It's The MOST Wonderful Time Of The Year ...

I'm not sure which one I'm more excited about.

This ...

my 3rd and 2nd graders. wow.

the girl brigade in our neighborhood.

Or THIS ...

It's a toss up.


Nothing Like A Last Minute Phone Call ...

Today the girls had their student orientation at their respective elementary schools. Their two different elementary schools. Which has really bummed me out for the past several months.

See, when I came here in April for our pre-construction walk through, I stopped by the school and picked up the registration packets. Unfortunately the secretary told me then that the kindergarten through second grade classes were already near capacity for the fall, and there was a high probability that Sheridan wouldn't make it in.

Sadly, when we finally closed on our house last month, and drove straight to the school to register the girls, the bad news was confirmed. Sheridan was wait listed and would be attending the overflow elementary school four miles away. At that time, we were given the option to keep Riley enrolled at our local elementary school, or send her with Sheridan. It was a tough choice to split them up, but with the chance that Sheridan would move over to our local school sometime during the year, moving Riley over could prove problematic if the third grade classes were filled and then there wasn't room for her.

More. Tough. Decisions.

So I was a "Bitter Betty" at Riley's school today. Her big, beautiful, modern elementary school that I teared up in the minute I walked through the double doors.

We stopped in the front office, where I inquired about Sheridan's position on the wait list and were told that they don't have any answers. Sure, I could call them later in the day. But they had no guarantees this year. Or worse yet, next. I walked out and cried.

After Riley's orientation we then drove over to Sheridan's school where my inner bitchiness bitterness was starting to get the best of me. Again, I couldn't contain my tears as we walked through this older, well established school. Sure, it was fine ... I just couldn't wrap my head around sending Sheridan here. Alone. When all of her new friends and neighbors were going down the street.

We unpacked all of her school supplies. I told her teacher. I explained our situation and she empathized. She understood. I cried.

And after a long day of orientations, we left the school, hopped in the car, and headed to where we always do when I need a pick-me-up. Starbucks... where amazing things always seem to happen.

As I was walking in to grab another free drink, my cell phone rang. The woman on the other end was none other than the secretary at the local elementary school. Telling me that she can't believe it ... but she has a spot available for Sheridan and wanted to know if I wanted it.

Do I want it?

I screamed. I cried. I broke out in my best Elaine Benes inspired jig in the middle of the parking lot, and totally embarrassed the girls.

After I grabbed that free drink ... priorities ... we drove back to the overflow school and picked up the school supplies we JUST dropped off twenty minutes prior.

Now off to buy the school supplies for the new school, because you KNOW they had to be different than overflow.

And then to submit my letter to the school board requesting they change the bus stop. Because there's never a dull moment here ...


Never Say Never

Today marks exactly one month that we've owned our new home. One amazingly expensive month of crapping out $1000 bills like they were growing on our non-existent money trees.

Though as the boxes become fewer and the dust begins to settle, we are able to look around our new house and basque in the culmination of the adventures and sacrifices we've made for this nomadic lifestyle.

As a Foreign Service Family, we have the opportunity to lead one exciting life. Raising our kids overseas. Traveling to places that they will be reading about in history books. Building relationships that will last a lifetime.

We feel very blessed.

I have spent many months thinking about my experiences over the last year. Trying to find a way to articulate the challenges, as well as, the tribulations of our year apart. A recap of sorts where I tie it all up with a pretty little bow.

But the reality is ... my words fail me.

When your spouse leaves on an unaccompanied tour you go into it with the Guerrilla Mindset, "Get in. Do your tour. And get out."

By the first R&R you're angrily saying, "Never again".

As you hit the half-way point. The holiday season. Your second R&R you lighten up a bit and admit that, "You can suck it up for a year."

And when you see each other on your final R&R, with less than three months to go, the tears are few and the excitement high. You realize that, dare I say it, "It wasn't as bad as you anticipated."

If I've learned anything at all in my years as a Foreign Service spouse, there are no absolutes. And what you once said you'd NEVER do ... you find yourself doing not once, but twice.

As many of you know, Matthew's job here in Washington D.C. is a one-year tour.

After thoughtful deliberation, starting way back at the beginning of this year, we have made the decision for Matt to do one more unaccompanied tour.

Next summer, Matt will be heading out once again to serve as of the Regional Security Officers in Afghanistan.

And the kids and I will be staying here. Remaining here in our new house. With our support system already in place.

Lest people criticize, I understand this is not for everybody. We are making a calculated investment for our future, and what it means to Matt career, as well as our financial security. It's not that he has a compelling desire to be separated from his family. It's obviously a gamble. But, we're optimistic that it's going to pay off down the road.

We have decided to refrain from telling the kids for awhile due to their inability to comprehend time. For now we'll just enjoy the year. And the moments we share together while making plans for our future...


And Starbucks Saves The Day ...

Well apparently in order to title and register your car in Virginia you need to show proof of residency. Which, of COURSE I knew. And remembered. Last night. Though it CLEARLY did not help me today, when I rushed out of the house to the DMV.

So there I was. Twenty minutes away from home. Paperwork in hand. Feeling oh so pretty in wrinkled clothes with my hair looking like birds could build beautiful nests in its mess. Ready to brave the bureaucracy.

Within two minutes of walking in the door I was at a window. Smiling. Hoping. Praying that the paperwork would speak for itself.

Which it didn't. Because of course, I wrote the wrong lien holder's address on the form and needed to re-fill it out. Thankfully the DMV was empty and the lady let me fill out the paperwork at her window.

But when my California driver's license didn't show proof of Virginia state residency, and the blank stare on my face trying to hide my stupidity didn't send me packing, I did what any other self-respecting woman on the verge would do.

I pulled out the only piece of mail I had on me. My trusty, "Free drink because you spend way too much time and money in Starbucks" card. That shows ... none other than my change of address.

Proof, that I do in fact, now live in Virginia.

Would you believe that the woman at the DMV, my new BFF, actually accepted it?


Within ten minutes my car was now titled and registered in Virginia. Fees paid. License plates distributed. I was out the door. And onto Starbucks ... where my caffeine habit has proved itself beyond worthy ...

Would you have expected anything different?

In other news ...

* Screw the sprinklers! We're moving onto the big guns. Like irrigation systems. Apparently there IS a limit on how many times a day I can stand to move the sprinklers around the yard ... eight is more than enough!

* The girls got their bus schedules for school and I'm less than thrilled. I was already reeling that Sheridan didn't get into the same school as Riley this year due to the district's poor planning on teacher / student ratios and under estimated boom of housing sales in this county. But now I have to deal with an inappropriately placed bus stop and two completely different pick-up times. I've already made the phone call to the district. Next up? My letter to the school board ... with every single neighbor ready to sign ...

* We have been bogged down in organizing hell. Sure the boxes are all unpacked and everything is put in the right room ... but holy heck have we spent WAY too much time trying to put it all in away. And searching for curtains. And searching for curtains. And did I mention that we're still searching for curtains?

* We survived the earthquake. I grew up in Northern California. I went to school at Northridge. Enough said?

* Our backyard deck is getting built in less than 3 weeks.

* The storage room in our basement is getting dry-walled in a few weeks.

* We have seen a bevy of friends over the past week ... including dear friends from Israel, Matt's work friends from Iraq whose families have quickly become our newest confidantes, a 6 year old birthday dinner, a ladies luncheon with fun friends, and even a house guest over the weekend! Much needed fun ... and laughing ... and relaxing indeed.

* The girls start school next Monday. Matt starts work on Monday as well.

* Can you tell I'm looking forward to Monday?

Until then ... can someone please remind me where we planted our money tree?

Not the original one. I obviously have a few due to my ... habit. *ahem*


Home Sweet Home ... FINALLY

So as you can see, I've been taking a bit of a break. Turns out, home ownership keeps you rather busy. Especially when you now have a yard to maintain. And new sod, which requires a ridiculous amount of TLC.

Of course when your new sod dies a few days before you move into your new home due to an extreme heat wave, you now have extra yard work to do and higher water bills to pay as you spend every waking minute trying to bring your coarse brown grass back to luscious green.

You then make at least fifty-two trips to Home Depot and Lowe's on your quest to find THE perfect sprinkler heads for your postage stamp sized front and back lawn, in addition to all the other "stuff" you needed ... like hoses, light bulbs, wall anchors, picture hooks, plants, potting soil, dimmer switches, power tools, drill bits, mini blinds, spackle, and many, many, many more items that I've both purchased AND returned over the past several weeks.

This move has consumed us me.

At some point I may write about our closing. The never-ending trips to Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wal-Mart, and Costco. Our four different movers ... with our stuff from California, from Belgium, from Maryland, from Iraq. I'd tell you about all the things that were broken. Or stolen. Or gross and moldy and faded after eight years in storage. I'd complain about the never ending solicitors. The bugs. The waiting around every single day for something to be delivered or installed or serviced. I may even hint at having a huge argument with the contractor on the day they came to replace our dead sod. Let's just say that like the TV show Cheers, 'everybody knows my name.'

I'd also kvell about our neighborhood. Our neighbors, who ALL have kids around our kids ages. Instant friends and bike riding buddies and never ending basements to play in.

But right now, I'm done. We're finally catching our breath as we begin to make this house a home. And for the first time in almost three weeks we are able to lift our heads up and get out of the house for more than just a Target run.

I sent out an email with our new address. If you didn't get it or you want it, send me an email. If you emailed us over the past few weeks and I didn't respond. Please forgive me and know that I'll try to get back to you. Eventually.

Though it will most likely be after we head to Home Depot one more time. I just know we'll pick up the right sprinkler head one of these days. Until we do, pray for rain.

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