Thursday, March 26, 2015

I erred. . .

My moving-back-to-the-U.S.-in-two-months to-do list is wildly out of control, but every once in a while I feel like I am making a bit of progress.  We have been talking about what to buy when we get back to the U.S., and decided that now that the kids are getting older, we really need something a bit bigger.  I love our current car (a Volvo), but it only seats 5, and if we have visitors or want to take the kids' friends, it really does not work.  So, we are looking at the AWD options that are out there (we plan to do lots of road trips to visit family, in snowy parts of the country), and which also seat 7-8 people.

I was really surprised to see how few options there are.  In addition, I also don't want to drive something overly large, and I want something reasonably good on gas.  So, we narrowed it down to a few vehicles.  Given that I am prone to type-A obsessive researching on whatever we happen to be buying, be it an iPod speaker or a car, I have a membership to the Consumer Reports website.  While I was doing some research on the site on our short-listed cars, I noticed that you could click a button to get actual quotes from car dealerships.  Hurray for the internet!  Instant quotes!  But. . .

My advice to you:  if you, too, are doing research online, do not ever, EVER click that button.

I immediately received 6 quotes for our two top vehicles.  They were good, solid prices.  I was delighted to find them.  And then. . .the phone started ringing.  It has not stopped.  We've received dozens of calls, thanks to the VOIP service that we receive.  And ENDLESS emails.  I have no sooner told one employee at a dealership that we aren't actually buying for another few months, when another employee will email, or call.  I don't know why there is no coordination internally at these dealerships, but I accidentally requested quotes from SIX dealerships, and we are being inundated with attention.  Yikes.  I inadvertently started a feeding frenzy amongst the sharks.

Monday, March 23, 2015

#MicroblogMonday: The Ups and Downs (Mostly Downs) of Potty Training

Pretty much every child over the age of 2 is potty trained in this country.  Wipes are crazy expensive, diapers are crazy expensive, and all of the little tinies are trained to use the bathroom when they are, well, tiny.  Exceptionally tiny, by American standards.  They can't even talk, and they can use the bathroom.  So it is with great chagrin that we send my very special youngest snowflake off to preschool in diapers and to swim lessons in swim diapers.

Numero Uno was highly articulate, woke up dry every morning, and steadfastly refused to use the potty until she was 3 years, 3 months old.  But she was my first child, so I foolishly assumed that our second go at potty training would be so very different.  I was SO SURE that having a big sister would make all of the difference in the world.  I was SO SURE we would be out of diapers by now.  I was SO SURE that the second time had to be easier.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

SB is just as highly articulate and just as stubborn as her sister.  We have tried not to make it an issue, we have tried not raising it at all, we have tried to wait until she showed some interest.  But you know what?  That is not working.  She is NEVER going to show any interest.  All of the kids use these cute little toddler-sized toilets in her classroom.  Has that made her interested?  Nope, refuses.  Even better, she refuses to let anyone at her preschool change her diaper.  She says only mommy, daddy, and our nanny are allowed to do that.  Older sister takes her to the potty and uses it at the same time to encourage her.  Has that made her interested?  Nope.  We have a fancy new potty chart with fancy new stickers, and a big present wrapped and hanging in the bathroom for when she uses the potty enough that all 12 stickers are on the potty chart.  Has that made her interested?  Nope.

I have no ideas.  She has peed herself EVERY time we have let her do diaperless (we have tried many times, including for the last three days).  She has not peed on the potty once.  I would give up and say that maybe she's not ready, but the pediatrician ensures me she is ready by every physical and psychological measure, and. . .

This morning after she woke up, she took her diaper off by herself and sat on her potty.  "What are you doing?"  I asked.  "I'm pooping," she said confidently.  And then she did.

There's hope, right?  We'll get there?  Please tell me we'll get there.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Choices

We are starting to hear back from the schools that we applied to.  As I think I mentioned (didn't I?  I'm not getting enough sleep), SB has been accepted into one bilingual program.  She is very low on the wait list at another, with basically no chance of getting in.  She is also likely to get accepted into a third program if we pursue it, but that one is private, and crazy expensive.  And, we should hear from some more schools next week.

Miss M has not been accepted into any programs yet.  She is low on the wait list at the bilingual school that SB was accepted into, although the school has sibling preference, so if SB enrolls, Miss M will likely jump to the top of the list.  But, there may not be any spots available for kindergarten, so she may never get in.  The other two programs that SB applied to do not offer K, so Miss M is out of the running for those entirely.

Thus far, we MAY get them both into the same school, but I think it is more likely that they end up at different schools.  For Miss M, we always have the ability to enroll her at the local school near where we are living.  It's a very good school, but it's not bilingual.  We would have to enroll Miss M in Spanish enrichment to keep up her Spanish, but even that would not be the same as being enrolled in a bilingual school.  If we were to go that route (not because we want to, but because she does not get in anywhere else), it would be nice to have SB nearby.  But, the only preschool option for SB nearby is private, and expensive.  But, it's bilingual.

Argh.  I keep moving all of the pieces of the puzzle around, but every piece seems to be contingent on a bunch of other pieces working out.  I'm worried about cost and after school care and cost of THAT and hours and commute and. . .it's so maddening.

And I was never able to come up with a childcare option for the summer.  The options for 3 year olds are quite limited, and then I have the 5 year old, too.  So, we settled upon something that I hope works out:  there is something in the visa law that allows people who primarily work abroad, who are transferring back only briefly, to bring their nanny with them to the U.S. for the time that they are there.  It's still fairly expensive (room, board, at least minimum wage, airfare, healthcare, visa cost, passport, etc., etc.), but at least it has the benefit of a) being someone we know and trust, b) a smoothness transition for the girls, c) more reasonably priced than two kids in the daycare programs I have been looking at (which would have been more than $3600 a month for my two kids!), and d) the girls will be able to keep up their Spanish over the summer.  So we think that is what we are going to do.  Fingers crossed that our nanny is awarded a visa, and this plan all works out.  She is excited to go, as she has never left this general area, and she is saving money toward a house.  She should be able to earn a big chunk of the house payment by working for us over the summer.  And, if T finds a good job, she will likely stay and be our after school care.  I hate the idea of the kids being at school from 8am until 6pm every day.  I feel like they are too young for that.  But, there is no way we can survive on one salary back in the U.S., and T really wants to work in his field.  So like I said, fingers crossed this all works out.

I am still hoping to get into one of the bilingual programs that is near we will be living.  And I'm hoping T gets a job he wants and enjoys.  And I'm hoping our nanny can stay with us for a while.  If we could get these last few pieces into place, I would feel really good about moving back--I would feel like I could manage the juggling act between my career and my personal life.  Sigh.

Monday, March 16, 2015

March Grab Bag

I am, as usual, exhausted.  The kids have this horrible living-in-a-polluted-city-in-the-mountains respiratory thing that has been dragging on for weeks, and neither is sleeping well.  We have literally 5 different medications for them, and slowly, slowly it's resolving, but in the meantime. . .blech.  Lots of whining in the middle of the night, punctuated by utter sobbing due to the associated ear pressure.  Poor things.  And SB sounds like she has whooping cough.  (It's NOT, right??!)

We just found out we have been accepted into not one, but two preschools for SB.  One is crazy expensive but would be a few blocks from where we will be living; the other is exponentially more affordable, but a hellish commute away.  Fortuitously, both are bilingual, so I am very pleased to have options.  T thinks we would be utterly insane to even consider the expensive one; he thinks it would be nuts to spend that much on preschool.  I had to remind him that we spent nearly that amount on Miss M when she was that age, and that the benefit of the giant payment is proximity and our sanity.  He is still not convinced.  We are still waiting to hear from a few more places, and I'm hoping that she gets into another place, and it will be that magical combination of both affordable and easily commutable.  Sigh.  It's all so very complicated.

Finally, finally, we seem to have a departure date.  We'll be heading back to the U.S. at the beginning of June.  I really have to start cleaning out closets, now that we know when we are leaving.  I don't know how we've managed to amass so much crap in just two years.

I've been working with Miss M on some school-related things, and I immediately saw what her teacher was talking about when she told me that when things are hard for her, Miss M does not like to do them and tries to avoid them.  She gets frustrated, angry, and/or very tearful very, vary quickly.  It surprised me, because I haven't seen her behave like that.  But, she is very upset at her inability to identify some letters of the alphabet (d, p, and b are particularly hard for her).  The teacher says she is behind; the pediatrician disagrees, given that she just turned 5, but schools are strict here (play based learning hasn't exactly made its way to this city, as far as I can tell--even SB sits at a desk and chairs at age 3).  I am guessing that because of the pressure they put on little kids here, she is behind her classmates, and that is embarrassing to her, and accounts for her frustration.  And, given the severity of her father's learning disabilities and the high probability of him passing those genes on, there is a chance that is part of it.  But whatever--I am trying to make learning FUN, and support her and make her feel confident and happy about her ability to play/learn, and make her understand that hard can be FUN, too.

I have had several surreal experiences lately that remind me of The Help, but I am too tired to continue.  But, I have to remember to blog about them, because. . .well, just because.  When life looks like 1950, it's worth mentioning.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday, SB!

To my very dear SB on your third birthday:

Happy birthday to my very exuberant, independent, feisty, fun, happy little girl!  We treasure every day that we spend with you.  You are so full of energy, so full of life, and so very funny.  You are a little spitfire, and everyone who knows you enjoys you so much.

We are in swim class now, you and I.  Up until this week, I had to go in the pool with you.  You only became interested in swim classes recently.  Before now, you weren't all that interested on the pool.  When we were on vacation last May, you wanted to spend all of your time in the hot tub (no worries--it wasn't actually hot--more like bath water, which was still too hot, given how hot out it was).  But you loved lounging in there.  You could have cared less about the pool.  But suddenly, at a birthday party a few months ago, you decided you loved it, and asked for lessons, so we signed you up.  They said I had to be in the pool with you, since you'd never had lessons.  So in I went.  You were the oldest in the class by far--it's really for babies.  Apparently, they start kids young in swim lessons here.  But then last week, you struggled with me a bit.  You are so independent.  You wanted to go underwater and blow bubbles and jump in the pool without my help.  I realized then that you didn't need me in the pool any more, and that you would probably learn more if I sat on the sidelines and merely cheered you on.  But when I asked about a slot for you in a different class, they claimed not to have one.  And then this week, you were even feistier with me, and the professor suggested that we really needed to put you in a class on your own, and lo and behold, they found one for you.  My little girl is growing up so fast!

You are so inquisitive.  Your favorite questions is why.  You want to know about absolutely everything.  You even ask strangers--in Spanish, often--what they are doing, and why.  It startles people like the grocery store clerk, who are used to being invisible.  You will talk to anyone, and do.  You chatted up a guy, again in Spanish, yesterday while we were in line to pay our cable bill.

You and your sister adore each other, and also have tremendous fights.  No one is closer, and no one can come between you. . .but no one annoys each of you like the other.  I love how close you are, and hope you will always stay close.  You stick up for each other, even when one of you has been seriously misbehaving, because you each hate to see the other punished.  I hope you will get over the fighting part, and soon.  :)  My rule is that if you can't work something out between yourselves, without whining to me or your father, then I take away whatever the item in question is.

I love the sound of your laugh.  It is infectious.  You are VERY funny.  And you smile not only with your mouth, but your whole self.  I love the way your eyes light up with you laugh.  You have a very bright light inside you.

You eat pretty much just fruit, although you like pretty much everything else.  But fruit, you love.  You have learned how to help yourself to the fruit bowl.  I recently found a few bites taken out of an avocado, skin and all.  No wonder you put it back after a few bites!

You are not a good sleeper.  You take forever to fall asleep, and you wake up early.  You literally talk yourself to sleep at night, telling stories that often involve the word "because."  Your sister falls asleep long before you do.  You are often talking a blue streak for an hour or more after she has fallen asleep.  You frequently beg me to sleep with you.  "But mommy, I CAN'T sleep alone!" you protest.  When you wake in the middle of the night, you often come into my bed.  Sometimes you are so sneaky that I don't even wake up, and find you curled up next to me in the morning.  You love to snuggle.  Sometimes, though, you get into my bed in the middle of the night and start chatting with daddy and me as though it is morning!

You have an enormous vocabulary.  While you were opening your birthday presents, you got a My Little Pony toy that came with a few other little pieces, and you said "look mommy--it came with accessories!!!"  You also speak your mind to anyone and everyone around you.  When we toured preschools recently, you decided you didn't like one place, and you said--quite loudly, and in front of the English-speaking director--"I don't like this place.  I want to go to the other school."  But mostly, I love the way your mind works and the things that you think of and say to me.

Your Spanish is also coming along nicely, too.  I hear you having entire conversations, and it is quite impressive.  Preschool has been so good for you.  You love going, and look forward to school days.  You spend your time there painting and playing and singing and dancing and coloring and playing with play-doh, and love every minute of it.  Although, you REFUSE to use the potty, and REFUSE to let anyone there change your diaper (in fact, you pitch such fits that they called to ask if they could just send you home wet, and we agreed).  You are a girl who knows what she wants, and you aren't afraid to tell anyone what you think.  We are hoping you change your mind about potty training, and soon, because we know that as soon as you WANT to, you will.

You love your piggy bank.  Except, that's not what you call it.  Any time you find change around the house, you grab it in your little hands and coming running to me, asking for your "guinea pig."  Your grandmother, daddy's mother, gave you a little ceramic bank a while ago, and every time she sends a package, she sends you and your sister quarters taped to an index card, so you can put them in your "guinea pig."  You love it.  It cracks me up to hear how excited you are to find change, and how excited you are to claim it as your own.

We are moving soon, and I am so very much looking forward to this next year with you in our new city, because there are so many wonderful things there that I want to show you, so many wonderful things I want to explore with you.  I can't wait to see you enjoy them.  I am so excited to watch you grow and develop, to continue to snuggle with you, to hear your thoughts, and to listen to that contagious little laugh of yours.  I love you my SB, forever and always.

Love,
Mommy

Monday, March 2, 2015

#MicroblogMonday: Decisions, Decisions. . .

We've been hemming and hawing a lot over the school decisions for next year.  We'll be heading back to the US this summer, and really want the kids to maintain the Spanish that they've developed since they've been here.  They have come so far, and I really, really want them to have the benefit of being bilingual.  I talked with Miss M's teacher at a parent-teacher conference this week, and she says that Miss M has a pretty good level, compared to the local kids.  She says her vocabulary isn't quite as large as the "native" speakers, and she sometimes makes up words, but she has a really good accent and a pretty good ability.  Sometimes I make up Spanish words, too, and I don't have the great accent she has.  :)  Her teacher thinks she'll be able to pass an entrance exam, if she needs to.

We have a number of bilingual school options in the city we are moving to, but since we are not there to actually go and visit the schools, it has taken a LOT of research and a LOT of soul-searching to figure out what was right.  Especially since we have to lottery into most of the schools we are looking at, in order to secure a place.  It was so incredibly hard to sort out what was right, and especially hard because we were doing it for both Miss M and SB.

As of today, we've finalized our lottery list.  It's submitted.  We did the best job we could.  Now, we jut have to hope it all works out in the end.

Okay, that wasn't all that short.  :0

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Progress

I think/hope/pray I have a solution to our scheduling dilemma.  I THINK we are going to be able to leave here in June.  It's not quite the April/May start date that my new job wanted, and it's not quite the July departure date that my current employer wanted, but by pleasing nobody, I think we may satisfy everybody.  It is the happy medium.

Assuming we can leave in June, this weekend I was able to work out the details of the house. . .I think.  We will start renting it in June.  Fingers crossed that June works out.  T may still have to go back to the US before the rest of the family, but there is little we can do about that at this point.  We are just taking each days as it comes, and hoping for the best.  It sounds like the PERFECT house, so I am feeling good about it.

The good thing about a June departure, too, is that the girls will get a bit more time in school.  That will get them almost to their midyear break.  I feel good about this part of things. It means that they won't have a hugely long summer in which to forget everything they know, and they won't have a long, boring summer break.

Of course, it complicates other things, but I'm dealing with those.   I may have to go back to the US for a week or two in April to get some things sorted out, since we won't be back until June.  There are some things that just can't wait until June, unfortunately.  I'm not excited about that part of things, but there is little I can do.  And, the nice thing is that if I can make a June date work out, we will be able to take a few weeks of vacation time then to get set up in the new city and to spend with friends who are going to be in town.  I am excited about that part.  It is always good to see old friends.  Of course, we would have seen them if we'd gone back in April, but I would not have been on vacation, so we would not have gotten quite so much time with them.  It's a nice silver lining.

So, hopefully, we are getting there.  It's baby steps, and it's still not guaranteed, but I am feeling a bit more confident that it is all going to work out okay.