Thursday, August 27, 2009

No update since the 17th huh? Oh well.

We had the Open House for 7-8th graders at the Middle School. Sixth graders are kept separate to keep them away from all the scary 13-14 year olds and we'll go back tomorrow to find out her homeroom teacher. That's pretty much it though. Today I bought lunch cards for both girls, P.E. uniforms for both girls, got logins to the school website for both girls and "joined" the PTSO. I did not buy spirit wear, and I was informed that they need athletics physicals if they want to try out for any teams. I knew that before but for some reason our Med doc in India didn't fill out those forms so now I have to scramble and get it done before school starts, because wouldn't you know, tryouts for Volleyball are the first week of school. yay. Hopefully next week. Funny story though, we looked up the nearest doctors that take our current health coverage (we're in the process of switching), and of the 10 closest recommendations, 4 graduated from Indian colleges, one from a Pakistani college, one from a Philippine college, and two others spoke Tagalog too. Next week we have the Elem Open House for the boys. Jonathon got a "Welcome to 3rd grade" postcard from his teacher today. That was pretty cool.

So, anyway. Did anyone notice I haven't been ranting lately? I haven't posted, that's true, but I still could rant if I wanted to! About the $15 fine on Rebecca's library card from 2003. Yeah, so she was 5 and most of the books I checked out, but still. Six years later? They don't forget and they want their money. Or that I can't find paneer in the grocery stores. How does "Global Food" only have Korean and Latino foods anyway? That's not "global." Or that to get out of my neighborhood I hit 2 lights a block apart and if I'm late pulling out from a stop when the first turns green, the second one is already red. But truly, it seems a waste of time and energy to complain. I'm still so tickled at living in the States that the annoyances aren't really there. I do a lot of shrugging and "so what"ing. The frustrations from Chennai are still plenty fresh. Not surprisingly, our only current real annoyance hails back to Chennai still.
We got our boxes. We now know why we couldn't bring our piano. Our corner desk. Or our heavy duty safe. See, you can't bring those things when 4 pencils get wrapped&wrapped&wrapped in 4 huge pieces of paper. You can't bring those things when a box labeled "glassware" that is roughly 2'x2.5'x2' has 6 plates and 6 small cups in it. Each individual cup and each individual plate are wrapped in: tissue paper - at least 5 huge pieces of packing paper wrapped and wrapped and wrapped - and bubble wrap. Then the box is lined with styrofoam, the items carefully placed and not necessarily touching, with a couple inches of shredded paper on the bottom, another couple inches on the top, and more filling any gaps in the middle. You could throw each perfect packages against the wall and it would be fine which I realize was the point, but when you live your life by weight and come into a country 1000lbs underweight (and with nothing broken), and leave the country with only one new major weight purchase, it hurts to know that some items are given up needlessly.
We only manage unpacking a few boxes at a time because once we've done few like that, we take a break to regain our composure.
We got our car. The battery was dead, as expected. But it was really dead. Really really dead. And one of the connectors had so corroded it snapped and fell off the terminal. Our excitement at getting the car was quickly replaced by a $1400 repair bill for a tow, a special order battery, new connector thing, new brake pads, oil change, wiper blades, inspection, labor hours... Apparently a strut (is that right??) by one of the brakes is dry (I think I'm messing this up) and to replace it would cost another $2K from these guys, but we don't think the car will explode if that's not done immediately so we'll deal with it later. It is so nice to drive our own car again. I really don't like the Kia Sedona we've been renting, so to return it tomorrow will feel great.
Last Saturday was an all around bad day though. Sending the car off on a tow truck when a quick jump didn't work, that was already painful. It was a grayish, drippy day and Ian was home with the boys waiting to hear about the car when his laptop died. It had been acting wonky and he was going to start over so he backed everything up (I married a smart one), wiped it clean, started reinstalling and... *poof*. Took it to Best Buy and seems the motherboard was fried. The car shop closed and no one called to say what was going on. We were heading to dinner with our friend Gwen so stopped by the garage on the way and cornered a mechanic who was lingering. His response was "Well, the boss didn't have anything to tell you." Hmm, here's an idea, before closing time, call the owners of the cars you're working on and give them an update, especially when you're closed the next day. Seems like good way to keep customers in the loop. All's well that ends well. We picked up the car Wednesday morning and I've been driving it since.
There's another story to go with last Saturday's suckiness. The girls heard about an audition to hopefully be in the next "Twilight" movie. Katherine texted in and I got a call back along with an appointment time for the girls to show up at the Youth Film Academy. Sounded like an adventure, something fun to check out. We got the audition script, brought photos of the kids, sat with 200+ other kids and listened to the slick talkers. We parents were asked if we were committed, if we were willing to do what needed to be done, even to fly to L.A. on Monday should our kid have what they were looking for.
Hah. You don't have to hear the insincere lines "I am not a salesman" and "I've tried to talk your kids out of this, now you have to talk to them too" too many times before they start to stink. The girls did their auditions, we went home with a time to call back the next morning and find out if they made it for a callback. Sunday morning we called. Rebecca didn't, Katherine did. They wanted Katherine to come back that afternoon and if she was "chosen" we'd have to move ahead immediately. The guy didn't say what "move ahead" fully entailed other than she was really "green" and would need training. At no point was money/tuition mentioned, and when I told him that I preferred her to do the callback audition, see if she passed, get all the info and THEN make a decision, well that was a no-go. He was all rush-rush-rush, make-a-decision-now. No mention of a role in anything and in fact if you google the names on their "guest speakers" page, most of them turn up blank. If you're really the guy who found/casted the kids in "Suite Life of Zack and Cody" your name should come up somewhere in the vast world wide web.
To say we had broken-hearted girls is putting it mildly. When Rebecca didn't make the callback she burst into tears. When we told Katherine we'd turned down her callback because it was a scam to get people enrolled in the Youth Film Academy, she was teary/angry/frustrated/disbelieving.
I don't know what's going on in their heads now, but they've both composed themselves. They probably still talk about it between them, but they aren't complaining aloud and I'll take it. We weren't the only ones taken in, and yes, you can say we should have known. If we had looked a little deeper and realized it was simply an audition for the school, that would have been one thing, it was the silly expectation of it being for more than that. I have no doubt that YFA may be worth it for those who audition specifically for entry to the school and can afford the programs. All they need to do is be honest what their auditions are really for, be upfront about their costs, and get rid of the crazy push and sense of urgency.
My mom had come with us to the audition and we went shopping at Tysons Corner afterwards, so it was all OK. We came home, dropped the kids with my mom, went to Red Hot and Blue with Gwen and drowned out the day in ribs and pitchers of soft drinks.
On a completely different note, we've met a couple neighbors. One stopped by and chatted over 4th of July. Another sent their girls over with some cinnamon bread that was amazingly good. We sent a few pashmina/scarves over in return and stayed to chat for a bit. They'll be homeschooling the kids this year. Seems a bit odd when there's a supposedly great school in walking distance, but OK. She's a nurse at the hospital, so I know who to call should any of my kids try to mangle themselves over the next couple years. Another neighbor left us a friendly note in the mailbox telling us to mow our lawn. Oddly, whoever it was didn't sign it so I could thank them.
Oh, and that cats are still fighting.
That's all for now. Tomorrow I'm hoping we'll make it to the Spy Museum.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Still Waiting

HHE did not arrive on Thursday. Car did not arrive on Thursday. Friday my mom came down and Ian took the day off work, both to help unpack boxes and register a car we didn't have. So, we went to Home Depot and to Dolphin Beach instead. Works for me. It's what we could do to salvage some of the lost/wasted time, and the kids really needed some fresh air and exercise after a lazy week at home. Next week is full day camp for all of them and the TV will get a break.

Saturday was about as great as I could wish. For the most part the kids didn't bicker too much, but I don't think it would have cast much of a pall anyway.
This is going to sound strange, but I think this tour may place a slightly higher strain on our family and marriage than the others. There are so many pros to living here, basically it boils down to the ease of it all, but what we also have is a dad/husband who is gone by 6:15 a.m. and gets home by 7 p.m. With the kids getting to bed late during summer break and Ian hitting the hay by 10, we don't have any time just the of us during the week. I miss home leave quite a bit right now, though I know it'll get better once the kids are in school, are going to bed at a normal time, and we've all had some time to adjust.
So we're making the most of our weekends. Ian came with me to yard sales. Yes, he was that desperate to spend some time together, but I think if he was truly honest he'd say he had fun. I had a blast. We came home with a pair of blue barstools for the kitchen island, some Wii and DS games for Christmas and a couple Harry Potter puzzles for the meantime. We met a guy who just returned from 6 months in Iraq and is back with his wife and 3 little kids. Another family was a couple streets down from us and so pitied our HHE delay they gave us Mindtrap to play. We chatted with folks, drove down streets we hadn't seen before, and came back with some nifty stuff. Yeah, he had fun too. We grabbed the kids (when we left boys weren't interested, girls were sleeping) and trekked to Potomac Mills. It's a zoo on Saturdays, sometimes we forget that, yesterday was one of those days. S&K Menswear is going out of business so Ian bought 2 new suits for cheap and since they are selling everything in the store, I picked up 20 clip hangers for $2. The furnishings were on the block too, but there was no way for us to get them home, and all the mannequins had already been claimed. Would have looked cool in the girls' room for their scarves and hats.
Katherine had Class 1 of her two day volleyball clinic at the fitness center so we dropped her off and went to Best Buy, One of the most fun games we've bought recently is Wii Sports Resort. It's been a blast rowing and throwing frisbees and chopping things with swords, a great time this hot week in August. We highly recommend it. Best Buy sold nerf type swords to hold Wiimotes for the swordplay games, but Ian said No. Something about not wanting to encourage the kids to swing things at the TV. Jonathon and I examined the way cool fridges and washer/dryer sets while the others bought him a birthday gift. I don't know what it is, but if it's from Best Buy, should be good. Katherine is at Class 2 of her volleyball clinic now, and the rest of the fam are playing Resort again. I tell you, if you have a Wii but don't have this game already, you should.
A quick run through Costco to get snack/lunch foods for daycamp next week and we were picking up Katherine and driving to my parents' house for an early birthday party for Jonathon. He turns 8 on Tuesday and was tickled with his coin bank and new YuGiOh cards. Some cool weather clothes rounded things out. He'll get his other gifts on Tuesday, along with a trip to Chuck E Cheese. See, some things really are more painful Stateside.
The boys crashed in the car and the girls put themselves to bed at 9:30, so Ian and I popped in a movie. "Panic Room" - pass. We made it through about 10 minutes and decided it was too convoluted. Popped in "Into the Wild" - pass. Once we figured out the movie was -serious- and was going to be -deep- and -thought-provoking-, flashback filled and supposedly true about some rich kid who gives it all up to live in the tundra... we put in episode 1 of True Blood instead. And then episode 2. True to form, HBO has a violent, nudity-filled show peppered with curse words that is fascinating. I know that True Blood fans are saying "Where's she been? Under a rock?" Well, duh. But hey, I'll make a decision on the Bill/Edward debate at the end of the season, 'kay?
Tonight we're going to see "District 9" while the kids watch "Bandslam." They start right around the same time and are the same length, so it's all good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lazy days of summer.

I get to laze around this week. Our HHE is coming later on so it won't last, but today I had kids scraping wallpaper, painting rooms and making dinner. I read more in the _Golden Compass_ while inhaling paint fumes. Ahhhh.

Ian is into his second week as a CDO and wanted me to send a shoutout to the current A100 class and future members of A100 classes over the next 2 years. Any questions, any problems... send them on over.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our stuff is scheduled for delivery on Thursday!

Just about 2 months door to door, not bad! Better than when we went to Togo and it took 4 months to get our household effects, this is practically light speed. Even better, our car is scheduled for the same day. Cars can take 3-4 weeks to get through customs, but somehow ours arrived on the same day as the HHE and made its way through customs at the same rate as the boxes. That means we can give back the Kia Sedona we've been renting. I really like minivans, but not this one. There is something wrong with the headrests, the shifting gears are wonky and there are tons of blind spots. It does have great trunk space and the kids like the second row captain's chairs, but on the whole I'm looking forward to getting my Sequoia back.

The Sequoia is going to need a detailing, and I'm going to have to choke down the miserable gas mileage. We should get more than 11mpg in the U.S. though, and that's a comfort because it's not like we can benefit from the Cash for Clunkers program. Our Sequoia is no clunker, even after being in Togo and India for 4 years. It will be a nice drive for the rest of our summer camp programs (next week is day camp for all 4 kids and the following week is Fencing) and on into the school year.
School started in Chennai today. Here in Prince William County school doesn't begin until September 8th. The kids will have had a full 3 months off, just like Phineas and Ferb. But back to school they will go, and that first day they will be carting what appears to be half of Target with them. Have you seen these school supply lists? When I was a kid a new backpack, a lunch box, perhaps a special pencil case and we were good to go. For my kids, I have a full sheet of supplies for each one, and most of the items appear to be for the general class population. At least I don't think the boys will be using 10 glue sticks each.
Rather than go by kid, here's a combined shopping list for Fall 2009, for 3rd, 4th, 6th and 8th graders:
(7) pkg wide-ruled loose leaf paper
(3) black and white wide-ruled composition notebooks
(14) packages #2 pencils
(2) manual sharpeners
(6) regular folders with pockets
(1) plastic binder insert folder [I haven't even figured out what this is yet]
(2) 2-pocket hard plastic folders
(5) wide-ruled lined spiral notebooks, 70-page count
(2) 3-ring notebooks
(2) multiple section spiral notebooks
(26) large glue sticks
(3) pairs of scissors
(1) pair 7" scissors
(2) 24 pk crayons
(1) 24 pk colored pencils
(1) 12 pk colored pencils
(6) thick Expo dry erase markers
(8) washable markers
(3) 12-inch standard and metric ruler
(2) pencil box [I'm having the kids use their own from last year]
(9) highlighters
(1) standard size clipboard
(2) 1" 3-ring binder
(1) 3" heavy duty binder
(4) red ballpoint pens
(2) pkg blue/black ballpoint pens
(8) book covers
(2) calculator [we have a couple]
(2) math pack [protractor, etc. I bought a second set]
(1) flash drive [We have one of these]
(7) large box of tissues
(2) ream of copy paper
(2) box of sandwich size Ziplock bags
(1) bottle of hand soap
Fall clothing?? There's cash left for that? Mostly kidding there, but no, I haven't gotten around to any cool weather clothing (it is August still and particularly warm this week) or new lunch boxes or shoes yet and every place I've been to so far has been completely out of wide-ruled loose leaf and glue sticks anyway. Oooh, and guess what's still coming, the open house where we get to buy meal cards and P.E. uniforms and and and. Who said public schools are free? Who?!
Pictures from our summer are still to come, promise. Katherine got me a fabulous scrapbook for my birthday last month, so I have the book to fill from our sad Chennai departure to the beginning of school and all the fun in-between. They'll be up on Fickr, hopefully this weekend.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Well Rested and Home Again

We had a fabulous week. Pictures coming soon, promise.

There's no place I like better than the beach and spending a week (thanks, parents!) is always a great time. The kids had a blast, Jonathon is 2 tones darker with highlights in his hair. How he is our kid, I'll never know.

It's good to be home, but I miss the sand and waves already.