Thursday, December 24, 2009
In other news, I am beyond blissful about the corporate furnished house we've rented! It's beautifully (but simply) decorated with things that I'd pick out myself, and it's got a fabulous layout. In addition, we're in a great town, just outside the metro area of the capital city, and everything we could need is close by. Really, I wish I could just send Hubby back to Doha to finish his contract, and I'd just stay here with the girls. I'm trying to remember that none of this--our trip back, dinners out, Christmas paid for completely in cash, all the great food I'm making tomorrow--would be possible without our jobs in Qatar. It's extremely hard though....I've been happier in the past 11 days here than any single day since we arrived in Doha. I can't help but sincerely hope that Hubby will land a t-t job and we'll be able to break contract and come back home.
That said, I've just about had it with my mother, so a few states between us is probably a good thing. Really, the whole AcadeMama is a selfish mother and tyrant of a wife routine is getting old. Hubby and I are both tired of her attitude, the one she has about me (that I only think of myself), the one she has about our marriage (that Hubby is a spineless pushover), and the one she has about us as parents (that we spoil Eliza but treat Hannah unfairly). Each one is complete bullshit, and she doesn't have a clue what our daily lives are like, so she has no business spouting this crap to us (actually, she's only done it while I've been out of the house and Hubby was there) while we're home for just 18 days. I take that back, she shouldn't be saying things like that under any circumstances; she should keep her mouth shut and realize that we're just fine. We're happy, we're good parents, and we have a good marriage. Keeping her out of our heads has been difficult at times, but thankfully we have our own space, and we're staying in it! She and I will eventually have to have a conversation, but I don't know if it will change anything. If anything changes it will be because I now realize that nothing I ever do will be good enough for her...nothing I can do as a mother (except play the sacrificial Virgin Mary), or as a wife, or as a person in my own right will make her happy.
I'm not letting her spoil my visit home though. I've enjoyed watching the girls play together all day. I've made a TON of food in preparation for Christmas brunch and dinner tomorrow. And, Amelia started crawling since we've been back home!! Amazing what some soft carpet will allow (rather than cold, hard marble floors). She also got her two front teeth (on the top) with relatively little pain, despite the fact that she was bleeding at one point...She just looked up from her Daddy's leg and had blood on her mouth, but didn't care a bit. She was smiling from ear to ear. She really is amazing....so strong, happy, and determined. She's going to grow up a thousand times faster than the older girls.
For now, I'm soaking it all up: the snow, my daughters, time with my husband, the holidays, and all the Mexican food I can get in my belly! For all those celebrating, may you have the happiest and most joyful of holidays!
Monday, December 07, 2009
While we won't actually be in Qatar for Christmas, the season is upon us nonetheless, and it's to be found everywhere in Doha. Hubby and I have found this to be quite surprising. Decorations and lights line the Corniche, shopping malls have held various Christmas Market Days (complete with Santa Claus, Christmas cookies and trees, etc.), and even the nursery Eliza and Amelia attend is decorated to the hilt with snowflakes, tinsel, and ornaments. In a Muslim country, one in which any public display of religion other than Islam is technically illegal, how is this possible? I'm thinking there are only two possible reasons, but they don't necessarily exclude one another.
First, the possibility that the expat/Christian population is large enough that the powers that be feel like they should recognize and accommodate our most-revered holiday. Maybe....this is what Hubby thinks.
Second, and the one I think is more likely, is the seemingly obvious fact that money can be made from entertaining our holiday traditions. We'll buy decorations, we'll shop for gifts, and we'll spend good money to maintain a sense of normalcy here, especially during the holiday season and especially in the case of those who aren't able or willing to make the flight back home (wherever home is). I get the impression that the capitalist enterprise of the holidays seems fairly universal, and businesses in Doha want to exploit that just as much as businesses in the US and other predominantly Christian countries... but, I could be wrong. I'll have to ask around about this...
- Well, the psychiatrist visit turned out to be a bust after all. When I took the prescription he wrote to the *one* hospital that carries the medication, they wouldn't fill it because it was issued by a private psychiatrist. They will only fill scrips issued by their own physicians...great. So, we get to do the whole thing over again when we're back in the States for the holidays.
- We *finally* got tickets home!! Did I already mention that? Don't remember, but I'm so excited, that I'll mention it again. Knowing that home is just a few days away--we leave Saturday, Dec. 12th--makes everything better. It was a completely horrendous process to get the tickets because our bank in the US has a limit on purchases made with a debit card during the first six months an account is open, so we couldn't use that card. Then, Qatar Airways--the only airline with a direct flight to Houston--doesn't allow debit cards to be used at all for purchasing tickets online. What did we have to do, you ask? We had to go to the bank, take out almost QAR68,000, bring it to campus, and pay a travel agent in the faculty lounge. Completely fucking bass-ackwards, but we got the tickets.
- We *finally* got our car loan! The new minivan has been with us since Thanksgiving, and Hubby adores it. When all was said and done, we got totally screwed because of the global recession and its effects on lending everywhere, including Doha. Even though our contracts are renewable (and this is indicated on our salary letters, which one must provide for the bank), they would only give us a loan for the term of our current contracts--a year and half (remaining time). Add to that the over-pricing that happens on vehicles in Doha, and our car payment...ready for it???.... $2,220/month! Now, we get a $575/month car allowance to help offset this, but holy shit! This will cut into our monthly cash flow in such a way that it will make the debt elimination process a bit slower. The flip side to this is a) we'll have it paid off before we leave, and b) when we leave, we'll be able to sell it for more than we would back in the US, and we'll get the vast majority of our money back. We can then use that money to pay off debt or to put down on a vehicle or house back in the States. I'm not happy about the way it all shook out, but it was the lesser of two evils.
- The Thanksgiving dinner party went really well...more food than a small army could eat, and good company. One of my colleagues is particularly fabulous and is now my Super Smart, Funny, Gay Friend :) He's truly thoughtful, hilarious, honest, and he's lived all over the Middle East. His company and conversation brighten my time at school, and I'm smitten with his Sri Lankan partner as well...Lovely guys!
- Amelia has had The Worst Cold in the Universe for the past four weeks. It has necessitated one ER visit, a visit to her pediatrician, one inhaler, and four other minor medications. She's pretty much healthy now...and getting her healthy before our trip back to the US was the important thing for me.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I call and find out that he does treat children and he does see patients with ADHD---good so far! I set up the appointment, and we went last night, and to my endless surprise, I really like him. He listened to her entire history, asked all the right/relevant questions about her medication, adjustment to the relocation, behavior in school and at home, etc. Just as good, he agreed with my belief that it's time to increase the dosage of her meds. She's been on it for two years, and given her growth and the fact that she's approaching the age where hormones may start to be a factor, the medicine has become less effective and is wearing off earlier in the day. I couldn't believe that we walked out of his office last night with a new prescription in hand!
Unfortunately, we got home just in time for her to start puking her guts up! Looks like she caught the stomach bug that Eliza and Amelia had over the weekend. She'd already been home yesterday with a nasty cold, so this was just icing on the cake.
In an attempt to make the Thanksgiving holiday feel like a "normal" one, I decided to throw a Thanksgiving dinner party for some colleagues and friends. This first required me to poach a couple of friends from a colleague who has become a friend, but the point is that they're all people Hubby and I really like. I'm doing the turkey (Alton Brown's brined turkey!), dressing, a pecan pie, a pumpkin pie, coconut cake, and appetizers, and everyone else is bringing a side dish. We've got a couple other kids coming, so I bought a kid's table for them to sit at, and I'm even going to get some fresh flowers, a new tablecloth, and some decor for the house. Planning this has made me quite happy, despite the fact that I'll need to take Thursday off work to get started on cooking, cleaning, etc. We should have our alcohol permit by then, too, so yay for lots of wine!!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
- Car loans: evidently, they are impossible to get in this country. We've been here almost four months, actively trying to get a car loan since September, and we get a new story, policy, rule, or caveat every time we go to the bank. I'm seriously at my wit's end with this one. I find it completely ironic that, during the brief time in our life when our combined salary is a six-figure number, we can't get a car loan for damn car (worth approx. $40K)!
- Every time I have to spend 4 hours to simply make it to two stores to do shopping, I get in a shitty mood. I wish this weren't the case, but it happens every time.
- The direct flight back to the US on Dec. 11th is full in business class. We've already purchased non-refundable domestic tickets back to Home State for Dec. 11th. We could: a) fly coach with three children for 16 hours in order to make our domestic flight OR b) fly business class on Dec. 12th and pay $600 to change our domestic tickets. I'm not a fan of either option, and I'm really sick of people acting shocked that we want to fly business class on an international flight. This is why we get our travel allowance, right?
- Oh yeah, then there was the lovely bomb threat to our building. The first one evidently. We laughed it off at first, thinking it was surely a student trying to get out of an exam or something. Then we found out that they traced the call to Kazakhstan, and the threat was considered serious enough to "make it to the upper levels of the US and the local government." Fabulous.
- I want out. Not now. Not this academic year. But I'm done. Hubby is officially on the market, and we've agreed that if he lands a T-T job, then we'll break contract and go home after just this academic year. As much as they pay me, it's not enough. For others, it's plenty. For me, I'm just not cut out for this. I hope things get better. I pray for this daily...but until they do, I feel like I'm on the edge of breaking down every day.
- I'm working my ass off with dissertation revisions. My defense is tentatively scheduled for April...God I hope I can get it all wrapped up by then.
- It is quite likely that we'll need to increase Hannah's dosage for her ADHD medicine. I shudder to think of what the process will be like in a country where they consider ADHD a "mental problem." Worst case scenario is that she can see someone when we go back home for Christmas.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
We also got a couple of boxes from the US, one from my Mom and one from Hubby's parents. The former contained heavenly things like beef jerky, Special K Fruit & Yogurt cereal (which costs $10 a box in Doha), Funyuns (which generally don't exist in Doha), children's Benadryl (again, non-existent here), trail mix, and my monthly Southern Living magazine--yay for wonderful things! You can't imagine how much you appreciate things like this until you're living halfway around the world from them. The latter box contained Eliza's birthday gifts, and she loved everything!
Our wire recall finally went through, and we got our $5K back in our US account. Now we officially have money in the bank...like savings. Our plan has been/continues to be to live off of one salary and put the other salary in the bank until we have our savings built up to cover 3 months living expenses, the cost of replacing our living room and bedroom furniture that we sold when we moved, and a few other things we plan to buy when we get back home. In the meantime, we'll still be able to pay off credit card debt as we go, with all of them paid off by the end of the year. Sometime in late Spring, we'll start whacking away at the student loan debt, which will feel so good!
Hubby, Hannah, and Eliza made some memories of their own yesterday, when they took a trip to the inland sea.
(Not our picture, but ours don't look much different). This view if from the top of one of the sand dunes, which surround the sea. I had to stay home with Amelia, as the drive is 2 hours each way, and there's no place for a baby to nap in the middle of the desert. They caravaned with several families from our compound and some friends who work for other universities in Education City, and the girls had a blast. Hannah and her friends slid down sand dunes on their tummies, and Eliza enjoyed watching everyone try to get one of the vehicles out of the "goop" as she called the sandy-muddy mess. The geological phenomenon there is evidently quite something to see.... Oil is actually percolating to the surface!! You can dig just a few inches in parts of the sand, and you start to see oil. Crazy stuff...
So yeah...I won't say things have gotten better for me in the larger sense. I'd simply say that we've finally had some good days. I got my debit card for our local bank account, and in about a week, we're going to apply for a credit card and two vehicle loans. We'll see how that goes....
Sunday, October 18, 2009
In a response paper to an article that describes the relative inaction of Middle Eastern countries to do anything to recognize and prevent the spread of AIDS in the Muslim world, a student wrote the equivalent of, "we only have 3% of the total AIDS patients, so it's not really a problem...about 1 million people dying isn't a big problem." WTF??
All I could do was ask: "How many people have to be dying for it to be considered a 'problem'"?
And then we have, "Maybe the writer hasn't grasped the idea that being conservative is safer in a fight in a deadly disease"
I mean, really....where do I even begin?
Monday, October 12, 2009
Fast forward to today...I'm home sick. Nothing serious, just a cold and general tiredness. I have tons of papers to grade, so I figured staying home might help me get caught up. However, I've realized two things. One, I'm always tempted to do "home" things rather than "work" things when at home (cook, clean, etc.). Two, this isn't home. Even though it's the space I am sharing with my husband and three children, where we eat at least two meals almost every day at the dining room table, where we will all come closer together as we make it through the next 21 months--this is not home. There's just something empty in the marble floors, vast quiet (since the kids are at school and daycare), and infinite summer outside my windows. It makes me feel like a stranger in the house, like I shouldn't be here while the family who lives here isn't home. I tried lighting a Fall Harvest-scented candle to trick myself into a little bit more comfort, but it isn't really working.
From now on, there will be no more working from "home".
Monday, October 05, 2009
- Banking/Lending: opening a bank account in a developing country is a bizarre and archaic experience. Trying to finance a vehicle purchase only makes this more complicated. For example, you need not have money to open an account, but you can walk away with an activated debit card for said account, on the spot. One cannot get a car loan until at least one direct salary deposit has hit your account. When this happens, you can apply for the loan. If you are approved for the loan, you then physically write out 48 (for a 4-yr loan) checks in the amount of loan payment and hand them to the banker. The bank will then deposit/cash one check each month on the due date of ones loan. In order to facilitate getting a car loan for a new minivan, Hubby promptly opened an account and filled out the paperwork to have his payroll direct deposited into his Doha account. Good right? Yeah, except that the finance dept. works about one month in advance, and he was two days past the cutoff for getting October's payroll into the Doha bank. This means we cannot even apply for the car loan now until November 1st, when his payroll hits. Seriously, this is beyond ridiculous. Now, we're stuck leasing two vehicles for this month, one of which is covered by one car allowance, the second of which (a Chevy Tahoe) will cost approximately $1,000 for the month (after the car allowance is applied).
- We made it through Ramadan just fine, but living within the limitations of Ramadan operating/working hours was inconvenient to say the least.
- Hannah and I went back to the US for the Eid break that follows Ramadan. I'll skip the nightmare that was the possibility of us not getting our passports back from the immigration office in time to leave....We had a great time back home: shopping, eating (one day I managed to eat pork at breakfast, lunch, and dinner--yum), the State Fair, and college football! I even organized a clothing drive for the troops that are on the base in Doha (they aren't allowed to leave the base without civilian clothing, and most of them don't have any). But, the trip was bittersweet. On one hand, I wanted to stay, but on the other hand, I desperately missed Hubby and my two little ones back in Doha. The airport scene to come back to Qatar involved Hannah in tears, clinging to a chair, and begging to stay in Home State with my parents and them trying to pry her off the chair. I'm not hopeful that this scene will improve with future trips.
- My classes continue to go quite well. My students are sweet, funny, interesting, and (usually) eager to learn. I brought my film students blueberry muffins, and it was the very first time most of them had ever tasted them. One asked, "What do you call this again?" I plan to make pecan pies for them in the future :)
- Hannah is unhappy with school. I'd heard her make a few general complaints after we got back from the US, but last night she opened up and explained that she feels out of place, behind, and lost in the classroom. Part of this is because many of the kids have been going to ASD previously, so they've learned the methods being taught. Part of it is that she doesn't feel comfortable asking questions because she's afraid people will think she's stupid. She doesn't want me to tell her teacher that she has ADHD because she doesn't want to be given special treatment. She has great friends in our compound, and she admitted how much she loves spending time with them, but she hasn't made any connections to other girls in her class.
- I've grown a bit unhappy here as well. I like my job...I really love only having two classes (with a grand total of 25 students combined), and God knows the money is just what we need to pay off our credit cards and get some of our student loan debt erased. However, I don't have any close friends, and there isn't really an academic or intellectual community for the humanities faculty here (much less one more specifically concerned with literature). Granted, I knew this beforehand, but there's one faculty member in another humanities department that specializes in my period, and I thought that person might be someone with whom I might connect in academic matters. Someone to share work with, discuss matters in the field, etc. Well, not so much.
- Also, I have no quality time with Hubby. No babysitter in a world full of South Asian nannies. We're brainstorming ways around this problem, and we may end up "skipping" work one day to just be together, but for now, this really sucks. I don't remember the last time we really kissed each other.
- Add that fact that Hannah is increasingly unhappy with her school, and Hubby and I are at the point that we're willing to break contract if we were to secure tenure-track jobs back in the US. Indeed, after my talk with Hannah last night, we've made an agreement with her.
Option 1: Hubby and I will apply for t-t jobs in the spring. Most likely, we'll keep it to ones that we have particularly promising chances at...If either of us lands one, we will go back to States. This will mean paying taxes on our salary for the time we've been here and we'll have to pay back the relocation allowance advanced to us when we moved here.
Option 2: If neither of us get a job (or there turns out to be no spring job market), AND if Hannah is still unhappy with school at the end of this academic year, we'll stay for the second (and final) year of our contracts, but Hubby and I will home-school Hannah. We'll learn the curriculum over the summer and seek help from others in our compound who home-school their children, and we'll do the best we can. The good part about that option is the flexibility it would allow for all sorts of things, but especially travel back to the US.
This doesn't cover everything...one post really couldn't. Life here is a daily something. It may be an adventure one day, and a nightmare the next. Some might say that this is true about life anywhere, and maybe it is. But here, there's an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. The feeling that you don't know the rules, so you can't really respond logically. Of course, it doesn't help when sometimes (and this is really true) the rules are, literally, not written down (as in the case of traffic laws).
I'm still giving it my best effort. I will remain hopeful, not only for my sake but also for the sake of my family. I still believe it is in our best interest to remain here, fulfill our contracts, and use this time to work on getting published and hitting the job market with as much marketability as possible. It's just that some days are harder than others to remember this...
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
- I can do this...the time will pass quicker than I think, and we will all be better for it
- Ramadan, in some ways, is like Christmas without the capitalism. You have the feasting before sunrise and after sunset, but the idea of being more charitable, doing good deeds, and getting closer to God --- without the giant exchange of store-bought gifts --- is quite nice. I'm not so much into fasting, but we've found ourselves easily respecting and going along with all other things Ramadan.
- I can now get to all major shopping malls, grocery stores, and the schools my children attend without using a map (or getting lost)!
- I know, in general, which stores to go to for various items (i.e. we can only find meat that doesn't taste funny at Family Food Center, which is right near our compound).
- I have a fantastic boss! Seriously folks, because Hubby and I overlap for one hour in our teaching schedule, my boss offered to watch the baby in his office...She stayed with him for the hour yesterday, and everything went fine. This is just temporary, until the montessori opens the baby program back up on Sept. 6th.
- Driving around roundabouts can be tricky, but I might like them better than stoplights...maybe.
- How much I appreciate air-conditioned school buses that also have seat belts!
- How much I miss all things familiar: my favorite mascara, street names I know by heart, BBQ pork of any kind, my friends and family, anything that doesn't get weighed/measured using the metric system, and water I can drink right out of the tap.
- That there will be me before Doha, and then there will be a different me after Doha. It's only been a month, and I have such a different perspective on so many things. For example, Hubby and I were watching _A Mighty Heart_ the other night, a film about the life and kidnapping of Daniel Pearl (Angelina Jolie was, I think, nominated for an Oscar for her role as his wife). One of the opening scenes begins with a shot of a mosque and the call to prayer. Hubby and I just looked at each other and knew we were thinking the same thing: "We know that sound now...it's part of our daily lives." We recognized that, prior to moving here, we had no idea what the call to prayer sounded like, when it happened, where it happened, what the effects of it were, etc. But now, I know the time of day based on the call, without even needing to look at a clock. I can tell by the stream of men in white thobes walking in the same direction.
I know there are lots of other things I haven't covered, but these are the things that come to mind immediately. Things have settled down now that we're done with our immigration processing, our shipment from the US arrived, and we've finished unpacking. It still doesn't feel like home, and I'm not sure if our house ever will...but it's "home for now". The kids are doing well, and the financial peace of mind is actually taking some getting used to. We're still in the broke graduate student/utilitarian state of mind, and I still look at the price of everything before buying. The bottom line is that we are very fortunate to have these jobs and this opportunity, and I couldn't be more thankful.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
It's like Christmas in our house now! Eliza keeps saying how much she loves the boxes of her stuff....doesn't always even know what's inside, but she's so happy to just have her things here that she's smiling from ear to ear. Our own swing (not one borrowed from the neighbors), our own wagon, our other car seats, my kitchenware, which has been so very missed (the other night, I pounded chicken breasts with the bottom of a rum bottle).
HANGERS! Hangers with the clips on them! You have know idea how important these are until you move to a place where they don't exist. Pictures of my girls, our family, things that will finally make it feel like we're living in our home instead of a McMansion in the desert.
These first two weeks or so have been harder than I ever could have imagined. My days ususally start off hopeful and positive, but by the end of the day, I'm exhausted, depressed, homesick, and wondering if we bit off more than we can chew. I was warned this is how it would go...that this is all normal, but I don't have much patience for simply surviving it each day. But today--just for today--I'm happy to have the rest of all the little pieces of our life back.
More to come on: being in the presence of a Sheikh, what Eliza thinks about how people dress here, and getting a medical exam at a government-run medical clinic.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Driving in this country may, in fact, make me crazy, but as long as everyone survives and leaves the country uninjured, I can deal. I must note, however, that I am horribly saddened every time I pass a vehicle with Arab children roaming freely about the seats (front and back). I can't imagine how many children end up hurt or dead from traffic accidents here because car seats (or seat belts) aren't legally required.
The worst of it? We still have no routine. No groove. Every day seems to be a tiny bit better, but there's no rhythm, we merely survive. More than half the children in our compound are still on holiday, so Hannah is a little disappointed in the slim pickings she has for friends right now, especially since she's not allowed to go swimming by herself. Eliza started visiting her Montessori this week, and she'll start full time next week. That will help, simply because we'll be forced to get up early enough to get her there on time in the mornings. The administrative workers are trying to get us "processed" as quickly as possible, but sometimes this involves calling us at 9:00 a.m. to let us know they need one of us there within an hour, which isn't easy with three kids.
I'm very happy to have a friend of ours over helping us for the week! She's the exact opposite personality from me, so she's relaxed, chilled out, and willing to do anything. Without her, I'd be in tears daily. We've gotten lost going to or returning from several places more times than I can count now, but I'm determined to keep trying. I still have no sense of my meal planning/cooking routine. After a week and a half, we've managed to eat two meals at their normal times, which probably isn't a big deal to anyone but me, but ya know?? It bugs the shit outta me!
On top of everything, Eliza got a quick stomach bug last week and we were completely dependent upon the driver from Human Resources--Mohammed-- to lead us to the hospital. He's from Yemen, so English is not his native language, and it turned out that he led us to an emergency pediatric clinic. He promised that this is the place where he takes his children and that "they speak good here" (as opposed to the other hospital where they send you from desk to desk and want lots of money up front). This man went beyond the call of duty as he picked up my vomit-covered child out of her car seat and carried her into the clinic to get us checked in. Within a minute she was admitted to a triage room and they began examining her. Because we'd only been in the country 6 days and she was exhibiting 2 of the symptoms (fever and vomiting), she had to be tested (the booger sucking tube) for Swine Flu. They gave her a shot for the vomiting, waited, then said if she could hold fluids down after 30 minutes we could go home. She did, and though the doctor wanted to put her on Tamiflu, I never gave her the medicine because I knew she didn't have the flu. The whole time, Mohammed kept a close eye on Eliza, making sure she was comfortable, getting her a blanket, asking the nurse questions to make sure he understood how they were treating her, and getting everyone to move promptly. When it was time to go, the whole thing (which took just over a couple hours) cost approximately $3.00, which he refused to let me pay. $3.00 freakin dollars!! This is an unfathomable contrast to what happens in emergency rooms back in the States. I still can't believe how kind everyone was. One of my worst fears was immediately put to the test, and everything turned out fine. Eliza was back to her normal self by bedtime that night.
There's simply too much difference, too many experiences, too many small details to fit into a few posts, so I'll have to be choosy. For now, it's safe to say that nothing could have ever fully prepared me for living here. It's not just another country. It's another culture, another language, and they are both completely foreign to me. Little things like not knowing the Celsius scale so I could give the doctor Eliza's temperature, or knowing how much lunchmeat I'm asking for when I say 250 grams, or taking for granted the all KFCs in the world serve biscuits....these have turned out to be huge reminders of how small my world has been my whole life. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret coming. But there are definitely some things I wish I'd thought about, learned about, and/or brought with me before leaving the U.S.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
- Children that did beautifully on the flight over (15 hours)
- Children that are just barely getting over jetlag. The first two nights, the oldes two woke up at 3:00 a.m. hungry and wide awake. They had pb&j's, eventually went back to sleep, and didn't get up until we woke them up at noon!
- Our home phone still doesn't work, and it costs a small fortune to make an international call on the cell phone. This sucks because I can talk faster than I type, and I can squeeze in a phone call much easier than I can the time to compose an e-mail.
- I've visited three separate grocery stores in two days, spending more than $800, and I still have a one-page list of things I need for this "furnished" house (i.e. dish towels, hand towels, bigger pillows, baskets, cereal bowls, etc.)
- It's 5:20 am here, and the baby still hasn't woken up yet, so this is very good.
- We can't find Amelia's formula here. They have several kinds of Similac, but not the Sensitive Formula for babies that are gassy. Our options right now are to ship it (expensive), use lactose-free (not sure we need to do that), or see how she does on the regular formula. I bought a container of the regular stuff for now, and a friend suggested that we look at a pharmacy to see if they might have it there.
- A new order/restriction is in place regarding driver's licences. There's a chance I might not be able to take my driver's license exam for more than a month. This is very, very bad for all sorts of reasons.
- We blew up the portable DVD because we didn't have a converter (just an adaptor), we are in dire need of expanded cable or immediate entertainment for the children. Hannah has already made a couple of friends, but one is leaving for Saudi today, and the other is kept on an unusually tight leash (slightly weird, but extremely nice, home-schooling Mom, who btw had three bags of toys and blueberry muffins waiting for us when we arrived!!) They'd also stocked the house with some basic items: milk, bread, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, etc. Then I came to find that she only has these items because she's been having them shipped weekly from the states. Evidently, one can't actually get grape jelly in Doha.
- The call to prayer is beautiful. It's a somber, comforting reminder that many people are stopping whatever they're doing to be dutiful to their religious practice, no matter how inconvenient. I gotta respect that. Don't get me wrong, I'm soooo happy that I can't hear it from inside my house unless the front door is open, but I do like listening to it.
- I drove for the first time yesterday. The roundabouts weren't as bad as I though they'd be, but it will still take a lot of getting used to in terms of finding my way back home and figuring out the consequences of not having left turns.
- I can't wait for our stuff to get here! I've done my best to make it feel like home, but right now it still feels like we're on vacaction in a luxury home in an American compound.
- Still no word on the American School for Hannah. Or, I should say, one set of people thinks she'll get in, one person yesterday said he didn't think any other kids that weren't already accepted have a snowball's chance in hell. Thus, we'll look at a couple of other schools and let her see the campuses.
- The first night here, on the way home from the airport, I did the unthinkable. I rode in a vehicle with Amelia in my arms. It's a long story, but it involved her screaming at the top of her lungs, projectile vomiting her bottle up all over herself because she was so worked up, and her really just wanting to be held. I not-so-nimbly flew into the backseat and picked her up and held her for the 15-minute drive home and prayed we didn't have an accident.
- Nothing could have prepared me for how different things are here...even our previous visit.
- Oh, and they don't really believe in tampons. That's just freakin great. I packed enough to get me through my next cycle, but I'll be having my friend stash extra in her suitcase when she comes over....and THANK GOD someone is coming over to help! We just need an extra set of hands right now.
This is just a nutshell version of the first few days. Today is my first day on campus, and the driver is coming to pick me up in a few hours, so I'm off to shower, make myself presentable, and get formula made for the day. I'm hoping to get to post more frequently once the kids get back to their regular schedules, but everything is just a bit crazy now. Until next time, the roller coaster ride continues :)
Monday, July 20, 2009
The garage sale has come and gone. I had two wonderful friends spend hours and hours in the hot sweaty garage, setting the whole thing up. We did really well, clearing about $700, which isn't bad for a garage sale and doesn't include the $250 we sold our living room furniture for.
The moving crew came back yesterday to move our remaining stuff into storage. There were some kinks in the deal, a private arrangement between us and them...an off-the-clock kinda job. Luckily, everything worked out okay, and they wrapped our stuff air tight. I really think it will stay protected while we're gone.
Today was my birthday present: a spa day! Nothing like a Swedish massage and European facial to work off some of the stress of moving.
Good karma came our way when the orthodontist decided not to charge us the $350 to transfer Hannah's file out---woohoo! That definitely made it easy for me to make the decision to just hire someone to clean the house. Never mind that one of the people doing the cleaning is totally high on meth!! Yes, that's right. Totally wacked out, scratching her hair, sunken cheeks, hopped up higher than groceries. The whole story is that the assistant teacher in the baby's room at the montessori mentioned that her mother does housecleaning. I called, offered her $150 for the job, she accepted and said she could do it tonight. When she showed up, she explained that she'd brought a friend to help her do the job in order to make sure it got finished tonight. It took less than a minute for me to tell that this other lady was completely strung out. Don't get me wrong, she's on speed, so she's cleaning faster than Wonder Woman over there. And they both seem really broke and really shocked at the amount I offered to pay, so I don't doubt that they'll get the job done. I just still can't believe a freakin meth head showed up to clean my house....well, it used to be my house.
Now, I live in EconoLodge Limbo. We've set up shop, complete with bottles, formula, bottle drying rack, brush, way too much luggage, and a couple more boxes of stuff I need to figure out whether I need to take or not. What sucks right now is that I can't find my cell phone charger or a book that was lent to me by my department head....argh! Hopefully, they'll show up soon.
We still have a walk-through for the house tomorrow, I need to pick up medical files for myself and Hannah, and we have an emergency appointment with HR because there's some screw up with the benefit enrollment for Amelia, which should've been taken care of two weeks ago when we met with the HR coordinator!
At this point, I'm feeling more calm than I thought I'd be, yet there's still plenty of stress. I feel like I'm bound to forget a thousand things, and I'm just ready to be at my mom's house, spending a few extra minutes with her and going through the stuff that *will* fit in my luggage. On top of everything, we still have to take a look at the short-term housing units back in Home State on Thursday and re-pack all of Hannah's stuff after her being at her grandma's house for a week (with God knows how many shopping trips!).
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Some good things have happened though:
- We have both a pack-out date and a fly-out date! The moving company will come to pack up our things on Friday, July 17th. We will fly out of Houston for Doha on Saturday, July 25th. I still sometimes can't believe we're doing this.
- Somehow, my 10-week old baby managed to sleep through the entire night last night! Seriously, from 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Don't know what caused this, but man I'm a well-rested Mama today!
- We found a storage unit for the mani-van. We'll store it here in Hometown, and when we come back for breaks, my mom can simply use it to come pick us up at the airport, and she'll be able to drive it periodically to keep it in working condition. The owner of the storage place was willing to give us a really good rate, too, because we're willing to sign a long-term lease.
- We also got more solid information on the availability of a 3-bedroom, furnished corporate apartment. Since my hometown is about 40 minutes away from the airport (and capital city), this works out well for all sorts of reasons.
- I got to take a picture of all my girls with my last remaining grandparent, my grandmother, who has Alzheimers. To be honest, I don't think she even remembered that I had been pregnant. In fact, one of my cousins told me that she'd previously told him I'd had a miscarriage. Regardless, she was thrilled for us to visit, and she was even able to hold the baby. It did, however, cause her to break down in tears. Every birth of another great-grandchild makes her happy, but sad that my grandfather isn't here to enjoy it with her. The loss of her husband almost 20 years ago is the dominating memory in her mind, and she seems increasingly haunted by his absence from her daily life.
Okay, this will have to suffice for now. My task for today is to go through the entire dissertation and review my advisor's suggestions, questions, etc. and make sure I understand exactly what she's asking me to do in terms of revision. We've agreed to meet one more time before we leave the States, which will give me the chance to ask for any clarification I might need. So, to the real work.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The chaos seems to be increasing on a daily basis. Some days are worse than others, and I expect(ed) things to get more hectic the closer we get to our pack-out date, but Holy Hell Batman! Yesterday was the absolute worst. It's the closest I've ever felt to what might be a panic attack. It's no one thing alone. Rather, it's all sorts of little and big things that fell on my plate at once yesterday. For example, the Sec. of State office sent us the wrong form to authenticate our criminal history reports (my job to figure out how to fix it); our relocation allowance won't be issued until our visa comes is (my job to see how we might expedite the process by having direct deposit paperwork filled out in advance); I was under the impression I'd be teaching a Rhetoric and Composition course for the fall (it turns out that it will be, for all practical purposes, more like a developmental writing course, my job to re-do all my prep work thus far)....you get the idea folks.
On top of these things, I met with the former liberal arts program coordinator for the overseas campus on Monday (he and his wife have recently finished their contracts and returned to the home campus), and he had all sorts of helpful, terrifying tidbits of information. Things like....
- there is no cold water in the villas...water tanks are kept outside, so the temperature of the water is, um, hot, hot, hot. To avoid ruining clothing one must either let the water sit in the washing machine until it's room temperature or pour additional chilled water in the machine. I'm guessing the same goes for bathwater for the kids.
- the sand gets everywhere. I'd heard this, but he explained how this relates to other things, like not being able to help keep your car interior a tad bit cooler by rolling the windows down because the sand will invade your vehicle.
- and Ramadan...I knew about that, we'd heard how it gets tricky to get/eat food during this time, especially in public, but I he explained that this basically means you eat from home the entire time unless you want to join the rest of the town at the restaurants when they finally open after sundown. Um, with three kids, I think not.
- the pools?? They aren't heated. They are CHILLED. That's how freakin hot it is.
There are various other things that have added to the craziness. I feel like my list of things to do is always five times as long as Hubby's and, to some extent, that's often the reality not just my feeling. The main problem is that I've lost my ability to be realistic about a)what deserves to be on the list and b)in what order those things should be listed. Yesterday, it was 2:00 p.m. and I realized that I hadn't eaten anything all day, and the only thing I'd had to drink was a morning cup of coffee. Even worse, I felt compelled NOT to stop and eat anything because there was too much stuff to be done while the baby was napping.
I know I'm a control freak, and I'm trying to get better at asking Hubby to help me with things, but I still sometimes resort to quasi-sabotaging his efforts b/c I can't keep from following up on him and directing the task myself--micromanaging is probably what it is--which defeats the purpose of delegating some of the tasks to him in the first place.
The one main saving grace of the day is that I was able to contact the finance person in Doha, and she indicated that we might be able to get our relocation allowances next week!! You have no idea how big this is! I mean, technically, we are officially unemployed until July 1. Neither of us have had any summer funding, and we've had to take out short-term loans just to make sure we'd have enough money to pay bills in July, since we weren't given any clear information about when we'd get our relocation funds. Making this particular issue more complicated is that I had been given the wrong info from our support office here. All this time, I've been told that we couldn't get our funds until our visa came in. I found out just YESTERDAY that the visa has nothing to do with our funds! The only thing that needs to happen is for our signed contracts to hit the desk of the finance person in Doha! Once I found this out, the finance person was able to quickly track down our contracts and get the ball rolling.
Yesterday, I seriously needed to be talked down from the metaphorical edge. The stress and anxiety are creeping into the daytime hours now, not just preventing me from getting to sleep at night, but making me feel like I'm simply going nuts trying to keep track of and prioritize all the things that need to be done (the list that now includes me completely changing my syllabus and assignments for the writing class). My doctor is increasing the dosage on my medication and he's given me the go-ahead to take it as needed during the day also.
Oh, and did I mention I have a defense date scheduled? Yes, Wednesday, April 7th. Making it official has simply reinforced my anxiety about making sure I get the time I need to finish my revisions in the fall....this has simply reinforced my anxiety about getting as much course prep done as I possibly can now, so that I can put the classes on "auto pilot" once I get there. You get the cyclical nature of all this?? Thought process fail. Control fail. Planning fail.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
After an argument with Hubby on Friday, in which I explicitly detailed *my* list of to-dos and compared it with *his* list, I think he finally gets what I've been telling him for weeks now: I'm fucking overwhelmed! While his comment that, "I've never seen you so overwhelmed??" made me want to rip his head off, I pointed out the obvious---I never HAVE been so overwhelmed. This is my first go around with three kids, a dissertation, and an international relocation. Some nights, I've stayed awake until 3:00 a.m. thinking about all the various plans and backup plans we need to have for random issues (travelling in the airports, vehicle arrangements in Qatar, teaching schedules, etc.). While I was in for my full medical exam on Friday, I talked to my doctor (the family physician) about the anxiety and insomnia, and for the first time in my life, I'm on anti-anxiety medication. I'm embarrassed about it, and I don't like needing medication to help me cope with my life, but things have reached a point where I had to do something. It's a mild sedative, which I'll only take in the evenings and only as needed in the lowest dose. In addition, Hubby and I have now worked out a division of at-home care with Amelia, which begins tomorrow. I'll work at the office on M/W, he'll work T/Th, and we'll split Friday in half. This comes after he met with his committee and they told him there are more revisions they'd like to see, and he won't be able to defend this week as he'd originally planned. They don't want anything extensive, just nit-picky things. He's confident he can finish the revisions before we leave in July, and then he'll defend in September via video conference.
Between the medication and getting some time in at the office, I think things will improve. My goal is to use my office days to work on course prep for the fall and use my at-home days to box things up for storage and garage sale. I'm hoping that if I can have those two categories of boxes completely taken care of, this will make it easier to relax and know that the moving company can handle all the other stuff we're taking with us. Part of my stress has come from simply looking around my house and seeing all our stuff everywhere. I don't feel *ready* to move with all my things still in their place, so then I start feeling anxious and unprepared. I can much more easily tolerate looking at boxes in the garage or stacked neatly in a corner than I can handle the stress of feeling like nothing has been done.
For now, I've gotta make use of the little time I have while the baby is asleep.....check that, she's awake now...didn't even make it 20 minutes.
Monday, May 25, 2009
- For what it's worth, I fucking hate bathing suits right now. I've discovered one of the undesirable consequences of having a baby in late April is the impossibility of being "swimsuit season ready" by the time the pools open in this town. Seriously, after trying on several, I couldn't bring myself to take the girls to the pool and be seen in public, so I had Hubby take them instead. I'll just sit home and be disgusted with myself, thanks.
- I'm not breastfeeding anymore. Kinda by choice, but in a way not. One of those rock/hard place kinda things. Formula stinks (literally).
- H decided she'd run away on Saturday. Yes, she did. She ran around the block a few times--in the rain--then came home to a shitstorm of trouble. She's grounded. From, like, everything.
- I feel like I'm clearly fucking up my oldest child somehow (see above bullet). Seriously, I must be doing something wrong, really wrong.
- Yesterday morning, a discussion about disciplinary duties for H turned into a major fight with Hubby....Unbeknownst to us, H was eavesdropping from behind the couch in the next room....that's just great.
- I want desperately to be able to go to the gym each day, but I feel like I can't ask Hubby to take over with the kids while I do so because that will cut into his work day, which equals cutting into his ability to finish up his dissertation in time to defend before the deadline in a few weeks.
- The in-laws are coming on Friday. The good news is that they're getting a hotel. The better news is that I'll be gone for most of Saturday to take H to meet my mom (H is going back to Home State for her Summer Tour). I hope I'm in a better mood before they arrive.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Maybe not literally (though it's possible), she suggested that I stop supplementing with formula from a bottle and says that I'm not at a point where I need the supplement tube feeding system. She saw that I'd gotten nipple shields and said that was exactly what was needed. She watched Amelia nurse for a bit, saw that there was milk in the shield even after she stopped actively swallowing, and ultimately thinks the problem is an issue of tongue movement. Amelia likes to keep her tongue up, and we've seen this happen on occasion when we've given her bottles. She doesn't automatically drop her tongue to start sucking, we have to wait for her to figure that step out sometimes. The LC thinks that once she starts automatically dropping her tongue, this will help with the latch-on problems. She advised me to use the nipple shields until my nipples are healed, the try to nurse again without them. She also put me on Reglan to help boost my milk supply while I'm using the shields, just in case the supply drops a bit as a result of the decreased stimulation that comes with the shields.
The problem is that I'm at an impasse. The LC and the pediatrician are giving me completely opposite advice, and I'm--of course--always most concerned with whether or not my child is getting the nutrition and caloric intake she needs to gain weight....which, by the way, she has. Between Thursday and yesterday, she gained 4 ounces (an ounce a day). But, that's with the additional supplements the doctor recommended.
The good thing is that the nipple shields have definitely eliminated the pain factor. It doesn't hurt to nurse anymore.....but she is still having 2-3 hour nursing sessions during the day, usually in between her 3-4 hour naps. The LC suggested that I try to wake her up after 3 hours, but my child doesn't wake up unless she's damn good and ready.
I think for now I'm going to continue to nurse her, offering her both breasts at least twice, and then if she's still acting like she's hungry, I'll give her a couple of ounces from a bottle to supplement. For now, it will likely still be formula simply because the pumping isn't producing much. I'm not making myself any promises or trying to predict any improvement or failure. Rather, I'm still just taking it one day at a time... and we're at day 19 now.
What I've come to realize is that it's about much more than the ease or difficulty of the breastfeeding process itself. It's also about my ability to care for and spend time with my other two children; my need to feel like I'm not the only one predominantly caring for the baby; and my desire to literally come and go more freely instead of feeling like I'm chained to the house because we haven't gotten to the point where I can nurse discreetly. The truth is, if things were going just as easy as they did when I breastfed my first daughter, I'm not sure if/how long I'd continue to breastfeed now. Things are completely different now, as I have a house to manage, two other children who need me, and a ton of other things going on in my life with the dissertation, relocation, new job, etc.
Whatever happens, it will be my decision, and it will be made on my own terms. I'm going to enjoy this while it lasts, though, because this baby is my last. I want to spend this time appreciating the opportunity I have, even if it's short-lived.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
I'm upset and worried enough that she isn't gaining the weight we'd hoped to see, and on top of the breastfeeding struggles, now my fear is that she's going to start holding out for the bottle because it's easier and/or start preferring the bottle over the breast. I know the doctor has said I'm doing everything right and everything I can do, but that doesn't make me feel any better. It doesn't take away my hurt. In fact, it just makes it all worse because I feel like I've done everything I can do and it still isn't good enough. I'm pissed, discouraged, depressed, and I really don't have a good feeling about how this will turn out. Of course I want her to gain weight, I want her to be healthy, and he said she looks great....but I feel like everything that's happening is out of my control, like I'm being forced to give up, to some extent. This isn't fucking fair, and I hate it...but I don't know what else to do.
Monday, May 04, 2009
For instance, I feel an enormous amount of guilt for the toll my decision to breastfeed is taking on my time with E and H. With the hours and hours I spend nursing each day, that's time that I don't get to spend with my other daughters, tucking them in at night, giving a bath, playing outside, etc., and I feel like total shit. Or more precisely, I feel like I'm caught between a rock and hard place. If I continue to breastfeed, I know it won't always take up this much time and, God willing, it won't always be this difficult. The lactation consultant (LC) gave me tips on how to keep Amelia actively swallowing while she nurses (massaging the breast, rubbing her head, switching the latch or breast when she stops), but the advice hasn't exactly proven 100% effective, and my nipples haven't shown any signs of healing, which makes me wonder if I'm doing anything right in terms of trying to get her to latch on correctly.
I'm praying daily for the strength to continue breastfeeding and for my body to heal so that breastfeeding Amelia is as positive an experience as it was with my first daughter. I'm thanking God every night for a wonderful husband, who has pretty much shouldered the entire burden of taking care of our other two children while I devote such a large amount of my time to nursing the baby. But, I'm also crying a lot and wishing it would all just come a tiny bit easier. The funny thing is, I'm actually getting a decent amount of rest each night. The baby nurses for at least an hour before I head to bed between 10:00-10:30, and if she's still hungry, I let Hubby give her a supplemental bottle of formula (though she's never taken more than an ounce or two). She sleeps until about 2:00, nurses for an hour, and then generally goes back to sleep until 5:30-6:00 a.m. That's really good for a newborn, and I'm thankful for the sleep!
Right now, I just wish I had a live-in lactation consultant...someone to tell me whether I'm doing this right or not. I can't feasibly run to see the LC every day, nor can I take Amelia to the doctor's office to be weighed every day to make sure she's gaining weight. I plan to take her every few days, though, until I'm confident she's getting the nourishment she needs.
I'm just not ready to give this up. Not ready to go through the grieving that I went through when I had to stop breastfeeding Eliza. This is my last baby, and after the problems I had breastfeeding Eliza, I'm doubly invested in giving this all my effort. I've already made it one day longer than I did with Eliza, and my strategy is to just take it one day at a time. That's all I can do for now.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
At 1:15 a.m., after my contractions had started coming every 10 minutes, I drove myself to the hospital (not even a mile away), and told Hubby to wait for my call to make sure I was really in labor before calling a friend to come stay with the girls. By the time I got checked in, I was in serious pain, and there was no doubt I was in labor. When the nurse checked me, I was dilated to a 4 and 90% effaced. I called Hubby, and we had our good friend Sarah come over to stay with E. He woke H up and gave her the option of coming to the hospital. Of course, she absolutely wanted to be there! Unfortunately, it took them a while to get there. I was there for about an hour and a half before they arrived, and I was in serious pain....like Holy shit, give-me-some-drugs-NOW-pain!!! They had to get blood work done, get the IV in, blah, blah, blah. I was seriously about to lose my shit when they finally gave me the stadol, which helped me to at least relax through the contractions and rest until the anaesthesiologist arrived to give me the epidural.
Right after Hubby and H got there, I got my epidural, then the Dr. arrived. "Didn't you have an appointment today?" he asked....Uh, yeah...clearly, there was no need because look, I'm having a baby tonight, doc. I did officially say to him, "Okay, I was wrong, you were right." He seemed pleased at this in his usual smug way, but thankfully said nothing in response. Shortly after the epidural, the nurse came in to say the doctor wanted to go ahead and break my water, which really didn't matter to me anymore since I wouldn't be able to feel it this time. But, Providence intervened, and when he pulled back the sheets, Nature had done it's job. I still can't believe it! Labor on my own. Water broke on its own. It all happened so damn fast. He checked me, and I was ready to go. With one very long hard push, the baby was delivered in almost one fell swoop, less than 3 hours after I arrived at the hospital.
At 4:18 a.m. on Thursday, April 23rd, our family welcomed Amelia Hope into the world! She weighed 8 lbs 7 oz and was 20 1/2 inches long, perfectly pink and healthy!
Thus far, the breastfeeding has gone better than I'd expected, in the sense that we're dealing with the "normal" learning curve most newborns experience. When she eats, she eats for like 2 hours straight, and when she sleeps, it's even longer. Last night, after eating from 1:00-3:00 a.m., she slept until 7:00 this morning!!
The experience of caring for a newborn, while also trying to care for a 2-yr old is a subject for another post, but it's been particularly challenging. I'm thankful that my mom is here, especially since Hubby had some sort of stomach bug or food poisoning yesterday when we came home from the hospital. He was pretty much out of commission, so I got no rest at all during the day. He's back in good shape now, though, so we're hoping to find our groove again soon. Until then, I'm loving me some sweet babyness!!
Monday, April 20, 2009
I still feel quite strongly that this baby isn't coming right away, and a good part of me thinks I'll hit my due date (or go past), and the doctor will want to induce. If there was a way to do this without him breaking my water, I'd be okay with that if it were the final option. But, my body has previously demonstrated that it is the breaking of the water that gets things going. A no-win situation is possible.
In other news, we found out that we got the housing compound we requested in Qatar! Even better, they reserved a villa that's located right between the clubhouse and the playground, which we apparently didn't even notice was there when we visited!! Now we just need to get good news from the American School of Doha, letting us know H has been accepted--more waiting. And speaking of H, she just got her first report card of straight As since being in 4th grade!!! I'm so proud of her, and I know how hard she worked to accomplish this goal!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
As my friend confirmed, there's really no need for the checking of the cervix exams. I have no complications, I have no tolerance for the pain it cause me, and unless my water has broken and I'm contracting regularly, it really doesn't matter how much I've dilated, because I'm not in fucking labor!
In other words doc, "don't call me, I'll call you!"
Along the baby front, my arrogant doctor is at it again, making grand proclamations and causing me serious pain when he checks my cervix! Really and truly, I hope he's somehow not around when I go into labor! At yesterday's visit, before he even checked my cervix, he said, "You know what I think? I think you're getting ready to have this baby." Yeah, like he's the fucking baby whisperer or something. When I asked what made him say that, he didn't even have an answer, he just proceeded with the exam. I reminded him that I've NEVER gone into labor on my own, and he said "Your point?" Not good folks...I'm not in the mood for this these days.
Anywho, I'm dilated to a 2 and 80% effaced, which led him to proclaim that he doesn't think I'll make it two more weeks. He admitted he could be wrong, but said he'd be surprised. I hope this baby proves him wrong and decides to stay until my due date, but if she wants to come early, we're ready for her. Mostly. His words, "She could come any day now" tickled H to death, as she's always hoping for some excitement in our lives. At this point, I'm just really hoping my water doesn't break in the middle of class or while I'm grocery shopping or something. But I will be happy if my water breaks on its own, as that will be one less opportunity the doctor has to hurt my lady business.
For now, I look forward to tonight! Several good friends and I are getting together for dinner to celebrate the impending arrival of the bebe, and some of my favorite Mexican food is on the menu!! I might even have a sangria....
Thursday, April 02, 2009
I decided to start weaning myself off caffiene before the bebe arrives. Apparently, my version of weaning is more like cold turkey. That is, there's not really a space for a gradual reduction if the starting point is just one cup of coffee a day anyway. But, ohhhhh, how important that one cup evidently is! Luckily, I haven't gotten the usual withdrawal migraine that I get without my morning fix. Instead, I'm just sluggish and tired...all day (at least thus far in the day). Bleh...hopefully it will get better over the next few days.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I had an OB appointment this morning, and I'm dilated to a 1, the bebe has flipped to a head-down presentation, and she's gotten much lower (which explains the increased pelvic pressure I've been feeling). On top of that, I only gained 1/2 a pound in more than two weeks--despite all that food I've been eating! This is particularly amazing to me, but maybe it means I've been making up for it with all the walking around airports??
Thanks to all who wished happy baby-flipping thoughts my way, and let's just hope she stays this way!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
When I left College Town on Wednesday, I had no idea that it would take longer to get from College Town to Richmond, VA (27 hours) than it did to get from Home State City to Doha, Qatar (26 hours). The first flight got delayed because of mechanical difficulties, which made me miss my connection in Houston. After getting a seat on the next flight out to Richmond (7:00 p.m.), I then got to sit on the runway for 2 hours (air traffic backup and rain), where our pilot then "timed out" and informed us that it would be a violation of FAA regulations for him to take off. Upon returning to gate 30 minutes later, the doors were not opened, and we were kept on the plane another half hour, while they called around to see if we could get another pilot. No food. No water. No bathroom. Finally, after almost 3 hours, I couldn't hold it anymore--I am 8 months pregnant after all--and I asked if I could run to the restroom at the gate. They let me off the plane for a potty break and some fresh air, and about 20 minutes later they let everyone else off. This is about 10:00 p.m. For the next two hours, they try to find a new pilot, tell us they've found a new pilot, continue to push back the departure time, only to ultimately cancel the flight at 12:30 A.M.(!!) and explain that they can't put anyone up in a hotel because it's wasn't their fault---it was weather-related difficulties. Skipping ahead....I finally got to bed in a hotel room a few miles down the road at 2:00, with a 6:00 a.m. wake-up call so I could make the next flight out to Richmond the next day.
Oh yeah, my flight was scheduled to arrive in Richmond at 2:00. I was scheduled to present my paper at 2:30. Forgive me if I was skeptical.
Somehow, I made it in the hotel door at 2:20, checked my luggage with the concierge, and sat down with my panel with five minutes to spare. The presentation went very well, though my paper wasn't as "clean" as I'd planned it to be. I just ran out of time, energy, and battery power to make the minor changes it needed.
My first ASECS was a really great experience. It was like being at a rock concert where all my favorite bands are playing.....um, except this was the academic nerd version ;-) I met several scholars whose work I've long admired and who are heavy-hitters in my field. I had lunch with one of my committee members and, for the first time ever, had someone tell me they'd been referred to my work on one of the playwrights I study in my dissertation (WTF?). I'm really glad I got to go to this conference before moving overseas.
I headed to D.C. on Friday evening, where my (child-free) uncle and aunt took me in for the rest of the weekend. This was my first time in D.C., and as much as there is to see, I only had a short amount of time. The cherry blossoms are starting to bloom, and the tidal basin is simply a stunning display of pink everywhere! Our first stop was the legendary Ben's Chili Bowl, where everyone from Duke Ellington and Barack Obama have stopped to enjoy a chili dog or a half-smoke. The atmosphere was better than any TV show could try to represent, and the food was great....standard diner fare, but better because of the music, the people, and the history.
Next, we hit the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and I saw Dorothy's ruby slippers, Julia Childs' kitchen, and Seinfeld's puffy shirt. I really wanted to see the Ladies of the White House Room, but the line for it was the longest line in the museum, stretching down and around several halls and one flight of stairs! I got E a pair of her own ruby slippers in the museum shop, and I got H some freeze-dried ice cream (what the astronauts eat), so I think they'll be happy. Unfortunately, my back is in pretty bad shape these days, and almost any amount of walking results in super swollen ankles and feet. As usual, I was over-ambitious about what I thought I could do for the day, so I ended up having to ask if we could just sit and rest for a while to give myself a break.
We finished the evening with dinner at Obelisk, a Zagat-rated restaurant that has a fixed-price five-course menu like nothing I've ever experienced. I ate everything from octopus marinated in citrus and cilantro to squab to smoked swordfish belly (my fav) to chocolate-apricot cake with German whipped cream. I'm lucky to have such a great aunt and uncle, because everything was their treat, including the homemade crepes with Nutella my uncle made for breakast this morning!! Seriously, I could get used to this treatment :)
But, I'm ready to see my kiddos and get back to work on my diss, teaching, and preparing for the new baby. Oh, and relocating halfway around the world. Now let's just hope I shaken the bad travel karma that's stuck with me for more the past week! And when I get home, the passport and travelling shoes are getting put away for a while.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
He said our best option is to proceed with the long-term supply first, and he explained the major difference in how ADHD is treated in Qatar. A pediatrician cannot prescribe ADHD medication, only a psychiatrist can because it's considered a condition of mental health. Because it's a Muslim country, there are very few psychiatrists available, but there are a few. One was just hired at Al Ahli, and he confirmed that there's one at Hamad Hospital who works with children who have ADHD. The past practice has actually been quite strict, with doctors only prescribing a 10-day supply at a time, but he said this practice has gradually loosened up, and the doctors are increasingly seeing patients and prescribing medication on a monthly basis. He even called Hamad Hospital pharmacy and verified they actually DO HAVE the exact medicine and dosage that H currently takes--very good news!!
So, while we work through the system and the possibility of getting Hannah her medication from within Doha, we're comfortable knowing we have the prior option of bringing her meds with us from the US. The doctor was also able to assure us that we'd have no problem bringing them in the country. At most, he said we might need to show a doctor's note and copy of the prescription for verification, but we probably wouldn't even be asked for that.
With this problem solved, the university is moving forward with our draft contracts, and we're filling out applications for schools, passports, and everything else under the sun. Here we go folks!
Monday, March 23, 2009
Hubby made it back late Saturday evening, and H came back from her (biological) dad's house at the same time. Having all four of us together made an unbelievable difference in my mindset. I was able to feed off of H's excitement about the relocation, and simply sharing the positive vibes that we were all feeling as a result of being so happy to be back together made me feel like anything would be possible. We even had a quick drive back to College Town yesterday, despite all the Spring Break traffic from the returning students.
Now to prepare for ASECS and another round of air travel...oh, and opening ceremonies for H's softball team, and her first softball game tomorrow night, and meal prep so that Hubby and the girls will have healthy meals while I'm gone. Could someone let me know when the roller coaster comes to a complete stop?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
London to DC—even better because it was first-class instead of business.
DC to Home State City—we have a problem.
As I fly back to Home State City, Hubby is stuck in DC’s Dulles airport, hopefully getting arrangements made for a hotel stay for the night. Somehow, somewhere along the way, the British Airways system failed to confirm his United Airlines flight back to Home State City, and when we arrived in DC, the flight was already overbooked. Tired, ready to get home to my kids, bursting with hormones and throbbing with the pain of cankles the size of canteloupes, I. Was. Done. My ticket was fine, but the thought that Hubby might not get a seat on the flight back was more than I could take. Actually I didn’t break down at first. I was frustrated, but I really thought we’d get everything fixed somehow after calling the travel agency our university used and getting assurance from them that they’d try to get it taken care of.
Yeah, well, it turns out that even travel agents can’t make seats magically appear when they’ve been overbooked.
I called my mom to let her know what was going on, mainly just to give her a heads up. I have an uncle in the DC area, so it wasn’t like Hubby would be completely stranded, but we had no idea if he was home, had plans, etc. I made sure to let the travel agent know that it was their responsibility to find an alternative flight and cover any accommodations necessary. While waiting to hear back from them, my mom’s reaction is what put me over the edge.
Mom to Me: “Sh*# happens. It happens to everybody. You seem to think nobody makes mistakes and nothing bad ever happens to anyone but you. But one of you better get on that flight because I told your daughter you’d be home tonight.”
As I started to break down in tears, all I could mumble was that I’d call her back when we knew more. Hearing me cry, all she could say was, “What is wrong?”And she really had no clue why I’d be so upset. All I needed to hear was “Gosh, I’m sorry this is happening to you guys…that sucks.” Or, “I can understand how frustrating that would be after so many hours travelling already.” Or, anything else that showed a modicum of empathy and compassion for our situation. Any of my friends would get why I’d be upset and how exhausted we both were. So why can’t my mother? Why does it seem like she’s never on my side? Even though I’m not surprised by her reaction—it’s actually quite typical of her—I never stop being hurt when she does things like this.
After everyone at Gate A1 saw my ugly-face cry, and as many people as one could expect willingly gave up their seat for comp tickets, I hugged Hubby, gave him the cell phone, and boarded the plane by myself. Things only got worse after that. I’ve spent the entire flight convincing myself this is the wrong decision. I can’t bear the thought of taking the girls away from their grandparents. I can’t stand the idea of my parents missing out on birthdays, special occasions, or just being close to be with us in case of an emergency. My body and mind are completely overwhelmed with sadness just thinking about relocating. I’m scared. No, I’m terrified that I’m making a bad decision, and I can’t imagine going through with this.
First thing this morning, we toured one last nursery, the one we’d previously checked out online and felt it might be a good fit. It turns out we were right. Beautiful facilities, collective nap time, it stays open an hour later than most other nurseries, AND they take infants younger than 12 months. On top of all this, the baby room caps at 8 infants, and the lead teacher (one of three total) is a nurse certified by the Ministry of Health. Needless to say, we loved it! And, can you believe it’s actually cheaper than the Montessori we have back at home?!
After the visit to the nursery, we met one last time with the liberal arts program coordinator at the university. Basically, he wanted/needed us to give him an idea of whether or not we still wanted jobs. Actually, it was more like him telling us, “Okay, convince me this is the place you want to be.” We figured this was the purpose of the meeting, so we were prepared to give him a commitment. We said yes.
And shortly thereafter we were on a guided bus tour of Doha, complete with a visit to the Souq Wakif (anyone need a good sport falcon?), the camel market (did you know they like to have privacy when they have “relations”?), the world-class equestrian center, and an Arabian lunch at one of the oldest restaurants in town.
It’s amazing how quickly the mental flip switched from “Should we do this?” and “Can we do this?” to “We can do it” and “We’ll figure it out together.” After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for some rest and to finish packing. At midnight, we left Doha International Airport thinking the next time we come back here it will be to move into a new home and start a new phase of our lives
Thursday, March 19, 2009
We did look at another possible school for her, and we were distinctly unimpressed. So, we kinda had our first potential "deal-breaker": H must get into ASD.
We toured two nurseries, one of which follows a modified British curriculum but employs a lot of the montessori methods, and the other of which follows an American curriculum with many of the montessori methods. We were most surprised to learn two things: no collective naptime and no tiny babies. The assistant director at the first nursery, which was quite impressive, was in disbelief at the idea that an entire group of 2-year olds could all go to sleep for a nap at the same time. Instead, they have a "sleeping room." At the parents' request, or if a child appears to need rest, he/she is taken to the "sleeping room" for a nap, where he/she is watched and cared for by one of the staff. The rooms have tiny little toddler beds where they can rest at any time during the day if needed. In addition, the custom here is that children aren't placed in a nursery until they're about 1-year old (or old enough to sit up and pull up on their own). The idea of a 6 or 8-week old baby going to nursery seemed to shock the non-Western people we spoke to.
Of course, all school and nursery administrators confirmed what we've already been told: the entire daily schedule here begins earlier than in the US and is abbreviated compared to what we're used to. So, most schools begin between 6:30-8:00 and run until 2:00-3:00. This is partly due to prayer times & Muslim schedules and partly due to the weather during the hot months. And, I suppose, partly due to a cultural difference that places more importance on family time rather than 10 and 12-hour work days like we do in the US. There's also a difference in the class sizes. Though the ratios in the nurseries are 3:1 (children: adults), a class may have 22 children. Only about 1/3 of them go every day of the week, but that's a lot of kids in a room, especially when we're used to E's class size of 8 toddlers (two teachers). I was a bit put off by the large, loud nature of the classes, even though I knew there were plenty of teachers caring for the kids. We liked both nurseries well enough, but we left the tour with a preference for one over the other because of the nicer facilities and outdoor play areas. One was also more centrally located than the other. But, we were still insistent that we visit the montessori school I'd found while back at home. I found it online, and all the descriptions offered on its website really made it sound like it would be what was closest to what E is used to.
We were all toured out, so we called it a day and grabbed lunch. I'm scheduled to present at ASECS next week, and I have yet to revise my conference paper, so I took the afternoon to work on it a bit and take a quick nap. While I did, Hubby visited one of the main hospitals to see if they carry H's medication (for ADHD). They'd never heard of it. This isn't good.
We ended the evening with dinner at a really nice local steakhouse with the liberal arts program coordinator and his wife. They have three daughters and have lived here for three years. They too initially signed on for just two years, and now they aren't sure if they'll ever come back to the US; that's how happy they are here, and this is the kind of story we keep hearing. People plan to come here for a year or two, and they end up staying because they a) really like the lifestyle and increased family and/or research time, and b) like the freedom of not having the usual stresses that accompany an academic career in the US (committees, high teaching load, pressure to publish, publish, publish, and nonstop budget cuts). During dinner, Hubby and I made it clear that while we still have a couple main concerns--getting H into ASD and making sure we can get her medication--we're committed to this opportunity.