Thursday, January 28, 2010

We Made It!

I wrote this yesterday, before we had internet access...

Tuesday has just ended. We have been here a little over 48 hours. Hard to believe! Everything has gone very smoothly. After a nice shabbos with the E Family (and our first time using the new eruv!), longtime dear friend JD took us to the airport at 5:30 in the morning, and with his help getting all four kids there and unloading our baggage was not nearly as hectic as it might have been. It was a tremendous help having a third adult to help with that. On flight #1 to Washington DC, Avi and Raizel pretty much slept for the first half, so D actually READ A BOOK. WOW. When they woke up, Dean was pretty busy with them. Avi was a little fussy here and there, but never anything unmanageable. He just needed lots of distraction. Amirah and Eli happily explored their backpacks and read, colored, and played with stickers. On the second flight, Eli, Raizel, and Avi slept the whole time, so that one was REALLY easy. We got into Savannah, and Dean and the two littles took a rental car home. The two bigs and I grabbed a taxi, spent a lot of time with the driver lost (he did refund the “lost” part of the fare), and finally were reunited with the rest of them. Seems that I knew better where Varn Drive was than he did. Oh, well!

And now the house. It’s perfect. It’s about 125 square feet smaller than our old house (this one is around 1,550 square feet), plus it has no garage. No garage means we lost a lot of storage. On the other hand, it does have a rough attic. Despite that, we and our belongings fit this house like a glove. I can’t believe how everything we have feels like it was meant for this house, and actually works much better in this house than it did in our old house. The one exception is probably our bedroom set, which is really a little too large for the room. The bed and nightstands do fit on one wall, it’s just a tight squeeze. And that’s after we had already decided to give our tall dresser to the boys for their things. The master bathroom is so small, it reminds me of the hotel/hostel bathrooms I had in Guatemala. The floor is about 4’ x 3’, not counting the shower, which has a half-sized opening to get into it! The best part? I’m pretty sure I can clean the entire bathroom in about 5 minutes and my feet won’t even have to move. We’re truly minimalist bathroom people, so it will serve the two of us just fine. The bedroom has two closets, one two doorway widths wide, and the other about half that width but deeper. All of our clothes easily fit into the first closet (and our long wide dresser), so I would love to see if we can add shelves to the second one and use it for educational supplies.

The back bedroom is carpeted and has a couple of windows looking at the back and side yards. We put in a bunk bed for Amirah & Eli, a twin bed for Raizel and a “funny bed” (what the kids call beds on the floor) for Avi. Plus a dresser for girl clothes and some of their toys. The room feels full, but not crowded despite it's average 10' x 12' size. We had debated between a girls room and a boys room versus a kids room and a play room. Then we needed to figure out a place to put the exercise bike, so play room it was. Not sure what we’ll do with my beloved punching bag, though! For half the year, the sun porch would be perfect, but for the hot months, not so perfect. I’m going to buy under-the-bed boxes for all of our bed sheets to put in their room, then the shelves in their closet can mostly be used for games.

The play room is really pretty – rich wood paneling and wood floors. It feels like a room in the cabins we used to rent in the summers. Very nice feeling. We’ll put all their toys in there, plus a wood table for drawing by the window. Right now it’s a bit of a disaster with toys strewn everywhere, but we’ll get it fixed up soon enough. As soon as we find a bunk bed for the boys, we’ll probably turn it into a boys room, but for now this arrangement will be nice.

Now the kitchen. I love what we decided to do in there. There’s one long 8-foot wall, and one long 6-foot wall. Then there’s the wall with the dishwasher/counter, sink, counter and the other wall with counter, stove/oven, pantry. The kitchen is enclosed, with a swinging door like grandma had (in fact much of the house makes me feel like I’m at grandma’s; it was built in the same era). Along the 8-foot wall we took these industrial strength shelves that we had in the garage and filled up the whole wall with those. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE having that. Because the kitchen is private, it can completely serve practicality rather than aesthetics. It looks plain, but not ugly, and all of my dishes and appliances can be located in a second, with all the taller things on top. Many of my canned goods are there too. It’s also neatly divided, with two dairy shelves, two pareve shelves, two meat shelves, and two canned goods shelves. Underneath on the floor are all eight of our grain barrels. Easy access, so no need to keep smaller amounts in smaller containers like we had before when the barrels were all in the garage. The top has just the right amount of space for our larger things, like canning pots, steam juicer, pressure canner, soy milk machine, pickle crock, fruit drier, etc. It looks full but not crowded, and I’m pretty sure we’ve unpacked everything that will go on those shelves.

The only thing really lacking is additional counter space. There are only two small areas, above the dishwasher and between the sink and the stove. The second space is happily taken up with the kitchenaid, cuisinart, and coffee bean roaster, with enough room leftover to mix a bowl or two but that’s about it. The first space is pretty small. We had thought of getting a restaurant-style stainless steel work surface. They’re very inexpensive (1/8th the cost of a typical butcher block style island), and can be purchased locally at a couple of different restaurant supply stores. Even if we only put in a 2-foot wide island, it would make the kitchen awfully crowded. We’re brainstorming ways to create a kind of “murphy table” that could unfold from the shelving somehow. On the other hand, less surface area, less clutter attraction. We’ll see how it goes with what we’ve got. One thing I really love – the enclosed kitchen. I know it’s very anti-trendy to have a kitchen cut off from the rest of the house, but I LOVE it. I can close both doors if I want to. On shabbos, we won’t have to stare at the mess of dishes.

The dining room is a nice size, and we can be flexible with the space and could arrange tables to easily seat 14 (if I wanted to seat more we’d need another table!). It’s carpeted though (I don’t know why with such beautiful hardwood floors beneath it!), so we’re going to buy a large piece of vinyl to put underneath it. Four young kids and carpet just aren’t a good mix. There are three perfect spots for my three favorite pictures so that will be nice, and there’s a perfect wall for the china cabinet. We were also trying to figure out what to do with a few things we stashed out on the sun porch, such as our chest freezer. Then we did a mind meld and came up with a great place for the freezer, or at least we’ll try it out. We’ll put it in a corner of the living room, make a nice fabric apron for it, and make a tablecloth cover for it in a complementary color that can easily be removed to open the freezer. Then we’ll use it for our shabbat candles, flowers, and sideboard (our table is only three feet wide, so this would be very handy!). I think it will work fine. We’ll move it in tomorrow and see how it looks. [NOTE: It looks fine!]

The living room is just right, and SO much easier to arrange this square space than our old long, rectangular space. Our bookshelves, chairs, and couches just fit just right. Then there’s a little nook near the front door that we’ve turned into a mini office space. More out-of-the-box thinking here. Our old computer desk was a junker so we got rid of it. Dean took another shelf (like what we put in the kitchen). Each section is three feet tall. He used the top board to hold the computer at eye level, and another board to hold the keyboard and mouse at the right level. Surprisingly, it’s incredibly comfortable, and basically free since we had a leftover shelf. I think I’ll make a skirt for this too, then some type of covering for the computer so it too can disappear on shabbos. Eventually, we’d love to make a recessed nook in the wall that the computer sits in, then we just close it up when we’re not using it. We could even use the same shelf we’re using now for the keyboard/mouse, and when the computer was closed up in its nook, it would just look like a side table sitting there. The last part of the living room is another nook that I think is just the right size for our learning table and chairs. I had thought we would just go back to using the kitchen table instead, but I think this will work really well. One last thing about the living room – there are these odd brick planters filled with sand (“Yahoo!!” says Avi). They’re there as room dividers (entry way/living room/dining room). I’m trying to think of some useful purpose for them. Some kind of stacking cubes to put on top for storage, or – bookcases?!? Ikea-style? I’ll have to think about it some more. Bookcases (or cupboards) might be just right. I saw a picture in a magazine once where someone used bookcases to set off the entryway, then on the back of the bookcases by the entry way they put coat hooks. I’ll have to look into that one some more...

And finally, the yards. The back yard is great. Lots of sun for future gardening projects. Lots of space for pet ducks (muscovy, please!). It’s easily 8x bigger than our old yard. The kids are deliriously happy with that. It needs a little fencing so Avi doesn’t wander into the front. [NOTE: Done!] The yard is flat and firm (tough grass), so they can ride bikes all over it. There’s a great big oak tree that will hold a couple of swings before long, no doubt. Nothing much in the way of landscaping, but it’s nice and neat. Ditto for the front. We're imagining our vegetable garden beds in one corner of the yard by the house...

We are very, very pleased with the house. I really hope our other house sells soon (well, first gets the repairs done and gets cleaned up!), and then we can make an offer on this place. I would be very happy to call this place home, and I would really hate to have to move again. The owner is very hopeful we will want to buy it too. It would work out well for all of us, it seems. On first glance, there are only very minor aesthetic changes I would make, like remove the bathroom wallpaper and paint it instead. Put in a stainless steel sink. Remove the (treif) microwave and put in a different one. See if we could switch out the stove for one with gas burners. And remove all the carpets and have the wood floors instead.

What do I think of Savannah? Well... I haven’t seen much beyond our house and the grocery store, but I’ll get out and about soon enough. I love the spring-like winter weather. I love the air here. I love the friendliness, and relaxed pace of everyone we have met. The community has delivered meals to us each night, which has been a huge help. I have a feeling I will really, really love living here. Though honestly, I’d be happy nearly anywhere the six of us are all together. I am awfully glad we ended up here instead of in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. I would have been happy there too (happiness is utterly portable), but I think I’ll REALLY love being here! And I’m really looking forward to being so much closer to shul. Our former castle-on-the-hill was getting way too old. I’ll get lots of pictures soon, especially once the house is put together.

One other note - I'm getting lots of lovely e-mails from friends and family, but for some reason I can receive e-mail but not send it out. Please forgive me if I haven't answered an e-mail (especially from MH - congrats on the referral! And JY - congrats on the birth!). I'll have to have my e-mail on one side and facebook on the other and send messages that way, I guess. Gevalt. Should be fixed soon at any rate. We had a similar problem with our long distance service - we could receive calls but not make them. WEIRD! At least the latter is fixed now.

Good night (morning?)!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Over and Out!

This is my last night with a (borrowed) computer since Dean's official last day is tomorrow and he'll have to return the computer. We hit a couple of glitches with the move today, but I'm sure they'll be working themselves out. The first was a glitch with the start date. Too long a story, but the upshot is that Dean has to go to work 12 hours after we arrive in Savannah. Gevalt. I just hope we can produce clean clothes and a sack lunch! He'll work Monday and Tuesday, then have the next five weekdays off. The kids and I will be supervising the unloading of the van in the meantime. I'm sure it will work out fine, especially since I'm just watching the unloading. I'll go play with the kids. Outside! In the back yard! Just got to get those unloaders lined up.

The other glitch was discovering that we will be without insurance during the month of February. Short-term insurance can be had for $365, so that too hasn't turned out too badly. Sure beats COBRA!!! SCAD's HR department was shocked to find out we didn't have coverage continuing from DH's former employer, OHSU (AKA OHS-achoo!). They did a cost-saving measure about a year ago and skipped insurance payments for a month. So instead of paying for the month ahead, employees (and OHSU) were paying for the current month. Saved them a ton of money, and leaves former employees STUCK. Grrrrrrr. OHSU just does not have employee-friendly policies.

All in all, this is really, really small stuff. Tiny blips on the radar. BH our family is healthy, DH is looking forward to a new job, we're looking forward to new adventures for all of us, and hashem has the perfect 8-passenger full-sized van waiting for us in Savannah. Right? :)

We had a lovely going away party at the F-H house. Got to see a lot of people at once. It was a holiday weekend though, so many friends couldn't make it. We've visited friends throughout the last couple of weeks, and have had some very nice visits. We'll be in shul for shabbos, bn, so we should get to see more people then which will be very nice.

We've met with the contractor who will finish fixing up this place. Then it will get thoroughly cleaned (not by us!) and windows washed and it should be good to go. Hopefully on the market by February 1. For $235K, in case anyone is interested. Last spring it went on the market for $265K; our realtor thought it would likely sell for $240-245ish, but we weren't in any rush then. Now we just want to unload it, and our realtor thinks it will go for around $230K. We'll see! It's all funny money, but it's a shame we didn't unload it two years ago. On the other hand, we had a different focus two years ago - adoption! Moving and selling the house weren't exactly on the front burner right then.

So, tomorrow I'll pack up a few more odds and ends, see if our blankets and pillows will fit into two checked luggage bags, add the last of the things to the DUMP pile in the garage, go through our Sunday/Monday food plan to make sure we're more or less covered, add a couple of other things to the kids' airplane backpacks, make a shopping list for that first day or two we're in Savannah, and get ready to vacate! Thursday Dean will be here to help finish up, Friday we'll be getting rid of the car one way or another (salvage or to a friend who will buy it to fix up), make sure all the other details are set, get everyone over to the E house for shabbos. Go to shul (wow). Experience the eruv (double wow) for the first and last time. Then around 5:30 on Sunday morning we'll take a bunch of sleepy kids to the airport. All b'n. :)

I think my mind left when our stuff did. It's definitely been harder to stay on task since then. I'm really just ready to hop on that plane, and I'm looking forward to sitting on real furniture, sleeping on a real bed, and eating around a real table. Tonight our stuff is relaxing in Little Rock, Arkansas. More than two-thirds of the way there!

So, more random, run-on sentences and paragraphs. That's kind of how my head is right now. Looking forward to relaying the coming adventures, and really, really, really looking forward to getting back into our learning routine. We all miss that a lot. Good night!

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Menu

Well, we're managing all right without much of a kitchen. Here's what's in store for this shabbos:

spinach kugel
green salad
roasted potatoes
roasted zucchini
chocolate tofu ice "cream"

And for lunch...

French dip lamb sandwiches

The house is pretty empty now. The main problem: with nothing to absorb sound, everything is quite LOUD now. With all the wood floors it just echoes (and echoes and echoes). I don't want to spend much time at home next week. It's just not very pleasant when they're a bit rambunctious. On the other hand, eating on disposables is surprisingly quiet. Mealtimes are very hush, hush. I miss sitting around a table, but the brick fireplace has made an okay substitute for the kids.

The truck is packed and is being picked up in the morning. Off goes our stuff! We'll mail a few boxes in a week, but otherwise we're done. No washing machine, so I've been doing laundry every night in the sink. Not too bad. We still have the drier here. We sent the washing machine ahead and will use the landlord's drier. Our drier we'll just sell. It's been nice to have a way to do laundry semi-efficiently.

Our food supply is dwindling at just the right rate. I hadn't been stocking up like I usually would since we kept hoping to move. We haven't been buying many groceries; just using up what we have around. We're using it all up pretty well. I did stop and get kosher nori and wasabi in case that's not easy to find in Savannah; enough for four meals. Yum. And four boxes of Jo Jos from Trader Joe's. And bringing some Tillamook cheddar with us. We have a 2/$5 coupon somewhere, so hopefully we'll find that soon and lay in a mini-supply. Best cheddar ever; way better than most of the readily-available kosher brands which are mostly just so-so. I sure miss the $2.50/lb kosher cheddar Costco used to carry. Alas. All that plus my Bob grains/beans are the only food supplies I'm bringing. Looking forward to meeting new brands. And we all hope the cottage cheese there is good. We're very much into our cottage cheese around here! I will definitely miss Trader Joe's and Bob's. Small price, however!

The coming week will mostly be about visiting with friends, cleaning up this house, and getting all the repairs scheduled, windows cleaned, carpets steamed, and a final cleaning scheduled after we leave. Lots of little arrangements. Then we'll spend our last shabbos here at the home of very good friends. I can't believe this is the last shabbos in our house! And two weeks from now we'll be in an entirely different city. Really strange to think about it. It still doesn't feel quite real. The move so far has really not felt stressful. Tiring, yes, but there's been a lot to do! We're just definitely doing the right thing for us.

Eli is the only one who has expressed any sorrow about leaving, and only once did he say something. Yesterday he said, "Mama, I don't want to get a new house." I reassured him that we would all miss this house and that we have loved living here for all of his life, and that his new house would have a really big back yard. "But I want a tiny yard," he said. I got a brief, slightly sorrowful snuggle, then he snapped back and roared back into his Eli antics. Not another word about it since. Mostly the kids have expressed gusto for the adventure ahead, but I know the change will be stressful even if it's a really good change.

I just hope the plane ride goes smoothly. The only one I'm really worried about is Avi. I have a feeling we'll be jogging up and down the aisles with him the whole time. He does NOT like to sit still. We have to get up really early on Sunday morning to fly out, so I'm hoping he'll sleep. We'll bring his carseat, and hopefully he'll take a nice long nap in a familiar place.

Well, getting a little ahead of myself. First, the rest of shabbos (I hope!). Good shabbos to all!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Menu

Ah, shabbos. Phew!

gefilte fish
roasted lamb
roasted zucchini/red pepper/carrot/onion
roasted cabbage
baked potatoes with tofu sour cream
caesar salad
pear cake pudding (?)

First, roast your beans, and make a REALLY good cup of coffee. Then have another cup.

Chop, chop, chop the veggies.

Take all the fat off the meats (lamb for today, chicken for tomorrow) (CAVEAT EMPTOR: Solomon's "lamb roasts" look like a good deal, but rolled into the center of the "roast" are the biggest pieces of fat I've ever seen attached to meat; I weighed it and they have consistently been 35–40% FAT; lamb is never a frugal option, and this makes it completely afrugal; gevalt).

Visit your friendly garage freezer and pull out lots of challah, one of the 87 (okay, 6) salmon gefilte fish loafs you made a few months ago, and a ginger pear loaf cake that's much too small because you cut off the burnt edges.

Throw everything into the oven that needs to go in the oven.

Cut up the cake, add soy milk, eggs and brown sugar. Cut up three pears, mash it all together and bake (and yes, it turned out fine!).

Whiz together the tofu sour cream, then the salad dressing.


OOPS. Forgot the croutons. One hour to go, more or less. Can probably squeeze those in. :)

I realized this morning that this was our last chance to visit our beloved Bob's Red Mill. We went and got 50 pounds of flour, black beans, chick peas, oat bran, popcorn, and organic soy beans (I had a 50% off coupon, so saved $20 on those!). A little teff flour too so we can make injera (Ethiopian flatbread) a few times. We had a little snack there, said goodbye to the mill wheel, said goodbye to the real Bob who was there passing out popcorn, and brought home something to refill our grain barrels which are heading towards empty. Yes, I know they have all this and more in Savannah, but I have an irrational attachment to Bob's beans and grains. And why pack the truck with stuff half-full? We're paying by the linear foot, not the pound, so might as well fill as many empty spaces as we can. I also found out that if we put together 500-pound orders, they will do free freight shipping. I bought 175 pounds of stuff today, so if I found a few other Bob aficionados, maybe we could put together a big order. Ah. Sniff, sniff. Something burning? Better run!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Quote of the Week #2

This afternoon we went to pick up papa at work. Amirah and Eli asked what the arrow on a nearby sign was for. I said that it pointed to the entrance to the School of Nursing (where papa works).

Amirah: Does that mean papa is learning to nurse?


Um, no!

Quote of the Week

I snuggled with Eli and talked quietly with him after everyone else had gone to sleep last night. Ah, boy cuddles.

Eli: Mama, I think I only have one story in my head.
Mama: Why do you think you only have one story in your head?
Eli: Every night I have the same dream. I dream that a train comes straight out of my body, flies up to the sky, and after a while comes back again.
Mama: What does your train look like?
Eli: It's the color of air.

A neshama (soul) dream for sure...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Packing, Packing, Packing

No time to write much. There's a lot of packing to be done. Add that to the regular to-dos that a family of six that learns at home has on their plate and - WOW - there's a lot to do! We're doing minimal learning time right now, and next week we might take completely off. After lunch I've mostly worked on packing, which for the kids pales in comparison to the usual interesting learning or outings we do. Considering, the kids have been great, and even though I really don't want to with the moving truck arrival looming, I think tomorrow we'll take the morning and go to OMSI and have a good time there. Dean and I will have all day Sunday and Monday to get the rest of the stuff ready to go on the truck. The kids will go to the neighbors for a couple of hours on Monday, and I have a couple of other friends who have offered to take them for a little while. I'm actually enjoying the packing a lot. Whittling down our possessions even further, more loads to Good Will, lots of recycling going out. I would say we're probably 50% packed at this point, so not too bad. I'm trying to finish off an entire room each day.

Wow, that was a few run-on sentences! Kind of like my days. I won't even try to edit them. I'm pretty darn tired. I even dozed for an hour when I put the kids to bed tonight. I also realized I don't have to make what we don't put on the moving truck fit perfectly into our luggage. We can just mail a couple of boxes to Savannah our last day here. Being in a house with no furniture for a week will be a bit odd, and I haven't quite pictured how that will be. Picnics?? We can borrow some folding chairs, probably. Maybe even a little table. Probably a bed too. The kids *love* sleeping on the floor, though. That's their favorite kind of bed. We call it a "funny bed."

If I keep typing I'll just write random snatches of things that pop into my head, so it's probably best that I get this tired mama to bed so she can leap up tomorrow morning, make a picnic, and take The Band to OMSI.

Which reminds me... we just finished the 2,481 pages of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole series on shabbat. What a *fantastic* series of books. We did not read books 9-11 in the series (that would have made the series over 3,000 pages!). I just learned that these were not originally intended to be part of the series, but rather a spinoff series. We started book 9, but were impatient to get back to the characters and story we had enjoyed so much in books 1–8.

The author, Kathryn Lasky, has also written quite a bit of historical fiction for children and we are looking forward to reading those books too. I can't say enough good things about this series - the language, the role models for good character, compelling plot, the distinctly Jewish flavor, everything. It was very, very sad that we reached the conclusion. I'm finding that good contemporary children's literature is very, very hard to find. Now, really, off to bed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Menu

Phew! What a week! Here's the menu...

mashed potatoes
steamed spelt
steamed carrots
caesar salad
zucchini latkes
cranberry coconut ice "cream"

and for lunch...

salmon gefilte fish
lamb stew
marinated mushrooms
spelt salad
pear crisp
and everything else from dinner

11 days until the moving truck arrives! We changed it to come on the 12th so we stand a good chance of having our things the day after we arrive. I think it's easier to live here for a week+ without beds, kitchen stuff, etc., than it would be to live there. So... oy va voy, here we go! Still surreal.