Thursday, December 2, 2010

Defeated by the blogosphere

I thought I would be able to update on Chicago and bring you up to speed by now so I will include highlights of Chicago and our trip out to VA with some bullet points:

  • saw one of my best friend's pregnant belly and got to meet her newborn son
  • ate chicago pizza
  • ate at portillo's---hot dogs are to die for if you are not familiar
  • ate more pizza
  • ate some more portillo's
  • visited with my other BBF in Chitown and her kids and hubby
  • ate some more pizza
  • hung out with my parents, sisters and their families
  • celebrated with most of my family my grandmother's 95th birthday!!!!!!!!
  • ate some more portillo's
  • ran into the gal that I used to walk to school with from kindergarten through 12th grade and met her twins
  • trick or treated in downtown Elmhurst, IL with my kids
  • ate some more port...just kidding...just checking to see if you are still reading
  • in the midst of all this, had our van break down and had to give it it's first tune up eva--at 160,000 miles, not bad I say, expensive yes!
  • drove to our new place and paid about $50 in tolls, who knew that it would cost to avoid a mountainous drive
  • got to drive through a tunnel in PA mountains
  • arrived at our new place
  • bought most of our furniture off craiglist and at IKEA
All in all we have adjusted well, settled in, and Bank of America loves us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where I left off....

I think I left off telling everyone about our unaffordable apartment that we love.  After we decided we wanted this place and signed the lease the world was our oyster.  It took me a second application and lots of white out to complete the application since I hadn't eaten and was done like a turkey on Thanksgiving.  It was really quite embarassing and Andy was no help because he was even worse off than me and he doesn't know my ssn.  It was just easier since at least I knew both of ours for the application. 

We drove to a delicious Greek restaurant that had a Salvadorian section on the menu called Dehlia's.  Did I mention yet that the food choices here are unbelieveable?  We had a great lunch and called back in with the leasing agent before officially leaving town to make sure that everything was on the up and up.  I was a little nervous with the mortgage still on our credit and if other stuff hadn't registered as being paid off yet since the auction that our debt/income ratio would be bad.  We got confirmation that we got the place and hit the road. 

Our general idea was to go south and head to Richmond and go west from there.  It looked like more of a straight shot that way through all of the mountains.  We got stuck in traffic almost instantly and had a sort of head start only because of the carpool lanes for 10 miles of it.  I think it took us 2 hours to go 20 miles, seriously.  We made it through Richmond and then it started getting dark.  Those of you that really know me, know how paranoid I am about driving at night or being a passenger in a car at night.  We were doing great until we were on the 2 lane highways that were up and down and curvy.  All I could think about was huge deer.  About 4 hours into our drive we pulled off at a town called Farmville.  No joke.  We found a sleezy motel and got one of the last rooms since it happened to be a college town (who'd of thunk) and it was homecoming. 

We tried to plan the next day and since Andy bought a book at that fly fishing store a couple of days before, guess what we did?  Found a place to fish or really I should say for him to fish.  After driving on the BlueRidge Parkway for a while and enjoying the scenery, we got to where we were going.  We drove to the cute little town of Buchanan and found where we could camp at the North Creek Recreation Area and did a little hike.  Hiking in VA reminded me of some of the places we would bikeride in Southern Illinois with a lot more up and down.  It was really pretty and there happened to be an Adventure Race of some sort going on.  I had just started hearing about this kind of thing.  They involve 3 events and are usually done in teams from what I can tell.  It was neat to see all these people, some of them families, mountain biking after orienteering their way to their bikes.

Camping was the usual fun except it was cold.  I am such a wimp when it comes to cold.  It got down to 42 and I have a not so insulated bag, so I really wasn't warm until Andy went fishing in the morning and I put myself and my bad inside of Andy's and the sun was out.

We got going that day and went to get directions from anyone that would offer them at the local gas station/Burger King.  I literally got the "you're not from around here are you?"  What do you think goofball that I am and just need to know how to get out of here.  I really wasn't offended because it was a sweet old man that asked me this and gave me great directions that I had to decipher once I got back in front of our map and could makes heads or tails of what words he was saying.  On the way to our next stop, we stopped and ate a cute little restaurant in a small Virginia mountain town.  Ma and Pa's:

We drove north and enjoyed the scenery and decided to stop in another town for the day and fish.  This time we got a hotel room and cleaned up before heading out to fish (I actually just read mostly, while Andy fished).  Andy fished at a spot on the Jackson River called Petticoat Junction!  The town we stayed at this night was Covington, Va and boy the town was stinky. I don't know if it was just where our hotel was, but it stunk.  I have a feeling there was a paper processing plant around. 

From Covington, we decided we should probably get back to our kids and we drove the rest of the 6 hours to Indiana and were grateful that they were in such good hands while we were gone.  During this part of the drive, Andy managed to rip the handle off the drivers side back sliding door, which has yet to get fixed.  The kids were happy to see us and we had a great time staying and visiting in Indiana for a few more days.  It was nice to not drive anywhere.  Next time:  Chicago.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Lease on Life (and an apartment)!

Has it really been a month and a half since I last posted??? 

My friend Lori asked if I was still doing the blog and it jogged my memory, "oh yeah, I was going to do this blog to keep people up to date more and to have a sort of diary of our new adventures."  We are settled in very nicely into a two bedroom apartment in an area of Alexandria, VA called Kingstowne.  Andy and I dropped our kids off with his wonderful parents in Indiana while we came out here together to find a new place.  The drive here was more mountainous than I was expecting and we went a different route home to avoid all the up and down on our poor little Nissan Quest.  If you ever drive here from Louisville, I recommend coming the more southern route that is more straightforward. 

We arrived after a 10 or so hour ride and got here just in time for D.C. traffic with no exact plans for a place to crash for the night.  Did I mention the traffic yet?  I have been in some rush hour stuff in Chicago and St. Louis but this was unreal.  Later we would meet people that described their rides as, "My ride in is only 45 minutes, but my ride home is 3 hours."  We knew moving out here we would only have one car, and since we sold the other one at our auction and are not rolling in the dough, but sheesh 3 hours??

Our criteria was simple for our future home:
  • safe
  • close enough to a metro station so we could walk/bike to the metro
  • in a ridiculously low price range for around here 1600 max
  • 2 bedrooms, but 3 would be nice
We got an expensive cheap hotel room at the Econolodge in Falls Church that first night and then found a local bar to chill out after our drive.  Dogwood Tavern was just what the doctor ordered.  They had a large variety of microbrews that I had never heard of and heavenly food.  After making our way back to the hotel we continued our search online and with our Apartment Guide courtesy of the Washington Post that my friend Paula had gotten for me.   We picked out a few that looked good, mostly by price and size and we were kind of sticking to the Falls Church area since I thought that was where a lot of homeschool activities were going on. 

First place we looked at the first day the price was right, it was a bit far from the metro so that meant a bus ride of some sort and it was just so congested in the area.  We got a tour of a model, which I would later find was the way it goes.  They show you a model that looked pretty, clean, odor-free and then you had to go on blind faith that the one you signed your lease for was close to the same condition.  I did not like this and made it known that if you can't show me the inside I at least want to know what unit it will be so I know if I am next to the trash compactor or sewage plant or whatever.  When I did this at the first one, I felt Andy look at me like "what are you doing, you are being a little pushy".  Pushiness pays off because we were shown a model on the "garden level" also known as a basement.  The garden level apartment model we looked at was on the main floor and walked right out to the grass when you went out the sliding doors.  The unit that we would be getting when we went to look at it, was a stinkin' basement.  First one we looked at was the last on my list already.

We saw about 4 or 5 that day and most were either "garden" basements and one was too expensive and didn't really seem very kid-friendly, more college/grad student/bachelorish--but it was hardly a block from the metro.  This one was the top of the list that day.  We regrouped--Andy went to a fly fishing store he spotted and I went to TJ Max and bought some clothes that I am wearing now nearly every day (two shirts and a pair of boots) that's my wardrobe.   I have some jeans that I alternate with to really get 5 different outfits.  You know I am joking right?, but not really.  While I was at the Max, Andy got online at Panera and got a deal on a room at a Hyatt or Hilton but we had to pay for internet there.  Crazy, right?  Several adult sodas later, we mapped out a new list that included an apartment complex that had some townhouses in our price range, but had this review on  "It is a great place to live as long as you don't mind living in a retirement community".  When we took the tour that about summed it up, plus too far from a metro and guess what?  We would again be offered a garden apartment with one of the townhomes we originally wanted above it.  I guess you have to wait until someone dies to get one of those. 

The second place we went to, Andy had aparently said a secret prayer before we went to.  We were going into territories unknown about 7 miles east in Springfield, VA.  We were done with the Falls Church area.  It was too pricey, and so congested with construction still going on everywhere.  So, on to Springfield with no lunch or breakfast and coming off yet another lame tour.  I was just going along with Andy, I was out of ideas.  He said, "I know this is going to be the one".  "Sure, whatever", was my attitude.  I thought we were way to far out to be near a metro. We showed up at lunch and only one rental agent was there and she was just signing a lease with someone so we had to wait.  We ate the offerings of cookies and coffee gratefully since we were starving and this was going to take longer than we thought.  Finally our turn arrives and we got the schpeel and toured a 2 bedroom that would be the actual one we could move into that day.  We loved it.  Then we started talkig about a model one she had just shown us that had a sunroom (sort of) in it and asked her the price of that one.  She said that if we were considering that one we should spend about 20 bucks more a month and do the 2 bedroom with a loft and extra bathroom.  We mulled it over looked at the floorplan on paper since one would not be available for a month, which was when we wanted to move in anyways.  Then she told us how her husband rides his bike to the metro that is only a mile away and takes the metro to work in D.C.  And, she tells us that there is a bus stop that is only a 5 minute ride to the metro if you don't want to walk or bike.  I don't know if it was the hunger pains, the continuous circle of crappy apartments with one that was nice and met our criteria, or the prayer--but we signed a lease that day. 

The apartment is over our price range, but the $1600 one was over our price range to begin with considering we still are paying our mortgage in that farm we still own back in Missouri.  Eh-what's another couple hundred when you can't afford the first 16?  I know it is bad Emily Post manners to share financial information, but I wanted to share with you and remind myself later how much it costs to live modestly in the D.C. area.

So, we went back and retrieved our kids.  I will fill in those blanks in the near future.

Day 3 of looking   

We arrived after

Monday, October 4, 2010

Small Request

I am enjoying a wonderful day babysitting my friend Kelly's little guy today with my kids.  It is a win, win, win, in many ways.  My kids get to sit on furniture other than a bed.  My kids get to spend some quality time with their little buddy.  And I get to do laundry not at a laundromat.  This is huge! 

We sold our washer and dryer at our auction and last week I went to a laundromat in downtown Rolla that was absolutely disgusting and mostly not functional.  I pulled one load out of the 5 washing machines I was using and just threw out half the clothes.  They were worse than they were when they were put in.  Seems wasteful, but you would not believe how much stuff I have been able to throw away.  Don't worry--plenty has been donated and/or repurposed...but a girl can only do so much.  I was in a kind of hurry to get to playgroup and didn't see the point of hanging out at this place longer than absolutely neccessary. 

So....threw some clothes out and put the rest in some dryers.   About half of the dryers had "out of order" signs on them.  Well, I was lucky enough to pick one of the not "out of order" dryers that had yet to be labeled.  I know---I should have played lotto this day.  I paid about 3 dollars on each dryer and kept looking at the clock tick away wondering just how many times the dryer needs to be fed to get this stuff dry.  When most of it was dry I started pulling out clothes and folding them, only to find out that one of the dryers was not heating at all.  Good grief.  The kids were done, I was done, so I abandoned my clothes in one of the dryers that I knew was working and headed to playgroup. 

Well, today I am very grateful to be able to use a washer and dryer that work perfectly and hope that when we move to D.C. I can hopefully (fingers crossed, breath held) have a washer and dryer in my apartment.  I really don't ask for much, but this would really help my sanity!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Auction Madness don't know what you've got until you have to put it all out in your yard in less than a day.

We have been moving along with the move, so to speak. Let's see, last Saturday we had our auction and sold nearly everything we owned in less than 5 hours. It was great, crazy, upsetting at times, and relieving. It was the only option for us and this move. We have accumulated so many belongings with the farm and have such a variety of things that this was the way to go. We sold horse drawn farm equipment, a 30 x 90 foot greenhouse with a heater, a walk in cooler, other tractor pulled farm equipment, a tractor, a vw jetta, and then all of the crap that we had sitting in a shop and in our house. Oh! we also sold two goats, two mules, and a big black percheron draft horse. We ATTEMPTED to auction our house that day, but unfortunately after showing it about 5 times, there was not one single bid or word uttered that resembled a bid. Now we have it listed with a realtor and are hoping for the best. I don't know how long we can swing a mortgage and rent in D.C.

Now we are kind of in a weird limbo. Our furniture consists of my computer desk w/computer and lawn chair, a matress on the floor for Andy and me, and the kid's bunk beds. I am wondering how much longer I can stand our bed being such a multipurpose piece of furniture. The kids are doing pretty good about eating carefully on the bed, but it is still kind of gross and smells like food.

I took the kids to Maramec Spring Park in St. James on Wednesday and it was wonderful. For those of you that aren't familiar with this park, it is a trout hatchery where you can feed fish.  It has a rich history as well, since it was an iron mine and iron production site, as well as a distillery.  The kids had a blast and it was great to focus my attention and time on them. The next day we went to playgroup with the homeschoolers (who we will DEARLY miss) and Izzy had her (most likely) last soccer game. I say "most likely" because there is a chance we will still be here finalizing the moving with the mover people on the 11th when her next game is.

Andy has his last day of work tomorrow and it will be a long one. What better way to go out than with a good 12 hour one.

Tuesday is a day for trying to catch up and sort out the remains of our possessions and figure out what will go with us on the road and what will be shipped the following week with the moving company. I am not exactly sure how we are supposed to pack our stuff for them or even if we are supposed to pack it at all.

Wednesday we are cheesing it up with a lovely free two night trip to Branson! Andy got some free nights there from Bass Pro and we have to listen to a 90 minute time share schpeel. We even got some free tickets to Silver Dollar City from my mom's cousin that works there. Score! I am just looking forward to getting away for a bit from the house and not obsessing about not knowing what to do next.

We should be on the road by the 14th and heading out East to find a place.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Post--kitty has a new home

This blog is created on the first "real" day of the new adventure. We (a family of four is setting out an a journey far far away). Andy has gotten a job with USAID, which stands for US Agency for International Development and is a branch of the Foreign Service.

We will be in D.C. for at least a year for training and then we will be assigned to and eventually get to choose our posts overseas.

The reason I say that this is our first "real" day is that it has finally hit a couple of us. We have an auction coming up in 4 days that will take place and remove most of our personal belongings and home, but today we dropped off our cat at a wonderful new home. I have had this cat since college and he has lived in every place with me and us since 1997. Everyone has asked me how the kids (Izzy-5 and Hollis-3) are taking it (the move). I thought they were doing great until today when we had to drop Gizmo off at our friends' house. Since we were going to Lann's birthday party and dropping Gizzy off at the same place I thought we would all be fine.

Gizmo did great except for he meowed the entire time and the kids were a bit upset. They sang to him and wanted to check on him several times on the drive. Before cake was brought out, I took Gizmo out of his cage and walked him around while holding him. He seemed fine, didn't freak out or anything. I let him down and followed him and petted him periodically. He decided that he was happy under the outdoor wood furnace. I got to pet him a few more times under there and said my goodbyes just in case, yet figuring he would still be there when we left.

Unfortunately, he disappeared when I went back one last time. He is a little explorer and can hold a grudge. I think that Molly and I are enough alike for him to really latch onto her.

When we left and knew he was in great hands, I looked back and saw while were driving that Izzy was very sad. I asked if she was tired, she said "no". So I asked "are you sad because we had to leave Lann's birthday party?" She said, "no". I saw the tears and I asked, "are you sad about Gizmo" and she said, "yes," and let the tears flow. Needless to say I was holding them back, so I jumped on the opportunity.

We had our drive of at least 45 minutes to be sad and now as I am welling up I still know this is the best. The best for our children that will get opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. and our pets will be just fine. By the way, Hollis asked me to get Izzy to stop her whining. I guess he is still too young for empathy, but I guarantee he will ask about Gizmo tomorrow first thing and say "ooahhwww, I miss him".

As we prepare for our auction it is hard for me to think that we will be sitting in a house nearly empty of furniture and certain comforts, but hopefully freer and with a clearer understanding of what is important. By the way~~we have some chairs to return to Walmart and upgrade to the fancy ones!! We are going to go all out and spend double on some lawn chairs since they will be our furniture for a week!