Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Mom, we don't have an OFF button."

Christmas is a week away!  Company is arriving in five days.  School is finished for break tomorrow!  My kids are wound up!  I mean my kids are REALLY WOUND UP!!!

This morning, I said, "Kids, calm down," for the zillionth time.

Sarah sincerely replied,  "I am so sorry Mom, but it is too close to Christmas and we don't have an OFF button." 

Oh well, at least it is a happy wound up.  They were signing (screaming) Jingle Bells at 7:10AM, while jumping on the bed.  That was before any of the omnipresent holiday sugar had even been imbibed for the day.  I figured if I can't beat them join, I darn well better join them.  I started howling a very off key rendition of Jingle Bells, too.  I might have heard some coyotes howling in the hills, we were just that good. 

With the final count down to Santa's arrival, I am in a world of rush, trying to get ready for the big day.  I managed to get the bulk of the wrapping done earlier this week.  I do believe volcanoes have erupted and created less mess.  Later in the week is the big run to the grocery store.  I need to stock the pantry as if an army were arriving.   Plus, there are the school parties and the cooking and the last minute gifts and all the regular stuff of life.  I don't really need to tell you about any of this, because I'm sure you are pretty much doing the same thing, too. 

Sure enough the rush will pass and then, assuming I made the nice list, Santa will arrive.  All that work will totally be worth it.  That is life in the Holiday Stroller Lane. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas in New York - And Santa Just Sent me a Plumber for an Early Christmas Gift

Nothing says Christmas like a December visit to New York City!  And that is what the Harrell ladies just did.  It was Mimi's dream for many years to take all her girls (Emily, Sarah, Jaley, and lucky me) to NYC for a Holiday Extravaganza and she sure did make her dream come true.  Jan can definitely be my personal travel agent any time.  She can plan out one heck of a trip. 

While I won't say we did it all, because you can never do it all in NYC, we sure did a lot.  We went to the top of the Statue of Liberty and remembered our roots.  We saw the Rockettes in Radio City Music Hall.  We saw the Lion King on Broadway.   We had High Tea at the Plaza. We took a Carriage Ride through Central Park.  We went to the Top of the Rock and took in the amazing views of the city.  Plus for a suburbanite like me, just enjoying the windows on 5th Avenue and absorbing the vibe of The City were sites into themselves. 

Site seeing aside, I don't want to forget the shopping.  Oh, did we shop.  We shopped on the street.  We shopped in the gift shops.  We shopped in the little boutiques.  We shopped in FAO Schwarz.  And, we did some damage shopping in the worlds biggest Macy's.  Our bags were full, our wallets were not.  
Like all trips, this one came to an end and we headed West again.  However, it isn't long until the next break.  The Winter School Break is only a few days away, which means I better get busy getting ready for Christmas.  Unlike NYC, our home is not yet decorated and prepped for the holiday.

While I still have many things to get ready for Christmas, Santa just delivered one gift to my door.  One of the toilets broke the morning (it happens in an old house).  I figured I would deal with it later, as it wasn't actively leaking (see how my priorities have changed in this older home).  Five minutes ago there was a knock at my door and a plumber was literally standing at my door!!!!  I hadn't called a plumber - he had come to the wrong address.  I welcomed him in anyhow.  He fixed the toilet in 10 minutes for cash money and then went onto our neighbor's house!  I told you - Santa just delivered a gift to my door.  Plus, I have the plumber's name and number for future reference. 

May Santa deliver whatever you need right to your door.  That is life in the stroller lane!!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

10 Reasons You Know you Live in the Bay Area

The Bay Area is am amazing place.  You have beautiful mountains and beaches just a few miles away and here we are right in the middle, living in the unique business mecca called Silicon Valley.  It is a place unlike any other.  As I have talked to family and friends back East, I have struggled to put our new home into words.   In the spirit of the Late Show's Top Ten Lists.  I have put together my own list.

You Know You Live in the Bay Area 
Top Ten List
10.  You know dozens of people who drive electric cars.
9.  You think a 2,000 sq ft house is really big.
8.  You know real estate takes a big jump after every big IPO (Go Twitter).
7.  You plan your entire day around rush hour which starts at 4AM and ends at 11PM.
6.  You always remember your reusable bags, because there are no plastic bags and paper ones will cost you.  
5.  Every person you know has a really cool dog and you fully expect dogs to come into restaurants.  
4. You now consider one hour of rain or temperature in the 50's really bad weather.
3.  Every person you talk to has either just finished or is just getting ready to completely renovate a house.  
2.    You know what the highway meter is, enough said.
1.  Everyone is in really good shape.  Young, old, small, tall, everyone is always on the move here.

I don't know if it quite explains it all, but it is an amazing and unique place.  Just last week, Twitter's IPO instantly created 1,600 millionaires and 2 billionaires.  But around here, that kind of stuff just happens.  We, however, just did our regular thing.  It was school and work and no vast millions added to our coffers.  Thankfully, we did buy our house before Twitter's debut, so good news there, as real estate prices will be going up (although my East Coast mind finds that impossible).  

Now it is onto Thanksgiving and we definitely have much for which to be thankful, including living in the wild and crazy place called the Bay Area.  

That is life in the Stroller Lane.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Longest Yard

I am many years past running a seven-minute mile, but I not using a walker yet.  So how can it take me 15 minutes to walk one yard every single morning? 

I literally park Old Betty, our much loved minivan, three feet in front of the house.  All I need to do is hop in and go.  It should take one second.  Every morning, like a black hole sucking time away, it takes the kids and I 15+ minutes to bridge that final yard from our front door to on our way to school. 

It is the usual drill of "get your shoesbackpackslunchboxes," which is now one long word in my vocabulary.  That step is not as simply as it seems and inevitably sucks away a good 10 of the minutes.  Then, there is the predictably unpredictable other delays.  It may be the phone ringing or a trip to the potty or "mom I need to create an entire science fair project before 8AM."  It is those unexpected delays that truly turn that last three feet into the longest yard. 

I know I am preaching to the choir with all the moms out there, because you have your version of the longest yard, too.  We can read all those parenting books and magazines with their ideas for picking out clothes and packing lunches the night before, but they never have good advice on how to traverse that last few feet from house to car without at least a few delays.  Given that we somehow manage to make it to school before the tardy bell, I guess my "shoesbackpackslunchboxes" mantra is at least working marginally well.

Thinking of school, the girls are officially back to school now that we have eradicated our lice "delay." That was definitely in unexpected category.  So was two weeks of bronchitis.  Both of which were totally crummy.  However, prescriptions meds were definitely the silver lining for both.

In spite of all the delays, there has been lots of other busyness around here, too.  There were parent-teacher conferences.  With three in school now, that is quite a chore. There is start on making house renovation plans, it is all fun cometh even if I didn't give him our forwarding address. And from the looks of the stores, it is time to get ready for holiday shopping, too. Just like you, I need 26 hours in the day, though I'm sure that still probably wouldn't be enough. 
until they tell us how much our dreams will cost.  Plus it is time for some end of year tax planning, since we lived in two states this year.  It turns out the tax man

That is life in the stroller lane. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mostly Tricks This Halloween!

How can Halloween go wrong?  It is the easiest holiday of the year.  Just buy some candy and throw on any old costume, you are good to go.  It's easy, it's simple, so nothing should go wrong.

But they do say Trick OR Treat, so someone has to get some tricks.  Well, yesterday was full of them.   And I should know better, we once spent most of Halloween in the ER with one of our tykes, so this isn't our first time having a Tricky Halloween.

So what went wrong?  First, there was my fall season cold and laryngitis.  What words I can speak sound like a squeaky mouse cartoon.  Second, was Scott's forgotten computer.  Gone is his 6-mile, no traffic commute to work.  A laptop left at home is now a major disaster.  I start heading north, he starts heading south and we meet wherever the traffic gods say we will meet leaving us both with a lots less time in our day and more gray hairs on our head.  Third, was the monster, the giant beast in a little form.  A monster that doesn't discriminate based on race, religion, or socioeconomic status.  The monster's name is lice.  The call came just as I had pulled back in from meeting up with Scott, so I was far from relaxed. 

Yes, given enough kids and enough years at enough schools, we were bound to fall victim, but did it have to happen on Halloween?  The day of school parties and school parades?   When the school called, they said so kindly, "there isn't an emergency, but your child has lice."  And I really wanted to say, "can't it be a little bitty emergency instead, because I really don't want to all that laundry and hair combing."  But instead I said "I'm so sorry, I'll be there as soon as I can." 

Further inspection, found our problem wasn't exactly isolated.  Given the fact the kids share just about everything and often come and snuggle in with Scott and I, we ALL needed to be treated just to be safe, because one louse can lead to like 4 gazillion lice in no time.  Plus, pretty much everything in the house needed to be washed.  It is now the end of another day and I'm still not done with the laundry.  Good news, we get to do this whole process over again in 7-10 days, just to be safe. 

I was doing laundry and bagging up stuffed animals as trick-or-treaters came to the house.  I didn't need a costume as I was such a fright - no voice from the laryngitis, no make-up, hair a ratty-mess from the no conditioner and comb out treatment (holy mother, I have kinky curly hair, I can't go without conditioner).  It wasn't exactly how I envisioned meeting all the new neighbors on Halloween night.  But, our house is rather dark, so hopefully they couldn't me very well. 

On a very good note, we survived.  We managed to get sanitized in time for the kids to trick-or-treat.  And, oh my, did they score.   From the volume of candy they brought home, there couldn't possible have been any candy left for any other kids - but it turns out that is just how kind our neighbors are.  Full size candy bars and handfuls of treats. 

That is life in the stroller lane. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It Takes a Village to Raise a Mom

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  That is most definitely true.  It also takes a village to raise a mom, because this whole motherhood thing is hard work.  Really hard work.  In fact the all knowing Ms. Oprah Winfrey called it "the toughest job in the world." 

And so I have always found some of the best secret sauce to motherhood is surrounding myself with a whole bunch of other awesome women.  They help me learn tricks to save time, money, and most importantly my sanity.  Of course, you need fellow moms with kids of similar ages to your own.  This is the group that reminds me about Little League sign ups and helps me keep me calm when a parenting crisis-du-jour is about to overwhelm. 

Just as important are women at every other stage.  It is crucial I know moms with kids a little older than my own. Why should I try and figure all this mothering stuff out myself, when they have already been there, done that, and lived to tell about it.  These moms have helped me with everything from lunch packing advice (do all the sandwiches on Sunday night they'll keep) to diaper changing (cover up those baby boys before you get sprayed in the face).

Then, I need to know a few moms with kids younger than mine.  I would love to say it is because I can pass along all my knowledge to the next generation of moms, but truth is I am just hoping they will let me snuggle their babies.  What I wouldn't give for a little snuggle with newborn?   

Of course, I like to know a few empty nesters, too.  It is like those moms are cheering from the finish line, "You can do it!  We made mistakes, but look how good our kids turned out. You will be just as lucky, too."

Finally, and possibly most important, I need girl friends whose path has not yet and may not take them into the world of motherhood.  If I spend all my time in a parent-only world, I would forget the other wonderful paths life's journey can take, ones that may not include a minivan.  As much as I love it, it is nice to climb down from the hill called motherhood and view the world from another peak for a little while.

And so this week, I have had the joy of spending time with every one of these groups of women, though I didn't get that baby snuggle for which I have been wishing.  It was the wisdom of a great friend, Sheila, whose kids are a bit older, that really rang true this week.

Sheila has warned me the day would come when I would be running around crazy for the kids.  No matter how hard I tried to keep the activities contained it will sneak up on me one day.  Just like that I would be THE MOM.  All caps, as in it consumes up all your time.  

Well, as usual, Sheila's advice was right.  Last week, I did everything from the banal science camp carpool to the creepy live crickets transport to feed the class frog to the food run for 20 hungry Girl Scouts and so much more.  Every day was booked day and evenings.  How did that happen?  And Sheila, how do I keep up this pace until they are all old enough to drive themselves? 

That is life in the stroller lane.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Moral to the Story - Never Unpack the Shoes

Historically, I have not been a very superstitious person.  As of recent, I have become one.  I am bad as a Major League Baseball player who doesn't wash his socks all season thinking that's the reason for his good hitting.  For me?  I'm simply planning to never unpack my shoes.  I'm just going to leave them in Atlas Moving Box in the middle of our bedroom until we renovate or I get the courage to again tempt the gods of fate - whichever comes first.  Every time I go to unpack them, crisis unfolds.

You may ask, why the shoes?  Just throw them in the closet.  Right?  Wrong!!!  Our 1959 Wonder House doesn't have a closet, per se, in the master bedroom, just peek-a-boo cupboards.  Since day one, where to put my shoes, has posed a question.  And several times, I have gone to solve it, and each time the very night before I planned to unpack those darn shoes crisis unfolded and unfolded big.

Strike One.  That was the evening I came home to find the flood in the only fully working bathroom in the house.  For those who have may not read every single nugget of Stroller Lane, we have only one fully operational bathroom and that one flooded within a week of us moving in.  It is a very precious commodity if we want to keep ourselves from doing anything more than dining alfresco.

Strike Two.  The dishwasher (which is about the only new appliance in the house) broke at the three week mark.  The repair man fixed it on a Friday.  He didn't fix it correctly.  We were doing dishes by hand all weekend.  Due to our very old plumbing, the repair work broke two more things and there was more flooding and the repair work took another couple of days.  By then, the dirty dishes were piled higher than the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Strike Three.  Due to no fault of us or our home, the High Voltage transformer in our back yard exploded and nearly lit all of the nearby homes on fire.  The fire department and PG&E spent a good portion of the evening at our home.  Then PG&E spent a good portion of the next two weeks in our backyard, but we are proud owner of a brand new and much safer transformer that providers power to several area homes.

And Your Out.  A dentist told me in 1999 that I would "someday soon" need a root canal on one of my back teeth, it turns out that I needed it now!!!  And "now" for the first time in my life I didn't have a dentist.  Crap!!!!  I found a really good dentist (Great).  He referred me to a VERY CRAPPY endodontist to do the actual root canal.  For all my nursing school friends, this guy gave me a post-procedure gram-negative anaerobic infection - the really bad stuff - I never saw him change his gloves - the jerk.  And worst of all, I had the infection on our 15th wedding anniversary, total and complete bummer.  I made Scott's favorite dinner and then went to bed at 8:15pm and was very, very sick for 10 days. 

So as I said, I am not unpacking those darn shoes.  In my past attempts there has been flood, fire, and disease. If I try again, there may be famine.  On an upside, I have started calling architects, so maybe we can just solve this another way and renovate and build an actual closet.

That is life in the Stroller Lane.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hitting Our Stride - Birthdays, Tooth Fairies, Nana, and Napa

June was the chaos of moving from Cary to California and buying a house.  July was the craziness that said house wasn't really ready for us to move into and Scott's California job was basically back on the East Coast.  August was a dizzy blur of moving into our home, starting brand new schools, and many other hilarious moving hiccups (to be shared in my next post).

And then came September.  It feels like we are finally hitting our stride.  I know where the grocery store, the post office, the bank, and both a good (fortunately) and very bad (unfortunately) dentist are located.  I can navigate the school drop-off/pick-up routine by car or by bike and (usually) even make it on time.  I have transferred my nursing license to California (though am not quite nursing yet).  I am volunteering at the school and take my duties so seriously I have even "volunteered" extra to attend moms-only Halloween party that raises money for the school.  Yes, it is a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

As we hit our stride in the regular everyday life, September has brought quite a few exciting happenings, too.

  • Mick turned four!!!  In my mind, four is a magic age.  Old enough to be independent, but still innocent.  I am trying to savior this time, because I know it will be gone so soon.  He is an amazing boy.  
  • Jaley finally lost her first tooth!!!  At 7 years old and in 2nd grade, she had a very long wait, but it finally happened.  The tooth fairy did not disappoint, a little cash appeared in return for that treasured pearly white.  
  • Scott and I celebrated 15 years of His-and-Her-Towels!!!  If we have been married this long, I better stop telling people I'm still 29-years-old - talk about a child bride.  Jokes aside, I said "I Do" then and I would say it a million times over.  The best two words I ever said.
  • Nana visited!!!  It didn't take a stagecoach, just Southwest.  She came out and spoiled us.  Having my mom around was like a secret elixir.  It just made me better.  
  • Three Days in Napa!!! As a house warming gift/anniversary gift, Nana watched the kids while Scott and I went to Napa.  The no kids and a little wine, was a less secret elixir, but it also made me felt better.  It was a great long weekend.  
That is life in the stroller lane.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New School, New Routine

Labor Day has come and gone and by any measure so has summer, except that this is California, so the weather always feels like summer.  In fact, Sarah is swimming at the neighbor's house right now.

Weather aside, it is definitely not summer anymore.  We have two weeks of school under our belts and have had to learn a whole new routine.  Big things like getting used to a new school systems' curricula.  And small things like buying school lunch.  And then the really important, challenging things like navigating the carpool line and thriving in a district with no school buses.  It seems like we are all starting to hit our groove.

We were so lucky to leave a fantastic school and community in Cary.  While there are definitely differences here, it seems we are just as lucky this time.  As all the Cary folks know, I was a devotee of the school bus, so carpooling to school was quite a shock, but it turns out it has been the best MeetUp group ever.  I have already met folks who will be friends for a long time to come.  And then there is the unity between the town and the school.  The parks and rec department runs enrichment/athletic programs on campus immediately after school, thus completely avoiding the need for the mom taxi.  Love it!!! Jaley is taking a super-fun science class with a friend right after school.  Then she comes home and "teaches" Mick, while he promptly destroys her model.  As for the school's faculty, lucky for us they are exactly the same as in Cary - the principal and the teachers have an amazing reputation at school and around the community - hard working with tremendous dedication to the kids. 

As for Mick, for the first time ever, he loves his school, even in the morning.  He has always been one of those kids who hates to be dropped off at daycare/preschool.  Of course, as soon as we left he was fine, apparently he just wanted us to feel a little guilty.  It was just that drop off that was the problem.  I don't know if it is the school or if he is growing up, but he absolutely loves his new school.  Every morning, he just makes a running dive into the Lego bin (boys and Legos -what is the attraction?) and I stroll off with no guilt.  Love it!!!

They say the first three rules of real estate are location, location, location.  When you have three young kids, that translates to good neighbors and good schools.  Even before we closed, we found out we had great neighbors, so then we had to hold our breath and wait to find out on the schools.  Well, we can breathe a sigh of relief.  The schools are definitely terrific.  Thanks so much to Gail Thomson and Stephen Slater for helping us find our home. 

Just so you don't think this is getting a little too Pleasantville, it is still the start of the school year.  We are up to our eyeballs in homework, I often have to make three trips to the school each day, and the alarm clock is ringing way earlier than it did last year.  We may have a hit a groove, but it isn't quite worn smooth yet.

That is life in the stroller lane. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mick, Please Tell Me You Peed on The Floor

There are things you never think you will say in your life, but never is such a very, very long time.  And it seems that never can come up and surprise you sometime.  Like last Thursday night at about 8:30 when I hollered from the bathroom , "Mick, please tell me you peed on the floor."  Those exact words came out of my very mouth.  I am a bit ahead of myself in this story.  I need to start from the beginning.

It was getting to the end of another long week.  As I mentioned in my last post, my stamina for unpacking had come to a grinding halt somewhere after finding the bed linens and toothbrushes.  I figured we were good enough for a while and it was time for some fun.  Scott was off on a business dinner.  By some force of miracle or magic, I had managed to get the kids home from camp, fed, and (mostly) ready for the next day all by a reasonable time.  With just one lucky phone call, it turned out a couple of the neighborhood moms were already hanging out with their kids, so down the street we went for a play date.  The best part about California late afternoon play dates, they involve wine for the mommies.  As the day turned to night and with the kids getting tired, I walked home with a smile, thinking this place is starting to feel like home and finally things are starting to get a bit easier.  The friend part definitely, the house part, well, let the story continue. 

Thanks to all the fun at the play date, we didn't get home until 8:30, so as soon as we walked in the door, I was hustling the kids to get ready for bed.  Moments later is when I walked into the bathroom, to find myself standing in a puddle or more like a pool of water, to shout (or maybe it was a plead) out, "Mick, please tell me you peed on the floor."  Though I knew good and well he hadn't peed on the floor, because there was way too much water on the floor and Mick is fully potty trained.  No, we had a full-on leak.

Yes, we had lived in the house a whole week, and it was our first leak.  Crap.  Where was it coming from?  Once I opened the cabinet under the sink and a river appeared, the plumbing under the sink became the lead suspect.  OK.  No problem.

I could fix this. I shut off the valves under the sink and threw some towels on the floor.  I whisked the kids off to the beds with super quick kisses and skipped the books, but promised to read them plumbing manuals tomorrow night instead.

Then, I went to finish cleaning up the mess.  But it was still leaking.  Why?  It was leaking at a spot behind the valve.  Crap.  I couldn't fix this, and I didn't want to turn off all the water to the house.  Now what?

It was time to call a 24-hour plumber.  I asked his advice.  To which he answered, turn off all the water to the house.   Crap.

I took a minute to catch my breath.  The leak had been going for a couple of hours, I figured what was a few more minutes.  I didn't know how long we would be living our new rustic water-free lifestyle.  I went ahead and took a quick shower.  Then, I filled up a bunch of pitchers of water.

Then, I went outside in my pajamas and tried to shut off water to the house.  The valve wouldn't budge, as it probably hadn't been turned in 54 years.  I tried again, no luck.  Then, I went in and got my Vice Grip Pliers.  Surer than you know what, I got that valve closed.  I probably scared all the neighbors as I wielded tools and a flashlight in the front yard in my pajamas at 9:00 at night, but I got the water off and the leak stopped.

Vice Grip Pliers should receive the Nobel Prize.  They have probably kept saved the entire world from crumbling into pieces, they definitely kept my house from floating away this past week.  As for the plumber, we avoided the late night fee and he came the next morning.  Lucky for us, it was a small crack in a fitting piece that was easy to repair.  We were back to the world of running water by 9AM Friday morning.

That is life in the stroller lane. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Finally a Home!

Temporary housing is a lot of things.  It is a roof when you don't have one.  It is ready to move in the day you land into town.  It is fully furnished when all your belongings are stored in crates somewhere far away.  But temporary housing is definitely NOT A HOME. 

As of last week, after a million loads in the red wagon, we finally emptied our temporary apartment.  The kids and I celebrated wheeling out the last load including the cats.  Yes, Buford peed and threw up during the drive to the new house.  But unlike the flight, this time he didn't do it on me and I had lots of towels available for clean up.  And yes, Epy ran away again, but this time I saw where she ran and we didn't have a plane to catch.  By 10pm we were able to coax her out of her hiding spot in the garage.  She hasn't left the house again, and as long as we don't move she probably never will again. 

It has been a long road from Mintawood Court to Longmeadow Drive, but once again we have HOME.   We still have boxes decorating much of the house and the garage is a war zone, but it our war zone.  The kids have all their toys and space to play with them. 

The five of us were way too cozy in our 1400 sq ft apartment with one TV and no yard.  So having a whole house, a yard, and multiple TVs with a DVR - well we are feeling like the Clampetts when they moved to Beverly Hills.  The other night I asked Scott rather alarmed "Where are the kids?"  he replied "Outside playing."  That was the first time the kids have been able to simply go outside since we left - and that was  music to my ears.  Or better yet, silence to my ears.  Since that also meant, it was the first time we enjoyed them playing outside, while we enjoyed in the quiet inside.  Oh the joys of owning a home. 

Of course, the joys of owning a house cuts both ways as well.  Our work is cut out for us as we now look to bringing this 54-year-old home into the 21st century.  Our list is very, very, very long.  Good news, the house no longer has a tarp on the roof.  Bad news, every day I add new things to my punch list.  But all that can wait a little while, we have found the toothbrushes and bed linens, so that counts as moved in in my book.  The rest of the stuff can wait a little while.  The Harrell posse is tired because moving twice in two months in two different cities will wear you out.  It has been all work and very little play, so we need a little bit of fun this summer before school starts,.  The boxes are just going to have to wait a little while. 

That is life in the stroller lane. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Chance to Brag About Scott

Normally I brag about the kids.  It is what we moms like to do, at least when we aren't too exhausted by raising them. Tonight, it is time to brag a little about Scott without any fear of getting getting " Gordon Gekko'd, " Remember, the movie Wall Street?  Now, it is public, and now I can talk.

Today, Cisco announced it was buying Sourcefire, the Baltimore, MD based Internet Security (anti-hacking) company to the tune of a $2.7 billion.  That company, that product line, that stuff, is all Scott's product line.  He has been in on the deal since day one. In order to keep the deal under wraps only a few people were working on the acquisition. 

So while, it has made for quite a challenge for settling here in California.  Oh, the irony that after 6 straight months of traveling from Raleigh to California, without a single East Coast trip, now Scott has been traveling nearly weekly from California to the East Coast.  BUT, it has been one heck of an opportunity. One, amazing GIANT opportunity, that has come with plenty of work too. And today, that work paid off, with a public announcement in Baltimore, with Cisco CEO John Chambers there for the announcement along with lots and lots of press coverage. 

Tonight, Scott is on a plane back to California.  We are hoping to move into our home soon-ish.  But, like the willow tree, we are flexible.  We have our temp housing until the end of August.  So there is no rush.  I am using the time to make our home a little more "comfortable."  If we didn't own the home, I would need to be licensed as a general contractor to be managing this many subcontractors.  Just this week, there were roof, paint, floor, plumbing, landscape, and debris clearing teams involved.  Comfort is a loose term here in California.  North Carolina might say habitable.  Either way our furniture is there, the utilities are on, and our bills (no surprise) are being delivered, so some things feel like home, even if we don't actually live there yet. 

That is life in the Stroller Lane. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Do You Believe In Luck? We Bought a House!!!

You may believe in luck.  You may not.  Despite the trials and tribulations on the all little things of moving (and yes, I have griped about many), on the big things, well, things have sure been falling into place for The Clan Harrell since we arrived in California.

  • Day One in California found a house. 
  • Went into contract in Cali the EXACT day our Cary house closed.
  • Closed our Cali house EXACTLY one month after our first day here.
  • Girls are officially registered in the local school - Sarah got the last slot in 4th grade.
  • Mick's officially registered in preschool - just 1 mile from the house.
  •  I survived 3 hours at the DMV with a 3-year old in tow (that is very lucky indeed).  For all my Ga Tech friends, I even got "Word" for Scott on the license test - that sucker is really tough out here - no joke. 
So now, it is time to make our house a home.  They are tenting for termites this week, and the movers are arriving with all our stuff next week.  Scott is traveling and buried at work right now.  And managing the arrival of all the boxes wasn't a project I could manage by myself.  Scott's mom is flying in, because, that is what mom's do - they rescue their kids when they need help, no matter how old they are.  My mom wanted to come help too, but she is on the injured reserve list for a couple of weeks.  She even offered to come, against doctor's orders, because that is what mom's do.  But, we figured we had it covered with Jan's help and are going to get Shirley's help in September.  So with all the great timing, the support from friends, and the amazing love from family, I am definitely siding with those who believe in luck.  Because I sure am feeling lucky today. 

That is life in the stroller lane. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

More Funny Stories from the Moving Lane

There is a reason why moving ranks #3 on those life's most stressful events tests (after the real big ones - death and divorce).  Moving ain't easy.  We have been in California exactly one month, in that time we could fill an entire season of America's Funniest Home Videos.  For your laughing pleasure. 

  • Tales of Getting Lost - Over and Over and Over Again
    • I have cried, cursed, and gotten lost on every major highway in Santa Clara County - of which there are many and they are all under construction.  Like a house cat, I eventually find my way home.  
    • I truly believe that Siri, Wazes, and every other GPS App are all a little evil.  I envision them laughing in cyberspace as they direct me via the most asinine route ("in 500 feet turn left into the wall and proceed over the cliff") simply because I don't know any better.  Sometimes those asinine routes unearth some wonderful treasures, like the day we accidentally found San Jose's best ice cream shop and our new favorite flavors "The 408" and "Eastside Horchata." .
    • Good news, I am finally getting a handle on where we live right now.  Bad news, it is time to move out of temp housing and relocate to an entirely different city and start over again. Good news, I told Scott I'm never moving again, so this is the last time I'm going to have to do this!!!
  • How Can Filling One Prescription Be This Hard
    • I brought a simple prescription to the pharmacy to be filled.  The pharmacist announced quite loudly that it was "ILLEGAL!"  What did she think?  Did I have a a meth lab disguised as a prescription written by a board certified American doctor who just happened to not be from California.  The prescription may not have been valid, but I don't think the San Jose police were ready to cart me off to prison.  
    • Two days later at a local doctor's offers for the same said prescription .  The doctor said all we needed to do was change our diet we didn't need medication, but funny thing was the doctor never asked me what we were eating to begin with.  She refused to even call our doctor in NC or look at hand carried documents verifying everything is legit.  Now I'm getting pissed.
    • New idea.  Overnight the prescription back to NC and have my mom fill the prescription and overnight it back to CA.  UPS looses the package for 24 hours (and also refused to refund the $50 in shipping costs).  Good news, the medicine arrived, just in the nick of time, we had used the final pill the very morning the package arrived.  
    • I now have a new doctor in our new town and a new prescription written legally in California, so this problem will not (hopefully) ever happen again. 
  • Taking the Cat for A Walk and Other Stories
    • Our cat Buford is an indoor-outdoor cat, and hence is not going to change his behavior because our our new apartment's indoor-cat rules.  For the first two weeks we were here, we tried to keep him inside, we really did.  He nearly drove us all crazy, with his ceaseless meowing at all hours of the day and night.  And then we decided finally to let him out.   So now, we take him out for a nightly walk - though he absolutely won't wear a leash - he is a cat after all.  So he walks and we follow.  And if we loose sight of him, well, he eventually comes back and we hope the apartment police don't call. 
    • Where is the jelly?  I can't seem to find the jelly or pretty much anything in the local grocery stores.  You know how it is, you know where everything is in "your" store.  But, go to a new store, and you can't find anything.  The milk, what aisle?  The bread, who knows?  The eggs, probably still in the hen house.  So I wander up and down every aisle a couple of times and fill the buggy until it looks full enough to check out - then I head home and hope I can conjure up dinner from what I did find at the store. 
And the list goes on and on.  From the missed turns to the mispronunciations, I am fumbling and bumbling my way through this move.  Tomorrow, we officially close on our house.  While that is a really big event, what makes it a really big a day is that I'm braving the DMV.   Time to face the lines and the fees and get a new driver's license for me and tags for the car.  I'm sure I will have many new stories to tell after that visit - that is, of course, if Siri doesn't get me too lost and I actually make it there.

That is life in the Stroller (and Moving) Lane.

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Home Sweet Fixer Upper

     Welcome to the Hotel California Harrell Style!!!! 

    If you read my last post, you know about the craziness of our move to California and the fact that we went shopping for a house on just two hours of sleep.  Well, that insanity paid off.  WE FOUND A HOUSE!!!    IN FACT WE ARE CLOSING IN JUST TWO WEEKS!!!  On only two hours of sleep all five of us toured eight houses that Saturday.  We then narrowed it down to two.  On Sunday, Scott and I were up again at 5AM discussing the pros and cons of both houses.  In the Bay Area, there is no perfect house, nothing even close to perfect unless you have $4 million to drop (no joke, and that isn't for a mansion). 

    We were back visiting the houses by lunch and, of course, decided on a third!!!!  A house we didn't even consider in a bleary exhaustion on Saturday.  But we are so happy that we changed our mind and picked the one we did.  Because, it is the perfectly, imperfect home for us.  We were the winning bid of three competing offers, one of which was an all cash-offer, but somehow we scored a house.  It is like winning the lottery in reverse.  You win and then owe a fortune.

    Our new home, a 1959 Ranch with "Endless Potential".  The original owners bought it as a young couple and lived in it together raising their family creating infinite memories until their heirs passed it us.  We could only be so lucky to spend over 50 years together in the same home. 

    First the half empty!!!
    It is a 1959 ranch in real estate agent speak has potential.  For the rest of us, that means, it has a blue tarp for a roof.  It has original plumbing and water pressure equal to a Caprisun straw.  Original electrical, a fuse box, no grounding, and all two-prong plugs.  A kitchen that is not quite ready for Iron Chef or even a water line for the refrigerator.  And unless wood paneling makes a big comeback in 2014, the entire house's interior is entirely out of date. 

    Now the entirely full!!!! And why we are buying this house!!!!
    The first rule of real estate!  Location, location, location!  We love the town.  It is in the charming town of Los Gatos.  It is a small town in the midst of the big, giant sprawl of the San Francisco Bay Area.  It is a great commute for Scott - and commute is king in the Bay. 

    Next, there are the schools, which are fantastic.  Let's face it with three kids private school ain't an option.  So, we are guaranteed into the Los Gatos schools, of course, which specific school is still TBD.  But that is a problem for another day.

    Then, there is the lot which is flat and a 1/3 of an acre (giant even by Cary standards), so there is plenty of room for the kids to play and all of us to enjoy that spectacular California weather.  Plus, the house design will allow us to, theoretically, live through the remodel.  Talk to me at the end of this endeavor, but that is the plan.  Some of the other houses, would have required us to move out of the house to remodel them, which after facing two moves already, we really didn't want to face two more. 

    Finally, there is our street/neighborhood.  This was the surprise, the bonus, the icing on the cake.  We haven't even closed on the house yet, but the neighbors on the street have already embraced our family.  There are kids all along the street the same ages are our kids and they are already playing together.  The neighbors invited us to a Summer Solstice block party and to an upcoming 4th of July fireworks night.  Plus, they have given me recommendations for camps and cable providers and more already.  My next door neighbor hugged me the first time we met.  What can I say - I was sold!!!!

    So like the Girl Scout Motto - Make New Friends, But Keep the Old!!!!  Cary Meet Los Gatos!!!!  And As of July 9th, the Hotel Harrell California will be Open for Business. 

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    It Wasn't Smooth, But it was Hilarious

    My last blog posted at 10:41AM.  It was all rainbows and unicorns and thoughtful memories about our time in North Carolina.  Little did I know, that all hell was fixing to break loose.  The next 36 hours held in store a stinky, exhausting, and hilarious tale that would only happen in the Stroller Lane.

    FRIDAY 10:41AM:  My prior post was a final farewell to all our friends in North Carolina.

    11:00AM:  Tropical Storm Andrea made her full appearance.  It was officially a horrible day to move. The guys loading our truck should be nominated for sainthood.

    12:15PM:  Tow truck came to transport one of the cars to Cali.  Me:  "Can you please take Scott's new car first, and leave me with my old, dirty minivan?"  The driver, "No Ma'am, that's not what my sheet says." And off goes my minivan, with it's many, cup holders.  Big mistake.

    12:30PM:  Drove off in Scott's new car to get lunch for the team packing the house.

    12:45PM   Walk out of Subway and am immediately soaked to the bone, all my umbrellas are packed.  Not a good day to wear a white t-shirt. OH CRAP!!! 

    12:47PM:  Entire 40 ounce Sweet Tea dumped into the floor vent and electrical wiring of Scott's car - the car with only 600 miles on the odometer.  "Why did they take the minivan first! The one with 57 cup holders" I curse. OH CRAP!!!

    12:50PM:  Couldn't go home (it's blocked by the moving truck).  Kim, my neighbor, came to the rescue with cleaning supplies, fans, and moral support. She should also be nominated for sainthood. 

    12:55PM:  Tow truck showed up to pick up Scott's car!  I freak out.  "You can't take his car!!! I haven't cleaned it.   It's soaking wet with half a gallon of sweet tea!!"

    1:10PM  After waiting quite awhile, as I scurried about, the driver announces "Ma'am, I really need to take the car."

    1:11PM:  I start crying.  Oh the power of a soaking wet woman crying.  He called his boss and changed the pick up time to 5PM - HALLELUJAH!!!! 

    1:20PM:  On the phone with Scott's cousin, a mechanic, to find out what damage I had actually done to Scott's car.  Meanwhile, I was texting Scott - get home from work NOW, NOW, NOW.  (SIDE NOTE:  The car arrived two days ago, all dried out, no worse for wear, but the extra cleaning and time probably made the difference. HALLELUJAH!!!!)

    1:30PM:  Unbeknown to me, while I was dealing with the soggy car, the movers packed all of my clothes to long term-storage, despite them being tagged for temporary housing.  So now I all I have to wear is the 5-day supply of clothes I brought to Cali in my carry-on bag and an evening gown that was packed with Scott's suits. OH CRAP!!!!

    3:30PM:  I couldn't find Epy, our cat.  We've had this cat 12 years and she has NEVER left the house ONCE, why couldn't I find her.  OH CRAP!!!!  The phone rang, I got distracted.

    4:05PM:  Still pouring rain.  I still couldn't find Epy.  A mover yelled up the stairs "Do you have kids? They are at the door."  OH CRAP!!! In 179 days of school, the girls have never gotten home from the bus earlier than 4:25, but today, today of all days they are home - home to an empty house - in a tropical storm 15 minutes early.  You have got to be kidding me.  I felt like the worst mom ever!!!  Scott and I gathered them up and talked about how moving is hard.  It is hard for all of us.  We managed to dry the tears, mostly mine, and pull ourselves back together again.

    5:30PM:  The house was empty - time for the final walk through.  We STILL couldn't find EPY!!!!  We had a flight at 6:15AM and OUR CAT was LOST.  OH SUPER CRAP!!!!

    6:30PM:  The truck was gone, no signs of Epy.  We were all starving.  We decided to go to dinner and maybe she would come home on her own.

    7:30PM:  Scott's back to the house, while I took the kids for FroYo - No Epy!!! OH CRAP!!!!

    8:30PM:  Back to the house and all the neighbors were looking with me, promising to ship Epy at a later time if we didn't find her that night (I told you they were the best neighbors ever).   No Epy!!!!  But the NC mosquitoes gave me one helluva of a send off.

    10:30PM:  Scott headed back looking for Epy.  A Hail Mary and we aren't even Catholic.  But it worked.  She was at the house.  HALLELUJAH!!!!

    SATURDAY 12:00AM:  We finally finished packing for our the flight.

    1:00AM:  Finally fell asleep

    3:10AM:  Alarm clock rang - we had a flight to catch.

    4:15AM:  Wrangled the kids out of bed.

    4:20AM:  Wrangled the sedatives into the cats (Buford and Epy) and them into their carriers.  YES, both cats flew with us on the plane.

    4:30AM:  We headed to the airport only 5 minutes late.

    4:31AM:  Buford pooped in his carrier.  No problem, I had put puppy pads in the bottom, so I pulled that one out and put a clean one in. OH LITERALLY CRAP!!!!

    4:34AM:  Buford peed in his carrier - and all over ME too.  I am soaked in cat pee!  No time to worry about that - just drive to the airport Scott.  OH JUST AS BAD AS CRAP!!!

    4:45AM:  We pulled into the airport and Buford pooped in his carrier again!!  And this time Buford is covered in it.  We pull up to the gate.  Scott unloaded the luggage and checked the bags, while I tried to deal with the cat. OH LITERALLY CRAP!!!!

    4:49AM:  I took the stinky mess called Buford out the carrier and put him in the car and shut the door.  I went to open the door.  It was locked - WITH THE KEYS INSIDE!  The keys were locked in the rental car.  We were definitely going to miss our flight.  OH CRAP!!!!!!

    5:10AM:  While waiting for the airport police to open the car, I changed out of my jeans, right there at the curb at RDU.  I really didn't care that they were the shorts I had worn for the past three days or who saw me change, I was covered in cat pee - I needed out of those jeans - and I needed out of them right then.

    5:15AM:  The police showed up and miraculously got into the car in 5 minutes flat.  HALLELUJAH!!!!

    5:20AM:  Into the family bathroom at RDU, Buford needed a bath.  I got him all wet, before I realized the sink didn't drain.  Plus, the auto-paper towel dispenser only gave towels 3 inches at a time.  The mess was getting worse not better.  OH CRAP!!!!   Finally got him less stinky, got me somewhat sanitized, and the bathroom - well I'm so sorry to the janitorial crew at RDU - I tried to clean up the mess.

    5:45AM:  Turned the corner and saw the longest security line I have ever seen at the RDU airport.  OH CRAP!!!! BUT Scott has flown like a zillion miles this year and has super-star status, so we get to go right to the front of the line. HALLELUJAH!!!!

    6:05AM:  RAN to the gate with 2 adults, 3 kids, and 2 cats and RACED right onto the plane!!!!  They hit us in the ass as they shut the plane doors.  We made the flight.  HALLELUJAH!!!!

    9:15AM PDT:  Landed in San Francisco.  No one slept on the flight - including the cats.  Darn sedatives never did work.  Buford had one more accident, but we managed to keep the mess and more importantly the stink contained.

    9:16AM:  Text messages started flying in from our California real estate agent.  No rest for the weary.  House hunting is war out here.  We needed to shop that day, because there were actually a few houses that would work for our posse.  OH CRAP!!!!

    10:00AM:  Get to the Hertz counter - Reservation?  They have lost one of our reservations.  OH CRAP!!!!

    12:00PM:  Finally leave the airport.  HALLELUJAH!!!!

    1:30PM:  Start house hunting.

    10:41PM:  Crashed into bed absolutely exhausted.  Didn't even bother to find my toothbrush. HALLELUJAH!!!!

    And so, with the grace of an bull in a china shop the Harrell clan departed North Carolina and arrived in California.  The good news, we have stories to talk about at every family gathering for the next 20 years.  Plus, after that departure, the rest of the bumps in the move process (of which they are infinite) seem a little less daunting (at least most of the time).  In the two weeks since our arrival, we indeed, have started to settle in.  There are many more tales to share.  I will soon.  However, this post is entirely too long already.

    That is life in the Stroller Lane - California Edition. 

    Friday, June 7, 2013

    It's Not Goodbye - It's So Long For Now

    The moving van rolled up, right as Tropical Storm Andrea rolled in.  Somehow it seems fitting that we will leave NC in the rains of a Tropical Storm.  We can set sails and the winds will blow us right out of town.  This isn't goodbye, it is so long for now.  We love NC way too much to leave forever.  We know everyone says, "oh we'll be back."  But we will, WE WILL!!!!  The pull of family, friends, and North Carolina BBQ is just too strong.  So, expect us to come knocking on your door asking to stay for a short (or long) visit soon. 

    I thought I would share a few memories from the fourteen years the Tarheel state has been our home.  The list is endless, but I tried to keep it brief (not that I keep any of these posts all that brief).  Here they are in no particular order. 
    • The 2001 ice storm, no power for three days, grilling out with the neighbors in 20 degree weather.
    • Kenan Flagler business school study groups in the McColl building at all hours of the day and night
    • Tons of kids playing endlessly in the cul-de-sac for the past 12 years
    • UNC Nursing School team work on study guides
    • Cisco's outings at the John Avery Boys and Girls Club
    • 24 inches of snow the first winter we moved here, that never happened again
    • Bald Head Island, why didn't we visit you more
    • Beech Mountain and the most special family Forth of July celebrations
    • A street with some many kids the bus only makes two stops
    • Watching western Wake County change from the country to the suburbs and meeting a few of the original families who got rich selling their land as it did
    • Block parties with Elton Mills driving his tractor for the hayride
    • Ladies holiday teas
    • Guys poker nights (not that I attended, but I heard they were fun)
    • And enjoying all the southern hospitality and amazing people this area has to offer
    That is life in the stroller lane.  

    Saturday, June 1, 2013

    Water Fights and Fireflies - A Final Friday Night on "Wood" Street

    It wasn't fanfare or even scheduled, but it was the perfect last Friday night on the "Wood" street before we move.  Last night was exactly why I have always loved our street and our neighbors, why it is just so hard to leave.  The kids ran around in a posse having squirt gun fights and chasing fireflies.  They made up games with complicated rules and disappeared into the backyards for long stretches.  All the while the parents chatted with only a loose eye on the kids from the cul-de-sac. 

    I don't know every single neighbor, but I know most of them and many of them very well.  These are my friends; the friends I have shared my life's ups and down over the last decade.  The ones who have seen me at my best and, well, the other 99% of life.  And guess, what, they are still there smiling with me, lending a hand at just the right moment, laughing when I need it, and giving me a glass of wine when I really need it.

    It is a street where kids can still walk home from the bus stop and knock on doors until they find enough kids to come out and play.  It is a street where there are block parties, egg hunts, and poker nights.  It is a street where neighbors bake casseroles whenever someone is sick or has a baby (and there have been many, many babies over the years).  It is a street that shares -  toys and games and endless baby clothes.  It is a street that simply gets to know one another. 

    Thanks to all the friends on the "Wood" streets in Cary.  I am starting to cry as I write this.  The Harrell's are so excited for their new adventure, but so sad to leave this wonderful place. Our house has been a wonderful home, but what has made this place truly special is the people.  We have adored being part of the "Wood" street crew.  Thank you to all of our neighbors for your support, friendship, and love through the years.  Now come and visit us in California!!! 

    That is life in the stroller lane. 

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    California On My Mind

    The Harrell posse spent last week exploring California.  It was our official house hunting trip and I wanted to come back and tell you Scott had bought me the most expensive Mother's Day gift ever.  However, finding a house in "The Valley" (as it is called there) is so very difficult, we did not score a home.  We came very close to putting in an offer on a very expensive home that was really just a piece of land, because it was a total tear town.  From the roof to the foundation, there were problems with every part of the house, so we decided to pass - at least for the moment.  That is what many of the houses are like out there - old and in original condition.  Folks buy them for the land, tear them down and start anew.  I think those folks also have an in on the winning lottery numbers, because that is an expensive way to buy a house.

    While house hunting was the main purpose of the visit, it was also the kids first time in California.  Per the reputation, the weather was perfect during our entire visit.  While Scott was working hard at Cisco the kids and I checked out the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, visited the Tech Museum in San Jose (no surprise there is a giant technology museum in the heart of Silicon Valley), and built a giant sheet-fort in the hotel room.  We also spent a big chunk of our days working on homework, since this wasn't a spring break at school.  We had to do a book report and a PowerPoint presentation, EOG testing practice and math galore.  I tried to play teacher, but let's just say I don't plan on homeschooling the kids anytime soon.  I personally tip my hat to every teacher who every is, was, or ever will be.  Educating kids is really, really tough - thank you to all the teachers!!!!

    Now we are back home.  House hunting is on the back burner as we close out the school year and close out in NC - which is very exciting, scary, and sad - all at the same time.  We have only a couple of weeks left here.  I am presently sorting through what goes with us to temporary housing, what goes to long-term storage, and what is destine for the Goodwill.  I sure wish I had a crystal ball to help me prioritize.  The relocation people will only tell me in broad terms what is in our furnished apartment, such as "a well appointed kitchen." What the heck does that mean?  On the one hand, I don't want to bring duplicates and have no room to store it.  On the other hand, I don't want to have to run to Target and buy a bunch of stuff I already own because it is locked in long-term storage.  And don't even get me started on the the question of whether our current furniture will fit in the California home we have yet to find.  Hence, my desperate need for a crystal ball.

    That is life in the stroller lane.  

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    Kids Will Try Anything Not to Eat Vegetables!

    Last week I'm eating lunch with Mick and have the audacity to serve carrots.  You know the cute little baby carrots that all kids like.  Well, that wasn't the case last week.  Here was our conversation.

    I said, "Mick, please eat some of your carrots."

    He replied, "I don't like carrots."

    "Well, you like ranch dip, so have a little of that and eat a few of them, then you can have a treat."  (Aside:  Yes, we have do have a veggies for treats barter system at our house.  And yes, I know it goes against the rules of every parenting book every printed.  The funny thing about parenting books - as soon as you have kids you no longer have any time to read them - so barter veggies for treats it is...)

    Mick argues back, "Carrots are grown up food, like sushi."

    "No their not, Sarah and Jaley eat carrots."

    Mick giggles, "Oops, I meant to say, I'm 'llergic to carrots, I can't eat them."

    To which I try to respond with a straight face, "You're not allergic to carrots."  Mostly, I'm trying to stifle a laugh and not pee my pants laughing.

    While I never did get Mick to eat his carrots at least I got some other veggies into his belly and decided that the boy has a true future in sales. 

    That is life in the stroller lane. 

    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    Do I Go With The Honey or The Squeaky Wheel Approach???

    This isn't my first rodeo.  I have moved across the country twice before.  But gone are the days, of throw a few things in the box and drive into the sunset.  Moving as newlyweds and moving as a family of five - is like the difference between playing Little League and playing in the Majors.  It is a whole different game.

    And every week (or day), it seems like there is some new major issue.  Last week
    , it was the repair negotiations.  Monday, it was the due diligence deadline and some problem with a signature.

    The rest of this week, it has been the "no room in the inn" debacle.  Despite the earlier information I was given that "there is no problem with temp housing."  There is in fact many problems with temporary housing.  Including the very important fact, that there are often no slots available in the summer.  So as nice as the weather is in California, I didn't want to be living in a tent when we got there.  For the past four months, the relocation company has known the nice, polite, Southern, stay-at-home-mom Gigi.  The one, who remembers that you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.  So far that style has worked very well.

    But tell me my family doesn't have a home, and the folks at the relocation company got to meet a whole new Gigi.  The one who used to work in corporate America and managed large teams and big projects.  The one who is Italian, assertive, and outspoken.  I was still polite and professional, but I sure as heck wasn't saying yes to "your family can live in 750 sq ft with a known bed bugs problem and an off the chart crime score."  Guess what!!!  Somehow, they have found us a spot in a three bedroom apartment in a relatively safe area without a reputation for bed bugs.

    So lesson learned, always try to go with the honey first.  But if is means being homeless, remember that the squeaky wheel gets oiled.

    That is life in the stroller lane. 

    Friday, May 3, 2013

    Jaley Turned 6 3/4 - Of Couse We Had a Birthday Party

    Last weekend we had a 6 3/4 Birthday Party for Jaley.  So of course, we had a birthday party for her.  Doesn't everyone celebrate their child's 1/4 birthdays?  Just kidding.  I haven't gotten that over exuberant in celebrating the kids' milestones.  It is just that Jaley will turn 7 soon after we move and a party with friends would be impossible from California.  Hosting it for her 6 3/4 seemed to have a better ring to it, than she'll be 7 soon. So that is just what we did.  

    Last Saturday, our giggling, gaggle of 7 year-olds invaded a nail salon to be pampered at a mani-pedi party.  Yes, our kids are spoiled.  We already know this.  Then, we enjoyed a doughnut cake at the Dunkin' Donuts next door.  Jaley asked for this specifically, so I managed to persuade the local Dunkin' Donuts owner to custom decorate a collection of frosted doughnuts.  Everyone was sugared up; Jaley was thrilled; I used a coupon; we were all happy.

    On the home front, Scott is home.  He is here for an entire week!!!  Yippee!!!  This is huge, because he has only spent one other week home since January and due to extenuating circumstances he didn't really feel like he was at home that week.

    The girls had field day at school this week, though Mother Nature hasn't been very cooperative.  Mick is, well, Mick.  He is back to speaking English again.  Good news there.  He is my go with the flow kid.  Which is such a blessing, because I need go with the flow.

    That is life in the stroller lane. 

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    I Don't Speak English

    Mick and I are at the grocery store this week.  We finish loading the reusable bags in the trunk (I'm getting ready for life in Cali) and I say, "Mick, go ahead and get in the car."  He doesn't.  So I say it again. 

    To which he replies, in English, "No Mommy, I don't speak English, I can't get in the car, 'cuz I don't understand you."  Apparently, America's immigration problem is hitting closer to home than I ever realized.  And I laughed my "culo" off the entire way home.

    Beyond having to teach Mick some surprise English lessons, this week has been the next phase in selling the house, repair negotiations.  If only the buyer and the seller could just sit down together over a cup of coffee and discuss this stuff in person, but instead, it is like a that childhood game, "telephone."  I say something to my agent, who says something to the relocation company, who says something to their agent, who says something to the home inspector, who says something to the buyer, and then all the way back again.  By the time it gets full circle, it is practically Mick's assertion of not speaking English, because nothing makes any sense at the end of the circle. After a week of this vicious circle, I think we are in agreement.  Either way, I have people lined up to repair stuff at the house next week.  And hopefully, in the next week or two all these details will be closed.  If not, don't be surprised if you find me pulling out my hair.  The telephone game is not nearly as much fun as it was in 3rd grade. 

    That is life in the stroller lane.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Our Beautiful Home - Sold In 4 Hours!!!

    A decade ago I walked into this home and knew in less than five minutes it was the house for us. If I weren't moving, I would buy our house all over again.  It is a great home, on a wonderful cul-de-sac, in a fantastic neighborhood, with awesome schools, and absolutely-positively terrific neighbors.   Last Wednesday night, another family agreed.  In fact two families did.

    Now let me tell you our crazy very, very, very, very lucky selling story!  Who says the suburbs aren't wild.  Last Wednesday was one crazy night.

    The house went onto MLS at 4:15pm, right as the kids walked in door from school, not the best timing, but that is life.  My agent was calling my cell asking me to review all of the documents online, but I couldn't, because at 4:17pm, the home phone was ringing asking to set up our first showing at 5:30pm (I had requested one hour's notice).  Now the race was on - homework, dinner, and a full house clean up in only an hour - oh my.  We were pulling out of the driveway at 5:15pm and they were already waiting outside - early YIKES.

    We went out for fro-yo to kill the time until we could go home at 6:30pm, and then there was a request for another showing, so we went to the mall.  And then there was a request for yet another showing.  Yes, the third and it had only been on the market two hours.  So we walked the mall some more.

    By now my agent was calling saying both of the first two showings were going to make offers that night.  I was trying to keep the kids somewhat contained at the mall, while answering all the calls and texts from the agent, and in between trying to let Scott know what was going on.

    We didn't get home until well after bed time.  I quickly tucked the kiddos into bed and back to the phones.  The offers were coming in, but I still hadn't talked to Scott.  Just a text saying things were looking good.  He was tied up in evening meetings.  So I was negotiating the terms here, and he was working out there.  Finally, he was free and all the dust had settled here.  By midnight we had the blessing of two finalized, great offers for our house, of which we were able to choose the one that was best for our family.

    This home was Scott and my first home.  We were practically newlyweds.  Just the two of us.  Now we are a family of five.  It holds so many beautiful memories.  We are so excited about our new beginning in California, but will miss this wonderful home that has cared for us through all of life's many ups and occasional downs.  So on June 14th, we transition our home to a new family.  We hope that this house cares for them as well as it has cared for us.

    If you are curious what our house looked liked (for once without the toys a strew) - check it Our House

    That is life in the stroller lane. 

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    Much Needed Easter R&R

    So enough about our move!!!  It is most of the focus these days, but we do still have a life outside of moving to California.  And we took advantage of that last week.  The family headed south to Vero Beach for fun in the sun with Mimi & Poppa.  As usual, they were the hosts with the mosts.  They spoiled the grandkids (and Scott and I, too).

    The best part about the trip was spending time together as a family.  Scott has been on the road since January.  This was our first time to kick back and unwind in two months.  It was also the most time we have spent as a family.  We all needed this.

    On Wednesday, three of us flew home; Scott was back to work; Jaley's vacation continued.  She stayed a few extra days with Mimi & Poppa for some special time.  They headed to Sea World and lots of other fun places.  On Friday, she flew back.  Yes, my baby girl (still only 6) flew as an unaccompanied minor.  Sarah flew at 7 and Jaley wanted the chance to fly solo, too.  This was her only chance before heading West.  Thankfully, it was only a quick 80 minute non-stop flight.  While I worried, she never missed a beat.  She sat next to other kids on the flight and wasn't phased in the least about traveling alone; she wanted vacation to last forever.  I can't say I blame her, but I sure was happy to have my baby girl back home.  Kids are so much work, but I sure do miss them when they are away.  

    Now we are back to  reality.  Scott is back to California, the kids are back to school, and I'm back to relocating our family.  Our house goes on the market tomorrow and we are headed to California in a few weeks to try and buy a new (to us) one there.  Until then, we are treasuring our fun in the Florida sun and glad the great weather followed us home.

    That is life in the stroller lane.