Archive for July, 2008

Clean Slate

I have moved out of my office…everything shuts down officially at the end of the day today.

(Truthfully, Tom moved me out of my office. With my knee surgery and all, I could only organize and marshal the forces, if you will. Good timing on my part, eh? The long-suffering man I call husband was introduced to the subculture of the high-rise office building freight elevator as he carted 25 file boxes out of my office and into the minvan.)

The empty office really hit home for us both that whatever happens, we are closing a chapter in our lives and starting a new adventure with a clean slate.

Exchange Rates and Ice Cream

The first step in planning our trip to South America was mounting a PR campaign with the kids–slow and steady, nothing too flashy–to get them excited about the upcoming Offermann-Reeves exodus.

The two things that have really captivated their imaginations: the exchange rate and the easy availability of great ice cream and gelato. They are constantly running tallies of their saved allowances and then calculating what those savings would be worth in pesos and having us check their work. Who knew that a six- and a nine-year old could be so excited about monetary exchange rates?

And the ice cream…when they discovered that vendors will actually deliver gelato to your door, they truly could not think of a cooler place to live than a city with home-delivered ice cream.

Other than that, I don’t think the move is really tangible for the girls yet. That will change as we start to sell our cars and put items in storage. We’ll see if they are able to maintain their sanguine attitude as we approach our departure date.

Sorry Kids, No TV in Argentina!

We have decided to completely eliminate TV from our lives while in Argentina. We figure that we can get all the news/media we need from our computers. And, most importantly, the kids will have to engage their brains rather than veg out in front of the television (and we will not be tempted to used it as a quiet-the-kids magic box.)

Our kids never experienced having cable TV in the house until we sold our home last year and moved into the condo. Well I can tell you, that experiment is now over!

In our old house, in the basement, we had an HDTV hooked up to an antenna (much to Tom’s embarrassment), which needless to say, didn’t work very well. The kids would have to move the antenna around constantly in order to even tune a channel in, and then once they got a picture, they could not move or it would disappear again. Not really worth it.

Now, in our wired-for-cable condo, the kids have discovered, much to their delight, that there is a vast array of programming available to them besides a fuzzy PBS channel! They have become addicted to TV. So, we ran an experiment a few months ago where the family “went hard.” We eliminated sugar (which was really for Tom and I since we sneak dessert after the kids go to bed) and all screen time for the kids (computer, video games, tv) from our lives for a month. The kids were on board and it was magical to see the change in them. Their overall mood was much better, they were more civil to one another, and the games and projects they undertook to entertain themselves were truly inspired.

Funnily enough, when we told them that there would be no TV in Argentina, they didn’t really seem to care.

Are You Coming Back to Portland?

We get asked this question a lot. The short answer is that we can’t imagine living anywhere else in the United States than Portland.

But, what we are doing is a bit different than a traditional sabbatical in the sense that we are dismantling our professional existence here in Portland. We are closing up shop and pulling out, starting with a clean slate. That means we will not be returning to a cushy, high-paying job at the end of the year. (See the earlier post stating emphatically that we are crazy.)

I guess that means we really have no firm plans other than leaving for a year and seeing where that takes us. (Boy do we sound flaky when I put it like that.) I suppose that if we are having fun overseas and figure out a way to support ourselves after a year, we might remain overseas for awhile because the kids are the right age for a vagabond expat existence. If we are ready to settle back down in good ol’ USA, then we anticipate returning to Bridge City.

Garage Sales and Condo Living

We sold our house last year and have been renting a condo ever since. I have been happy with the arrangement until now, when it just occurred to me the tremendous downside to having a condo–WE CAN’T HAVE A GARAGE SALE!

I am a relentless organizer. I eliminate clutter and extra crap in my house constantly, and still it seems to accumulate. When I move from a house, I count on: 1) a garage sale to get rid of the good stuff; and, 2) the “free pile” set outside the house to get rid of everything else. Other than hazardous waste, you can successfully hand off all unwanted items in your house between the garage sale and the free pile.

I am trying to imagine our stuffy condo board embracing a free pile outside the building…hmmm, it might be worth doing just to shake everyone up! And of course, for security reasons, they don’t want people tromping through the building for an estate-style sale in the condo. *Sigh*

Albinos in Chinatown

I am looking forward to my albino girls whipping out their Mandarin in Chinatown when we are in Buenos Aires! Little blue-eyed, pale, blond children in South America speaking Chinese is going to blow their minds.

We are hoping to maintain the girls’ Mandarin skills with some tutoring while we are there.

Why Argentina and Not China?

Since the girls are enrolled in the Mandarin immersion program at Woodstock elementary, and since I speak some Mandarin from my days in Asia, everyone wonders why the heck we aren’t going to China. All legitimate wondering.

At the end of the day, we were concerned about two things that ultimately ruled out China: the exchange rate and pollution (not listed in order of importance).

Having worked in a heavy industry in the region back in the late eighties and early nineties, I got to witness the ravages of pollution first hand. The breadth is astonishing. China depends upon coal fired plants for electricity, which dumps a lot of mercury into the air, which then gets into the food supply. Air quality is low and asthma and other lung related illnesses are high. I worry about heavy metals and other industrial pollutants that are dumped into the water supply that then get integrated into the food chain. (I remember meeting with one building owner in an industrial park who advised me to dump all of our manufacturing waste in a creek behind the facility…yikes.) Those kind of pollutants have a big effect on small growing bodies, so we decided to stay in the Americas and head south.

We also would like our dollar to go as far as possible, which makes China less of an option.

Are You Going to Home School?

When people ask Tom and I if we are going to home school the girls while we are away, Tom and I always have to wait for our hearts to resume beating after the moment of sheer terror passes. NO, we are not going to home school. Reasons are below:

  1. School is how you get rid of, I mean socialize, your kids.
  2. They never listen to us, so I can’t imagine them starting once we arbitrarily declared ourselves “teacher.” Anyone with kids can tell you that parents rank down around, oh, I don’t know, armadillos, in terms of the stock our children put in our knowledge. Pretty much any first grader on the playground is given more cred than we are.
  3. The wee ones are supposed to be learning the language (that would be Spanish) while we are there.

Limb Rejection

Tom and I went on a little R&R excursion without the kids (don’t worry, they are being watched by responsible adults…probably more responsible than we are). While on this trip, I thought a massage might be good for my leg (yah, I know, nice excuse), so I gave it a try.

To say it was successful would be an understatement. It felt almost overwhelming to have my leg integrated with my body in a positive experience.

You see, since I had surgery on my knee last month, the only time my leg is touched is to torture me (read: physical therapy). Other than that, my entire right leg has been relegated to limb non grata. Using it sucks. My kids can’t sit on my lap. I can’t snuggle up to my husband at night (he worries he’s going to roll over and whack it…okay, I worry about that too). I am always on the lookout to fend people off so they don’t accidentally hit my leg when I’m out in public.

I didn’t really realize it until my massage, but I think my leg is feeling ticked off and left out. Bottom line, my leg misses all the good stuff. I suppose I will have to change my physical therapy routine to include more positive feedback for my leg…hmmm maybe more massages.

Tom is going to be very suspicious!

Race to Bend the Knee

Does one really need to walk well in order to plan and implement an international move? At this point, I hope not!

I had ACL replacement surgery in June and am hoping to be up and running by the time we leave in October. By all accounts I won’t be skiing by then, but I should be fine for the trip. My biggest obstacle has been bending–or lack thereof. Tom has had to force my knee through its range of motion while I scream in pain (further endearing us to our never-had-kids, elderly, condo neighbors). This occurs several times a day and speculation is split on whether Tom enjoys or abhors torturing me.

Really, I just wanted an excuse to post a picture of my big swollen leg about one week post op!