It’s Blowin’ a Gale!

It feels like a whirlwind right now, in every sense of the word.  In the most literal sense, it has been raining since Thursday (today is Sunday) in insane amounts, and last night wild wilds started up along with it.  It is crazy to witness. 

More figuratively, our own family whirlwind of the past few weeks consists of us looking for a new house to rent, getting ready for the monumental change to our lives which is Drew starting full time school in two days, dealing with the public health system regarding Drew’s ears, and trying once again to apply for a credit card.  Whew!  Also, our washing machine died one day recently, so the new chair we were getting for Christmas became a lovely new washing machine instead.  Steve says now that “I” have my first ever brand new washing machine, he should get a new mountain bike.  I wonder if I ‘let him’ use my washing machine, if he’d let me ride the new bike?  Our vacuum died as well, so we are on the hunt for one of those.  The explanation of why our stuff keeps crapping out on us is fairly simple:  when you have to acquire every household item at one time, it can get quite expensive.  Therefore, we cut a lot of corners a year ago at this time, and replacing the items gradually with higher quality ones is much more reasonable as the need or opportunity arises. 

As to our first big project:  looking for a house.  I bristle when I hear people refer to Americans as snobs, but this move has really made me feel like a spoiled little princess.  These people are just tougher than me and man I feel like a wuss sometimes!  I’ve already explained my wonder at the lack of climate control in the homes, as well as the prevalence of wildlife INSIDE.  It turns out my standards are a bit too high regarding housing and our budget as well.  Typical rent in this area is between $1700 and $1800 per month, although the rent prices here are always referenced by what you pay by week, which makes them sound less expensive than they are.  For that price, I was surprised to find that a bedroom is just a room with a window—closets (cupboards as they say for closets, kitchen cabinets, the pantry, etc.) are more of a luxury, not necessarily included.  Huh?  Trying to find any place with more than three bedrooms and/or more than one toilet is also not likely in this price range.  Ceiling fans and/or air conditioning (and I mean window units; only brand new expensive places have what we term central a/c, here ‘ducted air con’) are also ‘nice’, not necessary.  The same goes for window screens.  This all frustrates me, but I just need to toughen up.  If we were to try and buy a home comparable to our three bedroom, two bathroom home in Lafayette, which went for $220,000 in a decent area that didn’t lose much value when the economy slipped, it would cost around $500,000 here.  If we went much farther out of the city, the best we could do is around $300,000 and that’s going pretty far away from my idea of civilization.  I have also been hearing that taxes and fees related to buying a house are much higher here, but I don’t yet know the specifics.  Sigh.

Anyway, we hope to find a place to live sometime in the next couple weeks that meets up to most of my standards and is in a decent area.  Fingers crossed.

Now, on to Drew.  He starts the equivalent of kindergarten on Tuesday; it’s called Prep.  He will be at the nearest public school, called a state primary school, and he wears a uniform and goes from 9-3ish 5 days a week.  Suddenly, my beautiful boy will be gone a lot more hours in the week, and it is only going to increase from there throughout his life.  Waaaahhhh!  I am sad, and poor Zach, who can’t fully understand what’s happening, is going to be lost without his idol.  He and I will be on our own every day now.  I know it is a good thing, but it is a huge adjustment.  We haven’t had to be somewhere before 9:00 in the morning 5 days a week since he was born—nearly five years now, and never in my ‘parent life’, that of needing to get two children up and out the door.  I have to change Zach’s nap schedule to make the pickup time, prepare lunches and snacks 5 days a week that don’t need to be heated up and don’t require much refrigeration, figure out how to do after-school care for one, possibly two of those days…..and I still feel like I’m navigating a foreign country for all of it.  This change would be ‘foreign’ to me in my old hometown; here, well, it’s been pretty unfathomable.  Wish us luck!  There are three classrooms and we don’t even know who his teacher is—we have heard nothing from the school since last October—I am not too pleased about that.  Fun fact:  his school has an outdoor pool; most of them do, and we had to buy a uniform swim cap for when they start teaching (I think?) swimming in three weeks.  Either teaching or just throwing them in to play.  I honestly have no idea what they do.  Guess I’ll find out!

Drew’s health issue:  When he was one, he needed tubes inserted in his ears after 8 ear infections.  They are called grommets here, although with the definition of a grommet, I still believe that it actually is more of a tube than a grommet, and it is hard to start calling it that.  Sigh again.  One has since fallen out and the other is still functioning.  Last April or so (maybe earlier), he had an ear infection and his gp (general practitioner, no pediatricians here unless you really need one) recommended he see an ENT specialist.  He put us on the public system wait list.  In October of last year, he was finally seen for an audio test and they found fluid in one ear which is causing mild, albeit reversible, hearing loss.  They tested him again in November and then put him on another wait list to consult with the actual ENT because they think he likely needs another tube (it’s my blog and here I’m calling it a tube!).  They made an appointment for February. 

Now in late August, we did actually get private insurance for $240/month for the whole family.  I first heard they likely wouldn’t cover him because they would consider it a pre-existing condition.  We had more appointments with the gp, had to submit some paperwork, and were pleased to find out they would provide coverage.  We then got a referral to a private doctor.  I had heard the out of pocket costs for us if we went through the private system would be anywhere from $300 to $3000.  No one seemed to really know.  Now by the time I got this all figured out, once he’d had his November appointment and learned that we still can’t know the cost for sure, but we are looking closer to the low end than the high end, it was close to Christmas.  Remember, things SHUT DOWN around here for nearly 2 weeks! 

By the time I called the private doctor, I couldn’t get him an appointment in the private system until February, same as the public.  So, we kept the public, knowing that they if the doctor recommended tubes again, he would be put on another wait list for the procedure, and if it was a long wait, we would go back to the private system, where the wait after a consult would be less than two weeks.  Keep in mind, if we stick with the public system, we pay NOTHING—no premiums, no appointment co-pays, no procedure co-pays, etc.  Confused yet?  I am!

A few weeks ago, I get a letter from the public clinic confirming his appointment for Feb. 8th and asking me to call to confirm our address (called our ‘details’ here, anything from phone number to address, birth date, etc.).  When I called, the lady said the appointment was cancelled and rescheduled to April 10th.  Naturally, I went bananas!  She told me the doctor is taking leave, and in the public system, they don’t bump other appointments to get the cancelled kids in sooner, but they just move the cancelled kids to the next available appointments to save time and effort.  She said she understands it’s frustrating, but that’s the system and it’s not going to change.  She also told me it’s not uncommon for kids to be on this waitlist for 5 years; the typical wait time is 18 months, so we are still ahead of the game.

I am still an angry wreck over this.  Obviously, I have been very pleased with the public system in many ways since my family became part of it.  Doctors are sent to the house to see sick kids; there are never any costs; we have had a lot of good experiences.  Right now I think it’s a good system when someone is sick or has an emergency.  But I honestly do not see the point of leaving children out there with hearing problems for FIVE YEARS.  I do not understand how that is a helpful, functioning, HEALTH CARE system!  I am dumbfounded; no words.

Thankfully, we do have private health care and the ironic thing is, this doctor who is taking a vacation during my child’s appointment, also happens to be the doctor the gp recommended we see privately.  I would bet money that Drew could get in to see him earlier than April 10th in the private system.  However, I refuse to have my child be seen by that man.  We got an appointment with a different doctor, and through a few calls and a bit of luck, it is for February 6th.  A friend did find us a doctor that sounds even better, but I can’t get in to see him until March 7th, so again, I just need to suck it up.  At least Drew has an appointment for now. 

Finally for today, our credit card issue.  We have always had a credit card and used it in various ways, but never have kept a balance on it, so it’s always been more like an additional debit card.  In late 2011 when we arrived here, we tried to apply for one and were rejected because we had no recent history here.  Again, they don’t care a thing about our unblemished record overseas; it’s only what we’ve done here that counts.  Late last year, we decided to apply again.  At this point, we mainly want it to use to book four overseas flights every 18 months.  We would really not rather use so much savings and cash at one time to book flights, but rather use credit and actually pay it over 2-3 months.  A few weeks after we applied, the bank asked for a lot of additional documentation from us, which we promptly gave them.  By Christmas, we still hadn’t heard and after the holiday shutdown period and our trip, we started calling the bank again to find out what is going on.  After about six calls, with no one returning them, we finally reached an employee who told us that the $8,000/$10,000 (I can’t remember for sure) limit we asked for is too high and they want us to apply for less.  Of course, the person I really need to talk to was on leave (see a theme here?), and I would surely get a call back the next day.  Three days later, this woman actually answered the phone and was forced to talk to me!  Alas, her computer froze up when she tried to look up our application, so she would get right back to me as soon as she got it working again.  That was Friday around 1:00 and now we are in the middle of a long holiday weekend (another theme. Nobody works on Monday this week).  Ah, well, one of these days, we may actually start to feel settled in this new life.  It’s only been about 16 months……

On a positive, not at all frustrated note, we had a great time with Steve with us for 7 weeks and his part time job at the pub was just the right amount for all of us; I think even for him.  I think he enjoyed getting out a bit more and the money was just enough to keep us in the black during an expensive couple months which included a fun trip.  I have had special time with Drew this past week as I try to squeeze in as much as I can—conversations, baking, and a movie.  I love that little man.  And, thanks to my beautiful family and friends, I had a lovely birthday last week.  My husband and sons truly spoiled me.  Drew made the most precious little presents and they insisted on making me breakfast in bed, which was a funny morning.  They took me on a lovely boat ride on the Brisbane River, which was a fantastic way to enjoy the novelty of now having a birthday in the middle of the summer.  J  My sweet husband actually MADE icing himself, colored it several different colors and brought the boys together to do an activity where they made a face on a cake for me—SO, so touching!

I have been sad before at the realization that moving overseas means we now get very little mail—much less in the way of Christmas cards, birthday cards, birth announcements, etc.  However, I have again been blessed to have become much more into technology, and the well wishes I received warmed my heart.  I even had a girlfriend here suggest a cocktails night, and I got to go out last Friday with five girlfriends!  It was almost every girl I have here in Australia and it was a fun, touching evening for me.  The friend who couldn’t go took me out shopping one afternoon the week before.  I have definitely made progress! 

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