azriona: (Default)
 I woke up yesterday morning to a text from my mom.
Mom: So I guess you can drive now!
Me: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA where on earth did you hear that?
After which, I went about my morning, which consists of trying to keep Charlie from waking up the neighborhood and/or trying to carry the cat. Imagine my surprise when I saw Mom's response.
Mom: CNN.
Which was corroborated by Bill when he finally woke up. In true LOL fashion, the edict came down at 11pm the night before, long after I was asleep. (Hey, it's a night culture. Most of the government offices are open that late, it's just us expats who go to bed obnoxiously early before midnight.)
In the last two days, the idea of being able to drive in the LOL has been a popular topic of conversation. Yesterday was subdued shock and celebration. And, as a completely weird thing that no one knows if it's related or not, a whole lot of traffic on the road. (All men, though. Women are still not allowed to drive until June, though that could be sooner.)

(And technically - or as Bill's LOLian friends explain, it's not that women aren't allowed to drive. It's that they're not allowed to get driver's licenses. Important distinction. When you're male and LOLian, anyway.)
Today, the rumors are starting, mostly because no one's actually seen the edict, so no one's too clear on what it says apart from "Women can get driver's licences in June." The rumors range from age restrictions (women must be over 30 years old), citizenship restrictions (women must be LOL citizens), and/or curfews (women can only drive between 7am and 8pm).

Whether or not any of those rumors are true - or false - it's definitely one big fat asterisk on the ruling. (Men can get driver's licences at age 18 here. And there's no curfew or citizenship requirement for them, either.)

(And if the citizenship thing is true... I still wouldn't be able to drive.)

Frankly, I wouldn't doubt that there's going to be something that makes it tricky. Additional fees... reading requirement... additional driving tests. (I've heard the current test only ensures that you know how to turn the car on and off, as well as switching gears.) I'm betting there'll be one window in one specific DMV that is only open for one hour a day twice a week where women can actually apply for their licence. 

(Twice a week -- because that's twice as convenient as once a week. See, they're practically making it EASY.)

I might be a little bit jaded.

Anyway, for the meanwhile, I still get to use motorpool, and I still have to call for a driver, and I'm still dependent on no one else needing them at the same time. (That happened yesterday. Charlie and I made it to his speech appointment with a minute to spare.)

That said... assuming I can? The first day possible? I am totally getting behind the wheel and driving myself to the grocery store. Even if all I buy is milk, I'm doing it. Because how awesome would it be to say that I did it?

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 I was going to write a very comprehensible post about Ramadan, but I have a headache caused by lack of caffeine because I switched from coffee to tea this morning and thus am not much in the mood to try a craft one at the moment. But there's a dozen things I want to post about, so here we are, with yet another list of things.

1. The switch from coffee to tea is mostly because I ran out of coffee, and since the boys and I are leaving for the entire summer, I'm not particularly interested in replacing it just yet. Also, I have tons and tons of very good and delicious tea leaves in my pantry and I need to drink them. My brain does not agree with this plan, which is ironic since my brain is what suggested this plan in the first place. If I wanted, I could take a very short walk over to the compound center and get an iced coffee from the restaurant there (which is not closed for Ramadan and has good iced coffee for about $3), but it's the principle of the thing.

Not that principle means much when your head aches.

2. It is Andrew's last week of first grade. They're not required to wear uniform this week, but Andrew wore his anyway today because he wanted to wear it. It's not like it's a big deal - I'm sure there will be other kids wearing a uniform, because there always are. And his uniform isn't super uniform-y - it's a red polo shirt with the school crest and a pair of dark-colored shorts. Half the kids in the compound don't even take them off after school because they're pretty comfy. But I bet Andrew's told at least ten times before lunch that he didn't have to wear a uniform today.

Honestly, I think half the reason he wore it is because I made the belated discovery last night that all of his play shorts are too small in the waist by about 2-3 inches per pair, which is just... horrible. But he didn't say anything and he hardly ever wears them anyway (see: comfy school clothes) and it was only when he was trying to put on a pair yesterday that really were obnoxiously small that I thought to look. The really stupid thing is that he has tons of clothes in his closet that are bigger sizes because I was smart and bought up a few sizes before packout. So I've gone ahead and switched them all out but I'm not sure Andrew got the message.

Anyway, he's doing super well with school, he's caught up on reading and I think he's better at math than he's letting on. The school has two teachers in mind for him for next year, they just don't know who's staying and who's going. I think he's ready for 2nd grade. 

(For those wondering when Andrew got old enough to be a second grader - I am right there with you.)

3. Charlie's speech therapy is going well. He's beginning to mimic more often, and he's adding words to his vocabulary. Not every day, but at least he's adding. I think we're going to pull this kid into verbalization, him kicking and screaming the whole way. He's also decided against potty training for the time being. We take off his diaper, he points to the potty and yells. We put him down to go to the potty - and he looks at us, grins like a maniac, and then runs for the stairs, laughing the entire way with his little butt peeking out from the hem of his shirt. Even when we sit him down on the potty, he's up like a shot and off running. Which is really disappointing because he was doing so well. If we can get him potty trained by September, he can go into the big-kid class at kindy (ages 2-1/2 and up). Otherwise he's stuck with the middle class (1-1/2 through 2-1/2). 

4. Pen's sixth book came out about two weeks ago. I've done a couple of different things with marketing it; I'm not entirely sure how well any of them have worked. One of the things I did was to start it off priced at 99 cents as a promotional thing for people on my newsletter. I ended up getting some really good sales... until I upped the price as planned to $1.99 about a week before release, and then sales took a sharp downward turn. They went up briefly when it was released... but I never cracked the first page of ranked books on the Gay & Lesbian bestsellers list on Amazon (though I came close), and cracking that first page really helps sales rankings, because then you tend to stay there for a while. 

Another thing I did was to hire an ARC service. Amazon has this thing where if your book has more than 50 reviews, it's more likely to pop up in searches and also-purchased-by and the like. The reviews don't even have to be good, they just have to be there. There's a couple of ARC services out there where you pay a set amount and they'll get your ARC into the hands of readers who want it. The reviewers aren't paid, and this particular service claims an extremely high return rate because they check that their reviewers really are reviewing their ARCs. (Which is one of the reasons they probably earn the money they're paid, this is a whole lot of tracking on their part.) 

Anyway, between the ARCs I handed out personally and this service, the new book has more than 50 reviews. The vast majority are positive; the negative ones are of the "but why don't they shift into wolves and don't you know men can't really get pregnant?" variety which I can easily ignore. 

5. I've also started posting the mega-long second season fic for Yuri on Ice. It's still a WIP, which was a conscious decision... I'm not sure I'd do this again, honestly. It's an interesting process, and I'm glad I started posting when I did, but.... I wish I'd spent more time finishing and polishing it before putting it up. Partially because:
In which I am petty. So very, very petty. )

7. ... I was going to have a #7, but my head still hurts and I've got about an hour before Charlie wakes up from his nap, so I'm going to go lie down for a bit. 

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 *shifty eyes*

So.... we've got tickets for the boys and I to fly back to the States in a few weeks.

And we've got tickets for all four of us to return back to the LoL in late August.

And Bill has his tickets to take the boys to Milwaukee in mid-August without me for a few days. 

And... I just bought a ticket for myself to fly to Philadelphia* while they're in Milwaukee.

I have no idea what the hell I'm going to do in Philadelphia, but it will be sans children and probably involve coffee shops and laptops.

(And then I'll take the train up to Connecticut after a few days and meet them there. It is a PLAN. Sort of.)

* Because I have never been to Philadelphia, and it looks like a very nice city. And if I decide I need a break from writing, there are touristy things I can do instead. And presumably, they have coffee shops that serve yummy things.

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So the summer plans are starting to come together. The boys and I have our tickets to fly back to Arizona after school lets out - but not our tickets to return to the LoL for reasons only Bill can explain. (I admit, this is worrying me, because we're supposed to fly back right before hajj, and every person I've talked to say those flights fill up months in advance. But b/c they're government tickets, Bill has to be the one to make them, so.... yeah.)

In the meantime, however, he did get the tickets to take the boys to Milwaukee, and he only bought three of them, which means I am definitely on my own for 3-4 days in mid-August. I'm still sort of trying to figure out what I want to do, and the only thing I'm sure of is that I want to fly out of California (where we'll be with my parents) and head to the East Coast, so that when my fling is done, all I have to do is hop on a train and meet the boys in Connecticut. In a perfect world, I'd find some fascinating thing to do over those couple of days and sign up and be done, but alas, it is not a perfect world. In a second-best perfect world, I'd at least score tickets to some out-of-the-way, quiet yet beautiful place that has fabulous food and people willing to bring it to me, but not even that world exists for less than $800 one-way, so that's not going to happen either.

Instead, based on Tumblr recommendations, I found a site that lets you just look for cheap flights to anywhere, because I might as well try to snag a cheap flight since I'm not going to be particular about the destination. I've narrowed it down to Boston or Philadelphia. Both places are easy train journeys to Connecticut, both have one-way flights for less than $300 (less than $200 if I'm not going to be particular about flight times), both are going to have good places to eat and presumably good coffee shops in which to write.

Pro: Never been there, so new place to see, yay
Con: Never been there, so distracting/unknown/potentially horrible

Pro: I know (and like) the city so I'm sure it'll be fine
Con: I know the city (and about half the inhabitants) and there's no way I could go under the radar for long, or not get in trouble for not contacting people in it.

Bill's threatened that if we get to June and I haven't made my reservations, he's going to make them for me. Considering the expression on his face when I mentioned Philly as a possibility, I think that's where he might have been thinking - though I also bet he was thinking Chicago because then he could meet me there with the boys after their Milwaukee jaunt, and thus decrease the number of flights he has to make with both boys by himself by one. 

(Chicago would be a good place to go - I've been there but never extensively, I have family there who I adore and would be happy to see again but am not obliged to spend lots of time with, and I know there's good places to eat and good coffee shops for writing. But it fails on the train test, and I admit, I like the thought of Bill handling both boys on cross-country flights. It's terrible of me, true, but hey, we all get our jollies where we can.)


Charlie's speech therapy is going well. In that he is babbling a TON more than he was... but it's all still completely incomprehensible. He can say "yes" extremely well, and everything else is "dada." (Sometimes there's a "mama" and a "bubble" thrown in for good measure.) 

Andrew's experiment with the fidget spinner in class is... well, I have no idea, his teacher hasn't said, but he forgets to take it to school half the time so I think if anything it's a failure to launch and not a failure in practice. 

Pen has a book coming out on Thursday. I'm trying something new with the price structure - basically raising the price steadily before it's released to try to boost my numbers - and it worked initially, presales the first few days were fabulous. And then I raised the price and now it's fairly stagnant. But there's several review blogs who have ARCs and I'm also trying an ARC company, so I'm hoping an influx of reviews will help boost the sales somewhat. We'll see. I suspect I'm going to forever be trying to copy what happened with Omega Nanny, and forever failing, because I still have no idea how that particular success happened. Total luck. 

Otherwise it's a super busy week. There's a CLO trip to a local souk tomorrow morning, both boys have birthday parties to attend on Wednesday afternoon, and tonight Bill and I are going to Swedish National Day, which is going to be held at... wait for it... IKEA. Because that's where you hold Swedish National Day, apparently. I don't usually go to these things here - but this one I can't pass up. I mean... Swedish National Day at IKEA.

And to think we're not even in the capital kow-towing to Lord Dampnut. (Though there's a group of folks from the consulate here who did go, and I know at least one person who was roped into following the daughter around for the day. I'm sure she's thrilled, too.)

It's weird to think we've been here for seven months already. It doesn't seem that long. I suppose it never really does.

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Hi, Mrs. X, I told Andrew I would send you a note this morning about his GRIEVOUS INJURY. We went to La Plage beach yesterday and Andrew apparently cut his big toe a little bit and now claims that it is extremely painful and that he cannot possibly go to school. It is a TERRIBLE GRIEVOUS INJURY but I told him that he will be fine and that exercise is the best way of making sure his foot is not going to atrophy in his time of woe. 
Anyway, in lieu of a doctor's note, please be aware that Andrew has a GRIEVOUS INJURY on his big toe, and chances are extremely good that he will forget all about it the minute he walks through the school gates (especially as I'm pretty sure he's going to bike to school anyway) but will possibly remember if there is gym today, depending on what the gym activity is and how much Andrew wants to participate.
Thank you!
p.s. I really, really hope Andrew's 2nd grade teacher has as good a sense of humor as you do.  


Her response, in its entirety:

<i>Oh my goodness that is the funniest email I have had in awhile!!! </i>

Mission accomplished.

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 Apparently I am incapable of teaching children how to talk, and therefore Charlie had his first speech therapy appointment this morning. It was Take Number Three, because the previous two attempts at an appointment this week were cancelled as the therapist was sick. The first morning, Monday, we were already on our way to the appointment when we got the call (via Bill) that it was cancelled. The make-up appointment was Wednesday, and we got all the way into the office only to learn it was cancelled. (They had my phone number wrong, which is why I didn't get a call on Monday. I admit, I had been thinking that they didn't call the moms at all - because oh why bother we have to get permission to do anything here anyway - but nope, happily I was wrong. Whew, and bad on me for thinking it.)

Anyway, the driver picked me up this morning and jokingly asked if the appointment had been cancelled yet. "Not yet," I replied ominously, "but if I come out of the office five minutes after you drop me off, I may be too livid to speak. In which case, drive me anywhere in the city you want to go."

(The driver laughed. I happen to like this driver; he has an excellent sense of humor and we get on like a house on fire.)

Luckily, the appointment was on. The place I'm taking Charlie is a much larger operation than the place where Andrew went in Virginia. It's been in operation for 25 years and is well-enough established that everyone who knows we're going there has heard of it, or knows someone who went there. I like the people we've met so far, and they seem to know what they're doing - they evaluated Charlie with the same materials used to evaluate Andrew, and their English is accentless and probably better than mine. I sat in on today's session, because it was the first, but eventually (assuming Charlie's good with it) I won't, and there's a closed-circuit television so I can watch and hear what's going on, which is pretty cool.

So, two 45-minute sessions a week until the end of the month, at which point it's Ramadan and everything stops anyway. And two weeks after that, we're back in the States, where maybe we can find a therapist for the nearly two months we're in Yuma who can continue Charlie's therapy. 

I have it in my head that he won't need as much of it as Andrew has. Andrew had expressive and receptive delays, but Charlie only has expressive delay. He's got about six words, none of which are said correctly, and his main form of communication is pointing and yelling. (At his age, he should be doing two-word sentences, or at least one-word sentences.) The biggest problem right now is that he won't even try to copy what we're saying, and he's surrounded by soft-sack adults who are too willing to just give him what he wants. (I.E., me.) 

So, therapy. I am oh-for-two, people.


In related news, those fidget-spinner things have hit the LoL, and a few of Andrew's classmates brought them to class this week and ended up getting them banned for the entire first grade. Which of course brought them to everyone else's attention, including Andrew, so when school let out on Tuesday, the entire lot of them came racing out of the building, and every single one went straight up to their parents and begged for one. 

Here's the thing: they're toys, yes. But supposedly they're pretty good at helping kids with autism or ADHD focus - I admit I have no idea how - and that's part of the problem in their being banned from a lot of schools: it's not fair to ban something that some kids actually use to learn. I'm not sure comparing it to banning reading glasses is appropriate, but it's the closest analogy I can think of at the moment.

Anyway, Andrew's not autistic, and he doesn't have an official diagnosis of ADHD (though I wouldn't be surprised if he has some form of it), but I figured I'd ask his teacher anyway if she thought the spinners would help.

Answer: Not only "yes probably", but that she'd willingly lift the ban for him if it does.

(Which has also sparked a whole discussion about whether or not we should actually have Andrew tested for ADHD, but we're waiting on the Learning Support folks to chime in first.)

So Andrew and I got to have a discussion over dinner about how maybe he'd be allowed to have a spinner in class, but only if it helps him focus, and he's not allowed to show off to his classmates that he's allowed one when they aren't, because that is Rude. And if Mrs. A says, "Okay, Andrew, this spinner is distracting you more than it's helping you, it's time to put it away and it's going to be an after-school thing only now," he's not allowed to complain or ask for another chance, the spinner goes in his backpack and comes straight home. (Which he seemed to get pretty quickly. Whether or not he does it without complaining or asking for another chance is another thing entirely.) 

So between Charlie's aborted speech therapies and an upcoming trip to the mall to get Andrew this fabulous flicky spinner thingie, I've been off the compound more in the last two weeks than I have since January. (Trips to London notwithstanding.) It feels very strange. Plus I feel guilty for requesting drivers all the time... which is not exactly a good thing, since I sort of need drivers for the next two years. (Argh. Driving. Also one of the reasons I like today's driver, he's the only one who laughs when I crack jokes about my inability to drive here.)

Sick Days

Apr. 25th, 2017 09:17 pm
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 Andrew has been home the last two days because of some weird... sickness? We thought it was just a general cold yesterday morning, he had a headache and a sore throat, and he fell asleep on the couch in the afternoon, and then in the evening his temperature spiked up to 102F. Today he stayed home because the schools have a 24-hour policy on fevers. He was fine all day, totally bouncy in the afternoon and bored out of his mind and talking about how he wanted to go to school tomorrow.

And then just as I'm putting him to bed, he turned all sad and sobby and his forehead was burning up, so I took his temp again.

102F. Again.


I know it's not his fault, but I feel like every time I have actual, concrete, cannot-change-this-appointment plans, Andrew gets sick. When my parents visited last year, he contracted a stomach virus the day I was supposed to drive them to the airport in the next town over. The week before we flew to the LoL, and I was supposed to be running around Virginia getting Cleo's paperwork squared away, he contracted another stomach virus with a high fever.

This week, I had arranged with a local speech therapy office to evaluate Charlie, because once again, I have proven that I am incapable of teaching a toddler how to talk. 

(I'm only partially being facetious. Well. It's true that Charlie doesn't talk. It's also true he's the second kid out of two under my care who clearly can't talk without exterior intervention.) 

So on one hand, I feel terribly for Andrew, because being sick is no fun, and tomorrow he's going to miss a ton of fun stuff happening at school (dance! library! interaction with other kids!) as well as a soccer game afterwards, upon which a pizza party depends. 



At least tomorrow I have the nanny coming in the morning, so she can stay here with Andrew. As long as everything goes smoothly, Charlie and I can be back before she has to leave for her next job. Of course, the chances of things going smoothly are... slim? The real problem is that Charlie's appointment ends about ten minutes before prayer time, and I don't know what the policy is at the office if I have to make further appointments afterwards. Will their appointment staff help me so I can go? Or will they refuse because it's prayer time - which wouldn't surprise me, everything shuts down during prayer. It's actually the law here, you're not allowed to remain open. (Though many sit-down restaurants seems to disregard this rule - they'll continue serving people already inside, although they do lock the doors and refuse to let any new customers in.)

Or I just say "screw it" to the fever rule, and if Andrew's up for school in the morning, I'll send him. (And then run the risk of him petering out and the school wanting to send him home when the nanny's already left?)

(Why, child? Why must you pick the exact wrong week to get sick every single flipping time???? I love you but is this your super power? Because if so, you completely lost out in super power roulette.)

Andrew is just one of those kids who gets random high fevers - he always has, he probably always will. Luckily he doesn't get them super often anymore, but wow, they seem to be impossibly hard to shake, and resurrect themselves just when you're sure you're in the clear. 

*sigh, again* It'll be fine. It'll work itself out, and everyone will get to where they need to be tomorrow. Except maybe Andrew.

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 I have the itchy fingers that usually accompany my urge to write something when there's nothing I MUST be writing at the moment. I have half a dozen things that need to be edited or revamped or plotted, but nothing to be written.

(Okay, that's not true. I have a porn scene to write for a Pen short, but I'm disinclined to write it at the moment because porn. I have to be in the right mood for porn. It's not even a sexy mood, I don't really know what kind of mood it is, but it's not sexy. More like... determined?)

But otherwise, I'm in a hurry-up-and-wait mode for a lot of things. I'm waiting for the covers for Pen's next two books. I'm waiting for final read-thrus for both books as well as the next chapter of TNL. I'm waiting for inspiration to strike for the FTH fic. (Which... it sort of has? And it sort of hasn't? And the sort-of-has could be really really good, but I'm not sure how to start?)

Once I get those things... I'll have a mountain of stuff to do. Just I can't do much of it yet.

I used to keep a list of story ideas for fanfic. I know I had a bunch of ideas for YOI fic back in January, but I don't think I wrote them down, and now I don't remember any of them. Gah.

I think I'm just eager to get Pen's next book up. The whole idea behind having the part-time nanny for Charlie was to give me more uninterrupted, guaranteed time to write. And I have, but... I feel like I don't have anything finalized to show for it, if that makes sense, except a couple of fanfics. Which is not exactly the original point to the exercise. I agree that all writing is good because it's writing and writing begets more writing, etc, and definitely the fanfics I've posted and written since January have been extremely good for my ability to write more words (even TNL, especially TNL for the sake of writing new words, maybe the reason no one's reading it is because it actually reads like the word vomit it was, because seriously, who writes 90,000 words in two weeks?). 

But I don't have guaranteed time to write just so I can write fanfic. I don't know what Bill thinks about it, but my idea is that Pen's paying for the nanny, and so far, she's not pulling her weight just yet. 


In other news, we're seriously looking at flying through London to get back to the States this summer - which means I won't have my laptop with me. The only reason this is doable - because fine, make fun, I cannot survive without a laptop for 2-1/2 months, I barely managed a week in London - is because my father has pointed out that he owns extra laptops which he is not using, and I can use one. Mind, I have no idea what kind of laptop in what kind of condition, but hey, it's a laptop and with luck I'll be able to type on it. 

(Failing that... I fold and buy a Chromebook. I do not need a Chromebook, and I don't want to spend the money on a Chromebook when I do not need a Chromebook, no matter how much I love the idea of a tiny little laptop that I could fit inside my purse. My laptop is barely a year old, I should not have to replace it just yet.)

Hopefully we'll have tickets by the end of the week. There's a bunch of traveling we'll do in the States in August, but getting there and back is the main focus; everything else is incidental. I also still need to figure out where I'm going while Bill and the boys go to Milwaukee. Andrew is actually lobbying for me to go with them, which is very sweet of him, and ironic considering he also routinely tells me that I'm fired. (Usually for serving veggies at dinner.)

(But he also tried to retire from first grade last night, so who knows. He was totally fine going to school this morning, at least, and we didn't remind him that he's now retired.)

(Charlie is trying to potty train himself. It's adorable. I'm going with it for now, but I still have a serious reserve of diapers left over from our not-consumable shipment so we're going to work our way through that before I really focus on actual potty training.)


Things I want to learn how to do on Dreamwidth:

--post pictures. Why is this so difficult, ugh?
--italicize while I type. Why does CTRL-I not work, ugh? I never remember to go back and do it manually, which is probably a sign that I do it too often anyway.

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Technology seems to be failing me as of late. My phone hasn't been working quite as well as it did before our trip to London earlier this month. I don't think London had anything to do with it; the phone is going on four years old, so it's probably well past its life span. It sent and received texts okay, but connecting to the internet was a pain, and I was never able to actually check my email. Since I wasn't able to take my laptop with me (argh, laptop travel ban, do NOT get me started on the idiocy of that laptop travel ban), it was my phone or bust. And apparently my phone was leaning toward bust.

The other thing leaning toward bust was my camera, which Charlie dropped on the parquet floor about three hours after we'd arrived. It looks fine, but the base won't recognize that the lens is properly attached (and trust me, the lens is properly attached), so I was unable to take any photographs with it at all. My phone takes horrible photos now - I'm not sure if it's the age of the phone or just my own snobbery - so there are very, very few photos of the kids in London.

I am, not surprisingly, kind of depressed about that.

I'm also upset about the camera. This is the second time I've broken (by myself or by proxy - Charlie getting hold of the camera was my fault) my camera overseas when there aren't many ways to get it fixed. I've already checked for a local camera repair place. I've found one - it's even an official location run by Sony, my camera's manufacturer - but there's no website and the Facebook page is... hysterical, to say the least. It's mostly people leaving messages about how one of the employees either kidnapped their daughter or owes them money or is otherwise a terrible individual and is wanted by the police.

("Yes, but can he fix my camera?!?!")

So I'm probably going to end up waiting until we're back in the States for the summer, when I'll take my camera to Best Buy where it is undoubtedly no longer under warranty (the last camera broke the day before the warranty expired, not that I could do much about that in Egypt).


But failing getting it fixed for a reasonable sum (and I have tried all the fixes I can find online; none of them work), I've decided that I'm just going to say "Screw it" and wait until the kids are older before getting another camera. By which point I'm sure they'll be powerful enough to take beautiful photos before I've even taken the lens cap off. And will break if I so much as touch them wrong.

One definite thing: I'm getting a new phone. Bill says I could get one now, here, but I can't see that being any cheaper than just walking into Verizon, handing over my current phone, saying, "My plan says I get a new phone", and then getting a new phone

The main technological question for the moment is how we're going to fly back to the States for the summer. The boys and I are going to stay with my parents in Arizona. We have two possible routes. The shortest trip involves three flights, but means flying through London, and therefore being unable to take my laptop.

The other trip is four flights, but goes through Frankfurt, which means that as long as the current laptop travel ban isn't extended, I'd be able to bring my laptop.

(Do not say I can check my laptop. Do not say I can check my laptop. DO. NOT. SAY. I. CAN. CHECK. MY. LAPTOP.)

Hence the dilemma. I survived a week in London without a laptop, sure. It was fine. I can't go for 2-1/2 months without one. Not when I have to be working on Pen's next books, not when I'm planning on publishing the summer camp story while we're in Arizona. (I figure my dad will get a kick out of watching me do that. He's like that.) 

Plus, we're assuming the laptop travel ban won't be extended, which I'm not entirely sure is a safe bet. (And assuming that the LoL doesn't say, "Screw you, TSA, we won't let you bring laptops to our country either." Which would be entirely understandable.)


I need to get off this compound in the worst way, but even if I did, there's not a heck of a lot I could do once I'm off it. There's only so many times you can walk laps inside a mall.

On the other hand.... I read some really nice reviews of Pen's stories today. That helped. And I re-read the Alphaverse story again after a discussion on Tumblr reminded me of it, and it's super dark (which might be contributing to my current frame of mind) but oh man, I didn't really want to stop reading it. I still don't think it's worth scrubbing for publication - who'd want to buy it, it's such a strange concept - but I really, really want to put it up on AO3 now.

Then again, I wanted to put the second season YOI fic immediately, and that's tanking, so I'm kind of doubting my ability to determine appropriate posting schedules right now.

Oh well. Let's see what else I can manage to get done before Charlie wakes up from his nap....
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Yay, people on DW! Alas, I am old and Charlie has killed my short-term memory. Can anyone with vastly different names between here and LJ and Tumblr please let me know who you are?  Thank you! 
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 It's not the abaya that bothers me about the LoL.

I mean, I'd figured this out already. I've mentioned it once or twice or a dozen times in various online discussions. I seriously don't mind wearing the abaya - but I'm also the first to admit that my experience in wearing an abaya is also very much a product of me being a non-Muslim expat. I'm not subjected to the same expectations that local LoLian women face. My abaya is cream-colored. I usually don't fasten the snaps below my thighs. I don't wear a hijab, much less a veil. And so far, I haven't been challenged about wearing a headscarf - most of the expats I know have been confronted about wearing it at one point, though most of them have also been here longer so there's been more time in which to be challenged. (I also have no doubt I'll be challenged before I leave the LoL for good.)

So my abaya experience - both in what's expected and what I experience - is fairly atypical, and I know it. It's the idea that I am required to wear ANYTHING to conform to a religious standard that isn't my own which probably bothers people. The idea of it definitely bothered me a little bit, at first, and yeah, there are days I defy it or think, "I do not give a hoot that you think I should wear this thing." (Like this morning at the airport, when I deliberately did not fasten my snaps, but left my abaya open. Something I'd never dare to do anywhere else in town.) 

Now, I couldn't care less. Grabbing my abaya from the hook on the back of my office door is second-nature now. I finally remember to put my phone and keys anywhere but my jeans pockets (since I can't access them once the abaya is fastened). And I've gotten pretty good at putting the abaya on in the backseat of a car. I'm actually grateful for the abaya sometimes, because man, those stores are seriously over-air-conditioned, and it's nice to have that extra layer to keep me comfortable.

Nope. I joke about not wearing it... but I don't actually mind it so much.

What bothers me the most is not being able to drive. Not so much for me, but....

Okay, so for spring break we took the kids to London, because it's London and I love London, and Andrew has good memories of London, and they speak English and I can get around without needing to call for help and there's a ton of things to do and it's cold and and and and. They're probably stupid reasons, but whatever, they're ours. So we're in London, and because my life has its own trials and tribulations, the boys and I got there a day before Bill did. Anyway, we land at the airport and the company who rented us the house sent a car to meet us at the airport, and we get in and get to our house and it's fine and about an hour after we've settled in, I turn to the boys and say:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going grocery shopping.
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?
Me: Um. No one. We're walking.
Andrew: But... we're WALKING? Why isn't someone driving us?
Me: Because it's just around the corner, and we can walk here.

So we walk to the grocery store, and it's a Waitrose and it's fine and we find lots of funny flavors of things and walk home and unload our stuff and it's all good. 

The next day:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going to the Aquarium.
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?

(This is when I started to get worried.)

Me: Um. No one. We're taking the Tube.
Andrew: But who's taking us to the Tube?
Me: No one. We're walking.
Andrew: We can walk to the Tube?!?!?

Later that afternoon:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going to the pirate ship playground.*
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?

*AKA the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, but Andrew knows it as the Pirate Ship Playground

It took another day before Andrew finally stopped asking who was driving us every time we said we were going somewhere. (Which, incidentally, is when Bill finally joined us and I'm not going to think about the implications of that right now, though it probably only proves the point.)

And that scares me. I've driven this boy everywhere, his entire life, for seven years - and in a few short months, he is so used to me not being able to take him somewhere without some kind of escort that he expects one as a matter of course.

He knows I can't drive in the LoL, and he even knows that the law here prohibits me and any other woman to drive. And yes, he thinks it's silly and weird. But the idea that he's accepted it as the status quo and even tries to implement its ramifications (that I therefore need someone else to escort me where I want to go) is scary.

Momma cannot drive herself; she needs someone to do it for her. Therefore, Momma always needs someone to be with us when we go anywhere. Momma always needs an escort. Momma cannot go anywhere by herself.

It took a full 24 hours of me going where we wanted to go, just the three of us, before he stopped worrying about who would come with us. What will happen when we've been here for three years?

What would happen if he were older, and less quick to rewrite what he believes is the status quo?

(And then there's Charlie: who is too young now, but will be four when we leave for good. And will have spent the majority of his young life not being driven around by me. Is he going to be aware of the seismic shift? Or will it not worry him so much?)

The abaya doesn't bother me. It's a layer. I can shed it. It's not a big deal.

It's the things that aren't so easily shed that worry me, the things that burrow down without me even realizing, that pop up when we least expect them, but in the most obvious places. 

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 Yesterday was a complete loss; I woke up around 3:30 in the morning, sick to my stomach, and made best friends with the toilet for the next two hours. I have no idea if it was food poisoning (which seems unlikely, given the time frame) or a stomach bug (which is also unlikely, no one else is sick), but I spent the rest of the day in bed, dozing and trying to find a comfortable position in which to die. As I never found a good position, I'm still here. I couldn't even read for most of the day - every time I tried, I'd get three sentences and then forget what I was reading. 

Luckily, Bill was a champ and took the day off work, which was a blessing because the nanny doesn't come on Mondays, and then the housekeeper was a no-show, so I would have been completely screwed in terms of Charlie if he'd had to work. Charlie, of course, had the time of his life, spending the entire day with Daddy. He went to the park and the trampoline and McDonald's and swimming and a super late nap and then FireGrill for dinner (which is such a knock-off of Chipotle, you guys have no idea). Happiest. Toddler. Ever.

(Hey look, I figured out how to put photos in a post. Yay me.)

Going to restaurants here with the kids is both awesome and aggravating. Awesome, because most family restaurants have playspaces in them - including restaurants where in the States you wouldn't expect them, like Applebees or Unos or Friday's. Sometimes they're tiny little rooms with a few toys, but sometimes they're full-out playgrounds, with covered awnings and swings and everything. 

The downside? Well, that's particular to the LoL. See, every restaurant has two sections: a singles section, and a family section. And by "single", I mean "male." If you are a guy, and you are not eating with a female member of your family, you sit in the singles section. The only way you can sit in the Family section is if you are with female members of your family.

Which means that if you are Bill, taking Andrew and Charlie out for lunch or dinner, and I am not with you... you're in the Single Section. Because there are women in the Family Section, and clearly you are not allowed to eat with them. 

(This does not apply to all restaurants across the board. I swear that the Dunkin' Donuts didn't have sections marked out for Family or Single, though there were clearly two seating areas. Our guess is that which area is which changes based on who's in the restaurant at any given moment. And there's one woman I know who wasn't even allowed to sit down at a restaurant, because that place didn't even have a Family section - all they had was a singles section, and being female, she wasn't allowed to sit in it. So basically, they sold her dinner, and then kicked her out to eat it somewhere else.

This is also not true of the mall food court eating areas, which, as far as I can tell, is all Family seating. Then again, I've only rarely seen single guys alone in a mall here, anyway; it's usually a family outing.)

The troublesome part is that the playspaces? Are 99.9% of the time in the Family section of the restaurant. Which means if Bill goes with just the boys, and not me, he can't access the playspace so the boys can play. If the boys want to play - I have to go along. Which is... okay, fabulous for family unity, not so fabulous when he's looking for a quick way to give me an hour of downtime, and him an hour of father/son bonding.


So since I did manage to figure out how to upload pictures here - here's the pictures from Comic Con!

Pictures under the cut! )Pictures under the Cut! )

Cosplay at ComicCon. Harry Potter kept trying to Avada Kedavra Jack Sparrow, which is a character choice I'm not entirely sure about, but whatever. They were having fun. 

I did take pictures of Mads Mikkelson's interview, but they're terrible - we were far away and honestly the only reason you'd know it was him is because I am telling you it was him. (But it was very pretty by the end, after the sun set and the lights were blazing and the sky was that electric blue it gets at sunset.)
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 So, first of all, the local Comic Con over the weekend was awesome. Bill went all three days, but I didn't go until the last day. It was fairly crowded, not very large, and it seemed to be very well organized and run. And just about everything was in English, which was a little surprising but super handy. There was a sizeable section of the floor given to artists who were selling their wares. The vast majority of it was anime/manga related, though there was a bunch from various video games as well. Bill and I paid one of the artists to do a quick sketch of us as anime characters. I'll scan it in when I get the printer/scanner set up, but it is seriously adorable and I love it.

(Huh. I can't figure out how to upload photos on DW. Weird.)

There were a lot of guys and kids cosplaying. No women cosplaying - well, we have to wear abaya, there's not a lot of you can cosplay with that, unless you're wearing Hogwarts robes and sadly I never actually found Ravenclaw robes - but we did see plenty of of costumes, including at least two extremely good Captain Jack Sparrows, and the expected smattering of Harry Potter, MCU, and Star Wars. There were a few Minecraft type things, and one guy wearing a Link costume from The Legend of Zelda. Outside, a few of the people who had dressed up were posing for pictures - one of the Harry Potters kept attempting to Avada Kedavera Jack Sparrow, which was just weird. Otherwise it was fairly low-key and tame, probably because the actual cosplay event was slated for Friday night, and was meant to be separated by gender. (The women's cosplay was indoors, behind locked doors, and only women and children were allowed to attend. Period. Oh, and there was a strict rule that men weren't allowed to cross-dress, under any circumstances.)

What surprised me was the guests. Thursday night were a couple of people from Games of Thrones, Friday night was someone from Breaking Bad.

Saturday night, when we went? Mads Mikkelson.

How they managed to convince Mads Mikkelson to come here, I have no idea. But sure enough, there he was, up on the outdoor stage while the sun was setting at his back. The crowd was standing room only - mostly because standing was the only option; there weren't any chairs at all. And, of course, the crowd was separated by gender. Women on the left, men on the right. Bill and I were near the back, but stayed in sight of each other. It was an okay talk - the only odd question that I think took Mads by surprise was when the interviewer asked him to say which Hollywood personalities Hannibal would want to eat. (He hemmed and hawed a bit before answering, and I can't remember who he said for the women, but he said Usain Bolt without even blinking for which man he'd want to eat.)

And then when the interview was done, he was escorted off the stage by Darth Vader and a couple of stormtroopers. All in all, an enjoyable interview. Though I'm not sure if it wasn't because it was just so nice to be outside and surrounded by people, which doesn't happen too often to me these days.

Then we headed out and had an actual dinner in an actual restaurant with actual waiters and no children. 


I am slowly, slowly getting all the boxes unpacked. I don't feel as if I'm making much headway - there's just so much stuff, and so many of the boxes are a hodgepodge of stuff, so I seem to spend more time walking around the house with my hands full of small things that belong in other parts of the house than I do actually unpacking boxes. The toy room is no longer the bane of my existence, mostly because every time I open a box in there, half the contents aren't actually toys. 

I might be done by next week. If I'm lucky.

Let's see, in other news....

1. I have to make at least four batches of chocolate chip cookies for Saturday, because Andrew's school is doing an International Appreciation Day, and the consulate is sponsoring the America Booth. (Duh.) The CLO has decided we are handing out chocolate chip cookies. So not only am I making at least four batches of chocolate chip cookies to feed somewhere around 2,000 people (I am not the only one baking, btw), I also get to pay for a ticket to attend the festivities. I am gently amused by this, because at least I am not the husband who has to pay for a ticket in order to help his wife set up the Australia booth before leaving again because he's working and can't actually attend the event.

2. I've started writing a story for Pen. I'm trying not to overthink it too much.

3. Charlie is already logging his Terrible Two hours, and he's not two for another two weeks. And he is so very, very two. He really wants to change his bedtime routine, but neither of us really have a clue what he wants to change it to, so we're kind of at a weird impasse.

4. I unpacked some of the consumables today. I found Goldfish, and fruit gummies, and granulated sugar. And a whole bunch of expired soy milk. Ah well. Can't win 'em all.

(I also have three colanders, and I've lost count of how many mattress covers are in this house. Too many. All in very nice shape, which is really aggravating. There's a thrift store on the compound - but that's my only option for dumping unwanted stuff, unless I throw it away. There are no homeless shelters. There are no women's shelters. There are no other thrift stores, not really. Well, there's one, but I'm not sure how to even get to it. Not like I could just throw things in the car and go, seeing as I can't even drive. Andrew was asked for school what his favorite thing about his country was. His response was "the airplane museum." I really, really wanted him to say, "Mommy being able to DRIVE ME TO the airplane museum.")

(If Bill thinks he's going to drive when we're back in the States, he better think again.)

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 So the big news around here is that WE FINALLY GOT ALL OUR STUFF ON WEDNESDAY.



Anyway, the house is a sea of boxes - there was a point when the movers were bringing them all in and I wanted to throw my hands in the air and shout 'OKAY, WE'RE GOOD, PLEASE STOP'. I spent most of Wednesday unpacking and trying to sort things, helped out because the nanny was here in the morning and the housekeeper was here in the afternoon and Bill was home all day. Thursday afternoon was the same, because the housekeeper was back and Andrew was gone all day with school and a birthday party / field trip, and this afternoon I'm going to try to do a little more but seeing as it's a weekend, I'm unlikely to do much since there's no one to watch Charlie. (Bill is taking Andrew to the local Comic Con. He and I are going tomorrow evening. I also feel bad asking him to do anything, because his gout is acting up and the kids keep stepping on his infected toe, and unfortunately what I need most is hauling of boxes to and fro, or watching Charlie so I can haul boxes to and fro.)

Among the ridiculous things I have so far found:

-- a lampshade, but no lamp
-- sheets to the guest room bed that we put in storage
-- a box of books marked "cookbooks", but which contained only three cookbooks and the rest are Bill's statistics and economics texts from college 20 years ago (and which he STILL refuses to give away)
-- so. many. winter. clothes.
-- ice hockey sticks
-- five thousand packages of Kleenex, paper towels, and toilet paper, all of which made lots of sense when we were supposed to be going to Uzbekistan, and none of which make sense here. 

The toy room is so packed with boxes I can't even unpack it, because there's nowhere to put the toys I unpack. The kitchen is livable, except I'm running out of room for storage, which is problematic, because I also have nowhere to put the paper towels and Kleenex and toilet paper, which is filling up the upstairs closet that was meant to be for linen, and all the linen is still sitting in laundry baskets waiting to be put away.

So basically, I currently live in a mess. I'm beginning to wonder why it is we own all this stuff, when I managed pretty well for seven months without it. (Okay, I grant you that every few days I would sit and howl about how much I missed my KitchenAid. But still. The kids did just fine without ten thousand boxes of toys, and yeah, it would have been handy to have some extra wrapping paper and I'm really glad the printer is here because I desperately need to print a few things, but still.)

But Cleo has her favorite cat bed back, and Charlie has his trike and his Big Red Car, and Andrew came home from school on Wednesday and saw the piles of books and immediately sat right down on the couch and started to read them, which was just awesome. Bill has all the clothes he forgot to pack (i.e., now he owns more than three white undershirts, hurrah). Somewhere in there, I have a workout bra, but I've pretty much given up on unpacking my own boxes until the rest of the house is better.


1. Charlie has a new nanny. The first day she took Charlie to the park, she came back and gave me a full run-down of everything he did and who he played with and their activities and how much he ate. By the third day, she was putting him down for a nap in ten minutes flat. Charlie is quite taken with her and when they leave for the park, he marches out with her, waving and calling "Bye!" She's a keeper. 

The best part, of course, is when they come back and he comes running in, sees me, does a dance, and then runs pell-mell for my legs. Which is so much like what Andrew did at preschool when he was 2-1/2 that it just tickles me pink.

Speaking of which, we've gotten word that Charlie's definitely in the preschool here starting in September; we just have to decide how often. They only run in the mornings, Sunday through Thursday, so it's a question of how many days we want him to go. 

2.  Andrew is doing okay. We've got a finalized ILP for him (the local version of an IEP) and there's a mess in getting his school fees paid because I guess there are certain cables in certain channels that never got sent because neither Bill nor I have sent Andrew to school overseas before, and no one bothered to tell Bill, "Hey, you have to do this thing." Our sponsors also do not have kids in the school and the CLO here is.... less than useful when it comes to anything other than planning trips to other places. Basically, it was a case of us not knowing we didn't know something. Oh well. It's going to get taken care of eventually; hopefully without us having to pay the fees and then get reimbursed because I'm pretty sure that would never actually happen.

3. Cleo has successfully defended her territory outside the house. It probably helps that most of the other cats here are either total wimps, or so conditioned to the locals Not Liking Cats that they don't stay if there's the slightest indication that they aren't welcome. She doesn't wander far - there's really not that far to wander - but she has her favorite spots and she knows how to get home, so I'm reconciled to having an indoor/outdoor cat again. 

She also was chased by a dog the other week, and made it halfway up a palm tree before she stopped. She managed to get down again okay and hightailed it home. (The dog wasn't dangerous - he's the pet of a family in our cul-de-sac, a large golden who is very young and very energetic and very, very untrained, and the family claimed he just wanted to play but I'm not entirely convinced of that. Especially since I asked them several times to take their dog inside so I could rescue Cleo and get her inside, and they just keep going on about how nice the dog was.)

4. So after having written 90,000 words of fic in January... I then turned around and wrote 30,000 words of fic in 8 days last week. There was a thing on Tumblr for Yuri On Ice - basically, a prompt a day for eight days running, you could take the prompt and write or draw or vid or whatever. I wasn't going to participate... but that afternoon, I started to write a fic that I'd had in my head, and I realized that evening, having finished the first part, that it fits the first day's prompt perfectly.

And then I realized that every subsequent prompt actually matched where I wanted the story to go.

So, with about an hour left in the day in which I could post the fic and still have it count for the challenge... I decided to post it. Basically, I wrote and posted a work in progress, which I never do, because I'm terrible about finishing them. 

Except this time... I did. And omgosh, it was so. much. fun. I know a lot of people write that way, but now I completely understand the thrill of it, the way the adrenaline gets under your skin and how the comments really do spur you on to writing the next chapter. I've always tweaked chapters based on comments... but this time, I was able to really take comments and ideas and run with them, and they absolutely influenced the latter half of the story. 

It was undoubtedly a seriously eye-opening experience, writing like that. It was amazing. I want to do it again, if the opportunity arises. 

(The fic in question is here, if you want to read it.)

The only downside is that I've written over 130,000 words this year so far... and none of it is for Pen. I feel somewhat guilty about that. I've been ignoring Pen for a while, and I shouldn't, except... I'm just stuck on what to write for her. I wish the words flowed as easily for her as they do for what I'm writing now, or that I had some kind of prompt thing for Pen the way I seem to find prompts for fic. Ugh. If I could knock out a 30K story for Pen in a week... and do that repeatedly... I could actually do really well with her, and be writing at a pace that most people in the know say is a requirement for being successful as an ebook author. 

Except I can't do that without ideas. I've clearly got the time and the ability - I've proven that to myself over the last six weeks. I just need the ideas

(Which means I probably should be reading more.)

5. Which leads into the next part: my Kindle is dying. It takes a couple of minutes and several aborted reboots in order to get it up and running again, which makes me think it's only a matter of time before it just refuses to start at all one day. And that would be majorly depressing; I've got a lot of notes stored on there for various things I've read and I don't want to lose them. (The stories and books themselves are in my Cloud so I don't lose anything I've downloaded or purchased; I'm not sure the notes are backed up, though, nor do I know how to back them up myself.)

So at some point, I need to buy another Kindle. Except I'm not sure I can have one sent out from the States - if the battery is on the APO no-no list - so it won't be until at least April that I can get a replacement. (Bill has to go back briefly for a training thing.) 

I can't remember when I bought my Kindle - Andrew was still little, so it's definitely not older than about five or six years, and I had it in Cairo, so it's not less than four. That seems like a pretty good investment to me (about $30 a year at the most), so I don't mind buying another Paperwhite. (I don't care about all the apps that a Fire comes with, unless one of you can convince me otherwise.)

Anyway, that about wraps up everything here. Charlie's been asleep for slightly more than an hour so I should probably get unpacking again a little bit. I suspect there's an IKEA run in my future, in terms of trying to organize the house. Which is... not a bad thing. The nice thing about before our stuff arrived - and I thought this even before it all showed up - is all the space we had. Everything was just nice and open, you know? Like living in a Container Store. Which is... okay, kinda impersonal, but also very comfortable in terms of being able to find stuff fast because you're not having to sort through piles of other stuff.

Oh dear. Bill's starting to unpack things. I better go.

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 So the most important and exciting information from here is that Andrew is now reading at grade level. I feel a bit like doing a dance of joy, but Charlie's asleep and I'm not going to risk waking him up.

Let's see,what else to report:

1. Charlie now has a nanny three mornings a week. It's working out okay, I say hesitatingly. I like the person we hired, she's nice and it's clear she likes Charlie and Charlie likes her, and when I'm around, she's very attentive and interactive.

It's when I'm not around that is the trick. Every morning, she takes Charlie to the park that's in the compound, where there are other toddlers with their nannies or mommies nearby. I've heard from a couple of the moms there that she's not super attentive, and spends a lot of time either talking on her phone or talking to other nannies, and not watching Charlie. Which is worrisome, because Charlie's figured out how to get through the bushes (there's some larger gaps so it's not hard) and run into the street, which he thinks is hysterical because he's 22 months old and has no sense of self-preservation. I've talked to the nanny about it, and I think she understood the gravity of what I was saying, but I haven't heard from the moms at the playground yet so we'll see if it gets better.

I've also had the chance to "spy" on her when she didn't realize I was doing it - once when she was putting Charlie down for a nap, and didn't realize she was sitting right in view of the camera in his room. She was okay, but it wasn't the way I've asked her to put him down - she put him in the bed, and then sat there staring off into space while he wiggled around. And again today, I came home from coffee with some other moms and they were already home, so I didn't announce my presence and just listening in to them in the playroom. I could hear her on the phone talking, but otherwise, she wasn't really interacting with him much at all.

Which is... not great, and sure enough, as soon as she realized I was home, she was much more talkative with him. 

For a short-term solution, it's fine, but long-term, I'd kind of expect a little more. (It would also help if she actually did what I ask her to do.)  The big problem is that I know she left another job to come here and work for me, and so I feel kind of guilty firing her. But how many times can I ask her to keep a closer eye on him in the playground, and to maybe interact with him a little more often when they're playing, before I can reasonably say, "Okay, we tried this, and you're not doing what I asked you to do, so here is some severance and thank you very much, good luck in your next place."

Silver shoes, etc.

2. So yeah, that final episode of Sherlock. It was.... interesting. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the last season, to be honest - I've read some of the meta, though not much, and watched some of the drama unfolding from the final episode not including Johnlock, with varying levels of schadenfreude. Mostly I think I miss the first two seasons, which were just much more fun on the whole. These felt dark and dreary and far less interesting. There was at least one point in each episode where I was just bored out of my skull and found myself wanting to stop watching entirely. 

Not the first time I've been disappointed in how a story ended, though. Won't be the last, either.

It's probably tempered by the fact that I haven't really felt like part of the Sherlock fandom for the last... oh, year or so, really. I don't think I was pushed out so much that I lost interest. The wank and the arguments and the blind conviction of certain factions just got exhausting. Who wants to wade through all of that when it's meant to be fun? And there are other fandoms that are much happier; I'll stick with them. 

(As much as I say Yuri on Ice is all cheer and fluff and happiness - there's dark spots there too. And as a whole, I think the fandom skews much, much younger on average than Sherlock's fandom does. But it does seem to be a more cheerful place.)

3. Finally saw Rogue One. Fell asleep several times. Hidden Figures and Moana are finally available from the DVD table in the compound. I shall of course not be purchasing them. Also, we don't have a DVD player at the moment because the one our neighbors requested that we return the one they lent us last week. (Their DVD player broke, so they wanted their backup back, which is reasonable.) On the other hand:

4. Our stuff is ALMOST here, in that it arrived in the country last week, and now we're just waiting for it to clear Customs. We're told this takes up to 10 days, and therefore we might have it next week. Which means the DVD player issue will be resolved, and I'll have my kitchen back. HURRAH. I can't wait, I'm so tired of making do with a single teaspoon and borrowed baking pans.

5. I signed up for an Instagram account, because it seems pretty easy to share pictures that way. I tried to sign up as azriona, but it wouldn't let me do it. I'm not sure why. I wonder if the state of Arizona has caught on to me and thinks I'm trolling them. Which I'm not, but the idea that my username is being used to haze new state interns is making me laugh hysterically. Anyway, per Bill's suggestion, I'm azriona1912, because hey, I might as well troll with the best of them. (For those who don't know, 1912 is the year Arizona became a state.)

6. We have a banana tree in our backyard. It will apparently take three months for the baby bananas to mature enough to pick. Charlie checks on them every day; he's super excited about them. Time has no meaning when you're 22 months old.


Jan. 10th, 2017 10:11 am
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 It's still dark outside when Charlie wakes up in the morning. In the house, it's quiet as I get dressed and make up a sippy of milk for him. We snuggle on his bed while he drinks and wakes up, the warm weight of him on my lap, the last vestiges of his sleep slowly melting away.

We go outside after, in the cool dark of morning before the sun has risen, and as soon as we open the door, we hear it.

The first call to prayer of the morning is otherworldly - think of a thousand voices moaning on the wind, coming from every and from no direction at all. The entire world sings in a sweeping sigh. 

Over this, there's a single voice, using words I can't understand but which are plaintive and meaningful to him. It carries over the rest of the voices, from some single point off in the distance. I could almost pinpoint its origin, even if I can't determine where the other voices are from. 

Charlie climbs up into his stroller, still working on his sippy of milk, ready to continue his wake-up routine as I walk laps around the complex. But I stand and listen a little longer, my iPod forgotten, the earbuds limp in my hands. None of the music I could play is as captivating or haunting or beautiful as what early morning provides on its own.

It's good music for thinking.

Come to pray, is what someone one told me the call to prayer says. It is good to pray to Allah, praying to Allah makes you happy, you will feel so much better when you are done. Come to pray, now is the time to pray. Come.

I think they're probably right. Just listening to the voices on the wind is a strange combination of soothing and mystical, confusing and calming. It's so much a part of the night - and so unlike every other call to prayer during the day, I feel as if I've stumbled upon something precious and private. Or maybe that it's playing just for me - my precious, private moment, just for me and Charlie.

Every morning, the first call to prayer greets us as we step out the door in the darkness. By the time I'm done walking, it's over, and the sun is rising, casting orange and golden light over everything.

I wonder if Charlie will remember it.

azriona: (cat in a box)
2016 has two hours left to it, and I'm awake because I took an impromptu nap this afternoon, so here we go.

This year I:

Wrote 233,004 words of fiction, both fanfic and profic. I'm beginning to think it's my fate, when writing lots of words, to write exactly four more than a perfectly round number. (Mise is 160,004 words long. I do not know what four words those are, but I'm always tempted to go through and delete four of them.)

I'm impressed by this number, especially considering that at the beginning of the year, I was hoping to write 150K, which was my pledge for GYWO. Clearly, I blew that out of the water. I should probably up the pledge this year to at least 200K - I've typically done 250K in the past but I knew that wasn't going to happen, not with Charlie and an international move and all. We'll see... I'm listed under the 150K pledge for now, but I can up it in a few weeks if I want.

Published four books on Amazon Kindle! Yay me, actual published author. And people even liked them. I think I'm even more amazed by that second part.

Packed up the house and moved two kids and a cat overseas. Largely without Bill's input, since he had to leave before we did. I did not entirely screw up, and we actually got our Air shipment a week ago. For some reason, Bill had six heavy sweatshirts in the Air Shipment, which is doing us quite a lot of good in our current 85F degree weather.

(Other ridiculous packing mistakes: I packed all of my workout clothes except for the workout bra, almost all of the DVDs but not the player, and my Marine Corps ball gown but not the shoes.)

The Surface shipment is due to arrive in about two weeks, and it'll probably take Customs another month to do whatever they need to do to it. this is good, because omg do I miss my kitchen stuff.

And honestly, after those three things, I'm already exhausted. Then again, those are three kind of big things. (Well, the word count isn't my best, but I think I had a valid excuse.) Other small stuff:

--Survived living in a hotel for two months with two kids and a cat and a husband
--Successfully lived out of a suitcase for almost six months (do not recommend)
--Took the kids to see my parents in Arizona
--Survived the PCS From Hell OMG
--DID NOT Cry at the State Deparment Authentications Waiting Room (But It Was A Very Close Thing)

Goals for Next Year:
Writing - at least two more Pen books, if not more.
  --I have ideas for so many Yuri on Ice fics, they're totally overflowing. I remember when I first starting writing Sherlock fics, and I literally could not stop, I was writing two fics at a time, essentially, it was completely insane. I could so easily go this way with YOI, it's not even funny. At the moment, I'm just waiting for Andrew to start school again on Tuesday, and then I'm going to lock down Tumblr for 24 hours and get cracking.

Baking - BAKE MORE. I haven't baked much in so long, first because we were moving, then we were living in a hotel, and currently I still don't have all my favorite tools. But they're coming! And I've borrowed a ton! AND THERE IS A CONSULATE TO FEED WITH HUNGRY MARINES. I like feeding Marines, they're super appreciative.

(Other "xxx More" include reading, blogging, reccing, reviewing/commenting. You know, the usual. Also exercising, but I might actually manage that one if my bra ever shows up.)

(Sleeping would be nice. But sleeping needs to be on Charlie's To-Do list for that to happen.)

Anyway, I'm making more mistakes typing than not, which is a sign that I need to go to bed. Makes sense, I've been up since a little after 3am because Charlie. (That's my excuse for everything these days: "Sharon, why are you late?" "Because Charlie." "Sharon, why are we having pizza for the third night this week?" "Because Charlie." "Sharon, why is the sky blue?" "Because Charlie.")

(He is cute, but he is a menace. Everyone laughs when I say this. I am not joking.)

Okay, bed. Hopefully Charlie won't want to ring in the new year until at least 7am.
azriona: (cat in a box)
For those wondering - the Christmas Eve party was lovely. The CG brought the yummiest potato thing that we all gobbled up, the turkey was delicious and is now mostly gone, I made a lasagna that is also almost gone, there were TWO salads from my neighbor who is awesome and went above and beyond by baking a billion sugar cookies for the kids to decorate (plus I borrowed a ton of pans and stuff from her), and everyone had a lovely time. The kids are now in bed, Andrew should fall asleep shortly, and then we just have to set up the presents under the tree and wait for Santa to take his obligatory two bites from a chocolate crinkle cookie. (There are carrots for the deer. Do we have to take bites from those, too?)

There's only a couple of things to assemble, and none of it should be tricky - one push-cart from IKEA for Charlie, two pop-up tents, and a train set. I'm not going to bother wrapping the big stuff, mostly because I don't have enough paper.

Turns out the person who's in charge of the book fair booth was one of our guests, and we had a lovely chat and she is totally on board with more American authors being displayed. She also put me on the spot and demanded to know what I was reading, and I wasn't sure that replying "LOTS OF FANFIC BASED ON A GAY JAPANESE ANIME" was really going to be a point in my favor. But she said they were going to start meeting to plan next year's thing soon, and she'll keep me posted.

But mostly, I want to wish everyone reading a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah and a Festive Holiday Season, however you choose to celebrate.
azriona: (cat in a box)

It is exactly like Christmas, particularly in the playroom. Charlie and Andrew were spinning like tops (Charlie in particular), playing with every toy in sight. Trucks and puzzles and board games and MATCHBOX CARS and books and random bits of train track and LIGHTSABERS and playdoh accessories and and and. I can't even say what all there was, but there was a lot of it, and it kept them both happy for a while.

Andrew kept pulling out toys and crying out joyfully, "MY [INSERT TOY HERE]!!!!!" Whereas Charlie probably doesn't remember a single thing. Which makes sense, when you realize we packed all of this five and half months ago, which is a quarter of his entire life. Everything is new to Charlie.

(And unfortunately, most of it is Andrew, for reasons I can't remember. Which really sucks, because now a lot of his toys are going to be even more wrong for his age when we finally get the second, slower shipment in February or thereabouts.)

The housekeeper (who I haven't mentioned before, her name is Mary and her English isn't great but we muddle through, and she adores Charlie, because Charlie) and I started going through the boxes of clothes, and have determined that every single piece needs washing. Which isn't surprising, it's all been in some kind of storage for the last five months. It's all got this musty smell to it, which struck me as completely familiar. Exactly like walking into the old wardrobe storage room under the Kreeger at Arena Stage. And it's in everything, from the baby clothes for Charlie that were in a supposedly air-tight storage bag, to the mountain of suits for Bill. So everything's getting washed or dry-cleaned, and I shudder to think of the dry cleaning bill, but it has to be done. (I'm going to make Bill go through the clothes first, just to ensure I'm not dry-cleaning anything that he intended to give away.) There's a pile of dress shirts, too, but if we wash those for Mary to iron, she'll be ironing until 2017.

Nothing too unexpected - and none of my kitchen stuff either, since I specifically put those into the surface shipment. Which is a bit disappointing, since I'm apparently hosting some 20 people for Christmas Eve dinner on Saturday, including the CG. (CG = Consular General = the guy in charge of a consulate, like an ambassador is in charge of an embassy.)  Plus Andrew did a very generous thing and invited a family that just arrived from Australia two weeks ago, which is lovely of him but ACK FOUR MORE MOUTHS TO FEED. I have a neighbor who's offered me everything in her kitchen, and a lot of people have offered to bring a dish, so it should be all right. Right now I'm just worried because I only have the one turkey (already defrosting in the fridge), and I feel like I need at least one more meat. Maybe a pot roast or something.

Right now the fun will be trying to get through all the laundry before anyone shows up on Saturday evening. Forget chestnuts roasting on an open fire, let's fill the house with the scent of laundry soap and musty clothes!

But I tell you - I haven't unpacked any of my clothes yet (I know they're there, I saw them in one of the boxes), but just knowing that I have pants without holes around the corner is SO HAPPY-MAKING, I can't even tell you. Eventually, they might even be clean enough to wear. It's the little things.


Anecdote for you. So there is currently a book fair going on right now, and the US Consulate has a booth there. Bill, as an employee, was somehow roped into working it. I was given opportunity to work it as well, as a spouse, but since childcare is an issue, I didn't volunteer. However, I think I'm definitely going to get involved next year, because Bill came back and told me what books the American booth was selling:

Jane Austen
Peppa the Pig



Apparently someone put one of the local hires in charge of deciding what books would be for sale. Which is... okay, fine, but... it's an American booth! Promoting American books!  SHAKESPEARE IS NOT BLOODY AMERICAN, OKAY????? And for crying out loud, Peppa the pig?


At least there was also Twilight. And there's a sentence I never thought I'd type.

I've already told Bill to hunt down whoever's in charge of the damn enterprise and tell them that I will totally volunteer to pick the books next year, because Stephen King. Harper Lee. Dr. Suess. Sandra Boynton. Louisa May Alcott. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Mark Twain. Jack London. God help me, we could even throw some Danielle Steel and Nora Ephron in there if we must. I'm sure there's others, but I'm blanking in my annoyance. Also, I'm pretty sure that the local hire picked those books because English language = American, and my knowledge of authors' citizenships is not foolproof. For all I know, Jack London was Canadian.

(I don't think he was, but you see my point.)

And maybe keep the Shakespeare and Jane Austen, because apparently the British consulate doesn't have a booth and I'm sure both authors are popular and we can certainly throw the Brits a bone.

(Yeah, this book thing is making me strangely patriotic, sorry about that.)

Moving on, though... so Bill worked his shift at the book fair on Sunday and came home to tell me about one of the booths he saw... which was run by none other than the mutawa.  (Yeah, that mutawa.) He had a lovely chat with the guy running the booth, and they traded business cards and the guy gave Bill so much swag that it took all afternoon for Bill to hand it back out at the consulate again. Like... coffee mugs and keychains and clocks. We're keeping the coffee mug and one of the keychains, because when we get back to the States I am totally going to put my car keys on the mutawa keychain.

Anyway, Bill had a good time at the book fair, and if the kids weren't sick, I'd probably take them both to check it out. The only other thing worth noting is that during the fair, one of the American women working the booth was told by some customers that she ought to cover her hair. (!!!!) She didn't, as foreigners we're not required unless we're in a religious setting, but I think it was the first time Bill's overheard anything like that occurring. Not the first time I've heard it - other women have already been telling me of random run-ins with locals about dress, though I haven't had any yet. But I'm also hanging out mostly in places where I'm not the only foreigner. Give me time. (And babysitting.)

Also book related news: Pen's Christmas story is doing pretty well on Amazon, and I posted a Yuri on Ice fanfic on Monday that is also doing great, both of which are much-needed boosts to my confidence. At the moment I just want to get through the end of the holiday season before I jump into writing more.

Which.... does not catch anyone up on anything you actually might want to know about. I have photos, and at some point, I might actually get to go through them and figure out which ones need to be shared. Part of the current issue is that my mid-day computer time, which is when I get the majority of my online work done, is when Charlie naps, and is Andrew's one chance at TV time. But he wants me to watch with him, and he doesn't want me distracted by the computer, so it ends up being a wash for getting things done, too. And by the end of the day, when they're asleep, I'm only good for mindless scrolling through Tumblr.

azriona: (cat in a box)
So in the last four days, I have done the following:

1. Finished the first and second drafts of a 21K Christmas story for Pen. It's with one of my betas now. I'm trying to find a pre-made cover for it, because I want to get the story up as fast as I can. I'm not sure this is the best of ideas, but... I kind of feel like I need to, if for no other reason to prove to myself that I can, because Country Alpha has pretty much tanked, and I don't think there's hope that they're going to be doing any better anytime soon. I can think of half a dozen reasons why, before I even get to the possibility that they're just not that good. (I don't believe that, even if I have to include it on the list.)

Anyway, I have the feeling light, cheap, Christmassy fluff is just the ticket. And that's pretty much what I've written. If I can post this, and it does okay... then maybe that's the plan for a little while longer.

I don't know.

At the moment, the priority is finding a cover. I figured pre-made would be easy - NOOOO. Amazingly, finding a Christmassy cover featuring two guys is quite a lot harder than you'd think. WHO KNEW. Stupid me stupidly wanting to like my stupid cover and not spend a stupid amount of money or time on it. Argh. I've found two that are not horrible (here and here), but I found one about a week ago that was fantastic and stupidly forgot to bookmark it. (It was the silhouettes of two guys walking in a snowstorm.)

Grr, argh, etc.

2. Gorged myself on Yuri On Ice!, which is just about as adorable and fluffy as you can possibly find. I was told that it's a figure skating same-sex love story, and it is, but it's definitely more about the figure skating (and love of figure skating) than it is about the love story between Yuri and his coach, Victor.  At one point I was starting to wonder if I was watching the right show, because Yuri and Victor's love story is more suggestive than actually appearing on screen. (There's a kiss. Except there's not a kiss. Because the screen cuts away before the kiss. There is, however, a deeply satisfying hug at the end of Episode 9.)

(Ah, well, this is why fanfiction was invented, I suppose.)

I have to admit, I'm totally loving it as much for the figure skating as I am for the characters. Both the Japanese Yuri of the title and the Russian Yuri are so adorable and funny and I completely want to root for them both, and getting into the other skaters' heads as they skate is keeping me highly amused. (OMG CHRISTOPHE, I about died laughing as he skated.)

([ profile] drinkingcocoa, I have no idea if you have seen this show or not, but I keep finding myself thinking of what you might think of it.)

I wasn't sure if I would like it - I've never watched much anime before - and the first episode was kind of hard to follow since I'm not familiar with a lot of the shortcuts and themes and things that anime apparently does. Characters not only change shapes in reaction to other characters, but they'll change their animation style to show their own feelings. For instance, when Yuri first arrives back at home with his family, he seems to gain about 50 pounds when they all comment on how fat he is. Really, he's not, he's a competitive figure skater, but the point is he feels like that's how they see him. There's also a thing that when the characters are feeling super emotional, they'll go from a classic, recongizable facial structure, to one that is more square and child-like. It took me until about halfway through the second episode before I was used to the switches, and able to follow them.

Point is, I enjoyed it, and there's one more episode that airs in three days, and then I guess that's it? Which seems odd, I feel like there should be at least two or three more episodes. I'm not tired of watching Yuri skate his programs yet, which is weird because we've seen him skate those programs about three or four times by now. Honestly, I kind of want to see them actually skated now, except I suspect I'd still like Yuri's version better!


I'm not doing the Advent Calendar Drabbles this year. I thought about it, but decided against it. I haven't written anything in any fandom for over a year, in a lot of ways I feel like I'm not really a part of it anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to Sherlock's new episodes, I will totally squee over the new Check Please strips next week and I am going to watch the last episode of Yuri as soon as I can find it, but... *shrugs*

I think I also don't want to put that kind of pressure on myself. Twenty-four stories in 24 days is... a lot, especially when I don't follow the drabble part of the rule so seriously. I always end up exhausted at the end, and I don't want to finish off exhausted, I'm already a little bit exhausted.

I'm thinking I might put a final coda to the unfinished stories on AO3. It's something I've seen other authors do - basically, leave a final chapter that says, "Here, I'm not going to finish this story, but this is how I planned for it to go, so those of you reading can have closure." As a reader, I've always appreciated that, because there are so many unfinished stories out there, and you always get to the end and feel a bit... lost. Putting something like that up doesn't mean I won't go and finish them, really. It just means that I'm aware that there's some people who love it and might not be in the fandom when I do get back to it, and this way, they've got that closure they wanted.

I'd write one for Fiddle. And for Heart4. And the Medieval Omegaverse, though honestly, I'm more likely to go back to that one than I am anything else. I really actually do want to write what I have in mind for it, because OMG you guys still have no idea what I'm setting up and you're all going to want to smother me with pillows and it's gonna be awesome.

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