#Nomaggedon 2015 in the ATL

Spare a thought for us here in the greater Atlanta area. We have been suffering this past week. SUFFERING! There have been severe winter storms threatening us, for at least 5 days. Sorry North Easterners and your 58.5 inches (1.48 metres) of snow in February. We were all aquiver over the 60% possibility of a frozen mix*. You may remember last year the whole city and nearly the whole state of Georgia was bought to a standstill for 24 hours when 6 million people hit the road at the same time trying to get home during #Snowmaggedon2014. It did not end well. It did not end well at all.

It was so tense on the weekend that on Saturday, a full 40 hours of time and weather patterns ahead of Monday morning they cancelled school based on the frozen mix scenario going bad.  In actuality it might have been a pre-planned move. Our county was the only one in Atlanta attending school on Presidents Day because of certain vagaries in our particular school calendar year.

Sunday morning I went to the supermarket and came across hundreds** of people sweeping eggs, bread and milk into their trolleys. Naturally I got caught up in panic by association, and ended up with nearly $100 of groceries when I had gone for half a gallon of milk.

In our house pseudo snow day Monday meant that the kids and the dad (Federal holiday so designated day off work – now ask again why the kids were going to school in the first place) were home, with me, and the cleaners. It rained ALL day. It was awesome***.

But there was no frozen mix, no serious dip in temperatures and no ice on the roads in our area. There were other areas suffering difficulties, ice on the trees and power lines and roads, but not in our little corner of Cobb. Never the less, to be super safe at 10.25pm the phone rang and it was the Board of Education canceling classes for ANOTHER DAY. Still no sign of anything white.

It didn’t rain on Tuesday, it was cold, around 0c /  32F with some wind chill dropping those a temps some more. Kids were able to play outside for reasonable periods of time, always looking upwards, in case of snow…..

No snow. Today they all went back to school. YAY!

At 12.30pm I decided to walk to the supermarket to get my steps in**** and see what was going on outside.

You’ll never guess…..

SNOW (flurry)

SNOW (flurry)

You can even see a very amateur video I took of it here.

*frozen mix being a fancy word for sleet, which if it settling and freezing causes all sorts of difficulties on the roads. See also – black ice.

**well there were definitely more than 50

***sarcasm font

****it’s not like anyone doesn’t have a 10,000 step goal or more anymore

He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich……

Recently someone asked me what were some of the silliest things people had ever asked me about Australia. I didn’t have to dig too deep for the most recent.  A couple of weeks ago a lovely American (bolded because it is relevant to the story) friend had been imbibing some grown up beverages for several hours and came up with

‘If England settled Australia in the first place why don’t you all have British accents?’

I did VERY well for me, because he is really a lovely person and my reply was very restrained.

‘I’m just going to let you sit on that for a while .’

And walked away. Smirking.

Today I was reminded of the VERY best I have ever been asked, if not the best then definitely in the top three.

When I was 15 I went on a semi-exchange to Canada. What a semi-exchange is, because you’re all dying to know, is when you go for 5 months to live with your Aunt and Uncle in Canada and don’t have to miss a school year, because you go over summer and miss all your school holidays instead.  My semi exchange is how I get all my winter street cred, because I did a winter in Saskatoon.  A WINTER in Saskatoon, with temperatures hovering around -40 Celsius, which co-incidentally is -40 Fahrenheit, the magic moment where Fahrenheit makes sense before it doesn’t again, and announcements on the radio about small children and the elderly not going outside while I was trudging to school through the snow drifts. Anyway, that’s how I remember it and you’re not taking that away.

So in my Grade 11 history class we had a circle time where you could ask the Australian girl anything about Australia.

‘Do kangaroos just, you know, hop down the street?’

Of course!

‘Are Olivia Newton John and Elton John brother and sister?’

Not sure how that is relevant.

‘How big is Ayers Rock?’

Do not know. (with all the shame of a 15 year old, none)

It went on and on, round and round and then the time was up. I was off the circle time hook.

After class in the hallway a couple of kids cornered me,

‘Umm, we have one more question’


‘ummm, you know the song by Men At Work?’


‘Well, umm, we were just wondering, umm, is a Vegemite sandwich a blow job?’

Can you please repeat that foreign teen who I do not know very well?

‘Well it says ‘He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich’. So what we thought was, that it was a, umm, blow job.’

No, it’s just a Vegemite sandwich.


Showing all the correct ingredients for a successful Vegemite sandwich. Fresh white bread, butter and the mighty spread.

Canada wins my friends.

What is the strangest question someone has ever asked you about your home country?

Giving Thanks

Change is hard for most people, some more than others. As an expat for the last 11 years I have been through my fair share of countries and changes. Recently my belly button contemplations have centred around when the change becomes the norm. When things that used to stand out and confuse, surprise, unsettle or just plain irk you, don’t any more.

When using an everyday greeting or words in another language that used to make your tongue twist in circles or make you cringe a little bit on the inside in case you were saying it wrong comes out feeling perfectly normal – to you and to the people you are using it with.  When you stop getting headaches from concentrating so hard from driving on the wrong side of the road and the turns you make across traffic are reflex rather than strategically planned maneuvers. When someone says ‘Wow, you really walk a lot in this city’ as they duck and weave following you along a crowded footpath that you used to find overwhelming and you forgot you ever did, like you also forgot you never used to press the close lift button in the elevator (recognizable by being the only button you are unable to see the symbols for). When checking the local paper for the upcoming power outages (should they feel the need to list them) is as natural as using terms that drive you crazy but you now feel the need to spread the crazy – see use of ‘just now’*. You get the idea.

To me giving thanks on Thanksgiving was always ‘too American’ to contemplate. I certainly was an interested and engaged participant the past two Thanksgivings we have been lived in the US, watching friends post on all forms of social media what they were thankful for, even those Americans (and Canadians who do it a month earlier) living overseas, but I always thought it was ‘for them’. Now on our third Thanksgiving in country while preparing some tasty traditional side dishes for our own Aussie / Austrian (the one with no kangaroos) Thanksgiving feast later in the day, I popped a cork and posted my own spontaneous thanks. It felt quite normal and probably something I will do from now on, wherever we live as we incorporate it into our multi-cultural lives and rituals. A nod to when the change became the norm.


When was the last time you realised a change had become the norm?

*just now is one of the most used and most difficult terms to define in South Africa. It means, not immediately, but that could be a time between 5 minutes and 8 hours (or lets face it three weeks) . After the initial shock telling me that the repairman would be there ‘just now’  used to drive me crazy, almost as crazy as it drove my children and family when I used it with them.

Expat ouch AKA the toughest snip

What makes you wince, sends a shiver down your spine and wriggle around a little uncomfortably? Is it fingernails down a blackboard, you know when we had blackboards in classrooms and not just chalkboard paint on my kitchen wall? Is it the sound of paper ripping (yes yes YES Mr 11 screams from his corner of the room)? Or is it what happened to me today at the Australia Post Office in Runaway Bay, the sound and sight of scissors to my passport, cutting off the computer read strip?

The cutting away of the strip means until my new passport arrives in my hot little hands I am country bound, a very uncomfortable feeling in my world. Even though the country I am in is my homeland, it is not my current country of residence or the country where my husband is right now. It just feels weird, and I don’t like it.



After recently consulting my passport I determined if all goes to plan flight wise, I will land back in the US with six months and four days on my existing precious and battered document. Most countries require six months validity to accept you through their immigration queues, so if there is a delayed flight or a change of plans I could be in a very sticky situation. Then there is that I actually have no long term residency rights in the US beyond my visa, valid for another year right now, but I really want to be really sure that I can get on a plane anytime, anywhere and go if I need to.

There are so many stories of passport problems I have heard over the years that you would think I would be more on top of things, but I wasn’t. I am flying next Friday, and a priority passport takes 4 days according to the Post Office guy, 2 days processing time after receipt according to the very friendly and helpful customer service Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade representative I spoke to this morning.

So this afternoon with greasy hair and no make up I rushed around trying to find somewhere to take a passport photo of me that will take me INTO MY 50’s! The current one was taken when I was 33 and living in Hong Kong, where I was obviously doing a lot more work on the maintenance side of my life.  I was wearing make up, had reasonably done hair and appeared very calm in my photo.

Today a lady in the Sanctuary Cove pharmacy took my photo and I nearly cried. Literally (as my kids say all the time and it drives me nuts) tears were welling in my eyes. Although I should have had a clue to the outcome when she was lining up close – ish to my face about a foot below my chin line.

Don’t worry love, they all look like mug shots.

No, no they don’t. My last photo is almost beautiful compared to this.

Well, if you don’t want to take it…..

No, I don’t want to take it, but I have to, my passport interview is in thirty minutes, at a location twenty minutes away.

I don’t think I can re-visit the Sanctuary Cove pharmacy, ever. My terrible passport photo is probably on the wall with a big red mark on it, chances are though if I returned to purchase some big earrings or very expensive sunblock that they wouldn’t recognize me, because I didn’t.

It sounds so vain even to me, but it’s not like I put it in a drawer and forget about it for years at a time. As an expat I kind of use it quite a bit. I began to understand why I had make up on in the current shot and had perhaps even blow dried my hair that day.

As I drive onto Runaway Bay for my Post Office interview I thought about my options. If I got there ahead of time I could find another pharmacy and try again, as luck would have it – there was one just around the corner. I rushed in, bought some oversized clips to prop up my hair a bit and asked if they did passport photos.

Yeah, we do, but the camera’s broken.

Of course it was.

Beaten I trudged to the Post Office where the line was lengthy but I kept getting closer to the photo from hell on my passport until I am IN MY 50’s, did I say that already? When I got to the front I asked, in  a very small voice…..

Do you do passport photos?

Yes we do, $14.95.


The lighting was better, the man was taller, I have 2-3 less chins in the second shot. It’s not perfect but it’s so much better than what could have been.

1st photo, 2nd photo and the TOTALLY fake passport photo on the front. Smiling is verboten.

1st photo, 2nd photo and the TOTALLY fake passport photo on the front of the envelope. Smiling is verboten in passport photos.


So all things going well – next Friday we will be returning to the US, 3 travelers with 5 passports between us. The old elastic band on the second passport for the visa trick, an expat oldie but goodie.

4 of the 5

4 of the 5

Sunday Funday

Today is Father’s Day in America, and a great part of the world it turns out when you look at Facebook feeds (see – still a relevant social media tool). Not so in Australia, when Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September. For all the people that didn’t know that already, you’re welcome.

Yesterday the ‘father’ in this house started making some noises about going for ‘brunch’ for Father’s Day.* The mother in the house did some searching on the web about the ‘best brunches in Atlanta’, ‘best breakfast locations in Atlanta’ etc etc. Turns out, surprise, surprise that most of them were booked out and the ones that weren’t were a first come, first serve situation, and about a 45 minute drive. That scenario in our house is fraught with danger; first the driving part ‘are we there yet?’ could be asked as many as 65,000 times in that time period; and three members of our four member family do not like waiting in lines. I envisioned 45 minute drive, arrive frazzled, long line, look in my phone for for ‘next option’, 20 minute drive, arrive frazzled, long line, look for ‘next option’, 15 minute drive – some threats of violence in the enclosed space of the vehicle to anyone who asked ‘are we there yet?’ OR announced ‘I’m hungry’.

The best option was clearly breakfast at home because ‘don’t forget Dad you told us you’d take us to the movies tomorrow, we haven’t been to the movies yet this holidays’. Also, I had just watched the Holderness family Father’s Day video (remember them from Christmas Jammies and Snow Day?) and I was guessing that while traveling to brunch was a nice idea, it probably wasn’t what he really wanted.

So at 8am I arose from my spot in the spare bedroom (I had given up my own bed at around 1.30am due to a scenario involving a nightmare monster squashing 7 year old girls), and dressed in yesterday’s clothing to walk to the local supermarket in the ‘cool’ morning air.

The cooler morning in Hotlanta these days is around 25 degrees celcius or 77 F and 100% humidity, the walk is short but hilly. When I arrived glistening (East Cobb ladies don’t sweat, we glisten) to procure my breakfast needs I discovered many a mother with child in tow doing the same. I even found some of them in the card aisle. Phhhht. I totally had that down, I had downloaded from PINTEREST – yeah, that’s right, a full booklet that my children could use to creatively describe to their Father in words and pictures how much he meant to them.

Only one small problem.


Not daunted I pressed on. I am sure there is a website for Pinterest fails I can attach this to later.

It's the thought that counts

It’s the thought that counts

Once I returned from my morning walk, across a neighbour’s back yard to avoid the last little crushing hill, I set about making a world class brunch worthy breakfast. There are no photos in case of food critic / cholesterol police but it did feature, poached eggs, organic bacon, breakfast sausage, mushrooms, onions and  grape tomatoes with a square of onion and fetta bread.  There was coffee and orange juice, flowers from our garden and the paper. Not bad I say.


After a sufficient food coma break for the father and time of course to joyfully read his Dad, World’s best booklet, there were plans made to attend the 2.45pm session of How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Mr 11 was very difficult to get out of the house, he doesn’t like movie theaters, they are cold (bring a long sleeved top – no thanks) and loud (bring some headphones – no thanks). We had to promise this was the ‘last movie he would ever have to go to’  in order to get him off the front step. Miss 7 loves the movies, she loves the popcorn and icee ordering and then forgets that she too finds it a bit loud. I had to sit between them at their request to calm any situation that may arise. All seemed to be going well, I had minimal bumps from elbows, all four held high when pushing hands to ears to dampen the noise. Then a request ‘can you pass me your icee cup – I think I need to barf’ Mr 11. A few minutes later I had the ‘all clear, false alarm’ and I turned attention to Miss 7 who at this point had tears streaming down her face – SPOILER ALERT – I thought because of the death of a character in the film. I started to tell her, it’s OK I cry all the time in movies and when I read books. No such luck, it had been too loud for her so in pushing her fingers into her ears she had scratched the inside of them with her fingernails. The apparent pain from inner ear scratches was causing the tears, that didn’t stop flowing until the movie finished.

Don’t you wish you were having my day? I sure wished I was having one of the perfect father’s day I could see scrolling through my Facebook feed. Smiling kids and dads, lovely meals prepared by OTHER people.

As we rolled back into the garage the father and I decided that we hadn’t seen a non-animated film at the movies together for over 11 years. We estimate it could be 11 more before we do.

Upon entry to the house everyone scattered for quiet time, golf  on tv for dad, building on the Kroger in her minecraft game for Miss 7 ( because every minecraft world needs a supermarket right?) and Mr 11 back with headphones and YouTube videos.  Peace at last.

Happy Father’s Day!

*before the apostrophe police who quite rightly keep a close eye on me and my many grammatical errors jump in, the interwebs told me that US law adopted the term Father’s day with the apostrophe right there.

Axis of Imperial aka learning about Gallon land

Who does not love a good story about Queens, Princes, Princesses and many many cats?

My son has recently completed CRCT testing. What is CRCT testing I hear you ask? Great question, let me copy and paste something from the internet for you. Thank you as always Wikipedia.

The Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) are a set of tests administered at public schools in the state of Georgia that are designed to test the knowledge of first through eighth graders in reading, English/language arts, and mathematics, and third through eighth graders additionally in science and social studies.*

The thing is this, for Fifth grade, you MUST pass two of the exams administered Reading and Math (oh look I’ve gone all local and used no ‘s’ on the end there) to move into middle school.

The teachers don’t expect parents to spend a lot of time on these as it is based on work they cover during the year. However there are some, do at home pre-tests that I had to assist in administering.

It was then, looking over a Maths pre-test, I discovered the horrors of the imperial system. Seriously, for someone born and raised on the metric system, which really, just makes sense with its whole 1 to 100 or 1000 stuff and move the decimal place backwards and forwards – the imperial system is a house of horrors.

I would have preferred option e

I would have preferred option e, in fact I may have added it myself

I spent the next few weeks moaning and ranting to anyone who wanted to listen (and many who did not) about the ridiculousness of it all. Who uses this system I asked? Turns out there are three world powerhouses still married to the British Imperial System and none of them are Britain. The USA, Liberia and Myanmar, or as I prefer to call them, the Axis of Imperial. Although to be fair Britain still partially uses it – which kind of makes sense ’cause they invented it and all.  Apparently it’s used for very important things such as sizing for beer and cider glasses but schools, government and most sane other people use the metric system for the whole measuring thing.

Then I began to rethink. Was I just being old, crotchety and closed minded? Did I need to be more open and embracing of a system or cultural norm of a country I am living in? I asked my son about it, he explained it to me, and I discovered a magical place called Gallon Land.

Gallon Land can be seen in this VERY amateur video as described by me. There is a giant G, Queens and a lot of cats – complete with poor commentary and shaky screen.

I still don’t love gallons, quarts and fluid ounces, but I don’t know how many more years we will live in one of the Axis of Imperial countries so I’m just going to suck it up for now. As long as no one asks me to embrace fahrenheit I think I’ll make it.

* The Georgia Department of Education website has a note to say that due to budget restraints there is no testing of first and second graders in Spring 2013 (we’ll assume they were saving website update funds and apply that to Spring 2014 as well)


It’s called a Promposal and it’s a pretty big deal here. There are hashtags on every sort of social media you can imagine to seek out the best and the rest in the #promposal world. Instagram, tumblr, youtube and Pinterest #promposals are everywhere.

We’re racing to the end of the school year here in Murica, which means Prom time, and promposals are flying thick and fast. It doesn’t matter if you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, apparently it’s not a given they will attend Prom with you.  No longer the assumption that you will go together or an idle conversation at lunch. The new normal is a slightly elaborate and more formal request of some kind, generally filmed or photographed by your friends or others standing by.

No. pressure. kids.

Last week my own 7 year old daughter was thrilled to be involved in such a scheme. Her Under 9 lacrosse team was playing at our local high school in an exhibition scrimmage (5 minute game amongst her own team) between the Varsity (Grades 11 and 12) and Junior Varsity (Grades 9 and 10) games.

One would imagine this would be an excellent opportunity to watch the bigger and much more experienced girls playing lacrosse and looking at ways to improve their own game. Not so, the U9’s were under the bleachers fighting over who would be the P,R.O and M. My own junior LAXer* was at first the M, but was later reassigned to O. I’m not sure of the difference but apparently all letters were debated over at length.

The coach’s son had a girlfriend in the Varsity game. After that match finished the U9 team ran on and this happened

#PROMPOSAL (click for video)

Thankfully for all involved – she said yes. We must also have some respect for the U9 team who followed coach instructions and dropped and ran back to their game immediately.

Notes on the Promposal

– The team in purple were the visiting team. They had just been beaten 17 – 2, so that may be why they were not so enthusiastic about the exciting on field events.

Heard in the bleachers

– High School girl ‘I want that relationship’

– U9 Father in attendance ‘Glad I never had to do that, I had enough trouble with the marriage proposal’

I hear you, U9 dad. Amen to that.

Additional general notes

– Every teenage girl in Georgia has waist length hair apparently

*LAX being the accepted shortened form of Lacrosse

The 'after' shot

The ‘after’ shot