"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A place to sit

We picked up our new dining room chairs yesterday, and Mike and Spencer had them assembled quickly. They are nice chairs, but after a week of eating either off the floor or standing at the table, it wouldn't take much to impress me. We found a final home for our table, and lazily sat, drinking coffee, and eating Krispy Kreme donuts this morning. It was a little bit like heaven.

The beds have been set up. Spencer and Paxton had their rooms all picked out, and decided on the second night here that they'd rather share. So they're happily sleeping in the same room, and sleeping well. Dressers are in, boxes are in the process of being unpacked. Satellite is installed, cable internet is installed, and our furnace problem is fixed. We found the local post office, the library, and the church I want to try on Sunday. I ordered a magazine subscription from a college kid raising money for a trip to the Bahamas. I started my online shopping. Mike updated his posted resume with our local information, and promptly got 3 phone calls from recruiters. It is 66 degrees out, and the boys are playing in the backyard. It's 66 degrees out, and it's almost Christmas.




Monday, November 28, 2005

IKEA, icecream, and new fish

I love our new house; it is quickly feeling like a home, even though we seem to be never here. Yesterday it was back to Walmart for towels and trashcans and accessories. Spencer and I went alone together, and it was my first foray driving by myself. I am a wimp when it comes to city driving, but it really couldn't have been easier. All the streets are all gridded out and organized - not like NH cities at all. We had a good time together, and decided we'd make a Spencer & Mommy outing a regular occurence. When we got home, we got all three bathrooms set up, and the boys were very excited about their Finding Nemo/fish/dolphin decor.

We finally got our furniture paid for today, and took our first trip to IKEA. The woman greeting us noted our looks of confusion, and gave us a road map. Neat place! The boys, first excited just by the sight of an escalator, had a blast looking through the showroom with us. We picked several things, and decided to come back another day to get them. Tonight was a long awaited visit to Cold Stone, the best icecream place ever. Mike and I made a mental note that the next time the small size would be more than sufficient.

The day Paxton's fish died, we told him that whenever he was ready, we'd get him a new one. This morning he announced that he was ready, so that was our last stop of the day. Spencer wanted to get a fish too, but because two bettas can't live in the same tank, they had to pick two different kinds. They browsed through all the fish, we talked to sales lady at length.... but they both wanted bettas. So we went in for one new fish, and came out with two new fish, another little betta tank, and a tiny frog that can live with bettas. Paxton named his fish Nick, Spencer's is Morgan, and I named the frog Jerry, after the greatest tv show of all time.




Saturday, November 26, 2005

Furniture, IHOP & our first visitors

We did something crazy, something that we never ever do. We went shopping the day after Thanksgiving. We didn't go Christmas shopping, but because it was the day for it, we we were faced with the typical throngs of people. We went to the mall (our new, big, super close mall) of all places, to price washers and dryers. It was an adventure, to say the least, and we didn't even buy anything. I promised the kids we'd come back sometime after the holidays though, because they saw a spectacular game room that they couldn't wait to check out.

After the mall we headed to a discount furniture store, and after a looooong time browsing, chose two new couches, love seat, 3 chairs, coffee table and end tables. We started the ordering process but couldn't complete it because our checking account has a limit on the amount of money put on the debit card each day. We've paid off and cut up our credit cards, so we couldn't use those; and they wouldn't accept an out of state check. Because it was after 3 AZ time, the bank was closed and we couldn't even call to get it raised for the day. Bummer.

Today Mike called the bank bright and early to get our limit lifted so we could buy our big items. The catch was that we only had till 10 AM, because our bank closed at noon eastern time. Fun fun fun. It felt like we were on a reality show, rushing to get through a shopping spree. First up was Best Buy for washer, dryer, and TV. Then hurry to the furniture store only to find it didn't open till 10. We tried, but got declined again, and decided to console ourself with a nice breakfast at IHOP (another something I'd been greatly looking forward to having close by) We made the mistake of adding Walmart to our trip, and were rewarded with another meltdown and hasty exit.

Sandi, Mike and the kids came by in the afternoon, both to visit and to loan their muscles for moving in some of the big stuff. The kids had a good time playing, and we all ate Thanksgiving leftovers - while standing, since we still haven't gotten kitchen chairs.




Friday, November 25, 2005

A (mostly) Happy Thanksgiving

In the past, Thanksgiving has always meant baking a brocolli casserole, wearing a new cozy sweater, and spending the day feasting and visiting with family.

I didn't make a casserole, and it was way too warm to wear a sweater... but we did spend the day feasting and visiting with family. Our second full day as Arizona residents was spent traveling up to Anthem to share Thanksgiving with Sandi, Mike and the kids. They invited some friends as well, who had three kids of their own, so it was a full and busy house. It was a wonderful meal, and the kids had a blast playing together. Instead of bundling up and taking a walk after dinner - our usual after-turkey activity - we stood outside in our short sleeves while the kids rode bikes and played in the street. We were about to round everyone up and walk to the park when two of the boys came running outside to tell us that Paxton (who had been happily playing with them on the computer) had just gotten sick. Sad for him, and disappointed about calling it a day, we packed up and said our goodbyes and thank yous and nice-to-meet-yous before heading back home. It was a rough ride home, but we made it with just one stop. The poor kid fell asleep at 6, and slept the entire night. Today he is his normal Paxton self, no worse for the wear.




Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Setting up & Settling In - Our first full day

Still on NH time, we woke early to the sound of birds singing. We'd all slept on our mattresses on the floor, about as far as we got unpacking. Our goal for the first day was to find and unpack our coffee maker. It took a few hours to do so, and when we did we realized we had no filters. Our first cups of coffee in our new house were brew with paper towels for filters, and stirred with steak knives. The kids were feeling lousy with colds, so we spent most of the morning hanging around the house. We walked to the mailbox and checked out the pool and park. Lunch was at Quiznos, which was a nice change from Subway, and we ate outside, commenting how strange it felt to be so warm the day before Thanksgiving.

We poured through the local phonebooks, wildly excited about how very close we are to, well, EVERYTHING. It's a far cry from Andover, where even a simple trip to the grocery store required an hour's round trip driving. We all took a trip to Linens N Things to get started on our massive list of things we needed for the house. It was a bit too ambitious for our first day, as there was a meltdown by the time we were done. The rest of the day was at home... the boys played, Mike made all the phone calls for getting phone and satellite and internet hooked up, and I worked on getting the kitchen in order.

We wanted to pick up some groceries, but didn't think being in a grocery store the evening before Thanksgiving would be too fun, so we hit the town again for some dinner. 5 minutes down the street we found a drive-through Wendy's, and ate sitting on the floor, our food on the coffee table.




The Trip - From NH to AZ

Day 1 - Departure

We planned to leave NH at 8:00 AM, and ended up leaving at 8:45. Not bad considering that it was a cold, rainy, dreary day. The first leg of the trip went incredibly smoothly. The boys slept off and on, and we rarely heard a peep from the animals. We had lunch in New York, and it was also somewhere in New York that I first noticed that our trailer swayed like crazy everytime a tractor trailer passed us. I vowed I wouldn't look back anymore, because it freaked me out, but of course it just made me look EVERY time. The drizzly sky finally completely opened up and poured on us as we entered Pennsylvania, and we all laughed as we ran through the rain into to PA Welcome Center. First overnight stop: Mifflinville, Pennsylvania. We got some sandwiches from Arby's, then spent the evening playing the bingo game that Paxton got in his kid's meal at lunch.

Day 2

We woke to freezing temperatures and snow. It snowed on and off all day, but thankfully never enough to delay our trip. We entered Ohio, and had lunch in Akron. There were tears in Akron too - lots of them - over where we were going to eat. A scene was made, and I think there's a distinct possibility that we won't be welcome at that Subway ever again. Ah, traveling with kids. Everyone felt a lot better after we ate, and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset coming through Columbus. The boys broke out their gameboys after lunch, and I ate my way through a box of Junior Caramels while I read two more magazines and caught up on all my pop-culture news. We noticed a strange thump in the trailer, and couldn't figure out what it was. We were excited to see gas prices drop below $2.00, a very good thing since our 4Runner was barely making 11 MPG with the weight of the trailer. Second overnight stop: Dayton, Ohio. There was a Perkins right next to our hotel, so that fit the bill for dinner. We'd never eaten there before, but the boys and I were able to get pancakes, and Mike got some sort of meat, so we were happy. The hotel was NOT a four-star establishment, and I had to laugh each time I found something wrong.... a lamp that didn't work, a missing clock, a shower drain that didn't drain, and not even a single spare roll of toilet paper.

Day 3

This time we woke to the first casualty of the trip. My Christmas cactus, lovingly grown from a shoot from a plant that was originally my Grandmothers, was frozen dead in the truck. Our luck continued through the morning into Missouri. It was a boring stretch of highway, and a rough stretch of highway, so much so that I was starting to feel carsick. Everett was starting to get grumpy and bored, so I picked up a little chalkboard for him to play with. It kept him happily drawing for 20 minutes or so, until he found more creative uses for it, like bopping his big brothers in the head. It revived me a little bit to come into St Louis, and I took several pictures of the arch. It finally started to warm up a bit too, something that made us all happy. We played the alphabet game in the afternoon, and we got to "Z" just as we passed a Lake of the Ozarks sign. Third overnight stop: Lebanon, Missouri (at a much nicer hotel than the night before.) We rolled into the parking lot with less than a half a gallon of gas, checked in, and ordered a pizza. While we waited for dinner to arrive, the boys ran around the courtyard for a good half hour, waving their arms over their heads, shouting "We're freeeeeeeee!!"

Day 4

We had a rough, windy ride first thing in the morning, but it cleared up as the morning wore on. The boys played their gameboys, and I finished the second of the 4 books I brought with me. We crossed into Oklahoma, and had lunch in Tulsa. We saw our first official cowboy in Wendy's, complete with Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, hat and silver belt buckle. The boys were excited at lunch because they got new prizes in their kids' meals (we'd already eaten fast food enough times that they'd gotten some repeats) The day was going smoothly, if long, and we booked our hotel for the night. We were about 60 miles away from our destination, and I turned to Mike to tell him what good time we were making, how happy I was that we were ahead of schedule. BOOM. Or bang or pop or whatever words conjure up a dreadfully loud and sudden explosion sound. In the ten seconds it took me to realize we weren't in fact being shot at, but had blown a tire out on our trailer, Mike already had the truck under control and was maneuvering it onto the shoulder. Unfortunately it happened on the one of the worst possible places on the highway... a barely-there shoulder, a tight curve, and a 75 mph speed limit. We just sat in the truck for a minute, looking at each other, while tractor trailers zoomed by fast enough to make our teeth rattle. We did have a spare, but neither of us were comfortable with Mike changing a tire by himself on that section of road. We wanted a professional, preferably with flashing lights. We called AAA, who sent someone out, and it took about 20 minutes for him to arrive. It was dark by this time, and 2 of the 3 boys were crying, exhausted and freaked out. It was a quick fix once he got there; and ten minutes (and $120) later, we were on our again, stopping at a closer hotel than planned. Fourth overnight stop: Elk City, Oklahoma. We were exceedingly thankful to get there safe and sound, and the hotel room - complete with its hot pink sheets - was very inviting. I stayed with the baby, while Mike and the older boys ran out to pick something up for dinner. I found Racing Stripes on HBO, and thought they'd be excited about that when they got back. They were.

Day 5

Everett woke up hot with a fever, but with no other symptoms. I felt bad making him get in the car for another day of driving, but knew that he'd get the sleep he needed to fight whatever it was off. And sleep he did. We drove around most of the morning looking for someplace to buy another spare tire for the trailer, but it was a difficult feat being a Sunday when everything was closed. Walmart's tire center was open but did not have the right size. We took the chance while we were there to grab a few things we needed... snacks, baby tylenol, another magazine, new magnadoodles for the kids. The guy at Walmart sent us to a truck stop, also open, also wrong size. We finally found a service station that appeared to be open. The guy who worked there, called in on an emergency repair for somebody else, was gracious enough to help us. We were back on the road by 10:30 AM, and finally crossed into Texas. Lunch was at McDonalds in Amarillo. The boys wanted an icecream after lunch, and were bummed to find out that their icecream machine was broken. After lunch we crossed the border into New Mexico, and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it from the first trip. There's just something about the miles and miles of wide open spaces, mountains, and red rock buttes that's good for the soul. I love the southwest; I always have. The difference between this time and our trip in June is that in June it felt like a vacation, and this time it feels like going home. Fifth overnight stop: Albuquerque, New Mexico. The kids made me smile when they walked into our rather typical $60 a night hotel room and said, with all sincerity "Wow, what a great room!" We had dinner at an interesting cafeteria-style family restaurant in a not-very-nice part of town. We'd promised the boys icecream.... and the icecream machine was broken there too. We headed back to our hotel, and to the McDonald's sharing its parking lot, for icecream and another night of much needed rest. We pulled out the US map as we had every night so far, and marveled at how far we'd come.

Day 6

Everett's fever was thankfully of the 36 hour variety, and he woke up cool and happy and his usual stinker self. The older boys however woke up with their own unique versions of impending colds... Paxton a hacking cough, and Spencer a flurry of sneezes. We'd set the alarm for 7, but not being used to the time change we woke up at 5:45, ready to get going. We had our first really good cup of coffee of the trip when I spotted a nearby Starbucks. Mike ran in for them, and came back swearing that he was never going to Starbucks again.... too many complicated choices for a simple cup of coffee. We enjoyed a relaxing drive through the rest of New Mexico, and I finished my 3rd book of the trip in between drinking in all the scenery. We crossed into Arizona before noon, and began the long stretch of desert highway. Exits were few and far between, so when we stopped for a bathroom break, Mike decided to fill up the gas tank just in case. He was already up to $40 before he realized that the gas was almost FOUR DOLLARS a gallon. We shed our jackets sometime around lunchtime, and enjoyed the warm air. Lunch was at Denny's in Holbrook, and we decided to call it a nice early day. Last overnight stop: Flagstaff, AZ. We stayed at a nicer hotel than the previous ones, in a two-room suite, which was fitting for our last night of the trip. We got their at 4:00, enjoyed a complimentary cocktail social hour, gave the kids baths, ordered room service, and vegged out in front of the TV.

Day 7: Arrival day

We woke up early again, and were lounging around in bed watching the local news. Mike got a weird look on his face when he heard that it had dipped below 20 degrees overnight. I just stared at him until he said "Paxton's fish." It had been so warm in the evening, we hadn't thought about the fact that we were in the mountains and that it might get cold at night. Paxton's fish - who'd made it completely across the country just fine - had been left in the truck in the cold, and didn't make it. We'd brought him into the hotel with us the nights we knew it was going to get cold, but were fooled by the warm Arizona evening. We felt HORRIBLE. Paxton was of course sad, but handled it better than either one of us would have expected. He seemed as excited as the rest of us that it was our last day of driving, and that we were only 3 hours away from our new home. We fueled up at a nice breakfast buffet, complete with belgian waffles, and let Everett run up and down the corridors while Mike loaded up the truck. We took it easy on the 2 hour drive down to Anthem, both because we didn't want to blow another tire and plummet off the side of the mountain, and because our overloaded trailer didn't let us do otherwise. The views coming down into Phoenix were, as we remembered, spectacular.

We got to my sister's house at noon, and it was like no time had passed between us.. certainly not 4 months. We chatted and visited, and the kids wasted no time getting down to the business of playing with their cousins. It was warm and sunny and happy, and it felt good just to be there. We called our realtor and set up a time to meet her at our house. As we drove down to Tempe, I was literally so excited that I thought I was going to hyperventilate. I had to keep telling myself, and the kids (who were nearly bouncing off the ceiling) to calm down. We underestimated how much time it would take to get there, and we were 15 minutes late meeting the realtor. The house was very easy to find off the highway, and the area was just as she'd promised - a nice, clean, beautiful family neighborhood. She promised we wouldn't be disappointed, and we were not. One misconception I think people have about Arizona in general is that everything is drab and brown, and it's just not. As we drove into the development there was green grass and palm trees, petunias and marigolds, and a whole bunch of gorgeous blooming bushes that I've yet to learn the name of. It was everything we'd hoped for... and if it hadn't been for the occasional crying, the fever, the blown-out tire, and the dead fish, the trip would've been too perfect. We made it safely across the country together, and it's all good.




Monday, November 14, 2005

The Closing

It was a test of patience to be sure, but after weeks of waiting and wondering and postponing and praying, we closed on the sale of our house. The boys kept asking us what "a closing" was, and we told them it was basically us signing a whole bunch of papers, handing over our keys, and officially selling the house to the buyers. It was that... and it was so much more. Practically, it went very very smoothly. It was quick and simple, and there was a lot of chatting and joking as we signed. For a transaction that had so many snags along the way, it wound up very neat and tidy in the end. To Mike and I (and by extension, the kids) this house sale was the key to a new life, a new adventure, new possibilities, something we've been waiting a long time for. We were ready. Whoever said timing is everything wasn't kidding. Had we done it a year earlier, I would have been sad to leave the house that we'd put so much blood, sweat and tears into.. but today I wasn't. That house had been a stepping stone, and a blessing to be sure, but it was just a stopping off place for us. Today we were ready to leave it, to let someone else enjoy it. And everything from our buyers to the job market to the homeschool groups to the rental house that just happened to become available when we needed it, fell into place to tell us that the time was now. We're ready. And we're excited. And we're so very very thankful.




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