Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Paint

Today the painters covered the wall in the girls’ room with green paint to prepare the house for renters moving in. Lu ran up the stairs, excited to see what it looked like and stopped dead in her tracks when she peered into the room. She turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, “Something’s wrong.” I explained to her about the renters and she kept saying “I just don’t understand. It just doesn’t make sense.“ I gave her a hug and we talked about some of the things she would miss here (her friends, the Babar mural on her wall) and then some of the things she is excited about in her new house (the tree house, the beach, Disney Land) and she then went bounding downstairs onto the next activity, Babar momentarily forgotten.

It’s not the first of such incidents and it won’t be the last I’m sure. For now, Evie seems more confident about moving, while Lucy has more questions and concerns. But with both of them, it’s hard to know if they really understand what it means.

To me, even though my days are suddenly filled with calling moving companies, sorting clothes, making yard sale signs and doing other moving-related activities, the whole things seems a bit unreal. I know our days here - the early morning rush to get both girls to school, the run around the park with Nonie in the stroller, the mid-afternoon attempt at cleaning and cooking while Nonie naps, the walk to pick Evie up and then time to chat with friends while the girls run around with their friends… with three kids, it’s always a bit chaotic, but we’re all familiar with the routine. I try sometimes to imagine a similar routine but with palm trees as a background instead of willows. Like Lu, I have so many questions. Will we meet up with friends to have barbecues in the park on Saturday nights? Is there a good place for me to go running with Nonie in the stroller? Will people take the time to have the kids play together after school or will they all be rushing off as soon as the bell rings? There’s really no way to know until we get there.

Sometimes I find myself wondering what we will miss that we haven‘t thought about yet. In all of my talks about moving with the girls, I had never thought about the murals on their wall until right before the painters came in with the paint. We took a picture of the mural for Lu to keep and remember. For now she’ll sleep in a room painted “Pale Vista Green”. It’s not Babar, but it really is a beautiful color.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

First Impressions

It is a long way to Los Angeles from Frederick when you're carrying a 9 month old, especially if you've been up all night with one daughter throwing up and another daughter who kicks in her sleep. Especially if you love your little town with all of your heart and with each passing minute it just seems further and further away. And if you are struggling to keep still a wiggling, screaming baby whose ears are bothering her, and look out the window and see that you are descending into a giant brown cloud you would probably do what I did: lay my head against the window and think, shit.

The thought didn't dissipate immediately. I'll fast forward through the long wait at the baggage claim, the even longer line at the car rental place, the car in standstill on the clogged, dirty freeway and the greeting by the way-too-attractive receptionist at the office because my sentiment remained the same. I think Toby knew it was better not to say anything at all because he whisked me out of the office, got me some food, and we drove in silence to the hotel. I looked out the window and counted the signs along the road advertising the "bodies" exhibit at a local museum. You know the one - where they have a bunch of dead people posed in different positions. If you saw the 60 Minutes about it, you also know that those dead people come from a warehouse in China and the exhibit is basically about as low as society can possibly stoop. Okay, so logically I know that same exhibit came to D.C. But as we were driving through L.A. I couldn't help thinking that the whole city seemed soulless and dirty.

So my first impression wasn't so good.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that a good meal can change my whole attitude on life. After some food (and realizing I'd had none my whole trip out to L.A.) and a little retail therapy, I felt much better. I then went back to the hotel room and indulged in four back-to-back Sex In The City episodes, where Carrie does some retail therapy of her own in Paris, though she leaves with about 20 bags from Yves Saint Laurent, where I spent $84 at H&M (bargain hunters will appreciate: two skirts, two shirts and a pair of pants for $84!) O.K., so Carrie ultimately decides the move is a bad idea, but my Mr. Big is moving out here with me, I speak the language and already have some friends in L.A. (You can see, the food helped.)

The next day, I felt even better. It's hard to be in a bad mood on in sunny, 70 degree weather. I began my tour of L.A. public schools that have been ranked a "10" by At the first school I visited, in Hancock Park, I was greeted by the principal who reminded me of my old boss, Juana Brown, at Sacred Heart - she had a warm smile and a passion for all things education. As she walked me around the open "halls" with art-covered walls and students planting a garden, I began to picture us living in California and it started to look much better. At Ivanhoe Elementary, in Silver Lake, my tour guide talked about the gifted and talented program there and the strong parental involvement. By the time I reached Carpenter Elementary, in Studio City, where the classrooms were bursting with color from student artwork, I was considerably impressed with the L.A. public schools.

I liked Studio City immediately. It feels a little bit removed from the city, there are great stores, parks and nice neighborhoods all within walking distance of each other. When Toby and I ate at the diner there the next morning, we met a woman (and fellow BC alum) with her daughter in a stroller who talked about the story time at the bookstore every day, the children's bike parade on the fourth of July, the community of parents in the area...I was sold.

To bring it back to shopping, it's usually a good idea to check the price tag before falling in love with a dress. Studio City isn't exactly H&M. We are still reeling a bit from looking at prices, but as far all L.A. goes, it is apparently considered reasonable. I can picture us living there and am hopeful that we can figure it out.

Coming home to cherry blossoms, my mom watching the girls, good friends and our house, the hesitation about moving came flooding back and continues to come back in waves every once and a while. But when I start thinking that way, I remind myself of two things. First, I remember talking to Diana the other day and expressing my concern about moving. She reminded me, "But you loved California." I keep thinking about that - about the vacation lifestyle, the trips to the beach, the incredible hiking and parks nearby and about how resistant I was to coming back east ten years ago. I also think of my dad's toast at our wedding to me and Toby, which was to a life of adventure together. His toast came fresh off the heels of a year in Ecuador and San Francisco, and a life of adventure was a lot easier to picture before we had kids. But when we were out in Los Angeles, walking in the sun and checking out the neighborhoods while talking about what our future holds, it brought me back to Ecuador and to our relationship then, when we had a million things to figure out and were so excited about figuring them out together. It's a good feeling, one that brings us closer, and I think will bring our whole family closer together as well.

So we're off to our west coast adventure. I think that we'll have a lot more ups and downs than in our normal routine, but that's what will make it memorable. And, in case I forget, this blog is to help me remember our journey!