Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Where to begin?

There's no sense starting at "the beginning" as that doesn't really exist, does it?

Months ago we decided we'd take a trip back to Virginia, just the 2 of us, to buy a house. We allotted 2 weeks, we'd stay with my parents, and thought we'd even get around to purchasing a car.

I have to say, things worked out pretty well.

We didn't go on the trip alone. While we left our kids behind, we took the neighbors' 10 month old baby from Chennai to Virginia. As good as she was, it's still exhausting traveling with a baby, let alone someone else's. For the first 15 hours, she slept a grand total of just under 3 hours. During the last 8 hours, she dozed through 7 of them, but since she didn't eat right before sleeping, she dozed in 20 minute spurts... drink from bottle for a minute, doze for 20 minutes... drink from bottle, doze for 20 minutes... pacifier, doze for 20 minutes... drink from bottle... you get the idea. During the last 15-20 minutes she was done with being cooped up and we were "those people" that everyone hates. All together, it made for a very tiring and extremely long day. I like to sleep on planes and that just didn't happen. The British Airways Chennai flight timings are better than Lufthansa though, as we had the chance to sleep about 6 hours before going to the airport (for a 5:30 a.m. flight), something we can't do with the 1:45 a.m. flight to Germany.
But we made it and handed the baby off to her mom who was waiting at the airport. My parents were there to pick us up.
You know what the best things in the world are? Hearing the "Welcome Home" from the immigration/homeland security guy (yes, it still makes me cry sometimes), and the smell of the air when you first step outside. I don't care that we're in the parking lot of the airport; there is no sweeter and fresher smell than that air after you've lived in someplace like Chennai where every street corner is a urinal or worse and the heavy blanket that settles over you when you leave the house smells like damp and sweat and body waste. It was very hard to return less than 14 days later. How odd to be enticed by the weather at home... what will it do today? 50 and rainy? 90 and sticky? Overcast? Breezy? Who knew?!? There's no question in Chennai. It's going to be smicky (sticky + mucky). Unless it's January, then it's nice. Don't leave Chennai in January.
But return we did. And our packout is scheduled for May 18th-20th. What better way to celebrate out Anniversary than to be hip deep in boxes and packing tape. Bring it on. We might even have Orders by then.
It's a little unnerving packing and giving an address to a home we're buying but haven't bought. What if the whole process falls through? I shudder to think about it. We'll all just cross out fingers and pray that all will go well. The folks we're buying from are selling out of convenience. The house was on the market for nearly a year and they wouldn't budge on anything regarding the sale which was quite the bummer. But it was the nicest house we saw, though a little on the small side until the basement is finished, and definitely in the nicest neighborhood. Montclair was a gated community when it was built 40 years ago, but the gates came down when the neighborhood decided they wanted the VDOT to maintain the roads. I think living in a gated community would have been a bit too much seeing as we lived in one in Manila, and have had high walls and guards since then. Let us out!! So... no gates. Instead we have a well-established community built around a man-made lake. Lake Montclair is built as a skinny lake with lots of fingerlings jutting off. Lots of lakefront properties that way, not that our house will be one of them, but hopefully we can find a quick walking path to one of the lakeside playgrounds and/or beaches. The neighborhood also houses a golf course, a swimming pool that is scheduled to be enclosed, and year round tennis. I'd already signed Rebecca up for the Dale City Frogs summer swim program, before learning that we'd be in Montclair and they have their own summer swim club. Ah well, at least we're not up to Amberjax speed yet. The lake has the aforementioned beaches along with boating and fishing. Playgrounds, walking/biking paths abound. There's a vet and a dentist in the neighborhood. There's a Target 5 minutes away. And a Panera. And... a drive-through Starbucks.
The Montclair elementary school is a 3 minute walk from the house. The middle school is the farthest away at roughly 10 minutes drive, the highschool we haven't figured out yet as there are 2 nearby but each high school in Price William County offers a special program, so if you're interested in one (say, Environmental Sciences) you can apply to a different school than the one you're zoned for. If accepted, they'll bus you over to the chosen school. The two nearest schools to us have an IT program and an IB program. Thank goodness we'll have 6 months or so to decide what to do. These schools are no slouches, and the application process is competitive.
We hunted through a bunch of houses before coming back to this one. The house is OK, the neighborhood is what I really wanted and I think you can see why.
We ate out a lot during our visit, had dinner with 3 other former Chennaites at Harry's Tap Room at Pentagon City, another dinner out with our long-time friend Jeff to Outback, plenty of fast food from Chik-Fil-A/Wendy's/Arby's/Taco Bell, meals with my folks... it was all a bit much, but what else is there to do than indulge? Five more weeks in Chennai then we buckle down to real-life living in the States.
We didn't buy a car. With the house financing, and an offer from my mom to use her car in June, we decided to hold off. What we do know is Ian will get himself a Prius. It's a sweet set of wheels filled with gadgety things we had to avoid drooling over as they could have shorted out the car. Kidding, of course, but I enjoyed driving it as much as he did. We haven't decided what to do about a family car though we're leaning heaving towards a Sienna. I wanted a hybrid Highlander, but remembering back to the Highlanders we saw last time, and with bigger kids now, that third row is just too tight. I have no qualms about driving a minivan, and in fact like them quite a bit. Just do me a favor and call me a swim mom or a volleyball mom, not a soccer mom. A Sienna can come with us to our next post too, a hybrid of any sort most likely cannot. Quick kudos to the rental people at Tysons Koons Toyota dealership. We rented the Prius for 2 weeks what it would have costed for 1 week from a typical rental place, and the process was painless and the people nice. The only catch is that they don't deliver the car to you, but my parents brought us over so it worked for us.
Oh, speaking of volleyball, Katherine had her last practice this morning. Tomorrow she flies off to Mumbai for her tournament and will return on Sunday. She's actually a pretty good player, I was impressed watching yesterday afternoon. I don't know why there isn't more discipline with the sports here (no mandatory uniform for practices, not even mandatory shoe-wearing?) but she's enjoying herself and made the team without any issues. Remember last year? OK, let's not remember last year.
Quick updates on the other kids... Nicholas's hair is growing growing growing. It really needs a trim in the front. He looks really cute. For his birthday, the day before we left, Ian bought him a soccer jersey/shorts/shin guards/cleats set and he wore it that afternoon at soccer practice. My shaggy haired boy was all tucked in on the field. It's not surprise that the gifts with the biggest punch after the soccer outfit were the 2 dress shirts and matching ties from the grandparents.
Rebecca held it together while we were gone. She actually e-mailed us, so we brought her back some really green pairs of shorts which she was thrilled about, a sunscreen stick and High School Musical 3. Anyone know where to get the colored sunscreen sticks? I looked and couldn't find any of the fun sticks in purple, green or blue. Weird, but then it was a little early for the swim season. I bought the shorts at Justice, formerly Limited Too from what I gather. The clothing is bright and mostly respectable, I was impressed.
Jonathon looks a bit like a gopher. He has his two adult middle bottom teeth, but has lost the next ones out, along with the top two front teeth. Two came out normally, one got knocked out when he was playing with his brother, and the other he forcefully wiggled to death. The one that got knocked out caused one of the neighbor's kids to freak and call Brian with "an emergency" which led him to leave us a message about an emergency, with no details. Do you know how nerve-racking it is to get an e-mail when you're eating in Panera 8000 miles away that there's an emergency back home? We didn't know if it had to do with work or the kids. If the kids, which kid (though we guessed it involved Jonathon)? And then, about what? I immediately envision a kid with a deadly snake bite, someone with a broken arm, head trauma from falling down the stairs, expulsion from school, drowning. I asked my mom to call India when she went home for lunch to find out what was going on since we were 30 minutes away and heading back to Woodbridge.
A knocked out tooth? Whatever.
I'm glad to be home.

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