April 09, 2014

Our Vacation Rental

Back in August, after we had decided upon a home to buy, the next hurdle I needed to cross was finding us a place to live for six to eight weeks while our new home was completed. It needed to be furnished and affordable.  The best option we found was a vacation rental online.  It seemed to have the necessities and was as cost effective as anything we could find.  So, we landed there, sight unseen, in late September.

I don't know about you, but when I think 'vacation rental' I picture either a quaint cabin near snow-capped Yosemite or the quintessential beach house with 'seaside art' on the walls and sand for a front yard.

I can tell you very decisively: this was not that idyllic home I just described.  No ma'am, this was some dude's extra townhouse: a stone's throw from a massive intersection and under a flight path for the 6th busiest airport in America, with a serious ant problem and a broken couch.  But hey, it had a roof, beds, a kitchen, a laundry room, and a couple of toilets.  And it was only six weeks.

Our kids did their school on TV trays that we took along as we knew we would need a few more 'surfaces'.  Three people ate their meals on folding chairs we had also brought along.  I baked Ryan his favorite pie on his birthday in a 9x9 glass dish as there was no pie plate. S slept in a sleeping bag in a corner.  The other kids "learned" how to share a bed.  I shopped 2 or 3 times a week for groceries as the frig was very near a dorm size frig.  This was such an adventure.

I empathize very deeply now with families who live in apartments or town homes.  Not only is it difficult to be in small quarters with energetic children, but it is hard to keep them quiet!  It is exhausting!  Seriously, it feels (and is, at many times) quite futile.  We demonstrated elephant feet vs kitty feet time and time again.  I think the only thing we accomplished is that now (six months later) our kids will call each other out for walking with elephant feet.

This strange time of our lives resulted in many great consequences.  Primarily born out of our need to escape from our vacation rental!

We discovered many great places to hike.  We hiked to waterfalls at South Mountain State Park.  But Crowder's mountain became a family favorite. We did that hike twice during out eight week stay.  The fall colors were beautiful and we truly enjoyed being comfortable outside, in November!  (Something we could not have said in WI)

It is strenuous, and the last climb is quite fun, but it is worth it in the end. Yes, that is our littlest, scaling the mountain all by herself!

We also discovered some of the Greenways that the city of Charlotte has created for recreation.  Oh, how we were missing our bikes (99% of our belongings were being stored by the relocation company).

Overall, it was a long eight weeks but we are grateful for the chance we had to acquaint ourselves with some of the excellent outdoor activities in our new city.

Oh, how glad we were to sleep in our own beds and all fit together comfortably in a dining room or living room once again! Onto our new home!

March 10, 2014

An Unforgettable Trip

One Wednesday afternoon in August I stepped out of a plane in Charlotte, NC to find our family a new place to call home.  Ryan was working there that week and it was great to be with him in our new hometown.  But I had four days and had never been to Charlotte before, other than a layover, which does not really assist in one's understanding of a city and its areas.

Yes, I did a lot of research online.  But all the research in the world gets a bit blurry when it comes to getting in a realtor's car and seeing 30 houses in two days spanning across an area containing four counties. I have never had such fitful sleep as those nights.   

Long story, short: in the areas we wanted to live there was (and is) a lot of growth happening.  Tons.  So, most of what was on the market was new construction.  At the end of two days looking I had to narrow it down to what Ryan and I should go see on Saturday and Sunday.  Some were easy eliminations: one that shared its lot line with a massive power line tower and any that smelled like smoke.  But it was very hard to find a good size backyard and we really didn't want to budge on that. We narrowed it down to three by Sunday morning.  

In the end, we went with the house that was the cheapest, but with the largest yard and house. It just made sense.  There was one drawback, though.  It wouldn't be ready until around Nov 1st.  Hmmm....

After we returned to WI, I got to work trying to find us reasonable accommodations in the Charlotte area for the six or so weeks we would be 'homeless'.  Hotels were out of the question.  We needed to be able to cook, do laundry, keep a dog with us, and generally function as a family.  After a few weeks, I stumbled upon a vacation rental that ended up being available.

We made our journey to the Carolinas and I have zero pictures of it.  Yup, major life change with the entire family and no pics.  Let's just say that if we had driven with barrels on our vehicle's roofs we would have collected enough water to drink for the next two years.  Our windshield wipers ran from moderate to high for all 17 hours of driving.  I will never forget Louisville.  I really thought I was going to take myself, our car, and my passengers to our end and not be able to see it through the rain.  As I went over a massive bridge at night in a torrential downpour, hydroplaning, a semi splashed in a massive puddle across the median and I couldn't see for what felt like an eternal minute.  It was terrifying.  Then we had to continue driving that night onto Lexington.  By God's grace we all fell into bed in one piece.

Really the trip was not what most people think of when they think of a family road trip.  There was the unrelenting rain, a small collision of our car and a rented UHaul trailer, dogs barking at night in our hotel rooms, and more.  But we did enjoy listening (over the rain) to the original Winnie the Pooh series and Focus on the Family's Anne of Green Gables on CD.  Honestly, the Winnie the Pooh series is hilarious and is appreciated more by adults than young children.  Look for the recording with Judy Dench and Stephen Fry.  We highly recommend it.

So, we land in Charlotte and it isn't raining!!!! We had finally outrun the storm.  What a relief.  As we settled into a hotel for one more night the rain begins to come down.  The kids were put to bed and I went to take a shower while Ryan took the dogs outside.  Next thing I know the power goes out.  Seriously, this has got to be the most ridiculous ending to a relocation trip, ever. Fortunately Ryan returned and turned on his laptop for some light to shower and get ready for bed by.

I remember waking in the morning, seeing clear blue sky, throwing open the hotel curtains and earnestly waking all the children up with joyous cries of, "its not raining!".

Good thing I didn't marry Noah four thousand years ago....

February 19, 2014

A New Season

Over the last two years some of Ryan's travels had been to attend conferences on Lean Manufacturing systems, held in Charlotte, NC.   His company had a presence in Charlotte and he happened to know the HR manager for that facility.  As you can probably piece together, this is where God had in mind for us.  But it unfolded slowly.

Ryan was encouraged to apply for a position there in April of last year and that ended up not panning out about the time that another one opened up which turned out to be a better fit. That was in late June.

Back in May, Ryan and I had taken on the project of changing out all the siding and windows on our 60 year old house.  It was a lot of fun and a great work out.  The kids spent many a day playing outside while me, Z, and the crowbar demolished old, nasty, moldy, rotten, MDF siding.  We would tear it off of a side or two toward the end of the week and take it to the dump.  Then on the weekend Ryan and I would house wrap, install new windows, and put on new siding.  The next week we would do it all over again on another side (we had a detached two car garage so this made for many sides).

One day in May my dad came for a day and helped out! You can see the old vs new siding if you look  closely.

It was such an adventure!  The wind forever picked up when we had a 30 feet of house wrap cut and ready to put up.  And we lived for two weeks with just house wrap on the front of our house covering our main window to our living area while the custom window was made.  Then we had to hoist a 9 foot long window up into its spot! And the many hours where Ryan was perched on our neighbor's extension ladder to nail in the peak siding pieces, were some of intense prayer for myself.

We finished during Ryan's July 4th break.

Within a week Ryan had an offer letter.  God timed it all perfectly.  While the project really did not help us gain anything monetarily on the house it did set our house apart from the others in the market.  When we listed our home there were over 200 homes for sale in a city of 11K people. And for us, a long time on the market would have been very costly and difficult with many weeks of separation.

Ryan started flying back and forth, doing two jobs, in August.  His company paid at the beginning, but in mid-September he was to start full time in Charlotte and any travel or hotel stays were on us.  We all arrived, together, in Charlotte the third week in September on a Sunday and our house officially closed on that Tuesday!

Our next 8 weeks in a strange new city was a unique adventure all its own.

February 15, 2014

Changing Seasons

In case you missed it....this is a continuation of the prior post.   You may feel a bit out of the loop if you don't read that first. Or you can just read on...

I strongly believed that God had another place in mind for us.  I just had this feeling that there was going to be this gate of relief and blessing opening up in time.

So I would encourage Ryan by telling him it was just a season.  His awesome response which I will never forget was, "That's nice.  Have you talked to the Israelites?  Their season was 40 years." (Remember, he was working in a 5am-6pm job in which he was the punching bag: it didn't necessarily breed optimism)

But I really did believe that God had plans for our family to blossom in the outdoors, fellowship, work balance, and much more.  All areas where we were not flourishing.

It took about eighteen months until we saw the light appearing at the end of the tunnel.  That was a long time.   I remember going inside to put on another jacket during a family bonfire in the backyard (in June) crying because I was so weary of being cold.  Look, I cry like twice a year. I was tired of feeling bone chilled for eight months.   Really tired.  It is a feeling that is hard to explain.  And I remember comforting crying kids who had said good bye to their dad for a week for the second time in three weeks. It was a long haul.

All the while Ryan and I did not feel right about him looking for a new employer.  He was (and still is) working for a company that is very large and rather good to their employees as well.  We knew there were lots of options for him being possibly promoted or transferred to one of their other locations (in most of the 50 states and even worldwide).  But it was going to take the right combination of his networking connections and God's hand.

The wheels began to turn in Spring of 2013.

By August he was working in a new position.

And in September we all packed up and traveled for two full days.

February 12, 2014

Our Previous Season's Trials

As I left off blogging two years ago, life was a lot different than it is now.  I had two children in diapers.  I had three nappers.  I had only a kindergartener and a second grader to teach.  And we lived in the frozen tundra (err, on top of it, technically).

It seems strange, but it is true in our family that our seasons of life seem to ebb and flow around where Ryan works and in what kind of job and environment.  It makes a big impact on our family.  I think it makes a big difference in a lot of families.  I personally believe that the demise of the strong family unit in our country is largely due to our corporate culture (but that is an entirely separate post).

Anyhow....back to two years ago...Ryan was working a crazy job in materials management. For about two years he worked in this position where all of the problems in that facility (which was large and made the company a lot of $$-which means more stress, by the way) were pretty much laid at his feet to fix, yesterday.  Ryan is not an A-type, in your face guy.  He was aging a year every month.  He traveled away from home almost 25% of the time. He wore burdens heavier than any wife wants to see on their best friend.  He was nearly being forced to become someone he was not.

We buckled down at home and I worked hard to be the soft landing place for him.  I painted walls, updated and remodeled rooms, sewed girls' dresses and boys quilts all during the nights when Ryan was traveling (I don't sleep well solo so I fire up the productivity jets until I can't do anything but sleep).  And Ryan tried daily to maintain all of his integrity and love at a work place that rarely valued those qualities.

Meanwhile, I began to struggle with the long Wisconsin winters.  They were depressing for someone from sunny CA.  When we had first moved to WI, five years prior, I had babies and they kept coming (and yes, we do know how it happens).  With babies in the house I just put one foot in front of the other, tried to stay sane and didn't really notice or care what the weather was.  I shoveled snow and learned to appreciate the beauty of the white landscape and then would go back inside to change a diaper and prepare baby meals.

But then the kids grew older.  We wanted to bike ride more than three months out of the year and wanted to not freeze on a June evening walk.  We desired to have a more active family lifestyle.

And really, buying vitamin D supplements??? Didn't God create the sun for such a purpose?

To add to our feelings of "get me out of here" was the sense of darkness all around us.  Where we lived lacked life, joy, and spiritual enthusiasm everywhere. Liturgical, robot like 'religion' was common.  Alcohol flowed like water.  Smoking was not what a fire did, but 'what most people Dad worked with did'.  Rough language was par for the grocery store.

This was not the place we wanted our kids to grow up and call home.

So we prayed.  And we prayed.

February 07, 2014

Returning to the Blogosphere

So it has been nearly two years.

I could use the next few paragraphs to explain the absence, but that would not really be much fun for any of us.  Let's just say that life had larger priorities.  As I look back I see that it was a time where God wanted me to intensely focus on what was happening in our home and take care of the needs of my husband and children.

Life definitely goes in seasons, in my opinion.

We just left behind a three year long season and have begun a new one.  More on that to come.

Essentially, I am setting out to revive this blog to, hopefully, some of its former glory.

While my children and husband do still desire to eat and have clean clothes it does seem that there is a bit of breathing room in my schedule now.  In addition, we now are living further away from all of our family (as a result of the previously mentioned new season).  Thus, this is a good instrument for giving them a window into our family from afar.

So, stay tuned for posts to come in the none too distant future.

May 24, 2012

The Day My Kids Flew Away

Sometimes my life is so eventful that I just can't wait to write about it...but then life keeps coming and I never get to it.  Although, it is really much closer to the truth to say I simply don't place blogging at a very high priority.  I hope you don't take it personally, but I do put potty training, laundry, and scrubbing showers before sharing my thoughts with all of you....

See, J had those staples put in her head somewhere around two months ago and today I sit here, finally,  writing about the absolutely ridiculous day we all had when we went to the hospital to have them removed. 

I recall it being a blustery Tuesday in which I had a number of errands on my list with the hopefully quick ER visit last.  We accomplished the other errands without incident and headed to the hospital (I would have happily gone to our pediatrician, but then I pay more because the ER kindly includes the removal visit in their nominal fee when you go there, in the first place, to have them installed). 

As I get out of the car I notice that my door closes on its own with quite a bit of gusto.  I make a mental note to carry M, as he does not like wind, and S as she is probably too small to withstand the wind (although she thinks it is great fun).  I proceed around my SUV opening the doors (and trunk-as two children enter and exit there) to let everyone out.  Yes, I do often feel like a flight attendent, in case you were wondering.  I hear some protests about the wind, but very sympathetically point out that the entrance is "right over there" (about 50 yards).

I begin walking toward the doors, shielding my youngest two from the wind when I notice I am alone.  I look around and find Z, carrying a bag of books, has made a beeline for the door with his head down and has severely missed his target and obviously has no idea of his misfortune.  However, that quickly becomes no big deal as over the wind I hear T and J screaming at the top of their lungs.  They are literally being blown across the parking lot. 

Time out: Have you ever watched the Weather Channel during a severe hurricane?  Well, if you are as dorky as Ryan and I and you have then just picture those poor weather reporter people who continue talking while they are nearly horizontal and holding onto a light pole, but much shorter, cuter, and helpless.

This is what I saw except that every two seconds one of the girls would actually fall to the ground and try to get up only to be swept FARTHER away from the door.  Meanwhile, I am completely incapacitated.  I can't set a child down (let's not imagine what would happen to a lighter person), but I don't even have a hand free. I have one child on each hip, one child blindly heading off to who knows where, and two girls nearly rolling across the parking lot.  I quickly decide that I have to get Z to come back, if he can hear me, to sit with M and S in the ER lobby. 

I wait for a brief break in the gusting and holler with all my might to get Z's attention.  It worked!  He looks more than befuddled as to how he ended up where he was, but now heads in the right direction.  I can now focus on the girls who are screaming as they have managed to find solace in a parking lot island and are CLINGING to a poor two year old tree.  However, this island happens to have small rock as its ground cover and they are continuously crawling or falling on this material. Thus, more reason to holler...other than being helpless. 

I attempt to tell them my plan, but it really isn't worth it.  I make a beeline to the door and get through the first set of sliding doors, set down M and S, tell Z to "watch them" and RUN back outside.  I rescue my two girls who are still trying to claw their way across the rocks on all fours, but keep ending up back at their beloved tree.  As we go in I notice that T is particularly upset.  Come to find out her headband blew away.  Deep breath...deal with that in a bit. 

As I walk through the second set of double doors, with all of my children safely in tow, I am now in a very crowded waiting room for the ER.  I feel fifty thoughts a second rushing to my head.

Something like this: This waiting room is full.  We are going to have to wait a long time.  It is almost lunch time.  I can't wait more than an hour.  Wait, they are all staring at us.  Are you serious? They must have just watched us fall all over the parking lot.  Wow, that is fantastic.  Glad my family could be of some entertainment.  Hold on people...really? None of you abled bodied people could have helped me?  Really???  Oh well, I will look straight ahead.  We are all OK.  I will be the composed mom of five and smile. 
I go to the counter and this kind woman looks at me sympathetically.
What? Did they have a running commentary going on in here?
She now informs me, almost sheepishly, that the wait is over two hours long; they have just been very busy today.  "OK, maybe my husband will bring her this evening", I say with a fair amount of resignation.  She kindly offers me the nurse station phone number which we can call later to see if the wait is shorter.

I take my brood through the first set of doors to many fearful protests and tell them to wait on the small bench that is in this small area before actually going outside.

As I run out to my car to pull it up to the doors I realize my keys were gone!!  I climb in the car to empty my purse and it dawns on me that I can hear the engine running.  I had never turned off our car!!!  I take another deep breath and place one child at a time inside the running car.

We all made it home safely. 

And I found the headband!!!