Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ho, ho, ho ... hotels

So. Let's see.


How long have we been in hotels now?

I've actually lost count, although the complimentary shampoo and conditioner collection that I've compiled over the past month is close to topping 1,000. Considering the room attendants typically leave at least six bottles of shampoo and conditioner (and facial soap and body soap - what's the difference except the size of the bar?) per daily visit, and I save them all, it wouldn't surprise me if we've got a greater inventory than the hotel.

I plan to donate them all to charity. Or, construct a small bungaloo using only itty bitty hotel complimentary bath items and donate the proceeds from tours of that itty bitty bungaloo to charity.

Now that Charlie is back from his trip to California (yay!) - and his laptop is fully functional (yay!) - and he is caught up on work matters (yay!) - I finally have access to a computer where I can upload pictures to my blog (yay! yay!).

And now that we're in the FINAL STRETCH of hotel living ~ only six days remaining, unless the floor falls out to all of our plans and we spend the rest of our earthly existence in a Marriott ~ captured below are just a few of the hotel-themed photos I've taken over the past five? six? seven weeks.

We've had our fair share of Continental breakfasts. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at all white plates without vividly recalling this experience and remembering the taste of instant eggs.



We've spent a lot of time tapping in to our imaginations for play time, since our toy supply is rather sparse.


"Flight Commander, ALL CLEAR FOR TAKE OFF!"


I didn't take my camera with me to the pool, because we've recently incurred a large expense due to electronics coming in to unintentional contact with fluids, but we've spent an abundant amount of time in every hotel swimming pool. (Including those that didn't open until 5:00 PM.)

Despite the fact that we'd be in the pool every day, sometimes that wasn't enough to expel the seemingly endless energy supply of our children. So, that's when we'd pull the cushions off the couch and tell them to pretend they were on a trampoline.





Or, we'd have races where we'd have them run up and down the hallways, while wearing back packs full of their body weight equivalent in miniature shampoo and conditioner bottles.


We've washed countless loads of laundry using countless quarters and countless miniature boxes of detergent. We've climbed countless stairwells. We've ridden in countless elevators. We've lost countless key cards.

We've also made countless friends along the way. What I consider to be one of the many amazing things about children is that they are MAGNETS to other children. So when we'd meet someone in the pool, the next day, they'd sit with us for breakfast. Case in point: here's a shot of my children sitting with their NEW BEST FRIEND. But they have no idea what her name is. Or where she's from or how old she is, or what her favorite color is.

Those things matter not.

All that matters is that she's REALLY fun and can swim super fast and look at her long, beautiful hair! "Mommy? Can I please grow my hair long like ... like ... uh, what's your name again?"


We've ridden countless luggage carts.


And have taken countless baths.


Usually, after a couch cushion Olympiad, hall sprints and a dip in the pool ... we stick everyone in the tub together and quickly douse them with just enough soap to get off the chlorine, before putting everyone to bed. And then, depending upon the room configuration, Charlie and I will often sit in the pitch black waiting for the children to fall asleep.

Hence, the reason it's critical that they be VERY tired so that whole pitch blackness thing doesn't last long. Otherwise, Charlie and I have been known to unexpectedly join our children in slumber at 8:00 PM. "I'll just sit with them for a minute and .... zzzzzz."


There were four in the bed and the little one said, "Roll over! Roll over!"


We've stretched and done a lot of Yoga.


And, we've ordered hot fudge brownie sundaes from room service five minutes before the kitchen closes.


When we finally do move in to our house, I think the ability to just pick up a phone and have someone bring a hot fudge brownie sundae directly to my door at 10:55 PM, is something that I'll truly miss. But don't you worry about me.

I'll get over it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

dead fish and relatives

My mother has a saying that after three days, both dead fish and relatives go bad.

And while nothing went "bad" staying at my mother's house, she and Jim are in a two bedroom condominium and there were seven of us. Including one, small one, that goes by the name of Henry and who is higher maintenance than I ever recall with the triplets.

Then again, it's a well known fact that I tend to forget things. Rather quickly.

My mother told me that she has raised a lot of three-year-olds and none of them ever screamed like Henry. And when I say he screams, I mean he BLOODY SCREAMS. Then, he runs as fast as his little legs will take him, in the exact opposite direction, usually while carrying a stick or something equally pointy.

People will often comment to me, that the triplets are so well behaved and courteous and it's entirely true. My children are wonderful. They are fantastic sharers, they include children that they don't know in whatever games they are playing and they are polite. (Most of the time). They really are exceptional, if I may say so myself. But they haven't always been this way. It's taken a lot of work for both Charlie and I to get them to this point.

I'm confident Henry won't always be "this" way. But he is right now.

And sometimes, it's difficult.

He's not spoiled.

He's a newly turned three-year-old and three-year-olds are TOUGH.

While I don't want to make excuses, I do seek to try and understand why my children act the way they they do. And in Henry's case, he doesn't grasp what is going on in his world as much as his older siblings. As far as he is concerned, he is getting bounced from place to place to place to place and HEY! WHERE THE HECK IS MY BED? His schedule is totally thrown off, his diet is totally thrown off, and try as I might, he hasn't had a decent nap in weeks.

So, if you take one emotionally and physically exhausted three-year-old toddler that runs around SCREAMING, and one overly hypersensitive 39-year old mother. And you add three five-year-olds who won't stop talking and cannot remember to flush, a 77-year-old grandmother who just had a full knee replacement, and an 86-year-old step grandfather who is a lot like a little kid, himself. And then you stick them all in a 600-square foot space for almost 18 days, or approximately SIX TIMES the recommended allowance for direct familial exposure, what do you get?

You get me hyperventilating, "Retreat! Retreat! Retreat!"

On Wednesday evening, an hour before bedtime, I quickly packed everyone up and we left for a local hotel. In the midst of one of Henry's "moments" ... me, being the extraordinary drama queen that I am, was in such a rush to get out, I literally ran out the door wearing my wet bathing suit with three children in tow and one firmly tucked under my arm.

My mother was very disappointed to see us all go, but I feel like it's important that we keep our relationship in tact, and I was truly worried that it would demise before my eyes if we continued to stay and completely wear out our welcome. Besides I know what I need to do to handle Henry and part of that includes having an abdundance of patience (and space) while he outgrows this "challenging" stage.

I am so appreciative of everything my mother and Jim have done for us over the last month, but right now, I feel like having all of us there is too much for them, and too much for ME.

On the brightside, each one of the children (except Henry) are having some quality one-on-one time with their Noni and Jimbo. My plan between now and the time that we drive back to Virginia early next week, is to let each one of the triplets spend a night away, by themselves. Considering this is the first time that they've spent the night away from both Charlie and I, this is a very big deal.

Tonight it was Carolyn's turn to spend the night, and she's never looked so happy in her entire life. When I kissed her good bye and reminded her to say her prayers and brush her teeth before bed, she nodded excitedly. Then she walked me to the door and pushing me out said, "You need to go now, Mom. You can come back and get me in 10 years. Okay?"

Isn't that so sweet?

Yes, it really warms my heart to know she'll miss me so much.

I'm sure she's counting down the minutes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

if the shoe fits

For the past few days, I've really been pondering a comment that someone left on my post last week. In essence, I was told that I write about my life like it is a drama-filled tragedy.

(Just the fact that I'm writing about it more now, probably confirms it. Eh?)

Last night when I was in the Emergency Room until 3 AM (no drama there!), I went back and read through ALL of my blog posts for the past four months. And while there has been a lot of "activity" in our lives recently, I've really tried to stick to the facts, the honest feelings that I have about specific situations, and how we are managing to forge ahead, as POSITIVELY as possible.

My new boss often says, "I don't like to make sausage in front of the customer."

What he means is that nobody except the immediate team, should be witness to our behind the scenes operations. And sometimes, we have to grind through some rather ugly stuff to create a product that will hopefully, be pleasing and tasteful to all.

What I've determined is that this blog is like a big old sausage factory.

Sure, I could solely write about the adorable and hilarious things my children do. But this blog has always been more than that. This blog has been created to document OUR story as we NAVIGATE the amazing trip of life. Sometimes, during the course of navigation, you might experience moments of pure bliss and tranquility. The seas of your life are calm, the breeze is gentle and the visibility is spectacular.

Othertimes, a storm gets whipped up out of nowhere. It feels like you're going to capsize and you need to hang on for dear life. The seas are so violent you throw up all over the deck (and the guy standing next to you) and your visibility is totally lost because you can't see past the next wave that is washing over the front of your boat.

Is that a drama-filled tragedy?

No, it's LIFE.

Chances are, if you're reading this, you have one.

Although, you may not choose to share the intricate details in a world-wide forum.

(Of course, that would make you SMARTER than me!!)

One of my best friends wrote to me the other day and told me that for us to consider buying a home, at this juncture, might be considered fool-hearty. We don't really know the area; We don't really know if we'll like the area; I don't know if I'll like my job; I don't know if I'll KEEP my job; We've been through a lot these past few months and is it responsible to bury ourselves in debt on a whim? She is 100% correct.

But I wrote her back to tell her that almost ALL of my big life decisions have been fool-hearty. If I only listened to my MIND, and not my FOOLISH HEART, I never would have moved to California 20 years ago. I never would have married a man whose entire family was on the opposite coast. I never would have gone through three rounds of IVF and transferred SIX embryos during my final cycle.

What kind of crazy person does that?!

The same kind of crazy person that would pack up a car with four children under the age of four, on less than 48 hours notice and drive 7,000-miles back and forth in three weeks time across the entire continent. The same kind of crazy person that during a recession, would spend almost $5,000 of their own money raising almost 10 times that amount and then within four months, run 26.2 miles and walk 60 miles, over three days, to raise awareness for a critically important cause.

The same kind of crazy person that would allow themselves to get pregnant for a third time, when they already have four children under the age of six. The same kind of crazy person that has always wished to move back to the east coast - so sold off their beautiful home, gave up their totally cush job, packed up their entire family and left on less than two months notice to a new area, SIGHT UNSEEN.

You have to possess a certain amount of courage, ambition and faith to just go for it.

But more importantly, you have to possess a certain amount of CRAZY.

Clearly, there has been a storm brewing in our lives for the past few months and there have been a few times we've wondered what it would take to be placed in to a medically induced coma until...

Well, I don't know exactly when.

I'm really sorry if that bothers you. I'm really sorry if you'd rather not read about OUR drama. I'm really sorry if you think we create too much drama. While I've considered taking yet another blogging hiatus until we get settled, what I've decided is that this blog is cathartic for ME. It's cathartic to write about things, sort through issues, and SOMETIMES, it's cathartic to read the kind words that people write to me. Other times the comments are downright patronizing and why I take the energy to respond requires a session with a therapist.

So, last night it was me in the hospital.

In a nutshell, I've had some significant complications as a result of my ectopic pregnancy. So the fact that maybe I've been a little more "emotional" than normal all kind of makes sense, now. And let me be the first to say, I KNEW THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG. I've been saying it and saying it and finally, I decided that I better take my own advice and LISTEN to my body. So I called my California doctor's office, who suggested that I immediately go see a specialist in South Carolina and considering it was 10:00 PM on a Sunday, my options were limited. But after a lot of testing last night, and even more testing today, and still more testing tomorrow, I'm so glad I went because now it's been confirmed: I haven't been imagining it!!

(Thank you, Insurance Company. The bill is going to be HUGE.)

When I returned home at 3:30 this morning, I climbed in to bed next to a sleeping (and still brunette) Charlie. Within 20 minutes, I woke up to Henry crying. I brought our three-year-old in to bed with us, and within another 10 minutes, he rolled over and threw up all over me.





But yes. That continued for the next five hours. Me falling asleep, only to be woken up 10-20 minutes later by my little one, vomiting next to my head.

At 10:00 AM, I loaded the children (and a bucket) in to the van and drove my husband to the airport so he could catch his flight back to California. Whilst praying that this bug doesn't whip through the whole family because my mother just got ALL new carpeting in her house and we're staying with her and not everyone knows how to grab a bucket in time. Right??

And also, Charlie is so (incredibly) susceptible to these viruses and this week will be so busy for him, the last thing he needs is to be throwing up every 15 minutes in between talking to the movers. "Wait! Please don't take the bed! I need to lay down for a .... BLAP!"

Charlie called me in between making his connecting flight to tell me:

1) He bumped in to one of my highschool classmates at the airport. As it turns out, my former classmate is one of the lead engineers designing the building that my current business unit will be moved in to, approximately five years down the road, in TEXAS. So yes. We haven't even moved in to our new house in Virginia and yet, it's been verified by a reliable source that we shouldn't get too comfortable. Isn't that awesome? In a so-unbelievably-NOT-awesome kind of way?!

2) He was delayed by two hours in the Dallas airport when the tram that he was riding on was stuck between terminals. And then, his plane - that he otherwise would have missed - was fortunately delayed. But then, unfortunately, it was delayed for THREE hours because of mechanical difficulties. So there he was, all alone and forced to enjoy a quiet dinner, by himself.

I reminded him that the last time I was in Dallas, I spent the night sleeping in a terminal, with thousands of other passengers, when they shut the entire airport down. Although, it wasn't just ME and a book. Oh no. With me, were two of my babies, including one that nursed for almost 16 hours, straight so he wouldn't SCREAM. The other woke up with gum in her hair that she contracted from beneath a dirty seat. We had no cot and no luggage and no blankets and no cell phone and no carseats and a limited supply of diapers. But we had fun because we seized the moment and tried to make the absolute BEST of it.

And you know what my husband told me, when I reminded him of this fact?

"JEN, You are SUCH a drama queen."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

hopefully by writing about it, IT WON'T HAPPEN

For as long as I've known Charlie, he has maintained that when he turned 40 years old, he'd buy himself a Porsche. But when he first made that prediction, years and years ago, he obviously couldn't see in to the future. For if he had, he'd have known that when he turned 40 years old, he'd be the father of two-year-old triplets and his wife would be gestating his fourth baby and a Porsche was definitely not going to happen, unless it was a Match Box size, because almost all of his expendable income was going directly in to a diaper fund.

Over the past few months, the stress on our family has really taken a toll on my husband and last night, as we were driving to South Carolina from Virginia, he told me that he was headed straight for a mid-life crisis. Not helping matters any, was our little Carolyn, who at 12:30 AM was wide-awake in the back seat sweetly inquiring if Daddy's beard was going to get even MORE white when he had his next birthday?

Those words no sooner left our daughter's lips when Charlie shot me a glance and said, "I know what I'm going to do. When I fly back to California this week, I'm going to dye my hair BLONDE. I'm going to go see a professional, just like you do, and let them put those foil things all over my head." He paused and then added, "Then, I'm going to go to a tanning booth and get a deep, dark tan. When I step off the plane, you aren't going to even recognize me!"

I started to laugh, imagining my husband sporting a white leisure suit and loafers, blonde hair with skin bronzed, walking down the steps of the plane like someone who got completely lost on their way home from Fantasty Island.

"So," I asked, thinking specifically about his eye brows, "Are you going to dye all of your hair blonde?" "Yep," he said. "All of it." Then he winked and added, "Baby, the curtains are going to match. the. carpet."

It took a minute for the implication of that to register, and once it did, I was laughing so hard that I had a difficult time seeing the road through my tears. Under normal conditions, Charlie putting himself through an off the chart metrosexual transformation would be highly unlikely. Of course he might just be kidding but the fact is, we all respond to pressure a little differently and considering the past few months, nothing would surprise me.

Once I was able to regain my composure, I thought it was important for me to tell my husband the risks associated with such an activity.

"You know, bleaching one's hair might have unexpected and harmful consequences," I informed him. "Why? What do you mean?" he asked. "Is it bad for your body?"

"Well, I suspect it could be bad for your marriage."

That, in turn, made him laugh. Until he resumed his dead pan expression and asked, "Oh yeah? What if I dyed it red?"

Sure. That sounds great!

I could really use some good blog fodder.

I mean, it's not like I have very much to write about.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

oh, the drama

So, tonight I finally sat down and read through the almost 300 comments that I've received over the past couple of weeks and haven't possessed the ability to 'digest' until now.

Thank you for all of your kind words, thoughts, advice and prayers. I promise that once I can find my camera (buried in one of the numerous boxes I have yet to unpack) I'll do a better job posting pictures. Although we've taken a few photos over the past few weeks with our iPhones, this is the longest stretch of time I've gone without taking pictures of the children with our "good" camera. I just hope I can remember how to (not) use it properly once I do find it.

Now, before I go any further, I need to inform BlackOrchid that I actually DO listen to you. It is because of your advice in 2007 that we opted to stay put in our house and not cash out and buy a larger house. Thank goodness we followed your recommendation. While we would have walked away from our house with a very large sum of money, we would have been investing that money in to a house that would absolutely tank in value and we'd be in really big trouble right about now.

Hopefully, your most recent projection that the market in Northern Virginia is now (also) going to tank within the next year, is totally and completely wrong.

A lot of people have suggested that we rent, and while that certainly does seem to be the most logical idea given our situation, we have decided to buy a house because we feel desperate to be settled. And since the money that we'd be spending every month on rent is comparable to what we'd be spending on a mortgage and we've absolutely loved the old house by the creek since the very first time we saw it, why not just buy this house, build some equity, have a tax shelter, and throw down some roots in an area that I'm sure we'll soon come to treasure?

So we bought it. We're in escrow which is scheduled to close two weeks from today and when it does, I'll post more pictures than you'd ever want to see and if anyone that reads this blog shows up at my new front door because THEY FIGURED OUT WHERE WE LIVE, I'll drop dead of a heart attack. I'm talking to you, Sarah. How you deducted all that you did about where our new home is located, I'm not quite sure but I'm certain with your sleuth investigative skills you could easily land a job with the CIA, FBI or Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Regarding the school issue in South Carolina and whether or not we'd enroll the children temporarily - for those who wrote to tell me it was awful I'd consider doing such a thing to the teachers, because there is so much preparation that they put in to getting ready for the children and assessing them the first part of the school year ... I know all that.

While I didn't go in to great detail on my post about the subject, you might be interested to know that my primary reservation with enrolling the children in school, temporarily, was I didn't want to negatively impact the teacher or class. EVEN THOUGH my high school guidance counselor suggested it and told us that parents temporarily enroll children all the time, just because other parents do it ... doesn't mean that I'd do it.

Besides, after having gone through the kindergarten pre-assessment this past April, I know how much work the teacher's put in to getting ready for their class and I wouldn't want to disrupt that. Nor, would I ever temporarily use school as "FREE CHILDCARE" for my children, regardless of how much we might NEED free childcare what with all the other things we're trying to accomplish without completely losing our marbles.

I could have cashed in on the free lunch, but my conscience wouldn't even let me do that.

See, I have one! And it really works!!

In other news, one of the comments that I received was from "Beth" in Virginia. She expressed great disappointment in me over my Cracker Barrel post. Apparently, she was offended because I had suggested that a waitress job was "beneath" me and I've since lost her as a reader.


Now I'm a little worried that if she sees me on the Virginia roads, sporting my BE NICE or BE KIND license plates, she's going to blast her horn and force me in to a ditch. So in the off chance you ever came back to this blog, I'm very sorry for offending you, Beth.

Please don't make me crash.

It was my intention to suggest that since I was in the midst of a life crisis after having dragged my family of six 3,000 miles cross-country and was now possibly facing financial ruin and unemployment square in the face, it made me feel good to know that there are places where I could seek NEW employment opportunities.

Although, perhaps it does makes me a bit snobbish to admit that working at The Cracker Barrel wouldn't necessarily be my first career choice. Considering I spent a lot of time and resources pursuing a Bachelors and then Masters degree, and then countless hours pursuing my professional registrations and years upon years advancing my career, I don't think it would necessarily be a good return on my efforts to now direct my energy in to waiting tables.

(No offense to anyone who waits tables. That is undoubtedly one of the hardest jobs in the world what with interfacing with the public and standing on your feet and keeping a happy face when the kitchen is running slow or mixes up your orders. I've done it. It's tough work.)

Please let the record show that I'll do whatever I need to do to put food on the table and keep shelter over my children's heads. Even if that means serving up grits and chitlins 24/7.

Now y'all come back now!

Ya hear?!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

stepping outside the comfort zone

The other day, as we were driving back to Virginia, I was thinking how over the past few years, I have really striven to live SIMPLY. And yet, at the moment, we're not really living very simply at all. While I am glad to be back on the east coast, this move has genuinely complicated our lives.


As it stands, we are buying a larger house, that will require more maintenance and absorb considerably more of our income than our house in San Diego. Which ultimately means that we will need to work harder to make more money so that we can support our larger and more expensive house. Some might consider buying a bigger house = progress and success!

And maybe I'd believe that, except ... for a few months now I've been wanting to write about a movie Charlie and I watched (on loan from Judd and Debra) entitled, "Hearing Everett." I had planned (before everything got all crazy) to host a giveaway for this movie on my blog, with the request that the winner forward it on to the runner-up and so on and so on because this was, by far, the most thought provoking film I've ever watched and everyone should see it.

But things did get all crazy and now I'm transitionally homeless so I'll just encourage you to go rent (or buy) a copy and watch it when you have a moment. (But don't be surprised if I still host a giveaway in the next six months.)


Anyway. The movie documents the true story of a Christian husband and wife, and their six children, who sold off everything they owned and moved to Mexico so that they could minister to deaf children. This movie was so unbelievably powerful, I watched it four times. And then, with Judd and Debra's permission, I loaned it to at least another 20 people.

Now, back to the issue at hand.

Although we withdrew our offer two weeks ago on the house with the creek, we resubmitted a second (identically priced) offer - which was was also accepted - on the exact same house, last week. So we're once again in escrow and scheduled to close on September 3, give or take seven days. Hopefully, we'll close ON September 3 because our furniture is pulling in to town that same day and if escrow hasn't closed by then, I'll be trying to figure out what to do with a big rig chocked full of our furniture.

(I wonder if they'd just let us sleep in the truck?)

(After 38 days, I really miss my own bed.)

Yesterday, we had our "new" home inspection which was very unlike our "old" home inspection in California, which went so perfectly, the only issue that the inspector noted was purple paint on the stucco of the house (Thank You, Henry). Yet, as a result of our "new" home inspection yesterday, we'll be having a host of other inspections this coming Friday including but not limited to electrician, HVAC, septic, mold and plumbing.

With the information that we currently have in hand, we're looking to spend a lot of money on a wonderful house, that needs much work. We suspected all of this going in to it, and we're prepared to a degree. But it's still tough for me, because I'm so conservative when it comes to finances that I really feel like I'm stepping outside of my comfort zone on what I'd like to spend. Then again, hopefully, this home will be an investment for us, because I'm confident that we'll make the place beautiful, and we DO need a place to live, and this IS a great location, and we HAVE a growing family and hey everybody, Thanksgiving at our house! And yeah.

This is progress.


But then, I can't help but think about Ed Everett. And how his young family lived in an open sided BARN in a foreign country, with cows chewing cud directly over his children's heads and how his newly constructed house burned down to the ground and they were desolate and they had nothing - except each other and their faith and everything worked out magnificently in the end. And now, 40 years later they have and are changing numerous lives for the better.

So before we take this giant leap, I'm just pondering what's the purpose of it all?

Specifically, what is my purpose in life? Should my energies and resources be directed to fixing up this old house that will benefit only me and my family, or should my energies and resources be directed in to something more globally humanitarian?


Globally Humanitarian. The thought of it sounds good and those black and white words sure look nice on my computer screen. But the truth is, I don't know if I could do it. I'm going OUT OF MY MIND living in a fancy hotel.

And there aren't even cows here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

it's good to be back

This past May, my mother underwent her second knee replacement. Her first knee replacement was last year. And even more than last year, the recovery this time around has been grueling.


After much discussion, Charlie and I decided that although we'd appreciate having the kids with my mother during the time that we drive back to Virginia and get our new home squared away, leaving my (still) recovering mother with our five-year-olds would be too much. Ultimately, at this point in her recovery, getting three brand new kindergartners up and out the door for school at 7:45 each morning is way too advanced.

Although sending the kids to school was originally my mother's idea, she agrees five-year-old triplets are a handful. And since my mother is very much the kind of person who will do whatever she can to help, the fact that she has questioned if she could manage all three children by herself, tells me that it would be too much. So the kids are coming with us and we'll do whatever we can to make it as fun as possible.

(While, hopefully, keeping our sanity intact.)

For the past 10 days, we've been in Greenville, South Carolina and it has been wonderful. Last week we were dazed and confused. This week, we've got a solid game plan and we feel totally rejuvenated. And next week, we'll be back. When Charlie flies away to California to supervise the packing of our home, I'll once again descend upon my 77-year-old mother and 86-year-old step father in their two bedroom condominium, with all four of our children. And our new puppy.

(Just kidding. Although we will be adopting one once we get settled.)

Last week, in the midst of one of my panic attacks, I remembered why I felt so compelled to move back to the east coast. And almost immediately, I felt a wave of peace wash right over me.

As Charlie was tackling my mother's "Honey-Do" list and repairing a broken lamp, and Carolyn was rubbing her feet with lotion, and William and Henry were playing catch with Jim, and Elizabeth was dressing up with all of my mother's necklaces and accessories, and Mom would take turns holding our children in her lap while scratching their backs and telling them stories about when *I* was a little girl, I remembered that the #1 reason we uprooted our family and made this trek all the way across the country, was because I've always longed to be near my mother.

I'm the youngest and we're very close and that's just the way it is.

When Mom would go through surgery and the logistics of getting here were too complicated. Or when birthdays and holidays together were (repeatedly) missed because 3,000 miles separated us. Or when our children would ask to see a picture, because they forgot what their Noni looked like. I realized that if we didn't make the move, we'd run out of time.

Of course, I hope and pray that we have lots of time together. But because we are finally on the same seaboard, I'm filled with excitement since we now have a much greater potential for a lifetime of memories to be created. I'm filled with excitement that my children will really know their grandmother - and their grandmother will really know them.

For years and years, I've wanted to be close enough so that we're only a day's drive away.


And now we finally are.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the free lunch

If we had to do this all over again, I never would have moved out of our house in California without a new home to go to in Virginia. While staying in a hotel for a few weeks while we found a new place sounded like a good idea - the reality is that not having the stability of a home has been the hardest part about this whole transition.

Charlie and I are planning to drive back to Virginia this weekend. In large part because we have a (new) approved offer on a home and we need to meet with the inspector(s) on Monday morning. We'll be gone for a week and then I'll return to South Carolina the week of August 23rd when Charlie flies back to California to supervise the packing and shipment of our house to Virginia. The following week, we'll drive up to Virginia and directly in to our new home.

As it currently stands, we're scheduled to close escrow on our California house on Monday August 30; close escrow on our Virginia house Septemeber 1; our furniture is due to arrive on September 3 and the triplets begin Kindergarten September 7.

My mother has been urging for us to leave the triplets with her while we do all this back-and-forth, but she's been having such significant health issues over the past few months, I'm worried how she'd manage three five-year-olds.

But then. Yesterday.

When we were at the pool, one of my mother's neighbors ... a woman who was my highschool guidance counselor ... walked past. She stopped to talk with us for a while and as she heard about our situation, she suggested that if we do leave the children with my mother, we enroll them in Kindergarten (which begins next week), until we are settled.

My mother loved the idea of this. She could spend quality time with her grandchildren, but for a solid six hours a day, they'd be constructively entertained and educated by professionals. And since school in Virginia doesn't begin until after Labor Day, the children would have approximately three weeks of instruction in South Carolina before they start.

Relative to being dragged all around the mid-Atlantic, this does sound great.

The problem is, Charlie and I were so focused on getting out of California for Virginia that we left behind all of our administrative paperwork. And as it turns out, it's quite difficult to buy a house without tax returns and bank statements; and even more difficult to register a child for school without vaccination records and birth certificates.

(Thank you again, Debbie, for breaching security measures today to retrieve those documents and send them to us, overnight!!)

So today, as we were talking to school administrators, they told us that there is a loophole for parents that don't have access to immunization records and/or birth certificates. And that "loophole" is for those parents to characterize themselves as homeless.

In South Carolina, homeless is defined as any one who does not have a fixed residential address. For instance, those people who live in a car, recreational vehicle, abandoned building, hotel or motel, or with a family member, meet the classification. After talking a little more with school administrators, they have deemed that our family is genuinely "transitionally homeless" and as such, our children are eligible to attend school AND receive a free hot lunch.

(My mother nearly erupted with cheering.)

(She could spend quality time with the children AND she didn't have to pack them a lunch?!)

While I wouldn't feel comfortable accepting that, I do appreciate that such a program exists for people who really need it. This time has been so incredibly stressful - and yet, I know it will end soon. In the meantime, we realize that we are so blessed and lucky to have each other, our health (except today when Elizabeth had an actual seizure because her temperature spiked) and a place to go.

Earlier tonight, my mother was telling me about a man who is living in her church's "reprieve" house. He is the single father of four children. He recently lost his wife, his job, his home, his vehicle, and all his savings.

Suffice it to say, this experience has really given me a whole different perspective and appreciation for what we have. It also has us counting our blessings in a whole new way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

believe me, I definitely imagined it

Last week, when we left Virginia and were hastily driving to South Carolina just as quickly (and safely) as our two vehicles would take us, and we were fighting back tears and thought for certain that I'd be resigning from my company and we'd be homeless and jobless and benefit-less, and the thought of driving two cars all the way back across the country was completely unbearable and how did we make such a horrible mistake?! ... we stopped for dinner at a Cracker Barrel restaurant somewhere along I-95.

And when I saw this sign on the front door, I perked up and said to Charlie...


"Would you look at this! Here's an option!!!"

It's good to know our sense of humor is still in tact.

Or at least mine is.

Charlie just scowled at me.

Monday, August 09, 2010

i'm desperately in need of a dull moment

We're currently with my mother in South Carolina.

This past week, I came extremely close to having a total and thorough nervous breakdown and had to flee. So Charlie drove his truck (which had been shipped from California) and I drove our van (which we drove from California) and the two of us, and our four children, high-tailed it out of Virginia as fast as we could.

Things are looking a little brighter now. Especially since my sweet Carolyn is doing better. She was extremely sick over the weekend and spent her parent's 16-year wedding anniversary in the hospital with coughing fits so bad she actually turned blue and couldn't breathe.

It seems that residing in a hotel for four weeks straight nearly did everyone in. The kids were crying every single day that they wanted to go home (and back to their world) and Charlie and I could not find any suitable homes within a reasonable distance from my office that we thought would be good for our family and yet, not put us in dire financial straights.

For a host of reasons, we both decided that we did not want to rent, so that wasn't even an option. The one house that we did find, and really liked - and had an offer accepted on - we discovered needed a whole new septic system and a long list of other critical things that we'd need to pay for ... and oh my gosh, where is that money going to come from?!

In the midst of figuring out how much we'd lose by liquidating our 401Ks, we realized the error of our ways and we withdrew our offer. Meanwhile, our home sale in California was messed up more than you could ever believe. Our relocation consultant's "approved" realtor steered us astray and told us to sign the sale contract; which we had specifically asked ARE YOU SURE this doesn't need to go through our relocation consultant? And they said YES, this is what starts the appraisal process. Except, that wasn't what was supposed to happen.


And because of that error, all of our relocation benefits were promptly lost and we're now trying to recover them. What that means, in layman's terms, is that although we weren't supposed to pay for any of the closing costs and realtor fees ... we're now hit with the tab. To add insult to injury, we also lost a home sale incentive (3% of the sale price) and a whole lot of other critical stuff. But they're working on getting it back. Slooowly.

All of this "hit the fan" on Monday, just before my new boss showed me my new "office" which is a very un-feng shui cubicle. And you know what I learned about myself? I'm all about energy flow and sitting with my face against a wall makes it feel like my soul is being sucked out of my ears and stomped beneath dirty boots.

My boss then asked me the status of my passport because I'm scheduled to travel four times internationally by the end of the year. When I accepted the job (the title hadn't yet been defined), I was told there would be no travel. So, that tidbit about me going to Europe (twice) and Australia and Canada came as a bit of a shock. Kind of like having a pacemaker ripped straight of your fragile chest.

If I was at a different place in my life, I'd love to travel around the world. But with four small children and loose teeth that will fall out at any moment? That doesn't sound so good to me because if Mommy is away, the Tooth Fairy might forget to come by.

After talking with my former boss, Human Resources, and my new boss, it was confirmed that THIS job is my only current option with the company. So for much of last week, I was trying to figure out how to leave and repay everything while also whipping Charlie's resume in to shape so he can land a job in the time it takes us to get us back to California - hire a real estate attorney - and get our house back.

Paralleling only that time when we had three premature newborn babies in the NICU, this has been the most stressful experience of our entire lives. The mind-blowing panic attacks have been coming on at five minute intervals and I've had no more than three hours of consecutive sleep in the past eight days.

After talking to a psychiatrist (!!!!) today, we've again (and finally, FINALLY) decided that we CAN and MUST do this whole Virginia thing for at least one year. Especially since the appraisal came back in California to match our asking price and that's a done deal unless we want to lose everything we've saved in legal battles and hope at least one of us can find a new job with benefits.

Now, we just have to find a home in Virginia within the next three weeks because our furniture is due to arrive ... not sure where? ... and we need to get our children registered for school that is scheduled to start next month. But first, before we figure out WHERE we're going to live, we need to get over the virus that is ravaging us.

Thanks be to God for my Mother and my Aunt Grace who rescued us from the turmoil and also, for my company, because although this HAS been very difficult, they have exercised incredible patience with me during this entire time. Best of all, they've endorsed me taking off the time I need to get my mental game on and my immune system back in shape. Considering I've never taken sick time in the almost 10 years I've been with the company, I figure now's as good of a time as any. These past four months have nearly done me in.

I've clearly underestimated that impact that this relocation would have on my family, although everyone that's been through a relocation just nods in understanding. You really have no idea how difficult it is to move, until you are going through it. And with the additional complications that we've endured just getting to this point, I feel like we deserve a star on a sidewalk somewhere.

Charlie and I celebrated our 16-year wedding anniversary this past Friday. Although there wasn't much celebrating and whenever we were together we just stared at each other and moaned, "Ohhhh my GOD, what did we do?!" I gave him a card that read, "Once upon a time..."

And on the inside it read, "To make a long story short ... they all lived happily ever after."

As of right now: I have absolutely no idea what the future holds for our family. We've never taken anything one day at a time, as much as we're taking this whole experience. While it has been very frightening and unsettling and anxiety-ridden, we're holding on to each other as tightly as we can and we believe that things will be better, very soon.

I don't know why, or how.

But we have to have faith.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

how to buy a house: part v

Now, if in the course of buying a house - you have a complete and thorough nervous breakdown - and you find yourself curling up in to a fetal position and sucking your thumb while crying for your mother, that's perfectly normal. Rest assure, that phase of hysteria will soon pass.

For those that missed it, yesterday we had some very minor second thoughts about this whole moving cross-country thing. It suddenly struck us that our house in California is under contract to be sold and we'd convinced ourselves that we had absolutely zero prospects in Virginia. We were feeling so desperate and frustrated and scared that Charlie went so far as to call our Realtor in California and ask what might happen if we decided to back out of the contract. All of the color drained out of my face, as I watched all the color drain out of my husband's face, once he heard (and recited to me) words like "breach of contract" and "lawsuits."

Lawsuits? But it's OUR house!

That doesn't matter.

We signed a contract.

Once Charlie got off the phone with our Realtor, he thought about calling the woman who signed the contract and asking her if she would please back out. He was going to tell her that he is married to a woman that has had a very difficult year (it's true) and is emotionally unstable (what?!) and we made a terribly hasty decision and please, oh please.

We want our house back.

Thankfully, we both fell asleep before we went TURBO crazy. And when we woke up this morning, we each had a fresh new perspective. A new perspective that involved us saying to each other something along the lines of, "We need to GROW up. We made the decision to leave California for a number of valid reasons and this is where we are meant to be. We can totally do this. For Pete's sake! This is a wonderful opportunity for us, for our children, for our entire family unit. We create and are solely responsible for our attitudes and our happiness!"

Besides. What is life if not one great adventure?!

So we decided to stop being scared and instead, embrace being happy.

We decided that when it's time to get our Virginia license plates, we want to get personalized ones that read, "BE KIND" and "BE NICE" and when we're jetting down route 267, much like we did when we'd cross over bridges in the Bay Area of San Francisco, we're going to pay the toll for the car behind us. We are going to recklessly commit random acts of kindness all over the mid-Atlantic. We are going to SMILE at strangers on the metro and TALK to people in line at the grocery store and by golly, WE ARE GOING TO LOVE IT HERE.

And then, we decided that we (and our children) LOVED the old, possibly haunted house by the creek, despite the fact that it's nearly 50 years old and hasn't had a single update since 1960-something. We decided that it is the absolute best lot in the best location with the best layout and we WANT it. We don't want to play hard ball with the grieving owners, and since they've come down almost 20% off the list price, we feel like we've negotiated it well. So we decided to bump our third and final offer up by 7%. The owners came down by 3% and we now have a fully ratified contract and are in escrow.

A whole fleet of inspectors including a home inspector, lead-based paint inspector, septic inspector, fireplace/chimney inspector, and asbestos inspector will be descending upon the house over the next few days. We are very hopeful that everything will go swimmingly and we'll be able to close escrow and move in by the end of this month.

Beyond that, it might seem like Bob Vila has taken over my blog as I start detailing our progress of knocking down walls, tearing down wood paneling, removing trees, and replacing windows. I've always dreamed of buying an old funky fixer upper house, and I'm convinced this is it. I'm also very glad that we possess so much excitement about it and hope that our enthusiasm sustains us as we tackle the 1,001 things to do.

(Including #1 on the list: have a priest come bless our new home.)

Tonight, I was telling Charlie that it's a good thing we enjoy camping so much, because the cook top in our new house isn't much larger than our Coleman propane stove that we bring along whenever we head for the outdoors.

Yep. I suspect it will be a lot like camping for a while.

(Squee!! I CAN'T WAIT!)