Party in the USA

Somehow, it’s been a month since Abby was born.  Here are a few highlights of the last 4 weeks!

– We were surprised on our second day in the hospital when a photographer came in for an impromptu photo shoot.  Abby was barely 48 hours old, so we had low expectations for the pictures.  The photographer did a really good job of soothing her and trying some different poses, but when she showed us her price brochure, we knew we weren’t interested, especially because we had a scheduled appointment with a local photographer a few weeks later.   She came back to our room a few hours later to show us a slideshow she’d created with the photos.   Next thing you know, we are all in tears (me, JR, and my sister who was visiting), and I told JR we just HAD TO HAVE the $160 package.  Even more surprising is that he agreed without another word – that should tell you what a smooth operation this lady was running (and how sleep deprived we were)!   Some of our favorites:

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And the picture that makes my heart explode:

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– Our girl would prefer to sleep the day away, so in an effort to keep her awake more, I’ve started singing to her.  It’s quite unfortunate for her because I can’t sing on key to save my life. (You would be surprised to learn that I was part of a group that won FIRST place in our junior high talent show, performing as back up singer for our good friend K.  The song was “Nobody Knows it But Me”, which over the years my family has changed to “Nobody Knows How to Sing.”  My part was tragic.)  Anyway, I wanted to sing songs to Abby and I was racking my brain, the only thing I could come up with was “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”   Drawing a complete blank on other kid songs, I started singing Kesha and Miley Cyrus to her, much to JR’s dismay.  But when I sang “Party in the USA” complete with moving her around – you know, nodding her head like yeah, moving her hips like yeah – I’m telling you the child was loving it.  It was a sweet bonding experience.

– We’ve had so many visitors the first several weeks, and it’s been fun introducing Abby to our friends and family.  It was especially nice to welcome our friends Shawn and Amanda, and their little guy Logan.  Shawn is one of our dearest friends from law school (he was the bell ringer at our wedding, a very important job!) and he always dreamed of visiting Orrville.  Abby was glad to give him a reason to finally make the trip!

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– JR had to leave on Sunday for two weeks of training in DC.  I’ve been solo parenting (and I use that word VERY loosely, considering my grandparents are upstairs and my mom is always nearby to help) for barely 3 days now and holy cow.  We had our biggest diaper blow out to date, I failed to properly pack my diaper bag twice, and I’m convinced the baby hates me.  Maybe things will get better? (Since writing that sentence, the diaper situation has continued to decline.  Yesterday while changing her, she managed to put her foot in her dirty diaper, and then she deliberately kicked me with said foot, and made a huge mess.  Abby 10, Jenni 0.)  We’re headed to DC for the weekend to visit JR and I can’t wait!

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Six Months

It’s hard to believe we’ve been living here for six months already. Time is going by so quickly. It’s especially crazy to think that in another six months or so, we’ll be talking about bidding on our next post (in addition to a few other life changes!). I bought two cartons of milk at the grocery store this morning, and when I got home, I put one in the fridge and one in the pantry, without thinking much of it. And then I realized how that is something I’d never do at home, but it’s perfectly normal here, because milk is different and can be stored at room temperature. Look at me adapting!

Work is going really well. Right now I’m working on a project involving youth leaders in Kosovo. Some figures estimate that more than half of the population of the whole country is under 25. Unemployment rates are also alarmingly high, around 45%. Young people are the future here (and everywhere, really) and there is no shortage of bright, motivated youths in Kosovo looking for opportunities to better themselves and their country. I’m also working on some of our educational and professional exchange programs. So far, I’ve had the chance to travel to a few different cities and I really love that I can see more of the country.

Last weekend was the 238th Marine Corps Ball which is an annual birthday celebration of the Marines and is usually one of the largest formal events each year for Embassy communities worldwide. It was fun to get all dressed up for a fancy night out with our friends and to witness the formal ceremony put on by our Marine Detachment here at post.

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In other exciting news, we hired a housekeeper! I made a rookie mistake by agreeing with JR that we wouldn’t hire a housekeeper until I had a job. I won’t fall for that again. But now we have a lovely lady named Yllka who will be coming once a week (hopefully twice a week soon, I just need to work on a power point presentation to convince JR of why that will be better for everyone). What Yllka lacks in texting ability, she makes up for with charm and excellent cleaning skills. It is the best feeling in the world to come home to a clean house. I still prefer to do my own laundry, but I happily hand over the ironing to her. I think I’d rather scrub floors than iron – I hate it that much.

Of course, I still feel this desire to clean before she comes. I don’t want her to think we’re slobs. For a few years when I was younger we had someone clean our house on Fridays. I always remember my mom’s rule – if your room isn’t picked up, the door stays shut and she’s not cleaning it. And then I’d have to do it myself. I didn’t understand it then. Why am I cleaning up BEFORE a housecleaner comes? But it stuck with me, and now I like to have things neat and put away before someone else cleans.

We also just got our first bulk order. So, we have an employee association here, and if you are a member, you get a few benefits like a discount on dry cleaning, discount at the commissary, and you can participate in the bulk order. Every few months, we get an e-mail with a few spreadsheets attached, listing out all of the items available for purchase. Then the association makes one large order through a military base in Germany, and a month or so later, the items arrive here. The spreadsheets are daunting. There are like 40,000 items available. And sometimes the name is written in shorthand, and you have to kind of guess exactly what it is, and how many you are actually ordering.

It’s also tricky because you are ordering in bulk (hence the name). JR does not understand why we needed 12 boxes of pancake mix. I, on the other hand, feel confident that we’ll eat them all. If not, we’ll give them out as gifts. One family ordered a CASE of mayonnaise, and they said they’ll eat every jar. A few other items we ordered:

– Roasted garlic triscuits
– tater tots
– texas toast
– pillsbury biscuits
– chicken noodle soup

Very happy we have an extra freezer!
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Our commissary recently had a Grand Opening. It’s a small store, but they’ve managed to fit a lot of stuff in there. I helped with ordering, and you can see that reflected in some of the items for sale, like Smucker’s Strawberry Jam, Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie, more Diet Coke than I could drink in a year, and Oreos. It’s nice to have easy access to a few favorite items from home, and I think the commissary will do really well.

Hard to believe that next week is Thanksgiving, but we’re looking forward to it!

Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

It’s officially the longest I’ve gone without a haircut since I can remember, and the longest I’ve gone without a job since I first started working in high school (with the exception of first semester of law school, because we weren’t allowed to have a job). I keep thinking of a song my stepdad used to sing around the house – “Get a haircut, and get a real job. Clean your act up and don’t be a slob. Get it together like your big brother Bob.” Great song.

I’ve always liked to make money. Ashleigh, my childhood best friend, and I had a Snoopy Snow Cone machine and spent one summer selling delicious snow cones to our neighborhood friends.

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When the Snow Cone business slowed down, I had to get creative. In our house there was a random box of these strange glass figurines that were actually perfumes. As a 10 year old, I had no use for perfume. But I had the awesome idea that I could make potpourri! I pulled up grass from our yard and put it in little sandwich baggies, and then poured perfume all over the grass. I sealed up the baggies, loaded them into my wagon, and walked around the neighborhood selling my homemade potpourri. Shockingly, it was not a very successful business.

Like many teenage girls, I did a lot of babysitting while I was growing up, and I liked it. But what I wanted most was a real job. When I was 15, I started working as a hostess at a small cafe in my hometown. I thought it was the greatest job ever. I got to dress up nicely, talk to people, and like many a young hostess, I felt like I was super important.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of part time jobs. In high school, I worked at a tanning salon, and as a waitress, and that was also the year my friend Kristen and I started a purse and embroidery business. It started when I was envious of another friend’s Gap purse, and my grandma said she could make it for me. She actually sewed me a purse out of a dishtowel! I was super impressed, and saw visions of selling purses all over the world. Kristen and I learned how to sew a few different shapes and sizes of purses, and started taking orders from family and friends. We debated on a name for our new business, and decided on The Bag Ladies (although Purses for the People was a close second). We even had business cards (what I wouldn’t give to still have one of those).

We spent every Sunday morning at Jo-Ann Fabrics, and then we went straight to my grandma’s house to sew for the afternoon. We sold our purses at craft shows, and we even had a display at a store in town. We also made personalized fleece blankets. Sadly, we were headed off to separate colleges and our business venture ended.

The summer before college I was an on-call factory worker for the GREATEST JELLY AND JAM MAKER IN THE WORLD. While it was pretty cool to see how a factory worked, it was only about 2 hours into my first day on the job that I realized I was not cut out for manual labor.

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During college, I worked as a computer lab assistant, a sales associate at Things Remembered and Gap, a waitress, a resident advisor for my dorm, history department assistant, a receptionist for an advertising agency, and a bank teller (a terrible job for someone with a lifelong struggle with math). I usually had two part time jobs during school, mostly to help pay for my Banana Republic credit card.

With law school came more serious jobs and more responsibility. Although two summers ago, a Jeni’s Ice Cream shop opened across the street from our house in Columbus and I just had to work there. It combined my love of ice cream, sales, and talking! It was maybe the greatest job ever. My boss (a sweet 21 year old student) told me that I really set the bar high for the other scoopers at our shop – which I took as a very nice compliment.

All this to say, it’s been very strange for me to be unemployed for this long. My parents (I’m blessed to have three of them) instilled a strong work ethic in me from a very young age. Truthfully, it’s hard to feel like I’m doing my part when I’m not working or bringing home a paycheck.

I’m feeling very optimistic that my employment status will change soon. Oh AND, in equally important news, I have a haircut scheduled for this Friday.

Raspberry Beret

Friday night there was an official 4th of July party at the Ambassador’s residence for very important people. Because we are not very important, and somehow JR lucked out and did not have to work at the event, we were invited to attend after 9pm. This worked out well, because if we had arrived at 5, I would have been ready to go home at 10.

The Ambassador’s residence was newly renovated and beautiful. They had great food, fun decorations, and an awesome band. There was this cake:

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For a half a second (or maybe a half a minute – but who’s counting?), I thought it was in the shape of Texas. Oops. The cake was still in tact when we arrived and we think nobody wanted to be the first to cut into it because it looked so nice. In fact, I’m not sure the cake was ever actually served!

We danced and we sang and we danced some more. The singer was fantastic, and she is apparently competing in a European version of The Voice (or American Idol/X Factor/something else). We cheered for an encore, and to my ABSOLUTE DELIGHT, she sang “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” (Fun fact, I walked down the aisle to that song, performed by two violinists.) Once the band was done, we switched to various people plugging in their iPods and taking turns as DJ. The Ambassador was getting ready to play the Prince song “When Doves Cry”, but after looking at the list of available songs JR told her if she wanted for people to dance to Prince, it needed to be “Raspberry Beret.” She was a bit skeptical (and maybe surprised that he fancied himself a Prince expert) but let him play the song. The dance floor loved it. The Ambassador told him he made the right call, and asked him to continue DJing, a responsibility he took quite seriously. (Fun Fact #2, when JR and I were in law school he enjoyed playing music and half-jokingly referred to himself as DJ JD.)

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As I said, the music selection was serious business.

On Saturday we had a trip planned to visit a fruit farm and food processing plant outside of the city. The event was part of a week-long visit from a group from Iowa, who were in town to sign a Sister City and Sister State agreement in Kosovo. (You can read some more about it here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/13/iowa-kosovo-sister-state-deal/2420239/ and here: http://oskynews.org/?p=57290.) We were treated to a great lunch and then given a tour of the farm and the plant. It brought back memories of my time working in the factory at Smucker’s. (It was a short term job – I’m not really cut out for manual labor. But I did have fun there and I’m VERY proud of my hometown and Smucker’s connections!) We also took a walking tour of the orchards.

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Oh and I finally learned how to take a panoramic picture on my iPhone. All in all, a very successful weekend!

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