Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More Things I Never Imagined Would Need Explanation

So today I had to explain why it is important not to take your older sister's allowance money and flush it down the toilet. It was more difficult than one might think.

Oh, and I'm exactly one week out from T-Day. Freaked? Maybe just a little.* I'm learning that the more Tagalog I study, the less apt I am at any language at all. Today my instructor and I spent nearly twenty minutes trying to think up a really good English word that describes a situation when you really fuck up. I still can't think of a less profane way to describe it. Luckily since you can make just about any English word into a Tagalog verb by adding the mag- prefix, I'm pretty sure I can still use it in my test.

*If by a little you mean that I may wet myself at any moment.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Exhaustion Breeds Disease

Or so it seems since I was forced to cut out of my Tagalog lessons early to pick up 2.2 from school after she threw up in class. Now I'm home studying economic vocabulary and cleaning up vomit. Such a glamorous life! ;)

I know it's a bit late into 2012 already, but I forgot to post this. I'm particularly fond of #10.*

*Also, I may or may not be the person who submitted #20...just a little disclosure in case you ever happen to be stuck in an elevator with me :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I have so many things to blog about and just no time to actually get it down on screen. In addition to all of the usual PCS (permanent change of station) bullshit and my looming language test, we are busy making all of our last minute travel and personal visits. Last weekend I went back to Connecticut to visit my grandfather, who is currently home on hospice. I cannot explain what it is like to say goodbye to someone and know that it is the last time you will ever see them. It was a very surreal and emotional weekend. Totally worth doing but extremely upsetting at the same time. I don't know if my sister will blog more about it, but the one true highlight of the trip was being able to hang out with my little sister for the day (she flew all the way from Amsterdam).

This weekend Husband is in LA visiting friends and saying his goodbyes. I went and spent an awesome Friday night out with one of my BFFs from college.* We had a pretty busy day yesterday filled with Chuck E Cheese birthday parties and one adult going away get-together. Unfortunately, 2.3, as my dad likes to refer to him, came down with the explosive vomits last night so the rest of our weekend has been derailed with carpet scrubbing, multiple baths, and lots and lots of laundry. I stayed with him on the floor of my bathroom last night because he kept puking in his sleep, so I'm having trouble getting motivated to do anything (plus he already threw up again this morning, so our plans to go see the Lorax are going to have to wait).

Next weekend Husband will be in TX visiting the step-kids over their spring break. It wouldn't be so bad, but C has a volleyball tournament, which generally last all day from about 6am when we leave the house to after 9pm. No fun when you have to bring the whole gang along and entertain them all day! I'd consider just dropping her off, but the tournament location is about 2-2 1/2 hours away, so that is out of the question this time around. Then we have just one last weekend here in DC before I jet off to FL for 3 weeks of Reserve duty at my old unit. I come back on a Friday night and that following morning at the crack of dawn we are off to the airport with three kids, one cat, and a three-legged dog in tow to start our journey to Manila.

There is so much to get done and so little time to do it. We do have the household move all set up and ready to execute, only the sorting of things into the different shipment remains. The car shipment is set, the pet shipment is set (other than the USDA certificate, which has to be handled within 10 days of leaving the country, so it will be up to Husband to handle it while I am out of town), school withdrawal dates are set, still no visas but I'll be calling to check on their status on Monday. There's still the issue of T&V's passports and visas**,  homeschool for C***, getting transferred from the traditional Reserves to the IMA****, various insurance arrangements and transfers for everything (car, health, renters, dental...), and so much more. To say that it is overwhelming would be an understatement!

* Just a side note that I wanted to do a post about how awesome it is have a friend like L. We have been friends for over a decade and though we drift in and out of each others lives across continents and life events, she is the rare friend that I can visit with and feel like no time has passed at all. I think that quality of friendship is so hard to find, and I am super blessed to have her in my life.

** they need medical clearances before I can have them added to my orders to Manila - a fact which would have been great to know oh say a year ago when I first asked about what I needed to do!! But there's no use in dwelling on the incompetence of others.

*** missing out on two full months of the 7th grade is just not an option, SMA (special maintenance allowance) fell through because of time requirements, financial issues, and because it would have been impossible to coordinate with when the step-kids usually come over the summer.

**** I have to get current on all of my annual requirements (PT test, physical, dental, shots, etc.) before I can make the transition. The good news is that I already have a job waiting for me at PACOM, so it's just a matter of getting to FL, doing my thang, and getting it documented so we can fast-track the transition process.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Helpful(?) Hints: Passport Edition

Yowza! Has it really been so long since I last posted? February just flew by. We're down to the wire here both for language training and for getting all our crap together! Moving is never easy. Moving internationally is even less easy. Add in three full-time kids, two part-time kids, a cat, a three-legged dog, and the fact that this is our 1st move with State...well, let's just say this is the most complicated move we've ever attempted. Rather than bitch about all the crazy minute details that need to be attended to or that State is apparently the anti-checklist agency (the antithesis to DoD, if you will) where every move is treated like the first one ever conducted. Nope, I'll save all that for my internal seething. Instead I'll try to be a bit more helpful for any random FSOs/wanna be FSOs that come across this blog. Thus, I give you, the passport story...

Husband and I have a blended family. I have 1 child from my 1st marriage, and he has 2 children from his 1st marriage. My oldest daughter has a scumbag, shithole for a biological father who has no contact with her whatsoever. Now that we live so far away, my step-kids live with their mother in Texas during the school year.

Step Children:
Let's start with the step-kids. The State Dept, which deals with many cases of child custody and parental child abduction between international parents, is naturally very sensitive to the nature of taking children for whom you may not have full custody of overseas.  If you have step-children in the FS, you must have either joint, full, or sole custody to take them overseas. We have joint custody. You will need to submit all divorce/child custody paperwork to your HR Tech. You are also required to obtain and submit a notarized letter of consent from the other parent, which states that they give their permission for the child/children to be taken overseas for the period(s) of custody of the FSO or EFM parent. Your HR Tech can work with you on the specific language (our letter had to be redone at least 3 times and Husband's ex was not helpful or pleased to say the least!) All of this is needed in order to have your step-children recognized as EFMs. Then you can submit an OF-126 in order for them to be eligible to be put on your orders. This process took about 7 months for us between tracking down what was needed and getting all the parties involved to actually take the steps they needed to take. In our case, this length of time meant that we were not able to get their diplomatic passports because they have not been physically present with us since they were added as my EFMs. Oh, and I just noticed the other day when we were turning in our visa applications that despite all this, they still aren't listed on my TM4, haha! Back to HR!! Luckily for us, the Philippines actually has a loophole whereby we can apply for diplomatic visas for them and place them in their tourist passports. So once I get them added to my TM4 we should be able to get them into the country without issue.

One-Parent Signature Passport:
This was the real nail-biter. Since my oldest child, C, has no contact with her biological father, I applied for her passport with just my signature. This requires a a notarized statement of why you can't obtain the other parent's signature. Then, when you are in front of the passport official, you must fill out another statement basically going into as much detail as humanly possible as to why you can't obtain the other parent signature and then take an oath swearing that you are telling the truth. We went to the Special Issuance Agency (SIA) to apply for our passports since I thought it would be easier than going to Main State with all the kids, and the gentleman who took our applications was very kind and courteous. However, he warned me that DoS has begun taking a very hard look at 1-parent signature applications and has started asking the applicant parents to go to court in some cases in order to get a court order allowing the passport to be issued. He was not able to give me a general timeline for how long this process might take if they did not accept C's application as is, so up until the moment her passport was actually issued there was always a chance that they might come back and ask me to go to court. This, of course, would have hugely delayed us, so I have been putting off most of our other moving tasks until I was sure that C's passport would be issued. I was not about to leave the country without one of my children, so until I got that passport, I had no idea what we were going to do. So it was a MAJOR relief when I finally got word that her passport was ready to be picked up.

First Time Diplo Passport:
Hint - If you don't have your TM4, you will need yet another form called the DS-1640. I did not have this form when I went to apply for our diplo passports at the SIA. The SIA people were kind enough to take all of our applications and hold on to them while I tracked down the form, which should have taken about a day or two. Unfortunately, as with many of my experiences  with DoS, something that should take just a few days often turns into somewhat of a journey. To make a long story short, it took just over a month to get this form generated. This meant that our passport processing didn't even start until after the New Year. Hence why I was so concerned about the timeline concerning C's passport.