Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Ramblings

Violet is sick again (AGAIN! STILL?! I cannot bear it!) so we stayed home from church this morning. This has been the most ridiculous 4 months of illness we have ever experienced, mostly Violet-centered, although Grace and we adults get some of it as well. What is the explanation for this? Just random bad luck? Is there something wrong with her? (I am 90% sure she has my style of asthma with irritated airways at the tail end of an upper respiratory infection, but is there something else?) Some difference in climate and thus the virus pool compared to what Grace experienced at the same age? Too much travel? Our giant church's giant nursery? I really want to know, and I really want to FIX IT so we can be done with the snot and the sleep disruptions and the coughing and the misery. It is putting a serious damper on our quality of life.

I would really like us all to be healthy by the end of this week because we are leaving town again (AGAIN! This spring is totally kicking my butt!). This time, we are going to California to visit Robert's parents before his dad has a big surgery for his cancer in mid May. He has finished up the first round of chemo and radiation and is currently healing up from that before the surgery, and then he'll have another round of chemo and radiation after he heals from the surgery. It's been a little over a year since our last visit to California and it will be good to see them in their home surroundings.

Speaking of cancer, our dog Abbey is dealing with it again. While we were in Chicago, she went to the vet for an extended visit and had surgery (AGAIN!) to remove a tumor in a lymph node. They think it was a metastasis of the doggie breast cancer for which she had that doggie mastectomy last year, which is not great news certainly, but she seems to be doing well. Abbey is certainly aging and dealing with a lot of health problems; fortunately nothing yet has really dealt a serious blow to her quality of life and she still trots around the house happily if slowly. I have told her that I expect her to keep this up and be the world's first immortal dog.

We drove around a lot yesterday to go to the birthday party for the sweet 2-year-old son of some friends of ours (Jeremy was the best man at our wedding!) who live about an hour away, so we saw a lot of billboards. Specifically, we saw a lot of billboards for the local Christian music station which uses the tagline, "Safe For the Whole Family." GAH. Wrong on so many levels.

Grace is confused about the meanings of the words "city" and "building". She thinks the former basically means "tall skyscraper-ish building" and is proving hard to disabuse of the idea. Also, she has asked me multiple times why sometimes we can see the moon in the morning and evening but my explanation about the phases of the moon never seems to satisfy her. It is a lot for a 4-year-old to digest at once (round Earth, orbits, rotation of Moon, and so forth).

Violet is adding a lot of verbal communication to her repertoire these days. A recent addition is "TA DA!" which means, "Look at what I have done" or, "I have completed this task." Another one is "AT-CHOO" which means, "Thank you." This is rather confusing to all the clerks and waiters and other people she is always trying to thank.

Rob's job hunt appears to be nearing a successful conclusion! Hooray! He is currently negotiating a contract so hopefully soon we will have some definite news about where we will be headed at the end of June. Which is, I now realize, two months away. What we do not have a contract for is our house. Our house has now been on the market for 5 weeks; we have had a lot of showings and get a lot of positive feedback from the prospective buyers but no offers yet. Now that we are over a month into the process, we have fewer showings, which is of course normal but also disheartening. The good thing about that is that the showings are almost all on the weekends now, which means Rob is home and I am not doing the wrangling-children-cleaning-house juggling act on my own. The bad thing is that when we do have a showing during the week, I have had more days without showings to let the house get messy and it is a real Herculean effort to put the house to rights. It is hard not to resent the people who come for showings; is that a terrible thing to admit? I know we need them to come but sometimes I feel annoyed with them. Don't worry, though, prospective buyers-- I have a very easy way for you to get back in my good graces. Make us an offer! And while you're at it, why not make it for more than our asking price?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Back From Chi-Town

Yesterday we survived yet another plane flight and have arrived back home safe and sound after our trip to visit my parents in their new home in the Chicago area. We've been meaning to get up there to visit them since about January but circumstances have conspired against us and we only just now made it up there. Rob had a board review course that just happened to be there so we made a family trip of it and all flew up there together. When we arrived at Midway, we split up, Rob heading downtown by the train to where his conference would be and the girls and I heading out to the suburbs to my parents' house.

Hard at work

I was struck by how similar the area where my parents live now is to the area of town where they lived here in Texas. I think this is mostly because both places are a) flat and with deciduous trees and grass and whatnot (my mind is still reeling from how DIFFERENT New Mexico and Utah were, I think) and b) suburbs built up in the 1980s or so. They live sort of between Wheaton and Schaumburg, for those with a smidge of familiarity with the area. And their new house reminded me so much of the one they most recently left here in Texas, which I'm sure can be attributed to the fact that they are both houses of the same era and, of course, the same people are living there with the same furniture and painted in the same kinds of colors. I wonder if people would be able to tell that the houses I have lived in were decorated by the same person... It is an interesting question at the forefront of my mind, since our house is currently on the market and we just did some real estate hunting on our trips to Santa Fe and Salt Lake City. It is funny how big of a glimpse into people's lives you can get from their houses.

Splish splash

Anyway, we did some really fun things while we were there-- an AWESOME children's museum, a little zoo in Wheaton, a working 1890s-style farm, the big Legoland place full of amazing stuff built out of Legos and fun things to do. The girls and I didn't make it downtown this trip (it's about an hour by train and even longer by car what with traffic and parking) but I hope to another visit. Rob said he really liked downtown Chicago and enjoyed his days there before finishing up his review course and heading out west to spend a few days with the rest of us before our return home.

The windy city

It was so nice to see my parents settled into their new home. This move has been a hard transition for them, and one they are not entirely through with yet, but I was glad to get to spend some time with them and see how many good things are in their lives. The sun shone brilliantly in a bright springtime sky the whole time we were there, and my parents have made it through the long cold winter to emerge into a green, blooming Midwestern spring.

Visiting the farm

Saturday, April 10, 2010


So. I think that Rob and I were hoping to get to end of this job-hunting, city-checking-out trip and have a sense that Job X was the right job for him and City Y was the right city (and hopefully the two wouldn't be mutually exclusive). For better or worse, that isn't what has happened. I am sitting back home at my own computer after jaunting across two states this week and I have to report that although we have a lot more information, I still don't have a definite sense of one option being a lot better than the other.

There are three jobs that Rob was/is interviewing for, and although they are very different from each other, they each have really good things about them. They vary from what you would probably imagine as a medium-ish private practice of allergists to a big multi-state practice where the doctors are all "shareholders" to a huge nonprofit healthcare system that Obama has mentioned multiple times as the shape of things to come. Rob really likes various people at various spots within the jobs, and the commutes vary from AWESOME/bike-able to 20 minutes. I know we are really lucky that in this economy we are looking at multiple good options, but it does leave us full of uncertainty at this point.

And then there are the two cities, which are really different from each other but both great. As you would probably expect, Santa Fe has an artsy, hippie/New Age vibe, although there appear to be plenty of people who are not rich retirees in search of a dose of Southwestern mysticism. It's just full of charm and is a lovely sized community; it's small enough that you could really be familiar and understand the town. It was beautiful, in a high desert kind of a way, with evergreen trees and little bushes (no grass) and medium-ish mountains. And I would never lack for delicious Mexican food, which we sorely missed when we lived in Connecticut, and it is nicely ethnically diverse.

Salt Lake City, for starters, is much bigger, although smaller than a lot of the places I've lived, say about 3/4 the size of Austin. It is strikingly beautiful, although in a very different way than Santa Fe. I might go so far as to say that it is more beautiful than Santa Fe, but I think that is partly because it is a more familiar kind of beauty with snow-topped mountains and trees and grass and whatnot. There is the issue of the dominant religious culture there, but after visiting, I think that is less of an issue than most people would assume. For example, SLC hasn't had a Mormon mayor in years and years and in the neighborhoods where we would live, some of the LDS churches have been closing down for lack of people. (Sad Mormons...) We keep getting told that the suburbs are really homogeneous as far as religion (LDS people as far as the eye can see) but the city proper is full of a more diverse crowd, as far as politics and religion and sexual orientation and whatnot. (Racial diversity is another story; Santa Fe definitely has got SLC beat there, although there are some brown people of various shades around.) And yes, as advertised, there is a definite indie/bohemian/funky vibe to the close-in neighborhoods of SLC. I shouldn't let this influence me too much, but as an example, Rob has a high school friend there who had us over for dinner and his wife is sort of my doppelgänger-- she has an orange streak in her hair and they have chickens in the backyard of their adorable funky house and she loves the farmers market and so forth. I would have a frieeeeeeeend...

Speaking of things that I shouldn't let influence me too much, we looked at houses with realtors with both cities and in Salt Lake City I found my DREAM HOUSE. I would post a link to the listing, but if by some miracle we did actually end up in that house I wouldn't want the address out there in blogland and besides, the pictures do not do this house justice AT ALL. It is in the neighborhood we want with the elementary school we want on a street that is nice but a little eclectic and not too manicured and posh. It was built in the 1920s and has gorgeous dark hardwoods and leaded glass windows on the first floor but has been renovated with really high quality materials (think Wolf range, Sub-Zero refrigerator, beautiful interior doors, quartz countertops, etc) and a clean-lined modern but soft aesthetic. It is a really nice size that gives us some room to easily add child #3 and the basement isn't finished yet so there is even more space to grow into as our kids get bigger. Soooooooo gorgeous, so exactly "us". I think it is very unlikely that we get that actual house, because we (obviously) haven't decided where we're moving yet and somebody has already put in an offer on it. It's a short sale (poor upside-down owners...) so supposedly the process will move really slowly but it's still a long shot for us. It has, however, given me ideas about what we would really want in a house that we hope to live in for a decade or more (laundry room on the second floor-- brilliant!), so that's good. There were other houses that we liked too, as well as fun ones in Santa Fe. To be honest, we probably liked the neighborhoods and houses in SLC more; the whole flat-roofed adobe thing would take some getting used to.

So how shall we decide? Salt Lake City has an IKEA and a Costco while Santa Fe has Trader Joe's and they both have Whole Foods. The climate in both places would be awesome-- four real seasons, HOORAY! I had way better hair days when we were in Santa Fe. Maybe that should be the deciding factor?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looking for a Jobby Job

I am blogging FROM THE ROAD, which makes me feel all worldly and glamorous and globetrotting. Of course, I am blogging from just one state away from where I currently live, which is not quite a long trek, but still, you have to take your glamor where you can find it. We are currently in Santa Fe, and because of the time change compared to Texas I have woken up earlier than we need to, so I am lying in this giant king-sized bed with Violet asleep next to me and Robert asleep waaaaaaaay on the other side of this huge bed and the laptop on my actual lap. (Note to self: explore king-size bed option.)

We left home yesterday for a multi-stop trip for Rob to interview for the top contenders in the job search. There is a practice here with offices in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and they want to add an allergist to both cities. Rob spent yesterday shadowing the doctors in both offices and last night we went to dinner with the Santa Fe doctor and his wife. Today we're going with a realtor to look at some neighborhoods and houses to get a feel for what living here would be like. I have been to New Mexico twice before and I really like it here. I find the unique architecture appealing and the natural landscape (especially up here in Santa Fe) is so beautiful, although in a desert-like way, not a green lush grassy way. The job here looks like a great option and there are small colleges around where I could teach (and who knows? maybe Los Alamos would be an option for me later when I get ready to return to full-time work) and it is racially diverse (although somewhat socially segregated along class/racial lines, I understand) and they have DELICIOUS FOOD and all in all, I am sitting here with a very positive impression after our first day. It seems more likely that we would live in Santa Fe, which would be the smallest place I've ever lived. I think I would enjoy it; I've like the smaller cities I've lived in better than the bigger ones. It would be a pretty big change for us, and although I love that kind of change, I do feel a bit of uncertainty. The other down-side is that this job would involve a pretty hefty commute (down to Albuquerque) twice a week for Rob for the first year, but after that he would supposedly just practice in Santa Fe.

Later this afternoon, after our tours of flat-roofed adobe houses, we will fly to Salt Lake City where Rob will interview for two more jobs. (These are different jobs than the one he interviewed for earlier; apparently Salt Lake City really needs another allergist because 3 practices are hiring this year, whereas a lot of cities we looked at had no open jobs.) I have never been there so I am glad to see it and get a sense of what the city is like. I am expecting it also to be beautiful, in that moutain-y American West kind of way, and I am hoping to see if I really get the eclectic, funky, progressive vibe from the neighborhoods close to the university that it supposedly has. We will eat In-N-Out Burger tonight for dinner upon our arrival there (HOORAY!) and then tomorrow Rob will meet with one of the two practices. Thursday, we'll meet with a realtor there to get a little tour of the community and see what our real estate dollars will buy there, and then I will fly home Thursday evening. Rob will stick around through the end of the week to finish meeting with the other practice. I think moving to Salt Lake City would be less of a big change to our lifestyle, because of the size of the city and the architecture and the character of the community, which has both its ups and downs. Also, one of the SLC jobs would have a 5-minute commute for Rob, if we end up in the neighborhoods we think we would, which would be AWESOME. I'm looking forward to seeing it in the next few days, although Utah has inconvenienced me by requiring me to get back out my boots and tights and coat because it is SNOWING there. Snow in April! If this translates to less miserable summers (which I understand it does) I am totally in favor of it.

So back on the home front, my sister has come in town from her new home in Missouri to stay with Grace while we are away. This is definitely the longest we have been away from her and I MISS HER and I am hoping everything goes well for the two of them. My sister reports that Grace was a little sad the morning we left, but was pretty easily comforted and then got into her routine of preschool and busily playing and whatnot. I haven't talked to them since yesterday afternoon so I hope the first bedtime without us there went OK. I am so grateful to have somebody like my sister there to be the one taking care of her, but I am looking forward to getting back. Although to get actually get back, I have to navigate flights on my own with Violet, a car seat, a stroller, a diaper bag, and a big suitcase. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Eggs

We may be a few days early with our symbols of resurrection and new life, but we dyed Easter eggs this afternoon. It was the first time we've done this with Grace and she thought it was super fun.

Waiting, waiting, waiting

I didn't explore any of the natural dye ideas that are out there; we just used the little dye tablets that come in a kit from the drugstore. We used brown eggs, though, and I am quite taken with how they turned out. Aren't they pretty?

So pretty...

I am happy to report that both dresses for the girls are finished and hanging in their closets ready for Sunday morning, and I even managed to finish a pretty new skirt for myself. My sister is coming in town to visit us tomorrow and we have plans with friends from church for Sunday afternoon-- what a fun few days we have ahead of us... We hope your Good Friday is lovely today and wish you a wonderful Easter weekend!

Grace is pleased with our handiwork

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3