My Adventures as a U.S. Diplomat and Family Man

First Stop: Tel Aviv, Israel (July 2012)!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Foreign Service Family Edition

I'm not a huge fan of reality TV shows. Although I admit "The Amazing Race" gives me an occasional fix for my insatiable wanderlust, I never got hooked on "Survivor" and certainly didn't want to witness the decay of Western civilization as we know it in the form of MTV's "Jersey Shore". That being said, I can't help but be drawn to the myriad of made-for-TV makeovers these days because of what is happening in my life.

For starts, my family is preparing for the big move to Washington, DC on July 16. Thankfully, my wife and I will not be sporting sweaty bandanas during all-night packing sessions over the coming weeks. Instead, government-contracted movers will do the actual grunt work on our scheduled pack-out date (July 12). Sounds like smooth sailing, right? The catch is that we can only take 700 pounds of what is termed "Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB)." Besides the four stuffed suitcases that will accompany us on our cross-country plane ride, this all-important UAB shipment will constitute our primary belongings at our furnished apartment. The rest of our furniture and other household items will be stored at relatively inaccessible government warehouse in Maryland. I'm not sure if a living soul has actually seen this place but it makes me imagine this scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Anyway, the nitty gritty of our move from here on out involves three P's: purging, prioritization and more purging. In other words, what do we need and when do we need it? In order to "make weight" for the pack out, we have waged a war on our possessions with closet-to-closet combat. Our plan of attack has also included an all-day yard sale, donating to local charities and becoming savvy sellers on Craigslist and Amazon. With two superhero-obsessed boys, the toughest battle has been against the stockpiles of redundant toys (a.k.a. clutter of mass obstruction). I alone have faced a multitude of momentous decisions: Which one of the five Batman action figures should be kept? What should be done with those orphaned Little People? How much hardwood floor will we have for train tracks? Will either of my kids ever ride that damn tricycle I assembled one Christmas Eve several years ago? These are the questions that follow me around the house all day.      

Other aspects of our lives will also receive an extreme makeover. For one, my wife and I will be trading roles of primary caregiver and my two boys will be in a completely new setting. I'm not too concerned about their well being this summer based on my glowing report of Oakwood and all the attractions DC has to offer. I should confess though that my oldest son is most excited about going to Target the day after we arrive because I promised him he could get a new Lego set. Am I bad for doling out a few other "lollipops" as well? He may be thinking our move is an extended vacation but at least he isn't dreading it.   I've actually learned some good adjustment strategies through fellow Foreign Service families and have already begun implementing some of them. So what's the harm of acquiring a few extra puppies (j/k)?    

Well, I should get back to my makeover regimen and that means more purging for the time being. I do feel this "slimming down" is good for us and the impending pack out does provide plenty of motivation. Jillian Michaels isn't yelling in my ear but maybe I'll be "The Biggest Loser" among my Foreign Service colleagues. See, who needs "reality" television?  


  1. I know moving packing and moving is a bear, but we are so looking forward to being in closer proximity to you guys (at least for a while)! Good luck with the purging and we'll see you soon!

  2. Terrific post. I'm doing the weekly state department roundup next week and It's about shifting roles in the foreign service life - do you mind if I include a link to this post?

    I've been thinking a lot of about this topic lately. I'm usually the bossy "talk to the manager" one of the family, but my husband has had to take on that role because I don't speak Arabic and my French is not awesome. It's been interesting to see what roles we had settled into without really knowing it.

    The foreign service will certainly rock your world!

  3. @ Heidi: We're looking forward to seeing you too! I'll let you know soon about our plans for a beach getaway weekend.

    @ Brooke: Absolutely, please feel free to link to this post. When not getting ready for pack out, I have been an unrepentant FS blog stalker.

  4. I so remember being in your shoes! Good job on the purging! good luck getting it all done.

  5. You've been featured on this week's State Department Roundup. Check it out at

    If you'd rather not be included this week, please let me know and I'll remove you.

    Thanks for writing such a great blog!

  6. I've been to that warehouse, and yes, it is eerily like that Indiana Jones scene. I wanted to ask them where they kept the Ark, but chickened out.

  7. Nice post! Legos are totally legit in my book. Good thing because I forgot to pull the toys we set aside for UAB, ahem. And our kids didn't put any in luggage because they'd already pulled them for UAB. So we'll have none at Oakwood unless we grab some from our home leave spot. Since we'll be Oakwooding for a year though, I'm hoping bdays and holidays will make up the difference just fine.

    This is such a fantastic post about the ins and outs of starting this adventure. I wish I'd had it when we started. Best of luck! Hopefully we'll see ya around Oakwood in September.

  8. Oh by the way, I know this was a soo last year post, but yes FSO's and family have been to the warehouse, and it basically is what you pictured haha.