Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Santa Claus Has Come to Town

The sirens were now down-right annoying. I hadn't noticed the high-pitched wails until their unrelenting third full minute. There was nothing I could do except to make sure the windows were closed and turn up the music in our apartment. Air Boss was away in Boston on a business trip and it was just the kids and me at home.

Five-year old 'Shroom and three-year old Lolli were playing upstairs when we heard the doorbell ring. The two kids froze and stared wide-eyed at each other. "Who's that?" Lolli asked (one could tell from their reaction that we still have yet to make friends who would make use of our doorbell).

It was our next door neighbor.

"Do you hear the police sirens?" she asked in what I assume was a rhetorical question. "That means that Santa is here. Come outside and see!"

By the time the kids had put on their shoes and made it out the door, Santa was already swarmed by kids on our block. The Redondo Beach Police Department had used two of their cruisers to cordon off our block. In the middle of the street was a weird looking boat-like contraption on wheels. It was Santa in his red "sleigh" with an RBPD cruiser filling in for his absent reindeer team.

"Hurry!" a femal officer waved at us to come over. "If the kids want to sit on Santa's lap, you have to hurry. He's going to be leaving soon!"

'Shroom and Lolli were confused by the commotion, the crowd, the strange main the red suit, and the fact that they had to line up. As we waited for their turn, I had to give them a crash course on Santa. "Just sit on Santa's lap and tell him what things you like." Bam. Done. It was now their turn.

The two gingerly sat on Santa's lap as if he were a public restroom toilet seat. They were so shy that Santa had to ask them to speak up. As the man leaned closer, I heard 'Shroom yell, "Dinosaurs!" When Santa - now deaf in one ear - asked if that was what he wanted for Christmas, my son sported one confused look on his face. It was an awkward moment. Nonetheless, the kids each received a lollipop and got off the sleigh.

They were the last two kids on our block to see Santa. And as the kids and their parents lined the street to see Santa escorted by flashing lights and police sirens, Lolli turned to me and said very loudly and very well within earshot of the entire block, "Santa is not a real person. He's just pretend!"

I was mortified. Not so much at Lolli's albeit-very-true comment but at the fact that my preschooler may have ruined the "magic" of Santa for dozens of kids in our neighborhood.

"Shhh! For some people, Christmas is about Santa." I tried to impart some damage control in a loud whisper.

As I struggled to hurry the kids back home with what felt like unfriendly stares at our back, Lolli exclaimed, "That's not right. Christmas is about Baby Jesus' birthday!"

And thus, with the Christmas lights on palm trees and the 65 degree weather, was the start of our first Christmas experience in California.

[WBE update: since the writing of this account, 'Shroom and Lolli are full-fledged fans of the man in the red suit thanks to public school education and the ubiquitous commercialization of Christmas. Fortunately they know that all the gifts are really from Jesus!]

"You're a Grand 'Old Flag" (sung by 'Shroom)

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Joy to the World" (sung by Lolli)

Christmas Light Craziness

This past weekend my family along with some friends went to visit a local neighborhood in Torrance bedecked in lights. A whole lot of 'em. Supposedly every year, the dozens and dozens of homes (seemingly try to out-do each other) attract people from all over. The local (and not so local) gawkers drive through the 'hood at the break-necking speed of about 7 mph - almost rivaling the speed of traffic on the 405.

We were lucky to be going with friends who lived within walking distance of this neighborhood. Although we didn't have to crawl --er, drive-- through the neighborhood in our cars, we did have to manuever the crowded sidewalks filled with other curious folks like us (and the sidewalks were not wide enough for two-way foot-traffic or strollers). Occassionally we would hear the toot of an antique car, loud Christmas tunes coming from random golf carts (yes, people would rent these vehicles just for this spectacle of lights), and the rumbling of pick-up trucks with bed-loaded teens. There was even a black stretch limo among the parade of cars.

If observing the lights and spectators got boring after awhile, one could find amusement in surveying the homeowners. Granted it was a Friday night, these people were hanging around outside (do they do this every night until Christmas?) and several homes were even selling hot chocolate, popcorn and other snacks. The temperature was probably in the mid- to upper-50's but the heat lamps and fire pits were out. Patio furniture had been temporarily relocated to the middle of driveways for crowd-watching comfort. One home had even moved their home theater to their driveway so that they could watch the crowds AND their movies on their 120" screen.

It was a fun experience to see a neighborhood come together and proudly display their Christmas lights, ferris wheels, mechanical dolls twisting and bending, nativity scenes, and large billboard-like signs. The people - residents and spectators alike - were super friendly and in great holiday cheer. Perhaps this will be a new Christmas tradition for us. Maybe next year, we'll even put on our full-fledge winter gear to get into the mood!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Nativity Scene

Even though we won't be setting up a Christmas tree this year (I've jokingly told people that our tiny apartment is so small that if we got a Christmas tree, one of us would have to move out), I've tried to bring some holiday cheer into our dark small abode.

Air Boss had pulled out the red and green Rubbermaid tote that contained the Christmas holiday stuff that survived "The Purge" in Boston. Out came the kids' velvet Christmas stockings, vinyl cling snowflakes which now adorn our living room window, strands of lights, and our Fisher Price nativity set (see photo).

'Shroom and Lolli were excited to see "the cute baby Jesus" again and in no time, the nicely set up scene (per the picture on the FP website and my anal retentiveness) was reconfigured. Several times. In one day.

I've found one of the wise men in the dirty laundry basket. Mary and Joseph have been ousted from the stable and replaced with the cow and the donkey. The sheep and camel have been "purchased" by Lolli and are now random items in her shopping bag.

I forgot to mention . . . there is a mean T-Rex staring at the baby Jesus. I wonder what his part is in all of this . . . ?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Our First Date

I can't believe Air Boss and I had our first date since arriving in California almost five months ago. Our date was about five years overdue (coincidentally, about the same age as 'Shroom).

We dropped 'Shroom and Lolli off with L.A. Grandpa and Grandma along with their bedtime buddies (a monkey and a duck), change of clothes and their sleeping bags. We hugged, said our good-byes to the kids and burned rubber as we peeled out of the driveway (kidding, but I don't recall looking back).

What did we do with our weekend "getaway-without-really-getting-away"? Air Boss took me to Griffith Park which had this huge observatory. I didn't know that the famous "Hollywood" sign was perched on Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park. Of course we went without a camera. All we had were our cell phone cams and the photo of me standing in front of the white letters resemebled a big dust speck in the pix. Oh well. You'll just have to take my word on it that we were there.

We had lunch at a little Taiwanese cafe. It was so awesome to be able to have a conversation with my husband and look him in the eye for more than a split second. It was amazing to be able to chat with him about small and big things and not be interrupted. If our date had ended after this simple meal, I could and would have been happy.

Air Boss indulged me and took me to Rodeo Drive. In all my trips to LA, I had never been to this part of Beverly Hills. Not that I wanted to shop (or could afford to buy anything) but I just wanted to see what it was like. Yes - lots of expensive stores. We didn't even step inside most of the stores. It was like walking along Newbury St. in Boston but with palm trees, more than your usual expensive 6-digit foreign cars, and chandelier street lights (encased in glass boxes). I watched a bit nervously as Air Boss had to parallel park behind a Bentley (or was it a Rolls Royce?).

On our way to dinner, we drove through the hills of 90210 and although the sun had already set, we saw gorgeous homes. Gorgeous. And not one of them the same. I'm sure these were the cheaper homes simply for the fact that we could see them from the road.

"Look, their driveways are so long and circular that they don't need to park on the streets," was my astute observation. Spoken like a true Southern Cal resident where cars outnumber people and thus available parking spaces (driveway, street, and illegal).

Dinner was Japanese cuisine eaten in a quaint garden terrace in Studio City. The air was very brisk (downright cold for the Southern Californians) but with the heat lamps which making year-round outdoor dining possible, it was comfortable enough. I think I ate the best sushi in my life that night. Yum. The caterpiller roll was still warm from the tasty crisp unagi and the avacado wrap was firm and delicious. The cucumber-wrapped rolls were crunchy with a tang of lemon. Yum. Yum again. The thought of finding a "kid-friendly" dish never even crossed my mind. I think I surprised myself at how quickly I pulled off my mommy-hat (and perhaps even more surprised that I remembered where I put it so I could it back on).

Even though I am 3,000 miles away from my family, I am so thankful that I have Air Boss's family nearby and that they have been so gracious in taking the kids in for a night. My sister-in-law bathed four kids (ages 3, 4, 5, and 6) all by herself with her eyes closed and one hand behind her back (just kidding). But she DID bath them all and took them to church the next day. Amazing. So grateful for her generosity and availability to help out even with her own two kids.

Well, I'm hoping that it won't take another five years for Air Boss and me to go on our next date. It was nice to hold someone's hand for a reason other than to cross the street.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Busy Thanksgiving

Okay, so I'm about a week late in posting my Thanksgiving summary . . . at least it's still technically November . . .

It was a busy four days. For staying local in the LA area (and not wanting to see the mayhem at LAX), we sure did pack in a lot of miles during the holiday. Over 500 miles in four days. Air Boss did all of the driving. He da man.

No turkey on Turkey Day. Actually, nothing American about our Thanksgiving food. We had Mexican for lunch (okay, I guess burritos, quesadillas, and fish tacos are as "American" here in LA as apple pie is elsewhere in the country) and Japanese for dinner (hot pot, anyone?). 'Shroom was confused.

"Where's the turkey?" he had asked. I'm surprised that his LA public schooling didn't teach about different cultural ways of celebrating the holiday. Then again, he's the only non-white in his class.

We also spent the long weekend with cousins from both sides of my family.

Also celebrated three birthdays in two days.

And discovered the land of Lego where everything from the Taj Mahal to the Empire State Building were constructed of Lego's. Even saw a little Lego guy with his pants pulled down to his ankles in a "public" restroom at Grand Central. All in Lego. Pretty impressive details (the Legos in general - not the restroom scene).

I missed my family back East terribly. It was my first Thanksgiving I've missed with my family since my junior year in college. 'Shroom was missing his Grandma back in Boston and Lolli was wondering if people in Boston were also celebrating Thanksgiving.

Every day was spent outside of the house from the moment we left the house in the morning until we returned at night just in time to put the kids to bed late. Long days . . . which made for a difficult Monday morning when reality settled back in. Not a pretty scene in this Redondo Beach home.

Well, we're pretty much back into the swing of things. Air Boss will be leaving in a few days for a week-long trip to Boston. I with the two kids will be holding down the fort here. Air Boss is hoping for snow while he's back East. We'll see about that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Seeing the Forrest

Crouching Tiger
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Ahh . . . I've just dropped off Lolli at her Tuesday morning preschool and 'Shroom is probably already back into the swing of things at kindergarten after the long holiday weekend. I have the morning (well, the next two hours) totally to myself. Ahh . . .

I have a list of things to do and yet I had to carve out the time to drop a line to say I'm still alive and surviving out here in LA. On some days as it seems of late, that would be barely surviving.

There have been so many thoughts, struggles, really really difficult moments I've wanted to blog about but felt that sharing some of these gut-wrenching emotions on the world wide web would be too revealing. Too exposing. Like I'm posting a naked picture of myself on the internet for the world to see.

Needless to say, I've been struggling these days with being a mom. Being a career-driven person stuck in the body and schedule of a stay-at-home mom. My joys of reading and writing have become practically non-existent -- I just can't seem to do worthwhile writing (or reading for that matter) in 5-10 minute chunks of time.

I've also been feeling totally inadequate as a mom and like a complete and utter failure as a teacher to 'Shroom. He's still struggling to keep one foot in the kindergarten classroom. Despite all the books we read, special activities to help his writing, practice exercises to reinforce what he's (supposed to be) learning in school, he has yet to connect the concept that letters have sounds, sounds make words and words make sentences. Just the other week, he forgot how to write his name. Most typical days with 'Shroom, it's three steps forward, two steps back. Lately, it feels like it's been three steps forward, four or five steps backwards.

Over the years, I've come to realize that I'm a perfectionist. I'm meticulous and anal. And unfortunately, I hold these standards and expectations not only for myself but also for my family and friends. And boy, has it really really been challenging for me to raise a child with special needs. Special needs that have yet to fully be defined and diagnosed.

And it's not all about 'Shroom. I think I'm really struggling to find out who I truly am. What truly gives me joy and fulfillment. Honestly, I'm feeling really selfish right now in thinking of myself and what I want. It seems like it's been so long since I've been able to do what I want when I want that I don't even know what it is anymore.

I know as a "mature adult" I should be able to see the forrest among the trees. On a typical day, I think I can see a tree. On the tougher days, I think I only see something that looks like bark. And it looks pretty rough.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Bat and a Bride

bat wings
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007

This was the first year that 'Shroom and Lolli really got into dressing up for Halloween. Although we've slapped on a costume for the fun of it in the past, the kids really didn't know what it was all about. Thanks to public school education, the ramp up to Halloween starts about mid-September (and by the time the first week of October rolls around, 'Shroom is more eager for Halloween than his own birthday!).

With a kindergarten parade and a little show for the parents, I felt obligated to dress 'Shroom up. He wanted to be a bat. A nice bat - not a scary one. Lolli had to be a princess. A pink one.

Well, our little bat and princess (who also doubled as a bride at her preschool parade) are now tucked away in bed. What is the big deal about Halloween? I still don't get it. And the candy? 'Shroom and Lolli have yet to taste any of it.

And I hope it stays that way.

[bat costume lovingly made by Boston Grandma]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We're Okay

Hi there,

Thanks to the many of you who have inquired about how we're doing. Right now, we're not directly affected by the fires in the surrounding counties but we're definitely keeping watch as the only direction we're "safe" is the west (which is the great vast Pacific Ocean).

We're smelling the smoke and even seeing some ash fall so we're keeping the windows open only if needed (I guess breathing stale air is better than badly polluted air). The sky above the beach is smokey and dark and it's beginning to blow a bit more inland where we are.

We have friends and family in the evacuated areas so we're thinking of them and praying the best for them and their homes. Let's hope this all ends sooner than what they're predicting (the fires have been burning since early Sunday morning).

Thanks again for your thoughts of us. We're missing the clean crisp autumn air of New England but we're doing okay here.

- West By East

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Baseball Widow

Well, the "love 'em or hate 'em" Red Sox are the newly crowned 2007 American League champs and will be hosting the World Series later this week.
Yipee skippy.

I don't know if I'm happy or sad. Sounds weird coming from a tried and true Bostonian but truth be told, I'm sick of the post-season games. I'm sick of having to eat dinner to the blare of the TV. I'm sick of knowing that whenever there is a Sox game on, I (and the kids) may as well be nonexistent to Air Boss. So maybe I'm not one of those crazy people called Red Sox fans. Don't get me wrong - I will be cheering for the Sox during the World Series and I'll even get excited about it but does life really need to be put on hold for these overpaid (and even over-glorified) athletes?

Well, I guess I'll be a supportive wife (widow that I am these days).

Go Sox. Yay.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Top 10 reasons why LA isn't quite home yet

first color of season
Originally uploaded by

10. People from LA are "they" and "them"

9. People from Boston are "we" and "us"

8. There is school on Columbus Day

7. Baseball and football games aren't watched unless the Sox or Pats are playing

6. I purposely drive down one street in Torrance to see the few trees on the block change their colors

5. I get offended when a random comment on my blog states that all bad drivers in LA are transplants from the Northeast (NE bad driving is very different from LA bad driving - obviously this bloke knows nothing)

4. No Dunkin Donuts

3. I didn't even recognize my own car in the parking lot (CA license plate number still not etched in my memory); thank goodness for the Boston Red Sox plate frame

2. I'm still looking for those deep and meaningful friendships

and the #1 reason why LA still isn't home for me . . .

1. how can it be home if I can't even afford one?!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Learning to ride a bike

With the recent acquisition of two bicycles, the kids have been learning how to ride a bike. 'Shroom has witnessed Lolli fall a couple of times (both times ending in tears with the latest incident drawing blood and leaving a little skin on the driveway).

"See, that's why I don't want to ride a bike," 'Shroom explains to me when I try to coax him on his bike.

"It's okay to fall," I try to reason. "You just get back on."

Mind you, they're not learning how to ride a two-wheeler bike. They're learning how to pedal forward and steer clear of inanimate stationary objects (like bushes and light poles). Lolli can do it provided the riding surface is flat and the wind is at her back pushing her along. 'Shroom can do it provided I'm pushing the bike and steering for him (talk about a free ride).

Well, I guess I can't blame them for taking awhile. Although I do ride a bike (yes, I've graduated from the training wheels!), my sisters and I all have had bad bicycle accidents (older sister smacked into a telephone pole after losing control going down a steep hill (bloody chin); younger sister did a face plant on a rock and chipped her front tooth; I got my finger stuck in the spokes of my wheel while it was moving and broke it). Yes, we all sound rather clumsy but they were legit accidents. Really.

Anyway, Lolli has been crying off and on today because of her scraped knee. Hopefully she'll heal quickly and not let it impede her bicycle learning.

Wow - as a young kid, there's so much to learn! At least once they learn to ride, they won't forget, right?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Birthday 'Shroom!

carriage ride
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Dear 'Shroom,

I can't believe you've turned five today! In some ways I can remember the little peanut who swam in his newborn clothes like it was last month, and in other ways, I wonder "has it only been five years"? Yes, you have definitely changed my life, turned it upside down, inside out, and everything in between.

Even having known you your entire life, I still feel I'm learning about who you are, what makes you tick, what makes you sad, and what brings you joy. And quite honestly, I don't think I'll ever stop learning about who you are.

There are some things that I DO know about you. Things that may change over time and things I may even forget as you get older. So, I'm writing them down so that I can remind myself when I'm older and my memory fails me.

You aren't the quickest in your class, you certainly aren't the most talkative, and you most definitely aren't the tallest. There are different qualities that I believe describe you just fine. You are the most caring, kind-hearted, and generous five year old I know. When you laugh, others can't help smile and laugh with you. When others cry, you can't help but comfort them in your gentle ways.

Your little sister Lolli was so sad that she didn't have a birthday to celebrate today--and even sadder that there were no birthday gifts for her to unwrap. As eager as you were to rip the paper off your presents, you generously offered your gifts to your sister to help you unwrap. You didn't even mind when she tore the paper off before you had lifted a corner.

And the animal crackers. No matter how many I pack for you in your lunch bag, you always come home from school with exactly two saved crackers. One for me and one for Daddy.

I've never told you this but I have two very special moments in my day. One of them is walking home from school with you. You tell me how much you've missed me and how glad you are to see me. But you don't use words. I know it by the way you kiss the back of my hand that you're holding. And the second special moment in my day is when you give me a super wet juicy kiss good-night.

One day you will learn your ABC's and one day you'll be able to write your name all by yourself. But there are many things you've already mastered that many of us adults have yet to learn. Kindness. Sensitivity. Sincerity. Compassion.

You have grown tremendously these past five years. But because of you, I've grown so much--in ways I never would have imagined. You are indeed a very special boy. Happy birthday!

I love you,

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Search Continues

Now that we've been here in RB for over two months (has it only been two months?! why does it seem so much longer?), Air Boss has been going through some real Dunkin' Donuts coffee withdrawals. Sure, we have Starbucks on every block (sometimes two on a block if you can't spot the other location from where you're parked) but their coffee isn't cheap. And they don't sell donuts.
Well, we were heading back home and were within a mile of our place when Air Boss declares, "I wish there was a Dunkin' Donuts around here. I really miss their coffee." We hadn't seen any of those orange and pink sherbert-colored signs anywhere here in the South Bay but did that mean that there weren't any DD's in LA? I pulled out our friend Garmin and did a search for Dunkin' Donuts. Whoa! There is one 2.7 miles from where we live. The kids are asleep in the back. It's a gorgeous Sunday. We're two feet from parking the car in front of our house. Let's go!
On the short ride to our first Dunkin' Donuts establishment in MONTHS, Air Boss and I talk excitedly about how this would be such a taste of home. Should we get some donuts with his coffee? How about a dozen? Oh the kids will be so happy to see a box of their favorite donuts on the kitchen table. I even programmed the location in the GPS. Air Boss talked about taking a "morning commute" to DD for his morning cup of coffee (currently his commute is 3 feet long to his desk next to the bed).
What?! What is this "DK Donuts"? When did Dunkin' Donuts do a logo change? And since when did they start calling themselves "DK"? We were perplexed as we parked in the lot where Garmin led us. Air Boss was still hopeful so I placed my order of donuts with him. The kids were still napping and as I waited for Air Boss to return, I could ALMOST taste the soft fresh donuts in my mouth.
Shortly - too soon - Air Boss was back at the car - empty-handed.
"What - did they run out of donuts?" I asked.
DK Donuts was in no way affiliated with Dunkin' Donuts and other DK establishments (I had never heard of DK Donuts so this bit was useless to me). This was an independently owned and operated mom & pop donut shop.
Oh the major disappointment as we slowly pulled out of the parking lot and returned home dejected and depressed. So, the search continues on. We continue to be, not by choice, a donut-free household. And yes, we did ask Garmin where the closest Dunkin' Donuts was and it looks like we'll have to travel over 300 miles to get our caffeine and donut fix in San Jose.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Autumn and . . . Palm Trees?!

I think fall is one of New England's prettiest seasons and I'm just about missing it now. Just this past weekend, I managed to watch (simultaneously thanks to Air Boss hooking up a smaller secondary TV next to the large big screen) both the Red Sox and Patriots game. Some of the fans in Fenway and Gillette Stadium were wearing knit hats and fleece jackets. I started missing home when I saw that.

Okay, so I'm not one to really wear knit hats (unless I'm out shoveling snow in windy blizzard conditions), but I do love my fleece. I could almost smell the brisk cold air in Boston, taste the hot apple cider that comes out in September, see the first few leaves give a teasing foretaste of the autumn colors to come next month. Nothing like that out here. Although I have noticed the mornings have been a bit cooler.

So, feeling cold this morning, I put on my zip up fleece before I walked 'Shroom to school. He and I were wearing our hoodies, long pants (me still in flip flops as I will most likely wear them year round). We walked to the end of the driveway and saw The Others. The Others were wearing shorts and T's - two were even brazen enough to be wearing tank tops! I looked at myself and realized, I have truly become wussified (see February 19th's post for an "official" definition of this word).

The air was nippy and the temps were probably in the mid to upper 60's. The Others didn't seem cold or fazed by the cooler morning temps. I knew that by noontime, I would be wearing shorts, but still - I felt a bit self-conscious.

I looked up the sky and saw the big droopy palm leaves from the tall skinny trees outlining the block in our neighborhood. Nope - not quite the same. No majestic maples, no old and ostentatious oaks, no barky birches. I even miss the prickly pine trees.

Well, I'm in L.A. Maybe tomorrow I'll try to leave the fleece at home. At least I can hide the long-johns under my jeans.


Monday, September 10, 2007

What I've Learned in School

Okay, so I'm not the one technically in school but I am learning things I had never expected to learn by sending 'Shroom to school. Things such as:

- the no backpack thing for kindergarteners

- no open-toe or open heel shoes (this includes Crocs and sandals) and NO BOOTS! (well, what do Southern Californians know about boots?)

- jogging every week by running laps during school (as far as I know, 'Shroom didn't sign up for track but I guess this could be a standard California P.E. requirement); 'Shroom will get a mark on his hand for every lap he runs - I'll have to report back how many marks he gets

- supplying an earthquake kit for each child in school; let's just say I've made my first earthquake kit EVER in my life (in case you're wondering what goes into an earthquake kit, feel free to check out "quakekare[dot]com")

- periodic fire and earthquake drills (apparently standing underneath doorways during a quake is no longer considered safe - see? even this old dog can learn new tricks!)

- homework in kindergarten which will start shortly- somehow I don't recall doing homework when I was 4 or 5

Today 'Shroom came home from school saying that he didn't like kindergarten. Then he started crying. Oh boy - I haven't even told him about the homework and running laps yet . . .

Friday, September 7, 2007

"Bye Bye Lolli"

Have a good day!
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
After three months of uninterrupted and undivided interactive play with sister Lolli, 'Shroom said good-bye and attended his first day of kindergarten.

Since school starts at 8 AM, I knew I was going to have a tough time getting the kids up in the morning. I did not expect tears from 'Shroom or seemingly lifeless body-flopping (on the floor) from Lolli. Okay, maybe Lolli's "I'm-too-tired-to-get-up-so-I'll-throw-myself-on-the-floor-in-a-lifeless-heap" was consistent with her dramatic nature but still, getting the kids ready to leave the house was like pulling teeth. The nightmarish sleep didn't help, I'm sure.

The school isn't new but it is to us! All of us along with Air Boss and his camera walked down our driveway and directly across the street to the parent drop-off parking lot (how's that for a long walk to school?) and were immediately joined by scores of parents and their young students. All summer long, the streets were quiet and now there was nothing but excited chatter from students and parents alike. Although there were tons of wheelie backpacks, 'Shroom went to school without backpack or a lunch bag. Apparently kindergarteners are prohibitted from bringing backpacks of any sort to school (health/back issues?) and are instead provided with a large laminated envelope for homework assignments and notices.

As we approached the kindergarten wing, we saw 'Shroom's peers with their camera-toting parents. It was great to see the excitement in 'Shroom's face as we made our way into the classroom. Miss P barely looked a day beyond grad school but she was full of smiles and warm hello's.

The school bell rang (we discovered that we are so close to the school that we can hear the bell ringing from our house throughout the school day) and we hugged and said good-bye.

Later that day when 'Shroom was home and eating lunch (he gets out at 11:30 AM), I learned that he had made a flying submarine with Legos (because he couldn't cook - only three kids were allowed in the kitchen), he had crackers, grapes, a muffin and milk for snack (I swear, I did feed him breakfast before we left!), the girls and boys got into separate lines to see which gender had more (more girls), and he had told his teacher that she looked like a dog. Yikes! We'll have to see if we're invited back to school!

[Incidentally, Miss P does NOT look like a dog. 'Shroom has just recently been in a dog phase which includes carrying around the house a little stuffed dog under his arm.]

So . . . the little guy survived and loved it. We'll have to see how it goes from here and now I must wake him up. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Disney Is Banned

in our household, that is. Lately the kids have been into watching Disney films - more of Lolli's doing since she is into all the princess stuff. Her latest favorites have been Cinderella and Snow White.

Yesterday at the library, we checked out "Cars" for 'Shroom (he loves the red race car Lightening McQueen) and "Snow White" for Lolli. They couldn't wait for me to read to them "Snow White" as they had just seen the movie on video during our San Jose trip last week.

They knew all about the evil queen who turned herself into an old hag to fool Snow White. They watched the movie and had me read to them the book. We talked about the bad queen and they understood everything. Besides being scared during the movie when the queen turned into the old hag, 'Shroom and Lolli were totally fine when I read them the story (for the nth time!).

Last night, we made it a point for all of us to go to bed early as 'Shroom's first day of kindergarten would be the next day (this morning). Despite the good intentions of getting a good night's sleep, we all slept horribly. Between the two kids, Air Boss and I must have gotten up to calm crying kids at least four to five times last night (seemed like we had a newborn in the house). 'Shroom and Lolli were crying throughout the night because they were "afraid of the bad witch."

Well, now I know better. No more Disney stories that have bad witches or anything remotely scary - at least until the kids get over this latest phase. Thanks to Disney, perhaps 'Shroom will fall asleep in kindergarten on his first day of school!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Visiting the Valley

Stanford University
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
. . . Silicon Valley, that is.

We've just returned from visiting family and friends in the Silicon Valley and Bay Area where we spent the past five days. San Jose was in the mid to upper 90's and I had assumed it was much warmer up there than down in LA. Well, I soon found out that LA was (and still is) in the midst of a heat wave. Even mild RB reached the upper 80's today. I'm so spoiled already.

Our road trip started out painfully slow as we (surprise!) hit traffic in LA. Our six hour trip quickly became seven hours as Garmin (our GPS) predicted 63 minutes of traffic delays. Unfortunately, it was correct.

Well, our trip and stay in the Valley included a visit to Coalinga (where the entire city reeked of fresh manure on a hot summer day), a shopping outing to Gilroy where garlic wafted through the air (home of the Annual Garlic Festival), a walk through picturesque Stanford University (see photo above) where four weddings took place in the course of one afternoon, and a hilly drive to UC Berkeley's (Air Boss' alma mater) cyclotron - the world's first atom splitting machine.

It was weird (for lack of a better word) for me to return to Redondo Beach and have it be "home." My dad would frequently say on the last leg of a vacation, "the best part of a trip is coming home." Well, RB doesn't quite feel like home to me but I guess in the absence of home being anywhere else, I guess it's the closest thing.

Well, welcome (sort of) home. The summer is over and school is starting. Hope you all have a great new (academic) year!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

RBPD Smackdown & Car Jamming . . .

. . . well, as they say, only in L.A.

So, I was out running some errands with 'Shroom and Lolli mid-morning yesterday. The kids were about to climb into the Blackhawk so we could head back home when 'Shroom noticed a fairly low-flying helicopter. Not a big deal - we see them all the time. I ushered the kids into the car and noticed that the bird wasn't flying. It was hovering. Really still. For quite some time.

Keeping one eye on the kids as they buckled in, I kept glancing over to see what the deal was. Just as I was about to shut the car door, I heard a broadcast message coming from the direction of the hovering chopper.

"Please surrender yourself. You will not be hurt."

Wow - is this really happening? The Blackhawk door is still open and the kids can hear this.

"This is the Redondo Beach Police Department. Surrender yourself and you will not be hurt!"

Uh, so it's getting pretty interesting here and at this point, I'm openly and unabashedly gawking. I'm half-expecting a FOX truck to be whipping around the corner with cameramen hanging off the side to get film footage for an upcoming "Cops" episode.


Okay - I've heard enough. I've got kiddies in the car. Time to go home. As I'm driving home, I'm thinking "Wow - so much for a nice laidback quiet beach town. I'm living in the 'hood!"


Well, if you're an Asian teen hanging out at the local Blockbuster in Torrance on a Tuesday evening, the answer is eight. Two in the front, five in the back, and one in the way back - like the trunk back.

Air Boss and a friend were picking up a video and saw a suspicious looking crowd of teens loitering around a car. One car. And lots of kids. Air Boss and friend watched in amazement (or was it more dumbfoundedness?!) at the spectacle.

As one of the teens climbed into the trunk and anther cohort slammed it shut behind him, it was apparent they didn't know (or could care less) that two teens died in Chicago and another two near L.A. while "trunking." Wow - anything for a ride with friends.

Well, just another boring day in the South Bay.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

OCCUPATION: Professional Form Filler-Outer

I've missed blogging these past several days. It's because I've been busy fine-tuning my new professional career: filling out forms. Yup, I can proficiently and expertly write my letters neatly on small little lines (unless I'm on my eighth form, then the letters get a bit messier), adeptly place an "x" in the middle of a miniscule box, and sign my John Hancock with a big flourish (well, more like hurriedly scribbling--and botching--my signature).

Well after waiting the summer, I am please to say that 'Shroom is finally registered for kindergarten (which will start in 11 days). The first day the school office opened up, I took 'Shroom across the street (how's that for a commute to school?!) and registered him for school. 'Shroom was excited to see his school and the playground (we only see it everytime we leave and return to the house) but by the first 15 minutes of being in the school office, he was getting a bit restless. 15 minutes later, he was obviously and unhappily restless. An hour later (90 minutes of form filling, signing, getting phone numbers, school records, immunization shots, and all that good stuff), he was convinced kindergerten was going to be a complete bore with no other kids and no fun things to do. We did meet Mr. Edmunds the school principal who was as friendly man but also managed to "test" 'Shroom on his colors, numbers and letters without his knowing. Sneaky - huh?

I've passed my CA written driver's test. It took me three visits (first two visits I didn't even get a number in line because I didn't have the right paperwork! so frustrating!) and six weeks. The last three weeks were simply waiting for my on-line appointment to arrive as I refused to wait 50 minutes in a crowded DMV office with a 3- and 4-year-old. So, even with an appointment, it took about an hour (55 minutes of waiting in various lines and 5 minutes to take the 36-question test and scowl for my mug shot). So glad its done.

More forms to fill out. The next challenge has been finding activities to keep Lolli busy while 'Shroom is in K. Right now, we're only registered for Thursday MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers which is a program run much like Mom to Mom in the Boston area) and thinking about soccer on Tue and preschool on Mon and Wed. I've passed the form-filling out exercise with flying colors. whew - was a little nervous there. Still trying to find a swim class for both kids.

Air Boss is still working at home (WAH as we used to call it during my days working at Cisco). I have to commend him for wearing work clothes that aren't similar to the beach wear that I don everyday (board shorts and tank top). Okay - so he'll wear his #34 Ortiz shirt whenever there's a Red Sox game on but he does manage to put on long pants. He's looking a little tired from working East Coast hours (and going to bed West Coast time).

OMIGEE . . .
. . . is getting FAT! He's been gobbling down his two meals a day and practically biting my finger off as I drop his food pellets in. Man - you would think he hasn't eaten in eight days or something! He definitely doesn't look like he's starving but he eats as if he is. My mom who visited last week said, "Oh - Omigee has cheeks!" Do fish have cheeks? I guess this guys is pudgy enough to have them. We're going up to San Jose next week to visit Air Boss' sister and husband. I'm wondering if I should leave the blue guy here on a 5 day (starvation) diet. Sounds mean but I bet if we took him on the 6 hour road trip with us, he wouldn't eat anyway. Looks like he has plenty in reserves now to last the 5 days but I'll have to think about it some more.

Well, if any of you should have to face a mountain of forms to complete, feel free to contact me for my professional-form-filling-out services. Can't guarantee the veracity of the information (and it may even look suspiciously like my info), but at least the letters will be written (sort of) neatly on the lines and the X's will fill the boxes (most of the time). =)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sunburned in San Diego

Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
This past weekend, we enjoyed a visit from my parents who were in the San Diego area for a conference (where my mom, an International Board Certified Lacation Consultant, learned that maybe it is possible for men to breastfeed . . . but I digress . . . ).

It was a brief visit as we spent 10-11 hours driving in a 36-hour period. We did get them up to LA to see our home in Redondo Beach and a bit of the neighboring areas.

We took my father (while mom was learning how men could breastfeed their babies) to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. The day was super hot and the sun was strong. Even though we got a late start to the day, we were exhausted from the heat. The kids did amazingly great as they did a bit of walking and went sans afternoon nap. I learned the flamingos get their pink color from the brine shrimp that the eat (otherwise they would be a dull grey color). I also learned that anteaters can eat up to 30,000 ants a day and that newborn giraffes are 130 pounds and drop 6 feet to the ground (which helps break the umbilical cord). Talk about a rough start to your life!

'Shroom and Lolli loved their grandparents' visit. 'Shroom looked the happiest he's been in a while and Lolli kept lamenting that she didn't want them to go back home ("I can't wait more than two minutes for them to come back" after she was informed that she would have to wait two months before seeing them again).

The visit was so brief and short that I felt like I didn't get a chance to relish their presence or miss them as they left. "Huh? They were here? When?!"

I can't believe the summer is almost over, too. In some ways it's been long but in other ways, I feel like we haven't yet started to enjoy the summer. Well, at least we got rid of our pasty-white complexion and looking a bit like we've been spending some time outdoors. We'll see if it's true that tans in SoCal are really year-round. Check back with me in a few months!

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Walk in the (Dog) Park

We live very close to a dog park in RB. Although I know that this area is very dog-friendly, it's interesting to note that I hear and see dogs much more than I hear/see children. Even the local paper has a section on pet happenings. Hmm . . . no kids section that I've noticed.

Since watching a show on TV the other day, 'Shroom and Lolli have been talking about the dogs they like. 'Shroom has taken preference to little black dogs (as he saw on TV) and Lolli has been asking for a "widdle white dog" (Lolli still has traces of a baby voice and can't quite pronounce all her letters yet - L's sound like W's, G's sound like D's, and V's sound like B's). After dinner yesterday, we took a stroll down to the dog park so the kids could look for their little dogs.

It's amazing how two kids with the same parents can react so differently in the same environment.

Lolli walked right into the caged area (with Air Boss) for the little dogs. She enjoyed seeing the dogs run around and bark. The little dogs were the fiesty ones and they were literally running around in circles chasing each other. She even petted a couple of the more mellow dogs and pointed out the ones that she liked.

'Shroom initially ran into the small dog area and ran around like an unleashed dog himself but when a dog got near him (like within 10 feet), he got scared. Game over. He started whining, then proclaiming loudly that he wanted to leave, and then yelling "I don't like dogs!" and crying to leave. I tried to talk to him saying things like the dogs bark in order to talk to each other, they're playing and having fun, and even "they're not even anywhere near you!" but none of that worked. I carried him for awhile but then he was getting heavy. He was utterly unhappy.

Lolli meanwhile was having fun and even though she got jumped on by a couple of dogs (yes, even a "widdle" dog can push over a child who's barely 3' tall), she still wanted to venture in the caged area for the big dogs.

We eventually left the dog park without seeing the big dogs. 'Shroom was very unhappy and was more than willing to let people within a half-mile radius know of his extreme dislike for dogs. I did get a couple of unappreciative looks from some dog owners that sort of conveyed the unspoken message of "you're kid's not happy, we don't appreciate having to listen to him, so why'd you bring him here?" It was quite apparent we were the only ones who came without a dog.

As a parent, I'm really trying to grapple with the right balance of pushing my child to explore things that are beyond his comfort range and respecting my child's fears and easing off. It's particularly challenging with 'Shroom who's not your typically developed child.

Well until I figure out that balance, I've learned that sometimes a walk in the (dog) park isn't as easy or relaxing for some as it is for others.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Welcome to LAX . . .

Welcome to LAX
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007

...where it is much too loud!

Plane overhead!!!
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Today is the one month mark of arriving in LA. So much has transpired during these 31 days - much of it character-testing and character-building.

I miss Boston and everything there that represents "home" to me. I've noticed that I've been having a hard time getting up in the mornings and just a few days ago, I began wondering if it's depression and feeling homesick. I find that the days blur into each other and Monday's are no different than Wednesday's which are identical to Thursday's . . . The adventure of exploring our new surroundings is dampened by the kids who are adamant about staying home and not going out. I've shed my first tears of homesickness this past fourth week here. I know that realistically, things will get worse before they get better. Oh well - they say that this is all part of transition.

The stress of living in a new city has been compounded by 'Shroom and Lolli who seem to be reacting to these transitions in their own ways. Lolli has always been such our little Drama Queen (she's quite good and convincing at producing tears on command) and these weeks have been no exception. The slightest infraction against her can produce the loudest of wailings and the juiciest of tears. A slight brushing of her leg by accident can result in heaving sobs of so-and-so "hitting me!" Man, enough! And then there's 'Shroom who has seemed to forgotten how he loved the beach the last time we were there (last week). He cried and cried and refused to put his feet in the sand again. I believe this summer off from his OT and PT has really set him back and with no friends in the area, his social skills really haven't grown (or even remained constant). I'm a bit worried for what this first year of school will bring.

Well, I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of the much-anticipated washer and dryer today. I can say for the first time, I'm excited to do laundry. And it's a good thing that I am because I have a backload of laundry to do once the units are installed.

Okay - off to read some books with the kids.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Search for a Church Home

Since our first Sunday here in the South Bay area (L.A.'s beachside communities), we've been busy checking out a new church each Sunday. We've recently met up with a woman who had visited 21 different churches before she found the church we had met her at. Wow - I hope it won't take us that long or that many visits to find a church home.

The kids don't really bother to ask why we can't go back to our old church anymore (we miss you Boston Vineyard!) since they've perhaps lost touch with church consistency. For Lolli, as long as she gets to go to the same Sunday School class as 'Shroom, dropping off the kids isn't too bad. For 'Shroom, as long as there are dinosaurs and match box cars, he's content. We've been lucky the past couple of visits!

For those of you who have roots in the LA/OC area and/or know a bit of the churches around here, please feel free to suggest a church that we may be interested in visiting.

We've visited the following churches so far:
1. Life Springs Church (Torrance)
2. Lighthouse Community Church (Torrance)
3. Hope Chapel (Hermosa Beach)
4. Bread of Life (Torrance)
5. Mosaic (Beverly Hills)
6. New Song (L.A.) <--- we'll be visiting this church this Sunday

A few things I've learned now that I'm a "visitor" or "newcomer" to these churches, friendliness and greeting one another totally makes a world of difference. A website, in my opinion, is a make-or-break deal. If I've heard of a church but can't find a website for them, I most likely will not visit the church (unless someone I know personally is going to take me to the church). Even with a website, if there is little to no information on children's ministries and small groups (home groups, minichurch, discipleship, whatever the terminology is for that church), I still may not check it out. It is tough to drag kids to a church not knowing if there is an age-appropriate program for them.

From experience, Air Boss and I know that a church may be great and the Sunday teachings may be awesome, but if there is no outside community in the form of small groups, it's going to be tough to thrive spiritually.

So . . . any of you out there with recommendations (or even just encouragement to press on!), please feel free to let us know. Thanks!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Things I've Learned (so far) . . .

It seems as if this past month, I've been doing nothing but learning: the wrong way to go, the right way to go, the wrong way to drive on the freeways (unless I want to get myself killed), where the library and post office are, etc. I've also learned a bit about the state, the county, and the city I'm in. And of course, I've learned a bit more about myself. Here's a partial list of what I've learned so far . . .

- city's official birth date is September 4, 1781 (founded & named by Spaniards)
- American's entered Los Angeles in August 1846
- has almost 10 million residents (L.A. County)
- occupies 4,083 square miles
- represent 30% of CA's population and is larger than 42 U.S. states
- second largest Mexican, Armenian, Korean, Filipino, Salvadoran and Guatemalan city in the world
- third largest Canadian city
- largest Japanese, Iranian and Cambodian communities in the U.S.

- has over 63,000 residents squeezed into 5 square miles
- typical lot size for a single family home (averaging 1700-1800 SF) is 25'x100'; in addition to the house, that provides enough land space to park your trashcan . . . and nothing else
- still known as a tourist and resort town
- has some of CA's best and most innovative schools (according to RB's website)
- it may be cool and breezy in the summer but beach living is somewhat damp
- sand in RB is likened to grass in the Northeast where I come from (walks in the sand, playgrounds in the sand, picnics in the sand, strollers in the sand . . . you get the picture)

- when people say "I'm from L.A." most likely they mean L.A. County and not the city of L.A.
- people from Orange County (otherwise known as the O.C.) will never say they're from L.A.
- people don't use their signals on the freeway because other drivers will speed up and prevent them from changing lanes
- wine and beer is sold EVERYWHERE at ANYTIME (there is no blue law here!) such as grocery stores, wholesale storefronts, drug stores, department stores, toy stores (okay, so I'm kidding about the last two but seriously! . . . )
- no such thing as a stick of butter - it comes in a BRICK (who says "add a brick of butter to your recipe"?!)

- I don't LOOK like I'm from New England (in other words, I don't stick out like a sore thumb)
- my favorite shoes are flip flops and my feet haven't worn socks since we've arrived here
- I guess I can live with the 4"x4" glazed tiles everyone seems to have as kitchen counter tops (but I still think it's silly to have grout where one constantly prepares food)
- if it's before 10 AM or after 6 PM, I need to wear a sweater (seriously)
- I miss my family and my friends more than I thought I would
- I am more resilient than I think

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Anybody Out There?

It's been harder to blog these days not knowing who (if anyone) is reading my blog. There have been many moments throughout the day when I think "I need to blog about this" but oftentimes, these moments have been times of acute homesickness. Not sure how interesting that would be to read or write about.

- 1 month since we've left Boston
- 2 weeks of work-at-home for Air Boss
- 3 weeks of unpacking (and not unpacking), spending lots of moolah, and figuring out our way around RB
- 3 attempts at the DMV before finally getting the Black Hawk successfully registered with CA plates
- 4 weeks of bad sleep for 'Shroom who's had to share a bed with bed-thrasher Lolli
- 6.5 weeks without our washer and dryer (and still counting)
- 12 new beach toys for the kids (thank you to grandma and grandpa!)
- 13 more boxes to unpack
- 25 unopened-and-no-room-to-unpack boxes in the garage
- 700 minutes of T-Mobile anytime minutes to supplement our HotSpot@Home cellphone plan
- 5,734 crumbs still littering the Black Hawk's interior from our cross-country road trip
- 104,354,291 grains of sand in the Black Hawk and in our flip flops from our trips to the beach

Let's just say that Red Sox Nation has finally come to Redondo Beach (land of the Dodgers). After mising Red Sox games for months now, Air Boss is now finally able to root for his team thanks to his subscription to MLB.com and live streaming video. I am once again a baseball widow.

Well, we're hoping that tonight will be 'Shroom's first good night's sleep in over a month since he and Lolli have had to share the same bed. Although they've never had to share a bed smaller than a hotel-sized double, 'Shroom always gets crowded by his little sister. Lolli (who's been waking up each night crying hysterically since we've left Boston) somehow manages to get the middle of the bed and forces 'Shroom to the edge. Now that we finally have beds for them, 'Shroom is more than happen to reclaim his own sleeping space. It also helps that his bed is above Lolli's by a good 3-4 feet!

Well, here's to a good night's sleep for all of us . . .

Monday, July 30, 2007

Discovering Sand

Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Well, today we finally hit the beach. Sixteen days after arriving in Redondo Beach, we finally introduced 'Shroom and Lolli to the beaches of LA (today, we were in neighboring Hermosa Beach).

Since 'Shroom was about two years of age, we've known that he has a sensory integration disorder. He didn't like getting his hands dirty even to play with dough, putty, shaving cream or any other typically "fun" textures. He resisted walking on grass (even with shoes), hated loud noises, and couldn't stand the tags on the back of his shirts. Well, today we confronted his dislike of the sand head-on. After a half hour of cajoling him to take off his flip-flops (or simply walk on the sand with them on), he finally took the plunge and stepped in the sand.

On the complete opposite spectrum, Lolli had no problem with the sand. She had her flip-flops off before I was even near the sand. She giggled with delight as she felt the smooth sand squish between her toes. As you can see in the photo above, she is more than happy to plop herself down in the sand and watch 'Shroom bury her feet. Something tells me she is going to fit right in with the beach scene. She even wanted to play volleyball with Air Boss and the rest of the adults.

Anyway, just wanted to share this milestone with you all. Perhaps one day, 'Shroom will actually enjoy the beach. Maybe next week we'll introduce him to the ocean . . .

A Big Wig, Credit Card Fraud, and 19 Books in 5 Days

We've recently been introduced to a fun group of people who sing wacky lyrics set to tunes of famous classical pieces. Thanks to Air Boss' older sister, we've been listening to how big Beethoven's wig was (set to the tune of his 9th Symphony), learning about Dvorak the Czechoslovak (sung to his Humoresque #7), and laughing at "Moonlight Sonata" sung as a traffic jam (the melody line acts as the car honks).

We attended this group's LA concert this weekend at the Ford Amphitheater (outdoors as you can see from the photo) and there were just as many kids as adults there. At one point in the show, the lead singer asked how many in the audience have been to Venice, a setting for one of the pieces performed. Tons of kids raised their hands; I was surprised at how many had already traveled overseas. Then I remembered that we weren't too far from Venice Beach. Ha, ha, ha! . . . only in LA!

Since we had moved out to LA with a relatively light load for a family of four, we've been trying to replace needed items these past couple of weeks. We've purchased some large ticket items and have also wracked up three-digit grocery food bills (I tell you, stocking up an empty refrigerator and pantry as well as re-starting a non-existing spice and condiment section can get quite costly). Well, Air Boss had purchased a TV and - long story short - the order didn't get placed. Our credit card had so much recent activity on it that it was suspected that our card had been stolen and was now being abused! Although it was a bit of a hassle to verify and explain all the charges, it was good to know that the credit card company was trying to be proactive.

Although one of the heftier charges on our credit card was a washer and dryer, we still have more than a two week wait before we receive the pair. In the meantime since we're taking all our laundry to be washed over to Air Boss' parents' place, I'm trying to keep our dirty duds to the bare minimum. This includes: no washing of bed linens, recycling clothes by wearing everything AT LEAST twice unless there are visible stains (this does NOT apply to undergarments . . . ewww!), and even then, localized stains can be hand-washed and air-dried.

I miss having a washer and dryer. And a dishwasher (from someone who ran the dishwasher once every day to every-other-day). It doesn't help that since we don't have our hook-ups blocked by a W/D, whenever the neighbors run their dryer, the air gets piped right into our apartment. It's like adding insult to injury to have to smell someone else's clean laundry while we pathetically pick off crusted food bits from 'Shroom's and Lolli's clothes so they can wear them the next day (okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. About the crusted food bits).

. . . hasn't been all that easy. My familiar resources (playgroups, water parks, favorite shopping places, neighborhood friends, community activities) have been stripped away from me and now I'm starting all over from scratch. I've already taken the kids to the local library twice in one week. We made it for one story time but alas, it was the last storytime of the summer. We joined the reading program but again, it was almost over. Together with 'Shroom and Lolli, we read 19 books in 5 days to earn their prizes. Maybe it's okay to watch some TV . . . oh wait, no TV yet.

Anyway, we survived our second week here in RB. Air Boss is feeling much better and is even making plans to play some beach volleyball later on. Me? I'm still trying to figure out how to back the car out of the garage (without hitting anything) and how to make it from homebase to Points A&B and back without getting lost . . .

Friday, July 27, 2007

"We Have No More Friends"

This line was uttered by Lolli (as you will quickly realize, the more verbose and communicative of the two kids) this morning.

"Do you think we should make some new friends?" I had asked.

"Well, we don't know who our new friends are. No more friends. No more Green House."

True. Not so true. And true.

Today marks the end of Air Boss' first week back to work (at home) and the close of our second week here in the LA area. The boxes are mostly unpacked with about 10-15 remaining (no room to put the box contents but not "un-useful" enough to shove in the garage) and we even have some of our artwork hanging up on the walls. We've just opened up a new bank account but have yet to swap the car plates to CA.

With the "to do" list slowly getting shorter and shorter, I find that there is more time to remember the things I miss. And that's when it gets harder.

Air Boss is sick with a fever and chills. We're hoping it's not the flu. We don't even have doctors here to call up or a health clinic that I know that accepts our type of health insurance. Yes, we'll eventually figure this all out.

I am reminded though of how gracious God was to our family as we traveled to LA. Not one of us got sick and we were able to travel without the worries of an illness. Air Boss has been truly the pillar of this family as we've traveled and made the transition our new home. Now it's my turn to take care of him and I hope and pray that it's nothing serious.

In the meantime, we'll have to figure out how to meet people and "find new friends" as Lolli puts it. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why We Don't Sleep at Grandma's Anymore

Sometimes I forget the fragility of a young child's mind and its ability to fully comprehend significant changes. Lolli reminded me of this today when we were over at my parents-in-law's home for our weekly dinner together.

Everytime we had visited LA (when we were living back East), we would stay with Air Boss' parents. We would typically sleep in a guest room that they have and 'Shroom and Lolli, I'm sure, have lots of memories of taking naps and getting dressed in the mornings in this room.

Earlier today, Lolli came out of the guest room and had asked me, "Why don't we sleep at Ah-Poh's [paternal grandmother's] house anymore?"

"We live in LA now and we have our own place to stay."

She looked a bit puzzled so I elaborated further.

"Because we live in LA, whenever we'll visit Poh-Poh [maternal grandmother], we'll stay at her house because we don't have a house in Boston anymore."

I think I made it worse because she just had one confused look on her face.

I then remembered that just a few days earlier when Air Boss' sister and sister's husband were in town visiting, they had stayed in the same guest room that we had typically stayed in on previous visits. Lolli had been poking around in the room and had emerged rather upset. "How come there are all these things in my room?"

She was near tears and didn't like the unfamiliar items that were in this room that had represented our "home-away-from-home". I was surprised that this room would evoke such strong emotional sentiments in her.

Many of you have called, emailed and asked how the kids have been doing with this transition. My usual response has been "great - they're a lot more resilient than I give them credit and a lot more flexible than I am." It's true, 'Shroom and Lolli have really done well with the selling and packing up of our house, driving across the country, and waiting patiently for days for us to unpack their toys once we made it to LA. I know that there is a whole lot more brewing beneath the surface that I see. Something that runs much deeper than I understand and more complex than they communicate.

It makes me sad to hear the kids say that they miss Boston and that they like the Green House much better than our new place here. Even Air Boss' change of work environment has Lolli asking, "how come Daddy works in the bedroom and not in a building?"

There are moments when I do wonder if we did the right thing (or were we simply just crazy?!) and how much of all of this the kids will even remember. Although I do believe that 'Shroom will have faint memories of living in Boston, I doubt Lolli will remember much of her early life in the Northeast.

For now, I'm just trying to explain the best way I can why we don't sleep at Grandma's anymore and hoping that RB will quickly become home for the kids.

How to Drive in LA

freeways of LA
Originally uploaded by kalavinka

For those of you living in LA, these driving tips may look familiar. I am not the author of this list but did find the tips rather humorous and so far, mostly true. Scary, huh?!

1. The morning rush hour is from 5:00 AM to noon. The evening rush hour is from noon to 7:00 PM. Friday's rush hour starts on Thursday morning.

2. The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 85 mph. On the 105 or 110, your speed is expected to match the highway number. Anything less is considered "Wussy."

3. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. LA has its own version of traffic rules. For example, cars/trucks with the loudest muffler go first at a four-way stop; the trucks with the biggest tires go second. However, in Malibu , SUV-driving, cellphone-talking moms ALWAYS have the right of way [or minivan-driving, GPS-configuring moms with Massachusetts plates]

4. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear ended, cussed out, and possibly shot.

5. Never honk at anyone. Ever. Seriously. It's another offense that can get you shot.

6. Road construction is permanent and continuous in all of LA and Orange counties. Detour barrels are moved around for your entertainment pleasure during the middle of the night to make the next day's driving a bit more exciting [or utterly frustrating for a newbie LA driver]

7. Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, skunks, dogs, cats, barrels, cones, celebs, rubber-neckers, shredded tires, cell-phoners, deer and other road kill, and the coyotes feeding on any of these items.

8. Mapquest [or Garmin] does not work here -- none of the roads are where they say they are or go where they say they do and all the freeway off and on ramps are moved each night [or simply closed].

9. If someone actually has their turn signal on, wave them to the shoulder immediately to let them know it has been "accidentally activated."

10. Do not try to estimate travel time -- just leave Monday afternoon for Tuesday appointments, by noon Thursday for Friday and right after church on Sunday for anything on Monday morning.

And finally "Why is the LA Freeway called the '405'?

Because no matter where you are going, it takes 4 or 5 hours to get there.

Photo by: Kalavinka

Monday, July 23, 2007

Birthday Kisses

a birthday kiss
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Today was Air Boss' first day back to work. Well, "back" is somewhat subjective as he didn't quite return to the office. Although working for the same company in Boston, Air Boss now commutes to his new office 4.5 feet away from his beside. His home office.

I admire him for trying to remain accessible to his colleagues on the East Coast by working Eastern Daylight hours which equate to 6 AM - 3 PM Pacific Daylight. He even put on a button-down shirt (albeit a short-sleeved Hawaiian print one) and long pants (okay - so the jeans were a bit worn and frayed). Maybe by the end of the week the attire will morph into a pair of boxers and . . . his wrist watch.

While Air Boss worked away, I tried to explain to 'Shroom and Lolli that "Daddy is working even though he's home" and that they are not to bother him when he's sitting in his office chair. I'm sure it's confusing for them because back in Boston, the kids totally looked forward to Daddy's return each day at 6:30 PM (or thereabouts). We'll have to see how the new schedule and work environment goes.

Today, the kids and I explored the local $.99 store which was fairly huge. Tomorrow we will visit the local post office (can't seem to find too many blue mail boxes around here! - how do people mail letters?) and the library. Since everything is still so new to us, everyday is a field trip.

Well, no overflowing toilets, freeway freak-outs (at least not today), or loud barking dogs. I enjoyed sweet birthday kisses from my two favorite kids today. I think I'm getting a washer and dryer for my birthday. Air Boss has a birthday coming up in two weeks and will get his big TV (we have somehow gone over a month without watching or owning a TV). I so graciously told Air Boss, "even though the washer and dryer will be my gift and the TV will be your gift, we can share. I can use your TV and you can use my washer. Right?" [wink, wink]

I remember watching game shows back when I was in grade school and thinking how silly game contestants were when they won major home appliances like refrigerators and washer/dryers. "How can they be so happy winning such a lousy prize?" I would wonder. Now, I must be getting much older because I'm totally excited about these very same appliances. A blender? Sure! A vacuum cleaner? Bring it on!

Air Boss has been so excited to be finally getting a new TV and has been doing his due diligience in researching the best model for what he wants. There was no talk about getting a washer and dryer. Althought we have a temporary solution for washing clothes (the college solution: bring it home to your mom), I see it as a very very short term solution. We're a family of four - not some single college student with minimal items to wash. We are NOT dirty people but c'mon - we have two preschoolers who are magnets for dirt, food smears, and who-knows-what-else is stuck on the bottom of their shorts. Anyway, I'm okay if the TV comes first because after all (as someone had astutely pointed out to me), even if we all had nice clean clothes, we still can't watch TV but if we ran out of clean clothes, we could always watch TV naked.

Sooo, anyone wanna come over to watch TV?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Our First Week in RB

awaiting sunset
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Well, we've just completed our first week in RB and all I can say (with lots of elaboration) is that it has been quite a busy, frustrating, fun, frustrating, scary, frustrating experience.

I've officially done it. I've successfully all by myself thoroughly got myself lost in LA. I was supposed to take one of the freeways west and ended up taking it east - it was late at night, I had the kids' music cranked up and Lolli's sweet-but-oftentimes-annoying-questions-and-incessant-chatter distracting me from a quick split that required an even quicker response. I took the wrong fork. What should have resulted in a quick left and left to get back on the west bound side resulted in a scary traumatic experience that had me wondering if the kids and I would get back to RB safely (Air Boss was driving his father's car and had taken the correct freeway). The surface roads were dark (it was almost 10 PM) and people were loitering in the streets next to their pimped up rides. I was frightfully aware that I was still driving with my MA plates on the car. The westbound freeway entrance was closed so I had to rely on Garmin to detour me to the next closest westbound entrance. Next one - closed. The one after that - closed. What is going on?! I didn't even know what city I was in. I ended up taking the freeway EAST, driving a few exits the opposite direction I wanted so that I could make my two lefts to get back on the westbound side. It was white-knuckle driving the whole way home (over an hour later). It was at that point that I hated LA and all the stupid freeways. I wanted to be back in Boston where I knew 95 and 90 like the back of my hand.

So this latest fiasco just happened today - right before Air Boss's sister and brother-in-law (hailing from SJ) were arriving to spend the night at our place. Air Boss was gone to do the airport run. The kids were napping (thank goodness b/c I don't know how I would have managed to do what I needed to do with them running around) . . .
. . . The upstairs toilet overflowed. It was so quick, the entire bathroom floor was covered in water in a matter of TWO SECONDS. Just outside the door was newly installed wall-to-wall carpet. The bath mats were already soaked and I had thrown our bath towels on the floor in the hopes of keeping the water from escaping out the door. I tried kicking the water back in. I even shut the door (yeah, somehow in the panic, I had forgotten about the little 1/2" gap above the threshold). I was in a state of panic. I build a dam with the soaked towels and ran out the door and called the landlady. No answer. By the time I left a message and ran back, the water had stopped flowing and the carpet was spared by half an inch! Cleaning up the mess was a little challenging since I had no mop. Our first house guests were to arrive in less than an hour! Well, the floor is dry, the toilet still needs to be looked at an our house guests have deferred to staying with Air Boss's parents for the evening.

So that tops our first week here in RB. We finally saw the beach and a peek at the sunset. We're still waiting for internet and cable and our new local number. I'm beginning to feel the lonelies and unhappies creep in. I miss my home, my backyard, my "space", my desk, my family, my friends. I have a feeling this second week in RB will seem a lot longer than this first one.