I Got My Hall Pass

The girls came home from school today with the piece of paper I've anxiously been awaiting these past few weeks. The piece of paper that lets me saunter into the girls school with my head held high. The piece of paper that finally allows me to volunteer every week in the classrooms or on the field trips. The piece of paper that states I'm TB free ... and I'm not a registered sex offender.

I've had Embassy security badges that came through faster than this clearance. However, while a small part of me rolls my eyes into the back of my head when I think about the steps I had to take to get myself cleared to volunteer at the school ... submitting my yellow immunization card showing that I had a recent TB test, photo copying my driver's license, signing a form stating that I'm not a registered sex offender, and agreeing to have a background check completed ... another part of me appreciates that the district is making the effort to ensure the kids are safe around me.

Honestly though, they should probably worry more about my OCD with cleanliness and structure than my communicable diseases. I don't plan on sharing blood, and I already know the rules about hugging or kissing, even if it IS my own kid in the classroom.

As the spouse to a Federal Agent, whose career is primarily based around security, I have a heightened awareness of security. Almost to a fault.

In all of our overseas postings, we had to unfortunately be more concerned about terrorism than pedophilia. Matt's office routinely worked with the preschools and International Schools to ensure the safety of all children enrolled. Some overseas schools inherently understood the importance of security (Oman and Israel), while others remarkably just didn't get it (Chennai). In fact, some overseas schools should probably adopt some of the more stringent requirements that we're doing here in Southern California, not only for the parents, but more importantly for its staff as well ... including things like hiring a security manager who focuses on safety rather than on allegedly schtupping nannies in his office. Though I digress...

Despite my sarcasm about these rules for what I call "window dressing" security, I'm happy to follow along. Because everyone knows that once I'm comfortable, not only will I get more involved, I'll even begin to vocalize my thoughts about where the school should focus their security efforts. Like putting a fence around their sandy playground, or devising a safer and more organized drop off / pick up where kids aren't strewn about the front and side of the school. I care, therefore I offer my opinion.

Just don't ask me to join the PTA.


Have You Had "The Talk?"

I had "the talk" with the girls tonight. The super intense, scare the cr*p out of them, make them cry talk. You know the one, where you furrow your brow a lot and remind them that this isn't funny and you are serious. No, we didn't have THAT talk, where we'd one day have to use phrases like "front-tushie" and "yes, one day you will want to touch that..." No, our dinner conversation was far worse.

We talked about Stranger Danger.

My girls apparently live in la-la land where they think everyone is great and they don't need to worry about anyone or anything. They meander away from me in the stores. They chit chat with everyone they encounter, especially if they have a dog. They don't even bother to look both ways when they cross a street ... for they'd never get hit. The girls just don't understand that there are a different set of rules for them now that we live in the States.

Rules like ...

... We must always wear a seat belt ...even though we'd often smush as many kids into a car as possible, regardless of whether or not we had enough car seats to go around. Or any for that matter.

... The girls must always stay by my side when we go into stores ... ignoring that in all three countries we've lived we could leave the kids in the car or let the kids play in one store while we went into another ... or another ... or another. Because while I may not be able to see them, the shop keeper, or other shoppers could. And, yes, that was normal.

... Don't talk to strangers. If I don't know them, they're a stranger. Yes, even if you know the dog and I don't know the owner, they're a stranger. Yes, even if they tell you that they know me, if I tell you I don't know them, they're a stranger. And yes, even if someone approaches you and tells you that they know me, don't believe them, because if you haven't seen me talking to them, chances are, I don't know them, and they're strangers. Yes Riley, they ARE strangers, even if I nod my head to them as we walk by them at the park or on a bike ride. Yes Sheridan, they ARE strangers even if they come to the door and ask to pet Libby while I'm taking a shower. WT?? Yes Sheridan, they ARE strangers. Will you stop asking me #$#!@#$%&*# questions.

... Knowing our address and phone number is key.... even though all the girls needed to do was tell someone, anyone they were with the US Embassy or Consulate and they'd all know who they were. Or where they lived. Even if the girls themselves didn't know.

Surprisingly, the girls do know my cell number. And our address. Whew! Two fewer things I need to worry about right now. Because not only do I worry about the crazies out there, I also worry that the girls wouldn't know what to do or who to call in case of an emergency.

So we ran through scenarios and talked about what to do if something (goodness forbid) ever happened to me while we were all home alone. We talked about whose house to go to, what neighbors to bother, and how to scream for help.

I even, dare I say it, showed both of them how to open up my iPhone, and how to dial 911. Just in case.

Though now I don't just worry about strangers. I worry about Sheridan prank calling 911.


Mish Mosh Monday ...

... brought to you on Tuesday. Such is the story of our life right now. Just go with it, OK?

Here is the latest that's been happening in our neck of the woods...

* I picked up my new iPhone 4 on Tuesday and I am in love. It is much faster than my iPhone 3, it has a video camera, and it only cost me an elbow and a calf... Of course I had to also purchase the Apple Protection Plan, because it's not just protection in case I drop the phone, it's protection for when I drop it.

* The girls had a birthday party to attend on Thursday and because we arrived late (due to after school activities), I decided against bringing their bathing suits. Of course, they were the ONLY kids without their bathing suits, so they just jumped in the water with their clothes on. No big deal right? Except the ocean is FREEZING, and I didn't bring towels either..

* I got another Brazilian Blowout on Friday. Let's have a big yay for spending a few minutes (or hours) trying to make me look (and feel) pretty.

* Friday continued to have its moments ... like when I had a meltdown in front of my neighbor for no apparent reason, AND when Sheridan fell out of the neighbor's tree. She was nicely scraped up, though the worst thing she hurt was her pride.

* Sheridan continued having a great weekend when she spiked a high fever, thus keeping us inside on what was probably THE nicest weekend all summer. To add insult to injury, we have no air conditioning in our house. Which wouldn't be bad if there was a breeze of any kind. But there isn't. At all. It's 90 degrees IN our house right now. I think we may shed a few pounds sweating to the oldies...

* Grady and I have done a whole lot of schlepping around and running errands. Every ... single ... day. It's to the point where the checkers at Target and Ikea probably know my name. I'm really ready to be done fixing up the house and start living in it...

* We're gearing up for a weekend with my folks when they come down for my cousin's Bat Mitzvah party.

* We're making plans for Matt's first R&R scheduled for mid November.

And one of these days we're hoping to hear about our next posting ...


A Sunday Night Public Service Announcement

When you have no other choice but to go with AT&T wireless service because you have an unlocked iPhone from India, be very aware of which type of AT&T store you go, because yes, there IS a difference between the authorized dealer and the service center.

When you attempt to sync your iPhone with your iMac that you finally set up in your rental home, be aware that your unlocked phone will lock up, and you won't be able to use it anymore. Remember this dingbat, a locked phone is a locked phone ... and only works in the country in which it was purchased.

You'll thank yourself later that you went to the Apple store immediately in your gnarly clothes with smudged mascara, ratty hair, and 3 starving kids because they wait on you quickly in hopes that you'll soon leave their store. And though they really want to help you but can't due to proprietary software, they will tell you under their breath that their good friend Mr. Google can help fix the problem.

You may ponder for a brief moment or two about spending your few available minutes at home trying to figure out exactly how your new friend Mr. Google may be able to fix said problem. Or you'll quickly come to your senses and just ask how much money it costs to upgrade to the new iPhone 4. Because that's what you really want anyway.

You'll then drive to an AT&T service center to beg and plead with them to give you the upgraded phone even though you've been told you're not eligible for another 13 months ... only to discover that you ARE eligible ... except the AT&T authorized dealer signed you up incorrectly. When you come with your own hardware, you are able to sign up for a month-to-month contract, and aren't required to have a two-year contract.

So you'll then drive your unbelievably happy a** back to the original place you signed up for your service (because the service center has NO access to the authorized dealer's original information) and have an utter and complete meltdown in their store. You'll demand they change your contract. You'll demand it's taken care of immediately. You'll demand they give you a loaner phone while the contract takes 48-72 hour to change.

And you'll let your kids play with every single phone, case, and accessory in the place while they're fixing the problem. Then you'll feed them ice cream for lunch.


It's Not Often Things Surprise Me ...

... but two things happened this week that have helped restore my faith in people. And frankly? They couldn't have come at a better time, for I was really ready to throw in the towel after these latest episodes.

Let me just recap some of the stuff that I neglected to mention...

* The dog had a bit of a tummy issue and took a cr*p IN the house. And not a cute little turd that I could easily scoop up and toss out. No, she had massive diarrhea on the one and only area rug that we have in the house.

* My neighbor invited me to stop by and met a few of her mom friends from the school, which I did and thought that I was chatty and friendly with everyone . However, when I asked one of the ladies if she wanted to get together sometime, she said, "she didn't think so."

* On Monday, I emailed a mom of one of the girls in Sheridan's class and asked her if her daughter wanted to come over for a play date on Wednesday. She waited until late Tuesday evening to tell me that she didn't think it was a good idea, and that maybe we could reconsider next month.

* I was putting together a cheap desk from Ikea, when I wasn't paying any attention to the screw I grabbed and managed to put a nice big hole in the front of the drawer. Of course, it isn't just a small, round hole from the screw. No, this is crumbly particle board, and the hole is the size of a quarter.

* Libby escaped from our yard, and I didn't notice it immediately. OK, I didn't notice it for at least five minutes. Maybe ten. So I had to rush outside to locate her. Which I did. While barefoot. In my PJ's. Without a bra. Two blocks away in the park. Across the street. Where she pooped. And I didn't have a bag.

While any one of these things would have made me see stars, to have them, and the other previously mentioned issues, all happen within the last week was almost too much to handle.

Until these little gems sparkled in the sky .... On Wednesday, Riley had a great play date at her buddy's house. AND Sheridan's shoes were returned to her today.

It's far too convoluted to go into the details of how each of these positive outcomes came to be. So I won't. But I'll show you an excerpt of the email conversation that her buddy's mom and I had after I diplomatically told her what happened.

"I was awake in the middle of the night thinking of the conversation. I do recall (not during our phone conversation because I was so embarrassed) that (her buddy) had told me she was running around following Riley and trying to "keep track of her" or whatever her choice of words were - she took her job very seriously :) (lol)... I remember that I told (her buddy) she did not have to follow Riley around and that if she found other friends to play with that was great but that she didn't have to chase her around and if Riley wanted to play with other girls other than her (and Trish) that was ok too. We just didn't want her to be alone. So, I am partly to blame for the words that (her buddy) chose to use. I am so sorry that Riley had her feelings hurt. That bums me out. Anyhow, it is in the past. Please know that you are welcome to come to me anytime."

When the mom explained the story, I couldn't help but agree that it was entirely a misunderstanding, and what her buddy said to her was NOT what she meant. While I was extremely uncomfortable talking with the mom about this (which I hadn't planned on bringing up, but she called to follow up and find out how Riley was doing), I'm so glad I did. Twenty minutes on the phone and several apologetic emails between us and we're all on the same page. With a birthday party invitation too!

As for Sheridan's shoes, the scenario played out exactly as I had questioned. A father, not knowing what his own daughter's shoes looked like, helped grab his kindergartner's shoes, put them on, and walked out of the skating rink. When the principal (who I told once we noticed the shoes went missing) walked around the school late Thursday holding a pair of the same size shoes that were left behind at the skating rink, someone noticed them. And she tracked down the little girl, confirmed what happened, and called the girls father. Who embarrassingly brought them to school today.

Which was GREAT. Except I had already ordered Sheridan a new pair of shoes.

Just when I thought I was catching a break...


Roller Rinks Are Still So 1980's ...

The last time I went roller skating was in September, 1994. I was a senior in college. We had just been assigned our little sisters in the sorority and we were all going out to celebrate!? The music at the rink was loud, with dimmed lights, and a disco ball illuminating the floor. If I remember correctly we were all dressed in clothes from the 1980's.

Last night I took the girls roller skating for the school's first PTA fundraiser. Not much has changed since 1994. Same loud music. Same games. Same cheesy guy in acid washed jeans, with a tank top and long hair. Same obligatory kid with a rockin' Afro.

The girls went skating once over the summer, though from the way they talked about their abilities, you'd have thought they were Dorothy Hamill's in the making. However, after just lacing their shoes I quickly realized that they must have been smoking the same thing I did the last time I went roller skating. They far exaggerated their skills.

I spent almost an hour holding Sheridan up, picking her off the floor, or attempting to calm her down when she threw several Emmy award winning fits because she didn't want me to help her. To add insult to injury, she was so out of sorts that she had a potty accident, and I didn't have extra clothes.

But this was all just the build up to the crescendo, where I sadly discovered that somebody took Sheridan's shoes. Her brand new Skecher twinkle toes that I couldn't find in the stores, so I had to special order online. The ones she's worn every day since school's started. Yeah, those shoes.

We're hoping that it was a mistake. That it was a case of mistaken identity, whereby they were taken by a young girl probably escorted by her father (who probably had no idea what his daughter's shoes looked like to even notice that they weren't the right ones), and they one day turn up. Wishful thinking, right? I'm not holding my breath.

Despite all the frustrations, the girls actually had a great time skating. It's just too bad that the extra money I spent on new shoes couldn't go towards the PTA. Next time I'll save myself the agita and just give a donation.


Our Cottage Bungalow. It's Cute. It's Quaint. It's Cozy.

Over the past seven years I've walked you through our previous houses in Oman, Israel, and in India. Though back then I usually had trouble limiting the number of pictures I was going to post due to the expansive size our homes.

This rental house? Not so much trouble at all.

Don't get me wrong. I like it a lot. It's just cozy... which in the real estate business doesn't just mean small, it means, ohmygawdthisplaceissofreakintinyitsinsane.

On a good day, this house is maybe 1000 square feet. Not that I'm complaining too much because, hey, I'm cleaning it myself. But when four people have to go to the bathroom at the same time, I can at least tell one of them to go in his pants... the rest of us have to wait our turn and do the potty dance together.

I took the house sight unseen because after finally deciding what I was looking for (a 9-month lease, fully furnished, had to accommodate the dog, had an attached garage, and was in a community where the kids could ride their bikes), the pickings were very slim. In fact, the only area where I could find a house like this was wayyyyyy down on the Newport Peninsula. Ten miles past BFE. After looking at the realtor websites, Craigslist, and on VRBO, my in-laws ran into a neighbor and local realtor who owned this house and was looking for a winter cycle tenant. When I spoke to her, she said she was thrilled to have a nice family living in her home, and not only did she accommodate all my needs, but she significantly lowered the monthly rent. As it was getting close to our departure time from India, I needed to have everything relatively squared away before our packout and move, and I was sold.

However, I was also sold a small bill of goods.

The house, which was supposed to be a fully furnished 3 bedroom, 2 bath, is not exactly that. Yes, it technically has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but the third and second are more of a guest house in back. Detached from the house. As in, you have to walk through the kitchen door, go outside, down a step and walk about 6 feet to the door, that you then unlock to go into the third. A room that I'm clearly not having any of us sleep in. Because you can't hear a thing. I was also under the impression that fully furnished meant that the kitchen and bathroom were fully stocked. As in, the kitchen had a variety of cooking utensils, pots and pans, and the bathroom ... well, I'd just be happy if it had two hand towels.

So instead of having room to spread out, I now have the kids all bunking in one room, I'm in the other, and we're sharing a bathroom. It's rather cozy. And I've spent more money this week stocking the house at Target than I probably would have spent if I moved into a year lease and had all my stuff shipped in from India. Bygones.

But at least I only have to clean one toilet. Remember, I don't do toilets.

This is the view when you walk inside the house.
This is the entire house.
Don't blink. You may miss part of the house.
And yes, those are cans on the couches. To keep the dog off.
We leave them on all the time. We're klassy that way.

The kitchen. With my BOB outside.
And my Viking range.
Yes, it is a Viking range. And I am in heaven.

My bedroom. Our bathroom.
Though with the amount of times the kids come into my room at night
I should also classify it as "our" room.

The kids room. They love the bunk beds.
Grady loves sleeping in his pack n' play. He's comfy'ish
Libby has her own area too. Smack dab in the middle of the house.
To watch over everyone. Or coat them in dog hair.


I Discovered A Way To Buy Myself Time...

... Literally

The girls weren't the only ones who started school this week. This cutie patootie started as well. Three half-days a week. Thirteen and a half precious hours ... (insert jazz hands here). Of course, when you subtract the time it takes me to schlep him there and back, it's really only about twelve hours.

I'm still not complaining.

With three kids and no husband around to offer any relief, I really needed to give myself a few hours of alone time. To go grocery shopping. To clean the house. To prepare dinner. To shower and take a cr*p by MYSELF.

I needed it. And he needed it as well.

Both the girls started preschools when they were Gray's age, though neither of them acclimated as well as he did this past week. He walked right in, sat on one of their little seats, gave me the hand and told me to be on my way. No crying. No issues. Nothing. Not even when I snapped a bevy of cr*ppy photos of him on my iPhone. Because I forgot my camera. He just ignored me. Like his sisters.

So far, so good. This place is a great fit.

And I now have time.

Eating breakfast before "school"

His classroom - look how LARGE it is!

Most kids stay for the day - and they have nap time.
I couldn't resist snapping photos of these little cuties taking a snooze.
They play so hard they are tuckered out!


P P P Poker Face P P Poker Face

I lie to my kids. Not all the time. But sometimes. When I need to. Because sometimes the truth is just too much to understand when you're seven years old. Sometimes the truth is just as hard to understand when you're thirty-seven years old.

I cried for my extremely sensitive seven year old tonight. I lied to my daughter so I didn't have to explain to her that girls can be catty. And sometimes, mean girls just suck.

Today, the little girl who Riley was paired up with to show her around the school, introduce her to the kids, to be her support buddy, told her at lunchtime that she should start making her own friends and play with them instead.

She was crushed.

I don't want to be that mom. The helicopter mom, who hovers over her child and tries to fix every little hurt feeling and problem. But it's hard when your daughter is crying and telling you that she really likes that little girl and doesn't understand why she doesn't like her back.

The reality is, we inflicted this transition on her. Again. We made her the new kid. Again. For the third time in three years.

The State Department does its best to ease families through the transition of moving to each overseas posting by providing the same ugly-as-sin Drexel furniture. They have sponsors. They have hail and farewell parties, coffees, and BBQs to meet the families at the new post.

Now that we're Stateside? Living outside of the DC area? We are on. our. own. Without any help to set up our home (that we have to find). Without support from a Community Liaison Officer. And right now, without Matt.

I cried for Riley today because I know how hard it is to be the new kid in town. To be the new mom in the neighborhood. Like her, I've done it three times in the past three years too. And it sucks. It's hard. Though I always try to put on a happy face and be as cheery as I can when meeting new people, I too get lonely. I wish I had a few good friends to play with regularly as well. I wish I was invited out for coffees. And over for Tupperware parties. And off to shop at Fashion Island. My loneliness is compounded because I don't have Matt here at night. He's not around to help heal the children's wounds. Or mine.

I really wanted to tell Riley, "Screw that little girl. You're too good for her anyway." Instead, I channeled my inner Lady Gaga and talked through what her buddy said to her and all the different possibilities of what she said could have meant. I gave her ideas of what she could say to her tomorrow (none of which include any four letter words, thankyouverymuch). And we talked about what to do if her buddy really meant what she said.

In the end I reminded her that it takes time to make friends, what a cool chickadee she is, and anyone who wants to be friends with her, will be. For just like me, her loyalty to her friends is fierce. Once she makes them, she holds onto them. Forever.

In the meantime I need to take my own advice. And pray that things happen sooner than later. For both of us. Because I need a new game. I suck at poker.


New Beginnings (Alternate Title ... They've FINALLY Started School)

The girls started school yesterday. Thank the sweet lord. After almost thirteen weeks of togetherness, they needed to go back. They needed a new routine. They needed to get out of my hair.

Let's be honest. I love my girlies. Just as much as anyone else. Maybe even more. *wink* But holy heck, we had a long summer. Filled with amazing adventures. Lots of moving around. Big changes.

It was time. Time for the girls to make friends. To build roots. To play and not worry about anything.

And yes, it was also time for this mom to have a minute to herself.

Aren't they adorable in their new outfits from Children's Place?
Love that store!!

The girlies with their buddies ...

Sheridan's teacher is apparently THE rock star teacher at the school.

The girls had a great first few days. I managed to get a majority of the house almost picture ready. And one of these days I'll even get back online and answer emails...


Home Sweet Rental Home

We are in. A day early.

We are overwhelmed. With amazing amounts of cr*p.

We. Are. Finally. "Home".

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