Monday, August 31, 2009

Maddie's First Day - Sophomore Year

Maddie was scared to death this morning as she left for her first day of school here in CA. The school has a really funky bell schedule and she wasn't sure where she should report to when she arrived. She's a very capable girl, so we're not worried.

James dropped her off and I will pick her up this afternoon. Let's hope she has a great day!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sea World

It's been really hot here. Temperatures are predicted to hover around the 100 degree mark for the next few days. I noticed on the local paper's weather map that San Diego runs about 10-15 cooler than our area. We've been stir crazy (still unpacking, cleaning and sorting) so I grabbed the girls and we headed south to spend the day at Sea World in San Diego.

It was a straight shot down Interstate 5 - look us an hour using the HOV lanes. It was a really pretty ride, too. It was much cooler at Sea World, though still quite hot in the limited shade. Most of the attractions at Sea World are held in arenas with bleachers. We roasted! It was worth it though, as both girls throughly enjoyed all the shows. We saw the Shamu show, the Sea Lion and Otter show, and the Dolphin show. We also enjoyed the Sesame Street 4-D show - in the nice, cool theater at the back of the park.

The day was not without a meltdown, however. Josie was hot and wanting to get into the Sesame Street show. She had had enough of posing for her Mom and went into what we like to call 'angry monkey mode'! Take a look:

Hope everyone else is able to stay cool - both literally and figuratively - during the coming days!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Natives Are Restless...

I really need to get my kids back in school!!

Josie decided this morning that Carson (a.k.a. Bubba) needed to be a Pirate Dog. You've heard many times before how loyal Carson is to Josie... When she was a year and a half old, she colored on him with markers. He didn't move a muscle then, and he didn't move a muscle this morning while Josie made him into a pirate. Good Boy...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

GIS (Garbage Investigative Service)

Believe me when I say this is a good story.

Here in our new neighborhood, Wednesday is garbage day. The homeowners association and Waste Management provide three (3) 96 gallon bins for trash, recycling and yard waste. Needless to say, we've had a ton of recycling (packing paper, cardboard, etc). By 8:30AM two of the three collection trucks had already made it through the neighborhood. I love efficient service!!

Seeing that two of the bins were empty, I threw on my shoes to go out and pull them back into the yard. Stopped to help Josie select what cartoon she wanted to watch and I was out the door. I got to the curb and trash bins - all three - are GONE! I looked around, asked a kid who was next door washing his car - "Did you see where my trash cans went?" He just shrugged his shoulders.

I thought perhaps it was a mistake, that maybe the trash company had removed them. I call the HOA office, they didn't know what to think. I called Waste Management. "We don't have a removal order at your address". Okay, I think to myself, maybe one of the neighbors pulled them in by mistake.

I tried to brush it off, but it really bothered me. Not that the trash cans might have been taken, but the fact that what ever HAD happened to them had happened in broad daylight, right in front of my house - while I was inside with my children. It spooked me a bit.

I watched all day while each neighbor pulled in their bins, trying to convince myself that I was nuts for even worrying. Waste Management was going to drop off three new bins by next Tuesday at no cost... Just a fluke.

James, who had been in Seattle for the past two days, arrived home this evening and over dinner I told him the story of the missing bins. He said, "I'm going to talk to our next door neighbor to see if his kid saw anything." He follows this with: "I'm also going to call the police". Of course, we all protested - after all it was just trash bins. Maddie was mortified! "Dad, you always overreact to EVERYTHING!!" Against our wishes, James placed a call to the non-emergency number for the Orange County Sheriff's Office. IT WAS THE BEST THING HE HAS EVER DONE!!!

Nothing like a Police cruiser being parked in front of your house to bring out the neighbors! As we were in the driveway speaking with the officer - who couldn't have been nicer - one of our neighbors came walking over. He introduced himself and proceed to say this: "Officer, I have no idea why you are here but on Tuesday morning my sister-in-law's car was broken into right here in front of our house. They got her wallet, an iPod and a Garmin navigation system." He went on to say, "I was on the way to the airport for a business trip, so we didn't report it. When I saw you here - I thought, why not?"

The Officer said goodbye to us and walked down the sidewalk to take the report on the real crime. As I said, he was genuinely kind and concerned - even gave Josie a stick-on Sheriff's badge. Turns out our neighbor who came down the sidewalk has only lived in the neighborhood for 6 weeks. And.... wait for it.... HE AND HIS WIFE HAVE A 4 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER WHO WILL BE GOING TO THE SAME PRE SCHOOL AS JOSIE!!! The girls met and took off to ride bikes up and down the sidewalk while the Officer finished his report.

My guardian angel has found me here in California!!! Must have gotten sidetracked somewhere in the Midwest - but now I'm sure someone's got my back!! And, yes, I will be using trite phrases like: "Every cloud has a silver lining", yadda, yadda, yadda. Finally a GOOD DAY!!

Before signing off, I must give props to the Orange County Sheriff's Department! James called the non-emergency number and the Officer was at our house within 10 minutes. The Officer also took the time to tell us about the department, what areas they patrolled and how to keep ourselves safe.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Secrets of the Move

There are so many things that go into a 'move'. Among the most stressful: Putting one house up for sale, buying another, scheduling inspections and scheduling movers. I handled a majority of the tasks associated with the move out of pure necessity. James started his new job 4 days after we returned from our African trip, returning home to Virginia only twice before the truck pulled away from the house. I'm relatively organized, but this current move (our 5th since 2000!) was by far the worst.

I will admit that I haven't been in the greatest frame of mind. I'll also admit that I haven't been the most optimistic person for the past two months. But, I am trying. There are many things that I've not written about because I really don't have a commentary on them. Simply put, 'it is what it is'. So here are a few things that happened in the past few weeks that you might find interesting or humorous:

- The packing crew in Virginia arrived at noon both days instead of 8AM as scheduled. The driver hires the packing crew locally, based on a list provided by the local agent of the van line. We used United. Our driver was out of West Palm Beach, Florida and contracted by Crown Moving and Storage out of San Francisco. The packers were out of Baltimore. It took one packer 2 days to pack just our kitchen - and I don't have a lot of 'stuff'. It took another packer 1 full day to pack our art.

- The packing crew was fired by the driver and replaced by a Fredericksburg, VA 'moving' crew. These guys actually did the loading into the truck. They did a pretty good job and our driver seemed happy with how quickly they moved. It took from 8AM to 4:30 PM to actually load the truck.

- One of my neighbors in Virginia (ones we rarely spoke with because they both worked and weren't a particularly social couple) actually gave the van driver a hard time for blocking part of the street. Seriously. It was one day out of their lives, and they certainly were aware it was not a permanent situation. Why do people have to do things like that?!

- During the last day of the move, a gentleman was driving around our neighborhood looking for a lost dog. We hadn't seen the dog but promised to keep an eye out for her. Wouldn't you know it, as the truck was pulling away from the house, this beautiful old girl came wandering out of the woods. It was 5PM on a Friday. My friend, Jamie and I lured her into the garage and then hopped in the car to go look for her owner. My friend Sharon, stayed at the house and contacted animal control. All three of us are huge animal lovers, so it was particularly heartbreaking when we couldn't find her owner. The animal control officer was on his own time when he came to get her. He was kind and assured us they would feed her and get her cleaned up (she was covered in mud). I worried about that dog for days, not knowing if they found her owner.

- The people who bought our house in Virginia (we never met them or knew anything about them) are total A-holes. Our former neighbors are plotting on how to deal with the new owners 12 wind chimes and 22 bird houses. My suggestion had three elements: the dark of night, a pair of clippers and a hand saw. I'll let you think about that for a while... ;-)

- In an attempt to be good neighbors, James and I knocked on a few doors last Saturday. We wanted to let our new neighbors know that our moving van was going to be arriving at 8AM the next morning. The streets are narrow and we didn't want them to be blocked in their driveways. We introduced ourselves, apologized for the inconvenience and smiled a lot. We were met by blank stares and no reciprocal introductions. Honestly, they looked at us like we were nuts. We get the same response when we give a wave as they drive by our house. Oh well. We'll just keep on doing like we do and hope for the best!!

On the Personal side:

- I've gained 10 pounds since May. I attribute the gain to stress eating and a lack of exercise. Remedied at least one problem: joined the local gym and have an appointment with a trainer for a walk through on Tuesday.

- Still haven't found a pre-school for Josie. I'm flabbergasted by the prices. Just can't commit to mediocre programs that charge a fortune. More appointments for tours set for this week.

- Maddie is miserable. She misses her friends, she scared to death about starting a new school.

- Josie is off and on... We were driving down the highway today (on our way to Disneyland, of all places) and she broke out in tears. "What's the matter JoJo?", both Maddie and I asked. "I miss Roma, I miss Emma, I miss my school friends." came the sobbing reply. ( I think this was brought on by seeing the Facebook photos of her friend, Riley's birthday party ) Then later, while having lunch Maddie said "I'm scared to death about starting this new school" Josie told her, "I'm not afraid, Mad - you make friends at school." Let's keep our fingers crossed for them both!

- My Mom & Dad and my younger sister, Claudine are coming to visit for Thanksgiving. Mom & Dad will stay for 10 days and Claudine will stay for 5. We're all very excited!!

Sorry no photos. The movers packed my camera case (with my download wire and battery charger ARGGG!) Found that box late yesterday. I need to download the shots I took when I mooched Maddie's camera. I hope to post them tonight...
Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Squeezing an Elephant into A Monkey Suit

It's a standard joke in our family that on moving day, James picks the oddest things to concentrate on... When we moved from Northern Virginia to Reading, PA in 2000, he spent the whole day changing out the light switches. When we moved from PA to Michigan in 2003, it was door handles. Never let it be said that my husband hasn't grown wiser with age. On Sunday, when the moving truck pulled up, he just got out of dodge! Gave a quick wave, said he was headed to Lowes and didn't return for six hours. Smart move on his part.

Our truck pulled up at 7:30AM and it took until 5PM to unload. We downsized from 4000 square feet to 2800 square feet and this house is bursting at the seams. As more and more furniture was being loaded in the house, my demeanor changed from 'resolute', to 'worried', and finally to 'defeated'. My moving guys - Emilio, James and Mike - kept asking if I was okay. The driver, Michael, just kept saying, " It's gonna be alright, girl."

Now that the boxes are being unloaded, things are even more of a mess. The photos below were taken just about 6 hours into the unload. We finished unpacking the kitchen last night. The refrigerator, washer and dryer we all delivered yesterday (Monday). We're making progress. Josie's room was the first to be completely unloaded, then Maddie's. We still have no TV, but the Cox cable guy is due to come out today between 10 and noon. I missed The Closer last night which, by my estimate, has been the biggest tragedy of the whole moving process :-).

Here's what things looked like before the boxes were unpacked:

The Dining "Area" - no longer a 'room'

The kitchen, taken from the family room

The family room - it got worse before it got better

Josie helped unload Maddie's room

Our 'Tech Center'

The bed takes up the whole guest room now..

Maddie's furniture is a very tight squeeze, too

This was taken just before I surrendered all optimism...

And finally, a few post back I wrote about Maddie's new uniforms. I received a lot of calls and comments about the styles so here are two photos of the uniforms...

That's all for now. I'm hoping to have things a bit more under control in the next 48 hours. All good thoughts and prayers would be appreciated...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Have Keys, Will Clean

Our Hotel Living Area

Yesterday, we were handed the keys to the new kingdom. It was the first time I had walked into the new house. Our real estate agent, Cynthia, was there and had set up a nice 'Congratulations' banner on the fireplace in the family room. The girls made the mad dash upstairs to scope out their new rooms.

Maddie burst into tears, crying that her furniture wouldn't fit in her room. Josie schemed to take over Maddie's room (it has a small balcony) when she goes away to college. Once Maddie and I discussed how to set things up, she calmed down a bit.

James & I took some measurements for the new appliances we had to order later in the day. After an hour, we headed out to the local Lowes & Sears to look at washers, dryers, refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers. Needless to say, it was a bit distracting having Maddie and Josie's input. Seems they are both quite fond of $8,000 refrigerators! We enjoyed a nice dinner out together - we all had salads. I think all of us are sick of fast food... anything fried gets a curled-lip response from the girls.

This morning, James took Josie to his office. Maddie and I were out the door to our local Target to purchase cleaning supplies. We really enjoyed the drive to the house. It really is quite beautiful here. I'm trying so hard to point out every good thing I can to the girls. They miss their friends, their dogs, their own beds. Just a few more days, I keep reminding them...

Our schedule is a bit odd for the coming days. Our moving van, which was supposed to arrive either today or tomorrow, will not arrive until Sunday morning. Our cars are being delivered tomorrow. The refrigerator and cable will be installed tomorrow too. On Monday, we have the dishwasher being installed and servicemen taking measurements for the wall oven and cook-top.

Here's a few photos from the past few days:

View from the parking lot of Target - to us it looks like Hawaii!

On the way to our new house

More of the drive to our house

Maddie will have to have her iPhone surgically removed...

In other news, I received a few emails from our VA neighbor Nora. I can't tell you how much I miss seeing her friendly wave from across the yard. Even watching the kids come and go in their cars gave me a sense of security, knowing someone would notice a light on - keep an eye out for us. It seems the folks who bought our house are not making a good 'first impression'. Nora has given me reason to smile with her accounts of their meeting with the couple.

We so loved our neighbors - each are such completely unique individuals. They were always so accepting and supportive. Like Nora says, "Can't wait till the new owners see Doug grab his morning paper in his boxers!" Ah, good times...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hotel Living

Well, we did it. This morning we signed our lives away and settled on the new house.

"California is different." This is a phrase that I've grown tired of hearing. This was the response we got this morning when we asked why, having signed an obscene stack of paperwork and wiring thousands of dollars in hard earned savings, we still did not have the keys to our new home. We were insuring it, we had funded it and we're even paying taxes on it... but because the sale is not 'official' until all the recording is done - we didn't get the keys.

One could ask, "What's the big deal about waiting one day?". Well, the girls and I have only seen the house in photos. James bought the house on his own. We haven't seen the neighborhood, the layout of the house or what our new postage stamp backyard looks like! Until this happens, it's a bit hard to feel like this is more than just another trip out to California to visit our family members.

Right now, we're staying at a Marriott suites hotel in Newport Beach. It's lovely. Great pool, big room -even a cozy outdoor fire pit down by the pool. The staff knows us - James has been living her for the past two months. There's a waiter in the restaurant who is quite fond of Maddie - letting her know that "if you want dessert, I can hook you up." Ah, the romantic language of teenagers !! The chef who works the morning shift made Josie a mouse shaped pancake this morning - she was thrilled.

Our sleeping schedules are a bit off. Josie was up super early this morning. I was sitting up in bed at 4 AM trying to figure out what to do with myself. I am restless. Of course, Maddie slept in, waking up about 15 minutes before we left to go to closing. Our flight arrived at 10:30 last night, local time. By the time we collected our luggage and car seat, drove here to the hotel and got settled in, it was well past 3AM on our body clocks.

After James & I finished at the escrow company this morning, we returned to the hotel. I collected the girls and we headed off to the company that supplies the uniforms for the school Maddie will be attending. It looked like it was going to be another agonizing shopping outing where I would have to hear all about all of Maddie's perceived imperfections... "I'm so fat", " I look huge." "I hate uniforms", etc. Initially, that's the way it was heading. However, once we saw that the uniforms shirts were all a beautiful shade of blue; the skort was a beautiful blue, gray, white and black plaid; and navy blue and khaki shorts were also a part of deal, well, things went a lot better. There are no regulation goth looking black shoes like her last school - another plus! She was pleased with how the uniforms looked on her and I happily handed over my credit card to purchase a years worth of school attire. One potential disaster averted. It was going to be a good day.

We picked up some lunch at the local Ralph's grocery store. Some freshly made sushi for Maddie and me. Mac & cheese for Josie. We are so sick of take-out food. I'm longing for the first meal I cook in our new home... fresh veggies, grilled fish, and no take out containers in sight!

We returned to the hotel, had a nice laugh together over lunch and then we headed to the pool. Josie met some very nice kids her own age down at the pool. I have no worries about her ability to acclimate to her new surroundings... she sat down on the steps where the kids were playing and said, "Hi, I'm Josie, what's your name?" She eagerly shared her Barbie dolls and settled in to play with her new friends.

Maddie is still on her iPhone constantly to friends in Virginia. It's her only source of security and support right now. She's caught in Limbo Land. Not sure where she belongs, wanting to spend time on her own. We're trying to give her a bit of space - but keeping the lines of communication open. She says that it's still a bit unreal for her. I'm hoping that spending the weekend unpacking our belongings will give her a sense of permanency. I know it will help me too.

We're still waiting to hear from our real estate agent - to get a time to pick up the keys for the house and take the kids over for the run-through. Then we're off to purchase appliances and pick up some paint chips for the girls bedrooms. Should be an interesting day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Long Trip Home?

Seems incredibly odd that the girls and I are leaving today for 'HOME'. Buying one-way tickets to California also took a bit of effort...

We've had a lovely time here at my parents house - both my sisters visited. In another weird 'first', my nephew Zack drove himself, Maddie and his brother Liam to play miniature golf last night. My sister and I have been making that trip for the past 16 years and it was really, really, scary watching the three of them leave for the evening without us.

Being here was a nice transition for whats to come. The girls and I will be leaving here around 2PM. We'll drive to Dulles Airport and board our 8PM Virgin America flight to LAX. There's plenty to do between now and then. If time allows, we will stop by Claudine's house. She is still completely grief stricken over the loss of SoCo.

Maddie was able to spend some time with her high school friend, Tori, while staying here with my Mom & Dad. She also spent time with Dana - the granddaughter of my parents dear friends, Pete & Donna. Maddie & Dana have been hanging out since they were in diapers. Every summer they looked forward to enjoying the beach together. Now they head off to the 'under 18' dance club here at the shore. I feel like I've aged overnight!!

Josie will miss her Grandmom most of all. She makes her 'sad face' each time she is reminded that we don't live in Virginia anymore. She wants constant reassurance that Pop-Pop and Grandmom will come see her in California.

So, finally, we're off. Next time you hear from me, I'll be a Californian.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Sorrowful Day

My sister, Claudine, was here at my parents house in Delaware this weekend. She left this morning, having said goodbye to the girls over the past two days. She was returning home to her two 'babies' - SoCo, her doberman and Chandler, her mutt.

All was fine upon her arrival. She had made plans to go shopping with two of her girlfriends. When they arrived home from shopping, Claudine found her darling SoCo, dead of an apparent heart attack, in her bedroom.

My sister is heartbroken. SoCo was her child. Having almost lost SoCo 2 years ago to heart problems, we were all aware that the loving and gentle girl was living (quite well) on borrowed time.

Our entire family is in mourning for this beautiful, loyal and universally loved girl. Please keep them both in your prayers.