Another Reason Why NOT To Skip A Well Check-Up ...

... because you may discover this.

And when you find out that you hit the trifecta with near sightedness, an astigmatism, AND a lazy eye (not to be confused with general laziness ... *ahem*) you'll kick yourself that you didn't discover it sooner!

Could she be any cuter? She picked these out on her own ... red and pink with flowers. And she LOVES them. You've never met a girl who wanted glasses more than her!

Of course, this IS Sheridan. So let's take bets on how long before she looses or ruins them. I say a week. Maybe two. Tops.


At 1:37 PM I Hit The Send Button ...

... and at 2:41 PM I had our travel orders in my inbox.

With a note of apology. From the Executive Director of the HR bureau.

Amazing what a well written, factual, plea-for-help-because-your-HR-tech-sucks letter can do.

Now ... let the amendments begin!!


The Irony Of It All ...

Can I admit something? I've never taken the girls for their well check-ups.

Sure, they're completely up-to-date on their immunizations. And then some. But aside from their State Department and school medical clearance forms (both of which had been signed without doing anything more than taking their temperature and their blood pressure), and some sort of ailment that always had us doctor's office bound at least once a year, they haven't had a true check-up in ages. Well ... ever.

Until today.

So imagine my surprise when after taking their vitals, doing a complete once-over, a blood test, a vision, test, and mini-behavior screening, it was confirmed that both girls have absolutely perfect hearing.

Now, if I could just get them to actually LISTEN ...


Keeping My Eye On The Prize

Matt left again today. Making the long journey back to Iraq. Just like he did way back when ... on July 18, 2010 ... and on November 30, 2010 ... and on February 23, 2011.

Only this time there was far less angst. No real queasiness. No pit in my stomach. No crocodile tears.

Instead, he left us this morning with hope. With excitement. With a solid view of a light at the end of the tunnel. Our new house, in the semi-final stages of completion, as the dangling carrot. The raison d'etre. Everything we've both worked for over the past several years finally coming to fruition.

And as sad as we are to lose those extra set of hands, and hugs, and dirty clothes today, we know that the time is going to absolutely fly by, and we'll be reunited in Virginia in a blink of an eye.

Two weeks until our pack-out

Two-and-a-half weeks until we move into a hotel

Four-and-a-half weeks until school ends

Six to seven weeks until we move to Virginia

Seven to eight weeks until we move into our new house

Nine weeks, two days until Matt comes home. For Good.

I'm sure this last stretch of road may be a bit bumpy ... but I'm keeping my eyes firmly affixed on the prize. As I realize that all good things are coming to those who have waited ...


Today ... He Smiled

He's been SO darn miserable for the past week ... having gone to the pediatrician's office early Saturday morning for the fourth time in nine days.

The latest diagnoses?

The trauma to his tongue that we encountered last Wednesday was now looking more like a viral lesion and was covering 1/4 of his tongue. It swelled up frighteningly large, making him drool uncontrollably, unable to eat anything solid, and difficult for him to speak. Major bummer.

He also had a double ear infection. And was put on antibiotics for the first time ever. Double bummer.

But here he is ... almost a week later. Sporting a new 'do. Finally happy. Finally smiling again. Cute as a button.

Gratuitous Grady photo for your viewing pleasure ...


We MUST Be On Candid Camera ...

Three ... It's the magic number ...

... it's the number of times we've been to the doctor's office with Grady this week.

Once for a gnarly rash on his bum. Once for his two-year old routine check-up where he measured in the 80th percentile for height and the 30th percentile for weight. And once for trauma to his tongue. I'm sure I'll see them again soon.

... and it's the number of times Matt's orders have been rejected this week.

Yes, again yesterday. After we discovered another work around to re-submit them. All to no avail as his CDA didn't enroll him in a mandatory class (that he requested over a month ago) and his HR tech gave him the Heisman. Ahhh ... the sweet sounds of incompetence.

But on a lighter note, we are totally in the running to win the award of "Most times an HR Tech can REJECT your travel orders request." Fingers crossed ... I never win anything!


I'm Ready For The Sunshine ... Just Not Blown Up My A**

No worries ... I don't think it'll be happening any time soon by the State Department anyway. Considering Matt's HR tech denied his travel orders once again. Though the reason this time has me shaking my head in absolute disbelief ... for it all comes down to the "title" of his travel orders. Apparently everything in his orders is correct. The itinerary. The dates. The Allowances.

HOWEVER, because the system pulls travel dates chronologically, and we're moving to Virginia before Matthew leaves Iraq, the "title" of the travel orders submitted reads "Newport Beach to DC" vice "Iraq to DC". And they were REJECTED.

This itty bitty date issue is a known-glitch in the system for many employees departing Iraq and as we're discovering completely, entirely, and frustratingly delays the travel order process. Sadly, this glitch in the system won't allow Matt's HR tech to see past the end of her nose and realize that the "title" is merely a "title" and despite us traveling before Matthew, should make absolutely NO difference in the approval process. But what's worse is that we're told that all we have to do is change my travel dates to one day after Matt's so that it re-title's the orders to read "Iraq to DC", and then they'll be approved.

Which is difficult to do while Matt is on R&R.

But let's add insult to injury. Once his orders are issued, we can re-schedule our travel dates as originally planned. FRUSTRATING, eh?

And let's take it to an even crazier level. Like when Matt received an email from his CDA last Thursday telling him not to worry about any of this because his orders have been cut and she'll email them to us. Which she did last Friday. Though they were LAST year's travel orders. Not THIS year's. And after a combination of laughing, yelling, and cussing, we're again back to square one.

Which is NO travel orders. And no authorization to release our storage items from Belgium. And an increased stay in a one-bedroom hotel room with all 5 of us in Virginia as we wait for all our basics to get delivered to our new house.

But in the meantime ... as I wait for someone to blow some sunshine ... I'm actually cr*pping out $100 bills. By the fistful. And there's no end in sight.

New bedding for the girls rooms? Sure ... Pottery Barn here we come.

New eyeglasses for Matthew? Of course! Let's get THE most expensive frames we can find.

New silverware. New dining room furniture. New comforter. New clothes for Matt.

If it's available to be purchased, I've probably priced it out. Or bought it. Because we were just 'making do' and needed these items ... whether we moved into a new house or moved to another overseas posting. Of course, as a government worker, Matt is totally overpaid and we are made of money.

When we're finally close to being done, I'm going to need an enema. So I can stop the hemorrhaging of money on our new house. Or else I'll be moving from the new house to the poor house.

I also need to be ready for the sunshine. Just as long as it steers clear of my a**. I already have enough pain in it.


I Loved You Long Before You Were Born ...

... before you were even the twinkle in my eye.

... before you were fluttering around in my large, LARGE belly.

... before they were sending me home early on a plane from India because you were way too high risk of a pregnancy.

And now that you're to, you're too, you're TWO ... I just can't believe how we managed as long as we did without you.

Happy Birthday Grady Shaw! You're certainly not a baby anymore ...


And Jet Lag Sets In ...

He's here! We're excited. And for the next two weeks, all is right in our world.

Now if he'd just stay awake later than his daughters ...


I KNOW I Shouldn't Be Surprised ...

... yet despite working for the USG for 11 years now, I STILL get annoyed when our infamous Human Resources Tech manages to screw up our travel orders.

Since Matt joined the State Department in 2000, we have been blessed with having ...

1 domestic move, 4 international moves, 1 unaccompanied move, 2 layette shipments, 2 consumable shipments, 1 medevac, and have taken advantage of shipping our UAB (unaccompanied air baggage) 9 out of 12 times during our official moves from ...

  • Los Angeles to New Jersey (2000)
  • New Jersey to Muscat, Oman (2003)
  • Muscat, Oman to Los Angeles (2005)
  • Los Angeles to Washington, DC (2005)
  • Washington, DC to Tel Aviv, Israel (2005)
  • Tel Aviv, Israel to Los Angeles (2008)
  • Los Angeles to Washington, DC (2008)
  • Washington, DC to Chennai, India (2008)
  • Chennai, India to Los Angeles (2009)
  • Los Angeles to Chennai, India (2009)
  • Chennai, India to Los Angeles (2010)
  • Los Angeles to Baghdad, Iraq (2010)

HOWEVER, with all of these official moves, not ONCE - NOT ONCE - have his travel orders been correct.

The first time it really affected us was when we departed Muscat, Oman and our orders were so royally screwed up that we left there without them. And in their place? A signed affidavit stating that should we not follow the impending orders, we'd reimburse the USG any monies potentially owed. Yeah ... that was fun.

Due to travel order mishaps, we've since had shipments that didn't make their destination on time, shipments that were ruined, issues with weight (thankfully not mine ...), storage problems, and unbelievable airline quagmires. Most of these have been handled with relative ease either at post or with someone who saw a rant or rave on the USG listserv group in which I belong. As a now-seasoned spouse, I can usually roll with the punches.

That is ... with everything except our travel orders. Not a transfer season, a medevac, a consumable shipment has passed without my blood pressure rising, and a nasty gram sent off. I can usually handle the HR tech's incompetence for the first set of orders. They're never on time, and never correct. By the second, she's probably just overlooked an email or a code. But by the third, and inevitably the fourth, of which I expect to happen by now, I lose my cookies. My alter ego, angry Jill, rears her ugly head, and I quickly move up the chain of command, and send off an email to the head of the entire HR department at State. Whose name, email, and phone number will forever be saved in my address book.

Why oh why does it ALWAYS appear that every transfer season it's as if they're doing this for the first time?

The best part of all of this? Is that usually, this all happens just before Matt leaves on a business trip, a vacation, or a training. See where I'm going with this? As in, one day prior to his departure for his last R&R? Oh yes ... rejected travel orders ... due to a mistake that could have been avoided if his HR tech actually answered his email to her ... about 3 weeks ago.

However, this time I'm not worried about airline tickets, or my California pack-out, Matt's air shipment either. The orders will be amended perfectly in time to get that all squared away. The issue this time is that the orders won't be completed until Matt gets back to Iraq at the end of May, which will delay the shipment to Virginia of our stuff in storage in Belgium. Which is a big deal considering how long I'll potentially be living in a hotel. The stuff at ELSO contains all our dishes, our towels, sheets, furniture, kids toys ... and without it, will keep me hotel bound until its arrival. Which takes approximately two months. Maybe longer during the summer transfer season.

I'm frustrated. I'm perturbed. I'm irked.

However, I know that it'll eventually all be worked out. These mistakes have sadly become the norm. Which is why we manage our expectations by working on things so darn early. To account for the time it takes to fix them. All three, four, and five times. In fact, once we get to Virginia, I'll probably start the process for our next move. Several years early. Just to be on the safe side.

The one positive? I don't think I'll ever see a retirement party as big and bold as the one that will be thrown for this HR tech when she finally does decide to retire. Heck, if it helped move things along, I'd offer to throw it myself...


Inquiring Minds Wanted To Know ...

I wasn't sure what to expect when I flew out to Virginia last week. Would the house resemble a home? Would I be able to envision a finished product from just the framing? Would I have *gulp* buyers remorse?

Yes ... Yes ... and ABSOLUTELY Not! Whew.

While the trip was extremely quick (I was there less than 36 hours), it was beyond productive. I met with the home inspector on Thursday and spent about three hours in our house and in the model taking measurements. On Friday I met with the builder's contractor to do the pre-drywall inspection, and spent another two hours on site. Amazingly, there was very little that needed to be fixed over the weekend before they begin insulating tomorrow, and begin the dry-wall on Wednesday. We're ahead of schedule people!!

I spent a majority of the rest of my time doing reconnaissance. I scoped out every single grocery store within a 10 mile radius of our house. I located the nearest Starbucks (approx 3 miles). I picked up the registration packets for the girls elementary school. I found the park and ride where Matt may use the commuter bus. I took dinner to a girlfriend in the hospital. I also drove to two shopping malls, found three Home Depot's (where I'm sure I'll get to know everyone by name), and navigated my way to two Synagogue's, one of which was in ... get this ... a strip mall. I don't know why it bothered me so much to see it there. Maybe it was the lack of architecture. Maybe because it was surrounded in an industrial area with bathroom, granite, and builder's design centers. Or maybe it's because they didn't even think about renting next to a Chinese restaurant...

In all, it was a great trip, that has me excited for the future. Which should start somewhere in the next 10 -12 weeks!

L: The Kitchen and Morning Room
R: The view when you first walk into the house

The master bedroom.
View of the recessed lighting and lighting pre-wires.

Matt's *%^$&@*!#* trees
View of our backyard

Synagogue in the strip mall. The one we probably won't be joining.
However, if they put in a drive-thru window, I'd totally order the McTorah.

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