Sunday, August 24, 2008

California Dreamin'

So, Lauren is officially off at school. She headed back yesterday. It feels weird. I’ve never gone longer than two weeks without seeing her and that was only once when she was out of town. It’s not like she’s in another state or anything, but I seriously doubt she’ll be coming home that often with the gas prices being so high, not to mention the amount of study time she’ll be putting in this semester.

We were talking about her cooking yesterday (especially to save money by not eating out) and it hit me just how clueless she is about cooking and grocery shopping. I actually feel guilty that I never forced her to learn how to cook. First of all, I’m no Betty Crocker, but there are a number of dishes that I can cook and cook well, though that hasn't always been the case. I’ve also been known to pull out the cookbook and try something new every now and then. (Granted, not as often as I should) Overall, cooking isn’t something I enjoy that much so don’t let me give the false impression that I’m really into it, because I’m not. However, I might like it much more if someone came along behind me and cleaned up the mess.

Lauren can make breakfast stuff, spaghetti and she loves the frozen pasta dinners that you toss into a pan for a ready-made meal, but that’s about the extent of her kitchen skills. I’m going to email her some easy recipes and suggest some must have items to have on hand for cooking at all times.

As she was leaving yesterday I thought back to the first time I moved away from home and just how clueless I was. I was eighteen-years-old and wet behind the ears with a two-month-old baby in tow. We were moving to Ft. Ord, California so Les could attend DLI for a year. My parents both took a week off from work to drive our car to California for us. Lauren and I were flying there courtesy of Uncle Sam. The plan was that mom and dad would arrive a few days after we did and stay for a week to help us get unpacked and settled into our new place. We had movers, also courtesy of Uncle Sam, to transport all of our earthly belongings from Texas to California.

We were moving into a 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom trailer located on Ft. Ord Military Base. We’d lived in a small house just a few blocks from my parent’s home right after we’d gotten married, but were only there for a few months before Les left for boot camp then I moved back home. I never really got domesticated or experienced being on my own until the move to California.

The movers came with all of our stuff that week and mom and dad helped us get all set up. We had hand-me-down couches (that actually received lots of compliments that year), a small dining table, our bed and dresser and Lauren’s crib and furniture. The trailer we rented was new and very nice and spacious. The trailer park itself looked like a regular little neighborhood/community complete with driveways and fenced in back yards. When we were done unpacking, it looked good, especially for a young married couple just starting out. We were very proud of our new home.

I’ll never forget how scared I was when it came time to drive my parents to the airport and say our goodbyes. I was 1800 miles from home and had no idea when we could afford a visit back to Texas or if my parents would be back to visit us anytime soon. I was a huge Mama’s girl, totally dependent on her, and completely clueless about managing a house and family. I’d been living back at home with them for months waiting until Les finished boot camp and got his official orders to move to California. My parents were very attached to Lauren (she’d come home from the hospital to their house) and were emotional about leaving us, too. I felt a panic set in as they started to board their plane back to Texas. How was I ever going to survive so far away from home, especially with Les being in school for such long hours and not having any friends or family nearby? I had pretty good maternal instincts but what if I couldn’t get Lauren to sleep at night and mom wasn’t around to help me when she was cranky? How was I going to care for this baby all by myself? (Les didn’t count; he was pretty clueless about babies back then). I was terrified. I was also sad that it would likely be many months before I would see them again. I’d never been away from home before (besides church camp) and it felt like I was being thrown to the wolves.

Did I mention that I also didn’t know how to cook a blessed thing? The most I was capable of cooking was a grilled cheese sandwich, scrambled eggs and bacon. Once, I’d even once blown up a glass dish that I was cooking bacon in while in the microwave. (There was a huge explosion and shards of glass covering the inside of the microwave) Oh, and I used to stir hamburger meat for my mom if I happened to be in the kitchen while she was cooking and she asked me to. That was the extent of my cooking capabilities and nothing more. I’m so not kidding. I had no idea how to make a meal if it didn’t come right out of a package and go straight into the microwave. Les could cook but it wasn’t exactly ideal for him to do so considering he was leaving the house everyday at 5am for PT, in class all day long and then studying for several hours every night. He was learning to read, write and speak Korean, which was intense, and he didn’t have time for much else during the week. If left up to me, we would’ve starved to death or just lived strictly on grilled cheese.

That next year would prove to be a challenge, complete with financial stress, homesickness, cooking 101, meeting new friends and learning to adjust to Military life 1800 miles away from home. (To be continued).

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Big Day

We spent all day Friday packing a rented trailer full of furniture and miscellaneous things belonging to Lauren. On Saturday we all got up and drove to College Station and officially moved her into her new apartment.

As we pulled into the complex we were amazed at the number of moving trucks and trailers, just like the one we were pulling, lining the parking lot of this enormous complex. As we started the long process of unpacking, we couldn’t help but notice all of the other parents doing the exact same thing.

Just when Les and Lauren’s roommates Dad were about to start unloading the heavy stuff, the Calvary pulled up. That would be the seven young men you see pictured below with Lauren. They were hired by the complex to drive around all day and help people move in. We just thought they were angels who arrived in the nick of time. Did I mention that she lives on the third floor? I think Les wanted to kiss these guys but instead he just tipped them.

We spent most of the day unpacking and trying to get her settled into her new home. By the end of the night we were all worn out. After packing and unpacking for two solid days it made me greatly appreciate the many times my parents helped us move from town to town during our Military years.

She’ll be back home tomorrow to spend another week before school starts so I haven’t yet felt the emotions of a real goodbye. As excited as I am for her, I do anticipate some booing and hooing on my part.

Her apartment is very nice. She has two roommates. Her bedroom is huge with three big windows making it feel so bright and open. They also have a huge swimming pool, work out facilities and even a small movie theater, which by the way, Caden and Cassidy loved. I know she’s going to love it there. College Station is a great town and she has lots of old and new friends there to keep her company. (It was great to see you, Trey! I know I don’t even have to ask, but please keep an eye on Lauren. She’s kind of a big deal to us!)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tagged for a MeMe

I was tagged by Ronni at Ronni's Rants to do a meme as follows:

The Rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you. (See above.)
2. Mention the rules on your blog. (Here they are.)
3. Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag six fellow bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the six blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

I am breaking the rules (for myself) and only tagging three fellow bloggers. (I don't comment regularly on all of the 100 plus blogs that I read, so I am not sure they would participate if tagged by a "lurker"!)


1. I cannot go barefoot, even in the house. I must have slippers or flip-flops on at all times, unless I am swimming or walking around a pool/lake/the beach.

2. I must have a LARGE cup of ice water next to my bed every night before going to sleep. I may or may not touch it, but it must be there just in case I get thirsty.

3. I have two special pillows and do not share them. (Everyone in this house knows that) I also have a third pillow but am not so particular about the third one. I will use any third pillow, as long as I have my special two. When traveling I must take at least one of them with me, depending on how much room I have to pack them.

4. I keep my cell phone on vibrate 95% of the time because I hate the sound of it ringing. I rarely turn the ringer on unless I’m waiting on a very important call.

5. I hate waking up to an actual alarm clock so I use an old cell phone, also on vibrate, which I stick under my pillow at night and the vibration wakes me. I hate the sound of an alarm, mine or anyone else’s.

6. Whenever we are go on vacation, (even just a weekend away) I have to clean the house before we leave, even if that means I am up all night packing/cleaning. (Which is almost always the case)

Sadly, I just realized I could post so many more quirks. I have only touched the surface of my quirky personality. To prove my point, here's an old post from 06 where I share many more of them.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bring it on, Edouard!

It appears that we are in the path of a Tropical Storm, possibly strengthening to a category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall tomorrow morning. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I'm excited. No, I don’t want anyone to die or for the storm to severely damage or flood anyone’s property, but I do admit that I like storms. My friend, Kelli, and I are always excited when we find out we may be getting bad weather, especially TS or hurricane type weather. I guess that makes us twisted individuals or something. I have a friend in Corpus that is the same way and we usually fight over whose turn it is to get a storm. (Houston/Galveston or Corpus Christi/Padre). It’s usually just us wanting a day or two off from work! Since I'm off for the summer that really doesn’t apply now, but I'm still excited so I guess I really am twisted.

I was in junior high in 1983 when Hurricane Alicia hit. I remember the heavy winds and stormy weather very well. It was exciting and scary. We lost power and ended up all playing games and huddling together waiting on it to blow over. We were without power for almost two weeks afterward and had to stay with my grandparents. Being without A/C in Houston (especially in August) is never fun.

In 2005, when Hurricane Rita was churning in the Gulf, the city personnel and media had the entire state of south Texas in a panic. Evacuations were mandatory in most places, voluntary in others. They were preparing us for storm surges and major flooding. People panicked and the majority of the population in the area decided it would be safer to evacuate, mandatory or not. Most people began leaving their homes two days before the storm was scheduled to hit land. She was going to be a category 5 and people were terrified.

It was a big deal and the city was basically shutting down. I didn’t get off work in time to leave with my family and my husband was required to stay for his job. Once my parents and siblings had left and were already on the road, I really didn’t want to take a road trip with the kids and dogs all alone. I ended up waiting around before deciding what to do before what I was seeing on the news helped make the decision for me. All roads and freeways leading out of town were like parking lots. It was complete chaos. People were running out of gas on the feeder roads, driving the wrong way on the freeways trying to get off and find somewhere to get food and gas, getting sick from the heat, running our of food and water in their vehicles, etc. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the news and wanted no part of it.

It took my family, who were all driving in a caravan with a travel trailer and RV over 24 hours to get to my grandma’s house, which is typically a 3.5-hour drive. It was a nightmare.

The kids were upset with us for deciding that we would stay here. They wanted to be with their cousins on what they thought would be an awesome and exciting road trip/adventure. Plus, they thought we were basically setting them up for sure death. I saw the news and was in constant communication with my family. I knew it was no adventure that I wanted any part of. Funny note: (sorry, Mom) my mom actually had to squat in a parking lot to go potty. There was no other option for her at the time. That was huge and probably a first for her. I was so proud! I never knew she had it in her.

We were prepared to go to work (the police station) with my husband if things got too bad here. The building is old and tough and safer than our modest home. I took all of our pictures and home videos and stacked them up high in the house in case of flooding and we waited for the storm of the century.

The city was like a ghost town. Stores were closed. Roads were totally clear of other cars. I think we were the only people on our street that stayed. Our entire neighborhood seemed deserted and we seemed to be the only people left for miles. All of our friends and family had left. After two days of complete boredom, constantly watching the chaos of the evacuations on the news and the anticipation of what we had in store, we decided to go for a drive to get the kids out of the house.

It was so cool. We were the only car on the entire freeway. We drove for miles before seeing anyone else on the road. We drove to Kemah, which is usually packed with people on the Boardwalk and surrounding restaurants. There wasn’t a soul in sight.

On our way home we actually passed an open convenience store and everyone got so excited. We stopped, mostly to stock up on junk food, but I think we wanted and needed to see other people. At that point, we were feeling pretty alone. There were a few people inside. I remember meeting one couple that had stayed to keep an eye on their restaurant. We told the kids to get whatever they wanted. We were sick of them whining about the fact that we were the only people who stayed and how we should’ve gone, too. Believe me, the people who did leave went through hell trying to get out of town and I did us all a huge favor by not joining everyone else. We spent $60 on junk food before heading back home and that shut them up for a while.

In the end, the storm took a turn east more towards Louisiana making landfall as a category 3 and all we got was some heavy rain and winds. There were some branches down in the yard, but the storm barely even woke me up. I slept in the living room with the kids and when I heard the wind I got up and checked things out but then fell right back to sleep.

I was asked to drive by some houses after the storm to evaluate any damage, since most people were stuck out of town for a few days waiting to get back home and were anxious to know what, if any, damage they were coming home to. Fortunately, no one had extensive damage, mostly just fallen branches and limbs.

The city has since worked on improving emergency evacuation routes but I don’t think most people have much faith in the system. For the most part, the next time we are encouraged to leave, I seriously doubt that most people will go willingly after their hellish experiences in 2005. It'll be like crying wolf, in my opinion. No one will ever believe the big one is actually coming.

As far as this latest storm goes, it doesn't sound too scary. I have candles on hand (always do) but don't anticipate needing them. Cassidy and Caden are at their Grandma’s and we’ve opted to leave them there. She lives farther from the coast than we do in a house made of cinder block. (That house isn’t going anywhere). I’m sure she’ll try to coax me into coming over, too, but I’ll just stay here with the dogs. I’m trying to persuade Lauren into staying the night here just because I'll feel better if she is with us. As a precaution, most people are off from work tomorrow so maybe I’ll have a few friends over tonight for a hurricane party! Of course I hope and pray that no one is injured or loses their homes and/or businesses. Really, all we ever want is just some heavy rain and a day (or two) off from work. Is that asking too much?

Here are some before (the calm before the storm) and after photos from Rita, in no particular order. (Notice the looks of sheer displeasure on the kids faces).