is the number of boxes of consumables that arrived today.... after only 2 months in transit. Hooray for processed American foods!! Thankfully nothing leaked, nothing broke, nothing spoiled... and the chips actually look pretty darn OK.

There's not much to say about the shipment except it took me several hours to organize the stuff and put it away as best I could in the pantry. There are a few odds and ends that I still need to do - including constructing the Ikea wine racks and stacking up the many, many bottles of wine just waiting for me to drink!

Oh I will... I surely will!

The 31 boxes ... the stuff unpacked around the dining room

Lots and lots of stuff...

Different angles of the same side of the pantry ... it was too narrow to get a full view

The other side of the pantry - view from right outside the door


Investing In My Future

I have come to the realization that I am on way too many committees. At last count, I have either volunteered or asked to be on the Board of Directors, the Commissary Committee, Elementary School Logistics Committee, the After School Activity Committee, and Room-Mom for Sheridan's class (which I'm sure I was asked as punishment...). Additionally, most of these committees are currently meeting every week. On top of the committees, I also attend monthly PTA meetings, monthly elementary parent coffees, the overseas women's group, weekly bridge lessons (where I embarrass myself with my meager attempt to understand the intricacies of bidding)... and I'm even at school two afternoons a week. Somewhere in all of this I have to make time for me too!

So today I started. I am now the proud owner of an iPhone 3G. I feel so grown up.

For the past few weeks, I had been going back and forth between the iPhone and Blackberry. Thankfully, several friends allowed me the wonderful opportunities to play with them, to really check them out. Traditional Blackberry, Blackberry Storm, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, unlocked iPhone - so many choices, so much technology, the never ending research. In the end the iPhone won, and I purchased it here rather than buying an unlocked iPhone in the States. Sure I paid a little more, but I felt better knowing I could walk into the iStore here and have them help me with anything at anytime. Let's face it - it's pretty darn fabulous that it syncs with my iMac and all of my information. I invested in convenience. And who am I kidding? I wanted to be in the "in crowd"... one of the cool kids.

As I am technologically unsavvy, I'd like to at least maximize my minimal knowledge. Any of you who have iPhones, send over your tips, your advice, your thoughts...


Welcome To My World

Matt had the opportunity to experience what my world is like this past weekend, and quickly realized that he's not ready to be a full time "manny".

On Friday afternoon we packed up the family truckster and drove south to the GRT Temple Bay Resort, in Mamallapuram, where I attended the annual three-day AISC School Board retreat. Oh yeah, I did mention that I was recently appointed to the Board of Directors by the Consular General at the US Consulate, right? Since this two year commitment to the board is unpaid, a lot of work, and a totally thankless job, the Head of School holds the retreat at this Chennice resort so the families can hang out by the pool and enjoy the weekend for free while their spouse is pent up in a board room on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. To lessen the burden on Matt watching all three kids by himself, we asked our friend's 12 year old daughter to come with us and take care of the girls. She was responsible for bathroom duty, helping them get dressed, watching them in the pool, and mealtime. She also shared a room with them, and babysat them while we were at dinner. In short, she was amazing, a lifesaver, a total relief. She left Matt completely free to take care of Grady. Take a wild guess how well THAT went.

The baby was a little off this weekend... not quite himself. He didn't nap very well, he didn't eat when he should have, he was perpetually cranky... and so was Matt. Now don't get me wrong, he is a fabulous father, amazingly patient at times when I would totally lose my cool. But taking care of the baby is SO not his thing. Sure he loves Grady. But he much prefers the kids when they're old enough to engage in activities, communicate, walk, talk, and poop on their own.

There's no sense in detailing the entire weekend, so let's just recap it one sentence by saying that everyone (aka Matt) survived and is no worse for wear. The girls had a blast being with Holli, and Matt now has a much greater appreciation for my ability to juggle just about everything. Much, much greater...

Here are a few photos of the weekend.

Grady hanging out around the infinity pool - overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Tough life, eh?

The girls swimming in the largest pool I've ever seen!
It took Matt over 3 minutes to swim from end to end.


I've Misplaced My Mojo

Despite living in Chennai for over a year now, I find that I'm still struggling to find my place... trying to figure out where I fit in.

I left towards the end of last school year, at a fairly critical time last year when comfort levels were high and inhibitions low. I was finally aware of where I belonged amongst the cheeky Brits, the Consulate crowd, the non-Consulate group, the moms at the school. I was in a groove. I made some close friendships with a small group of women... friendships that maintained and became stronger despite my 3.5 month absence, missing the end of the year parties, and summer cycle turnover.

But now that I'm back there's a small emptiness. A lack of community feeling. A gap that I'm trying to fill with endless committees, School Board responsibilities, room parent opportunities, and the overseas women's group.

This year's Consulate turnover sent several families to new locations, and brought in very few. Four families to be exact... though none of them with girls. So sadly, no girls playmates = no mommy playmates. For the most part. Sure we try to get together, but when Riley and Sheridan want to dress up like princesses and run around in high heels, usually the boys want to hit them with their light sabers, and play with boy stuff (which I'm ever so slowly learning about for the future!). And honestly, I can't fault them. It's just frustrating.

Initiating friendships is exciting. Putting yourself out there is often exposing. One sided relationships are exhausting. But what takes the cake is attempting to make friends with people who clearly don't want any more than a casual "hello/goodbye" connection. I'm clearly a slow learner on this one... though I am getting tired of trying.

I am very, very blessed with the few close friends we have here ... a great group of ladies and families who we see on a regular basis. I'm lucky that I can pick up a phone, send a text, shoot an e-mail. It's easy.

So why is making new friends this year is so darn hard. Is it me? Do I smell? Am I too short? Are my feet too dirty? Am I too opinionated (wait... don't answer that one). At some point soon I need to stop trying and move on. I just haven't figured out the right combo of putting myself out there and letting whatever is... just be. It's distressing because it's never been this difficult at a post.

Until I figure it out, I'll be here. Looking. Searching. Trying to find where I misplaced my Mojo.... or at least where I can bargain for a new one.


Casa de Perlman Take 2

So here she is in all her glory. Case de Perlman is finally available for viewing!

It was a LONG time coming, but so worth the wait! We've known we were going to be moving for about 5 months, we just didn't talk about it until the paperwork was finalized. And even after everything was signed, sealed, and ready to go, we STILL moved into a different house... though in the same neighborhood.

It's amazing what living in a house you like really does for your psyche. With two more years to go, our new abode is proving to be a much better fit for our family. It offers us more space, a larger yard, walking distance from the swimming pool, and closer proximity to the school. In fact, the girls went from the first pick up on the school bus to the last.

Additionally, the house provides a wider drive way for the girls to ride their new razor scooters, which they adore. It's also helping keep Johnson & Johnson in business as the girls have gone through well over a box of Band Aids this past week learning how to balance. Thankfully, bloody knees, toes, and a few bruised tushies aren't keeping these girlies from getting up at the crack of dawn to get their skate on.

With all this concrete, it makes for the Perlman mode of communication (aka screaming and yelling) obsolete. We've had to resort to using small walkie talkies in each of the main rooms to summon the girls throughout the day. And remarkably, due to the cone of silence that is our bedroom, Grady has lately been "sleeping through the night"...

On a side note, we do find it curious that despite all this added space that Grady has the largest bathroom and we have the smallest master bath we've ever experienced. In fact, Matt jokes that he can brush his teeth, close the door, and shower all while seated on the toilet. It makes an airline bathroom look palatial.

While the house is unpacked and the boxes are gone, we still have a ways to go to give it that "lived-in" look. We've hung photos and pictures in many of the rooms, but we still have several more to go. We're waiting for new rugs to be delivered later this week, which will give the downstairs living room and dining room a less sterile feeling. And we eventually have to change the "loud" curtains which are a different color in every room. For the most part, while there are some idiosyncrasies of the house, we really can't complain.... After one year in Chennai, we finally feel like we're at home.

So come take a peek at our new place. But take your shoes off first, the new maid just cleaned the floor.

The house... and side yard

Left: The Unfurnished Sunroom ... Right: Matt's workout room

Left: The office ... Right: The kitchen

Left: The dining room ... Right: Living Room

Left: The Girls Bedroom ... Right: Grady's Room

Front and back view of the kids playroom

Different views of the master bedroom

Different views of the sitting room upstairs


Where Has The Time Gone?

I can't believe it, but little munchkin man is already 3 months old. Seriously, the time just flew by right before my very eyes. Grady, or baby Gray as he's fondly called by his sisters, is now 13 weeks 3 days old ... one trimester of pregnancy.... one quarter of a year!

At 3 months old Grady is now...

* rolling over from his back to his front

* scooting across his crib, spinning 180 degrees around

* cooing, gurgling, smiling on command

* virtually sleeping thru the night ... most nights from around 8 ish 'til 7 am

* sleeping ONLY on his stomach

* waving his arms around and grabbing at the toys on his bouncy seat

* holding his head up

* eating us out of house and home!

At last measurement, Grady was weighing in over 15 pounds and almost 26 inches long... just about too long for 3-6 month pajamas! He's a sweet little guy who looks like a spitting image of his daddy... and so completely resembles his big sister Sheridan. Oye I need to watch out!


Happy Days Are Here Again

We are completely moved into our new house.... Yippee!

We are unpacked and are totally settled in.... Yeah baby....

The girls started school yesterday.... Halle-flipping-lujah!

And most importantly...

We have internet......... Thank Goodness!

These past 10 days have been more than a bit of a blur. From packing and moving to unpacking and dealing with the insane amount of maintenance issues, I am SO ready to get on with our lives. Moving with 3 kids who aren't in school or camp, and who don't want to stay with the brand new maid is quite difficult. Add in the fact that one of those kids is a new munchkin who needs more than a scoop or two of stale Puffins cereal that we found in the back of the pantry (hey don't judge... you'd serve it too if that was all that you had) and a cup of long life milk, and you've found a recipe for disaster.

So much to say about our move. So many stories about the smelly army of Indian men who have been traipsing through our house for the past 10 days. So many pictures to share!

But it's late. And I'm wiped out. It will have to wait until tomorrow. Until then, here are a few photos of the girls from yesterday ... their first day of school. Freedom at its finest!


Gone Movin'

We got the keys last Friday and the movers finally came yesterday. The time has now come for us to move into our new home.

I am neck deep in boxes, sweaty Indian men, and chaos... and after I pack up this computer, I will also be without internet until it gets hooked up in our new home (which was supposed to be two days ago... though I'm sure it'll be at least another week).

Hopefully the next time you hear from me I'll have photos to show you... 'cuz you KNOW that by the end of the weekend there won't be a moving box, piece of tape, or bubble wrap in sight!

Until then... wish me only pleasant scented thoughts!


Maid To Order

There are very few things I enjoy less than interviewing for a maid... like getting my teeth drilled without Novocaine. Add interviewing a maid here in India, where the command of the English language ranges from a head bob and deer in the headlights stare, to the "yes ma'am-er" who truly has no idea what you're saying, to someone who has a fairly reasonable grasp of basic English, and by the end of it you'll WANT to get your teeth drilled without Novocaine just to numb the pain.

I have been interviewing maids for the past two weeks since the one I thought I hired didn't work out for a myriad of reasons that don't really matter at this point. Bygones. However, at this late in the summer, most of the maids in the circuit have already either started working for their new families or have been promised to an incoming family who hasn't yet arrived. So the few who are left are not the creme de la creme. They're the creme de la crap.

Usually before a new family overcomes jet lag they have knocks on their gates with maids galore soliciting their services. Maids here are not just a luxury, they're a necessity. Big houses with tile or marble floors need to be swept and mopped on a daily basis due to the filth brought in from the dirt on the streets. Fruit and vegetables need to be washed and bleached for at least 15 minutes before eating or using. Laundry and ironing for a family of 5 is overwhelming. Shopping at the market is not a treat its' a chore. Kids need to be babysat. And let's face it, if you were paying around $175 per month for a full time maid (approx 45 hours per week), wouldn't you welcome the help?

After asking my driver to help locate any available maids, literally within hours his phone was ringing off the hook. Maids from all over Chennai were calling because they heard his "madame" was in need of help. I asked him to perform the initial screening and find out a) if the maids could speak, read, and write English and b) do they cook and if so, can they cook Western foods and c) where they live and d) who they've worked for. In all he's spoken to at least 15 maids and nixed 90% of them before having them come to the house to meet me. Additionally to my driver's network, a friend referred an domestic staff agency, who also suggested a few maids for me to interview.

So last week these maids began coming over to meet me. In they came and out they went, none of them lasting inside more than a few minutes before I knew that there was no love connection. One maid came with references stating that she could speak and read English, yet she brought a translator. When I asked her if she could cook and what types of Western dishes she could cook all she could muster was a meek, "yes." And when I probed and asked what Western dishes she could cook she just replied, "yes." I finally point blank told her that I wasn't interested and thanks for coming by, and what do you think she said... "yes." I poured myself a glass of wine right after she left. Another maid who I really liked was afraid of dogs. She told me so when she came face to face with my 75-pound ball of fur, though she quickly composed herself and said she'd be fine once she got used to her. I was all ready to hire her when on the day she started she asked if I'd lock up the dog. I seriously asked her to leave right then and there. No... seriously.

Late Friday afternoon I met with someone who finally had potential. The agency sent her over and her reference letters were on par. Her English was good, she never hesitated in her answers, and she was eager to work. Most importantly, she wasn't involved with what Matt refers to as the so-called "maid mafia" (the powerful subculture of household domestic staff) as her family just moved back here from Delhi. Immediately after she left I called her previous employer in Delhi who gave her a more than fair review.

She started today. Let me rephrase that, she tried out today. I wanted her to show me how she cleans, how she irons and folds laundry, how she takes care of a kitchen. After a long day, I can honestly say that if we permanently hire her there will be a learning curve. She didn't know how to use my vacuum cleaner, and after watching her attempt to vacuum the area rug with the nozzle used for sucking up the corners, well... I had a good chuckle. But she cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms well, she really made a good attempt to suck up as much dog hair as humanly possible, and Matt gave her a passing grade on the folded laundry and ironing. The only thing she's lacking is having a good repertoire of Western cooking. However, she can read a recipe and she's willing to try, which is more than I can say for most of the maids I interviewed. She's about an 80%... she's "Chennice" (nice for Chennai).

With all of this frustration, it's times like these I really miss Swan.


The Post Where I Tell You That I'm Not Going To Apologize For Writing What I Write

For the past few weeks I've been struggling with the drastic decision of locking my blog, making it private, and returning it to what it originally was... an intimate journal of our family's experiences and chaotic lifestyle overseas.

"Um..... isn't that what it already is?"

Well, yes. It is. But over the past few years it's become more than that. Let me start at the beginning and bring everyone up to speed on how The Perlman Update came to life.

In 2003, Matt schlepped me, our 5 month old daughter, and our 2 year old Labrador Retriever to Muscat, Oman for our first overseas tour. Family and friends e-mailed us on a daily basis with questions up the wazoo.... "How are you handling the heat?" "What are the grocery stores like?" "Do they have a Starbucks?" As the internet speed was dial-up and as slow as molasses in January, it was far easier to type up one e-mail and send it out to everyone via a distribution list. And as easy as that, The Perlman Update was born.

Every few weeks I would type up a long e-mail detailing all the things we'd done, trips we took, and answers to what it was like to live overseas.

And I continued that for 4.5 years.

Until halfway through our second overseas post in Israel when I realized that composing these long e-mails was no longer fun. They were beginning to become a chore, they took forever, and I despised writing them. Why was I taking the time to pump these updates out? Did people really miss them when they didn't get them? Well, I found out they did. Whenever I took a break from writing, I would receive e-mail after e-mail asking when the next update was coming. I clearly needed to change my mindset and look into alternate ways to send out updates.

Then I discovered blogging.

A few friends of mine were doing it, and it looked easy enough. Why not give it a try? So on March 31, 2007, my first blog was published.

At first my blog was only read by family and friends. In fact, most of them signed up for the feedburner updates and to this day don't even go to my blog, let alone understand that when they receive The Perlman Update e-mails that they can check out links I've attached in the blog by clicking on the bold, blue words...

Over time my blog readership increased. I added my blog onto some expat sites, I put my name in a few blog directories, I linked up with other foreign service bloggers, I began reading expat blogs, mom blogs, fertility blogs, friend's blogs, photography blogs and the like. And I was even a featured blog on SITS. Google "anti thumb sucking" and you'll see my blog pop right up on the first page. Same goes if you type in "Miss June 2008".

With greater exposure, my blog's readership has grown exponentially. On any given week I receive e-mails about my blog. Requests to advertise, to review products, and moreover, questions about being a trailing spouse in the foreign service. I now have, dare I say, a fan base? However, this adulation does not come without costs. In the recent months I've come to realize I am the victim of my own success. Excuse me... I just vomited a little in my mouth after saying that... Because unfortunately, I'm now finding myself having to check myself, and be more politically correct in order not to offend.

The fact is that this blog was, and still is, a diary of sorts. A place for me to write down the day to day stuff that we do overseas. A journal for me to tell funny stories about the kids or scenarios that happen here in India. An outlet to vent about my frustrations of foreign service life, or express my feelings about certain situations. This space is mine.

Yet... lately I've been struggling with sharing my thoughts. I've curbed my comments, I've moderated my editorializing. I've noticed that I don't post as often as I'd like or even on topics I'd usually share. I haven't written about the sordid details of my maid situation, I haven't kvelled about our new house that we started moving into, I haven't made mention of the lack of community spirit I've sometimes felt here at post.

So I had to come to a big decision. Either I make this blog private for just family and friends, or I give a big blanket warning to all who read this now and in the future.... that this is my space, my blog, my perspective.

I chose the latter. Consequently, everything you read here WILL be one-sided. All accounts will be from my point of view. While I don't mean to offend anyone with my posts, I probably have in the past, and most likely will again in the future.

Its raw. It's real. It's never ordinary. Welcome to The Perlman Update. I write because it's cheaper than therapy.

BTW ... Matt thinks I should upload all of the e-mail updates to the blog that I wrote for the 4.5 years prior to posting on the web. There's probably 75 of them or so. What do you think. Should I? Here is my very first update I sent out back in 2003...

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