just became an FSO (woo hoo!), gave us her insight on Delhi, India.

I LOVE the Middle East. It's where I would live if given any opportunity. As it's summer time, many of the bloggers in the Middle East are on their R & R's and missed this round up. But check in with Heather in Cairo, and Donna in Amman to get their takes too!

My friend Michele, at GlobeHoppers, who I know from Chennai, just moved to Amman a month ago. Her list isn't long here ... but as she grew up overseas, she could give us a laundry list of pros / cons of other places.

Melissa, at Just Us in Jerusalem, gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Sadie just left Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. But she gives her three cents on living there.

And finally ... North, Central, and South America ...

In-Flight Movie gives us the pros and cons of living in Belmopan, Belize

Adventures of a Misplaced Texan may have moved back to DC, but she gave us her list on her previous posting in Ciudad Juarez.

Oh The Many Places We Will Go WOULD have written about her highs and lows in Guadalajara. Instead, she wrote about her brand new baby. Congrats!

3rd Culture Children has the record of moving to a new post and submitting a pros / cons list. Here she is in La Paz, Bolivia. Dealing with the altitude. At first I thought she wrote attitude ... and I was about to say, "welcome to my world."

Mom2Nomads in Costa Rica barely got her list turned in since she was on vacation. But it's a good thing she did because I know this is on a lot of people's bid list!

Want to know what life is like in Asuncion, Paraguay? Life is a Zoo in the Jungle will tell us all ...

Lisa in Tijuana will be leaving soon ... and she's already anticipating missing the tacos! Living in Virginia, I miss them too ...

I love the pros and cons of returning to Washington, D.C. from The New Diplomat's Wife. She really nailed how several of us have been feeling after life overseas!

And bringing it all together from an unaccompanied tour perspective ... is my friend Jen. Who reminds us that the unaccompanied tour DOES have its pros! She writes a true list if I do say so myself.

The next edition of the FS BRU will be out on Friday, September 7th, and the next Optional Talking Point is ... Travel Stories.

Have a funny story. A horror story. A story that includes vomit? We're all with the State Department where we know that nothing is ever easy. Tell us your HR tech's travel order debacle. Let us know how United really screwed up your travel plans. Let's see if your kids vomit as much as mine.

Remember, there's never a need to write anything new. If you have something you want to share, send me the link. Of course, if you've recently come back from an R&R and had something hellacious to write about, get on it!

Send your links to thefsroundup@me.com by Monday, September 3rd.

Until then ... happy bidding.



As if I DON'T have enough to take care of with this sweet thing today ... after a LONG night of vomit, pain, and musical couch / bed / toilets.

I now have to deal with THIS ... and the four men who are making it incredibly difficult to take care of the above.

Yes, they ARE repainting my entire ceiling. In my entire basement and first floor. Right now. Yes, RIGHT NOW!!!!

Somebody stick a fork in me ...


We Interrupt Her Regularly Scheduled Meltdowns ...

This is my baby girl. Minutes before they wheeled her into the operating room today. For a surgery that was over three years in the making.

She had her adenoids and tonsils removed. And her turbinates shaved. Which in plain English means that she had virtual liposuction done to the membranes inside each of her nostrils. Because when the turbinates become as swollen as hers were, it's impossible to breathe through the nose.

When the anesthesiologist came into the room before her surgery she told Sheridan that she likes to empower girls and give them their own options of how to "take their nap" during surgery. She said she could walk into the operating room and have the mask put over her mouth and sleep that way. OR, she could have the nurse put the IV in her arm, they'd give her medicine in her IV, and she'd be asleep before they even wheeled her into the operating room. The decision was HERS ...

Sheridan chose the IV ... and impressed the hell out of the doctors and nurses who came in to see her!

The surgery lasted a little over an hour, with Sheridan waking up about thirty minutes after moving to the recovery room. I only said a few words to her before she fell back asleep, and stayed asleep, for the next hour. Actually until only a few minutes before we were discharged.

Of course, with Sheridan's impeccable timing, she managed to wake up and complain of a raging sore throat and utter nausea, just as we were getting ready to go home.

Oh yeah, and then she puked.

And puked some more.

Now, instead of taking out her IV, and getting her ready to go, we were stuck. While they gave her a little more morphine. And a lot of Phenergan.

I said, A LOT of Phenergan. So much so that she did this ...

... for the next six hours. See the shirt she's wearing? Yeah ... couldn't change her before she passed out. So this is how we left the surgery center.

We had some moments of clarity throughout the day. But this is how most of her evening was spent.

When she wasn't trying to make her way to the bathroom to do this. Thankfully we got her back to the couch to relax. And attempt to sleep off as much of the nausea as she could.

Despite feeling as lousy as she does. She's eaten several popsicles. Two bowls of ice cream. About ten bites of her brother's mac and cheese. And sipped one big cup of water.

After deterring her from eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes, with the promise that YES, it WOULD hurt like hell, she's now back to doing this again. Which is so darn sweet to watch until the blood curdling snoring starts. But at least she isn't yelling at anyone.

Oh, and once the swelling goes down, she'll have a totally skinny nose. B*tch.

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