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10 posts from July 2008

July 31, 2008

Turn right, arriving at home

said the GPS tonight as we drove into the cul-de-sac and then pulled into our new driveway.  Not ours forever, of course, but for at least the next two years (give or take), we have a home!  A house with not one, but two front doors, a garage (attached) with a working door, a long driveway, sidewalks, and a mailbox that gets mail (are you ready for this?) six days a week, no keys required!

Mind you, we loved Iceland and miss our friends, the food (Skyr smoothies...), and the swimming pools (O.K., I miss the steaming hot pots!).  However, when overseas you rarely if ever have a say in your housing.  You can give your preferences as to where you would like to live, or offer that your 5 person family would love to squeeze in a 2 bedroom apartment (a slight exaggeration). 

In the end, though, it is not the same as grabbing the real estate section, your pen, and a hot cup of coffee to check out this week's possibilities.  The excitement of driving up to a new place, seeing it from the outside, praying the inside is as nice or hoping that the interior is so fabulous that the neglected front yard can be disregarded.

We had been looking at online listings since February.  Mostly just to see what was out there, but sort of hoping to eventually see something fabulous...maybe even so fabulous, I would be willing to send a check sight unseen.  And, in fact, I did see a house on-line that looked almost perfect...a newer looking kitchen, backyard with a play area, spacious living room, and separate dining room.  I discounted it, though, as it was early July and  I thought it would be gone well before we arrived.

Fast forward a few days and we are in Memphis.  Gretchen and I looking just for fun and she pointed out a house that seemed to have its own style, not as "California" as one might expect, yet looked as though it would be just the right size.  Yep, it was the same property.

One week later, we arrive in CA, dazed and confused.  I am trying to adjust, convinced everything and everyone will be so different here and yet, it's not that different, just much, much, much bigger.  Since we were somewhat under the gun with regards to school registration, we got to work on the house-hunting.  Day and night, night and day, checking Craigslist and every possible real estate site out there.  Not all rentals are on Craigslist or the MLS, and the perfect house might be out there but only listed on an obscure site you would find by accident.

We called, called, and called a few more times.  We wrote to anyone and everyone who advertised anything that looked like it might be a fit for our family.  For every 20 calls and messages, we received two to three responses.  By Saturday, we were desperate and I was ready to break down as we had not looked at one house.

Luckily, there was an open house, one of our four responses.  Just as we were walking up the sidewalk, Pete's phone rang...."This is it!", I thought, the calls have begun!  Nope, just the parents calling to check in.  We kept walking, went into the house, and wow.

The owner/realtor/property manager (?) sat in a recliner and did not even peer over the edge of his paper.  Just told us to walk on in and look around.  We weren't even sure he was talking to us at first, but figured since we were the only ones there....

We took a look and despite the fact that there was new laminate flooring, it could not make up for the overwhelming amount of space that had not been updated.  Should I mention the brown Jacuzzi tub in the master bath...with the rusty jets?  The girls saw beyond that, of course, "Ooh, a big tub!!!!"

Between that, the carpet that looked 30 years old, the half-bath with cat litter that looked as though it hadn't been changed in months, well, you get the picture.  We skedaddled on out of there and hoped perhaps it was just an anomaly, that other owners were a little more concerned about appearances, at least on open house day!

Ironically, after we left the house, somewhat dejected, the calls started coming in.  Open houses were cropping up everywhere as well as many independent appointments.  As of 3 p.m. on Sunday, we had looked at more than 8 houses in several different towns.  Our heads were spinning, the 'mean lady' on the GPS was beginning to sound tired, and we were really weary of walking into a place that looked absolutely ideal only to find out we would have to supply our own washer, dryer, and refrigerator.  Add that to the average rent, the several thousand dollar security deposits,  and we were beginning to think retirement might never happen...until we went to our final open house.

It was "the" house we had seen online.  We were now a little concerned as it seemed so right, yet had been advertised for so long.  Was the school bad?  (Nope, the word is that it is excellent)  Should we be worried about crime? (Nope, it's a very safe neighborhood). 

No, it was just everything falling together for us.  As you read previously, once we walked in, we knew it was for our family.  We could just feel ourselves living there (despite the fact we had to work hard to conjure up images of the eclectic combination of furniture we now have).  The kids ran outside and played, Pete chatted with the property manager and I picture us grilling on the patio, hanging the Christmas stockings, and not spending my days vacuuming endless cracks in the floor.

And, tonight, signed lease in hand, we drove home.  To our home, where Cait will play the piano and regale us with her sweet voice, where Kelsey will master bike riding and perhaps play a few hoops, where Nicholas will begin to talk, learn to walk,  where next year, with bated breath, I will open an email from Peter that begins with..."Honey, the bid list is out!  Can you believe a position in **** is open?  Let's put it at the top of the list!"...and the adventure will begin all over again.

July 30, 2008

Now you see it...


now you don't!

IMG_1324 Kelsey, my little sweetheart,  at the tender age of 6 years, 4 months, and 7 days, has finally lost her first tooth today!  We had begun to think it might never happen.  Caitlin lost her first tooth at 5 years and 3.5 months, so we just assumed Kelsey would lose them quickly, too. 

The time passed, though, and Kelsey's teeth seemed as sturdy as they could be...until three weeks ago.  Finally, a 'looth tooth'!  Then it seemed to take forever to fall out.  On Monday, the tooth was hanging by a thread.  We reached the point where we forgot it was still there...and then...

While I was trying to work on the car shipment, I turned to look at Kelsey....and there was a new gap in her mouth, on the bottom row!  Yes, the tooth had fallen out without her knowledge. We raced out back to find it, as it seemed she should have something to put under the pillow and...

Lo and behold, there it was in the pock-marked cement just beneath where Kelsey had been sitting.  It must have fallen out just after she had bitten into her apple and managed to delicately land and await discovery.

Later in the evening, she put the tooth under her pillow, and despite her worries the tooth would fall off the bed, and the Tooth Fairly would not visit....when she woke up at the crack of dawn, there was a crinkly dollar bill tucked underneath the pillow. She marched in our room, proudly showed us, and went back to her bed to sleep for several more hours. And, for now, she is one happy little camper...

I just have a hard time

blogging with one hand.  I know it can be done, maybe it is the lack of wireless.  Regardless,IMG_1319 I have about 10 posts in my head and very few have even made it to draft form on the blog.

On the other hand, when the reason behind the lack of blogging is due to quality time spent with this little guy...hard to want to do anything else but make those big blue eyes smile.

July 23, 2008

In case

you haven't noticed, the writing might have been somewhat 'off' lately.  Tyepad is having issues with their new Compose editor, and it has affected this blog.  I have switched to a simple view, but still having problems, some due to a verrrry slow internet connection.  So if anything weird pops up, say, two copies of one picture for no reason or what may be typos/grammatical errors, please just ignore for now.  The combination of the problems makes it very difficult to correct right away.  Other than that, please enjoy!

I knew...I knew like you know about a good melon

We headed into San Francisco today for our first official visit. Of course, the minute we arrived in the parking garage, Pete's cell phone rang.  Nope, not work, but possibly our new property manager.

After spending a full two days looking from floor to ceiling at various and sundry homes, we walked into the final house on Sunday and just knew (see above).   By the time I reached the kitchen (after only viewing the 4th bedroom, LR, & DR), I was ready to put in an application.  The house was clean, spacious (but not too big), the hardwood floors had no cracks, lights were modern, but not overwhelming, and the kitchen was updated but not too busy.

In a nutshell: we loved it!  If the kids didn't love the decent-sized (but not gargantuan) rooms, they were sold on the backyard:  a patio, carefully-tended backyard with just enough grass, and (drum roll)....a separate play area with a swing set!  Did I mention the added bonus of the storage-shed or the pear tree (partridge not included). 

Pete and I nearly collided in the kitchen, trying to quickly locate each other to almost shout, "Let's put in an application!"  We quickly filled out the forms, he ran to get cash, and turned everything in.  Now it is just a game of wait and see....

While waiting, here are a few pics from our trip to the city....Alcatraz in the background.IMG_1256



A bite of this gator could prove to be quite tasty!

Heavenly sourdough beckons from above...IMG_1262

July 21, 2008

I stand

corrected or at least have a more definitive answer!  Apparently, one can ship a boat, motorcycle, or even a small plane (!) as their POV during their PCS with DOS.  Yes, I love those acronyms, too.  In other words, one can substitute a Cessna for a Toyota as one's Personally Owned Vehicle sent during a Permanent Change of Station. Thanks to Michele over at Globehoppers for the update and that could set a different set of wheels in motion in the future.

In other (more crucial?) news, we have arrived.  We are now officially living in the Golden State, but don't think we quite qualify as Californians just yet.  Given we do not have a home, we are in sort of a limbo.  Not homeless, but have a lot of 'splainin to do sometimes, with regards to our rental history when hurriedly filling out those applications:

  • Why we move so much, haven't owned recently, but also didn't have a landlord
  • How Pete's salary can change drastically depending on where we live in America or, oh, anywhere, totally due to locality pay/COLA
  • Why a month-to-month lease during the second year would be really, really awesome....after all, only about 14 months until we bid again!

IMG_1223 Perhaps the most important (to us) news?  The Knick-Knack turns 5 months old today.  He is rolling over, holding his head up like a champ, and sits unassisted for days at a time (O.K., a few minutes).  He is a smiley, sweet boy and we are just so in love with him.  Look for a notice regarding more Nick-related videos on You Tube soon!

July 19, 2008

I swear

Nicholas said "meh meh" to me today (yes, as in Mama).  Caitlin and Kelsey were standing right next to me as he spoke and they will swear on a stack of Little House on the Prairie books that this is the absolute truth.

IMG_1159 Now he only said it once and wouldn't repeat it when prompted....but then that just goes to show he is like his father and sister and won't perform on command.  Since I have forgotten to post photos lately, here is a new one.  It is from one of our boat trips on Shannon and Mark's 'home away from home' that can be found traversing the bay on any given weekend.  Just so no one forgets how darn cute he is!

 I should probably elaborate on this day, lest I forget and never ever ever write this stuff down and then my kids say "Remember when" and I sigh and say, "Why didn't I write about the day we went out on Mark & Shannon's boat?!"

Well, for starters, I would have many, many entries.  Mark & Shannon purchased this boat last year as a vacation home, if you will.  We certainly would, except that it would make little or no sense at this juncture since we do hope to go overseas again in a few years and does a boat count as a POV?  Hmmm....

It is only logical to get as much use out of such a purchase as possible, and they are doing their darndest.  While we were in town, they thoughtfully let us tag along and let the girls spend quite a few nights on board.  The above picture was taken on July 5th, a follow-up to a somewhat rainy Independence Day 'sail'-abration.

We had spent much of July 4 on the boat, although most of it docked.  A nasty thunderstorm prevented us from watching fireworks further out in the bay, but not from enjoying fabulous fireworks and a delectable dinner from Red, Hot, & Blue on the boat.  The girls stayed over, but Pete, the boy, and I spent the night at Chez Talbott.

The next day found us on the boat for most of the day.  We sailed from a guest slip in "Ben & Jen's" marina to the Rhode River.  We made a brief stop to pick up Shannon and headed back out to 'the island," found in these photos.  While we sipped wine and nourished ourselves, Mark and the girls headed to swim off-shore.  We ended the day by twirling glow sticks and watching leftover fireworks set off in the distance. IMG_1164

 Oh, and I won't name names, but someone really started to enjoy sailing that day.  

July 17, 2008

Waiting for an answer

We flew to San Francisco yesterday by way of Phoenix.  We missed our original connecting flight, but had already been booked for a later departure.

We arrived at our gate terribly early and Kelsey opted to watch the planes for a while.  She was entranced by this plane, as it was wearing sunglasses and we spent quite a while trying to figure out how they are put on and taken off.

Luckily, we were close by when the departure time neared and watched as the pilots pulled the canvas shades inside the plane through a tiny opening in the cockpit window.  I had never seen this before, but guess probably necessary in warmer areas.  We only felt the Phoenix sun for a minute, as we walked past the open door on the jet bridge and felt its hot breath upon us.

Ironically, she had turned away by the time they removed it and we almost missed the answer. We caught it, though, and can check off that question. 

July 15, 2008

The Dinoia Family Heads West

So tomorrow we embark on the final leg(s) of our journey.  We depart for CA at the un-Godly hour of 7:50 a.m., though admittedly not as bad as catching a flight out of Keflavik to mainland Europe (in the good ole days).

We are mostly packed and I should be sound asleep.  However, I have never been west of Texas, so I am really quite excited about tomorrow.  We start a new adventure, despite it being domestic in nature, and can't wait to introduce our children to some of the most naturally beautiful parts of our country.  I know we will run out of time in which to do things, not run out of things to do.

Meanwhile, I can't forget what we have accomplished over the past few weeks.  Catching up on doctor's appointments, visiting family and friends, feeling totally enmeshed with the lives of those we visit, even if only for a few precious days.  We have been lovingly hosted in homes on land and water.  We have shared tapas and wine while sailing in the bay on a newly purchased sailboat and consumed tantalizing steaks of finely grilled beef at the memory-filled family table.

We have reassured ourselves that the kids are growing well (average can be good!), and Kelsey's annual neuro-surgical report was nothing short of stellar.  And did I mention Nicholas, who amazes us all on a daily basis?  Lest I forget to write it in his baby book, he is so very close to sitting up. While he can sit unassisted for a few moments, probably still a bit too wobbly overall to be officially sitting on his own.

And now before I risk not getting any sleep, I must head off to bed.  Good night to all and (lest I find time to blog in the Phoenix airport), we will be (hopefully) happily ensconced at our next posting the next time I write.

July 01, 2008

Captains Caitlin & Kelsey

Pete and I had our annual 'weekend away' Friday - Sunday while Mark and Shannon thoughtfully took the girls sailing on the Salty Dog.  Pictures and details of the girls' nauti weekend can be found here.  Nicholas was with us, but still had a chance to be photographed almost as much as the girls at the crab-fest Sunday evening.  Check out this photo of our beautiful babe in his dad's arms.