Today marks one month in our new home in Texas and things are settling down a bit in terms of logistics.
I dare not say they have concluded because there is still a significant logistical event on the horizon: school, which starts on August 16th. Back in Canada, my kids all attended the same pre-k through Grade 6 school of about 500 students, and I also worked there most days. Here in Texas, the oldest is transitioning to a junior high and the younger two will go to the community elementary school. Both schools have well over 1000 students and I’m not working at either one (yet?!). Honestly, this change is the hardest for me and I’m not quite ready to think about it yet aside from remarking on the registration process…
- School Registration – I’m sure it varies according to district, but for the renowned Katy ISD, the registration process was two-fold. Firstly, as of July 17, on-line registration for new students opened. It’s not exactly quick to complete and print the on-line forms. Yes, I printed it because I understood that I was required to bring a hard copy to the second step, registration in-person at the school. Turns out, they had a printed copy and I could have saved 12 pieces of paper… times three kids, sigh. For my oldest son, registration at school was drop-in and though I didn’t arrive as soon as the doors opened, there were only about 20 people in front of me. I felt hopeful as the spots were numbered and things seemed to be orderly even though there was no one floating around for questions. As it turned out, the organization ended after the first of 4 stations and it took close to 4 hours to complete the 4 stations. The website did not indicate that the students needed to be there BUT in fact, they had to select courses with the school counselor so I ran home to get my son and then ran back quick like bunny… only to wait for another hour. Fortunately, the staff were patient and friendly, which somewhat redeemed the inefficient process. A couple of tips: make sure you have your child’s immunization records. Though we are up-to-date by Alberta standards, we are missing several of the required Texas immunizations – a word on that in a moment. Without them, my son will not get his schedule and cannot attend school. It’s serious business. Secondly, what I would give for my bills to be in my husband’s name AND mine! As SAHM/TTW (Texas Trophy Wife), I’m dealing with all this stuff but the bills are not in my name! They reluctantly accepted the closing mortgage statement from our house purchase as proof of residency. (It just irks me a little. I COUNT TOO. So there.) The elementary school in-person registration was much better organized and took less than an hour, leaving me time to take all three kids for additional required immunizations at a “pop-up” clinic at the local high school. Had I never taken my children for immunizations, I would be none the wiser but I was nearly in shock over the poor process. It was held in an entrance way of the high school with a couple of tables for supplies and a few chairs. At least there was some privacy with the waiting area around the corner but still people were coming and going through the entryway. There was nowhere available for fainters to lay down and perk up. There was no explanation about the immunizations, no discussion why they are required in Texas but not in Canada or other states, no discussion that one could ask a doctor for exemption if one wanted, no written information provided about the immunizations and follow-up care. I would not have made my kids get them if their schooling didn’t depend on it. My oldest son bled quite a bit which has never ever happened before and didn’t help matters any. They all cried and it ended with them requiring ice cream to get over the trauma and me requiring … something a little stiffer.
- Apple ID/iTunes update: It took me quite a while to muster the patience for yet another phone call to Apple Support and even then I had to repeatedly tell the automated system that I WANT TO SPEAK TO A REAL LIVE PERSON PLEASE before I finally got through. Then, after a few more transfers and nearly another hour on the line, the agent began sending me the purchases made under my Canadian iTunes/App store ID to download onto my laptop and then upload onto my phone which took hours. Pain. In. The. Butt. AND none of my former purchases are in the Cloud. I wonder in retrospect if I could have just created a new US Apple ID and kept my previous purchases and then added onto them. It certainly inclines me to use music services like Amazon or Spotify rather than purchase through iTunes.
- Gel nail drama – Who knew that gel nails are not a thing in Texas? Not I. I assumed I would easily find someone here to keep up my gel nails which I have grown to love! They are indestructible and give me the opportunity to look polished and express my creativity! Well. Here in Texas, it’s acrylic nails or “dipping powder” and the only gel people know about is shellac polish that you harden under a UV light. I called everywhere, I spent more time than I care to admit scouring Instagram and Google for gel nail artists. No dice. Finally I decided to go for the SNS nails and hope for the best. My friends back home generously gifted me with a GC to a local salon, which was very friendly (they serve wine). They tried their darndest to file my gel nails off which ultimately took a LONG time. They used the grinder, hand file and tried acetone which did nothing. I was close to being burned a few times. Not my best experience but the finished product is… fine. Unless I’m missing something, the options for nail art and design with SNS are significantly limited compared to gel nails and I just don’t understand why someone isn’t capturing the market for full gel nails here. They don’t know what they’re missing. (but I do – wahhhhh)
- Buying a vehicle – I’m not in
KansasAlberta anymore. No more signing the back of the vehicle registration then heading to the nearest AMA or registry for new plates. No sirree. You have to get “the title” transferred, get an annual inspection and emissions inspection, have proof of insurance, and many other things that I signed without really knowing what they were (I’m not the only one, right? I consider that as trusting that people are doing their jobs, not as ignorance on my part). We initially tried to do a private purchase but ran into many roadblocks and eventually decided to buy secondhand but from dealerships so that we could ensure that the Car Fax reports were done, that all the steps were properly addressed. We have temporary plates that expire in September, which seems like a long waiting period, and will pick up the actual plates from the dealerships. We still looked on Auto Trader to find what we wanted then went to those dealerships. It is a good idea to browse the dealerships because my husband ended up finding an excellent condition Toyota Rav4 that hadn’t even been listed. And by delaying on some vans, we missed out on them. So don’t delay. When you see what you want, go ASAP and be prepared to act. Fortunately we were able to buy them outright so I can’t comment on financing but I imagine it would be another big rigmarole with our lack of US credit history.
- EZ Tags – Be prepared to go ASAP to get yo’self some EZ Tags and thereby access the toll roads without any difficulty. I did not personally do this step. My husband took care of it because I would have been hooped to try to find my way to the EZ Tag store without using a toll road. I will say that one of the worst experiences yet was trying to follow my husband through Houston traffic as we picked up and dropped off vehicles. He thinks he knows better than my BFF Siri so I had no idea where he was going and was totally disoriented and he lost me several times. But hallelujah our marriage survived that ordeal and went on to put up a wall decal together so we are basically marriage superstars here.
- Getting your driver’s license: We don’t have “The DMV” in Canada so I never really understood the derogatory references to the DMV in movies. Now I get it. We went there after work with what we thought were all the documents we needed – passports and social security cards, three kids in tow. We have insurance and registration in our vehicles but didn’t bring it in with us. That was our first mistake. Actually, that was our third mistake. Our first mistake was relying on secondhand information instead of looking for ourselves at what we needed to get our licenses. In fact, we needed copies of our visas, a few proofs of residency in addition to our passports, social security cards and $25 each. Our second mistake was waiting for our ticket number to be called. They kept calling people according to time stamp but also posted the ticket numbers being served on monitors around the room. Finally, when the time on our tickets was long past and our numbers remained far off, I instructed my husband to go inquire. Sure enough, we were supposed to go up according to the time stamp instead of the ticket number. Huh?? We waited a good half hour more than necessary to go in what turned out to be a secondary line. Then, when we finally reached the front, it was after-hours and we discovered the third mistake, that we didn’t have proper documents and would not be permitted to run out to the vehicles to get them and return to the building. I almost cried but for the kindness and patience of the clerk. Thank goodness she extended the offer for us to come back the next day to her station and skip the wait to get everything processed. I missed wearing the outfit I had intended for my license, but I’ll get over that
someday. One positive, you’re allowed to smile for your license photo so I gave the best TTW dazzler I could muster! I also reported my goal weight and my height in shoes. HA!
- Library card update – the first thing I did after getting my temporary license is drive straight to the library and sign up for a card. I was assisted by a pleasant librarian this time and we all had fun browsing the books and other materials. Libraries are like free “shopping” y’all. If you’re not using your local library, you’re missing out.
- Shopping – A brief word on shopping, aside from thrift shopping of course! Though the biggies like houses and cars are cheaper in the US, that is not true of all the day-to-do shopping. Milk, eggs, and meat seem to be cheaper, as well as produce to a lesser degree, but many every day items are similarly priced for the dollar. And keep in mind that wages are generally lower. Even with the dollar difference, my earning potential here is significantly reduced. I can’t even ponder “what’s this worth in Canadian dollars” for some items – too depressing. Some examples include deodorant, contact solution, and deli or specialty foods. I am sure there are better deals to be had and I’m sure there is a local food and shopping scene but it certainly isn’t as easy to find as in Edmonton, so YEG, be proud of your local scene! You outshine the fourth largest city in the US as far as I’m concerned.
- Employment Insurance – Another negative experience was dealing with the Canadian government worker when I called to inquire about EI. See, I had already called and been informed that EI looks favourably on people who have to stop working because a spouse is transferred, even when one lives outside of Canada. I had already been directed to the website and process, and was simply calling to find out if the access code I used during my mat leaves was still applicable. Before I knew it, the lady neglected to answer my question and instead, before I had a chance to protest, put me on hold and took it upon herself to see if I qualified for EI and then was practically gleeful to inform me that I did not qualify. I am not exaggerating. I said, that directly contradicts what I’ve been told AND your website that I’m looking at right now. She then got snotty and put me on hold again for 15 minutes before I told myself, I know what I know and hung up. I have paid into EI since I started working at age 14, never used it excepting maternity leaves and haven’t touched it in the past 6 years. I am certainly not going to shirk my responsibilities to seek employment, but I don’t think I deserved that kind of treatment. So there. I still don’t know if I’ve been approved for EI benefits but I am hopeful…
- Finding a job – Well, for anyone who doesn’t already know, I cannot practice as an Occupational Therapist here in Texas and I am heartbroken about it. I cried for two days when I found out and my daughter aptly remarked, you’re sadder than a thousand sads. You see, I read the wrong information when I agreed to move. OT now requires a master’s degree but I graduated long before that came into place in Canada and the US. I understood that anyone graduating before 2007 could write the exam and be licensed with a bachelor’s degree. Well, that’s IF you’re a US resident. International candidates cannot even apply to write the exam without a master’s and there is no course for appeal. No matter that I have 15 years of experience, numerous awards, glowing references from everyone on my teams including parents. So here I am, sitting in the US with “a certain set of skills” (please envision Liam Neeson when you read that), wondering what to do with them. I might be able to make a case to be a preschool teacher or get a teaching certificate or fork over a year or two and $15 to $50K for a master’s to do what I already do for a significantly lower income. Sigh. I don’t have any answers yet. I updated my resume and have a kick-ass cover letter ready to go. I am searching Indeed, Craig’s List, career listings of local schools and services, wondering if there’s a market for a highly trained but unlicensed “consultant.” If you know of anything, by all means, comment below or endure my long face once my kids are back to school and I’m lacking meaningful occupation. Meanwhile, I’m waiting on God faithfully. I trust that He did not equip me as He has and bring me to this place for nothing. I know He has a plan and I just need the patience for it to come to fruition. Patience is *so* my strong suit. (Not.)
- Finding a church – There is certainly no shortage of churches in Houston! That being said, it could take a lifetime of church hopping to get to them all and evaluate where we fit. I have seriously considered going to church twice on Sundays and on Saturday nights so we can cover more ground, but my family was less enthusiastic about that idea. I attended great churches in Canada where women feature prominently in leadership, not just as admin staff, so naturally I’m looking for the same here which is harder to find than I would have guessed. We will keep on it, keep praying about it, and hope it doesn’t take too long to find a home church because this gal needs to make some friends…
- Making friends – As I mentioned, I am totes known for my patience and thus had somehow figured I would make friends by now. Is that confidence or ignorance? Maybe both. In any case, I have met some people (and look forward to seeing them again!) but I would not say I have found a friend, someone I can hang with and get to know. Without work as a launching point, without spending time at the schools (my oldest will ride his bike and the other two will take the bus), how the heck am I going to find my people?! Before I left Canada, I joked that I would take out a “friend wanted ad” and some nights I’m sorely tempted to do just that. Then I remember that would be weird and desperate and find me the wrong friends. 😛 I’m hoping it’s a summer thing and that once the Fall routines kick in (in the middle of summer), I’ll stumble across some peeps in the thrift store or church or wine aisles or somewhere. If you frequent those places, don’t be surprised if a blonde Canadian strikes up a conversation! Fair warning!! Meanwhile, if you’re reading this because you’re moving, let me tell you what I’m telling myself: building relationships takes time, give yourself grace and don’t compare to anyone. You’re a great person, so it’s only a matter of time before you find your tribe!
So that’s where things are at, one month in. Still feeling abundantly blessed, still loving the warm weather and beautiful home. Still growing patience and learning to be at peace in the waiting.
Anyone have any burning questions about moving to the US? I’m all ears… but I might make you visit and have a margarita with me before I answer! 😉