Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

My day began ironing on patches so Elizabeth could be all ready for the parade.  She and her fellow Daisy troop girls would be riding in a firetruck.  FUN!  

No small town Memorial Day parade would be complete without uniforms and horses: 

Old cars: 

This was a really old Rolls Royce with a cool license plate.  I don't know why, but I dig license plates. 

Best Mexican in town, owned by a friend from church.  His son on the skateboard has been at those swing dance classes I've been going to with my 14-15 year old girlfriends.

Could this be any cuter?  

There's that firetruck!

And a fuzzy, zoomed pic of the cutest little Daisy in town!

Several loud and large planes and helicopters passed overhead.  My favorite!  (The pounding of the helicopter actually reminded me of getting evacuated last summer . . .not my favorite.)

Brandon's brother and his brother-in-law with their cute pre-schoolers.  (You would not believe how many preschools walk in our parade!)

$1 to the disabled veterans got Rachael this cute flag she was very happy to wave. 

To the city park after for some of that yummy Los Gringos and a petting zoo (among other things).  One little kid (as in baby goat) got a hold of Rachael's hair right after I took this picture and started chewing away!  When I finally got the hair out of it's mouth, it was covered in green slimy grass!!  Blech.  

Requisite food and treats to be enjoyed on this day: sno cones, hot dogs, watermelon, ice cream.  Check.

I was sorry I found these paper horns for the kids to blow.  Oh man, did that ever get annoying, but Will especially loved another way to make a lot of noise. 

Afterward we went to my in-laws for the traditional first swim of the year and BBQ.  (Going to miss that . . .)  Lots of friends and family, great discussion, yummy food.  Too bad I didn't take any pics.  I was too busy cleaning up the TWO big poopy diapers that got all wet and gross in Rachael's swim diaper - one that even squished out all over the cement by the hot tub, requiring a bleach clean up.  (The hot tub water was looking a little cloudy after that.) Other than that, a GREAT day.  

On the drive home I couldn't resist a picture of my FAVORITE house in town.  The only thing it is missing is a white picket fence to go with those roses in front . . . 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Different Top Ten

Once again, in no particular order, the top ten reasons to leave this beloved place: 

#1 Exorbitant cost of living.  If we had moved here a decade ago, it might have been somewhat reasonable, but moving here at the peak of the real estate insanity . . . not good.  Southern California is expensive in general, but you can imagine the cost of a beautiful, quiet, safe, small town with it's own school district (which is always at the top in the state) that is just minutes away from both downtown and Hollywood.  That is really what we are paying for.  Not just a community like this (because there are plenty of those all over this country), but a community like this with such close proximity to L.A. and Hollywood.  We don't need either L.A. or Hollywood for Brandon's work, so it doesn't make sense for us to keep parting with our hard earned money.  Not after nine years of sacrifice and toil.  (Plus four here.) And while a bigger home for MUCH less money is attractive, our main motive is to be as debt free as possible and be able to save, save, save for emergencies, our children, our retirement, you name it.  No amount of great weather and beautiful trees can help us feel at peace about our inability to prepare for the future in the way we would like.  

#2 Earthquakes, fires, mudslides.  I know, anywhere you go there is something.  In Iowa it was tornados and flooding, in Utah it will be . . . what natural disasters do they have there?  Just checked wikipedia and they had one tornado in Salt Lake in 1999 and they do get wildfires, but they are pretty much restricted to wilderness areas.  Not bad.  (Isn't there a fault line running through Salt Lake and Utah counties?  That would be funny.  Not really.)  I think if you are from here, earthquakes are no big deal. (That's how I feel about tornados, but Brandon thinks tornados are worse since you sit in your basement and watch the path of the tornado by doppler radar on TV as it edges ever closer to your house.  At least you don't know when the earthquake is coming, so you don't worry about it - this is according to Brandon.) But earthquakes really bug me.  Not the little ones, but the potential for "THE BIG ONE".  I really do hate the thought of being here for that, and they keep promising it is coming sometime in the next 20-30 years.  I am so nuts about it that several times a week I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic simply because Brandon rolled over in bed.  I know, it's dumb, but I can't really imagine what it would be like here if there were a major earthquake.  With all these people, and only one major freeway to get out if we needed to.  You can't even get out of here on a Friday night because of all the traffic. 

#3 The population.  It's way too crowded here.  And many of the people outside our little city walls are obnoxious to live next to and interact with whenever you leave these little city walls.  The diverse cultures in our town all seem to work well together and are on the same page.  Not so in neighboring communities.  There are certain ethnic groups that keep to themselves, don't want to assimilate, yet desire all the benefits that the state gov't is way too excited to dish out to them.  It's obnoxious.  Just last night we went to dinner at The Americana in Glendale - supposedly "the place to be"and truly a visually beautiful place - but the people there were so obnoxious and it was so crowded.  It just made everything seem so hollow and not at all enjoyable!  Brandon deals with many of these populations at work and it drives him nuts.  He has really loved working with his dad, but he can't tolerate working with these people and getting ripped off by them for the next 30 years of practicing medicine - especially the way things are going with Obamacare.  Enough said.  

#4 Fall here is a drag.  Fall used to be my favorite season, winter the least.  Moving to Utah, that will reverse back in place.  I'm trying not to focus on losing the gorgeous California winters, but I have to say every fall we have been here I've missed that back-to-school/football season smell, the leaves changing in September and October, chilly Halloweens -I LOVE fall, and fall here is a hot drag.  

#5 - #10  (I'm tired and everything else kind of rolls into one)  State instability/Political kooks in Sacramento screwing everything up/Deteriorating culture/Insane freeway traffic/Illegal aliens/Being a target for terrorists/Increased lack of water and other natural resources/I'm going to bed . . .

Shrinky Dinks and Other Obligations

Last week was nuts.  (What's new?)  Rachael was sick, I thought I had a kidney stone, I was trying to coordinate a plumber and a handyman to come fix a little thing we needed to take care of before the physical house inspection on Thursday, I had my motherhood class to prepare for and present also on Thursday, I taught a bunch of kindergartners about Brahms one afternoon, there was an early morning kindergarten music program another day that threw the whole a.m. routine into chaos, (and of course Kate needed a special shirt at the last minute for "twins day" that same morning - told me at 7:45), I had a swing dancing class with the 14&15 year-old girls at church one night, there was Open House at the school followed by a friend's going away party another night, a book report, a cello lesson, a science test, and merit badges to work on with Will, and so it goes.  

Sometimes when things start getting too crazy and I'm feeling stressed, I instinctively do things that will at least create the illusion of calm so my stress doesn't rub off on the kids too much.  I think it's as much for me as it is for them.  I try extra hard to keep it cool at home and make things feel "normal".  Even though it's counterintuitive, I will just do something in the middle of all the chaos that feels like we have all the time in the world.  Another reason I like to do this, is because I feel like the little girls get short changed.  When the older two were their age, we DID have all the time in the world.  I only had two small children and no school, no lessons, no homework, etc.  Life really was pretty slow and simple back then.  (It didn't feel that way to me compared to life B.C. - before children - but looking back now that stage was easy peezy lemon squeezy.)  

So last week, in the middle of all that insanity, I indulged the little girls in a craft project in the middle of the day.  Shrinky Dinks.  I always wanted them as a child, but it took my own daughter getting them as a birthday present from her friend, Grace, to actually do them.  Right before I took this picture, I was right down there with them!  It's pretty fun to watch those things curl up and shrink.  And look at the super cute results below. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ode to California

In the spirit of true mourning, I feel compelled to compile a "Top Ten" list (in no particular order) of things I will miss about living in southern California.  Family is the #1 given, and therefore will not even be included on the list.  (Let alone mentioned without tears and great sorrow.)  

#1 As mentioned in my last post, the variety of vegetation constantly changing and blooming year round is PAINFUL to leave behind.  Dr. Seuss moved to La Jolla in 1948, and I'm convinced the majority of the plants in his books were inspired by some of the funky things that grow around here.  Check out this beauty in the side yard of the kids' school:

And this is what I see out my car window when I pull into my driveway.  (The really crazy thing is how little maintenance this stuff requires.) 

#2.  Trader Joe's  Oh, Trader Joe's!  No California kitchen worth it's salt is complete without your accoutrements!  How I will miss you and your mushroom risotto, your vegetable melange, your Gingeroos and dark chocolate covered blueberries, your Hansen's diet soda, your garlic hummus, your cheap, hormone & antibiotic free eggs, your sweet & salty trail mix, your cool recyclable bags, your fresh, inexpensive flowers, your better-than-from-an-Asian-grocery-store gyoza, your check out boys in Hawaiian shirts, your mini beef tacos, your blueberry ice cream, your guaca-salsa.  It is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.   

#3.  The ocean.  What can be said about leaving the ocean?  The smell of the salty air, the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand between your toes, watching the sun set on the water.  And I just barely learned the baby powder trick to wipe away sticky sand!  It's just not right.  I will especially miss our family bike rides at the beach in the winter.  And the ability to drive up Pacific Coast Highway for a short weekend anniversary trip like we did last year to Cambria.  Oh, the pain! 

#4 California style.  There is none.  I mean, obviously there IS, but there are so many different cultures and people here you can wear whatever you want, wherever you want and it's all good.  None of this fussy, super trendy, perfect hair requirement you see in some places.  Classic California casual.  I love that.  Going along with that is just the diversity in general. Look at these pictures I took just today at my kids' school: 

Elizabeth's kindergarten music program. (Going back to family being the worst thing to leave behind, that's Elizabeth's cousin in the white polo just a bleacher up from her.)

"Lunch on the Lawn" with Will and his buddies.

#5 Disneyland.  Knott's Berry Farm.  Sea World.  Lego Land.  Hello - we live in a vacation destination! I'm trying to remind myself that if we move we might actually be able to afford a "real" vacation, but at least it's been nice to live somewhere we could easily drive to fun, vacation spots.  (Bonus: going "off season" when it's not crowded.)

#6  The weather.  Notice the separate buildings behind Will and Elizabeth in the Dr. Seuss tree? The school hallways are all outdoors.  Southern California living is outdoor living.  Year round.  But it's not just the temperatures, it's also the perfect balance of humidity, and the clear, fragrant air.  The air!  I know it's L.A., but maybe it's because we are so high up above the city into the mountains that the air quality is so nice.  I just like the way it smells here.  Sounds weird, I know, but it's true.    

#7  The restaurants.  Brandon and I made a pact over a year ago that we would never go to the same restaurant twice because there are so many incredible places to eat in this megalopolis.  Some of our favorites have been: Firefly Bistro, Mike and Anne's, Il Fornaio, Cafe 140 South, Katsuya, and just last week we discovered Three Drunken Goats,   a Spanish tapas restaurant, where we had bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese, and gourmet churros that came with a little cup of warm chocolate for dipping.  Now I realize that great dining establishments are pretty low on the list of desired characteristics for good places to raise your children, but it hasn't hurt us one bit while we've lived here.  Except in the pocket book, maybe.  (Perhaps that's another good reason to go!) Can't forget the local favorite: 

#8 The cultural opportunities.  If you want to get into Bonsai like my husband, there are some great nurseries for that.  If you need a little Rembrandt in your life, go to the Getty over the weekend.  We have passes to both Descanso Gardens and the L.A. County Arboretum.  (We're actually going tomorrow to the Santa Anita Bonsai Show with the kids.)  Both places have outdoor concert series (LA Phil at the Arboretum) in the summer which is just about my favorite thing in the world: live music in a beautiful, natural setting.  Then there is the Griffith Observatory, the downtown California Science Center, Kidspace Children's Museum, the Rose Parade on New Year's, the Skirball Cultural Center I've been meaning to go to for like three summers now.  That's what is really bugging me.  I had a baby in the middle of our four years here so even though I have lived like a serious tourist as much as possible, there is still so much left to do!  I'm starting to depress myself and just asked Brandon if it was too late to back out of this whole moving thing . . . 

#9  Cool Factor.  This is the lamest thing on the list, but it's just fun.  How cool is it to say that Miley Cyrus came to our Back-to-School BBQ because her little sister went to our kids school?  (Billy Ray came to the school play to watch Noah as Little Red Riding Hood.)  Angela Bassett lives down the street.  We pick our kids up at "Costner's Corner" - a little spot of land outside the walled home where Kevin Costner used to live in the 80's and 90's.  My sister-in-law's family ran into Kobe Bryant's family once while out shopping and had a nice little visit.  With Hollywood just around the mountain, and downtown a mere 15 minute drive away, this stuff is not terribly unusual.  And it's just kind of cool.  (If I had the time, money, babysitter, or inclination, I hear the shopping in L.A. is pretty good too . . .) 

#10 The architecture.  And I'm not just talking about big, old city buildings.  (Though one of our favorite dates was running around gorgeous Pasadena City Hall after eating out one night.)  Since there is no more room to "build out" in this area, if you want a new home here, you just buy a house like ours in a beautiful location, tear it down (you're mostly paying for the land anyway), and - walah! - build your dream house.  There are lots of dream houses in our neighborhood - another reason I think our house sold so well.  There are no developments here with row after row of homes that look exactly alike.  It's refreshing.  Here are a few of my favorites within a block or two: 

Our house is seriously the smallest house on the smallest lot in the whole neighborhood I think.  Being surrounded by so much beauty is almost worth it, though.  

Even though I've already mentioned the weather, the vegetation and the beach, it's the whole package all wrapped up together that makes California such an amazing place to live.  While we've lived here, we've been to the Channel Islands Nat'l Park, Sequoia Nat'l Park, BRANDON has been to Yosemite more than once (I'm not bitter about that at ALL!), skiing in the mountains, camping in the mountains, biking at the beach, camping at the beach, swimming in the ocean, hiking in the mountains in Malibu overlooking the ocean . . . I'm sick about leaving, people!  You here me?  Sick!  

I really do love this place.

Let the mourning begin

We'll start with my drive home - from church, the grocery store, pretty much everywhere:

Too bad it was garbage day when I took these pictures.  (And my windshield was so dirty.)   You can't even imagine how beautiful the light is in the early morning, streaming down through those trees.  I mean, these pictures were taken on my little cruddy camera through a dirty windshield while driving.  (Yeah, not super safe.)  Seeing the real thing is still breath taking to me on any given day.  I know, I know, southern California?  Look at all the deodors.  Someone from Pasadena who looked at our house when it was still up for sale said, "It looks like Oregon up here!"  She was right.  It's very unexpected.  So quiet and peaceful.  Just tonight I saw a coyote running around the neighborhood, and then we get these beautiful hawks circling overhead in our backyard.  Here's a pic Kate took:

There are some homes that have deodors, palms, deciduous and even cactus all in the same yard.  It's like my friend Amy (from San Diego, but now in Utah) said to me (longingly) when I told her I was moving here four years ago, "Anything can grow in California."  And it does.  Anything and EVERYTHING.  The variety of plants and flowers and vines and bushes and trees . . . it's one of my very favorite things about living here.

Another fun thing about living up here is that in one of those pics is the parking lot of my kids' school on the left, and if you are facing the opposite direction you can actually see downtown L.A. in the distance.  You just DON'T feel the city is that close, even though it is.

Our street really is exceptionally beautiful, which is one reason why I think our house sold so fast.  (Location! Location!)

And I'm leaving it behind.  So I'm mourning.

(I'll try not to belabor this whole mourning thing, but it must be done.  I like closure and moving on whole heartedly.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bittersweet II

Okay, okay, okay.

Even though we fell into bed exhausted around midnight, Brandon in particular couldn't sleep.  Feeling completely unsettled, he tossed and turned for over an hour.  Then both of us woke up around 4am so anxious we couldn't sleep anymore.  We simultaneously agreed to get up and go to one of our church's temples in town to try and find some peace about the whole thing.

You have to understand, every move we have ever made has been an easy or obvious choice - or there wasn't even a choice to make.  Not only that, our family was young enough that nothing felt permanent - there were still so many doors open in the future!  For med school, it was easy to choose the University of Iowa out of the other acceptances because my family was there, and it was the best med school of all our options.  For residency, if you don't know anything about the "matching" program, it's sort of like some crazy roulette game.  Med students apply and interview at all the places they'd like to go, they make a list of their top choices, and then they submit their lists to the powers that be.  The residency programs all make their top choices of applicants, throw their lists into the same giant "hat", and then the applicants and programs get "matched" - everyone hoping to get one of their top choices.  (We "matched" at our #2 choice which was right where we were - U of I.) After residency we did do quite a bit of searching, but in the end we felt strongly to come here.  It seemed like a bit of a no-brainer for Brandon to take the opportunity to work with his dad and potentially take over his practice if he wanted.  Of course, both of us also thought it would be nice to live by Brandon's side of the family after almost a decade by my family - especially for our children.

But THIS decision . . . oh, the pressure!  Our shy, oldest daughter is about to start Jr. High and had a hard enough time adjusting to the move here four years ago when she was only 9.  We don't want to move ever again for the sake of our kids stability as well as the reality of needing to establish a solid practice which takes time.  Urology isn't exactly a field where moving from place to place is advantageous.  But if you could go ANYWHERE you wanted - how do you decide? Cost of living?  Good schools?  Family in town? Best job? Safe, family friendly community?  Weather?  Political/religious views of the general population? Cultural opportunities?  Natural beauty and outdoor recreation?  When you start thinking about all the endless characteristics of a good place to raise your family that have value in this discussion and you try to prioritize those characteristics . . . it can be mind boggling.  And when you don't really know in the end who your kids will be friends with, what influences they will come under, what kind of people will be in your school and neighborhood, and on and on . . . it's just not a decision we felt we could make on our own.

(Incidentally, this has been my favorite website for comparing different city stats and this one for checking out schools.)

So to make a long (and I'm sure boring to everyone but me) story short, as we sat there in the temple, we both came back to one of the best jobs in one of the best communities with low cost of living, good schools, beautiful nature, cross roads for both of our families - and as we prayed about it, the feeling of anxiety left us and we couldn't deny that we finally felt peace about this whole moving business for the first time in months.  It's just that it's not a place we really wanted to consider for a variety of weird and unsubstantiated reasons (sort of) so we had been purposely avoiding the prospect of actually committing to go there: it's the job in Utah!  He will work at the hospital in American Fork, but I don't know where we will live yet.  Kind of crazy since we have to be out of our house in 6 weeks.  Doesn't that sound fun?  We are taking a hit on our house of course (bought in '07) so we might rent for a year just to save money and get a better feel for the area, but I know there are some Utah-ites that read this blog, so if you have any good leads, please send them my way!

To sum up my concerns about Utah Valley:  it's just the whiteness of it all.  White snow, white Mormons.  I've gotten really used to my beautiful, lush, green California winters and I HATE to leave it behind and return to long, cold, gray winters (though I know Utah is sunnier than Iowa and at least has world class skiing . . .) And I really like the ethnic and religious diversity here.  Love it, in fact.  In some areas it's "too much of a good thing" if you know what I mean, but in our community it's great.  For instance, Will's best buddy is an Indian whose family practices Jainism.  They are awesome, and I feel like there is so much to learn from diversity, including what you believe yourself.  I am freaking out a little bit at the prospect of being surrounded by so much SAMENESS.  Seriously.  It gives me a panic attack if I think about it for too long.

Utah-ites out there, reassure me!  Please!

More later.  Are you happy?

Saturday, May 22, 2010


We sold our house.  In FOUR days.  Full price offer.  Not only is that pretty unprecedented right now in this town for houses in our price range, but the other houses in town with the same square footage, etc. are going for less.  Sometimes a lot less.  We feel really, really blessed.  Like things are finally falling into place for us after a year of stress and anxiety.

Here's the story:

(First a disclaimer.  I'm not totally sure who reads this blog, but if you are not LDS or religious/believe in the "supernatural" or something, you may not totally appreciate this story. It's also a very long story I am mostly recording for myself so you may get bored really fast.)

A little over a year ago at our church's semi-annual "General Conference" (where our church members gather worldwide via satellite/cable to enjoy a weekend packed with gobs of speeches/talks/addresses on tons of different subjects given by the leadership in our church), my husband and I both had the strong impression after hearing this particular speaker that we needed to move.  Not so much the stuff about addiction, but this paragraph about being in a position to help others really jumped out at both of us:

"All of us are responsible to provide for ourselves and our families in both temporal and spiritual ways. To provide providently, we must practice the principles of provident living: joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies. When we live providently, we can provide for ourselves and our families and also follow the Savior’s example to serve and bless others."

It became instantly clear to us that if we were going to save the kind of money we wanted to for a myriad of reasons - not the least of which was to be able to help others if needed - we would have to move to a place where we could make more or at least live on less.

When we moved here four years ago, we came for Brandon to practice urology with his dad.  We also thought it would be great to have the chance to live by his side of the family after spending nine years of med school and residency in Iowa City, IA living by my side of the family.  We came straight out of residency with nothing, and while we knew this was a crazy expensive place to live (emphasis on crazy), we still overestimated how practical it would be to make it here on a "real" doctor's salary.  (We thought we were positively loaded after living on a resident's salary.)

My sister-in-law found this house in their neighborhood for us, and we signed a lease to rent without even seeing it.  It turned out to be an okay house that needed some work, but in a fabulous, gorgeous, quiet and private neighborhood where our kids could walk to school or carpool with my sister-in-law.  After a year, the owner's wanted to sell the house and offered it to us first.  We were a block away from family, going to school and church together, living on one of the most beautiful streets in town - surely we would be able to make it work financially over time, so why not?

So we bought the house, and over time we made it our home.  We replaced the twenty year old "white" carpet with laminate flooring, painted over the rusty red paint in the living room that backed up to the lavendar paint in the kitchen, took out the four mismatched chandeliers and put in recessed lighting, replaced the leaky roof and pipes (out of necessity), hooked up to the city sewer system (this entire town was on septic tanks until like ten years ago when they started going street by street creating main sewer lines which people then pay to connect to if they don't want to keep having raw sewage seep out of the manhole covering the septic tank under their driveway because they are using too much water - yep, happened more than once), painted all three of the kids' bedrooms, put a little kitchen office in where there had previously been random cabinets, and painted the exterior of the house.  There was also the kitchen mold fiasco, the broken sewer pipe under the kitchen fiasco, the furnace that was replaced after a month of freezing our tushies off in the middle of the night in January . . . we have paid a pretty penny over these four years for the "privilege" of living in a quiet, safe, beautiful suburb of Los Angeles with excellent schools when all we really wanted was to be near family.

The crazy thing is, we had a feeling when we moved here that it might not be permanent.  We always said that after three or four years when Kate was nearing Jr. High we would need to make a decision about whether or not we would stay here permanently.  A lot of people are really surprised that Brandon isn't going to take over his dad's practice.  It seems like such a no-brainer, but even his dad said that if it were him starting over again, he wouldn't come here. Practicing medicine in California now is nothing like it used to be.  (Especially this part of Los Angeles.) There are LOTS of issues that I have learned more than I ever wanted to about, but this isn't the place for that.  Needless to say, the possibility of moving sometime was with us from the very start.

But who wants to live like that?  So we've been living/working/planning like we would stay here forever, and I quickly grew to love this place my husband has loved since childhood - wildfires, illegal immigrants, high taxes and all.

But then we got that feeling after listening to those words, and we discussed it at length on a little anniversary trip a few weeks later, and then we started looking.

There are a shortage of urologists nationwide.  From the very beginning, we were getting job advertisements in the mail from all over the country.  All we had to do was call one physician recruitment company and we were on "the list".  The calls started coming like mad and we literally could have gone anywhere.  A mixed blessing for two people who spend twenty minutes agonizing over what to order at a restaurant.  After a few months we settled on staying in the west because we both hate humidity and love the sun, but we are also big on trees and green so we went for eastern Washington. We took three separate trips up there for two different towns and jobs and finally settled on Spokane.  Gorgeous place, good job.  But when it came right down to it, we just couldn't feel settled even though everything was perfect on paper and fit our criteria so well.  Back to the drawing board.

We started thinking California again since the Seattle to Portland strip didn't have enough sun, both Nevada and Arizona were too dry and barren for us, neither of us was too keen on Utah because of all those white Mormons (funny, I know), and nothing was coming up in Colorado because I guess everyone and their dog wants to live there. (Including me!  It's where I wanted to go before we came here.) That's when Brandon remembered a really great job advertisement for Fresno.  Off we went to Fresno with the kids over a three day weekend and were thoroughly surprised to find a beautiful, affordable place within 2 hours of Yosemite/Sequoia Nat'l Park and not much further to the coast.  We started getting excited about it.  Even though California has it's issues, we just love it here: the weather, the culture, the people, the trees and plants, the ocean . . .

Then we went to Utah for spring break to go skiing and Brandon felt obligated to visit three different practices during our family reunion just because we were there.  St. George was beautiful and I have my good Power of Moms friend that lives there, but the job wasn't so great.  The American Fork job looked really good actually, but . . .  it was American Fork, Utah.  (Come on!)  Then Brandon actually drove like six hours to some rinky dink town in Idaho on the last day of our trip because he just could NOT give up the dreamy idea of the idyllic life in small town America without at least going to see it for himself.  He had toyed rather seriously with the idea of going to either Kalispell, Montana or Minot, North Dakota pretty early in our search, but I told him I didn't think I could do it. And guess what?  His wife was right!  I'm not always and don't claim to be, but in this case - boy, was I ever right.  He realized he could not survive in a town like that any more than I could, but he just HAD to go see it for himself and I get that, that's fine.  He got it out of his system.

So now it's April and we still have no answer.  Summer is looming and Jr. High after that.

The day of our 15th anniversary my mom flew into town and we headed to Fresno for the weekend.  This was not an anniversary trip, though.  We were trying to make our final decision about Fresno and the people up there were working it, HARD.  They sought out the place with the best sushi in town (for Brandon) and all the docs and their spouses came and just talked up that place like nobody's business.  We had yet another realtor tour and saw all sorts of beautiful homes with pools that were infinitely more affordable than our home here, Brandon sat in on some surgeries and talked numbers with all the doctors and administrators . . . blah, blah, blah.  It was all fine and dandy until we tried to go to sleep.

Okay, seriously, it's way too late and I've GOT to go to sleep.  Grand finale tomorrow.  (I really do need to go to bed, but this is kind of fun messing with my friends who I know read this and want to know where we are moving.  Tomorrow, really!  I feel compelled to explain the whole story in all it's glorious detail before "spilling the beans".  Hee hee.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I'm sitting in my mother-in-law's playroom with my two youngest daughters, waiting.  I left my house in immaculate condition at 9:30 this morning, candles lit, soft music playing, fresh flowers in every corner.  We started showing our house on Tuesday.  67 realtors came that day along with 6 individual showings.  Three showings yesterday, 4 today - all spread out in conveniently inconvenient gaps that don't really allow us to go home until 7pm tonight.  I'm exhausted.  The effort required to get my house in hotel-like condition was pretty fierce.  I didn't realize what pigs we were until I started thinking "immaculate".  And you can imagine what it's like maintaining this kind of totally unrealistic facade with a living, breathing, family of six.  I hope this sucker sells FAST!

And THAT, along with trying to prepare and teach a series of 6 one hour classes to a bunch of amazing mothers every Thursday morning as "practice" for the real thing this July at BYU Idaho, is why I have been totally AWOL on my blog.  Which is really too bad, because I have some great pictures and memories that desperately need recording -  not the least of which is William's 9th and Elizabeth's 6th birthday.

So yes, along with trying to get everyone out the door and the house looking perfect, I was getting ready for today's class.  Not the most stellar class to be honest - I just haven't had the time to prepare this week.  Luckily, these are my practice runs, but I really want to give the mom's here the best I've got, so I was a little disappointed I didn't have it more together today.

I'm running on fumes.

More later on the story of why we are leaving paradise, where we are going, and how it all came to be.

For memory sake, the"artichoke incident" set off a series of equally dreamy events I want to remember.  It was one of those rare, nearly perfect nights.  As I stood at the kitchen window washing dishes, I watched all my children play happily in the backyard with a single, tiny bouncy ball for over an hour.  Maybe it was just the music playing, or the way the sun was setting, but I felt so happy seeing them all  together like that.  Then Brandon put "the baby" to bed and the other three climbed up on my bed with me as I read a chapter aloud from "A Wrinkle in Time".  Doesn't get much better than that.

I keep thinking, "this is it", in terms of this golden age when they are all still young.  Kate is twelve and just weeks away from "graduating" from grade school, so I've been feeling anxiously sentimental about her growing up and how that could potentially change the dynamic in our family and push all of us into a new stage in our family's life.

I'm going through a bit of a mourning phase these days.  Mourning the loss of our would-be life in southern California, mourning the loss of my child-bearing years (tho' I really am sure I am DONE), and mourning the impending loss of my oldest daughter's childhood.  (Lucky for me, she is very young at heart and not very interested in growing up fast, but I've been through jr. high so I know what's coming.)  So many changes!

For the most part, I'm pretty much done mourning southern California and starting to feel excited about the move and this next phase in our life.  We feel certain it's the right thing for our family, so that brings a good sense of peace.

But I will undoubtedly do an "ode to southern California" post at some point with pictures galore.

A couple of pics from that dreamy Sunday night:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Miracles Never Cease

I don't know WHAT came over me yesterday at the Farmer's Market when I loaded up my bag with artichokes and brussel sprouts. Seriously?  My usual pick ups are the berries, asian pears, other fruits, my favorite baba ganoush, potatoes, onions, green beans, cucumbers, peppers - normal stuff. (Except for the baba ganoush, but if you haven't tried it you should.) But all those fresh, organic vegetables just looked so colorful and wholesome there at the Farmer's Market.  I started to feel like the health conscious mother of a vegetable loving family just by virtue of being there.  It couldn't hurt to try, right?

I got on and found the highest rated recipe for brussel sprouts.  How bad can anything be roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper? Then I got to work on the artichoke, boiling it until soft so my kids could supposedly peel off the leaves, dip them in lemon butter and scrape off the flesh with their teeth.  I'm sure someone out there reading this is saying, "Yeah?  What's the big deal?" because their kids eat this stuff all the time, but when I told my husband what I was making for dinner he looked at me like I was NUTS!  (And when I told him I needed him to be positive about it in front of the kids because they would follow his lead, he started telling me in Japanese that brussel sprouts were his LEAST favorite vegetable of all time - and my husband will eat just about anything.)

Long story short, I threw away the brussel sprouts after an initial taste test, even though my husband thought I was too harsh and ate four of the little buggers.  I guess I should have tried the kids, but really - they were BAD!

BUT . . . just look at these pictures of MY kids devouring an artichoke.  In fact, FIGHTING over it:

It really is an attractive vegetable.  I mean, look at this:

Maybe I should have tried them on the brussel sprouts after all.
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