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.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Not quite two weeks ago, after 19 long hours of travel, one episode of puking (weird, because I've never puked on a plane before, but whatever), and carrying one very crazy, little psychotic dog, I arrived rumpled and exhausted in Los Angeles.  My first memory of arriving back in the good old U.S.A.?  Standing in Customs with some old dude with a generic Euro accent saying "Zee should not allow such creeeetures as zat on board zee aeroplane!", pointing at my ridiculous pooch in my carry-on bag.  Jerk.

Surprisingly, all my flights went exactly as planned.  I fully attribute that to NOT fly UNITED AIRLINES or any of its codeshare flights.  Thank you Delta and KLM as it's codeshare.  My flights were AWESOME (except for the puking and the old mean dude), and all, yes folks! ALL of my luggage arrived with me in LAX.
BFF Iced Latte at LAX.  And my luggage.
You know, the important stuff!

I grabbed a BFF Latte at the airport Starbucks and hopped the Super Shuttle to a car dealership in Beverly Hills where I purchased - wait for it! - a really ugly minivan.  Momma has to have some wheels!  And while I'd prefer the luxury of a kick-ass beautiful SUV, I decided to take one for the family team and get the vehicle that will comfortably hold all the kids when we're reunited in August.  I'll live.

From there, I immediately drove to the closest In-and-Out Burger.  It's been three very long and painful years, and the reunion was glorious!  If you've ever eaten In-and-Out, then I know you understand.  And if you haven't, then I have nothing but condolences for you.  Get out to the West Coast NOW!

Now, this is where things get really crazy.  The day I arrived in Cali, I got word from the hospital I was supposed to start working at the following week that they wanted me to start the very next day if I was available.  Unfortunately, I hadn't yet been to my apartment and I needed to buy furniture, so I told them I couldn't start the next day, but that I'd be available to start the day after that.  TWO DAYS!

Ugly minivan.  But the BFF Latte approves.
So the next morning, I went to LabCorp for my work-required urine toxicology (I've done this test so many times for the military and every hospital I've ever worked for that I can honestly pee on command). And then I went to my new home.  After scouring through Craig's List the entire previous month, I had settled on living in downtown Long Beach.  The hospital I work for is just a little north of Long Beach, but I really wanted to be by the ocean.  I was super lucky and found a pet-friendly apartment building just two blocks from the ocean! With easy access to the freeway!  And it only costs double what our mortgage is in Ohio.  Dude.  Really. It's so easy to forget how expensive it is to live out here.  But, whatever.  It's perfect.  It's not awesome --- the building is a "charming 1920's" complex (translation - a little run-down) --- but it's in a cool location (Long Beach Arts District), with a Starbucks around the corner (BINGO!), and I have access to a parking garage for my mad minivan.  

I unpacked my bags in my apartment and headed out to the mecca of all home stores - Ikea.  I picked up the items I needed and then headed out to the other mecca, Target!, to grab a few items for my teeny tiny kitchen.  I went back and fixed up the apartment, took Starbuck for a much-deserved walk along the beach, and then crashed for the night.

Because the very next morning at 6AM I was in the ER working my first big-girl RN shift!   Oh, it's been a long, long time since I'd had to spend an entire day on my feet!  Initially I was to work 12 hours, but at the end of my shift, I offered to stay over since we were short-staffed.  I put in 16 hours that day and then went home.  Took the pup for a walk and then slept like I've never slept before.

I worked the next two days.  Had a day off.  And then worked the next five days.  WOWSA!  It's been a whirlwind.  On the bright side, I never really got the chance to be jet-lagged, even though it's a 10-hour difference from Cairo.  Also, I can't even begin to express how wonderful it is being back in the same ER I worked in 2009-2010.  Most of the staff is still the same, and being here with friends I've missed has been incredible.

FaceTime has been absolutely the best.  Nearly every day I get to "see" the kiddos.  Both of the big kids have iPads, and they can reach me anytime they want.  It's very comforting.  Our middlest, Abby, has no real concept of the time difference between Cairo and here, and so nearly every morning at 5AM, when she's getting off the bus in Cairo at 3PM, she calls me.  I love it.  Even if I'm trying to sleep.  The toddler?  He blows me kisses and says "hi, Mamma!" and then runs off to play.  He's doing ok.  And Owen, the tween, he tries to act cool, but I know he's missing me and he likes that he can reach me anytime he wants.

It's really bittersweet being here. This was once our home - to all of us. Today I took the pup to the dog beach - the same beach that the fab hubby and I used to bring our dog Rusty to play at.  I cruised through Belmont Shore, remembering all the places we used to meet up for lunch.  And I've spent some time across the bridge in San Pedro where we used to live.  I visited old haunts, like the Tide Pools in San Pedro where the big kiddos spent countless hours looking for sea creatures while I sat and listened to the waves crashing on the rocks.  I ate lunch at our favorite chinese restaurant.  I shopped at the local Trader Joe's.  I was pregnant with Kellen here; I ran my 1/2 marathon in 2010 before I found out I was pregnant with him in Huntington Beach.  All these places have special meaning and I just wish all of us were here, together.

I ran along my favorite bike/run trail in Alamitos Beach today, and as I watched kids frolicking into the water and riding the waves, I tried not to let it break my heart.  My Abby and Owen used to do that.  No matter how cold the ocean water was, they'd run into the waves and ride them back to shore.  We spent so many weekends here.  It was our special place.

I know the next five-and-a-half months are going to be tough without them.  But I'll get through it.  Actually, all of us will.  And even though it's heartbreakingly bittersweet, I'm thankful to be in a place that I love with such good memories.  

Me and my favorite pooch, Starbuck.
The Fav Pooch and the BFF Latte.

Tide Pools of San Pedro.  The big kiddos used to play here.

Sunset over the Tide Pools.  Magnificent.
Little trip down memory lane.
San Pedro Tide Pools, New Years Day 2010.

With our dog Rusty.  We miss him.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Owen Does It Again

He has this special way every year of simply turning one year older and making me feel soooo much older.  Ten.  He's ten!  How is it possible that our firstborn is suddenly TEN!?

Minecraft. Legos. Books. Swimming. Playing with friends. Climbing trees. Exploring.  Drawing. Teaching his toddler brother.

Playing Minecraft with a buddy.
Those are the things Owen is made of.

Big heart. Smart. Funny. Easy-going. Loving. Loyal to his friends.

Those are the things Owen is also made of.

Maybe I'm a bit partial.  But I think he's the coolest ten year old in the world.  Time has flown.  He was just a baby, I swear!  I remember rocking him, holding him, singing him songs.  I remember teaching him the ABCs and watching that special twinkle in his eyes when he'd find something new and exciting.

I still see the twinkle.

Suddenly a tween.  No longer a kid.  Finding his own way, his path, his passion for life.  I'm still marveled by him every day.

Happy Birthday, Owen.  We love you so very, very much.

Our avid climber!

One awesome explorer.