T-minus 24 hours

It's hard to believe that we're in the final home stretch with less than 24 hours before we leave for California. I am still making lists of all the things I need to do, and sometime tomorrow will actually find the time to pack our bags. Nothing like putting off packing for 3.5 months until the very last minute, right?

We've been so busy this week that I haven't had an opportunity to post photos of Riley's Bon Voyage party at her school, write about getting my driver's license or our last play-date with our neighbors, tell about the TGIF party, Libby's vet appointment, or the girls last soccer practice of the year. And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head!

It's been a whirlwind with all of the last minute preparations... solidifying Sheridan's enrollment in the JCC starting next week (yippee!!!), gathering all of the paperwork for Riley's school, taking care of our household helper's salaries and miscellaneous expenses for the next 4 months while I'm gone, ensuring that everything is locked on with our flights, hotel, car rental, airport transportation, making more doctor's appointments, haircut appointments, and researching a new cell phone plan since T-Mobile just doesn't work for us.

We spent our last night together as a family doing a Turtle Walk on the beach. It's a night beach patrolling program that identifies Olive Ridley - Sea Turtle nests and relocates them safely to avoid the loss from predators and other natural destruction which may affect the eggs. There were about 40 Consulate people who caravaned in at least ten cars to the Tree Foundation. We watched a short documentary on the program, and then went out to the beach where the hatching turtles were starting to come out of the sand and needed to be led out to the ocean.

The girls had an absolute blast. Not only were there tons of baby turtles for the kids to hold and to let out to the sea, but there were lots of kids to share this experience. As always Riley was a little tentative to hold the turtle, but once she saw her sister do it, she quickly gained confidence and held one long enough for me to snap a few photos. Of course, she doesn't remember her first turtle trip down to Ras al Had in Muscat, Oman, when she was eight months old. Ahhh the memories!

(October, 2003)

I have so much to say, but I'm way too tired and scatterbrained to write any more. Wish me luck tomorrow that we get everything completed and that I leave here with some semblance of sanity... maybe.... just maybe.

Wow... look at all the hatchlings!

There's so many they keep them confined in the baskets...

... until they let them out to sea


It's Not You... It's Me

Well not really. It actually was her, though she never picked up any of the clues or the not-so-subtle hints either. I shouldn't be surprised. Note to self... you need to stop being surprised about things here in India. Remember yesterday?

Here's the deal. I have been contemplating firing my maid for the past month. I've wanted to for much longer, but didn't have a replacement, nor the energy to clean the house myself. So I settled. While household help is plentiful here, it's also not quite up to par with what one would expect in other parts of the world. Sure, the cost is ridiculously low - which is why most people have such an abundance of help. But when you find yourself cleaning up after the maid leaves, is it really worth it?

I have a list of things for my maid to do. Not a very difficult list, but a detailed one. It states specific things she should do every day, and things she can do if she finishes up with her daily work early (which she does EVERY day because #1 - she does a half-a** job cleaning in the first place, and #2 - because when you do the same thing over and over again each day, it doesn't take as long to do it). I have this list posted in both English and in Tamil on the refrigerator. I walk by it several times a day. She does too, though I can guarantee that she NEVER looks at it.

Now I'll admit that I'm somewhat picky. But really folks... does it not make sense that if you're going to take out the garbage in the upstairs bathrooms, shouldn't you do it in the downstairs bathrooms as well? And when I specifically request that you NOT do the laundry (something I prefer to do myself), and come home to find not only did you run a load of whites, but that you also added a hot pink tank top that for whatever reason you grabbed out of the darks pile, do I not have a right to be a little annoyed? Oh yeah, and remember when I came home from Phuket and had 5 loads of laundry to wash and for you to fold (yeah, that's the one thing I can't stand to do...), had to go grocery shopping, had 2 tired/sick kids, and you decided that you didn't need to come in to help me because you worked the day before until 5 pm... and there's nothing for you to do. Really not thrilled on that one.

So when I told her today that when I leave next that we're cutting her hours, I shouldn't have been all the surprised that she felt completely blindsided... even though we had "the talk" about how I really needed her to be more proactive around here and become a team player. Twice! Then when I told her that all Matt needs are a few rooms cleaned, his clothes washed/ironed once a week, and maybe make a Biryani rice here and there, and that should only take 4 hours... tops! Really? You're now going to tell me that he needs you here 3 days instead of 2? Lady, you can't even fill an entire day here when there's the 4 of us. And that's WITH 2 tea breaks and over an hour for lunch.

So I switched tactics and told her that it's not her (laugh, cough, snort), it's actually me. I just can't justify her salary. I can't afford to pay her. I have way too many obligations when I leave that put a burden on our pocket book and thus, when I leave, her time left here is fading. And when Matt leaves in May, well... that's all she wrote. The Rupee stops here!

I was given ultimatums about finding her another job. I was told it was our responsibility to help her. She insisted that she's worth the money I pay her. And I feel bad - for a whole host of reasons.

But moreover, I feel the most amazing weight lifting from my shoulders. I've been wanting to do this for months. I finally have my "out." And I took it.... and ran...

Now all I need to do is find myself a new maid when I get back in July. Which should be easy... right?


Not The Phrase I Expected To Hear...

I am angry. Scratch that, I am livid. I am beyond angry. I am devastated. Not at the end result, but rather the phrase that I heard at the doctor's office today during my final ultrasound.

"Your little ****** looks very good."

"WHAT did you just say?" I surprisingly asked the OB/GYN. "Did you just tell me the sex of the baby?"

She quickly backtracked. "No, no, I don't actually KNOW what it is ... it's just what I THINK it is..." As if that was any better of a response.

I immediately burst into tears. Now I've had my guesses and Matt has had his, and one of us is obviously right. While most of our friends all want to know what they're having for planning purposes, we both just REALLY didn't want to know until the baby was born. It was one of our most favorite parts about the pregnancy. We enjoyed teasing each other about his girl, or my boy. We've finally been sitting down and going through baby name books, trying to find both girl and boy's names that fit.

I couldn't contain my anger and I yelled at the doctor. I told her how thrilled I was at the sex of the baby, but how absolutely reprehensible it was for her to tell me. It's illegal here for them to tell me the sex. It never even crossed my mind to remind her again that I didn't want to know. By law, she wasn't supposed to tell me.

I stormed out of her office and I went to the registration counter where I told my PR contact how upset I was. Despite the fact that I'm an American, if she even remotely thought I wanted to know, she should have at least asked.

I called Matt on my way out of the hospital and cried. I cried so hard that he couldn't understand a word I said and had to wait until I calmed down enough to tell him what happened. He smartly reminded me that the medical personnel here is usually only right about 50% of the time, so there's still a chance that it could be the opposite of what the doctor told me. Which based on experience is very true.

I didn't tell him what the doctor said. Even if she is right, I still want him to enjoy the surprise. We're still coming up with names for both genders. I'm still going to buy plain white onesies to take with me to the hospital. And I'm still happy ... because regardless of the sex of the baby, in about 7.5 weeks our family will welcome a bouncing baby ******.

Don't even ask!



As we finish up one heck of a hectic week, it's no surprise that we're moving into an even crazier weekend. For some strange reason this always happens when we're gearing up to go out of town.

Here are the fragments of what's been happening...

Sheridan had two field trips this week ~ the first to a police station, the second to a doctor's office where they had an organized lesson on first aid. She was awfully confused why she never saw any fire trucks at the police station... and the only thing she could tell me she learned in first aid is to take medicine if she has a headache. Um... okay. Some things here are not worth explaining.

Riley had her karate belt exam on Tuesday, though I have no idea why she's testing after such a short amount of time. In fact, we missed three lessons while in Thailand. We should find out later this afternoon if she passed.

Libby the Lab has taken up a majority of my free time this week as I had to take her twice to the vet for issues with her hind leg. As you may remember, two weeks ago she had an infection, then last week she had to have her leg bandaged and wear the Elizabethan Collar, and this past weekend she stopped putting weight down on her left leg. On Wednesday I took her and he did an exam to see if there was any soft tissue damage. As he couldn't feel anything wrong with her leg, we had to come back today so he could take two x-rays... though she had to fast for the x-rays because he wasn't sure if he was going to need to sedate her. As I wasn't allowed to be in there while pregnant, my driver had to help the vet hold Libby down during the x-ray. They were able to take them un-sedated, so Velan held her front legs and the other assistant held her back ones.

The end result? It is very clear from the x-rays that Libby has ... Osteoarthritis. We're lucky to see that she has no hip dysplasia or any of the other signs of issues. The x-rays solidified our suspicions and now we can move into managing the pain. Medical Management of Osteoarthritis is the same in dogs as it is in humans... from weight management and exercise to disease modifying agents like Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Starting today she'll be on daily meds to control her arthritis, Glucosamine and Chondroitin, and if in the future she needs to have surgery to help relieve the bone on bone pain, we'll have it done. Here. For a quarter of the price in the States. Today's office visit - including x-rays and a month supply of liquid pain medication? $17.

Libby isn't the only one who's been going to the doctor. For the past few weeks I've been going to physical therapy for my sciatica. Why I never thought about going before is beyond me. It's been fantastic... once I got over the initial smell in the office. After 5 visits, the pain is minimal. And the cost? $10 / visit.

The girls and Matt have their third and final rabies shot today. I took Riley to get hers before school, and Matt will meet Sheridan in the health unit this afternoon to have theirs done together. Many people asked why we're having these shots done. With the amount of stray animals here... feral cats, dogs, cows, goats... it's much better to be on the safe side should something accidentally bite or scratch you.

This weekend we have parties, dinners, brunches, and soccer matches. Lots to do and so little time...

I'm not usually surprised anymore by anything I see around here. However, this definitely caught my eye. The guy is riding his motor scooter with 5 turkeys. Two of them are hanging by their feet on either side, and one is sitting on the seat with him. The girls thought this was the funniest thing they've seen in a long time.

Poor Libby getting her x-ray. While I wasn't allowed in the room, they certainly didn't take any additional precautions by closing the door... or having my driver wear one of the lead aprons. Go figure!


Happy Birthday Matt!

Today we celebrated Matt's 38th birthday. Nothing too exciting... a huge breakfast, a late lunch with good friends, and a night in watching some lame movie that "got good reviews." It was the perfect day to end the weekend.

Here are a few photos that the girls took of us. Notice Matt shaved off the crud on his face... even the girls were thrilled to see him facial-hair free!

Sheridan took the photo on the left - Riley took the one on the right

Here I am at 30 weeks pregnant. The side view is slightly different than straight on...


The Moustachio Bashio

Today marked the end of the 2nd Annual Moustachio Bashio contest. HOORAY and HALLELUJAH!

Last night Matt spent a good hour shaving and forming his moustache for today's lunchtime competition. I took photos of the before, during, and after... though had to stop many a time as I was laughing so hard that I was afraid I'd pee my pants (literally, not figuratively).

As a reminder, the rules for the contest were:

** Contestants must be clean shaven on Tuesday, February 17th, and have a "pre-growth" photo taken.

** No moustache-enhancing drugs will be allowed.

** Locals at the Consulate are encouraged to participate, but might be given a handicap considering their "natural" advantage.

The Categories that were judged:

** Best-in-show (The moustache that actually compliments the person's face)

** Best Tamil Film Star Moustache

** Men of Prodigious Growth

** Best Attempt

** Best 70's Movie Look Alike

** Best Misdirection of Growth

** Best Handle Bar

** Best Redneck Look Alike

** Best All Around Stache... 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place

I went to the Consulate today at lunchtime for the "Stache Viewing" and finally got to see all of the men who participated in the event. I was actually surprised at the turnout ~ a majority of the direct hire men working at the Consulate participated (and those who didn't this year, participated last year). There were moustaches in all stages of growth, and coiffed in many different shapes and forms. It was quite a site.

They announced the winners at a party this evening, and it's no surprise that Matt won an award for one of the categories... "Best Impersonation of a Redneck". I've started calling him Jeff...

My favorite part of the entire day? Later tonight... when Matt shaves the rest of the hair off! Don't get me wrong, I do like facial hair... just usually the 5 o'clock shadow kind. Matt looks great with a few days scruff... just not a few weeks.

Take a look below ~ I'll let you decide your favorites.

My Favorite Lumberjack ~ The BEFORE photos

Taking a break in the middle to see how a goatee looks

Lookout Jeff Foxworthy...

The Participants


Our First Indian Birthday Party

Tuesday night we went to a birthday party for our driver's son who turned 1. I had given him the day off so he could spend it with his family who drove in from his home village, about 6 hours away. A few of our friends were also invited the party, which helped us because we needed a ride to the party, and we now had people to mingle with. The day before the party Velan had a "serious" discussion with me and promised that he talked with his family and let them know that several "foreigners" would be attending and they needed to keep the staring and cheek-pinching to a minimum.... which they did... though they took oodles of pictures of us for most of the night.

Velan told me that the party would be a quick event; a blessing, singing happy birthday, and then cutting the cake. Um... not exactly. It was 7 pm before the cake was cut, and then we were informed that we needed to stay for dinner. Say what? Nobody ever told me about dinner. So after the obligatory photos (where you'll see I posted quite possibly the worst photo of me EVER taken in my entire life), we went downstairs, into this very hot room where rows and rows of tables and chairs were set up and dinner was to be served. Vegetarian biriyani rice, sauce of some sort, curdled sweet rice, onions, and some potato thingy that Matt liked were all nicely served on a banana leaf. With no utensils to be found.

So we ate with our hands. And drank the water that looked clean, though we still have no clue where it came from. And I let the girls eat as much ice cream and cake as they wanted, because I was hot, tired, and didn't want to hear them ask me one more time when dinner was going to be served.

We had a fun time. And my driver? Over the moon that we came to the party and celebrated with his family.

My driver Velan and his family... Cutting the cake with all the kids on the stage

The girls with their friends at the party ... Photo with our driver and his family

Riley actually ate a bit of the rice with her hands. Sheridan? She just devoured the cake.


Tap-Tap-Tap... "Is This Mic On?"

As we're in the final countdown until we leave for California (21 days folks!), our activities have increased to an all time high ... and blogging about them has sadly taken a back seat. Here's the latest with our travel plans, and other happenings in Chennai.

At 29+ weeks pregnant I'm feeling quite large and in charge. I am all baby, all in front, and look identical to how I did during Sheridan's pregnancy... which is throwing us for a loop when it comes to baby names. I have nothing to go on to sway me one way or another ... except for my gut feeling which has been wrong twice before. BUT, if I was a betting woman, I'd say this one's a boy. And for absolutely no other reason than I want a boy. Matt on the other hand thinks it's a girl ... and feels he'd be great with a third girl since he's mastered the color pink, is comfortable with Barbie dolls, and can hum the opening tune to Hannah Montana.

We have plans to depart India around March 30th and will stay in California until sometime in July... all depending on how quickly we can get the baby's documents in order: passport, diplomatic passport, social security number, visa, medical clearance... There's lots to do and we'll be pushing the envelope to get most of it completed while Matt is still in California with us. Speaking of Matt, he'll be joining us around Mother's Day (assuming I don't need him in town earlier), and staying for 5-6 weeks. Once he gets to town and acclimates to the time change, we'll be inducing... and not a day too soon!

We found a family here who's willing to take Libby while Matt is away, which is fantastic considering there are virtually no kennels here, or at least no kennels that we'd be willing to ever set foot in, let alone leave our dog for one-single-night. Hooray... that saves us from having to mull over the possibility of schlepping her with us to California for 6 weeks.

And speaking of Libby, or Lampshade Head as she's affectionately known in our house right now, she has another infection on her paws, most likely from allergies and the increasing temperatures/humidity. Our first veterinary visit last week lasted 30 minutes, where he identified the problem, gave her a good once-over, prescribed medication, and presented us with his bill... a whopping 150 Rupees - or $3! Our follow-up veterinary visit today was about 15 minutes where he did another check-up, realized that she wasn't healing, applied some serious looking goop to her paw, bandaged and wrapped up her paw, and sent us on our merry way. This time for a whopping 200 Rupees - or $4. And medications? Less than $5. Here's one area I just can't complain.

As for the rest of last week, it was spent ... at the dentist, at after school activities, running endless errands, taking the girls to round #2 of their rabies immunizations, going to both ladies poker night on Friday, and guys poker night on Saturday, taking the girls to a birthday party on Sunday, at the pool, and with Sheridan who didn't have school on either Thursday or Friday.

We have another packed week, which started tonight when we celebrated Purim with friends. We had a nice dinner where we read the Megillah and schmoozed over Hamantashen. Tomorrow night we have a birthday party to attend for our driver's son. Thankfully our friends were also invited and will be joining us at Stare-fest 2009... when all of the villagers pinch Sheridan's cheeks and oogle over us foreigners.

Until then... here's a photo of Lampshade Head. Can't you just feel her misery.


Serpico Wanna Be

Two weeks down... two weeks to go. Matt has grown more facial hair than I've ever seen (or care to ever again). He's itchy, he's irritated with it, but he's determined to finish the contest.

I got a chance to check out several of the other contestants this past weekend; my first real opportunity since the contest began. Most of the other guys are doing the same thing as Matt... growing out a beard until the last day and then cutting it into "just" a moustache. However, there are a few rogue contestants growing facial hair in all different shapes... like goatees, plain moustaches, and even mutton chops.

Here's the wild and woolly guy... all he needs to complete his outfit is a flannel shirt!

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