Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journeys. We've survived an unaccompanied tour (Baghdad), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. Currently serving in the Washington, DC area, I write about what I know. Which is mainly toddlers, school-aged children, their gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to Starbucks lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Finally. Spring! And a Kids' Cairo Reunion!

Spring!  Kids frolicking.  Love.
The windows are wide open and the fresh air is pouring in.  Abby and her friend Alyssa (flew in from California -- but who was with us in Cairo!) are next door enjoying s'mores at our neighbors' house (also friends from Cairo, you know) and I can hear them singing songs while they enjoy the chocolatey marshmallow treat.

You'd almost never guess that just three weeks ago, it was snowing here.  But Spring has finally, FINALLY!, arrived.
Making NINE official!  (And yes, I feel old.)
Abby turned nine (yes, NINE!) at the end of March with the final winter snow.  We celebrated with an ice skating party, Chuck E. Cheese, and a sleepover with some of her friends.  They were friends who were with us in Cairo, and who live in the area now.  It was pretty close to perfect. Of all of our kids, Abby's the one who connected most with Cairo, still occassionally referring to it as "home."  She's doing well here, but really misses her friends from Cairo.  We're so grateful for FaceTime - most of her closest friends have it, and she's able to keep in touch with them using it.  But actually getting together with them in real life is the best, of course.

And that's exactly what happened for our kids tonight.  

Remember the craziness of last summer?  When the kids evacuated from Cairo, but I was still in California?   The fab hubby had to start his new gig in D.C, but I was still on the West Coast.  The Toddler happily went to the grandparents' houses for the five weeks we had to juggle before I would be finished with my contract and military commitment.  But the big kids?  What to do with the big kids?  The big kiddos flew out to be with me in Los Angeles.  But keep in mind, I was contracted at an ER and working most days of the week.  

This is where it gets really awesome.  My amazing friend, Krista and her fab hubby took in our two oldest kiddos for nearly three weeks.   Despite the fact that they have four kids of their own (who are close friends with our kids) AND despite the fact that they had just left Cairo themselves (and were in the middle of accepting their UAB and HHE),  they allowed Abby and Owen to hang with with them at Camp Pendleton (San Diego area) while I finished up my RN contract in Los Angeles.  

Thus making it the kids' greatest summer ever, as all of the kids (ours and theirs) got to enjoy the rest of summer together, even going to surf camp.  But when it was time to leave?  So many tears, from all the kids.  It was heartbreaking.

BUT.  Fast forward to tonight.  It's now been eight months since the kids have seen each other.  After a lot of planning and a lot of United miles points (maybe I should stop grumbling so much about United??),  Krista's two oldest kids flew out to D.C. to spend our kids' spring break HERE!  

It's been an epic reunion for all. And I really couldn't be happier.  I love listening to their laughter, as they catch up with each other.  S'mores time is now over, and the kids are settling in for the night. Owen and Josh are playing XBox and the girls are playing with their American Girl dolls.  It's a perfect Spring night, as they really, truly, fall back into the friendships they've managed to pick up where they left off at last summer.

That's me and Krista at the Marine Corps Ball in 2012 in Cairo.  I miss her.
The only thing that would make it better?  If only I could have seen my awesome friend Krista, too.  Because the hardest part for me is also leaving my friends every time we move.  Sure, we're good about keeping in touch - phone calls and texts and Facebook and more texts.  But it's not the same as actually getting together.

But I won't dwell on it!  Because I know that just like our kids, the next time we see each other, we'll pick up right where we left our friendship at last summer.  Because we're good at that, too. 

But this Spring Break?!  This Spring Break is ALL about the kids.  And it's going to be the best Spring Break ever.

Owen waiting for his friend to arrive.  Because they are unaccompanied
minors, we got to meet them at the gate.  Such a sweet moment.

Josh and Owen.  Abby and Alyssa.  All together again!

The car ride home.  My head still hurts from all the noise.
(But I loved the ride home anyway.)

Krista and Alyssa worked on these jammies together.  So cute!

Of course, the requisite trip down memory lane for the recent birthday girl.  Abby when she was just four years old.  We were living in Ohio and she was outside playing in the rain.  So cute!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Said One And Done…But I Really Didn't Mean It

Yeah.  That shirt is a cliche.  But every time I run, I really do feel invincible.
There's a strong love-hate relationship between me and running.  I've been a runner, off and on, for about 20 years.  {And BAM!  Just like that, I feel OLD!  20 YEARS.}  In my running 'career', I've done numerous races.  Countless 5K's, a couple of handfuls of 10K's, the oddball 8-mile and 10-mile races, four (as of this past weekend!) 1/2 Marathons, but only ONE Marathon.

I'm a slow runner.  I'm not particularly built like a runner.  I've got numerous physical complaints when I run.  But bottom line --- when I run, I feel good.  That runner's high is intoxicating.  Get it once, and you want it again and again.  So I've run, with lots of complaining, lulls, and repeat back to running, off and on for 20 years.

In October 2012, I flew from Cairo to San Francisco to run the Nike Women's Marathon.  I'd spent years dreaming of running a marathon.  After submitting my name in Nike's lottery, I left the marathon possibility up to chance.  When my name was drawn, I assumed it was fate; I was meant to run that race.  I'd only ever wanted to run one, and it was, despite the hardship of training (the heat in Cairo, the street dogs chasing me, getting smacked across my behind by a Cairo taxi driver, the exhaustion of working full-time/chasing three kids around/trying to keep a 'normal' life, etc, etc, etc), the race was EPIC.

I hurt.  I nearly cried when I crossed the finish line.  I crashed into exhaustion post-race.   And the pain that lingered in my small joints (primarily my feet and hands) for the month after, was later diagnosed as as an uncommon subset of arthritis - inflammatory osteoarthritis; unfortunately, running could be one of those things that causes an inflammatory stress reaction to my arthritis.  But I did it.  Against so many odds, I DID IT.

And it was amazing.  In fact, I'd say it was one of the greatest achievements of my life.

I felt strongly that a marathon was a "ONE AND DONE" event for me.  I've told everyone it was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I would never have the strength or courage to do it again.  Of course, I'm still running - it's how I love to discover the world.  But never again would I do a marathon.

And of course.  I was wrong.

It started with a "don't you remember how amazing it felt to cross that line?", and was followed by a "you could beat your time if you did it again", and then the "do you really want one of the greatest events of your life to have already been completed?" crept into the thoughts in the back of my mind.  I've got so much more time to do so much more.

I bounced the idea off the fab hubby, who in all of his fabulousness simply said "do it".  No reminder of how much I loathe the five-month-long training plan, no complaint of how much family time it eats up, not even a mention of how much my joints will hurt.  Just a "do it".  He's always got my back, and has always been my biggest supporter.

I submitted my name for another marathon random drawing.  And today, once again, despite the low chance of success, my name was drawn for the event.   And just like that, I'm committed to the greatness of a marathon once again.  Because in October, I'll be lining up for this:

Sure.  I said one and done.  But I didn't really mean it.  Because it's time to do it again.   The Marine Corps Marathon.  An epic race with some of the greatest you'll ever meet and be proud to run along side.

And speaking of the greatness of running.  Last weekend, I ran a 1/2 Marathon with some amazing FS friends.

It was Jill's first 1/2 Marathon! and according to her, it was also her last.  We'll see.  I don't really think it's her last.  We ran the Marine Corps 10K last fall, and it was so fun, that we signed up for the Rock N Roll 1/2 Marathon here in DC.  We ran the entire race together, crossing the line at the exact same time (with visions of lattes dancing in our heads!).

Training this winter has been HORRENDOUS.  I don't think I can stand another snow day!  But we were lucky and the snow never came on race day.  It fact, it was nearly 60 degrees when we ran!  And my other friend, Sara, she rocked her best 1/2 Marathon ever!   And now she's thinking a Marathon may be in her future.

That's really how running gets you.  You have a goal.  You train for the goal.  You meet it head on and nail your goal.  And then, you need another.  And another.  And another...

And sometimes, you even get to have fun doing so.  Time with friends like this is never a bad thing, especially if you're running 13.1 miles together.

At the Race Expo, getting the goods!

Every 1 hour, I eat one of these.   Love, indeed.

Me and my posse.  I love running with these girls!  Jill and I are new
to running together; Sara and I ran together in Cairo.
Even through sandstorms!

Pre-race photobomb!

Start line!

Mile 10 selfie.  Sara was way ahead of us by now.  She was going for a PR!
Another mile 10 selfie.  Why run together if you can't have fun together?

This right here?  Best feeling in the world.


That's how you celebrate!
(I'm going incognito in those shades!  Does the latte give me away?)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Blog Has Not Gone Silent! A Catch-Up Since...well, December. And The Tween Turns ELEVEN!

Love wearing fun shirts with my uniforms when I work pediatrics!
I also have Batman and Captain America.

Last I wrote, I was in the middle of working the equivalent of two full-time RN gigs.  And it was Christmastime.  And oh, my.  How time has slipped by.

Too many shifts to keep track of; every kind of shift that you can think of.  Dayshift, afternoons, late afternoons, nights.  Rotating, days-to-nights, too little sleep and so many hours, so very many hours.  ER to pediatric office; pediatric office one day and the ER the next.  Repeat repeat repeat.  One day, I even worked at both facilities.  Of course, I love what I do, but those eight weeks were truly exhausting.  Completely rewarding professionally, but also completely exhausting.

Sure, I know it's my own fault.  Not sure of what kind of nursing I really wanted to do while we're here in the U.S. (two years? three years?  BIDDING NEXT SUMMER!), I've been dabbling here and there at a few different places:  ER, pediatrics, and post-op.  And then I accepted the pediatric office contract in late November that turned out to be awesome.  It was only eight weeks long, but it impacted me so much and really made me think that maybe it was time to move away from the ER.  At least for a bit.

Mercenary nurse; nurse for hire; contract nurse; travel nurse.  There's lots of fun terms to describe what I do.  But in a nutshell, my nursing specialty over the past year has really been to step into a facility that is short on nurses, whether for the day or longer term.  So I move from place to place to fill in those holes.  My preference is really for longer contracts (13 weeks or longer) at a single facility, as opposed to a daily fill-in.  But either way, it's the kind of nursing I like, at least right now.

Since last September, I've been contracting with a local nursing staffing agency who's been working to find me those 'just-right-fit' facilities I like to work at.  It was this agency that I contracted through for the 8-week pediatric assignment.  And in late January, this agency came through for me again, submitting my profile for an RN contract position at NIH (National Institutes of Health).  On a pediatric floor!  It's all gone so fast -- interview, contract offer, the difficult decision to leave my per diem position at the ER I've been working at since last October.

So here I am.  Two months since the last blog.  Starting a new field in a career I absolutely love.  Stepping outside of my comfort zone - leaving the ER for pediatric nursing and research.  And finally, I'm only working one job! [Well, actually I still dabble in the ER - I work the occasional shift at Georgetown University Hospital's ER through my staffing agency.  Can't help myself!]  And hoping to find that ever elusive family-work-life balance.  Right.  I know.  Impossible, but I'm always, always!, trying to find it. 

Of course, it's not been all work and no play!  As cray cray as these past few months have been, we've really enjoyed them.  Christmas; New Years; the fab hubby and I celebrated our 15th Year Wedding Anniversary!; I'm training for a March half marathon (and the snow is making it near impossible - I worry I'll be walking a good portion of that race); a trip to visit family and friends in Ohio; the fab hubby's forty-something-ish birthday and Owen (the tween!) turned eleven!  Whew.  As always, a whirlwind...

First time seeing Santa in the U.S! Last two years, Santa has arrived on a camel.

More Christmas.

Yup.  More Christmas fun!
Fifteen YEARS on January 2nd! Pictures from our first Chirstmas and our most recent.

My annual New Year's Day run; rocked it with the toddler.
The big kids had Parkour Camp over the winter break!
Working at the pediatric office.  Everyone loves a happy nurse!

Because no matter how busy you get, you should always enjoy the small moments.

Rare warm day! My running buddy; we're up to two miles!  Planning a summer 5K!

Sun.  Tank Top.  SNOW.  Can't wait until this stuff melts!
Another run with my fav girlie.
Owen's first concert!
It was an interactive concert and family members were invited to the stage.
Love.  And I'm so proud of him.
A visit from my friend and fellow blogger, Jen = a great day at Starbucks!

And speaking of lattes, I've been working on my latte art.
And then, the tween turned ELEVEN!  We celebrated for a week!
Trauma Nurse Core Certification done at the Ohio hospital where I worked my first ER job!

Continuing the celebration into Ohio, we celebrated Owen's birthday with a fiesta!
Because sombreros are fun!
Toddlers and sombreros are especially fun!
Snow in Ohio is considered just a part of winter, but in Virginia it's called "Snomageddon".
Spending Valentine's Day with the fab hubby and our BFF Fraps!
Love love love!

And one more.  The requisite trip down memory lane!
November 2009 in Malibu.  Owen was five years old.
I still can't wrap my head around how fast time goes!
I swear he was just a little boy.