Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Brownie Girl Scout & Sir David Attenborough & Yogurt

K is back to selling Girl Scout cookies again. There is a new flavor out this year and we have ordered 1 box of each flavor. Just 1 box of each. K finally got the badges she has earned so far for Fall Sales and whilst on the camp out she went on in November. I am so thankful for iron on patches! Only one didn't iron on and I had to put a little stitch in the middle of it to hold it on.

Z has been watching Sir David Attenborough's "Africa" with me and after discussing it for a while, he decided he wanted to write to him and also send a drawing. He wrong a long letter and included 2 drawings. Being the good mother I am, I went to the post office and got an International Reply Coupon and mailed his letter to Sir David's production company in England. Yesterday when I was getting the mail I noticed and international airmail envelope addressed to Z. It was not on this occasion a reply from Sir David but a lovely letter from his daughter Susan saying he was out of the country filming and would see Z's letter and drawings when he got back to the UK. It made Z very happy and he is still hopeful he will get a reply from the man himself.

So, K is getting Girl Scout badges and Z is on the precipice of getting a reply from one of the most inspiring educators of our time who also happens to be a Knight, am I getting anything? Well, nothing that exciting. Ben got me a new pair of running shoes and I bought some biscuits for when I have some tea and yogurt. Such excitement was had by all. (You'd better believe the excitement that was had in the grocery store when I spied the yogurt!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bit Cold?

I have lived in a few different places and I've adapted to the weather in each place. Just like summer, winter is not the same in each place.

What is cold in Edinburgh is really cold in Northampton. What is cold in Mount Pleasant is practically tropical in Carmel.

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina morning in mid January is not too bad and I have acclimatized to it, god knows how I'd cope in the North now!

But up in Carmel, Indiana it is a bit colder. I've read that it's the coldest up there that it has been for a couple of years. It is so cold that schools are on a 2 hour delay. We were in Indiana when that god awful ice storm came through in January 2011. Schools were closed for almost the whole week. But when the ground outside is like an ice rink, literally, it is not safe to leave the house. Freezing rain is not something that happens in the UK. (No freezing rain is not the same as sleet or hail it is an entirely different thing and can be deadly.)

That puts in perspective the temperature in Northampton. I've seen the news reports and seen the photos on friends Facebook pages and they seem pretty split on liking the snow and hating it. None like the cold though. I do remember having major issues trying to leave work one day and having to dig my little Corsa out of its space in the car park. It took me about 3 times the normal time to get home and half way through the journey I skidded and almost collided with a double decker bus. The following day I couldn't get my car out of the garage so had to call in work and say I wouldn't be there. School was cancelled that day too. That was a very unusual few days though. That much snow was not the norm.

From what I remember Edinburgh always has a pretty typical winter and they just get on with it. They get a bit of snow and a lot of slush. It is always cold and mostly wet. Growing up in the city I don't remember there being much snow. A lot of gross brown slush but no snow. (I know it must have snowed for there to be slush.) I did have a sled and I did go sledding down a big hill but most of that would have been on ice and slush with a little snow. We only stopped when we hit the fence at the church car park. The hill was behind a Shell petrol/gas station and at the bottom was a road and then a church which acted as our stop line.

I know the cold that Indiana gets it is nothing compared to other places in the North of the US or places like Canada and Russia but I've not lived there.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Valentine's Day Ideas & Freaky Mannequins

It is almost the end of January. Can you believe it? 2013 is going by quickly. All the Christmas stuff was out of the shops before New Years Eve and Valentines stuff was in its place. When I was at Bi-Lo a week or so ago I saw this 'gift' idea and I have to say if Ben bought this for me I would not be impressed!

6 cans of Budweiser, a pack of Twizzlers, some beef jerky and a teeny tiny box of chocolates. Mmmm, just what you want from your Valentine! (Or perhaps not!)

We went to the Citadel Mall just before New Years as I needed to get a link removed from my new watch. We went past a store that sold wigs and hair products and I was fascinated by the mannequin heads in the window. What is making those 2 in the middle laugh? What makes someone design a mannequin head like that and what on earth possesses a store to use it? I am not so sure you'd see these in Macy's or Bloomingdales!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

EB-2 Green Card Application

Just a quickie. Yep, Ben is having his green card application processed through the EB-2 category which means we won't have a 6+ year wait for it to be completed as that category is current, unlike EB-3. Hopefully it will be within 12-18 months. The PERM process has started, it is not a simple 1 step process and a series of things need to be done first, and hopefully soon the application will be sent to USCIS for them to approve.

Eye Surgery

For a while now K has had a turn in her right eye. It wasn't too bad to begin with but it has slowly gotten more obvious as the years have passed. She compensated by tilting her head to the side, squinting or simply shutting her left eye to help her put everything in focus. Her vision is fine, her last eye exam said she didn't need glasses but her eye doctor said she could have corrective surgery to fix the bottom muscle in her eye so that her two eye would be level.

We thought about it and discussed it and decided to go ahead with it.

Her surgery was being done at MUSC by Dr Cheeseman. He has been great with K on her appointments at Storm Eye Institute and always chats with her brother too which was great when we were at hospital as Z was a bit stressed and Dr Cheeseman helped put his mind at ease.

The whole thing hardly took any time at all and before we knew it I was being taken through to recovery to be with K as she woke up. It was advised not to let Z go through as he would probably get upset seeing his sister like that. She had general anesthetic so was knocked out completely and doesn't even remember being wheeled through to the OR.

We had arrived at the hospital at 11am and we were on our way home at about 3.30pm. K was feeling a little sick so we delayed leaving the hospital for a while. She was given some eye drops and a gel that I am to put on her eye for 5 days and a follow up appointment at Storm Eye Institute in Mount Pleasant at the end of February. All the nurses and hospital staff we saw in the hospital were great. Even Geraldine who we saw at check in and was telling us just how much the surgery was likely to be. Lets just say K has now met her individual deductible with our health insurance and some. [As a side note, due to our low premiums for our new health insurance and higher deductible, Z's meds for his ADD have gone from $10 a month to $127 until  the deductible is met!]

The incision was done at the lower part of her eye so will not be visible. She has dissolving stitches so we don't have to go back to get them out. The bruising around her eye is not too bad just now and it is not as bloody looking as we were warned it would look. Still pretty icky though. She is not too keen on having the eye drops but the drops this morning were not as stressful as the drops I did yesterday. I put the gel on her eye last night whilst she slept so she didn't fuss. I did tell her I was going to do that though so when she did wake slightly she didn't freak out. I'm not that mean.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It's A Small World but It's A Big Country

The kids and I arrived in the US on October 29 2009. We landed in Houston and that was the first time my kids set foot on US soil. In the following couple of year those lucky little buggers have been all over the place. We have gone on lots of road trips and day breaks to various places. For a while it was because we just didn't know how long we were going to be in the US for, then after a while we traveled because we liked to go out and about and see new things. (We also still didn't know how long we would be here for so figured we'd make the most of it.) Before we came to the US, they had already traveled to various places in Scotland and England as well as to France, Portugal and Majorca. They have also been to Canada now too.

In their short time in America they have been to/in:
Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and the District of Columbia.

They are now going to be adding California to that list. Following on from my last post, we are definitely going to California for 2 weeks in the summer. We will be going to San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We will also definitely be doing the Sonoma Canopy Tours, well Ben and I will be. K & Z are too young. Z wants to go to the LA Tar Pits. He said he wanted to go as soon as we said we were going to California. (To be honest I had never heard of them before but he is very knowledgeable about this sort of thing.) We are also going to check out the Natural History Museum (dinosaur exhibit here so Z would not be happy if we missed it!), California Science Center (where Space Shuttle Endeavour is), Griffiths Park, Observatory & Planetarium, Santa Monica Pier and other places yet to be determined. (Thanks to my LA based Twitter friend and travel writer Clare for her suggestions.)

Even though Z & K are only young, they are seeing a lot of the world and Ben and I are making sure they will see a lot of the US. We may not have much money and stay in budget hotels but we know we have to make the most of it and let our kids see and experience as much as possible. Travel to new places is possible and does not need to be expensive, it depends on how you budget and if you shop around for hotels, car hire etc. Look online for coupons and money saving ideas. During our travels we have stayed in a real budget motel and a 5 star hotel. In years to come Z& K will not remember the hotels they stay in but they will, I hope, remember the good times they had with me and their dad and be grateful that they got to see and do as much as they did when they were young. (Another reason we are doing these trips is because we know we are on limited time for them being willing to be seen with us in public. Z will be a teenager in 3 years and K is going to be right behind him!)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Comic Con, Canopy Tours & Green Cards

Last year I mentioned to Ben that I wanted to go to Comic Con and NerdHQ in San Diego in July this year. It starts on my birthday and lasts until the Sunday following. Until now I figured I would fly out to California and Ben would stay in South Carolina with the kids. Hmmm. He has been thinking about making it into a family vacation. We all fly out to California and whilst I am getting my nerd on, he will be out and about with the kids (zoo, SeaWorld etc.) Once Comic Con is finished we will hire a car and drive to Los Angeles and go to Disneyland and take in the sights of LA. Then drive up to San Francisco and see the Golden Gate Bridge and Fishermans Wharf etc in the city. Ben and I went to California in 2001 for our honeymoon and the kids have not been further west in the US than New Orleans,LA and St Louis, MO. It would be nice to take them to California and show them the Pacific Ocean as they have spent loads of time in the Atlantic Ocean since we moved to South Carolina. Of course, Ben being Ben he wants to do something neither of us have done before. He wants to do a canopy tour in the Redwoods. We had been talking about what to do for my 40th birthday in 3 1/2 years and he suggested this but if we do it this year then I'll need to think of something else for my birthday. (It will also be Z's 13th birthday the year I turn 40 so we need to do something to mark the occasion!)

So, I guess if I don't get tickets to Comic Con then at least we could have a good family vacation together. May be last chance for a good 2 weeks away for a while. I could be working next summer. We got confirmation this morning that Ben's employers have started the Green Card process for us. First hurdle to jump is PERM approval. Then it is onto the next steps, Immigrant Petition for Alien WorkerAdjustment of Status, EAD for both of us. Add in to that mix all 4 of us need medicals and these can only be done by certain Doctors and there are fees for that. The there are Biometrics (fingerprints). Another fee. Finally we will all get a green card and the kids will be able to get SSN and I will be able to get my SSN changed to my married name. We also now have the added joy of having to pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee. I don't want to add it all up. The total amount of $$ will make my head explode. Thinking about it we probably shouldn't go to California. Need all the money we can get to pay fees to USCIS!

14 year olds & Green Cards

Did you know that you need to get a new green card when you turn 14? Do you know the reason why? No really, I'd like to know why. ...