Thursday, August 29, 2013

A conversation between foreign service folk would have gone differently...

This week I met a neighborhood mom at the bus stop. We were chatting. I asked her some question, not relevant to the post, and her reply was "I don't really know. I haven't lived here that long." So I asked when she moved.

"We've been here three years."

My jaw dropped. Of course, in the foreign service if you've been somewhere for three whole years you are (1) the resident expert on everything and (2) probably leaving next week.

Life is different for other Americans, I think.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Public Service Message

When the home inspector sent us his report, prior to our purchase of the house, one of the items he noted was that the railing was just the right width for a child to get its head stuck. When we went into the house for the first time, we noticed it was the original railing - meaning, at least one family had already raised children here. We put it out of our minds.

Today Zoltan was having a snack and I went to the bathroom. I heard him trying to talk to me and called out he can wait, because of course there's not much one can do from the bathroom.

When I came out ... his head was stuck in the railing. I tried gently easing it back out and couldn't find a way that moved his head through without it hurting him. He was starting to panic so I calmed him down, told him to just hang on (luckily the position wasn't too uncomfortable) and asked my good friend Mr. Google what to do.

This lovely blogger had the solution:
http://chicmommy.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-to-safely-remove-child-stuck-in.html

So, for anyone out there who needs to know: at least through age almost-4, the head is still the largest part of the body. I managed to help him ease his arms through, then the torso, then I picked him up and the legs easily came around the bend from the other side of the railing. And he's learned his lesson - no more sticking his head through the railing!! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First day of sadik!

Today did not go as well for Zoltan as yesterday went for Alex :-(  He didn't want to leave mommy. The good news, if it can be described as such, is that he stopped yelling for mommy within a minute of me leaving (the kids were all playing outside and I went inside to put his stuff away so I could still hear everything).

Let's hope this turns out like detsky sad did for, well, both kids, where they clung to mommy at drop-off but didn't want to leave at pickup. And I am now doubly glad we decided to have him in part time now so it wouldn't be such a shock when he goes full time when I start working.

First day of school!

Today was Alex's first day of school. Boy was she excited! I love how excited she was. We walked to school and got there way earlier than we needed to be there (although we were in good company for that) and got to hang out with the other kids and parents from her class. We stayed entertained by noting the various characters or color combinations on other kids' clothes or backpacks. Kindergarten parents were permitted to walk our kids to class and hang out during the introductory routine, variously snapping photos and video of our little cherubs, until the loudspeaker alerted us that our presence was no longer desired in the classrooms. Good work - lay it on the administration not the teachers.  I approve.

Alex came home just as excited as she left. She rode the bus home - her decision. She had great fun today and referred to the different children she interacted with by the color of their shirts. We agreed she would try to remember one child's name each day.

And - my highlight - Alex described the color-coded behavior chart employed by the teacher.Everyone starts off on "green" and can move up to purple and finally blue. Misbehavior drags you down to yellow and finally orange. Guess who was the only child at blue at the end of the day? Yeah.

Zoltan can't wait til it's his turn to ride a bus and go to school.
Photos will be added when Terry edits them. Sigh.
[edited to add photos]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Farmers Market

Yesterday we managed to get the kids' bikes ready for use. Then, of course, Alex wanted to ride her bike immediately. She put on her bike helmet and on it stayed for a good half hour, until we told her it had to come off because we had to run an errand in the car (getting the Subaru titled in MD). When we got home we also remembered the Rockville farmer's market on Saturday mornings and quickly came up with the plan that, we thought, would cover all bases.

We grabbed some snacks and water, bags, the wagon, Alex's bike, and some bungee cords. Some SNAFUs along the way: Alex decided she didn't want to ride the bike after 2 blocks and the first few attempts of bungee didn't pan out; the route we walked ended up involving a massive detour as there was no way to cross 355 at the point where we reached it. But we got the hang of things.

Some thoughts on the farmers' market. In my previous experience - entirely in Pennsylvania - farmer's markets are a place to buy your produce directly from the farmer, where you can chat with the farmer, find out where the farm is and what their practices are and - most importantly for the consumer - pay a discounted price due to the cutting out of twelve layers of middlemen. Not here. Goodness, the prices are crazy high. Like the cheapest items cost around grocery store levels.

Not that it stopped us from buying, of course, because the stuff was local and largely if not entirely organically grown.

And then we saw them. The Amish/Mennonites who came down from Pennsylvania to sell their pork, lamb and who knows or cares what else to the Marylanders. Pennsylvania lamb!! Terry and I started concocting the recipes on the spot. It will involve creating rosemary infused olive oil with fresh rosemary that is flourishing in our yard next to the sadly dying mint (what the heck? We once experienced a pot of mint living 2 months in a storage unit. I am very disappointed in this wimpy specimen). So, we will be back with the insulated grocery bag and some ice packs. Cookies sweetened the walk back, as well as the slight down incline that let Alex ride her bike a good portion of the way.

To finish the day, we grilled our antibiotic-laden, forcibly-grain-fed supermarket beef with pesticide-and-GMO-free corn and roasted some local potatoes covered in parsley from our garden. We paired it with beer from Utah (which gives me such a kick) and it happens to be organic too although I didn't notice that when I bought it. It was a good night.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pictures on the wall

With all the moving we do, it becomes relatively easy to develop an understanding of what I need to be settled, comfortable, feeling like "home".  For me, no matter what's in the house or not, how much is unpacked vs. strewn across the floors, a residence is finally home when we hang the pictures on the wall.

Today is that day.

Hallelujah. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

172 boxes - almost done!

So every box has been touched and 90% of stuff put away. Unfortunately, the moving company only comes back on Saturdays for the empties, and last Saturday was too early, so some stuff can't be unpacked because there is a wall of broken down boxes, or boxes filled with packing material, where the thing should go.

We've been to Target 3 times for different forms of storage.  We may have more pictures and photos than we have walls.

...

And in the midst of all the craziness, Bathfitters finally had all the parts they needed for our install and was able to fit us in within 4 days and we got a new bathtub. The kids are disappointed because the sliding shower door frame (sans doors, of course) was a "railroad" for them to play with - their bath toys took a lot of trips. The adults are about as far from disappointed as one can get.

Photos to come...

Friday, August 16, 2013

172 boxes

... were delivered to my house today. I started unpacking from the first batch. I stopped for lunch and dinner, but as we'd done crockpot for dinner I didn't waste any time with food prep. It is 9pm and I am drained, exhausted, my feet are killing me, and I swear there are still 172 boxes left to unpack. And nowhere to put anything. If I do nothing else tonight, I need to clear off the kitchen table so we can have breakfast.

The kids were amazing amusing themselves pretty much all day with very few moments of real attention. It probably helped I got them to the playground for a while before the movers arrived. I warned them they have a few more days of this. My plan is to unpack a box or two of toys each day so there is always something new to discover.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

We have a compost bin! And a car!

Yes, in that order.

Montgomery county has an awesome program where its residents can just go and pick up a free compost bin in one of many locations. I hit up the local Whole Foods for ours (that isn't actually local, so I'll never go there, in that I have Dawsons, Trader Joes, and Harris Teeter closer to me). It isn't the amazing Darth Vader helmet we got way back when through the PA Game Commission or whatever government entity it was, but it is a compost bin and now I feel better when chopping veggies or when I hit on a moldy piece of fruit.

The car ... well, we've been dithering for 6 months or more about the Corolla, whether it would pass inspection in the USA and whether we should even try after 2 Maltese summers and 4 Russian winters. It is a Corolla, but it is also a 1994 vintage that's been travelling more than most. In the end, it did get brought to our driveway where it sat while we debated whether to donate it, try to get some trade-in value from it, or see if we could get it on the road.

Between our fixing-up and our unpacking and our Freecycling (mostly out, but a little in) we realized that our time is worth something. To us at least. So we decided the time sink in managing the Toyota's fixes and getting the temp tags to get it inspected and then more fixes and then hopefully it passes emissions .... we decided if we found a decent car within our low, low budget we'd just go get it.

Thus we hit up the only open car lot last Sunday (I called it, they were Israeli) and drove home in our "new" Accord. Alex is disappointed that it isn't green. I bet anything other than British Racing Green would have gotten that reaction. In some ways she is a mini Terry.

We still have to return my brother's car, and we are waiting on a part to repair the Subaru so we can get its registration transferred to Maryland. So, right now we have 3 cars out front, with license plates from 3 different states. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Childhood friends

One of the perks of having to come back to the USA early was that Alex got to see her best friend. They were coming to the end of language training but haven't left yet and we were able to get them together for a play date. After some initial shyness they remembered their deep and old friendship and played happily.

The mom made a comment to me about how happy she was that we were able to get together, and that it is important for our kids to have "childhood friends" but with this lifestyle that's pretty hard to keep up. I had never thought of it that way.

A different friend told me, after our kids/families had met up in a couple of different countries, that she wanted her children to know there were other kids like them, growing up here and there, and that friendships can last beyond the time you live in the same place. As we make our plans to meet up in yet one more "new" place this week, and as my children are about to settle for a couple of years in a "normal" USA town/life/routine, I wonder how they will look back on their childhoods and whether in adulthood they will have friends who knew them now.

Friday, August 2, 2013

HOME

We move into our home tomorrow. Without the stuff that makes it feel like home. Without bowls or coffee mugs (well, I borrowed 4 from Terry's mom). But we will be home, we will be together, and except for a few short trips to PA for doctor appointments and cabin weekends, we will be permanent. I mean, for 2 years.

Alex and I got on a plane May 6. In the intervening almost 3 months, we have spent one consecutive week in the same place - the recent trip to the cabin where we were without Terry for the first 5 days. She and I, especially, are looking forward to being in one place every day.

More local finds

Last weekend Terry wanted to check out the archery range at a nearby section of Rock Creek Park, so I went along for the ride.

In addition to the range, we found a playground, lots of hiking and biking trails, clean, "proper" bathrooms, and lots more! We also got to watch a myriad of Monarch butterflies fluttering around - they seem to like it around here, I've never noticed so many.

Then after the grocery run we checked out a local Asian food market. Wow! The produce is amazing and cheap cheap cheap. Plus every possible sauce, seasoning, and snack. They already have mooncake out! Best of all, once we get a crate on the back of my bike, I can get the groceries powered by "me".