June 24, 2011

I like to move it, move it

This is a small room. I mean, really. It’s a nice hotel, don’t get me wrong. Kurt’s new company has done very well by us so far. I think if it was just Kurt and me, it’d feel downright cozy. Add in two little girls and a baby, though, and you’ve got yourself a foolproof recipe for a claustrophobic frenzy on all fronts.

There’s also a certain weirdness to staying at a hotel about 5 minutes away from your own home. I know this area instinctively and as soon as I get to the car the sense of familiarity descends. In this room, though, I find my mind trapped in Vacation Mode. That means (when you have little kids, at least) that we’re in unknown territory, surrounded by strangers and probably have the whole experience bookended by two spiritually unraveling plane trips.

This time, even though I’m sleeping somewhere else, I’m surrounded by all the familiar things of my day-to-day life. We’ve had playdates, visited family, gone to the zoo, even headed to the park right next to the house.

The old house, I guess I should say.

The theoretical move to Texas of last month has become reality at last. The movers started this week and are spending today packing up the last big things. By tomorrow my house will be empty except for the leftover flotsam that lurks under furniture. (Several old binkies from Anna’s baby years were found under our bed. Also, a stash of used tissues stuffed between the bed and wall in the girls’ room. Yum.)

We moved out the night before the movers arrived. I wanted the kids to be settled somewhere away from the upheaval. And ok, let’s be honest, I wanted to be away from the upheaval, too. I avoided the house studiously the first day. Just the idea of seeing it all pawed over by strangers and packed in anonymous brown boxes— ugh.

But, after an initial wave of nausea and sadness, I managed to walk through all the rooms and survive. Which is a good thing, really, because how embarrassing would that have been if I’d puked and started crying in the middle of the empty living room? The movers would have had to walk around me, it would’ve slowed down EVERYTHING.

So now, life is more about the upcoming drive away than the packing away of my family’s things. And now, I’m excited. It’s still sad, but emotionally I’ve moved on to the next thing. I’m ready to go. That’s (more than) partly due to the nerve-boiling pressure of cabin fever. The other part is just about wanting to get started—unpack, explore, find some new haunts, new routines, maybe even (gasp!) meet some new people.

I guess that leaves the thought for the day as this: Even though so much is ending, that also means there is so much about to start. And surprise, surprise, I’m ready for it.

Especially if it gets me out of this tiny hotel room. (The girls were fighting earlier while Jack was napping and I actually yelled, “Knock it off right now or you’ll have to go to... go to... umm... go sit in the closet!”)

June 04, 2011

It's all coming together... except for the loose ends

A week ago I was propping my eyes open with toothpicks (ok, with caffeine fumes), recovering from the nightmarish whirlwind that was our first house-hunting trip to Dallas. I say first because we’ll have to go back this week. I say nightmarish because of the REASON we have to go back next week.
Tornadoes. That’s what it all comes down to. As in, touching DOWN TO the ground in Dallas, Texas. Six of them. Not even comparable to the Missouri and Oklahoma horrors of this spring, but still… tornadoes, right there in the middle of my new home town.

Our plane was supposed to take off at 7:45 Tuesday morning but was cancelled, bumping us to the 4:45 pm flight. We arrived at 2:30 pm to make sure we had plenty of time to get through security with little ten month old Jack in the mix. Turns out we did, indeed, have buckets of time since our plane didn’t take off until after 7 pm. At that point, it seemed that the big storm system through the South had boiled itself out, leaving us a clear flight path.

That’s the thing with big crazy Southern storm systems though. They have to knack for popping up in waves, invisible from shore until the start rolling up the beachfront. By the time we reached Dallas another front was whipping around the city (did I mention the six tornadoes?). Calmly pretending all was well, our captain circled the airport for almost two hours, announcing occasionally in deceptively peaceful tones that he was sure we’d get clearance any minute. Then he pleasantly mentioned that we’d be diverting to Abilene since we were running out of fuel. Sure it’ll just be a quick stop. Back in the air and settled within an hour.

We spent the night at Abilene airport. After three hours sitting on the tarmac, they finally admitted that DFW was closed, all flights were diverted or cancelled and we wouldn’t be able to head back out until 11 am the next day. Sorry, folks.

Oh, and by the way, there’s something wrong with the plane’s starter. We need a guy with a screw driver to head on out and turn it on manually, but we’re positive it won’t be a problem in the morning. Sleep tight!

My son, my ten month old darling baby boy, was amazing. With a calm that put all the screaming, cursing adult passengers to shame, he made giggle faces at his reflection in the windows and slept peacefully in his car seat (they brought all our stuff off the plane) as if he were tucked in his very own bed. Hysterical business-types shouted about law suits at unfortunate American Airlines customer service reps but my baby boy just crawled around the conference room where we’d camped with the other two families with kids. He pulled on cords and scooted underneath office chairs.

We finally arrived in Dallas at about 2 pm Wednesday, approximately 24 hours from our starting time the previous day. We lost two days to the storm (and the tornadoes, in case I forgot to mention the tornadoes), leaving us with an exhausting marathon of house-hunting from Thursday morning to Friday afternoon. We literally left straight from our last house, grabbed a quick lunch and skidded into the airport about 20 minutes before boarding.

We found nothing. Well, not nothing exactly, but nothing concrete. We still don’t know what neighborhood we want, what school is best, which house would be ideal, and so on. Part of the trick with Dallas is that there’s no simple equation to minimize a commute time, regardless of where you live. Farther out you often end up with the same drive time you’d find travelling from closer in, based on traffic knots in certain areas.

And there are SO MANY areas. Seriously, the city is huge (4th largest city in the country, did ya know it?). So many beautiful places, thousands of houses, hundreds of schools, not enough time, not enough time, not enough time.

We head back on Monday, with hopefully less tornadoes diverting our path (though it must be said the staff at the Abilene Airport were beyond gracious, kind and helpful, especially in the face of some of the nastier passengers). But even with the extra three days Kurt’s company has donated, we still won’t have enough time to make such a big decision as where to plant our roots (and our money) in a city so full of possibilities and potential. So we’ll spend this trip picking a rental house in a place we THINK will work out. Call it a test drive. We’ll have time now to actually look through houses, to explore the bazillion little neighborhoods, to learn how to navigate the maze of highways and byways (Kurt was so excited to buy a GPS). In a year, Dallas will be home and we can easily judge where to put our feet up and stay awhile.

For the moment, it’s all chaos over here; basically, we don't know anything we'll be doing or when we'll be doing it until a few days before it's about to happen. It’s nerve-wracking. The children are out of school, bored to tears and tantrums and totally unaware of the big picture changes coming right at them. Kurt is refinishing the deck and scraping paint and staining doors and all sorts of other handy things.

And I? Well, I’m watching the kids. A noble calling in a busy time, but it doesn’t feel very satisfying. Between naps, playdates, errands and time-outs, I’m starting to sort through things. I’m trying to get in all my good-byes. And sometimes, I’m trying not to cry. I want to leave now, just to be done with this part of it. I’m excited and hopeful and very happy we have this amazing opportunity. But with the decisions made, this whole production has gone into a sort of auto-pilot and I’m just being carried along for the ride. There’s no real action for me to take except hold on tight.

Our little detour to Abilene has taken on an increasingly mythical and zen symbolism for me. Sure, it was totally inconvenient. And yeah, the coffee was no good. But we had a place to sleep and kind people trying to make it as comfortable as possible. There was nothing we could do, nowhere else to go. It happened and we could only happen along with it.

And the children took it all in a stride. There’s a lesson to be learned here, people. Screaming at the phone rep is only going to leave you exhausted and hung up on. In helpless situations, take your cue from the babies. Just go with it.