Thursday, February 28, 2013

Parenting Conversations via Text Messaging

As I was riding the shuttle to work this morning, my pocket buzzed. Elise was sending me a text message:

E: "What did Clem eat this morning? She has terrible diarrhea and diaper rash?!?"

P: "Boiled egg, hash browns and raspberries"

E: "We're (sic) the raspberries still Good?"

P: "I thought so. I finished them."

A few seconds later...

P: "Not mushy."

E: "Ok."

P: "Sorry. I hope she feels better :( "

E: "Could have been the pizza last night. Did Pete poop today?"

P: "Yes. Sam too"

A few seconds later I realized the need to clarify as we have been working to keep Peter from pooping in his pull-up,

P: "Pete in toliet."

Fortunately, not all of our text conversations center on the movements of our children. But I will take this anyday over what I imagine we will be texting about when they all become teenagers (perhaps by then, however, Google Telepathy will be the latest technological craze, and Elise and I can just mindspeak our parenting conversations).

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sam Gordon-Levitt

On more than one occasion in the past few months people have told me that Sam looks exactly like this  hollywood actor. It is a bit uncanny. Should any of you know anyone in Hollywood looking for someone to play the child version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tiny Tom-Cruise here, is willing to travel.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why I Love Starbucks

I love Starbucks.

I know this is no secret. I have written before in these pages how Starbucks was the proving ground of mine and Elise's love; in the very first days of our relationship Starbucks was the demilitarized zone where the generals of our two camps would negotiate the terms by which our hearts would surrender to one another. I tried winning her over early on with tall hazelnut lattes hand-delivered to her at Kee Grill during the pre-shift meeting.

I am happy to report we are successfully passing down this love to our children. Though it is less about the coffee to Sam, who craves an old fashioned doughnut, Top Pot-style, and Peter, whose vice are pink frosted cake pops with birthday sprinkles. In every airport, at every grocery-anchored strip center, on every intersection where there happens to be a Starbucks, hopefully they will be able to find a small piece of comfort, something that reminds them of their family and home wherever there future travels take them.

I know many people do not like Starbucks. At best, they find the coffee to bitter. At worst, they blame Starbucks for ushering in the apocalyptic end of the independently-owned coffee shop. I would venture to guess those same people who decry Starbucks for its mass commercialization of the coffee house experience never truly had a independent coffee house experience before Starbucks became omnipresent. I mean to say that, if anything, Starbucks saved the coffee house from extinction. Starbucks exposed to millions the value of sharing a cup of coffee in a warm, hip (if aesthetically sanitized to the point of having reduced 'hip' to its lowest, most palatable common denominator) environment. Starbucks taught people how to frequent coffee houses so that independent coffee houses could still occupy the cracks between Starbucks and carve out an existence for themselves. Otherwise, I wonder if coffee houses would have passed the way of the dinosaur, victim of our fast-paced, constantly-on-the-go lifestyle.

Elise and I drove everyone out to Ashburn, Virginia yesterday morning to interview a woman from Chennai for a babysitting position. Afterwards, on a cloudy Saturday morning beneath an icy mist, and trapped in the rolling monotony of one planned housing development after another with little better to do, we sought out Starbucks before driving home. As we sat drinking our coffee a woman and her daughter entered the shop. The girl was about nine or ten, maybe older. Her mom leaned down and said to her, "I think that is your dad in the corner," indicating a man sitting behind me, facing the wall, gazing intently at the face of his iPhone (I notice many people, for lack of anything else to do, gaze intently at the screens of their wireless devices. I still prefer to look out the window).

I immediately knew what was about to play out, having played the part of baton during countless transfers of my own. The dad turned and addressed his daughter, "Hey, baby doll," barely looking up from his iPhone. Her mother proceeded to explain to him that she had paid fifteen dollars earlier in the week so she could attend a school fair and that, last year, their daughter had won three cakes in the cake walk. The mother and daughter didn't embrace. She said goodbye and told her that she would see her on Monday, then left. My throat tightened with emotion.

See, when my dad picked up me and my brothers for his weekends, he would pull his Porsche up into the driveway of our house around 4:00 on a Friday afternoon and toot on the horn a few times. Truthfully, I could sense the purr of the Porsche's engine blocks away and would hurriedly throw some clothes, comics and Elric of Melnibone fantasy novels into a backpack.

I probably didn't need to bear witness to this. I haven't quite been myself recently. I admitted to Elise, on a much-needed run on a much-needed sunny 50 degree day, that I think I am dealing with a little bit of SADs, seasonal-affective disorder. Elise wasn't surprised. This is our first winter in over ten years, and unlike in Spokane, the only thing that is going to break the grip this cold has on us is the slow encroach of spring.

And maybe a cup of coffee.

Home Leave: 58 Days, 58 photos

To be honest, I am still heart broken over Brazil.  Which makes vacation hard. We were out of the country for two years and there was nothing more I wanted to do than to throw myself at the USA with open arms, but I'm not the same person anymore and that is now impossible.  This will sound crazy to anyone that hasn't lived this expat life and excluding perhaps as well, know that I don't mean it that way. It is just that I feel like we've been given this gift to know more, to live beyond the boundaries of ourselves and of our country. Go places where we have to learn to blend in, to survive, to thrive and to live this life to its fullest, for our kids and for our jobs and for ourselves, yet we are also expected to remain American, so we can come back and be normal, act normal, pretend nothing ever happened. However, we return with greater knowledge. Our challenge, to spread that knowledge gently among our fellow citizens and to try to meld the beauty that the world has shown us with those that don't believe or will ever have the opportunity to see. Try to do that without offending anyone, just try. I'm sure like every other aspect of this lifestyle, we will get better at it with time. Please and thank you for bearing with me until then.

I'm still finding my words, but 58 days with our family, friends, Mickey Mouse, snow, sand, Seattle, coffee, donuts and my tiny perfect family certainly has provided the threads to mend my broken heart.

58 days is a long vacation. It is long by normal person standards, it is really long even by State Department standards. 

It was busy, so busy that even though I had a brand new camera awaiting me in Florida, I didn't even have the chance or the heart to take it out of the box for the first week. Thank God for the iphone, for Instagram and for my obsession with photographing every moment. Which you can recap in the sidebar or just follow me on instagram @elisehanna ------------------------------------------------------------------>>

I took a lot of photos. We traveled a lot. We were together 24/7, which is a lot of time, but doesn't leave a lot of time for blogging. It was so filled with love and generosity and "welcome home's" when I didn't quite feel home and hugs and reunions and sacrifice and patience, where there should have been no more, and shared beds and good dreams and nightmares and acclimation and sweat and tears. So to wrap it up in just one blog post. Here are 58 photos from our 58 marvelous days of togetherness that speak all the words I would try to...only better:



Twenty One
Twenty Two
Twenty Three
Twenty Four
Twenty Five
Twenty Six
Twenty Seven
Twenty Eight
Twenty Nine
Thirty One
Thirty Two
Thirty Three
Thirty Four
Thirty Five
Thirty Six 
Thirty Seven
Thirty Eight
Thirty Nine
Forty + Days (of Beard Growth)
Forty One
Forty Two
Forty Three
Forty Four
Forty Five
Forty Six
Forty Seven
Forty Eight
Fourty Nine
Fifty One
Fifty Two
Fifty Three
Fifty Four
Fifty Five
Fifty Six
Fifty Seven
Fifty Eight