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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Things I've Done So Far...

1. Unpacked the kids' toys (finally) and thus ended the two month separation between kids and toys.

2. Left with a whole lotta stuff (including super long receipts) from IKEA, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Staples, Costco, and Target. (cha-ching, cha-ching!)

3. About to dump my new BFF, Garmin, for sending me to a decommissioned Target AND a decommissioned Home Depot.

4. Said a naughty word when the Brita dispenser fell to the floor and cracked beyond use.

5. Caught 'Shroom as he fell down the stairs (perhaps I didn't do such a good job as he fell down 13 out of the 15 steps and has red rug burns on his face).

6. Flattened and rolled up about two gagillion sheets of packing paper (okay, so I'm exaggerating a little bit - maybe more like one gagillion)

7. Learned how to live without internet access for more than an hour (it's been almost a week now!) and also without TV (ahh, I guess I can always unpack so more . . . )

8. Woken up every morning in Redondo Beach to the sound of what must be at least a dozen dogs barking next door (it's probably only two or three dogs but they sure sound like lot!).

9. Nearly pass out with shock at the super high prices at the local Howes Market (which I found out is a grocery store and not a home improvement store) . . . yep, I paid almost $5 for ONE GALLON of milk which partially resulted in . . .

10. Weaned 'Shroom and Lolli from cow milk to soy milk (Lolli is still resolutely resisting the change over).

And the one thing I have NOT done so far . . .

. . . gone to the beach

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

First Solo

We'll I'm just about to embark on my first solo trip without Air Boss. I'm going to Costco to stock up the refrigerator (my voice echoes in it - but not that I usually speak to an empty fridge). My newest friend here in LA is Garmin. As in the Garmin Nuvi 660 (GPS system) that helps me find my way around the 'hood. I think I would be halfway back across the U.S. if left to my own innate (very bad) sense of direction.

Anyway, the most "at home" I've felt in this first half week here in RB was when I walked into a local Home Depot. There was something comforting and familiar about those orange aprons and the smell of lumber. Ahh . . . . home sweet home (depot).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Which Way Do I Turn?!?

Today marks our first full day in RB. We are still without internet service (I'm at my in-laws' blogging away) and feeling very much disconnected as we can't even watch TV (the HGTV junkies that we are). At least we have a car and our cell phones . . . so that we can get lost in the South Bay area and call the friends we have yet to make here.
Air Boss and I were on our way to visit a church this morning and we were driving out of the driveway. We had to stop at the end of the driveway to wait for the GPS to get its satellite points so that it could direct us to where we were going. We were literally relying on the GPS to tell us whether to make a left or a right turn from our driveway. How's that for being totally lost? I'm a bit hesitant to drive only because I have yet to learn how to manuerver the Black Hawk out of the garage (it's like a 15-point turn) and around the driveway turn. I thought Boston had some pretty tight turns.
A couple of months back when we were last in LA, Air Boss and I were flipping through a local newspaper and noticed a rather funky advertisement. The ad pictured the bottoms of two pairs of bare feet - intertwined in what looked a rather itimate moment. The eye-catching phrase of "sex" and "Victoria's real Secret" made me take a second look. The advertising worked on us because we ended up visiting the church that was printed on the ad. The small (about 100 people) church meets weekly at an AMC theater with the kids' Sunday School classes in separate theaters. It was an intresting service with a bit of a the Boston Vineyard flavor that we've come to enjoy. It was a little bit weird to hear "Transformers" in the nextdoor theater during the sermon though.
You bet. The best way for me to describe the weather here in RB is "sunny and warm with cool fresh ocean breezes" Utterly comfortable. Utterly enjoyable. I can smell the ocean from our apartment. It's about the low to mid-70's during the day and then cools down to the mid-60's at night. Lolli even asked for a jacket last night. I've noticed that I'm comfortable even wearing long pants. We have yet to visit the beach but we're hoping to make it out sometime this week. We're going to try to get 'Shroom over his fear and dislike of the sand. Lolli, in the meantime, keeps asking to go to the beach and be "buried in the sand."
Of course, we've already feasted at our favorite hamburger joint - In-N-Out burgers. They make their fries fresh (I saw the fancy handpress that cuts the potatoes in strips) and all they have are hamburgers. They know what they do well and they stick to it. Mmmm. Bye bye Macky D's. Hello In-N-Out.
Well, it's time to head back to RB as we have a 45-minute drive ahead of us (everything is at least a 45 minute drive). Just wanted to say to all the Omigee-fans, the fish is doing great and has eaten small "meals" since his re-inaugaration back to the tank. I'm slowly re-introducing food so he doesn't blow up. He's still a bit skittish as he darts about wildly and flares his fighting face at me. I don't even notice his ripped tail so overall, he's one happy Californian. =)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Our First Day in RB

We saw our new home for the first time today. From my in-law’s house in San Gabriel, we had to take five different freeways to get to Redondo Beach. Wow, even with a GPS I still felt lost!

As we drove around today running a couple of errands, Air Boss and I are thinking that the Black Hawk may be a bit too big to maneuver the narrow hilly streets of Redondo Beach. Getting in and out of our shared driveway involves some tricky steering. We have about four inches of clearance on either side of our side mirrors as we try to swing a tight 90 degree turn to get from our garage to the main driveway. Air Boss has been thinking about what his replacement car should be (since we had to sell our second car prior to our move out here). He’s considered the Mazda CX7, the Accord Hybrid, the Nissan Murano and has admired the Saturn Sky. Now with today’s tight turns, narrow streets, and freeway acceleration, a Mini Cooper would probably be more appropriate. Just don’t know where to fit ‘Shroom and Lolli . . .

As I was packing up the Black Hawk for our final 35 miles to RB, I met the postman who delivers my parents-in-laws mail. Since the Black Hawk trunk was wide open and there were coolers, fishing rods and beach towels littering the back, the postman thought we were going camping. I had informed him that we just drove across the country from Boston to move here. As we chatted a bit, he provided some well-appreciated insight on the LA traffic and mind-set.

“Drive defensively,” he had succinctly summed up. “Everyone is in a rush and everyone is late. People think that you have to drive aggressively to keep up but the best drivers are the ones who know how to drive defensively.”

Wow – I thought I was a pretty aggressive Bostonian driver (although a pretty wussy LA driver) but know I know a little bit better. I had always believed that the best defense was offense but I guess that isn’t the safest tactic around here. Thanks Mr. Postman for your words of experience!

Well, Air Boss has completed setting up our bed so that we can finally put our sleepy heads down. It has been a busy day and we’ve earned our sleep. The kitchen is a mess (too many dishes, pots & pans and not enough storage room!), the linen closet looks like it exploded, the bathroom door can’t close because our bathtub runner is too thick, and I can’t find the dirty laundry hamper. At least we have toilet paper and running hot water. And a very happy fish no longer in a tiny plastic container.

BTW, Omigee ate his first food pellet today! That marked the end of his eight-day hunger strike. That’s a long time considering he usually eats twice a day. Of the five of us in this house, I think Omigee is the best adjusted of us all.

Day 7: The Last Stickers on the Map

After opting not to see the Grand Canyon (probable thunderstorms and young kids who most likely won't remember the awesome scenes), we arrived in the LA area a day earlier than scheduled. Our USA map now has a completed path of stickers from Boston to LA and will be prominently displayed in the kids' new bedroom.

After seven days on the road, our last day of travel was marked with hilly desert terrain and super hot temperatures that got as high as 103, 104, 105, and then 108 and eventually topping out at 119! When we reached the LA county line, the temps dropped to the high 90's. And the freeways widened to 6 and sometimes 7 lanes. In each direction. Thank goodness we were headed west on the 15 because it was packed bumper-to-bumper on the eastbound side. Yup, we didn't need a map to tell us we were in LA.

Even though we are in LA, our journey technically isn't quite over. Tomorrow we will drive the last 35 miles to Redondo Beach where our apartment (and 129 moving boxes) are waiting for us. It was an emotionally significant ride for us as we drove into San Gabriel where Air Boss's parents live. His parents and sisters (and our niece and nephew) were expecting us and it was - for me - a bittersweet arrival. Seeing the Black Hawk with its Massachusetts plate parked on the driveway among California plated cars, I realized that this was it. I was here and my extended family and friends and everything familiar to me were more than 3,000 miles away. Despite these sad sentimental feelings, I am happy to be here and excited to see what this new phase will bring.

Looking back, I realize that ‘Shroom and Lolli have been spectacular on this long road-trip. We never once cracked open the laptop in the car for them to watch DVD’s. They were extremely content listening to “The Sound of Music” soundtrack and looking for Volkswagon Beetles. At one point in the trip, ‘Shroom had asked if he could listen to “Do Re Mi” and I told him to wait a bit (shh!) as Daddy was on the phone (trying to schedule cable & internet installation). “Why don’t you sing it yourself,” I had suggested to him. Quite obligingly, I heard him singing – in a whisper. All during the whole week, they didn’t once complain about how long the ride was or put up a fuss about getting back in the car every time we stopped for a pee break. They were great but perhaps what really helped them was . . .

My dear friend (and expert traveler with four kids of her own) Laurie prepared a special bag of gifts for the kids. Each day, ‘Shroom and Lolli picked and opened a present (blue for ‘Shroom and pink for Lolli) that contained a surprise that provided much entertainment. In addition to their own gift, they also got to unwrap a gift for the both of them to share. They were thrilled with the surprises and many times I had used the gifts to cajole them into good behavior (hey, whatever works, right?). The first thing ‘Shroom did this morning after he woke up was bang on the bathroom door (where I was quietly stationed at the time) and exclaimed, “I want my present now!” Okay – so they weren’t exactly angels the whole time but still . . . I can’t complain.

We’re excited to see our new place that has been waiting for us for a month now. We already have a long list of things to buy (toilet paper for one!) and perhaps an equally long list of things to do (like register the Black Hawk so we can get CA driver’s licenses so we can register ‘Shroom for school so that he can be assessed for the special services he’s been receiving for the past three years). It’s funny how so many things are tied into each other. We are still trying to expedite the installation of cable and internet services but for now, we will be without connection for a week. I hope I can somehow still blog during this “down period” even if it means spending some time at the local Starbucks.

Omigee made the trip and is, like us, a California resident! He is none the worse for wear but maybe a little bit skinnier and has one less part of his tail (explanation to follow). As we gathered by the Black Hawk to take a family photo with Air Boss’s extended family, Omigee was proudly held by Air Boss himself. As one of you had said, he’s a miracle fish. What’s the first thing I’m going to do once we reach our new place tomorrow? Set up Omigee’s tank and feed him! Perhaps he’ll one day forgive us for dragging him unwillingly on this trip (and forgive me for accidentally ripping off a piece of his tail this morning as I tried to scoop him back into his travel container).

Although this part of the story may be wrapping up, this blog is nowhere being done. As long as there is a story to tell, I will blog. And as my sister always said about me, “to make a long story longer . . . “ =)

Friday, July 13, 2007

The, Blackhawk...has landed

Just in....after seven consecutive days of driving 400+ miles a day, our carload of five passengers (one with fins and no legs) has arrived safely in LA. More about today's trip to follow. Thank you all for praying for our safety!

Much love,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

[Sidebar on the nicknames]

Many of you have inquired about the nicknames used for my dear family members. These names are used only on my blog and I don't refer to them as "Air Boss" or "'Shroom" or "Lolli." At most, Air Boss and I may refer to 'Shroom as "The Male Offspring" and Lolli as "The Female Offspring" when we want to talk about them without their knowing. I think they're beginning to catch on so we'll have to think of something new.

Regardless, here is an explanation of how these nicknames came about:

He simply has a huge head. Big head. Small body. Like a mushroom.

She simply has a huge head. Big head. Small body. Like a lollipop.

Thank goodness both kids were born via C-section! If we were to do a head:body ratio, both kids would be something like 2,587:3 or something like that. Let's just hope the big head means more brain matter.

As Air Boss loves to fly (both fixed wing and helo's) this military jargon for the one who rules the flight deck on an aircraft carrier was quite apropos for my hubby. Plus, it's nice to give him the "honorary" title of boss. =)


Although our family mini-van has nothing in common with the military helicopter, Air Boss coined the name with the kids since it's sort of black and it does transport people (although none of whom are engaged in combat warfare).

'Shroom and Lolli were given little stuffed versions of Lightening McQueen and Luigi - two characters from the Pixar film "Cars." Lolli kept mispronouncing the name of her yellow taxicab as "Omigee". Well, whe we bought the fish as the kids' Christmas present this past December, she thought "Omigee" would be the perfect name for the little blue guy.

(Photo by Lydd_Nel)

Day 6: The Final Stretch

Today we saw our first signs of LA! We can't believe the end of this journey is almost here. Even though we have several hundred more miles to go, we are looking forward to giving the Black Hawk a much needed rest from all this travel.

In anticipation of long periods of inactivity and being on the road (a recipe for constipation - especially for the kids), I made sure I bought a big ol' bag of dried magos for the trip. I've learned that they work wonders on a plugged up system (sorry for the crassness of this topic) and taste better than dried apricots. Anyway, we've all made a significant dent in the bag. I've also tried to combat the problem by booking hotels with swimming pools. Which brings me to my next topic . . .

We've discovered that hotel pools are not commeasurate with their diamond star rating. As a matter of fact, the best pool that we used was in a 2-star motel in Richmond, IN. Yesterday's indoor pool was not heated and it was torturously cold (and we know what cold is because we've had to endure a broken pool heater at the local YMCA during the kids' winter swim classes). Today's indoor pool was heated but the waters were so murky (body grease? suntan lotion? unwashed bodies? broken pool filter?), that we felt like we were swimming in a diluted septic system. Ok, so I'm exaggerrating a little bit but still, I made sure I washed 'Shroom and Lolli extra good after that swim.

I've received so many inquiries about the fish (which makes me believe that you are only reading this for the fish updates) that I knew I better jot something down about Omigee. Well, Omigee is still refusing to eat and hasn't eaten anything since we left six days ago. He pooped the first day on the road and he hasn't since then. He's looking a bit skinnier but he's still swimming and no longer doing that freakish side-floating thing that had me in a panic. I'm beginning to think that the little blue guy is a lot tougher than I give him credit and he may actually make it to see LA..

We got a bit of a late start this morning as we checked out of our Santa Rosa, NM hotel. In the hustle and bustle of getting things packed up, the kids pulled together, and settling a slight dispute on our room bill, we had almost left without Omigee! He was tucked away on a small but nicely private ledge by the bathroom sink (out of sight, out of mind). I couldn't believe that with all the worry and concern over him, I almost left him behind in New Mexico! I'm sure I would live with the guilt for the rest of my life had things ended up that way.

We'll we're going to push ahead and try to make it into LA just in time for their Friday late afternoon rush hour (which starts at about 3 PM on Friday's and ends at about 2 PM Friday of the following week). We've decided to forgo the Grand Canyon even though Air Boss missed seeing it 12 years ago on his cross-country drive from SF to Boston. There's no doubt in my mind that there are future road trips ahead for this family and the Grand Canyon National Park will be one of those trips . . . just maybe not so soon after this one!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Day 5: The 2,000 Mile Mark!

As we pulled into tonight's hotel stop in Santa Rosa, NM, I've realized that we have less than 1,000 miles to go. Even though we still have the longest, straightest, and perhaps most difficult part ahead of us, I feel that we're approaching the final stretch. I can't believe we've traveled over 2,000 miles in these past five days.

We said our good-byes to "Uncle Steve" (my cousin) and his mom after a well-rested night at their place in Oklahoma City. Air Boss was in home theater heaven as he checked out the set-up at Uncle Steve's home. Even with my bad eyesight, I bet I could read the NASDAQ ticker on the 120" screen without my glasses. The guys "thought" about drag racing along the long and straight streets of OKC to see if the Black Hawk could keep up with Uncle Steve's BMW X5. Not knowing anything about the X5, I'm guessing that the Black Hawk, which goes from 0 to 65 mph in less than 5 (minutes, that is), would have a "slight" disadvantage for having a fully loaded trunk and three more passengers. =)
As you can see in the photo above, 'Shroom and Lolli did a bit of drag racing themselves at my aunt's school, Creative Kids.

The drive through the Lone Star State was so flat, I don't think I saw the horizon. It all sort of blended in with the sky. There were no rest stops, no bathrooms, and no fast food places (or any other type of restaurant) along the way. Even though we still had half a tank of gas in the car, we gassed up at the first gas station we saw along the I-40. I didn't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere (literally) with a dry tank.

The mini-van definitely has that "lived in" look. Don't ask me how but somehow every single one of our 14 cup holders (17 if we count the ones in 'Shroom's and Lolli's car seats) is jammed with something. We have random small toys in every nook and cranny and Cheerios in places that will never see daylight. We also have a variety of insects stuck on our front bumper and side mirrors. It's amazing we can still take photos through our front windshield as there are smears and insect bits all over.

For the past years of their lives, 'Shroom and Lolli have spent Wednesdays with their Grandma and Grandpa - today was their first Wednesday away from my parents. We called them up and the kids also got the chance to speak to their cousin who is like a brother to them. I heard the kids say, "I miss you. I miss you. Are you going to come to LA?" It made me tear up to know that their relationship with their cousin will never be the same.

Well, today's quote of the day comes from Lolli, who is wise and perceptive beyond her three years. In between running laps around Uncle Steve's expansive living room and foyer, Lolli said to Air Boss, "I like Uncle Steve's house because I can run around in it. I can't do that in my new house." Wow - how did she know? She hasn't even seen the place.

Anyway, another night, another state, another 400 miles closer to LA . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Day 4: Main Street USA

Today we hit a milestone in our journey - we're more than half-way across our trek to LA from the Boston area. It's sort of sad to know that I'm now closer to LA than my hometown. As Air Boss said, "I guess there's no turning back now."

I never knew about the significance of Route 66 until today. I didn't realize that it was once considered THE Main Street of America and that it originally ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. Well, we decided to try driving it for a bit as we started out our day in Rolla, MO (which is sort of half-way through the state and past St. Louis). We drove it for about 2 minutes before we realized that there was bad cell phone coverage (and we were trying to communicate with the moving truck driver out in LA). Nothing interesting along the short stretch we drove but it was fun to say that we drove it.

After nearly a month of saying good-bye to our belongings, we have heard that the moving truck had safely made it to Redondo Beach. The truck did not have to double-park thanks to some strategic space saving from my father-in-law and sister-in-law (who drove down from San Jose to receive our shipment!). Well, let's just say finding a parking spot for the truck to unload was not the real problem. The truck couldn't even turn onto the street! Apparently (and we've yet to see our RB apartment), we're going to be living on a fairly narrow street - too narrow for an 18-wheeler to swing the turn. Needless to say, thanks to the skilled driver Gino and the hard work of my FIL and SIL, everything worked out. Thank you, Eileen and Baba!

Yes, we did stop by Venita, OK to lunch at the nation's largest McDonalds. It spanned the width of I-44 and sat perched above the highway. We were not all that impressed by the old and very dated establishment. Quite honestly, it didn't even seem all that big (yes, it did have a gift shop but it wasn't even selling McDonald's paraphenelia). Oh well - now we can say, "been there, done that."

We're spending our first night of our trip not in a hotel. We've meet up with my cousin and my aunt (whom I haven't seen in what must be over 15 years!) who live in Oklahoma City. We saw the new hotels and reconstructed highway that were once demolished in the F-5 tornado a few years back. Everything looks so new and in some areas, undeveloped. What a big difference to the packed-in over-populated streets of Boston! There were times when we were driving down the highway that we felt like we were a moving target down tornado alley - especially as we experienced some dark clouds and rain.

Well, I want to say that Omigee is still alive and looking a bit better from yesterday's scare. He is still not eating (completed Day 4 of his hunger strike) so I'm not sure how he's managing to stay alive. Part of the reason we dumped out of Route 66 so quickly was that the road was so bad and bumpy, we were afraid the extra sloshing was going to surely mean the end of poor Omigee. Omigee has become our mascot and honorary travel companion on this trip. I've to grown to be quite fond of him and I am amazed by the amount of support and concern I've heard from you folks. Thank you and not one of you called me silly for caring so much for this little blue fish. He is one well-prayed for fish!

Well, that's it for this evening. Way past my bedtime. Until next time!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Day 3: Rising temperatures

We're now about one-third our way across the country. For a fleeting moment, I thought I was closer to LA than to my hometown Boston and I felt sad. I'm really beginning to miss my family and my "home."

I found out that our moving truck will be arriving tomorrow morning and what was supposed to be a well-planned and smoothly executed unloading of the truck is now a bit more complicated. I've already been on the phone with the Redondo Beach Police Dept a few times already to try to get clearance for the big 18-wheeler. Sounds like blocking our street which happens to be the front entrance of an elementary school during the summer camp is not a good thing. What's wrong with that? We do that all the time in Boston! Double-park. Triple-park. Anywhere-you-park. I'm anxious to see how it goes as Air Boss and I will not be there to receive our boxes (and diffuse any disgruntled neighbors).

Over dinner tonight, I started talking about death and dying with the kids. I wasn't prepared to bring up the subject until absolutely necessary but Omigee really hasn't been doing well at all. He's on Day 3 of his hunger strike and now looks weak and limp. Just before we left for dinner, I tried to feed him but found him listing sideways. His gills were no longer moving and his front fins weren't flipping as they usually do.

"He's dead! He's dead!" I cried out to Air Boss. I had forgotten there were minors in the room who hadn't been briefed on the subject of death.

"No he's not!" Air Boss said confidently as he jiggled Omigee's container. The fish freaked out and nearly flipped out of the container. "Whoa!"

Air Boss quickly put the lid on loosely just in case Omigee did want to expedite the termination process by jumping out.

Before bed, we had the kids pray for Omigee and they said the sweetest things. "Please God, help Omigee feel better. He needs to eat or else he'll die [Mommy, I need to eat too or else I'll die, right?]. We want him to come to LA with us. Please make him healthy and strong. Amen."

I keep telling myself that it's just a fish. It's just a fish. I don't know why it's affecting me this way. Perhaps I'm displacing some of my sadness of leaving my hometown (and my family and friends) to this fish. I don't know. For you psychoanalysts out there, please feel free to write in and let me know how silly I am to fret over such a small creature.


Since Air Boss and I are into some long-distance driving on this trip, we try to switch drivers every 3 hours or so. The routine is one drives, the other takes photos. Or rather, one drives and nags the other to take photos. You guess which is whom. Anyway, we're into photographing trucks and their unusual cargo loads. And spotting Atlas moving trucks and saying "that's our truck!"

Hope you enjoy the photos!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Day 2: Stayin' Alive (ooh, ooh, ooh . . . )

Well, we’ve made it to our second day on the trek across America. Overall, I think today went much better than yesterday. If I were to rate each day on a scale of 1 to 10 with “1” being an absolute atrocious day (a living nightmare) and “10” being the ultimate perfect family vacation day, yesterday would have been a “5” (a “2” if I considered what happened last night). Today was a “7” – a definite improvement!

‘Shroom and Lolli have both asked the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?” and now I have banned it from the car. The question they ARE allowed to ask is, “What state are we in?” and we had a bit of fun saying “Hi Ohio!"

We’re now in Indiana and I’m not sure which time zone we’re in. I remember that a certain part of this state doesn’t participate in Daylight Savings but I don’t remember which part. While we were having dinner at a local restaurant here, Air Boss and I were trying to figure out what to call people from Indiana (we’ve noticed that the folks here are quite nice). We finally had to stop our waitress and ask her point blank. Hoosiers. Did you know that? Also, southern Hoosiers call the northern Hoosiers “Yankees.” We had a good laugh about that one.

Being a bunch of Yankees (regionally speaking, ‘cause we’re definitely no Yankees fan), we decided we would try out some authentic Indiana-in (Hoosiers - we now know better) food. So we had a delicious Texan roadhouse dinner. Seriously. It was quite good. I ordered a margarita with my dinner and when the waitress brought it out, she said that she should have carded me. I took that as a compliment so I was more than happy to show her my ID. She said that it wasn’t necessary and Air Boss quipped that the two kids were enough proof of age. I then joked, “well, I had them when I was 14.” Without batting an eye, our waitress said “yeah, I had my kid when I was 19.” Oops. I wasn’t sure if I needed to show my ID after that.

I’m sure there are a few of you out there who could care less about our day but are dying to find out the latest on Omigee. The not-so-bright-but-awfully-stubborn blue guy is on Day 2 of his hunger strike. ‘Shroom and Lolli are concerned about him enough to inquire every time the car turned, “Is Omigee okay? His water is splashing.” It’s ironic that THEY are telling him to eat his food. I can’t believe I’m so concerned over our $2.50 fish. And blogging about it.

Well, it’s time to go to bed as ‘Shroom is still awake and the light from the computer is keeping him awake. I’m glad to report (fingers crossed), no smelly things to clean up. =)

Day 1: A Bad (Smelly) Night

a long day
Originally uploaded by radioflyer007
Well, as an addendum to last night's Day One post, the day didn't quite end with us all sleeping peacefully with smiling faces.

'Shroom and Lolli (thanks the kids, our trips will never be boring and uneventful) have shared a queen and double bed before. So, why should it be a big deal when they were given one of the double beds in the hotel to share? I don't know . . .

They wrestled and wrangled the bedsheets away from each other and although Lolli eventually fell asleep before 11 PM, she woke up again and the fighting ensued. I heard a loud slap and then Lolli crying. I eventually found out that 'Shroom had kicked her on the thigh and what should have been a simple time out for the kids turned into sleeping with vomit in my hair.

Lolli can really work up the tears and even induce vomitting. Normally I don't really care ("Here's a large tofu bucket - if you're gonna puke, you hold it yourself!") but I really did care last night when she puked all over my back as I held her.


I felt the warm runny (and chunky) contents of her stomach run down my back and heard another


as it it the bed. The hotel bed.

Ugg. Air Boss and I must have spent about 45 minutes cleaning (or trying to) everything. I had to wash Lolli's clothes and my clothes extra good. With limited to no laundry service, can you imagine what a puked on T-shirt will smell like in the nice warm air in AZ or NM or TX? Ick. The car would smell like a vomit-mobile.

Needless to say, please pray for alertness as Air Boss and I drive and patience with the kids. We both got awful sleep as Air Boss slept contorted in a double bed with two kids (with Lolli trying to sleep perpendicular) and me in the vomit bed. I couldn't understand why the smell was so bad as I tried to sleep in the bed. I thought I had cleaned up decently.

I woke up and understood why.

I had dried vomit in my hair.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Day 1: The Last Leg of Our Journey

Well, today we began the last part of our migration to Southern Cal - a journey that began in January 2007 when we first started the process of contacting realtors to sell our Green House.

We said our most difficult good-byes this morning. My sister and her family (with two young boys) came over to my mom’s place where we had been living for the past few weeks. ‘Shroom and Lolli had seen their 4-yr old and 1-yr old (“Juicy Boy” as we call the little guy) cousins almost every day since we’ve shacked up with my parents after we sold our Green House. Yes, it was hard to say good-bye and tears were shed. It still doesn't quite seem real to me that we're leaving . . .

With the help of my brother-in-law and father, Air Boss packed up the Black Hawk. It was like playing 3-D Tetris (for you older folks like me, I’m sure you’ve wasted many productive hours playing this popular ‘90’s computer game). All in all, everything fit with even a bit of room to spare. And I'm happy to report that even with the sluggish acceleration and the AC running, the Black Hawk managed to crank out close to 25 mpg.

Well, for those of you wondering how long it would take before the kids would break down and ask "are we almost there yet?", it took 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was 'Shroom. They thought we were going to spend tonight in a hotel in LA. Oh dear - the geography lessons aren't quite sticking. Lolli has been particularly challenging for me. Her incessant talking, questions, and "mommy, mommy, mommy!" have left me rather short-tempered. The girl is always talking! Man was I glad when the afternoon sleepies won her over. For those of you ever considering taking your kids on a looong road trip, ask me in a few days. There were parts in the day where I wondered if we were going to make it through this first day.

Omigee is one unhappy fish on a hunger strike. The blue guy hasn't eaten anything all day. I've feed him on three separate ocassions today and eventually had to scoop out the soggy food pellets that he's refused. I've even "upgraded" his hotel accommodations from a one-star Motel 6 (Dunkin Donuts large ice coffee cup) to a two-star Econolodge (the original container he came home from the pet store and then a large disposable Ziploc plastic container). I'll have to let you know how long this hunger strike goes . . .

Well, as you can see, Lolli and 'Shroom will track our driving progess at the end of each day by placing little stickers along our route. They now know the states of Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. Time for this tired momma to go to bed.

Until next time, ciao!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Blackhawk Pack List

- 'Shroom's & Lolli's suitcase (with 9 pairs of everything)

- Air Boss's duffle with work clothes (once we're on the road, who cares if the Dockers get all wrinkled!)

- Air Boss's & my suitcase (with 9 pairs of everything)

- two more duffles (don't know what's in 'em but must be worth shoving in the mini-van)

- total of five backpacks (one for each kid, one with laptop, one with camera, and one doubling as my purse)

- two portable file boxes (one actually filled with shoes)

- two travel "briefcases" (filled with important stuff like crayons, color books, stickers, and markers)

- Air Boss's toolbox (just in case we can't find the other one that is on the moving truck)

- a 17" LCD monitor (in case the kids want to watch DVD's on a larger screen . . . ha, like that's the real reason why it's in the van)

- two fishing rods (in case we have a hard time finding the Golden Arches . . . we can always resort to finding our dinner)

- wedding attire (including shoes) for the entire family

- two coolers to fit: a case of water, a case of drink boxes, two 12-packs of soda, and a case of soymilk (whatever doesn't fit into the coolers, we'll have to stuff into the 14 cup holders in the Blackhawk)

- a box of miscellanous stuff (like snacks, dryer sheets (!?!), baby wipes, wet Swiffers, and who knows what else)

- a bag of 8 pink-wrapped gifts (for Lolli to unwrap one each day on the road), 8 blue-wrapped gifts (for 'Shroom to unwrap one each day on the road), and 10 red-wrapped gifts for both to unwrap for each eay (thank you Laurie and Juliette for your thoughtfulness!)

- 2.5 gallon fish tank with all the accessories (minus the water) . . . oh, and the little blue guy, Omigee (he's going to blog about the adventure as well)

- about 10 lbs of AAA guidebooks and corresponding maps

- half a dozen pocket packs of tissues in case we need to smell the roses (yeah, that's right) on the side of the road

- a not-even-half-filled 60GB iPod jammed with podcast sermons, books on CD's, the ENTIRE bible, too many kiddie songs to count, and every CD we own

- a GPS, a radar detector, two cell phone chargers, a laptop AC power inverter, and a request to Toyota to make mini-vans with AT LEAST six power outlets

Yup . . . I think we'll get about 12 miles to the gallon . . . 6 if we run the air conditioner.

[Thanks to Blankstrider for the awesome photo!]

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Long checklists, late nights, and sad good-byes

I guess the title sums it up. With four days left before we pack up the Blackhawk (our family mini-van which is really dark grey), Air Boss, 'Shroom, Lolli and I have been busy saying good-bye to our family and friends.

Sprinkled with errands around Watertown (playing catch-up with doctor's appointments, DMV), Cambridge (car tune up), Waltham (new tires), Framingham (pet store visit to figure out how to safely transport Omigee across 13 states), our last 1-2 weeks here in the Boston area have been busy.

'Shroom and Lolli have been great - they've been schlepped all around town with us and understandably getting cranky with the lack of sleep. We wake them up in the morning, force them to take short (but not very satisfying) naps in the car, and then keep them up late at night. Today is our "off" day (i.e. I need time to figure out how much stuff will actually fit in the Blackhawk without scraping the exhaust pipe on the road).

Will need to follow-up on the "pack list" for the car ...