Friday, October 30, 2009

friday five: multiple choice

Remember multiple choice questions with the giveaway wrongs? One or two options were just out there. You'd sit at your desk, smug because you knew that of course the Pilgrims are not credited with developing the interstate system. Duh. When I taught, I didn't write many multiple choice tests because I always found myself really wanting to make each option seem totally believeable. It took a long time for me to write tests like that so I finally included a few of my own giveaways.
Edited to add answer & comments.

Here is my Friday Five. I offer you one giveaway, but you'll still have to figure out what really happened this week. I hope you studied.

A. We won a 50 Kuwaiti Dinar (kd) gift certificate to the Sultan Center, our local grocery store. (50kd ~ US$160)
I wish. I can't remember the last time I won anything.
B. Justin's JV soccer girls played their first game on Wednesday and lost 2-1. They were bummed but still excited about their next game this Saturday.
The girls actually won 1-0 and showed up on Saturday to play a team that didn't show.
C. On Thursday night, we went to a new mall whose stores include Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, and Bottega Veneta but, surprisingly, did not have a Starbucks.
This is actually the correct answer. Justin got a super sweet drink from a place called D'Lush, which makes so little sense in a dry country.
D. Justin uses my treadmill room and the attached bathroom as his greenhouse. On Tuesday, I caught Claire dumping potting soil into the bidet.
Our third bedroom is a copy of our master bedroom. Big enough for a treadmill, ironing board, clothes drying rack, Justin's desk and chair, and all the little garden plants he's growing on a shelf by the window. In the attached bathroom there is potting soil, empty yogurt and orange juice containers, and buckets of another one of Justin's projects: collected sea glass.
E. We are moving to Germany. For the beer. And then we are moving to France for the bread.
We aren't moving. That'd be nuts. Who moves away from a perfectly good job!?*
Okay. Post your guess with confidence. I'll let you know what really happened. Enjoy your weekend!
*When we decided to leave Wisconsin, Justin and I had classrooms across the hall from one another, and my father-in-law said a lot of things about us moving, one of them being that we might never find as good a place as where we already were. We didn't agree with him. So now the phrase "perfectly good" sounds more like settling for something that's really just alright.

Monday, October 26, 2009

the all day question

Our days are full but I don't always realize how much we actually do. Yesterday, I was thinking about the All Day question. The "So what do you do all day?" question posed to stay-at-home moms, sometimes paired with the comment, "I'd be so bored." My new friend Lina stays home with her son Brayden and she had a good answer. "What do you do with your kids on the weekends?" she said when another parent posed the All Day question. The other parent said they hang out with their kids. When Lina told me this conversation, she shrugged, "Well, that's what I do all day."

That and, well, a lot more. I made a list for myself, to see what I was actually doing all day. I made the list yesterday and maybe I lucked out there because today my head is stuffy and my throat is scratchy and all I really want is a nap. When I finished, I thought: There. Even if the wooden blocks are still scattered across the floor after Claire is in bed for the night, I can still know I did all of this.

When I decided to stay home, I set a few goals, primarily: 1. having the energy to really enjoy being a mom 2. living on a budget 3. cooking wisely and 4. writing a book. So let's check in on what I do All Day.

I enjoy being a mama. Sometimes I'm laying on my belly on the floor reading with Claire or sitting in front of the window talking about the trucks and people and birds we see, and I think: what am I forgetting? I should be doing something. And then I realize: I am.

I get my breaks when I need them (naptime!) and Justin is wonderful about helping out when he's around in the evenings and on weekends. Claire is a rather patient little person (most days) and we visit with other moms and kids most days during the week. We hired a nanny to come one morning a week to give me some time on my own (see other goals for the year) and also to give Claire a chance to interact with some of the other kids in the building - Francis takes her to go play at other apartments. I've decided to take a sub position for November and December and will really miss my mornings with Claire.

Budget is not yet blown out of the water. Setting up house from scratch is a hassle. We didn't bring much with us so we had to buy a lot. A lot a lot. We're still using the ugly plates the school gave us but I couldn't hack the cafeteria style dye-cut silverware. Last weekend we bought a duvet for our bed. We're holding out on buying plants. Green things, surprise surprise, are expensive in a desert. Groceries can also be expensive so this week and next I need to explore other stores and compare prices.

Cooking wisely. I like to cook and bake but I don't always plan very well. I'll buy a head of cauliflower for a ricotta nutmeg dish and think ick and let it sit in the produce bin for a week. Or two. So this year I am trying to use the food that I purchase, eat leftovers, and broaden my repertoire. In the space of one week, I made two new recipes: broccoli calzones and cauliflower linguine in a red cream sauce. I am also learning to bake bread. That's another post.

Writing a book while pretending one will just magically show up on my desk. In high school, I'd get up at four or five in the morning the day an essay was due and I'd hack it out on Dad's computer. I was pleased that I could procrastinate and still get an A. That worked not quite so well in college. I like to think that I've learned that any big project demands respect and preparation. Time. I am doing okay but not great on this goal. I have until the end of July 2010 to admire a neatly printed manuscript, but I need to develop better discipline if I don't want June 2010 to be frantic, haphazard creation.

So that's what I do all day. And then, some days, I throw good naptime intentions and mama/wife virtues out the window and play spider solitaire and listen to NPR for longer than is healthy or good.

Monday, October 19, 2009


We had Claire's birthday party a few weeks ago and invited only a few people but then started adding to the list as we ran into others. The truth is, at this point in the year, we're still finding friends and getting a feel for the place. There are people I think would be great to know better, but I didn't want to say, "Hey, we're throwing a party for our daughter. Come over!" Mostly because I didn't want anyone to feel like they had to bring a gift. That wasn't the point. The point was to eat cupcakes.

Anyway, a few days after the party, another mom - a really really nice mom that I am looking forward to getting to know better - said, "Claire's cupcakes were so cute" while I was waiting for the elevator. A party guest had shared the wealth of leftover cupcakes with this nice mom's kids.

"Oh, yeah, I - I didn't know how," I flubbed, "I don't know how birthday parties work here."

She waved her hand. No big deal. "You live in a fishbowl. Don't worry about it," she said.

So I didn't. But what she said is true. This is a fishbowl. The teachers here live together and work together. There can be a maddening overlap. I think I'm spared a great deal of drama and gossip since I am not sitting down in the teachers' lounge for lunch each day. But still, we can all look out our windows and see who is coming and going. If we feel like looking out our windows. And someone here told me that it doesn't take long to figure out what's going on and who's involved. Or what happened at the party (that you may or may not have been invited to). Or who is dating. Or who cheated. All the sordid details. If you really want to know.

I don't really. Well, sometimes I do want to know, and that part of me is the same part that likes reading People or Us Weekly on airplanes.

My aim this year is to live a rather scandal-less existance, swimming in circles in this fishbowl.

Friday, October 16, 2009

friday five: four are true

I love that game where you tell two truths and a lie about yourself and everyone has to guess which one isn't true. I'd always say I was fifth in the National Spelling Bee and people believed me. They didn't believe I was born in Italy. So here's my Friday Five edition. One of these things didn't happen this week.

1. The moms went for pedicures. Ahh.

2. Claire said her first word besides "Uh oh." She said "Bear." Sounded more like "Bea-ah."

3. Discovered new favorite Starbucks drink is an iced White Chocolate Mocha. Are you supposed to capitalize coffee drink names?

4. Cried when Jim & Pam (finally) got married. I know everyone else watched it a week or two ago.

5. Asked Justin if Claire really looks like a Claire. He said, "I am so glad we didn't have this conversation in the hospital." And, yes, we decided. She does look like a Claire.

Next week I'm going to hide the one real thing and make up four things because it took me a little too long to think of what happened this week. Plus, if I'm making a lot of stuff up, I can be a spy or learn a fourth foriegn language by listening to tapes while I sleep. Ha. A fourth foriegn language. I barely have a quarter of one foriegn language and even that is a generous guess. The spy bit, well maybe if I didn't giggle when I sneak up on Justin.

Happy weekend! I'll post the fiction in the comments.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

healthcare & the economy

How can you go wrong with a post title like that?

One of my favorite public radio shows is This American Life. This past weekend they aired part one of a show about healthcare. Next weekend they will wrap it up. You can listen to it online if you go to the On the Radio page of their website. Or, here is a link to the show itself, called More is Less.

Another one of their shows that was very informative to me was episode 355 The Giant Pool of Money, covering the economic crisis and tracing its roots to, well, a lot of poor decisions. Very good, clear coverage. A couple of weeks ago they aired Return to the Giant Pool of Money, a follow up to some of the people and ideas introduced the first time around.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

not from me!

Claire still isn't saying much besides "uh oh" when she drops her bear over the side of the bed or tosses her sippy cup on the mall floor. But she has a new endearing trait. Last night Justin said she farted (tooted, fluffled, whatever) and after such relief, she said, "Ahhh."

Then she did it again today. Three times while we're sitting here eating lunch. Gassy little girl. And three grateful, relishing "Ahhh"s.

I almost died.

She did not get this from me. She did not get this from me. She did not get this from me.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

almost five

In the afternoon. This is what my late afternoon looks like:

Outside our building there is a stretch of sand all the way to one of the main Kuwait roads about a half mile away. On either side of the stretch of sand, there are tall apartments. Someday there probably won't be a stretch of sand left in this neighborhood. Until then, I can see the cars on their busy road and beyond that, the Gulf. Today the Gulf is almost the same color as the sky so that if you didn't know there was water there, you wouldn't see it. It isn't cloudy or very sandy, but the Gulf still isn't clear. On the days when the air is clear, the Gulf makes me very happy. I dreamed of living so close to so much water. Just to watch her white waves.

On this stretch of sand, men have marked off soccer and cricket pitches and they gather on their way home to kick goals or - well, I don't know much about cricket except that there are wickets and overs involved. Cars drive right through the cricket pitch outside our windows - the sand is snaked with shortcuts between roads - and the game stops for a moment.

Most of the buildings here are the color of sand. So much of it blows around that if apartments or offices or schools were another color, they'd just look dirty. A lot looks dirty anyway. Trash heaps, ruts in the dirt roads filled with rubbish, empty plastic bags floating by our window on a hot wind. It is very odd for me to look around and think: Well, yes, this is where we are and there is a lot of trash here. And then think: Oh well. I used to go crazy mad when I'd be out running in Wisconsin and see tossed soda bottles and beer cans, a dirty diaper on the shoulder of the road. I didn't understand why you had to toss your garbage out the car window right now. And here, I'm not crazy mad. I get crazy mad about other things, but not trash. At least not yet.

I love the color of light in the early morning and then again as the sun is setting. When the sun is setting, the light feels yellow. It feels very calm. It feels like a long exhale. It feels like you can rest now.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

looking up

Usually really horrible days are followed by good days or, at least, reasonable, manageable, okay days. Yesterday was a really horrible day and today is good, reasonable, manageable and okay. Thank God.

I will not tell all that happened yesterday. Claire and I went to the embassy. That was fine. Long, but fine. Claire got smacked by a three-year-old and I had my first moment of really judging another mother as she just sat there staring straight ahead. Fast forward. We are home, eating couscous. Claire likes couscous and what she likes even better is taking the fork or spoon and getting the couscous into her little mouth all by herself. Most of the time, I don't care if breakfast, lunch or dinner takes forty minutes to eat. Last night I was feeding her with one hand and pecking keys on the laptop with another, trying to figure out exactly how to get her birth certificate authenticated by the Kuwait Embassy in the States.

Another long story.

Fast forward and I notice that Claire is dumping couscous all over. She's very good at this. It is a little after five o'clock and Justin is taking a shower after coaching JV girls' soccer practice and I have already yelled something about




when Claire tosses her couscous into the air and I find a webpage that informs me it might cost $123 for a LOUSY STAMP on her birth certificate and I turn to Claire, pick up the bowl of couscous and dump it on the floor.

"There, it's done now!" I said and burst into tears. And now, what Claire's little forkfuls of joyfully tossed couscous can do, I see, is nothing compared to what a frustrated woman with an entire bowl of couscous can do. I go to find the broom, sobbing. Justin comes out of the bathroom and doesn't even ask.

"You need to pull yourself together. Go lay down."

"I'm FINE. I just - I just - I want this to be done." I gesture at everything. Because everything is my problem of the moment. The paperwork that we should have already done and are now completing from overseas - oh, I thought it was too easy when we sent just Justin's paperwork to the Kuwait Embassy. Justin's coaching - which is a wonderful opportunity for him and I really am glad he gets a chance to coach again but it also means I have Claire to myself for twelve hours a day. Ack! Taxis were another problem of the moment, our taxi guy being quite wishwashy about whether or not I could leave the carseat in the taxi and the SAME taxi could pick me up at the embassy after my appointment. Boy, yeah, that is a problem. "I wish I had my own car," I told Shamsu, and then, "I'll pay extra. Pleeeeze."

So Justin barricaded himself in the kitchen and stuffed Claire full of bread while cooking us spaghetti and washing dishes. Wow. I was on the phone with an agency that promised fast authentications from the Kuwait Embassy in DC and I thought I was actually on the phone with the Kuwait Embassy itself when the guy said, "If you are not willing to pay two hundred and twenty-five dollars then I cannot help you!" and slammed down the phone.

I collapsed for the fortieth time that day. I called back and got a message that - I really wish I was making this up and now it's funny, but at the time I thought: Claire and I will be home for Christmas (and that thought was very appealling) - the message went something like this: We are unable to answer the phone. Do not leave a message since we will not return your call. We are too busy.

I'm gulping and feeling stupid for throwing couscous all over the floor and wondering WHEN exactly I will be an adult and not do things like tell the taxi cab driver that I wish I had my own car or sob over paperwork. I call back and beg him not to hang up and get a list of reasons why it's so expensive to authenticate a birth certificate - two of those reasons being something about power of attorney and downtown traffic. While he's jabbering on, I look at the website more carefully and find a note at the bottom saying this outfit is not affiliated with the official Kuwait Embassy. Ack!

Where do I find that number? I found it, got help from a very nice gentleman who sort of humphed when I told him who I'd been talking with, and spent another few minutes feeling stupid. I called Mom and then Dad, heroes of paperwork schlepping for their adult child, and hung up feeling relieved and, yes, still stupid.

In the kitchen, Claire was happy and Justin was draining spaghetti and I apologized about fifteen billion times and we spent the rest of the evening watching an episode of Numbers. I felt so exhausted I was numb.

This morning I looked at the stovetop espresso maker we bought here. There's a little screw thingy on its side that releases pressure so the whole thing doesn't blow to bits while pushing boiling water up through the grounds. And I thought: I need one of those. I need a little screw thingy on my side that keeps me from throwing couscous and sobbing uncontrollably about paperwork. Instead, I'll sort of pffft when the taxi guy says maybe I'll get my carseat back and then I'll just pffft when another kid hits mine and then I'll pffft when I'm waiting for Justin to please get home so that when some crazy hangs up on me for thinking $225 is a lot to pay for an authentication, I don't do pfffffffBOOOM!

Good thing I'm not committed to showing just my good side on this blog, right? So since today is indeed looking up: I got a lot done in the kitchen. Tomatoes stuffed with (oh, the irony) couscous, feta, garlic and green peas; homemade mac & cheese (freezer food!); and another big bowl of chocolate pudding, my current fix. I was really hoping to make it to November before sobbing uncontrollably. Ah, well.

Thursday, October 1, 2009