Monday, December 31, 2012

One And Only 2012 Blog

Yes, this is one of those, "Wow, where did the year go?" kind of posts I am desperately patching together on the.very.last day of the year.

2011 saw us PCS from Guam back to California.  PCS = Permanent Change of Station, which, considering we have been moved 10 times in 10 years, makes the "Permanent" bit rather debatable.

Our zoo visit with Victoria, from Embassy Suites
We spent 6 months house-hunting from our temporary home at the Embassy Suites, in Walnut Creek, where we made firm friends with the delightful hotel concierge, Victoria, and the breakfast waiter, Geronimo, who learned Jana's weakness for fresh blueberries and exploited it for smiles and squeals every morning.  Victoria has become Kai and Jana's stand-in Grandma, and we enjoyed a visit to the Oakland zoo with her and her daughter and Grandson, Zander, recently.

At the beginning of our house-hunt, I told Kai and Jana to be patient; we would look at 100 houses and pick the very best one to buy.  Our agent, Tom, heard this and laughed.  He thought it was a joke.  Tom didn't know me then.  He sure does now! One hundred houses later, including several offers along the way that fell through for one reason or another, we found "the one", and went through a hairy-scary on-again, off-again, nail-biting closing process that left us all weak at the knees and with more gray hairs than we started with. 

The house perched precariously on the hillside,
like a displaced crab-shack
The home is "unique" (no-one else would be crazy enough to build one like it), "has so much hidden potential" (hidden so deeply, it can't be seen), and is on a "near-acre of sought-after westside Danville" (that's an acre of heart-pounding crazy-steep hillside, with the house perched precariously half-way up).  On my first visit, I was relieved that Tom was driving.  The driveway was a nightmare!  The house at the top looked like a crab-shack, and I thought "no way!" Having come up the slippery- steep, hairpin-turn-at-the-top driveway, though, it seemed like I might as well celebrate my survival by at least touring the crazy house.  One doesn't climb Mount Everest and then not peek over the edge at the view, at least.

Entering, we saw immediately that the floor-plan was ridiculous; kids' rooms at the entry, and the kitchen, living and master bedrooms at the top.  Who ever goes UPSTAIRS to their kitchen and living areas? The floor-plan was completely upside-down!  There was a back deck, and a hillside slope with lots and lots of mesh wire holding back the crumbling soil and rock where someone had at some time cut into the hillside to do some sort of landscaping, then changed their mind, and walked away.  Earth crumbled and fell through the mesh, and it had "big bucks required" written all over it.  (My intuition was spot-on; we later got an estimate of $24,000, to retain just 1/4 of it).  However, the view was AMAZING.

Spectacular sunset views of Mt Diablo from the dining room and deck.

Agent Tom and I stood at the back of the home, staring with incredulity at the crumbling hillside and strange house, lamenting the oddity of the home in such a high-value area, with beautiful houses and a sprinkling of mansions all around, when the sun broke through the limbs of the overhanging oaks, the song-birds struck up a chorus, and we heard.... nothing else.  No cars, no freeway, no white noise.  Just a whisper of wind rustling leaves and songbirds enjoying their peaceful surroundings.  Looking up into oaks that were even older than me, I noticed birdhouses and even the huge nest of a great eagle or hawk that had made its home here in this park-like hillside.  Squirrels scampered here and there, and a trail along the edge of the hill showed deer-prints trampling a well-trodden path through the property.  Beyond, Mount Diablo rose on one side, and the Las Trampas regional park rose on the other.  Cows could be seen on a field nearby, and I was struck with the feeling of being in the country, far from everything both urban and suburban, whereas in fact we were under a mile from quaint Danville downtown, with its cafe's, restaurants, art and vintage stores, and old-world charm.  

Move-in Day. 
The moving company had to rent small
U-haul trucks to get up the crazy-steep driveway,
 the top 1/4 of which can be seen here.

So, in the end, it was the mountain view,the birds, the deer, and the squirrels that made me do it.  They saw me, a sucker for a furry or feathered creature, and turned on all their charm to get someone into the home that would maintain their birdhouses in the trees, throw vegetable scraps onto the trails, and send the kids up with buckets of fresh water for them in the annual droughts of east-bay summers.  On Jan 1st the regulations on our loan-type changed, and so we HAD to close sale on a home by Dec 31st, or lose our mortgage opportunity.  I fought tooth and claw for the crazy upside-down hillside home with the adrenalin-pumping driveway, and with 3 days to spare, we closed the sale on Dec 28th, 2011.  Tom almost had a stroke, but the commission should buy a few boxes of dye to turn back all the grey hairs he must have sprouted as we went back and forth trough the most gnarly closing he can ever remember. 

Every mover needs a hot-pink boa, of course

With 2011 drawing to a close, and the dawn of 2012 before us, we became home-owners, and Danville's newest residents. 
Our move-in helpers, Jana in her Boa, & Kai in his Mario hat

The highlight of our home is not our home at all, it is the beautiful deck view of Mt Diablo, seen here in the cloud-layer

Blue bird meets angry bird. 
Feeders and bird houses keep us entertained.
One year later, as we prepare to ring in 2013 at midnight, we remember the excited screams of amazement and delight from our children when they discovered that our closest neighbors, who share an almost-as-crazy driveway with us, have two children the exact same ages as Kai and Jana.  Our kids have spent half the year running in one direction to their house, and the other half of the year running in the other direction back to our house, playmates in tow.

We have enjoyed the wonderful and privileged school that Kai and Jana love to head off to each day, the downtown Danville parades, fairs, restaurants, and cafes that are just a two minute drive, yet feel a world away, and our peaceful, quirky, crab-shack house perched on this gorgeous hillside at the base of Las Trampas and Mount Diablo that we are blessed to call "home". 

Now, if I could only get to the bottom of the last dozen moving boxes...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tsunami Evacuation

Rocks are exposed in our bay 20 mins before our first wave of the tsunami reaches shore.  The extremely low tide and our fringing reef prevented damage to Guam.

Biding our time outside the gate of the Naval Hospital.  Gates were locked, so all we could do was park and wait it out.  The beach ball made for a bit of family soccer fun, with 3 hours to kill, we were glad to have it in the car.

We took every precaution and drove to higher ground to wait out the tsunami warning period.  Kids were bouncing off the car walls in no time, but great sports about it all.  It's good for them to know that in an emergency, you do what you have to do, and do it quickly.

Our hearts go out to our island neighbors in Japan.  A 9.0 magnitude earthquake, a devastating tsunami, followed by a nuclear crisis that has us checking the news headlines daily, even two weeks later, is simply heart-breaking.  

The sheer magnitude of the devastation has left millions homeless, rescue workers exhausted, and entire cities in a crippling state of emergency.  Some of the elderly who remember desperate WWII conditions are experiencing a haunting sense of deja vu. 

Despite continued "no human health risk" press releases, from our government as well as Japan's, and a completely voluntary, "overly-cautious" evacuation of US military spouses and children (many of whom are now in Guam), Tokyo's water supply is contaminated, more and more foods are reading positive for radiation, and Moms are desperate to find bottled water for their children and babies, while store-keepers explain that they have no idea when their next supplies will arrive. 

All the while, radioactive smoke continues to billow from the damaged reactors, sending plumes who-knows-where.  As Japan's neighbor, I do wish that the winds would stop blowing south-east, towards Guam!!!  As we hear of higher-than-normal radiation readings in California, so far away, I can't help but worry about us, much, much closer to Fukushima.  If the reactors were in Perth, and we were in Adelaide or Darwin, would I be concerned about winds blowing our way?  Heck, yes.  And that's the distance we are from Fukushima.

Also worrying is the government's concern that fear of radiation exposure causes more damage than actual exposure.  Really?  Can I just re-read that?  So would they tell us if Guam was at risk?  What happens when you tell the population of a small island that there may be radioactive particles in their wind or rain, in the air they are breathing and their children are breathing.  What happens if the population of an island panics?  You have 8 miles one way, and 22 miles the other way to run.  I imagine the people of Fukushima and surrounding prefectures are feeling are feeling all of that with so much more intensity; not really sure if the government is being transparent in it's facts, not really sure if their health is at risk, and no-where to run anyway. 

So, as much as I wanted this blog to be about our evacuation during the tsunami warning period, and focused on our little family, my heart is really heavy with concern for our neighbors in Japan. 

How brave are the workers who are working day in and day out to prevent the meltdown that would worsen the current radioactive risk into a worldwide catastrophe?  How strong are the rescue teams working with lack of food, water, fuel, and warmth, through snow drifts, searching for trapped victims with hope in their hearts?  How admirable are the people of Japan as they face their darkest hour with calm resolve? 

I had to google the quote below... I have heard it so many times, and I wondered if it was from a bible verse.  It turns out that it is not, it is a quote from Mother Theresa:
"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much". 
It turns out, God trusts Japan. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day Wake-up Call
Jana proudly wrote her own name for all her preschool friends

12:08 a.m. Kai, in my room:  "Mommy, I can't sleep.  Can you snuggle me?". 
Me: "Okay, Kai, I'll come sleep in your room".

5:04 a.m. Kai, in Kai's room:  "Mommy, is it morning yet?"
Me: "No, Kai.  Not even the roosters are awake yet.  Go back to sleep."

5:05 a.m. Kai: "Mommy, can I get up yet?"
"No.  Go back to sleep."

5:06 a.m. Kai: "Is Daddy up yet?"

"My kindy friends are going to LOVE these!"

"I don't know.  It's too early.  You need to sleep. GO TO SLEEP."

5:07 a.m. Kai: Can I just go and see if Daddy's up yet?"
Me:  "Oh, gosh, Kai!  YES!  Get up, get out of here.  I want to sleep."
Kai:  " Okay," and coming over to hug me, "Happy Valentine's Day, Mommy.  I love you."

Oh boy.  What a sweetheart.  I love my kids!!!  Thank you, Kai, for reminding me what Valentine's Day is all about, even if that means getting woken up before the roosters start.

Poor sick boy...

By 5:30a.m. it was clear that poor Kai was going to miss out on his cool day at McCool School (yes, that is really its name).  He was completely under the weather with runny nose and fever.  I did consider sending him anyway, but then I can no longer whine about those bad Moms who send their sick kids to school and spread the joy around, so I had no choice.  He had to stay home. 

He was really happy about it, as you can see (yes, he got one of the hearts for posing for the shot) (okay, he got three, and before breakfast, too!).

Ask and Ye Shall Receive.... MOET!!!!
This Valentine's Day finds me on day four of my "lose 22lbs by April 29th" challenge.  So I took the bull by the horns and abandoned all hint-dropping.  It went pretty well something like this: "Jed, if you bring me chocolates, I'll kill you. But I would LOVE a bottle of Moet".  And..............      voila!                                                   
Next year I'm going to ask for a leer jet and gold Amex card.            Since I don't have a champagne glass in the house, I custom-decorated this fine crystal goblet, standing ready for the teeny golden bubbles of joy.  Cheers!                                                                Big hugs and sloppy Valentine's Day kisses to all of our amazing family and friends.  We love and miss you.                                    xoxoxoxo  Peta

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Another Anniversary, Another Promotion

Marine Corps Ball, Japan, 2003 (Just married)
From meeting in Japan, marrying in Australia, honeymooning in Mexico, back to Okinawa, we eventually headed to Southern California, and then Northern California.  Now we find ourselves in Guam, part of the Marianas Island chain in the Pacific.  I need a world globe on my car dashboard just so I remember my way home each day. 

As Jed and I celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary, and tenth year together, we also celebrate a promotion.  Nine years ago, in Okinawa, I popped off Jed's Marine Corps single bars and pinned on his double ones as he promoted to Lieutenant.  This week Kai and Jana had the privilege, and this time slid on his shiny new double gold bars at a Coast Guard promotion ceremony in Guam.  Woo-hoo. 

I realize we have done a lot together, seen a lot together, and travelled a lot together. We have such a crazy, mixed up, mobile military lifestyle.

As of today, we have slept on airbeds for 5 months and 25 days, while all of our "worldly possessions" are probably baked into a melted glob in Pacific Island Movers' hot, humid storage shed somewhere here on the island.  To know that my sewing machine and art supplies, the kids' bikes and toys, the pots, pans, knives, forks, and dishes are so near and yet so far, while we continue to eat from paper plates and use plastic cutlery, and "do without" for yet another week, is challenging.  But we have each other and we have our kids.  We have our cars and our kayaks.  Jed has his surfboards.  One day I'm thinking "what more could we want?" and the next day I'm thinking I'll go crazy living like this.  But I'm grateful that we are together.  Many a military spouse has spent her wedding anniversary alone.  While we have our little family intact, we'll do without our toys, bells, and whistles a little longer.  Oh, and hey, we will definitely enjoy that pay-raise!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Oh my gosh. My blog is so neglected.

Jana, that cute little newborn bug in a blanket in my last post, can dress herself (sometimes rather colorfully), brush her own teeth, and open and close the fridge. She does that around 567 times a day, just to prove the point.

So it's time this blog got with the times.

Kai is now six, and traded his dummy-slash-pacifier (depending on your hemisphere) for a Nintendo-Wii-Mario Bros-Sonic Colors-handheld-computer-gadgety-thingy. When we fear we've really lost him to the dark side, we head to the beach.
He must be so surprised to look up and see that Mario and Luigi have been replaced by a real, human family, and a world that is no longer made up of pixels, levels, several worlds, and mushrooms that give him special powers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

September 15th, 2007

Along comes Jana Leah ...
Jana was very nearly one of those "born in the car on the way to the hospital" babies. I was laboring in the tub while Jed, who'd been recalled to duty in Alameda, drove home to Rocklin from Alameda, in the S.F. Bay Area. He got there just in time for the trip to Labor & Delivery, and 10 minutes later, there was our next beautiful baby, a girl this time, and we called her "Jana", meaning "God is Gracious".

What a cutie-pie.

Friday, December 23, 2005

November, 2004
Newbie Parents

When Kai was born, it was like a Royal Wedding. Cards and gifts flooded in, everyone turned out to see our little man, and cameras flashed in every direction. Now we all now what has happened to royal weddings after the initial rah-rah has died down, and so it was with our new baby. Jed and I found ourselves floundering a bit (well, more than a bit), and wondering why two grown-ups with college degrees and worldly experiences under their belts, couldn't manage to calm one little baby.
He was a great baby, only he cried a lot. We could quite competently feed him, change him, bathe him, and cuddle him, but sometimes we simply could not soothe him. And we had had no previous hint of just how distressing that could be. He'd go from being a content little bundle, to suddenly wailing on and on like a dumped teenage girl.
When I was still about 8 months pregnant, I'd seen a pediatrician on TV who claimed he could calm any crying baby. I'd jotted down his name, and when Kai was about a week old, I scoured the library and found his book. It helped a bit. Then, as if he was telepathically connected to his reading audience and knew we needed a bit of personal assistance, he scheduled an appearance in our area. So Jed and I bundled our 2-week-old Kai into his infant-carrier-come-car-seat and headed off to listen to what Dr. Harvey Karp had to say about calming crying babies.
Funny thing happened just after the good Dr. got up on stage and started his talk... we couldn't hear him over our crying baby! So our little man made his public stage debut at the age of 2 weeks. Dr. Karp used Kai as his guinea-pig, demonstrating how to calm a wailing newborn. If you ever run into the problem, buy his book. He's really very good. "The Happiest Baby On The Block" is the title, and he has another for toddlers (will need that soon).
In a nutshell, he talked about babies really needing an extra 3-months in the womb, but the delivery being a tad difficult if that were to happen, thus we "push 'em out prematurely" at 9 months, and should then create a womb-like environment for the next 3 months. The sudden reality-shift for our little guy after his delivery had left him unhappy, and needing a little mummy-tummy-simulation. Dr. Karp recommended 5 steps to do this:
1. Swaddle Involves wrapping the baby tightly, like a burrito.
2. Side or stomach Laying babies on their backs stimulates their falling reflexes. In turn, they can't sleep. Just have to be VERY watchful for a clear airway on their side or stomach.
3. Shhhh. Repeated in the baby's ear, like Mummy's heartbeat and rushing pulse.
4. Swing Motion, as opposed to dance-style, although the latter does a great job, too.
5. Suck. A thumb, finger, or dummy (pacifier) is the final soothing touch.

We found this worked pretty well. Our main challenge with Mr. 2-weeks-old-but-that-doesn't-mean-you-can-boss-me-around was swaddling him well enough that he little flailing hands didn't sneak out of the wrap and undo it all. For a tiny thing with a floppy head, our baby sure was a little Houdini. Jed mastered the baby-burrito wrap, and I called on him often to re-do my wraps after Kai proved he could outwit, outplay & outsmart me.

The cry-baby stage (for those unlucky souls who encounter it) usually ends at around 12 weeks. That was definitely true for us, and the closer we got to Christmas, the more sanity returned to our little household. Kai was happier and so were we.

All I want for Christmas is 5 hours sleep...