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  And unless wood paneling makes a big comeback in 2014, the entire house's interior is entirely out of date.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.