28. The Serpent’s Shadow Rick Riordan **** This was a great conclusion to the series. It had all the adventure and high tension of the other two books, while still keeping plenty of character and emotional depth. I’m kind of said to say goodbye to all the characters, but I can’t help but wonder if there might be a spinoff series at some point, like there is for Percy Jackson.
After my last batch of posts, it probably sounded like we made a mistake moving out here. But even though our move was quite the "adventure," and we continue to face different challenges, the positive experiences and and opportunities have been amazing and all three of us are really happy here. The cats seem to like it here, too.
So without further ado, I present the good parts:
-- Our first weekend here (Easter weekend), we went to Monterey Bay and spent the day at the beach. We saw tide pools and habor seals with their pups.
( Cut for lots of photos.Collapse )
I wish I could say that after Part 1 and Part 2 of my move to California, that settling into our new life went smoothly. Alas, there were a few more "adventures" waiting for us.
Our First Day, or, Visa is Full of Fail
We slept most of our first morning away due to extreme exhaustion and severe jetlag. For breakfast, we snacked on some of the fruit our realtor had left us while we made a list of everything we'd need to buy. There were a few essentials that couldn't wait the two weeks before our furniture arrived and even though I had no kitchen stuff and thus no way to cook, we still wanted to get some food so we wouldn't have to eat out for *every* meal.
We didn't have any shampoo, so we couldn't shower before we left. I only mention this because it becomes important later.
First, we went out for lunch. But when we tried to pay for it with our credit card, it didn't work. We've had problems before with Visa deciding that our credit card use is really something fradulent resulting in them shutting down our card before and had tried to prevent such problems by telling them about our move before it happened. But it didn't appear to have worked. Still, we wanted to give them the benefit of a doubt and assume that it was just a problem with the restaurant's credit card reader. So after lunch, we went to Walmart and bought Chriss a new belt. The credit card worked that time. YAY. So we grabbed a cart and finished buying all the rest of the things on our list (except the food because that Walmart's "grocery section" was a joke and I wanted organic food anyway). We filled two carts (but only because we had to buy big things like pole lamps for the bedrooms and garbage cans) and headed up to the cashier.
The cashier starts ringing us out and asks, "Do you have bags?"
Chriss: Excuse me?
Cashier: Do you have bags?
Chriss: I haven't paid for my stuff yet.
Cashier: I know. Do you have bags?
Chriss, looking rather baffled: I don't follow.
Cashier, finally realizing we have no clue what she means: There's a city ordinance against plastic bags. You have to supply your own.
Chriss: Oh. *pause* Do you sell bags?
We decided we didn't want to pay twenty-five cents for each paper bag (for some reason the cashier didn't have any fabric bags) and just put our stuff in the cart Costco-style.
The cashier gave us the total and Chriss swiped his card and...
Weird. It worked when we bought the belt. What's going on?
I tried my card. It's all tied to the same account, but I have my own card number, so thought it would work.
By now, the cashier and the people behind us are getting a little impatient with us and my poor husband is getting more and more frustrated. Fortunately, we'd made sure to carry some cash on us just in case we ran into problems during the move and we were able to pay for our things.
We took everything home and put it away and then called Visa. They explained that the reason our card didn't work in the restaurant was because their servers had been down. And the reason why it didn't work the second time in Walmart was because they were suspicious of two Walmart charges in the same day (because, who does that??) and because both charges had a 2 and a 1 in them. (One was $12 and the other was $271. I know. Easy to get them confused, right?) But they assured us that our card was now unlocked and we could continue our shopping without any further problems.
So we went to a grocery store to buy some food. What do you think happened when we got to the cashier? That's right. More rejection. This time Visa (a different rep than we talked to earlier) claimed that our card had never been unlocked because they were suspicious of the fact that charges were being make in CA. When we told them that we had moved, the Visa rep said, "Oh, is that what this note on your account that says 'moving to CA in April' means?" *headdesk*
In the end, they finally unlocked our card and we were able to then go and get cat food. But as soon as we have time to find a local bank, we are dropping Visa like the plague.
On a happier note, due to everything we'd been through, I'd decided that we deserved cake so we bought a chocolate cake and invited our friends (the same ones who took us on a tour of NASA back in February) over to share it with us. So at least the day ended with chocolate.
Day Two, or You Didn't Really Want a Shower, Did You?
The next day was Monday and even though we hadn't had a chance to recover from our adventures so far, Chriss had to make an appearance at work. He got up early and went to take a shower. Only, there was no hot water. Funny, the power company swore they'd hooked up the gas so it should be working.
Chriss went out back to check the hot water tank to see if it was set to vacation mode. Instead, what he'd found was a huge puddle under the tank. Also, we discovered a very large damp circle on the dining room and living room carpet. The hot water tank had broken. It just kept filling up and leaking out and filling up and leaking out. Which meant neither of us could take a shower. We were now four days without a shower.
Chriss went to work anyway and I contacted our realtor who helped us get in touch with our landlords. We are very fortunate that, unlike the last time we rented (when I was pregnant with T), our current landlords aren't evil. In fact, they seem very friendly, reasonable, and willing to work with us. As soon as I told them what had happened, they contacted a plumber and promised that, even if it meant replacing the hot water tank, the issue would be resolved that day.
While I waited for the plumber to show up (they had a job on the coast they had to finish first), I made appointments at the DMV for Chriss and me to get our CA drivers' licenses. (Other than me having to take the written test 3 times because I kept not passing by 1 point, that went pretty smoothly). The plumber got here around 6 p.m. and by 9 p.m., we had a new hot water tank and I was finally able to get a shower. Let me tell you, showering never felt so good!
A few days later, when our landlord came by with a shopvac because the carpet was still damp, he gave us a gift card to the restaurant he and his wife own and a few days later, UPS showed up bearing a gift basket our landlords had ordered for us to welcome us to CA and to apologize for the issues we dealt with our first few days here. So at least that "adventure" had a happy ending.
Getting the Cars Registered, or, How to Blow $3,000 Without Really Trying
Because my husband has been working a ton of overtime since pretty much day one out here, getting the cars registered was solely up to me. I ended up having to make two trips to the DMV. The first time, I was able to get my car partially registered, but had to wait until I got a smog inspection to finish it. So I found the nearest Subaru dealership and over the course of two days, got both our cars inspected. After that, I was able to finish registering both cars at the same time. I was quite shocked at the price. The smog inspections were $80 each and then the fee for registering my car was $163 and the fee for Chriss' car was $245. It was way more than I expected to spend. And it was only the tip of the iceburg.
The very next day, the check engine light came on in my car. Chriss didn't want me to take it in until he could get a code reader and find out what the problem was. Just in case it was something he could fix himself. We couldn't find one locally, so he ordered one from the internet. In the meantime, he told me to "drive at my own risk." Now the roads here are very intimidating compared to the roads in Utica. And while I did suck it up and jump right into driving here, unlike in NY where it took me a year to find the courage to drive, I certainly didn't want to "drive at my own risk" on these roads. Which meant I had to magically make 1 week's worth of groceries stretch into 2 weeks because Chriss didn't get home from work early enough for me to go shopping. (Everything here shuts down by 9 and 10:00).
The code reader finally came and told us the catalytic converter needed to be replaced. Ouch. Not a cheap fix. But at least it waited to die until *after* we'd passed the smog inspection and gotten the cars registered.
So we took it in and got it fixed and the day I picked it up, the check engine light came back on. The code reader said there was a wiring fault with three of the oxygen sensors. So back to the shop it went where the mechanics went on and on about how horrible the rust on our car was and that surely was to blame for this new problem.
Um... I know rust is unusual in CA, but honestly... In NY, they said our car looked great for its age. Here, they were trying to convince us to junk the thing. It didn't exactly fill me with confidence. And it didn't help that the day they replaced the sensors, they called to tell us that the ECM which regulates the emissions system had died. To make a long story short: After 3 weeks and 3 repairs, which left me without a car for 2 1/2 of those weeks, and $3,000, it appears my car is finally good to go. Also, we will never go back to that dealership again.
That's the end of our big stories, but to sum up the rest of our crazy first few weeks here:
- Chriss has worked way too much overtime since we got here, leaving me to juggle Everything Else by myself
- One night, just after midnight, Pumpkin opened up one of our cupboards and knocked down a glass jar of BBQ sauce and a jar of olive oil. It took us 3 hours to clean up the mess.
- I've been to over 16 stores and I *still* can't find a pair of sandals in my size.
- Now I need a pair of walking shoes as well because my right shoe has a mysterious large hole in the side. Shopping for those should be fun too.
- Overall, it's been very overwhelming and a little more stressful than I'd anticipated.
Even though this move has been way more of an "adventure" than we'd bargained for, things are finally starting to settle down. And in the midst of all this craziness, there have been some really great things too which I'll share in my next post.
The rest of our final week in NY was relatively uneventful. The movers loaded all our stuff up on the truck the next day and later that evening someone came to pick up our cars. We spent the two days after that giving our house a deep clean so it'd be all nice and presentable for potential buyers. My neighbor was even nice enough to watch T for us so Chriss and I could go see The Hunger Games (which I loved). Before we knew it, we'd said goodbye to Chriss' family, our friends, and our house and it was Friday. Moving day.
The plan was to spend the morning packing up all four of our suitcases and rounding up the cats so we could put them in their carriers. Then we were going to head for the airport around 1p.m., return the rental car and check in and buy the cats' tickets (we took them in the cabin with us and kept them under our seats). Our flight from Syracuse was supposed to leave at 4:15 and we were supposed to arrive in Detroit and hour later. Then we'd make our connecting flight to San Francisco at 7:30 and get there at 9:00 CA time. We'd pick up one of our rental cars at the airport and drive to our new home with plans to go shopping the next day and buy what we needed until our furniture and cars arrived two weeks later.
But you know what they say about plans. Especially the best laid ones.
( Just what could possibly go wrong? Click here to find out...Collapse )
Our first adventure happened on the day the movers arrived to pack up all our belongings.
Some dear friends of ours were on vacation at Disney World that week and had offered up their home and van to us so we'd have a place to stay once our house was empty as well as a way to pick up the rental car that the relo company allowed us. We'd decided ahead of time that it'd be easiest if I dropped the cats off at our friends' house before the movers showed up so that we wouldn't have to worry about them getting out or have to keep them cooped up in their carriers all day.
I got up bright and early and drove the cats to our friends' house. They have a ranch style house with a full (partially finished) basement. They keep the litter box for their cat in the basement. Since I know cats handle transitions better when restricted to a smaller area, I decided to lock them in the basement. That way they'd have access to food, water, and the litter box. Besides, the basement didn't have much in the way of hiding spaces, whereas upstairs there were all sorts of rooms and furniture they could hide in/under/behind. When I left them that morning, they were cautiously exploring their new, temporary living quarters.
I arrived home about twenty minutes after the movers did. They were already hard at work. Now, when I was told they'd only scheduled two days to pack and load everything, I was skeptical. After all, I had a 2,000 sq. ft. house full of stuff, plus a full basement, plus everything in the garage. That would have taken me at least a month to pack up myself. But these three guys kicked butt. Not only were they really friendly, but they were fast and efficient. By 5:00 that evening, all of our possessions, except the things we were taking on the plane with us, were packed up and ready to put on the truck the next morning.
After the movers left for the day, we went out for dinner and ran a few errands. Then we came home to make our rental car reservations (for our remaining time in NY as well as the two weeks in CA before our cars would arrive). By the time we made it to our friends' house for the night, it was after midnight.
We went down to the basement to check on the cats and feed them dinner. We only found Chloe.
We figured Pumpkin and Stormy were probably hiding somehwere because they weren't happy about being left in a strange place. But after searching for twenty minutes, we still couldn't find them. They had to be somewhere in the basement. After all, I'd blocked the exit to the main floor. But where could they be?
Then, in one of the partially finished side rooms, Chriss noticed an area where a thick pipe went through the drywall, leaving a cat-sized hole. He climbed up on the workbench to get a better look. The insulation right around the hole looked a little flattened. He stuck his arm down the hole and discovered there was nothing beyond the insulation except a straight drop to the ground behind the wall.
We just looked at each other. We knew what had happened. Pumpkin and Stormy had been exploring, wanted to see what was through the hole, and fell behind the wall. And now they were stuck. I had a horrible feeling of deja vu and started freaking out.
Why the deja vu? Well, when I was twelve and living in Roosevelt, UT, I had two cats that we were keeping in the garage until they got used to us so they wouldn't run away once we let them outside. Those two cats found a gap between the wall and the doorstep at the top of the stairs (there were stairs that led from inside the garage to the door for the upstairs apartment) and they fell down the gap behind the wall. It took my mom and me forever to figure out what had happened to them. Then my mom had to remove a panel of drywall so I could reach inside and get my cats out. How did those cats repay us for that? They ran away three weeks later.
So here I was again, seventeen years later, facing similar circumstances. Fortunately, since that room was only partially finished, the solution was the same as the one in the past. Chriss found our friend's drill and used it to remove a panel of drywall. Then he peeled back the vapor layer and moved the insulation out of the way. Unfortunately, the gap he'd opened up was too small for him to squeeze through. And the cats were half a wall's length away from us. We were going to have to coax them out.
Pumpkin appeared almost immediately, but before Chriss could grab her, she ducked back inside. I ran upstairs to grab some cat food in hopes that'd lure her out. After about 5 minutes or so, she came within reach again and I was able to grab her and take her upstairs. Stormy was another matter.
We tried everything we could think of to coax her out, but she wouldn't budge. Half an hour later, Chriss had to resort to banging on the wall at the other end of the room, working his way closer to me, hoping it'd scare her in my direction. It eventually worked and I finally got her out. We decided that we'd keep them upstairs and away from the basement after that. It'd be much easier to fish them out from under furniture than to get them out of the wall again.
By that point, it was 2 a.m., but Chriss still had to run to Walmart to get a lint brush so we could get all the fiberglass out of their fur. My job was to keep them from bathing themselves so they wouldn't ingest it--or at least, any more than they might already have during their stint behind the wall. By the time Chriss got back and I got the cats cleaned off so we could go to bed, it was 3 a.m. and we had to meet the movers back at our house by 7:30.
It wasn't until three nights later--the night before we left NY for good--that we were able to put the wall back together. We did our best to make it look like nothing had happened and decided not to tell our friends until we could show them the video Chriss made me take of the whole ordeal. And until they finally check facebook and see the private video link of it that we sent them, they still have no idea what happened while they were away.
Stay tuned for Part Two: Moving Day.
As excited as I am to get to California and start our new adventure, I really wish we could just skip over this week. There's so much to do and I'm finding myself getting overwhelmed way too easily and too often. It doesn't help that I'm exhuasted. My last two weeks have been jampacked with moving preparations and farewells.
Last week we said goodbye to my very first friends in NY. That was HARD. It was even harder watching T say goodbye to their son who has been his best friend since birth. The next day, we said goodbye to Chriss' dad, sister, and her husband. It was a fantastic visit, but sad to say goodbye. This week was full of more goodbyes. Yesterday, it was Chriss' grandparents and mom, Friday was a farewell party with many of our good friends from church, and the rest of the week was scattered get-togethers with other friends. And today was my last day at church. I was holding up pretty well as I said goodbye to everyone, but when it came time to tell my young women goodbye, I couldn't help it. I cried. I've loved working with the teen girls at church so much this past year and I'm really going to miss them. They even surprised me with a binder full of letters from everyone that made me cry again. Thank goodness for technology. It sure makes it easy to keep in touch and makes the goodbyes feel less permanent. Of course, I'm sure they'll all defriend me come winter when I post pictures of myself at the beach on Christmas while they're all buried in snow. ;)
Well, next time I post, it'll be from my new home in Cali. I can't wait!
We had our initial household goods assessment done two weeks ago and last week we scheduled the movers. They'll be packing up all our belongings on the 26th and loading them (and our cars) on the truck and shipping them out on the 27th. They're estimated to arrive in San Jose by April 14. This means we'll be living up to three weeks without any furniture. All we'll have is what we can cram into 3 checked bags. We won't even have carry-ons because we're bringing our three cats on the plane with us and they're considered carry-ons. It's going to be interesting. At least Bosch is providing us with two rental cars until ours arrive. So T and I won't be stuck in an empty house (literally) the whole time.
Last week, I took the cats to the vet to get their checkups and vaccines so we can take them on the plane. Their reactions when we got home gave me a small-scale idea of how they'll probably react to being put on a plane and brought to a strange place and never seeing their home again. Basically, Stormy (who is afraid of life) ran and hid under the bed, Chloe (who hates the world) ran around hissing at everything that moved and refused to eat for 2 days, and Pumpkin (who is just along for the ride) started whining for her dinner.
Today, we scheduled our offical move date and booked our one-way flights to California for the 30th. So this is it. It's really happening. (Not that we didn't reach the point of no return weeks ago....) We've only got 18 more day left in New York. I've got so many mixed feelings. I'm so excited for the move and to start a new chapter in our lives and the adventures that await us, but I have spent the past 10 years of my life in New York and it's rather grown on me (except for the over abundance of evil white stuff, of course). T has spent his entire life here. He's lived in this house since he was 9 months old. We have so many memories here. It's sad to say goodbye to our house, to our friends, to Chriss' family. I'm sad to leave my nature trail behind and Green Lake and the breathtakingly beatiful springs and autumns. But I am thrilled to be only an hour from the ocean and so close to real mountains again. And to be only a day's travel from my family...
It's probably fortunate that I've been too busy to really think about it otherwise I'd have a much harder time leaving. As it is, my last week here and having to say goodbye to all the people here that I've grown to really care about is going to be really tough. So we're doing our best to make the most of our remaining days here and looking forward with hope for all the possibilities that await us.
- XVI Julia Karr ***** (reread) I reread this so I could have the characters and story fresh in my mind when I read Truth, the sequel. I liked it even better the second time around. I was able to connect with the characters even more and had a greater appreciation for the world building. I’m really looking forward to reading Truth next.
- Truth Julia Karr ***** I liked this one even better than XVI. It had a really fast pace with tons of tension that made it impossible to put down. I loved seeing how much Nina has grown—and Dee too. They’ve both become so strong. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the end though. It wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be. It’s definitely bittersweet. I think it fits though and it feels like an end, though I wish I could read more about what happens next.
- A Tale Dark and Grimm Adam Gidwitz *** A very interesting retelling of Hansel and Gretel. I enjoyed the author’s interjections a lot. It reminded me of The Princess Bride. It was fun and I found myself laughing often.
- The Name of the Star Maureen Johnson **** I read this right after watching the new season of BBC’s Sherlock (my new obsession!) and it fit my mood perfectly. It had the right atmosphere, London, a cool mystery, great writing, a very interesting story. Everything I was looking for to fill in that gap left behind from Sherlock.
- Magic Under Glass Jaclyn Dolamore **** (reread) I liked this even better the second time around. The world building is very well done and I like the character development. I had an even greater appreciation for Nimira and Erris’ relationship and the challenges they faced.
- Magic Under Stone Jaclyn Dolamore **** I was so excited to receive an ARC for this so I wouldn’t have to wait until April to find out what happens next. I wasn’t disappointed at all. I liked the way the world building expanded beyond what we saw in Magic Under Glass. I also liked how complex the relationship between Nimira and Erris became. Given their circumstances, it felt very realistic. I also liked having an extra POV character in this one. I thought the two POV’s went very well together.
- Between the Sea and Sky Jaclyn Dolamore **** Really liked this one too. I really connected with the characters and loved the world building. I liked how the story had a very unique yet at the same time familiar and classic feel to it.
- Divergent Veronica Roth **** I liked several things about this: the world building, writing, pacing, tension, and most of all, the characters. I adored Four and loved seeing how much Tris grew. I especially liked how her growth was so evident all throughout the story rather than saved for the end. I really can’t wait to see what happens next.
- Wildwing Emily Whitman *** I enjoyed this because it had some of my favorite things: time travel, medieval world, and a love story. I also liked how even though Addy kept managing to get herself into interesting predicaments, she was always able to come up with some very clever and creative solutions.
- The Way We Fall Megan Crewe ***** I loved this for many of the same reasons that I loved Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I liked the journal format, the way the story and characters stuck with me long after reading the final page, and just how real it felt. The pacing and tension are very well done and I didn’t want to put it down because I just had to find out what happened next. I can’t wait for the next book.
- Wisdom’s Kiss Catherine Gilbert Murdock *** This was a fun story and I thought its structure was pretty creative. It’d told through letters, journal entries, memoirs, encyclopedia entries, and even excerpts from a play. While it was fun and original to read, the format did make it more difficult for me to connect with the characters as much as I’d have liked to. But I still enjoyed reading it. I read the kindle version which came with a ton of extras like author commentaries, deleted scenes, etc. I found those pretty fascinating to read, especially since it gave me a peek inside the author’s head. It was interesting to see why she made of the choices she made and what she was thinking at the time she wrote the book.