Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Final Days in the USA

With our "Miami" friends having arrived on Sunday and my parents on Monday, we were all set to begin to say our "goodbyes".

Kevin and I made a final run to the Post Office on Monday afternoon with a few more "Bangkok" boxes. No matter how organized I am, it seems that we always have SOMETHING to be sent out at the last minute! We were still trying to sell the Expedition (and quickly running out of time to find a buyer!). I had placed an ad online and we had signs on the car but had no luck. Monday night, as we were leaving my brother's after dinner, a college student who lives down the street from Jim and Jan stopped to look at the car just as we about to get in and drive away. She was very interested in the truck but needed to do some research to make sure our towing package could pull her horse trailer.

Tuesday morning, the battery on the Expedition died and needed to be replaced. AGH!!! It couldn't have happened at a worse time but fortunately Kevin was able to pick up a battery at Sears and replace it quickly. We decided we would take the truck to CarMax if we did not hear back from Jim's neighbor by 6 pm. We picked up the dogs (awesome kennel!) and then had a late afternoon BBQ at my brother's home. Many thanks to Jim and Jan for letting us take over! The Miami contingent attended as did Clare, my parents, Christopher's friend Will, and our VA friends, Carolyn & Jennifer. It was a lot of fun and I am glad our Miami and VA friends got to meet. The kids had a blast running around the basement and outside.

It got to be 7 pm, and we hadn't heard anything from Jim's neighbor so Kevin and I began cleaning the truck out to take it to Car Max. Just as I was pulling the last "For Sale" sign off the window, she called and wanted to come look at it again and take it for a test drive. She ended up buying the car and we closed the deal at 8:30 pm! We had a similar situation in Miami with Kevin's Volvo and delivered it to the buyer at 9 pm the night before we left town. Talk about timing (and stress)!

Jim and Jan took Caitlynne and Christopher to Fairfax Corner to see a late showing of the new Harry Potter movie while Kevin and I did a final pack up of our suitcase & carry-ons and got everything laid out and ready for the morning.

Next up... Departure Day

Virginia & New York

We spent about 10 days in the Northern Virginia area, alternating between staying with Clare and staying at a dog-friendly hotel right in Fairfax (near our VA home). It was quite hot for a few days after we arrived but then it cooled down and we were treated to some great weather. Kevin did work but he and Clare were still able to golf and go to the driving range a few times. Clare lives in Gainesville, VA in a beautiful over-55 community with a golf course, clubhouse and swimming pool. The cooler weather made for some great early morning runs around the golf course (one of my favorite places to run in No. VA). It was hard running those hills after it being so flat in Miami - what a work out!

Michael, Sheena and Declan arrived from Illinois on July 1st to spend the night on their way to the Outerbanks. It was the first time we had met Declan, who was born in February. He was such a cutie! We left on July 3rd to visit my parents in NY and, on our way, stopped in Philadelphia to see Kelly, my college roommate, and her family. Their older daughter and their son are pretty close in age to Caitlynne and Christopher so they all played together and had a good time. It is funny how they were last together almost 2 years ago, yet they pick up like it was just yesterday.

We enjoyed relaxing with my parents and eating some delicious dinners with veggies fresh from their garden. Caitlynne and my dad made some incredible pickles that were quickly devoured. My dad and Kevin were able to get out early enough to golf before it got too hot. We also had a picnic one day with some of my dad's relatives who drove up from NYC. I probably hadn't seen them in over 22 years! My dad took Christopher fishing in the Esopus Creek our last night in NY and Christopher caught a trout. He also fell in a few times - must get that from his mom! Kevin and Caitlynne watched from the river bank and helped de-tangle fishing lines.

Our return trip to Virginia early Friday morning was uneventful. Saturday, we went to the airport and picked up Ryan, a friend of Christopher's from Miami, who was going to attend a leadership conference with Christopher for the next week. Michael, Sheena, Declan, Kylie and Mackenzie returned from NC and we all (including Dan) went out to celebrate Clare's 70th birthday (from April 4th) at Blue Ridge Seafood. Yum!

We took Christopher and Ryan to Chevy Chase, MD on Sunday for the National Junior Leadership Youth Conference. Will, another friend of Christopher's from Miami, moved to VA the week after school ended and also attended the conference. Christopher was very happy to see his friends! While Kevin worked, Caitlynne and I ran errands, shopped, packed some boxes to ship, etc. Caitlynne visited with her good friends, Jennifer and Caitlin - girls that she has known and kept in touch with since pre-school! They had a few nice lunches out and did some shopping at the mall. I had a fun dinner at Bonefish Grill with my VA friends, Marghi, Jeanne and Carolyn.

A great deal of my time this week was spent working on getting the government approvals needed for the dogs to be exported from the US and to be imported into Bangkok. There is a very specific process that must be followed in order to receive the USDA's approval and the timeline is so tight that there is very little room for error. Our vet in Miami delayed in sending some shot records which almost derailed the entire process. However, we received those records at the very last possible minute (thank goodness for Fed Ex early delivery!) and went on to receive the vet certification , the USDA stamp and the import documents. I was finally able to get a good night's sleep.

We picked the boys up from the leadership conference on Friday and took Ryan to the airport Saturday. I also dropped the dogs at a kennel for a few days. We had family friends from Miami arriving Sunday and I did not want to worry about the dogs while they were visiting. It turned out to be a great idea! Sunday morning we drove to Bethesda to have brunch with my good friend, Rebecca, and her husband, Anthony, and their three children - Josh, Matthew and Rachel. They just moved to Bethesda (into an AMAZING home!) from NJ and it was great to be able to see them before we left.

Caitlynne spent Sunday night at Clare's and Christopher, Kevin and I had dinner with our friends, Mike and Brenda and their two sons, Dominic and Anthony. Mike was a fraternity brother of Kevin's at VA Tech. They live in a very charming home in McLean and have done some renovations to the interior and improved the landscaping quite a bit. It was lovely to sit on the patio and enjoy the evening with them. Their hydrangeas were in full bloom and were gorgeous!

After dinner, we returned to the hotel and met up with our friends from Miami. First to arrive were Jane and her two children, Patrick and Samantha, who were returning to Miami after a vacation in Upstate NY (her husband had flown back to FL earlier in the day from NY). Later, Gayle, Eric and their son, Jake, arrived on their way from Miami to the Thousand Islands for vacation. They were all exhausted from a long day of driving but we were able to have a glass of wine and chat for a few minutes before bed.

Next Up... Our Final Days in the USA

The First Phase... Miami to DC

Well, my goal was to have this blog up and running before we left Virginia on July 20th... obviously, that didn't happen so now I will play catch up and recap our move and then our first weeks here in Bangkok. I am sure these first few posts will be quite lengthy. However, after I catch up and begin posting on a daily basis, I expect the posts will be much shorter. Let me begin... I have a lot to cover!

In looking back over the few months, I am absolutely amazed at the amount of planning, organization and hard work that went into making this move happen. This move seemed to be a lot more difficult as compared to our moves from DC to Australia and from Australia to Miami. Kevin was offered a great job at the US Embassy in Bangkok late last Fall. Typically, the Government's moving process begins about 4-5 months before the actual move date so, knowing the new job started July 22nd, I knew I had plenty of time. However, given the type A / totally obsessive compulsive person that I am, I tried to get as much pre-packing/move "stuff" done in advance and I think I overplanned myself.

In addition to planning for the move, our Spring was busy with Christopher's baseball, Caitlynne's basketball, FCAT prep, school projects and readying Caitlynne for final exams. I was also the co-chair of Christopher's 5th Grade End of the Year celebration (a trip to Disney in early June) which required planning and organizing fundraising events and then putting the actual trip together. We were so successful in our fundraising efforts that we had enough money to have a pizza/dance party for all of the 5th Graders the last week of school. It was so much fun and it was great to see the kids have such a fabulous time but it was a lot for me to do, especially during the move "crunch".

School ended on June 9th and we completed our pack out June 13th and 14th. For the two weeks prior, our home was in a state of organized chaos... there were boxes to go airfreight to Bangkok, boxes to go sea freight to Bangkok and all of our furniture & other miscellaneous items to be sent back to our storage unit in Virginia. Every box, pile, container, etc. in the house had a "sticky" on it designating its final destination. I can only hope the movers got it all right!

After the pack out, we moved to a local hotel for two weeks. Christopher and a friend attended a basketball camp at University of Miami (UGH - Go Hokies!) and Caitlynne helped me wrap up loose ends and hung out with her friends. We spent a lot of time with good friends during these two weeks and it was nice to be able to have that time together before we said, "goodbye." On June 21st, we did the final walk through of our home with the landlord and then loaded the kids and the dogs into the Expedition (which was packed to the roof!) and headed North. We stopped in St. Augustine and spent the afternoon with my sister, Valerie and her husband, Todd and their son, Shane. Kevin and I slept a little while they all went to the beach. We left St. Augustine at about 10 pm that night for Virginia. It was a long but uneventful trip and we arrived at Clare's (Kevin's mom) home at about 9:30 am.

Next Up - Virginia & New York