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6 posts from April 2007

April 27, 2007

USAA ROCKS

Period.  We had heard the endless praise and waffled on joining for years.  We never sat down to do the math (if you are eligible, do it NOW).  Yes, we wish we had called them the minute they opened their doors to non-commissioned FSOs, but just had no clue how much time and money they could save us.  And, frankly, we didn't really toy with the notion until I heard about their Deposit@home service.

Now, if you are in the U.S. Foreign Service, stationed overseas with no APO/FPO, base or heck, Embassy big enough for a bank teller window, you know the pain of receiving checks at post.  Even if you turn right around and slip it through the "U.S. Mail" slot, it is a good week before it leaves the heavy wooden box in which it sits.  Then you can count on 1-2 weeks for its return flight to the states and the dumping of the pouch into the regular mail.  Yawn, and this is the scenario if things are moving in a timely manner.

One can only imagine the fun we have with insurance claims.  Two months or more between the time money is spent and the time you receive to put back in your bank account.  Oh, and the time it takes to get to said account.

Until now.

With my interest piqued, I asked a few more questions.  Rather than digress into the long journey of trying to get Pete interested enough to call, suffice it to say, the call was finally made and 57 minutes after it began, we were full-fledged members with two accounts and a credit card (mandatory for deposit at home).

Of course, we did not yet have any checks to test, since all claims were still in process.  However, one night while perusing the site, I clicked on auto quote.  As most of you know, we have the Accord in 'storage' back home.  Unfortunately, while the kind gentleman watching and maintaining our car is doing a fabulous job, Nationwide, our insurance, was not.

Given that the car was barely being driven and in great shape, we seemed to be paying an obscene amount of money to have it ensured for R & R and the estate resolution trips I made last year.  Nationwide was also lousy about online documents and could not seem to get that the bills were supposed to go to one address and the declarations another.  They could not contact us by email and had also screwed up our homeowners policy last year.

So, imagine my delight when I clicked on auto quote and was delivered a price that is $640 less expensive than Nationwide?  A BETTER policy and less expensive.  Yes, I know, limited customer base and all...but still, very appreciated.

I called to apply and was told (nicely) due to the current storage situation that we would need all kinds of information from the "storer" and that no one else could drive it for the moment.  Currently, it is being borrowed, so I let USAA know we would call them when it was back in storage.

I had barely hung up when Pete came running up the stairs, saying USAA needed to speak with me.  I told Peter I already had and apparently, the agent was calling regarding that conversation.  Turns out the information I was given was incorrect and the car could be insured without a problem.  Only a small amount of information was needed from the current driver. 

Five days later, information was obtained.  I gleefully emailed Nationwide letting them know we no longer needed them 'on our side' (HA!). 

Oh, and tonight two checks arrived in the mail.  We followed the four short steps for securely depositing them online (through our scanner) and within 5 minutes the insurance refunds were credited to our account.  We were a little nervous, but we should not have been.  Fast and simple.  No more waiting weeks on end to see if the money actually made it or not.   No more lost interest on money we should not have had to spend in the first place.

Hats off, USAA!

April 19, 2007

When it rains, it pours

in a good way this time.  As some of you know, I was recently asked to increase my time at the International School for next fall.  I don't know of my exact duties yet, but it will be divided between administrative and teaching.

Then yesterday I received an email from the head teacher and manager of the Mother Tongue teaching group.   I had subbed for two of the teachers in the past and also worked on their website for a while.  Sadly, the preschool teacher announced she was leaving at the end of the term.  The children absolutely adore her and her lesson plans are exceptional for a two hour/week class. 

Imagine my surprise (and delight) yesterday to receive an email asking if I might be interested in the position?  I was thrilled and accepted the offer.  So, in addition to working at ISI during the week, I will also teach Mother Tongue on Saturday mornings for the 4-6 year old group.  I know many of them from subbing, so it should be a  fairly easy adjustment.  We don't yet know whether Kelsey will attend or not (as she may not need it), but she is quite excited to tell everyone that I will be teaching "her" Mother Tongue class next year!

April 15, 2007

Oops!

You may have noticed a very tantalizing title, but nary a photo or word.  Perhaps because someone was a little gun-shy and was not up to typing a blog entry last night.    Caitlin made a fabulous "parm chicken" dinner last night and it was a treat for the eyes and the taste buds.  So, we will keep the title and add in the words and photo at a later time.

She utilized her new Healthy Kids Cookbook and followed the directions to a T.  She is getting quite good at preparing various dishes and we are initiating "Caitlin's Cooking Night" one night a week.  Kelsey also wants to do a cooking night, but hers may be more focussed on helping rather than preparing the entire meal by herself.

As I am typing this at 10:43 in the p.m., I realize it is finally pitch black out.  It was still quite light out at 9:15 p.m. and will continue to stay lighter longer until we are in June and I stop sleeping altogether.  I love the longer days, but they really wreak havoc on one's body clock, unless you are extremely attuned to the changes (or could care less because you are on vacation).

Speaking of vacation, we have some plans in place!  We are booked for 10 solid days at the Refuge Inn in Chincoteague.  Without realizing it, we booked the last deluxe room (with a (drum roll) TUB!) for the week of the pony penning and auction.  The girls are pretty psyched as you can well imagine.

We are also going to do a little Mid-western travel for Dad's birthday,  a trip to Memphis for summer camp, real summer weather and yet another special birthday celebration.  A weekend trip to  DinoWorld and Mammoth Cave is also in the works, as Dad, G and Mandy are in Chattanooga for a few days to attend a wedding. 

Everything else is still being planned, but it looks like the girls and I will be stateside for about 8 weeks or so.  We had toyed with the notion of travels through Europe, but with all of the family events this summer, seemed like a good idea to head back for a bit.  It will also be cheaper  activity -wise to go to the States, as  the exchange rate has continued to tank and prices are just out of control.  Oh, for a Trader Joe's here....

April 14, 2007

Caitlin makes dinner!

April 11, 2007

The Donate Chair

Tonight Kelsey commented that she had two 'ballets' (her name for leotard), not realizing one was really too small.  I mentioned that she could no longer wear it and she said, "That's okay, we'll just donate it. I will just put it on the donate chair." 

The donate chair is where we had been putting a few things to take to the recycling/donation center and despite having gotten rid of a lot, the donate chair still gets much use.  It is so much easier when they grasp the concept of giving away (without expecting anything) in return at an early age.

Yes, Easter pics coming soon.  With the crash and burn of the main pc, we had to find a gizmo to plug into the laptop to upload pics.

April 05, 2007

Cleaning up Reykjavik

Despite the idea in one's mind that Iceland is 100% pure and clean, it does have its, well, dirty spots.  Not dirty so much as full o' litter.  Namely, our street.

Our street, and our yard, in particular are hot spots for the 3 a.m. party goers trudging home (or to the next venue) with that close-to-empty beer can or bottle.  Since small, curbside recycling bins are non-existent here (except at the new Ikea) and trash cans are few and far between, they get thrown in our yard.  Lovely.

We are hosting a small Easter brunch and egg hunt on Sunday and thought it would be great if the kids helped us prep.  I sent them outside with Pete's 'gripper'.  A gripper is  a 3 foot long arm with a claw on the end.  Some people use it for picking up items off the top of bookshelves or other hard to reach areas.  Pete likes to use it to pick stuff from the floor.  The fact that he cannot do this without a Junkies podcast playing on his nano makes the vision even more amusing.  Helpful, but amusing.

So, the kids had the gripper, two grocery bags and set out to conquer the yard.  I looked outside to check on their progress and realized I could not see them anymore.  I craned my neck around the side door and found them pulling garbage out of the shrubs two houses down from ours.  With our yard tidied, they decided to straighten up the rest of Sudurgata.

They finished up and had two full bags of trash, most of it stuff people just couldn't hold onto for five more minutes.  Like people who don't make the effort to recycle, litterbugs drive me (and the kids) nuts.  I know we aren't the epitome of a green family, but how hard is it to put something in the right place?

Even the kids know how to sort things and that relatively little goes in the garbage can.  They actually have awesome recycling facilities here that now take plastic, paperboard, cardboard, glass, aluminum, steel, office paper/newspaper and your old ceramic bathtub (haven't found a whole one yet). 

People voluntarily drive their recycling over weekly or monthly, whatever it takes.  I will truly be spoiled when we can return to the States and simply recycle into a bin, if need be. Although, sadly, I know it is still not utilized by many people, despite the convenience and knowledge you are helping to keep the earth that much cleaner for the next generation.

So, here's my two cents:  strolling around downtown anytime soon?  Hold onto that litter, and properly dispose of it when you can, as otherwise the kids on Sudurgata are going to have a few words for you!