Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giving Thanks Week

Finally, finally, finally, he came HOME! After dropping him off at his dorm in Utah, way back in the middle of August, I've missed my oldest boy every day and couldn't wait to hug him again. Finally he arrived to join his pack of brothers. (I can't wait to get their big sister in this picture...)

He's been out-grown by one younger brother,and the odds say the little one will tower over him in a few years too. He doesn't mind though. Pilots need to be small statured (or so he tells me.)

We had a fantastic long weekend...full of a wide variety of activities. We had a wonderful, simple Thanksgiving meal, and were joined by a college friend from New York. She took Meredith's spot, until my girl is back with us.

Isaac got a lot of practice driving in, trying out his new permit on many Colorado highways and back roads. This is one time when I'm happy to let Jeff call "shotgun!"

Sam and I did some old fashioned coloring. I colored flowers and lighthouses. He colored Halo video game characters. Great mother/son bonding time, either way.

We spent a huge chunk of time showing Michael all the bike parks we've discovered in the area. He was as pleased and excited as we thought he'd be. He's ready to get back for Christmas break, so he can perfect his BMX skills and catch up with little brothers.

There were a few video games played, by 'everyone' in the family except me. I still don't have a clue how to use a controller. But none of them can use a sewing machine, so hey, we're even.

We made great use of the new couch/futon we were given by an old friend in Boulder, who was doing some house decluttering. It's changed the way we live, finally having a couch. And Michael sure enjoyed not sleeping on the floor. The advantage was his, since our mattresses are still on the floor, within easy access to lonely cats and dogs who love to 'snuggle/suffocate' in the night.

We played a few fun rounds of board games. This night of Settlers I actually won. The only one at the table who really has no competitive bone in her body and usually just plays to put more players on the board. I have to admit - it was kind of fun to be the victor for once!
We also played a few rounds of The Awkward Family Photos board game. That's always good for a few laughs, although my witty Isaac seems to win every single time with his quick, hilarious answers.

I seem to remember that getting filled up with homemade cookies and buying new clothes are the two main reasons to come home from college, so we ended up in the Target Men's Department, where everyone found a few new treasures. Isaac just loves trying silly things on to make us laugh. It works.

Oh, did I mention we hit a few bike parks? As in about 12 hours total, throughout the weekend. The more time we spent there, the higher their jumps got. This is my little one, soaring through the air with no fear. He gets that from his dad's side apparently.

This little guy counted down the hours until big brother got home. He rarely left his side, and only sobbed for half the morning, when it was time to take big brother back to the airport.

A rare moment when I was able to convince them to stop long enough for me to take a picture. This seems to be their 'natural habitat', where they thrive the best.

And then it was time to visit DIA and let my boy go again. We watched him all the way through security, from our perch on the level above. Then he gave us one last wave before he disappeared down the escalator that leads to the gates. The weekend went by way too quickly. But it was a good trial run, for the four weeks we'll spend in December, when he is back, his sister is finally here, and there are SIX of us living in this cozy condo.

I'm off this week to meet a moving truck in New York, and reclaim all of our personal possessions. Correction: I get to see our personal possessions, as they are being loaded into a moving truck and hauled off to storage for three months. But slowly, slowly we are moving away from NY and placing our roots in Colorado. We've never taken this long to make the break before but the crappy NY housing market took a huge bite out of us.

I look forward to another week of adventure, finally reuniting with my girl back in NY, and having a long drive across the country together as she arrives at her new home state.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time Marches On

Our sparse furnishings for the past few months, including Sam's minimal birthday celebration.

Getting geared up for a couch to go where the table is now. It almost feels like a home.

(This is NOT the couch we picked, but I love this shot of my 'good sport' husband.)

It’s time to reorganize. I feel like I say that about every six months, as life circumstances change, but this time I really and truly mean it. The calendar is bearing down on me and I need to be ready.

Thanksgiving is two weeks from tomorrow. That’s the day my life goes into hyper drive. Either by train or plane, my college boy will be returning home from school, and I’ll get to hug him for the first time in three months. We’ll also be welcoming another visitor to our feast table. One of Michael’s best friends in NY has a sister who attends college in Denver and cannot get home for this holiday. So she’s joining our family. It’s a tradition my mom upheld through my childhood and I’m pleased to pass on.

So that weekend will be a blur of cooking in our tiny kitchen, serving meals on fancy paper plates, cleaning up as we joke around, and then lots and lots of board games. It will be over in the blink of an eye, I know.

Then as soon as Michael steps on that train platform, or boards that plane, I will be packing for my own trip. The last day of November, the day after my 45th birthday, I’ll be flying back to New York. For one long weekend my daughter and I will do one last purge, weeding out any item that’s not worth hauling out to CO. More loads to the dump, as trash, and to use their wonderful ‘free pile’.

Then Monday morning the packers arrive. For two days they will pack and box up all our belongings. I will have carefully kept out any items we might be needing in the next six months (that will fit in Meredith’s car) since all of our stuff will be going to storage until late spring. I’m trying to remember that ‘more Legos’ are high on that priority list.

Wednesday of that week the truck will be loaded and drive out of our driveway with all our worldly belongings. Meredith and I will spend a day getting the house ‘broom clean’ and then we set off on our own cross country drive together.

It will be the fourth time I’ve made that 2000 mile drive in the past nine months. I know it well now. This time we’ll hopefully have time to stop by to see some of my family, as we pass through Missouri.

Two days after we get back to CO, we load up the new Suburban and head to Utah. It will be time for Michael’s winter break. It will be our first ‘all family’ trip in years. I can’t tell you how excited I am for those moments. We travel well together, and I know the kids will feel like ‘kings’ in our new, bigger vehicle.

(Isaac already admitted that every time he gets in the Suburban he feels like it’s a rental car…it’s just too nice to be ours!)

When we arrive back in Colorado, two weeks before Christmas, we will figure out how six of us are going to fit in this space that has barely fit the four of us for the past few months. That’s where my schedule right now is affected.

I’m the mom. I will be the one who will pull off this feat, of having six very tall, independent people, living (and eating!) in 800 square of living space (with a dog and a cat). Bed space alone is a hurdle I’ve been brainstorming about for weeks.

I have to solve these problems now, because once Thanksgiving hits, my schedule is full and I don’t come up for air until the moment we pull into the condo parking lot in December, with six people unloading their stuff.

I am not even allowing myself to think about the fact that at the end of that journey Christmas will be a few weeks away and again, as the mom, I will have things prepared for that too. It’s always a trick, in the new house, to figure out how the holiday ‘goes’, and this year will be even trickier than most.

We’ve always known we would be getting a new sofa in Colorado. We dream of a large sectional, that we all could fit on to watch movies. We’ve never had that. We lived with my childhood, fifty year old couch, for every year of my kids’ upbringing. It’s time to get a couch that works for us.

But knowing we’ll be in this condo for at least six more months, a huge sectional is not going to work. So we need a temporary couch. One we can sit on to watch movies (we don’t have cable at the condo) that will also work for the person who didn’t get one of the sacred mattresses.

Right now we’ve had only a thrift store kitchen table. On one end we eat meals and on the other end we have our mini office set up. I live by the computer so it was high on the priority list to get an office set up. We also watch our few favorite TV shows on Hulu, so our computer monitor has become our TV screen.

This set up will not work for six people. For one thing, there’s just nowhere to sit down. Right now we either sit on straight back kitchen chairs to watch computer/TV or recline on the mattresses on the floor to read a book. We really, really, really need more (comfortable) seating, especially if this place is going to stop feeling like ‘temporary living’ and start feeling like a home.

Last weekend, we left the sports bar after my Seahawks (again) lost their game, and headed to the furniture store. While the boys hung out at the bike park for hours on end, Jeff and I sat on three bazillion sofas.

We didn’t want to spend a lot. This will be the ‘extra’ sofa, once we get the big sectional sometime next year. But it needs to be comfortable and it needs to be long. All of my kids, with the exception, for now, of the 11 year old, are five foot ten and taller. We need a couch that could accommodate a tall person stretching out for the night.

We finally found it. It was the longest one we found, fit the budget, and is comfortable to sit on as well. It will work great for our red box movie nights and also for the sleeping accommodations we’ll need for the month of December.

So the computer had to come off of the kitchen table and I had to make the living room work as a living room. Once again, the Habitat for Humanity Resale store saved the day. We’ve shopped at them in every state we’ve lived. We’ve always found treasures at great prices. It’s a fun way to feel like you’re ‘recycling’.

Yesterday I popped into our local branch and found a great TV stand and a small, perfect computer desk, then paid 30 bucks for the both of them. The computer desk even came with a rolling chair. Bonus!

Last night we moved the computer to its new home, and moved the TV out of the boys room. The kitchen table got cleared off, wiped down, and moved to the center of the room. For now we’ll still sit around it to watch our Hulu shows, but next week, when the sofa comes, we will officially move it to the small dining area. And if all goes according to plan, this place just might finally feel like a home.

The two older kids will never know how this condo felt for the past few months, when it was just the four of us, getting by on what we could find at thrift stores (while all our favorite furniture sits in a big vacant house in NY). But it was a bonding time for Jeff and me, and the two boys we now have in our immediate, day to day family. We’ve been carving out our new life in Colorado, and this small, nearly empty condo has been our home base. It’s worked. It’s safe and warm and clean.

But in just over a month, it will be brimming with a huge family. And we’ll find a whole different life, as we all learn to live together again, in this new space. I just hope all my planning, all my work in the past few weeks, comes together.

And for each one of my kids, this place feels like home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Life and Lemons

One of the tricky parts of moving to a new state is holidays. There’s the expected glitches, like trying to figure out where the tree should go in the new house when Christmas rolls around (in front of the window or in the corner out of the way?...) And there’s the new arrangements to be made, as some relatives are now too far away to visit on Thanksgiving and yet some are, for the first time, close enough.

For my kids, one of the most important holidays to figure out, way ahead of time, is Halloween. Every region of the country, every town, every neighborhood, has their own way of doing things on this all important kid holiday. You must figure out where everyone goes to ring the doorbells, if your own neighborhood is not conducive. You must pay attention to flyers on the grocery store bulletin boards and ads in the local papers, or you might miss the big community celebration just down the block.

When we lived near Washington D.C., our small street didn’t really participate in the trick or treating tradition. Instead we joined a family who lived nearby, and drove the kids to the nursing home, where the other family’s grandmother lived. The facility had set up stations where the residents could hand out treats to the children who showed up. Our kids got a bag full of candy, and a whole bunch of senior citizens had a ball, oohing and ahhing over all the clever costumes.

This Halloween found us as new residents in a mountain town in Colorado. We still have one child in elementary school so it was my job to figure out the system here. I happened to luck out when one of the room moms from my son’s class emailed about donations for the class Halloween party. I offered up some paper plates and napkins, then proceeded to pick her brain. If you can’t trust a room mom to tell you the scoop, who can you trust?

She informed me that all the parents show up at school to watch the all school costume parade, then they all file down to their classrooms for the parties. After that, everyone heads to our tiny downtown, where all the local businesses hand out candy and the lines of dressed up children becomes something like a second costume parade.
For round three, there were certain neighborhoods where you could hit the most houses, while climbing the fewest amount of hills. Much of our town’s population lives on remote, winding mountain roads. To snag a somewhat compact neighborhood, with plenty of porch lights on, was a gift.

Armed with that information, Sam was ready for his big day. But I still had another child to think about. Fifteen year old Isaac.

Isaac’s at that really hard age when you mostly want to be seen as a grown up, but on a few key days of the year it would be nice to be little again. Birthdays and Christmas are harder when your list doesn’t include half of the JC Penney toy catalog. The only fun things you can think of usually cost more than your parents are willing to spend.

Halloween becomes a problem too. Who doesn’t like free candy? But the ability to get grub for free depends on dressing up in a costume and ringing doorbells, right next to toddlers in teddy bear outfits. The scene is further complicated if you’re the new kid in town and risk social torture if you’re seen out fraternizing with those lowly elementary aged losers. This was where Isaac found himself last night.

He came up with a fantastic costume. He wore a plain white shirt with the word ‘LIFE’ across the front, and he carried a bowl of lemons. He was ‘Life, handing you lemons’. It’s pretty appropriate for our family this year, as we’ve hit many snags in our effort to move across the country.

There was no way he was lowering himself to go door to door with his little brother. Even worse would be heading out alone. His friends had been non-committal when he’d asked around at school. So he was stuck with me. He was stuck sitting by the front door of our condo unit, waiting for little kids to knock.

He was a pretty good sport about it, especially considering I told him I’d give him the leftover candy, if he helped me hand it out. We watched skits from Saturday Night Live on Hulu while we waited to hear footsteps on our stairs outside.

Then the heavens opened and his night turned around. He opened the door to find one of his best friends from school standing there, with his little brother. One was a ninja, one was a banana. I’ll let you guess which costume belonged to the cool high schooler.

With one friendly, “Hey Isaac, wanna come with us?”, my boy was gone.

He gathered his lemons, threw on a jacket, and was out the door in a flash. An hour later he came back, with a pillow case half full of candy, grinning from ear to ear. No sour lemons here.

We survived. Another Halloween of firsts and we got it worked out. I bought way too much candy, after being told by a neighbor that our condo unit usually had lots of kids show up. But it worked out well, when I overheard our downstairs neighbor tell some costumed kids she had run out. It was nice to be able to share my loot with these people we share so many walls with.

Isaac survived another transition into the world of big kids. Next year he’ll have his license and the whole story will change again. But we won’t be ‘new’ anymore. We’ll be experienced, with one good year under our belt.

Isaac had such a good time this year he’s already talking about next year’s costume. I haven’t been listening closely but it has something to do with stuffed animals hanging from an umbrella. My clever boy is scheming and dreaming and may show up on our neighbor’s doorsteps dressed as the phrase ‘raining cats and dogs’.

Or he may just be too cool to trick or treat at all.

We’ll just have to wait and see.