Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Thank goodness for the internet -- otherwise we'd never get this card out on time!

No matter what you celebrate or where you are in the world tonight, we wish you peace and love this holiday season and a happy new year.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Obviously, I Can't Keep Up With My Bloggity Blog. And YO! The Toddler Turns THREE, the Fab Hubby is HOME!, and I Celebrate 29 for the Ninth Time...

He may be a stocky toddler, but he's still my baby.
About every six weeks or so now, I fire up the blog and apologize for my lack of writing.  So here I am, yet another MONTH, well, actually TWO MONTHS, have passed.  And I'm finally updating my blog.

Truthfully, this bloggy update is a bit overwhelming.  Mostly because so much has happened and so much time has elapsed!  And even though it's not something huge like an assignment bidding win (The fab hubby doesn't start bidding for next assignment until summer 2014!  Woot!) or an exotic trip (although we did take a family vacay to Williamsburg this past weekend!), the kind of stuff that's happened these past two months is normal, regular family stuff.  And considering how insanely insane our last almost-year has been --- namely our family split up most of the year on different continents and surviving an evacuation from Cairo --- normal family stuff is greatest kind of stuff to have right now.

FIRST. Our awesomely adorable toddler, Kellen, turned THREE!  Three!  No longer a baby, and solidly into the toddler years, he is a constant force of energy and fun.  And while the big kids and I sang happy birthday to him on his actual birthday (October 20th), we didn't really celebrate until early November when...

THE FAB HUBBY RETURNED HOME FROM HIS TDY IN TEL AVIV.  Woot! Having been gone for two full months, he arrived back on Halloween evening and took the kids Trick-Or-Treating that very night.  Three days later we invited a bunch of our friends over to celebrate the fab hubby's return and The Toddler's birthday.  You know, by the time you get to the third kiddo, you realize that toddlers don't care a bit about the party they have. Except they want cake, some attention, and the chance to open up gifts.

Abby's gift for her dad's return home.
Honestly, we know that kid birthday parties suck the life out of adults. So instead of going kid-crazy at someplace like Chuck E Cheese (although that can be fun, sometimes…) we simply invited our friends and family over to our home and hired a sitter to keep all the kids out of trouble. The fab hubby fired up the grill, our friends brought wine (for the adults, of course), and I stopped at the dollar store for two balloons and a pirate birthday sign.  A pirate-themed birthday cake, pirate eye patches for all (including the adults) and The Toddler dressed up as Jake the Pirate made for a perfect night as we all sang Kellen's birthday song.  Friends with kids and friends without kids alike came and celebrated with us.  The birthday was a fabulous excuse for a get-together.  But really, we all knew we were also celebrating a transition back to regular, normal, day-to-day family time.

You know, the kind of days that start with breakfast and getting the kids on the bus.  Of kissing the fab hubby goodbye as he heads out the door to work, and I drop the toddler off at preschool.  Of grocery shopping, and vacuuming the house and doing laundry.  Of afternoon shifts in the ER (I started at a small stand-alone community ER in October) and late nights of coming home to the fab hubby waiting up for me so we can chat about our day.  Dinners sitting around the table and evenings listening to Owen practice his trumpet and Abby practice her violin.  All good stuff.  Very, very good stuff.

Just as we were getting in the swing of normalcy, I was offered a great opportunity at a pediatric office for a two-month nurse contract.  Two nurses had recently left the practice and they needed a nurse to fill in immediately through January 2014.  Now, I love working in the ER - it's been my career 'home' since graduating from nursing school seven years ago.  But I really miss all the pediatric work I had the opportunity to do when I worked at the Embassy Health Unit in Cairo.  Plus, I've been trying to expand my nursing comfort zone and beef up the resume.  So despite the cray cray that would certainly ensue, the fab hubby and I decided that it was worth it, despite the time demands on us and our kiddos.  I accepted the contract and I've been working there (in addition to my ER position) since mid-November.  It's a bit insane working the equivalent of two full-time jobs, especially when trying to find that ever-elusive work-family-life balance.  But we keep in mind that it's short term -- only two months; you know, basically a "TDY"! -- and with the support of the fab hubby and the kids, it's been going quite well.

Of course, the end of November rolled around, and with it, a gentle reminder that it was time to celebrate my 29th birthday.  For the 9th time.  One more year and I will have been celebrating it for an entire decade.

A nearly-decade old birthday deserves recognition, and amazingly, we managed to snag four days of family time, planning a trip to Colonial Williamsburg (a mere two hour drive from our home in NoVA).  We booked a four bedroom timeshare and intended to leave early the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving itself was spent with the fab in-laws at the fab bro-and-sis-in-laws' house. We personally made mac and cheese and homemade mashed potatoes for the big turkey day.

Kids are ruthless when it comes to the mashed
potato beaters.  Daddy never had a chance.

Unfortunately, during all the Thanksgiving craziness, Owen's rescue cat from Egypt, "Boots", escaped our house.  Now, Boots is deaf and partly-blind. She's had multiple seizures and walks with a wonky sort of stumbling gait.  But she's a sweet cat and Owen adores her and that's really all that matters.  Anyway, Boots escaped.  And even more unfortunate, no one noticed for at least a day because she's a quiet cat (and it's not like she comes out when we call for her -- she's deaf).  On the Saturday morning when we were supposed to travel to Williamsburg, we realized she was missing.  Poor Owen.  He was so upset.  We searched the entire house.  And then did it again.  Owen went outside and looked all over the neighborhood.  No Boots.  We sadly came to the conclusion that she was probably gone for good.

We left late that morning and with heavy hearts.  What a horrid way to start a vacation.  And because we had left so late in the AM, we were stuck in traffic on I-95.  Grrrr.  East Coast traffic.  But all I have to do is remind myself THAT IT'S NOT CAIRO -- and suddenly I'm not irritated with the traffic anymore.  Because traffic here is absolutely nothing like what we experienced in Cairo.  I really should never complain about 'traffic' here in the U.S. again.  But, you know, sometimes I just can't help myself.  Especially when we're on vacation and I just want to get to our destination.

We stopped for a late lunch, and Owen was still really upset, but hiding it quite well.

Yes. This.  Complete love.
Well, wouldn't you know it?  Neighbors of ours (who are also friends from Cairo - they evacuated here at the same time as us) called just as we were finishing our lunch. BOOTS HAD BEEN FOUND!  In fact, they sent photos as proof of life.  It was a great way to head into our Williamsburg vacation.

The weekend was fabulous (see the following photos!) and relaxing and exactly the family time we needed.  And we ultimately retuned home to a safe and (relatively) healthy cat.  Perfect.

So here we are.  Riding out the normal.  And loving it as much as we can.  Because life for us can change so quickly.  Who knows what we'll be doing in just a few months?!?! Sure, I'm finishing out the last month of my "TDY" at the pediatric office/double jobs, but we're surviving.  In fact, the fab hubby took the kids to Ohio this weekend since I'm working the next eight days straight.  He knew they'd love to catch up with the grandparents and it allows me to pretty much just work and sleep (and blog!).

And me? I'm enjoying the current quiet of our home, surrounded by the crazy clutter the kids left behind in their whirlwind to get out the door for their car trip to Ohio.  You know.  A normal family home with three kids…legos, an etch-a-sketch, a single sock, some gloves and lone toys strewn on the floor.  And I love it, all of it.  I desperately missed this kind of stuff when I was away from my family in California earlier this year.

Normal has never felt so good.

Only because this picture is awesome.

Holiday crafts at the timeshare resort.

Abby's chance to chat with Santa.  She and I had a mommy-daughter
afternoon at the Yankee Candle Store in Williamsburg.

Every (Repeat) 29th Birthday deserves a celebratory run.

It was 50 degrees and sunny.  Perfect tank top running weather!

Colonial Williamsburg.

Pure awesomeness.

You know we considered leaving them.

Apple cider sippy face.  Grumpy because it's 'cold'.  Like 45 degrees.
Let's just say we've lost most of our "Ohio" tolerance to cold.

Our boys.  Always on the go.

He is just so cool.

And he pretty much owns me because of these dazzling blue eyes.

Don't be surprised when our digital holiday card comes out and this
picture is on it!

Really.  You start to feel sorry for the chickens.

He was pretty sure he was a pirate and owned the ships in the harbor.
Keeping him from jumping overboard was difficult.

Just a cool picture at the harbor in Jamestown.

All of my loves.
Ditto on the digital holiday card on this one.

This kid.  Love him.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

And Yet ANOTHER Month+ Has Passed! Colorado to Virginia. YO! We're HOME!

Yet again, I'm so far behind on my blog.  Like nearly two months! But I've got excuses!  I, well actually, WE, have been busy!

Running in Colorado.  So lucky that my Army annual
training ISN'T all work and no play!
Last you read, the big kids and I reunited in California (that was end of July) and they went to surf camp with some besties from Cairo (so much better than remembering this only as "the summer we got evacuated from Egypt"), and then in early August, we drove to Colorado (oh, Great American Road Trip!) and my parents met us there, and then my parents and the big kids had their Great American Road Trip (at least to Ohio) while I stayed at Ft. Carson to fulfill my Army Reserves Annual Training/Duty (Working in Ft. Carson's ER.  I totally love that what I do in my military career is the same thing I do in regular life!).


Are ya following?

But wait!  There's more! What about the fab hubby?  And Oh!  What about The Toddler!?  Because by this point, it had been nearly seven months since last we saw each other.   Months ago, before the evac from Cairo had occurred, the fab hubby and I had planned on having a little mini vacation in Colorado -- sans kiddos.  He would fly out to me toward the end of my last week of Annual Training and together, we would drive to Ohio to get the kids (all THREE of them!) and then we'd continue to our new home in Virginia.

And our plan actually worked out, despite the crazy PCS-moved-ahead-a-month-OMG-the-kid-juggling caused by the Cairo evac!

Reunited!  LOVE.

AWWW!  Exactly as we should be.  Together.

Yup.  Sippy faces!

Totally my favorite.

Dang, we're awesome!

One more in Garden of the Gods.

Road tripping through Missouri.  Mmmmm.  BBQ!

Almost to our first destination!

But wait!  There's more!  We got to spend a couple of days in Ohio, visiting with friends and family --- and most importantly...

Our loves!!

Sippy faces!!!!  LOVE.

We spent nearly seven months apart.  SEVEN MONTHS.

Missed him so much.

Before his haircut...

But wait!  There's more!  We all piled into the Momvan and started our last journey.  To Virginia.  And by WE, I mean: Me, the Fab Hubby, the big kids, the toddler, the fav pooch (remember, Starbuck flew with me from Cairo to California.  That's one well-travelled pooch!), and OWEN'S CAT.  The one he rescued in Cairo.  She luckily made the evac from Cairo.

We arrived in Virginia all in one piece and crammed ourselves into a hotel room.  And got up early the next morning to go to our new home.  The PCS gods have been kind to us.  Because last fall, when we learned of the fab hubby's next assignment, we made arrangements with some good FS friends who would be departing NoVA at the same time we would be arriving --- and we are renting their house.  We didn't have to navigate the NoVA/DC/MD rental market AT ALL.  And to all our FS friends who had to go through that hellacious experience recently for their PCS, I say...

Nah nah nah nah nahhhhhh nah!

Sure!  We had no furniture.  Or kitchen items.  Or any household items, really.  But we had a house and that's all that mattered!

But wait!  There's MORE!

Talk about a small FS world!  Friends of our who also evac'd from Cairo are renting a townhome in the exact same neighborhood as us.  Our kids have been friends for years!  And now, they (our two kids and their two kids) all ride the same bus and attend the same school (but thankfully -- not in the same classes, because all of them are attached at the hip as it is!)!!

And speaking of school!  The big kids started school just four days after our arrival in Virginia.  NO KIDDING.
"We're home, we're home!" He says every time we stop somewhere.
This time, he was right.

Checking out the pumpkins growing in the front yard.
Before you get excited, please know that I suck at gardening.
I accidentally killed the pumpkin vines (what are they called?) the first
week we were in the house, when I was attempting to pull weeds.
Sorry Jen!!!

First nap in the new house.

Love him.

First day of preschool!

More first day of school photos!

Friends in Cairo, friends here.

Also friends in Cairo and friends here!
Tweens.  Nothing else needs to be said about their smirky faces.
But I love them.

You guessed it!  Friends in Cairo and now friends and neighbors here!
We Moms love the bus!
Whenever you move, you WILL spend thousands of dollars.  Whether you want to/plan to or not.  There are so many items you need, so many items to be replaced.  Quite possibly, you will blow most of this money in one single trip to Target.

One of five trips to Target.  I wish I was joking.

Or, in our case, the fab hubby got sent overseas on a TDY (that's a temporary assignment, for all you non-FS-non-military folks) less than two weeks after our arrival to NoVA.  Thankfully, it's only for 60 days.  But since we'd already been separated for seven months, it was a little bit of a shock.

Of course, the fab hubby's suits were in transit on a boat from Cairo.  With an estimated arrival to the U.S. of Who-The-Heck-Knows.  So, a trip to the suit store was in order, adding to our list of gazillions of dollars blown on this move.  I just made the best of it.

There's not much a BFF latte can't fix! 

Before the fab hubby left for his TDY, he did get the chance to get settled at his new office.  So, I took the metro and visited him for lunch one day!  And then I took a bike trek into DC and toured Georgetown.  It was an awesome afternoon.

Riding the metro with my new bike!  I conned my dad into assembling
this gorgeousness for me.  Well, actually, I sent the bike via Amazon
to his house.  He didn't have much choice.  Ha!

Lunch with the fab hubby!
Enjoying something we never would have
eaten in Cairo.  SALADS!!

Starbucks in Georgetown.
Sippy face!

Classic.  Overlooking the Potomac.

The fab hubby left the following week, but we've been doing ok.  Kids are handling it quite well, especially considering how long it's been since we were all together last.  We've got FaceTime and that makes a HUGE difference.  Plus, it's only two months.  After everything we've been through since February, we can definitely get through this!

Kids have been adjusting well to school and enjoying some of the great things that the U.S. has to offer. You know...

Sticky marshmallow fingers.  Enjoying s'mores at our friends' house!

Marshmallow off the bonfire!

Hanging out with his rescue cat, Boots.
She's doing pretty well here.
And Owen just absolutely loves her.
Kellen's first ice cream truck experience!  The kids were singing
"ice cream truck!  ice cream truck!"
It didn't take him long to figure out what that meant.

Meanwhile, I've been slaving away building furniture.
The fab hubby is soooo lucky to have missed out on this part of the move.
Here, The Toddler is excited to show off this desk.
He 'helped' me put it together.

I frequently wake up to a pair of toddler feet in bed with me.
I love it.

And no matter how long I've been back in the U.S.
I still completely, totally, fully love my moments at Starbucks.
Yup.  We've made it home.  Now we're just waiting for the fab hubby to return so we can actually say we're ALL home! We're on the countdown!  Just a little less than three weeks to go.