It was the best of vacations, it was the worst of vacations

We’d been planning a trip to the beach in San Diego for six months. We meticulously saved up for it, planned everything, and were going to have a great time.

Monday morning, the day of our trip, my husband woke up and said, “I just had the weirdest dream.”

He dreamed that he was in his college dorm, getting ready to go home. But he looked down and realized that the floor was covered in hair trimmings, like from a barber shop. Then he realized the floor was wet, too. Behind his computer, on the floor, was a crack in the wall with water pouring through. So he was trying to save his computer from the water, and things were getting worse and worse. In the dream, he said, “God, make this stop!” And everything went back to normal. No water. No dirty floor.

I said, “Huh, that is a weird dream.”

And we went on our merry way, packing the kids and the luggage into the car and taking off on the six hour drive from Tucson to San Diego.

Just outside of Yuma, our air conditioning condenser died and took the power steering with it.

Words can’t describe the terror at that rest stop. We got in the car, which started just fine. But as soon as Ryan turned the wheel, the car lurched and died. Having worked on cars before, it took him ten seconds to realize that the dead power steering was trying to draw too much power and making the car die. So he revved the engine and we blasted out of the rest stop. Once we got up to speed, the steering handled … all right … but the car was making a funny helicopter noise.

I was all for turning around, going home, and canceling the trip. But Ryan insisted that the car would get us there, so we grimly pressed on.

With no AC.

Through the desert. In May. During a heatwave.

I was unaware that between Yuma and El Centro lies a strange wasteland called the Dunes.

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It’s only a couple of miles long, but in the growing heat inside the car, it might as well have been the Sahara.

We kept the windows down, drank iced water and sodas, and grimly counted the miles until the mountains between the desert and San Diego. We knew that although the desert was 102 degrees, San Diego was 70, so there would eventually be a cooldown if we could just get there.

Long story short, we did get there. The car handled just fine over the mountains, and the higher we climbed, the more beautifully cool the air became. Descending the last pass into the marine air was a wonderful experience.

We checked into our hotel without a hitch, although the car wanted to lurch and die any time we turned into a parking space at low power. We hauled our stuff into our room (which was very nice, and they upgraded us to a nicer room at no charge), and Ryan set about hunting for a mechanic who could fix the car in one day.

After the heat of the desert, San Diego was almost too cold for us. The kids got into their beds, just because they could, and played gameboys. Hey, it was vacation, after all.

Ryan found a mechanic six minutes away, and first thing the next morning, fought the car down there. The air condenser and the power steering are on the same belt in our car, so when one breaks, it has a good chance of taking out the other. They fixed it, and thankfully, the crazy high price tag came with financing.

That took a whole day. The kids and I explored the area around the hotel in the meantime.

There was a very pretty vacant lot nearby that was full of wildflowers. The kids were enthralled.

The next day, we had the car back, and it ran beautifully. So we went to the beach.

You know, we had VACATION like we had planned. It was very pleasant and the kids got soaked, but hey, that’s what you do at the beach.

The drive home was no big deal with air conditioning. Oh, air conditioning, you blessed machine! And it was even hotter outside, with a  high wind. And we passed a fiercely burning fire in Yuma.

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But we made it home unscathed, and very tired of vacation.

So, it was a nice vacation … and it was a horrible vacation, depending on how you look at it. Most weirdly, it followed Ryan’s dream exactly. I think that was the freakiest thing of all.

Gone in 30 days

So I didn’t blog for most of October. A few astute friends knew that we were moving under short notice. Well, here’s the story:

We’ve lived in an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona for three years. Our lease came up for renewal in September. We signed a new one and went about our business.

Then the last week in September, we found a notice on our door. It went something like this.

“Your lease has been declined because you are over occupancy.” (I’d had a baby last year.) “You have until October 30th to GTFO. Have a nice day.”

After the initial panic died down, we sighed and figured it was a good thing. We had five kids in a two-bedroom apartment. We really did need to move up to a three-bedroom.

We started hunting. And we found that the housing situation in Phoenix is a joke. So many people want to live there, and they’re willing to pay anything to do it, that most apartments are either super expensive or have years-long waiting lists.

While my hubby has a good job, he doesn’t quite make as much as the apartments want. We hit this wall over and over. A realtor finally gave us a list of low-income apartments to try.

Talk about a low point. I looked them all up. With the exception of two (which had massive waiting lists), low income housing is packed into a single giant tenement building. Very little landscaping. Just a big ugly box to cram as many people into as possible.

I have five kids, all of whom like to play outside. Living in a place like that would be a prison sentence for all of us. Not to mention the waiting lists.

We despaired. I cried a lot. We prayed desperately. And suddenly a thought popped into Ryan’s head: why not try Tucson?

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Mount Lemmon panoramic from Wikimedia Commons

We started hunting apartments in Tucson. It’s not having quite as much of a boom as Phoenix is, and the income requirement wasn’t quite as high. We found a 3-bedroom pretty quickly, and with some mathematical shenanigans, managed to make the numbers work so they would let us in.

We drove down a couple of times, and each time we liked Tuscon better. Ryan has lived there a few times, and took us around to some of his old haunts. We also took the kids to a park with a man made lake and let them throw food to the ducks. The mountains are gorgeous. It was like balm to my soul to look at mountains and water again. I’m from CA and have missed both.

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Mount Lemon Sky Island Parkway from Wikimedia Commons

We began packing and cleaning and donating stuff we never use.

Among other things, the ceiling in our bathroom fell in and had to be fixed. During intensive packing. Yeah, that was fun.

Then we rented the truck and started loading.

We had planned to load the truck in a day, drive to Tuscon, and unload in a day. In reality, it took us two days to load and two days to unload. It was just Ryan, me, and the kids. While the kids helped when they could, they’re simply not capable of hauling around boxes and furniture.

On the second day of loading the truck, we had planned to be packed and on the road by noon. The new place’s office closed at 5 PM, and we had to be there in time to get the keys.

Noon came and went. Then one. Then two. We worked harder and harder, and our stuff seemed to multiply. Why do we have so much junk, anyway?

At three, we decided that cleaning the apartment could wait until the next day or so. We hurled the last few things into the truck and high-tailed it out of there at 3:15.

It’s a two-hour drive from Phoenix to Tuscon. We screamed down there in the truck and car. Ryan had called the office and left a message to say that we were running late, and could they wait for us. So we came screeching into the parking lot at 5:30. Thank heavens, the manager was still in the office, though she was ready to leave. We got the keys. We got into our brand new apartment.

And it was too dark to unpack anything. For example, beds.

We bought a Papa John’s pizza to bake in our new oven for dinner. But we didn’t have any plates or forks to eat it with. I pulled it out of the oven with two shirts wrapped around my hands. I had a box cutter in my pocket from packing. It cut pizza all right. I also cut chunks from the cardboard plate beneath it to use as makeshift plates. We turned over a box to use as a table.

Then we (attempted) to sleep on the floor. It was a strange, uncomfortable night.

The next day, we were so tired from loading stuff the day before, as well as not sleeping, that we only managed to unload half the truck. We were assembling beds at 7 PM. That night we actually slept.

The next day Ryan went back to Phoenix to clean the old apartment, finish paperwork, and turn in the keys. I was faced with the daunting task of unloading the rest of the truck by myself.

I had been reading the Song of the Summer King books to the kids. That morning, I told them that we must become Nameless if we were going to finish the job–just like how Shard the griffin made the long flight over the sea on the advice of an albatross.


“Now this.” Windwalker looked forward again, and Shard watched him. “This long flight, my lord, comes at a price. You cannot think. You cannot think, ‘Oh, how tired I am.’”

Windwalker stretched his wings, then settled them into a glide again, and Shard imitated him. Stars rippled above and the moon bathed them and the top of the storm clouds in silver.

“You cannot think, ‘Oh, how far I have to go.’ You cannot think at all. For this long flight, you must give up yourself. To journey across the windward sea, you must let go of your name, and become part of the sky.”

“My name?”

“But it will come back to you. In time. Son of Tyr and Tor. You cannot truly forget, you who parted the storm, and named me. I don’t think you can forget.”

“You don’t think? But are you sure?” Shard had forgotten himself once, briefly, after almost drowning in the sea. Witless, he had climbed to safety on pure instinct, and woken to remember himself just before meeting Stigr for the first time.

“Trust you will remember. Too many thoughts will weaken you. You must be a bit of wind and sky, like me.” Windwalker stared ahead, unconcerned. Shard watched him, breathless fear crawling forward. “Remember only to follow me, brother of the sky. Remember only that.”

“You are wind,” Windwalker intoned. “You are feather and bone, and hunger, and thirst. And wind.”

Shard focused on his feathers, loosing a breath. I am wind. I am feather and bone.

I am wind. Feather and bone.

Wind. Feather. Bone.

Flight and blood and bone. Anything else is death.

Hunger, thirst and hunt.

Flight, feather and wind was life.

Blood. Feather.

And wind.


I had that stinking truck unloaded by noon. So it worked.

Then I had to unpack a mountain of boxes in order to make room for furniture. I’m a bit OCD–I like everything neatly in its place. The chaos of moving is torture for me.

Ryan completed everything on his end, and we unpacked for two days. I didn’t do anything else–I just unpacked for hours on end.

Once everything was done and arranged, I was so tired that all I could do was sit in a chair and stare. “It’s Nanowrimo!” the Internet exclaimed. “Also the election is nuts! Did you hear the latest?”

I sort of stared at the Internet without caring. We just came through our own personal apocalypse. I don’t have the energy to care about big scary things. I barely have the strength to cook dinner and sweep the floor.

So that’s where I vanished to for the entire month of October. Hopefully life and regular blogging will resume now.

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Mount Lemmon: butterfly trail via Wikimedia Commons

A birthday hotdog roast

We went to California last week for my daughter’s 7th birthday. All of my extended family lives out there, so CA is where we go when it’s time to party. Lots of pictures (and captions) following!

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The long drive through the desert. Such a pretty day! And the desert was so green!
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Grandma making friends with the 2-year-old.
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Everybody roasting hotdogs. There were many, many wiener jokes.
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“Why are these taking so long to cook?”
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The kid table, filled with hungry kiddos.
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Ahh, the typical American family–all sitting with their devices. Note the cunning use of umbrellas in the background.
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Lighting the candles on the ice cream cake.
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Dramatic action shot of birthday candle ownage!
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After dinner, the kids played Detective with an obliging uncle.
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My sis-in-law Makenzie is a professional photographer, and took a lot of these pictures. Like this one.
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Family photo–silly faces edition!
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Driving home was smooth sailing until we entered Arizona. There a giant storm awaited us. This is us driving into it. I didn’t take pictures of the hail and lightning because I was afraid we’d die if I took my eyes off the road.
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The dust was blowing like crazy here. Not sure if the camera captured it.

And that’s a brief photographic summary of our trip. It was so much fun! Big families are the best.

Discombobulation

  
This has been one of those weeks when everything happens at once. Let’s try to put things in order.

  1. My hubby has to work the weekend.
  2. Friday night, a maintenance guy comes to the door. Water was leaking under the wall of the apartment next door, and he wanted to check our living room for moisture.
  3. Saturday morning. Water is coming under our living room wall.
  4. Sunday. Hubby is tired from not getting a break. The maintenance guys of course don’t show up. The wetness is creeping across the living room.
  5. Monday. Fully half of the living room is now squishy and wet. I attempt to do school.
  6. This attempt is thwarted by the arrival of maintenance and carpet cleaning. The pipe in the wall had a pinhole in it that was spurting water. We haul all the furniture to the far side of the room. They pull back the carpet, tear out padding, and bring in a fan and a dehumidifier.  
  7. Dehumidifiers are scary.
  8. They suck every last particle of moisture out of the air, your eyeballs, your mouth, and your nose. You feel like you have a cold, even though you don’t.
  9. Tuesday, we’re a dessicated, thirsty family. The carpet is nearly dry, though.  
  10. Wednesday, one of the kids “accidentally” bumps the dehumidifier and shuts it off. Instant relief. The carpet is dry. Furniture is moved to its old place. Order is restored. A missing gameboy cartridge is discovered under the high chair’s base. There is rejoicing.
  11. Thursday: painters put plastic over our windows as they begin painting our building.

As you can see, it’s been a crazy week. I’m looking forward to the weekend, when maybe we can have a break.

    Fourth of July Family Pics

    Here’s some pics from our Fourth of July! We spent it with the clan, and boy, I wish I’d taken more pictures!

    My brother and son drawing pictures while food cooks.
    My brother in law, sister, and sister in law, making Nik’s famous guacomole. It was gone in about ten minutes.
    Chilling in the living room.
    One of my nephews displaying his muscles.

    Being so social!

    I’m one of those extroverted introverts. I enjoy people, but I also enjoy hiding out and never setting foot out of doors for weeks. Because it’s too hot. Or too cold. Or too sunny. Or too cloudy. Or too buggy. Or too … you get the idea.

    The past month, I’ve been far more social than I’d like. For one thing, my kids have a birthday in March, April and May. So that means hanging out with OTHER PEOPLE ONCE A MONTH.

    Shudder.

    Birthday 1:

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    Birthday 2:

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    Which was attended by our out of town friends:

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    This much socialization sent me into my hole for a couple of weeks. Also we all battled the flu and colds. Which is a great excuse for me to never leave the house! “We don’t want to infect anyone at the park/pool/library!”

    And just as my hole was starting to feel a little tiresome, Easter hit.

    We went to this massive park and due to miscommunication, couldn’t find my hubby’s parents until we’d already crossed a whole acre. Dragging toddlers. Carrying three liter bottles of soda and a gallon jug of water. Wondering why in the world I didn’t pack the stroller.

    We finally found each other and had a very nice picnic under the trees, with hungry waterfowl attending.

    For some reason I didn’t pull out my camera until the kids took off to hunt Easter eggs.

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    They went up the hill in 90 degree heat and I stayed where I was. In the shade. With a drink. And a sleeping baby.

    So I’m back to being antisocial. Today I clean my hidey-hole and then I’m going to hide in it. A lot. With a bunch of books and Easter candy to sustain us.

    So thankful despite the flu

    Well, it’s been a fun couple of days. My oldest daughter (she’s about 5) woke up vomiting yesterday.

    I’m so thankful for the washing machine! I can throw all the bedding into it and its not an ordeal, like the laundromat is. This is day 2 and she’s finally feel better. I’m just waiting for the other two to get it. They kept sneaking drinks out of her Gatorade bottle, so it’s only a matter of time. They’re both sleeping with buckets tonight.

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    We tried going swimming. The water was so cold, they’d go in up to their knees, then jump out and grab their towels. Mostly they fished out bugs and leaves.

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    I’m taking a short break from writing. I just finished a rough draft, and my tank is empty. So I’m reading all kinds of books, which I’ll post about once I finish them. Also I’m behind on Grimm! Must catch up before the season finale!

    One of those days

    Today was just one of those days.

    This morning, we got up and discovered that one of our industrious children had relieved Daddy’s shaver of its gear-blades. Daddy had taken his shaver apart to clean it, and left the gear assembly on the sink to dry. One of our children discovered them, took them outside and lost them in a square acre of foot-tall grass.

    So my poor husband went to work, unshaven. When he went to buy a new shaver, he discovered that a bill we’d already paid had auto-billed and cleaned out our checking account.

    Then he discovered that a co-worker has been fired and he’s been loaded up with all of her hours. The money is welcome, but the unexpected stress is not.

    Meanwhile, I had a decent day with the kids. But when I went to make my poor hubby some brownies, I used a little too much butter and ran out of cocoa, so they came out more like a pan of vaguely chocolate caramel.

    Then the baby refused to go to sleep at the regular time.

    Thank goodness the day is over. While I know we’ve had worse, it was just one of those days that the annoyances pile up.

    Cookie exchange

    My sister-in-law held a cookie exchange today. It was lots of fun! The kids ran around and played and ate cookies, the adults talked and laughed and ate cookies, and we drank lots of hot punch. It was cold, wet and overcast, so the kids ran in and out a lot.

    This was some of the cookies up for exchange. More came later.
    The munchkins eating lunch at the table outside.
    Everybody eating and having a good time. This isn’t everybody who was there, only the folks who happened in front of my camera.
    There was much drinking of tea.

    We also did an ornament exchange, which was very cute. The question of hand-knitted ornaments came up. My sister in law has an Etsy shop where she sells her knits, and she makes these lovely little things.

    She also knits zombies.

    I told her she needed to knit some creepers from Minecraft. She asked what a creeper was. Meg, this is a creeper.

    They sneak up behind you and then explode.

    Vacation pics

    We just got back from vacation yesterday. We house-sat for my aunt, who has a nice yard with a swing set for the kids’ amusement. We had a wonderful time. Mostly we sat and watched the kids run around.

    Trees were climbed…

    Grass was picked.

    I also put my aging cockatiel through bird therapy by making him sit on tree branches while we were outside. By the end of the trip, he’d discovered that flying is a wonderful thing, and got grounded to his cage.