6.23.2010

The Happiest Place On Earth?

Well if you ask my daughters about their first trip to Disneyland, they probably would agree. It IS a very happy place ... especially when you ...


* go for the first time with BOTH sets of grandparents

* get pins to wear that tell everyone it's your first time there

* ride space mountain at 7 years old and surprisingly LOVE it and want to do it again

* eat cotton candy, popcorn, and Mickey Mouse shaped pretzels as a main meal

* are so excited that you can't be bothered to take a nap all day long

* take multiple photos with all your favorite Disney princesses

* ride on all of mommy's favorite rides ... the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and It's a Small World

* manage to spend over 10 hours there and still have energy for a few more

* know that it didn't matter you couldn't see everything you wanted to because you'll be coming back again and again throughout the year now that you have an annual pass
















The end of a GREAT day

6.18.2010

Going Back To Cali, Cali, Cali

No matter how much preparation goes into moving, the reality is that it always comes down to the last minute. Or for us, the very last minute.

Last Friday at 10 pm, two Consulate vans and three men helped transport 10 pieces of luggage, 3 car seats, 5 carry on bags, 1 stroller, 1 100-lb dog / crate, and 5 very excited passengers to the Chennai International Airport. What happened since then is no longer a blur. Here's the latest update from the other side of the pond...

... We got to the airport three hours before our flight and began the slow check-in process... first our bags, then our dog, and finally our seat assignments. We had no problems with tagging all our bags and they didn't even check the weight. There was even less of a problem with the dog as NOBODY bothered to even look at her, blink at her, or pay any attention to her except for charging the $500 excess baggage fee. The biggest issue? Getting our seat assignments changed for our flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles... we were all placed in separate rows. What. Joy.

... Despite two separate doses of Dramamine, Grady defied sleep and managed to stay awake for over 20 hours of our 29 hour ordeal. He also REFUSED to sit in his car seat for more than a few hours at a time and used me as a human jungle gym. What. Joy.

... While all seated in the same row on our flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, we weren't all seated together. Instead, we were separated by a large German man who sat in the aisle, refused to change seats and thus got stuck next to me, the human jungle gym, and Grady. What. Joy.

... After two LONG plane rides totaling 23 hours, and five hours waiting in two airports, we finally landed in Los Angeles. And as soon as we all stood up and got ready to depart the plane, Sheridan decided that NOW was THE perfect to vomit. All over the floor and her seat. Riley followed suit by falling over and dry heaving after seeing her sister. What. Joy.

... Despite gate checking my stroller in Frankfurt, it didn't make it on the plane to Los Angeles. I found this out after waiting on the jet way for 20 minutes after we deplaned, and confirmed this when my name was called over the loud speaker in the baggage claim asking me to see a Lufthansa agent. I had to then file a claim and get a replacement stroller in the interim. What. Joy.

... The car service we hired to transport us from the airport to Newport Beach was AWFUL. The driver was irked that we were late coming out of the terminal and barked at us to hurry up as he was afraid he was going to get a ticket. Seriously, do they not account for delays? But the icing on the cake was when he refused to stop at In N Out. Apparently he never read the notes in our file and scheduled another pick up immediately after ours. Oh. The. Joy.

... Sunday was spent car shopping. Monday was spent car shopping. Tuesday was spent car shopping. And after going to about 10 different dealerships and sitting in and test driving at least that many SUVs, we finally went in an entirely different direction and bought a car on Wednesday that we never previously considered. I didn't love any other until I saw her. I couldn't see spending that much money on a car I didn't love until I saw her. I was about at my wits end... until I sat inside, test drove old faithful, and knew she had to be mine. Oh 2008 Land Rover LR3 HSE with the black on black leather interior, luxury package, climate package, fully loaded SUV with the DVD player and wireless headphones inside, I really do love thee. EEEEKKK. The. Joys!

... The girls are enrolled in elementary school for next year, though not without its own set of headaches. Apparently we needed three separate forms of ID to validate our local address in order for the school to accept their applications. I had a CA drivers license, and a lease for the rental house that started in September. But those wouldn't suffice. So after spending three days trying to figure out how to handle this, I finally drew up a mock lease for my in-laws house and brought that with me to the school district validation office. Three minutes in the office later, we got the approval paper and was able to bring it to the school to solidify their enrollment. Of course once the school looked through our information they realized they weren't sure how to handle Sheridan's Omani birth certificate, nor the CRBA (Consular Report of Birth Abroad), and wanted to treat her as a foreigner. What. Joys.

... We've also managed to unpack, do 5 loads of laundry, hit Starbucks everyday, get haircuts, make a few shopping runs to Target where I SWEAR there is a law that you can't get out of there without spending at least $150, buy a few things at Old Navy, take the dog on endless walks, meet some new neighbors, and get this ... relax.

We're finally back in Cali. Yes. The. Joys.




The porters with 4 separate carts filled with our bags.
Matt, the dog, and the kids prior to departure from Chennai.




Two LOVELY visions on Saturday ...



My new ride.

6.11.2010

Poyittu Varen ... from Chennai

To quote myself from two years ago, "What a long strange trip it's been."

Moments like these are forever bittersweet. Although we're all looking forward to leaving, there's always a hint of sadness as you depart a place you've called home for two years.

I just can't find the right words to say today. So I did what I always do when we leave post... I stayed close to home. I have a hard time with good-byes. To the friends we made here in Chennai, those who are still here and those who have already moved on, we appreciate your friendship and we bid you a fond adieu. To the family and friends who've followed along even before we came to India, just know that we could never live this lifestyle without your support.

As we finish up our last minute preparations and head out on our flight tonight, join us for a final recap of our time here in Chennai.

Thanks for sharing in our journey. See you on the other side of the world...


video

Make sure you turn up your speakers.
Jai Ho!

6.10.2010

24

I'm tired. I have serious bags under my eyes. I've been moving along at top speed, and haven't had many opportunities to stop and smell the roses... though I've had plenty of time to smell the river, and let me tell you... I won't miss that smell.

I haven't had internet for the past two days. Which, when you're moving literally halfway around the world, is rather difficult and frustrating when you need to confirm appointments, reservations, and purchase last minute items for your return.

So far this week ...... we've all had TB tests, Grady's had four of his one-year immunizations, I've been to two end-of-the-year pool parties and one 'author's reading, bought the teacher's gifts, went to lunch with girlfriends, I had my final school board meeting, done a ton of last minute shopping, went to Matt's Hail & Farewell at the Consulate, and I've been met with every obstacle regarding our internet, pet export, car retrieval from the Toyota dealership, new mailing address, and pack-out. Can someone please stick a fork in me?

To top it off, Grady is now walking. Full on robot walking. The joys of a 29 hour trip home with a little boy who does not want to be confined to his seat. Awesome! Oh, and we've been packing. Lots and lots of packing. Ten bags worth of packing.

My break is over ... back to the grind. 24 hours until we leave for the airport.

6.08.2010

Are You Smarter Than A First Grader?

Today, Riley brought home from school the journal she's been writing in all year. Below is one of my favorite entries.





This weekend I stayed in a palace in New Delhi

6.06.2010

Week(end) in Review

Since our pack out on Thursday, we've had no shortage of errands to get accomplished. We've been running around non stop like chickens with our heads cut off... and in the process managed to chop a few ourselves.

It all started with Sheridan's Kindergarten graduation that actually happened on Wednesday (though I had no time to write about it, and barely made it there with our pack-out). The four classes got together and put on a beautiful ceremony, complete with songs, hats, and diplomas. It was so sweet that I even shed a tear or three... they all looked so adorable!

On Friday I took Libby for her final vet appointment to get her Health Certificate and all the necessary paperwork filed, in preparation for our departure. Though, just like two years ago in Israel, this final appointment proved just as frustrating, as both the Consulate and the vet were less than helpful in assisting me with this convoluted bureaucracy. Instead of providing detailed guidance, I was merely handed a packet that was supposedly self explanatory. But, as I was I missing a duplicate form with another vet's signature, clearly it wasn't. Additionally, I was also not informed that I'd have to take the dog to a Ministry vet the day before we're leaving country. Normally I wouldn't have any problem with this, if I had known about it in advanced. However, it was sprung on me when I turned in the forms, and I wasn't happy about it. It's really not difficult to understand that when families are leaving post, the last thing they want to deal with are unplanned events that take up hours of their day. This only adds to the stress and completely changes the plans for the day. While I am completely unsatisfied how everything was handled by the Consulate and the vet (who admittedly forgot to provide me with the additional form), the issues have been resolved... at least for the time being.

Along with the vet fiasco on Friday, I also had to take Grady for his one-year old immunizations, get our Power of Attorney notarized, and head back to the dentist for my fifth dental appointment to get the crown on my tooth fit for a queen.

We continued with chaos on Saturday with another visit to the dentist. The girls got their a cleaning, fluoride treatment, and sealants put on their back molars. Sheridan had a wicked meltdown with the sealants, and Riley dry heaved with the fluoride. Oh that was a FUN visit.

Then we had the movers come back for their fourth and final visit to the house, where they picked up all the boxes and sealed them in the crates for their onward destinations. It was great to FINALLY see them go! And as a side note, while I thought that my HHE weight was pretty spectacular, my girlfriend Donna (who has 4 kids and who's been overseas a few tours more than me) declared a contest, and actually came in with even less weight than us. I'm taking notes for our next tour!

Saturday night we had dinner with friends. And today, well... we had another special lunch.

We're now entering our last week in Chennai. Four days and a wake-up. So close ... I can almost smell the Pacific Ocean.











6.03.2010

Drum Roll Please....

On Thursday May 22, 2008, the movers came and packed up our house in Tel Aviv, Israel. It took five men less than one day to wrap, pack, move, and crate all the contents in our entire house ... all 182 boxes that weighed a total of 7028 pounds.

Well today, the movers finally finished packing up our house here. It took an average of eight men three FULL days to wrap, pack, and move our three separate shipments all into the downstairs floor of our house. Of course they're still not 100% complete. They still need to crate each shipment, which they're going to do on Saturday. So until then we're walking around a maze of boxes which are organized and stacked in the same dimensions as the crates they'll be moved into...

And now for the moment we've all been waiting for. I had to ask the owner of the company to re-calculate the totals at least twice because I didn't believe him. Out of a total of 8000 pounds we could ship to the States (7200 by sea and 800 by air) ... here's where we came in ....

Household effects (HHE) going to California ~ 47 boxes totaling 1503 pounds.

Household effects (HHE) going to storage ~ 100 boxes totaling 4728 pounds.

Unaccompanied baggage (UAB) going to California (with 250 of that going onto Iraq) ~ 9 boxes totaling 695 pounds.

For a grand total of 156 boxes and 6926 pounds (695 air and 6231 HHE)


Even after purchasing a coat rack, book shelf, TV stand, armoire, console table, 2 marriage boxes, a custom couch/chaise, and a 12 piece set of china, AND even with the movers incessant wrapping of every single solitary item in tissue paper, bubble wrap, and peanuts, we STILL came in 1000 pounds underweight.

All I can say is wow, wow, wow ... the planning totally paid off. And I rock.

6.02.2010

Ten ... Is The Magic Number

Not only is it the number of hours the movers were at our house today, but it is also the number of movers who were at our house today, dressed ever so smartly in their matching plaid shirts.

These ten men rocked the house and managed to finish packing and weighing all of the boxes going to storage, and 1/3 of the boxes destined for California. They'll be back tomorrow when they'll complete this seemingly endless ordeal.

An interesting moment occurred late today that reinforced why I feel compelled to be actively engaged in everything. See, Matt doesn't make many missteps when it comes to purchases. Though the rare exceptions are generally doozies requiring additional costs in order to 'remedy' the unfortunate circumstances.

Cases
in point ... When we first arrived in Tel Aviv, Matt purchased a 'slightly used' Saab Convertible. A car he pined for since his college days. However, within the first month Matt was at the only Saab mechanic in town, who we unfortunately discovered was intimately familiar with this particular vehicle. To put it bluntly, the car was a lemon, and Matt made valiant attempts to make lemonade. Very expensive lemonade. To the tune of almost $4500 of lemonade in just two months. As our disposable income was quickly running out, he decided to part with the vehicle, having completely satisfied his college whim.

Then came the watch. As many of you know Matt has a keen interest in watches. Rare, hard to find, unconventional timepieces. For months, Matt scoured the internet for one particular watch from his glory days. It was "the one that got away..." He was forever in search of an old Seiko military dive watch that adorned the well developed wrist of action hero / California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in some of his earlier films. Eventually, Matt located one in good condition on eBay, paying full marquee value. Nicknamed "The Arnie," Matt believed the watch to be tough as nails, as Arnold wore it as he defeated alien "Predators" and overthrew evil militants in "Commando". Alas, imagine Matt's disappointment when the "so called" 150m rated dive watch filled with seawater as he frolicked in the surf at the beach with the kids one Sunday afternoon. His frustration was compounded when the repair shop said it was ruined, and was nothing more than a prop... which as he realizes now was probably all it was in the movies.

Which brings us to today. As the movers removed the 42'' plasma television from the wall, that Matt purchased mere weeks after arriving here, he discovered the t.v. really WASN'T 110 - 220 volt, but rather JUST 220 volt. WHAT??? He swears that when he was at the Panasonic showroom, the salesmen assured him that the television was dual voltage, despite what the manual later read once the t.v. was already mounted. Well... it's not. Sure, he admits now that there's been a mistake. But what were we supposed to do when the movers are 3/4 done with packing the television in its original box? It's not like we could sell it. To add insult to injury we had to declare what the television was worth. Matt sarcastically responded, "in which country?" "'Cuz it ain't worth sh*t now in the United States..."

Needless to say, Matt won't be buying the house for us next year.




6.01.2010

How Many Men Does It Take To Pack Up A House?

Seven...



We've wrapped up day one. So far the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, and about half of the things going to storage on the first floor are complete. The movers are meticulous. And then some... We'll see how far they get tomorrow.

Thankfully we scheduled three days for this move. I think we'll need every minute of it!



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