Category Archives: East Cobb

Promposal

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

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Swim Team

Don’t do it!

Do it!

It’s awful, you will be SOOOO glad when its over!

It’s great, they will be soooo much better at it by the time its over!

Everyone gets a ribbon, no matter where they come!

The excessive exclamation marks are warranted because everyone I discussed it with had a strong opinion and they were all heartfelt.

I may have mentioned 77 days of summer vacation already. While Phineas and Ferb thought ‘their generation’ was the one deciding how to spend it, I can assure them that their parents also had to get out their thinking caps, their wallets and more cleverly their calendars – in about January.

Failing that, those of us that are less organised, not heading elsewhere for three months, new to the extremely lengthy summer holiday season for school age peoples of the USA, or ALL of the above, need to scramble to take the scraps of what’s left activity wise or enter those that accept enrollments when the ground has thawed and there are birds singing in the trees.

Swim team was one such activity. As an Aussie girl who wanted to see the swimming tradition passed to the next generation it seemed a great fit. Six weeks of 45mins a day per age group. Why couldn’t it go on all holidays I wondered? Why only six weeks?  Sounds great on paper, until the information that they train not all the same time but in a consecutive fashion. Read the fine print Nikki. Sadly too  late to fix the three and a half year age gap between Ms 6 (aka WASYO) and Mr 10.

Poolside daily 8.30-11am gets you these tan lines

Poolside daily 8.30-11am gets you these tan lines

Then there were the Swim Meets. A once a week reminder of the reason we were all there – a six hour extravaganza where all kids regardless of their abilities get the opportunity to swim a lap or two or four of our or another neighbhourhood pool with their parents and coaches cheering them onto victory – or just lap completion, whatever worked better for them. The theory is beautiful, the reality hot, humid, filled with volunteering pitfalls and swim parents* aplenty.

Heres the thing about swim meets – there are about 650** children from age 5-18 (most in the lower age groups) and their parents and coaches all packed onto the pool deck of a neighbourhood pool.  These pools are not Olympic swim meet certified, they are not designed for this kind of activity. Most of these kids / tweens and teens swim between three and six races EACH between 6pm and 10pm on a weeknight in summer.***

What the pool deck looks like during a swim meet - this one an 'away' meet when the away team gets the sunny side of the pool, lucky!

What the pool deck looks like during a swim meet – this one an ‘away’ meet when the away team gets the sunny side of the pool, lucky!

In summertime the temperature in Georgia peaks between 5-7pm. Just so you know, it is impossible to look any kind of reasonable at a swim meet and that’s before you start your three hour shift managing the 6 and under ‘bullpen’. The bullpen manager is responsible for ensuring that not one of the sugar fueled swimmers, did I mention the concession stand ‘Oh, they’re swimming they can have some treats’ (I’m guilty too),  leaves the proscribed location for the duration of the event, and gets the relevant swimmers to their relevant heats in reasonable time before they swim.

Before the first meet someone told me not to wear a dress or skirt, it was good advice – all the sweat ran straight into my shorts so at least I looked like I had an accident in my pants as opposed to it all running down my legs and looking like something else. Not kidding. I was not alone, every other volunteer parent, same thing. Someone should have tipped me off to wear a sweat band too. I am thinking of getting some printed for next year, or my head shaved, or both.****

Six weeks, five swim meets – six really if you count the washed out one that had to be continued after we waited for one hour and ten minutes in the pouring rain because you have to be out of the water for 30 minutes after each incidence of thunder.

We made it and we have the many many ribbons and one 9 & 10 Boys most improved medal to prove it. Yay us!

Swim team booty!

Swim team booty!

I also have the perfect crowd control item for my kids – if they misbehave I threaten to wear my ‘swim team pin’ (its a badge to me) in a public place, it came in my swim team photo pack, I had no idea but it works a charm.

Behaviour control badge

Behaviour control badge

See y’all next year, maybe….

* As part of my ongoing identification of new opportunities for reality television shows in the US – which there are MANY, I am currently working on a proposal for ‘Swim parents’. Please treat this accordingly as a copyright notice. My idea, thanks.

**OK its probably really only 100 but it FEELS like many many more

*** Even thought the swim meet starts at 6pm you have to be there by 4.30pm to enable warm ups, volunteer job distribution and ‘sugaring up’ of the kids in advance of the 6pm kick off.

**** Someone obviously had tipped my husband off as he was out of town for five of the six events – out of town completely.

Summertime

Summertime and the living is easy hot, humid and one very long school holiday break – or vacation as they say here in Hotlanta, USA.

There’s a 104 days of Summer Vacation,
And school comes along just to end it.
So the annual problem for our generation,
Is finding a good way to spend it.

So starts the Phineas and Ferb song that rattles around my head as I panic about the weeks ahead and how to fill them.

Thankfully there are not quite 104 days ONLY 77 phew.

Like maybe …
Building a rocket,
or fighting a mummy,
or climbing up the Eiffel Tower.

Discovering something that doesn’t exist,
or giving a monkey a shower.
Surfing tidal waves,
Creating nanobots,
Or locating Frankenstein’s brain.

Finding a dodo bird,
Painting a continent,
Or driving our sister insane.

In our house we only need one brother to drive one sister insane or the other way around as the case may be.

Come August 7th, which frankly although I may enjoy the first few weeks of the school holidays, I will be willing to arrive quickly with various fibres of my being, I will have a fifth grader and a first grader returning for their second American school year experience.

Between today and August 7th when they depart at 7.24am on the yellow school bus to resume their scholastic activities, they shall be known as a ‘rising 5th grader’ and a ‘rising 1st grader’. I only hope they rise to the occasion and get along for the intervening weeks.

Today is of course a whole lot more exciting if this is it – finito – you are done with the school years that the government and generally your parents think you should undertake for a basic level of educational instruction.  You will be a High School Graduate and good on you for all those years of undertaking learning with various levels of enthusiasm.

As with all things American I am finding this requires special celebratory activities. Not the least of which is widespread acknowledgement of your achievement of graduation by your micro community, the set of streets you live in, known in these parts as your neighbourhood.

I present to you the Class of 2013 High School graduates as seen on every street corner of our corner of East Cobb.*

Big community -all those babysitters heading off to college

Big community -all those babysitters heading off to college

Floodlit for the night time driving crowd

Floodlit for the night time driving crowd

IMG_3208

IMG_3207

Clever - listing high school and college grads on the same banner

Clever – listing high school and college grads on the same banner

Did Steven's parents forget to send in his name or just wanted to go big?

Did Steven’s parents forget to send in his name or just wanted to go big?

Some recycling for next year here and then an individual wall poster for the basement

Some recycling for next year here and then an individual wall poster for the basement

Simple - clever! Enviro friendly

Simple – clever, enviro friendly

Mixing it up

Mixing it up – different high schools and college grads

Questions

Is this America wide or just our little corner?

What happens if you don’t get into College – lots of focus seems to be on where to next? Don’t you wish just one said
Bar tending and surfing for a year
with accompanying picture of a long board or is that just me?

With the exception of a couple of clever recyclers, what happens to these banners after they are used? Do they get cut up and shared by all?

But you just can’t help get caught up in it all. As I left on my walk/run this morning I came across my neighbour decking her home with balloons to celebrate her high schooler’s graduation. Decorations in the colour of the college you will attend is apparently traditional. It was hard not to feel pleased and excited for her and all those thousands of dollars of college education coming her way.**

Georgia bulldog to be

Georgia bulldog to be

Then I went past our own school on my loop, car park was overflowing due to the Grade 5 graduation going on inside –

Reminder - not even a full day....

Reminder – not even a full day….

Last year of elementary school round these parts

Last year of elementary school round these parts

I guess I have 12 months to find out where to buy car crayons

See next photo

Speaks for itself

Speaks for itself

I guess I have 12 months to find out where to buy car crayons.

* These photos were taken from the road on my run this morning (except the night shot – taken on my walk Monday night to the supermarket) on main roads, I didn’t jump a fence, step in a garden or leave the footpath to take any of these.

** I asked her if I could take a photo to record the moment and she was happy for me to do so.

It’s not all beer and skittles

We had not yet moved into our new house in the ‘hood but were making use daily of the community pool, given the scorching Hotlanta summer and the seemingly endless school holidays. The accents used loudly across the pool by brother and sister made us a stand out and the small community targeted us as the ‘new people’.

Introductions were made and stories shared, friendly folks who oohed and ahhhed at the countries we have lived in, shared their love for all things Aussie (a welcome change to our last country of residence) and admitted to having always wanted to live in another country.

‘But we couldn’t do it, our parents are here, they’re getting older, they could get sick and we wouldn’t take their grandchildren away from them’

Stab, stab, stab.

Unintentional stabbing of course, but it hurts all the same.

A quick chat with any expat will reveal many reasons why they love the life they lead with its swings and roundabouts, ups and downs, opportunities and experiences they and often their third culture kids would never have had if they stayed ‘at home’.

By extension this often also applies to family and friends who visit the expat adventurers in a new and different country, one they may have never been to with no good reason to visit, or just needed an excuse to return to a favourite destination. These are special and cherished times, when the visitors get an insight into the life of their hosts, sharing experiences they may never have otherwise had. We as hosts push the boundaries of our day to day to make sure everyone has a most memorable trip and send them home to sing the gospel and  spread the word to make sure our calendars with penciled in possibilities become concrete conversions into visitors bearing jars of Vegemite and Strawberry Freddos.

There are so many special memories from the visitors we have had in our time away, friends who honeymooned with us in Hong Kong – delaying their trip so we had time to return to our flat from their wedding in the Blue Mountains, my cousin who swore to never live anywhere else but her home town became a regular visitor for ‘the shopping’ and since then has moved twice overseas with her husband and kids. To this day she remains the only person I know who shopped Stanley Markets from opening until closing.

Then there was the travel pack who visited and required a mini van to ferry around. My cousin (of course), her two kids and another of their cousins, her husband, his aunt, her parents and my grandmother, 88 at the time. It was a special day shopping over the border in Shenzhen introducing her to all our regular shopping haunts and telling all the shopkeepers about her very auspicious age. I think we got actual real discounts that day in deference to her age and agility and gracious charm with the locals.

The best man from our wedding and his wife and baby – discovering en route that the baby had inherited his father’s peanut allergy, my brother and his then partner, her terrified of bird flu every time we stepped out of the house, my husband’s sister and brother-in-law came and we popped off for a blissful grown ups only trip to Kota Kinabalu.

My Dad and his wife on more than one occasion – once sailing through the harbour on the Queen Mary and of course my Mum.

South Africa was lighter on the visitors but again my brother and Mum put in appearances. I am pretty sure my brother will never forget the elephant that just wanted to say hello, his first lion spotting or sidling up to the penguins in the Cape for the best photo opportunity.

My mum was the first visitor we had here in the USA, arriving the same day as the container full of boxes. Our first two months in the new house was experienced together. The drama of the pre-school vaccinations and medical checks, the first day of school, the slight changing of WASYO’s accent to move to a short ‘a’ sound and a rolling of the ‘r’s, drop offs and pick ups at a real yellow school bus, weekly drinks on the street corner, WASYO learning to read, Mr 9 saying he quite liked the new school (relief), introducing the local kids to fairy bread at the event where WAFYO became WASYO, she experienced it all at the same time we did. She arrived armed with my childhood set of Winnie the Pooh books and read them to her eldest grandchildren each night before bed, she did jigsaw puzzles with WASYO and talked to Mr 9 about his views on life and video games and became our personal laundry lady – daily collecting the clothes from various baskets around the house and returning them later washed and folded – apparently I have to get used to no ironing (that’s a story for another time).  After proclaiming to get lost in the house on the first few days, as we pulled away last Monday on the way to the airport she said she’d come to like our home. It has been a lonely week since she has left.

Regardless of what happens next, the choices to be made about visits, before or after operations, when, where, how and who with, all five of us will have that special time in our memories. Two months where she was part of our everyday life. Daily this week more than one resident has said ‘When Mumma was here…’

It is hard to be away from family in another country, especially when every phone call or text message could be news that puts everything on hold while you plot a course home, but if we lived in Australia, an hour and a half away by car it is unlikely we would ever have spent so much time together or that our kids would have kissed their Mumma goodnight every night for two months (except for those two pesky hospital visits).

Life goes on here, next week is my husband’s birthday, the following week my Dad and his wife are visiting, Halloween is shaping up to be bigger than Ben Hur and there’s some marathon in New York on November 4th I’m running in, but family near and far are always top of mind. You take the good with the bad and hope the decisions you make, when you make them, are the right ones and that holds true no matter what country you live in.

Adult swim time – not what you might think

I recently read that becoming an expat can make you automatically entertaining and amusing to your friends abroad, describing the things that are everyday and accepted by the place you have moved to but fill your world with wonder and sometimes a giggle or two.

While the things that the locals in your new location would find ordinary and boring are interesting and often humorous to those you left behind, do not fear, the reverse is true for the natives in your new place of residence, so mundane items from a previous country can offer the same excitement to your new friends.

So depending on where you’re from the following items may or may not be new information / interesting / amusing.

In the USA the light switches turn on by flicking them up, not down.

The toilet bowl comes already full of water – rather than filling and emptying after flushing – prompting WAFYO to announce she reckoned she had done the world’s biggest wee, until American toilets were explained to her.

You don’t have to sign at some places for a credit card purchase less than $25.

You drive on the wrong side of the road – while sitting in the wrong side of the car. You can turn right on red after stopping, while that part technically makes sense since you are doing everything in reverse the whole thing just feels so wrong.

Drive through ATM’s are the norm, rather than the exception and everyone uses them, taking great offence if there is a ‘walk-up’.  Even though there are a few drive through ATM’s in Australia I am sure I don’t have to go into the possible scenarios around a drive-through ATM in South Africa.

Nothing is the same price when you get to the register to pay as it is advertised for, tax is added at checkout. So why oh why do they bother to make anything $9.99, when at the checkout it will become $10.16 or something equally over $10? Make any argument you like about Australia’s GST – at least its all already included in the advertised price.

And then there is

Adult Swim Time.

We were the only family at the pool, my kids were the only ones swimming, the life guard blows the whistle – beep – adult swim time.

But there were no adults there to swim!?!?

We learnt quite quickly that small people must vacate the pool for ten minutes while the life guard tests the pool water, does a bit of vacuuming or uses the bathroom. At the end of this ten minutes – the whistle blows again – beep – kids swim time.

The reactions when I mentioned this foreign (to me) concept on facebook could be considered country and culturally appropriate. All the US citizens had grown up with it and found it situation normal but remembered not liking it as kids, or their own kids not liking it, the Aussies thought it was strange – why not do what ‘we do’ and rope a couple of lanes off for adults to do laps and swim without the chance of being ‘bombed’ by an under 12 along with the adult innuendo comments you would expect from those who live Down Under, the Dutch smiled and asked what is an outdoor pool, the South Africans are relatively still frontier living – manage without life guards altogether and the Hong Kong contingent chuckled at the thought of the life guards being awake enough to blow a whistle every fifty minutes.

So if the mundane made magical is your thing – stick around, I think there’ll be more. Every day brings new wonders in East Cobb 😉

The East Cobb Expat

Our welcome to the ‘hood pack says they think this will be the best place we’ve ever lived.

Of course I use the term ‘hood without a prefix because I don’t want to get into a fight with my new neighbors as they choose to refer to themselves. Arguing about ‘proper english’ vs North American english reminds me of when I was sixteen and had a thirty minute argument with my twelve year old cousin about aluminium vs aluminum, when I was living as a guest in his house and his country. I couldn’t be the bigger person and let it go then, I’m not sure twenty five years or so has changed me much. So best not to start down that road this early in my relationship with our new country of domicile and its residents.

In the interests of anonymity for my new neighbours – much in the same vein as Wendy Wax’s character Vivien wrote her Postcards from Suburbia column about her East Cobb experiences in Magnolia Wednesdays (an apparent must read for new arrivals) under the pseudonym  Scarlett Leigh, I will just say we have moved into a ‘sought after swim/tennis community’ somewhere in East Cobb county, Atlanta, Georgia.  There are many to choose from so I don’t fear giving away my exact location.


A swim/tennis community is exactly what it sounds like. A small group of conjoined streets and cul-de-sacs with a central clubhouse, swimming pool with life guard and heart starting equipment alongside tennis courts on which I imagine many a ‘domestic goddess’ in appropriate dress, more old school Wimbledon than Serena Williams, glistens (never sweats) in the early morning or late afternoon to improve her tennis game and engage in social chit-chat.

I have more than once described our South African golf estate living  as a mix between Pleasantville, the Truman Show and Wisteria Lane. While admitting its very early days yet, I fear it may fall far short in the long run in comparison to our time as East Cobb Expats.

Included in the welcome pack along with our own set of registration forms to complete is a comprehensive list of those who live in the community, their addresses (physical and email), names and occupations, schools and pets. There is a separate attached list that specifically identifies those who are happy to help out as Babysitters, Mother’s Helpers (no definition of this but I am wondering if it includes ironing sheets), Pet sitters, House sitters and Yard workers.

It seems we are on the same block as two ‘Domestic Goddesses’ and one ‘Household manager’ and a Ballroom Dance Instructor. I have to pause here and wonder if Magnolia Wednesdays was in fact fiction – what are the odds of a Ballroom Dance Instructor?  Around the corner there is a bearded dragon called Malisa Bob and a little along from there a Guinea Pig called Lightning. Also residing in our community are a wide assortment of cats, cock-a-poos, a gecko and plenty of regular old-school ‘dogs’. I don’t know about you but I am excited as all get-out to meet my new neighbours/bors .  Just struggling with my own directory title as I am not at all domestic after nine years as a pampered expat princess living in countries with excessive amounts of household help and a goddess in no way at all. I was thinking Queen of some description – probably drama, social media addict and serial expat. Do you think that moniker would have the domestic goddesses baking cookies and pies to drop round in welcome just to see who the new crazy family were in the street?

In closing I would like to leave you with a thought that we are presented with every time we drive out of our beautifully manicured suburban residential location – Y’all go and Make a Great Day!