Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving dinner pictures

I watched a video somewhere, somehow, and got set on making these sweet potatoes for our dinner, and they came out great! So yummy!

Our Whole Foods turkey with bacon, pecan and dried blueberries stuffing. Yum!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

This is our first Thanksgiving Day celebrating as a family in the US ever. Goodbye "Having to roast pumpkin from SCRATCH to make a pumpkin pie," (you can't get canned pumpkin in Europe OR the Middle East) goodbye "Chicken as a stand in turkey," (in Lebanon, you may find a frozen butterball, but other than that... nada, nowhere) goodbye "Making your own cranberry sauce from scratch," (Swedish lingon may SEEM the same, but it really is not) goodbye "No bacon in the stuffing," (I don't have to explain!) and goodbye "The entire dinner is kind of like a hotch-potch of different cultures and religions because that's as good as we could do." No, this is the real deal, and we are so excited! But wait. We kind of miss the expat holiday version too. Reading friend's updates of not being able to find this or that to make this holiday perfect makes me... nostalgic.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! Wherever you may be.

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's fall in Georgia

Since Abe, our four year old, has a cold, we didn't go on a long hike this weekend, but drove up to Morgan Falls Park, which we had heard was nice. It was packed - a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon - but there was still space enough for us to enjoy a quiet fall walk (the trail is about a mile long) and some wonderful colors.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Water beads

What if you moved to an empty house in a new town with four active boys, but you couldn’t buy a bunch of big/expensive toys because you are moving again soon, you can’t take anything with you, and you are on a tight budget? How would you keep them occupied? (Apart from the obvious, of course, like music, art, sticks in the backyard, balls,
etc.) I’ve been doing some research, and last week I finally found something online that I thought would be a good match: water beads.

We ordered a pack for around $8, and today they arrived. The outcome? Endless hours of play in all shapes and forms. Priceless! (Add a $1 can of shaving cream, and the fun never ends.) As an added bonus, we probably can take them with us when we leave, because you can dehydrate them again, they only weigh about 1 Lbs. and take up no space at all.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jellyfish at the Georgia Aquarium

Because I managed to successfully upload a video, here it is. These are Pacific Sea Nettles, and were very beautiful and enjoyable to look at.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

American healthcare, encounter 1 in detail

I have been meaning to take Max for a checkup/shots since our insurance paperwork was handed in sometime in September, however I’ve been putting it off. Why? Because the entire process, the system here in the US has seemed so complicated to me, and even just starting to make sense of it has been too daunting. It’s not just that the insurance works so differently from anywhere else, but finding a good doctor when there’s no centralized system or database, and you don’t know anyone else with your insurance or who is part of your network, is difficult.

Yesterday when we woke up though, I had no choice. Max’ hangnail from the other day had got infected, and with our recent struggle with staph infections fresh in mind, I didn’t want to take any chances. His fingertip wasn’t just a little red around his nail, but there was a large pus sack surrounding the entire cuticle. His finger was red, sore and swollen.

I found a list on the Emory website of affiliated providers, and started calling around. It turns out the list was outdated, and/or most doctors on there wouldn’t take in any new patients at the moment, and especially not on the same day. Eventually I found one, 22 miles from our house, however, apart from the distance, it turned out this was quite lucky: not only was this doctor’s credentials quite impressive, but she was also from the Middle East originally and spoke Arabic. Not that I would need or even like to speak Arabic to her, but because most of Max’ medical papers are in Arabic, which has turned out to be quite a turn off for people here in the US who have had to deal with it, and now I wouldn’t have to translate or explain anything.

Four filled out forms later, a lot of waiting (while we were waiting, Max was sucking on his fingers, and managed to break the pus sack open with his new sharp teeth, resulting in a very disgusting moment, let me tell you: pus all around and in his mouth – eww!), and a successful examination (the doctor prescribed antibiotics against the staph infection) I finally arrived at the check-out desk, which is what I had been fearing the most: I had no idea what it was going to cost. It could be $20, or it could be $300. Our insurance only starts paying for part of our costs after we’ve reached our deductible, which is $2,700, so I knew that whatever the amount, I would have to pay for it in full. It turns out the price was somewhere in between what I had expected: $90 for the actual doctor’s visit, plus a $35 one time paperwork fee. It didn’t ruin us financially, but it was just enough to hurt. Good news is that the antibiotics was free at Publix (grocery store) – how is THAT possible?

I have lived in several countries. In Belgium we paid about $100/year for insurance, and everything was paid for – there was no deductible, no reimbursement amount. We could go to any doctor we wanted, and she was available to us 24/7 – or someone from her office. (No, our taxes were not a lot higher than our US taxes.) In Lebanon our insurance is quite expensive (but yes, our taxes are not as high): we pay around $300/month which is only 50% and our employer pays the rest, but there too, everything is covered and there is no deductible. The cost of the insurance is not proportionate to any normal health care related costs since it’s relatively cheap there (an ultrasound costs about $80), but if something really does happen to you and you need surgery, for example, you get your money’s worth.

I mean, what kind of idea is that – a deductible - anyways? “You will pay us thousands of dollars every year, but only if absolute disaster strikes and your healthcare costs - which are totally inflated, by the way – exceed a ridiculously high amount of money, which will already lead you to financial ruin, only then will we pay PART of your costs.” That really shouldn’t be called ‘healthcare,’ but ‘disaster aid’ or something like that.

Anyways. I’m hoping we can all stay healthy for the rest of our time here in the US. That way - if we only have to pay for the insurance and not ALSO for our health care - we'll only feel halfway ripped off. Or not, I guess. Sigh.

And next time we come here, I will make sure to bring more prescription drugs, so that we don’t have to go to a doctor when we know what treatment is needed anyways.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

American healthcare, encounter 1

We had our first encounter with the American health care system today. We are all OK - physically - thank you very much, but wow. After some sleep and a little someone's antibiotics kick in, I will elaborate.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Last week we visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden together with other homeschooling families from our coop. I imagine the garden is quite a bit more beautiful in the spring or summer when everything is in bloom and green, lush, but it was a lovely, sunny day, and we had a good time looking at the scarecrow exhibit and the plant art around the garden. The indoor section was lovely too, of course, with the orchid exhibit and lots of other exotic plants.

The Children's garden had a slide and some fun areas for Abraham to explore, and the boys had a good time walking into this giant ogre head.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cold spell in Atlanta

Since we got to Atlanta, the weather has gone from "pretty hot" to "warm like a Swedish summer day," but last week finally, we got to experience some of the famous wet cold that everyone is talking about. I woke up one morning, very cold, and made my way over to our thermostat: it was 56 degrees in the house. That's only 13 degrees Celsius! Cold. The boys were a mess. William woke up and wouldn't get out of bed, "Ah, I'm COLD! WHERE IS THE HEATER?!" When I suggested he put on a sweater (because apart from the cold, we had also heard everyone talking about the famous heating bills), he exclaimed, "Now I have to WEAR A SWEATER?! In my OWN house, INSIDE?!"

A friend, who also grew up in Africa, understood their reaction, "Poor boys. It is a rude awakening. I remember looking at the snow and wondering what ever possessed any human being to consider that life might be possible in any of these so-called "temperate zones" at all."

Later that day I took the boys out to buy some clothes. Since we've been living in the warm Middle East for the past six years, the boys arrived in Atlanta without a single pair of long sleeved pants, and only one light sports sweater each. We went to Old Navy and got most of what we needed for my 4-year old and 10-year old - some sweats, jeans, sweaters - but I had to take my oldest son, who is 12, to Kohl's, because at Old Navy, all of the size 12 clothes were too small, and the size 14 (which is the next size up) too big. At Kohl's they also had really nice baby clothes for Max at great prices. I even bought a pair of long pants for myself, and some stockings.

We got to wear our new warm clothes for exactly three days, and then it got warm again, back into a comfortable 70's (around 20+ degrees Celsius). To be continued.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Georgia aquarium on Halloween

On Halloween day, the Georgia Aquarium had a special deal/Halloween event: kids in costume enter free. Of course we couldn't pass this up. We've been meaning to visit the aquarium anyways. We had a good time: the aquarium just by itself is well worth a visit - the huge fish tank with, among others, the whale shark is just amazing, and the jelly fish is really cool too - and the even was nicely organized with trick or treating stations around the exhibition. The boys had fun!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013 - unforgettable!

This was our first Halloween as a family in the US, and our boys’ first Halloween in the US ever, and boy, did they make up for it! Faster and more furious trick or treaters have never been seen; run up to the door, “TRICK OR TREAT!” and then “THANK YOU,
Happy Halloween, mam/sir!” next house and repeat. All with a giant happy smile on their faces. “We are having such a GREAT time, mom!” I followed them in the car and drove them parts of the way here and there, through our neighborhood. We went at it for a couple of hours, until their giant bags were so full of candy they were too heavy to carry around.

What a fun night.