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March 01, 2010

Marking time with a passport and penalty kicks

Mail-2  Some families mark the year with holidays, as in counting down the days until Christmas or Halloween. Others birthdays or tax season or the first day of school.

In our family, we mark the passage of time with the World Cup. My husband, Steve, is a journalist who writes mostly about soccer, so it works a little like this: Pre-qualifying, qualifying year, World Cup year, off year.

We're coming up on summer 2010, which is a World Cup year, to be followed by lots of naps before the off year.

Every four years, my husband is gone for roughly six or seven weeks. Sure, it is exciting, hopping around the globe, covering the most-watched sporting event, meeting colorful hooligans and whatnot. It is hard work too, though, scrambling for trains and writing stories on deadline and not sleeping in your own bed for 40 days.

Here's what it looks like on the homefront. The first time he took off on such a jaunt was 1994, about six weeks after our wedding. I planned our delayed honeymoon and worked and who knows how we kept in touch since we had neither e-mail nor much of a cell phone back then. The tournament was in the U.S., though, so Steve dropped in once in a while for games in D.C.

Next up: France, 1998. By then we were the proud parents of a 21-month-old son, Ryan. I had a job, but little help and would mark the passage of days by the minutes until my toddler's well-needed naptime. Those days were a blur. I do remember crying about it to a near stranger at the neighborhood pool one day. I still see her around; I hope she doesn't remember. The good news: I got to join Steve for a week in Paris. I left my mother in law detailed instructions on understanding little guys, and off I went. It was a a good deal for everyone but especially me what with fewer diapers and more chocolate croissants.

World Cup 2002 was in Korea and Japan. No spouse's trip for me. I did go to the Father's Day lunch at my son's (now age 5) preschool. The kids made cute little books about dad - you know, the kind where they dictated sentences to the teacher. For the fill in the blank of "I want people to know that my Dad ___________." Ryan filled in "Does not live in Europe."

Moving on to 2006 in Germany. By then, technology had come a long way. We could IM, skype, email to keep in touch, but it is not the same as being there. One night, there was one of those big summer rainstorms and our basement was flooding. I didn't know what else to do but to call my husband. I woke him up in Hamburg and quickly realized that there was nothing he could do. So in addition to my usual household chores, I can now caulk a window.

That summer, with a nearly 10 year old, we were pretty mobile. My son and I took off for a few days in London (torture chambers at the Tower of London a huge, huge hit with that age group, in case you are going), then met up with Steve in Berlin. We got surprise tickets to the finals at Olympic Stadium, sitting with the Italian fans. It was pretty thrilling.

Four years have flown by. Our son is now a teen-ager and Steve is off to South Africa. No trip for us this year, the flight for one of us alone costs more than Ryan's summer camp. It will just be the two of us, doing what we do (which for an almost 14-year-old,  is Facebooking on his laptop and avoiding both parents anyway.). I might Twitter my son's swim meets directly to Steve in Soweto. We now also have video-sharing capabilities, skype on my cell phone, and texting at light speed.

I plan on using all of the above if the basement floods.

This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

Karen Goldberg Goff lives in the Northern Virginia and can be found blogging about life at www.Snarkshelf.com. 

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