ocean moonlight

House-hunting trip

I just returned from two weeks in Cali.  We decided to be more spontaneous than either of us have been in our lives and planned the trip two days before we left.  Gotta say, I didn't miss the snow (even though there wasn't much here), the cold, or the grey blahness that is winter in CNY.  I loved how sunny and warm and springlike it was in Cali.  I've never experienced that in February before.

We spent most of the trip going around San Jose with our realtor looking at houses.  We found one that we loved, but we can't put an offer in until our house sells.  :(  Hopefully it'll sell quickly.  We also found a short-term lease townhouse we liked and applied for it.  Hopefully we'll get it so we've got a place locked in since we're down to only about 3-4 weeks before we move. 

Amid all the house-hunting, we also had some fun.  Chriss has a friend from college that lives in Mountain View and works for NASA so we got a private tour which was awesome!  We went to see the ocean (my first time in 10 years, Chriss and T's first time) because we were in Pacifica looking at a rental property.  Chriss' friend also invited us to go to San Francisco with them for the Chinese New Year parade.  That was amazing.  T managed to squeeze his way to the very front of the crowd and I was only about 3 people back from that.  Other than small town parades that take less than 15 minutes, I've never seen a parade in person before.  And this one was huge, full of energy, and so much fun. 

It was a really busy whirlwind, but fun trip and as glad as I am to be back home, sleeping in my own bed, and with my cats again, I really miss California and can't wait to go back.  And the best part of the trip?  It felt so right to be there.  It just confirmed yet again that this is what we're supposed to do. 

I'm not sure exactly what the next few weeks have in store for us, but I'm sure it'll be crazy busy again.  So in the meantime, here's episode 3 of This is Not a Vlog as well as some pics from our trip. 

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So we're moving to California

As revealed in the latest episode of my husband's webseries, we are moving from Utica, NY to Palo Alto, CA.

What brought about this big change?  Well it didn't quite happen the way it does in the video. 

For the past year or two, we've felt like a change was coming.  We weren't sure if it was going to be good or bad or when it would come, or what it would entail, but we knew that soon, our lives were going to change.  The stronger that feeling grew, the more determined we became to take as much charge over whatever the change might be as possible.  We didn't want to just let life happen to us, we wanted to turn it into an opportunity, an adventure. 

Ever since we started feeling that way, a lot of things have happened--big and small--that we believe helped guide us to this point.  First was T's diabetes.  Even though he was diagnosed four years ago (in March), the more we've dealt with it and started using devices like the pump and the sensor, the more Chriss has become interested in medical devices from a development standpoint.  In fact, before T started using the pump, Chriss had written a program that could be used on a computer or a palm pilot that would help us calculate his insulin doses.  It made it so much easier to find someone willing to babysit for us when they didn't have to worry about all those equations. 

Next was Chriss' decision to pursue his dream of filmmaking.  That actually started three years ago, but in the last two years, he's really come a long way.  He's been able to network with some pretty cool people and has had some amazing opportunities already.  But the more he's grown, the more he's wanted to push beyond what our area has to offer. 

Then we had our switch to home school.  I can't tell you how many times in the last 2 1/2 months that we've been getting the house ready to list and looking over the logistics of a cross-country move, that I've been so grateful I don't have to deal with public school through all of this.  Yeah, there have been times when it's been really tough to stay on top of school and everything else, but the beauty of home school is how flexible it is. 

As these things started happening, we came to the realization that the only thing tying us to the Utica area was Chriss' job.  And he was growing tired of what he was doing.  He wanted a change.  So early last year, he started applying to other companies.  He interviewed with a few places in the area, but none of them were right for us.  Then, around May or June, someone who was visiting our church struck up a conversation with Chriss.  Turned out, the guy was from California and worked for Bosch Medical (yes, the same Bosch that makes the appliances, power tools, and auto supplies).  He was here on business and announced that Bosch in Utica was hiring.  They talked quite a bit about it then and the few other times the guy came back on business.  But it wasn't until August that Chriss really decided to apply. 

He went in for an interview, followed by two more.  On the third interview, he was told that they didn't want to hire him in Utica.  They wanted him in Palo Alto.  Our gut reaction was No Way!  Neither of us had any desire whatsoever to live in CA.  But Chriss said he'd at least consider it when he saw the salary range they were thinking of.  We spent several weeks researching and thinking and praying about it.  Finally, we went back and said we'd consider it, but they'd have to make us an offer we couldn't refuse.  We also needed a few months to get our house ready to sell (and hopefully sold) before we moved because we couldn't afford two mortgages and no way were we willing for Chriss to be in CA while I'm stuck here trying to home school and sell the house by myself. 

After several more weeks of back and forth, they finally flew Chriss out to Palo Alto for a final interview and a chance to see the area.  This was the last week of October.  He liked what he saw out there as well as the type of work they'd be having him do--they make medical devices and they were really impressed by the software he'd written for T.  And a friend of his from college who now lives out there hooked him up with a realtor who helped us see that there are some pretty nice houses in good areas within a realistic price range for us.  Plus, the offer was really sweet.  The salary is pretty good and the relocation package is amazing.  Basically, they cover a week-long house hunting trip for the whole family, they pay to ship both our cars out there, they pay for movers to come and pack up and move our stuff, they pay for our relocation (plane tickets and stuff), give us 2 months of temporary housing once we get out there, and 90 days of free storage.  The only thing we have to do is cover the relocation of the cats ourselves.  Also, they were willing to give us time to get the house sold. 

Chriss came home from the trip, we spent a week doing yet more research, praying and talking and in the end, it just felt right.  So he accepted the job and started working in their Utica offices the week of Thanksgiving. 

Ever since then, it's been a whirlwind of work.  We had contractors out for some repairs, we painted the entire house, we decluttered like crazy, we staged (with help from our awesome realtor) and we finally finished and listed on Wednesday.  And that would be why I've been so absent these past few months.  It's been non-stop and I'm so relieved to finally have a break from it all before the next round of craziness begins because we have to be out there permanently by April 1, which means we'll be moving in mid-end of March.  Not much longer now. 

We're pretty excited.  It's going to be quite an adventure and there are going to be so many opoortunities for us.  Chriss will have far more career opportunities than he does here, there'll be a lot more film opportunities, and I like the home school options out there better than our here (I can put T in K12 full time for free out there.  Here, I can only afford to give him independent study history and science through K12), and I'll be so much closer to my family.  My parents live in WA--so we'll be in the same time zone for the first time in my married life--and my extended family lives in UT (with a few in AZ).  Plus, how can I not be excited about things like NO MORE SNOW, sunshine almost everyday, real mountains (which I've sorely missed), and the ocean?  I mean, I never thought I'd ever be able to spend my Decemeber anniversary at the beach, but next year I can! 

And so there you have it.  Big changes ahead for my family but we're ready so bring it!

Almost ready to reveal my secret...

Things are still pretty crazy around here.  We've still been working hard on things related to my big secret and I was also sick for about two weeks, but I'm starting to feel better and well...  craziness isn't gone yet.  Hopefully only a couple more weeks and we'll get a break before more craziness comes.  But in the meantime, my husband's youtube channel finally got 10,000 views and so he posted the first episode of his new web series.  This episode doesn't reveal the big secret (that comes in the next one) but it does set things up, so you should watch it so you'll know what's going on when episode two goes up. 

P.S.  If you like it, subscribe so you'll know as soon as more episodes come. 

Also, that is not really me.  It's an actress.  I don't like being in front of the camera so someone else has to pretend to be me.  I'll tell ya, it was pretty surreal to sit back and watch my family acting like a family in my living room (which has recently been all prettified and still doesn't feel like my living room) while someone else took my place.  But it was still a lot of fun to make.
reading is for awesome people

Books I've read (September-end 2011)

 56.  Dragon Spear  Jessica Day George ****  I liked seeing this series’ world expand so much in this book.  I also liked spending more time with the dragons than in the previous books.  It was fun seeing how much the characters had grown since the first book. 

The Son of Neptune  Rick Riordan ****  These books are so much fun to read.  I’ve always liked Greek/Roman mythology and I love how he takes them into modern times.  I also really like how he keeps the pace and tension up by never letting the characters off easy.  The characters in this one were especially deep, in my opinion.  I liked learning about their histories and their emotional journeys.  All three of the main characters had to make many meaningful sacrifices which made me connect with them even more.  I really can’t wait for the next book!

The Scorpio Races  Maggie Stiefvater *****  This book was amazing.  It’s the kind of book you savor until you near the last third and as much as you want to keep savoring it, you can’t put it down.  The writing is gorgeous, the story is so deep and emotional and beautiful, the characters so well written.  You can’t help but care about Puck and Sean, especially when you realize just how high the stakes are for both of them.  It’s the kind of book that cuts you to the core and then slowly puts you back together again.  I absolutely loved it.

Keturah and Lord Death  Martine Leavitt ***  I liked the fairy tale feel of this book.  I also liked how it felt like the kind of story you could sit and tell by the fire on a cold night.  I liked Keturah and how generous and clever she was.  I also liked how loyal her friends were to her and how much she did to repay their friendship.

Smokin’ Seventeen  Janet Evanovich ***  Even though I figured out who the bad guy was about a quarter of the way through the book, it was still a light, fun read.  Exactly what I needed when I read it. 

61.  Before I Go to Sleep  S. J. Watson *** Very creepy and unsettling book.  The emotional elements in it fit exactly how I imagine it might be like to wake up every day not knowing anything.  I liked how many revelations there were and how they built upon each other.  I suspected what was going on about halfway through but didn’t know the how.  That just made me want to read on even more to see if I was right and find out how it all happened. 

62.  Crossed  Ally Condie ****  I loved the first book, even though I was really creeped out by how the Society works.  This one still had that creepy factor to it, but I loved how much more emphasis there was on Cassia and Ky and their emotional arcs.  I also liked being able to see more of what it’s like outside the Society while still strongly feeling their influence.  It was great set up for the next book.

63.  Lola and the Boy Next Door  Stephanie Perkins ****  Just like with Anna, this had great, well-developed characters and a great love story. 

64.  Utraviolet  R. J. Anderson **** This is such a unique and very fascinating story.  It had tons of tension that kept me turning pages.  The descriptions were amazing.  And I had a ton of sympathy for Alison and loved seeing her emotional journey. 

65.  City of Ashes  Cassandra Clare *** I thought this made a good sequel to City of Bones.  I liked seeing more of the characters and how Cassandra Clare wasn’t afraid to make them suffer.  However, I do with that Clary was a bit more active during the fight scenes. 

66.  City of Glass  Cassandra Clare *** This was a satisfying finish to the story arc.  I liked seeing the character growth for everyone.  I was also very glad that something bothered me from the first book turned out to be the way I hoped it would. 

67.  City of Fallen Angels  Cassandra Clare ***  This was a good start to what looks like an interesting new story line for these characters.  I liked seeing more from Simon’s POV and the dynamic between him and Jace were pretty entertaining at times. 

68.  Clockwork Angel  Cassandra Clare ***  I liked this one even more than the Mortal Instruments books.  I think it was mostly because of the whole atmosphere of the book.  I loved the Victorian London setting mixed with the clockwork aspect.  Very easy to sink into the world building.  I’m also really intrigued by the characters.  They’re very layered and I’m looking forward to peeling back more of their layers in the next book.

69.  Explosive Eighteen  Janet Evanovich ***  This was another fun, light, quick read, just like the rest of the Stephanie Plum books.  It was also exactly what I needed right now. 

70.  Tuesdays at the Castle  Jessica Day George ****  I loved the whole idea of a magical castle that can change itself at whim.  I also really liked Celie and how intelligent and brave she was.  This was such a fun story and I couldn’t put it down.

71.  Getting Caught  Mandy Hubbard and Cyn Balog ***  I liked seeing both girls’ POV’s because it helped me understand their rationales behind their—sometimes very cruel—pranks.  Without that, it would have been very hard to like either girl, but because I got to see inside both their heads, I sympathized with both of them pretty easily.  I also liked how they grew, especially at the end of the book. 


Ten Years

I've been married for ten years today. 

It's hard to believe.  In some ways, it feels like we've been married forever (in a good way!) and in some ways, I can't believe it's been ten years already.  The past decade has been filled with some of the most amazing ups and some of the most difficult downs of my life.  But the best part is, I've never had to experience any of it alone.  Even when we've been geographically separated, we've always gotten through everything together and come out stronger than ever.  Both as a couple and individuals.  I know I've grown a lot in that time.  I look back at the newly married nineteen-year-old me and I'm amazed at how far I've come.  I'm so grateful that I married someone who not only believes in me, but is unfailingly supportive and constantly pushing me to reach my fullest potential.  He encourages me to work toward my dreams and loves me for who I am.  Yeah, I'd say I've definitely got the world's best husband!

I just wish that we could be doing something really special for our tenth anniversary.  Go somewhere sunny and warm.  I'd love to spend our anniversary on the beach instead of in the snow.  Maybe next year...
Christmas balls

My Christmas

I hope you all had a great Christmas yesterday.  Mine was nice, especially because my husband and I got to take a much needed break from the not-so-fun part of our big secret (which will be revealed once my husband's youtube channel hits 10,000 views).  We just kept everything low key and relaxed.  The most effort I put into anything yesterday was our dinner, and even then, I kept that as low key as a turkey dinner can be.  It was fun to watch T open his presents.  He got everything he'd asked for (books, Legos, and Webkinz) so he was pretty happy.  Chriss and I didn't get anything for each other this year, but our families sent us some money so he got some stuff he wanted and I got something I never thought I'd buy.

I recently came to the awful realization that not only am I quickly running out of bookshelf space, but I'm running out of places to put bookshelves.  This is a problem that will not be getting any better in the future.  And yet, I still very much want to keep feeding my book buying addiction.  I decided there was only one thing for me to do.  Cave in and get a kindle.  I never wanted one (or a nook or any other e-reader) because I love hard copies.  I love how they feel and smell and look.  And book nerd that I am, I love to ooh and ahh over how pretty they look on my shelves.  But cave I did.  And, I'll admit, after playing with it a bit yesterday, I am warming up to the whole idea.  I think I might even grow to really like it. 

Speaking of the kindle...  You know you're a parent of a T1 diabetic when you get really excited over the discovery that the kindle has a web browser, not so that you can facebook and check the news or email, but because it means you can access the calorie king website to look up carb info on foods not found in the book while you're away from home.  I have a feeling that whether I'm currently reading a book on it or not, the kindle will go with me anytime I leave the house. 

And now for a few pictures...

Our local fire department has a fun annual tradition where they bring Santa and Mrs. Claus around the neighborhood the Saturday before Christmas to hand out candycanes to the kids.

Our tree in our freshly painted dining room.

And I got a Pumpkin for Christmas.  :) 

Actually, my cat jumped in the box that had the presents from my parents the second I emptied it.  She does love boxes.

Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas! Also, I have a secret.

Wow, I have really fallen off the face of the earth, haven't I?  I can't believe I haven't posted since Halloween.  Then again, I've been so insanely busy that I haven't had any time to breathe, let alone poke around LJ-land much.  What have I been busy with?  Well, that's a secret.  ;)  No, it's not a publishing or writing-related secret (though, it'd be wonderful if it was).  Sadly, while this secret is pretty huge and exciting (well, mostly... the part that left me insanely busy wasn't much fun, but what's to come is incredibly exciting), it has left me with no time to even think about writing, let alone do any writing.  *sigh* How I miss it. 

When will this secret be revealed?  Well, my husband and I have decided to make our official reveal to the world through a new web series of his.  But before he posts the first episode, he wants to get to 10,000 views for his youtube channel.  So if you want to know the secret, go there and check out his videos so he can post it sooner. 

Much like the year we renevated our living room, this secret has left us with precious little time to prepare for Christmas.  But much like that other year, we haven't let that stop us.  While we've had to seriously scale down our normal Christmas stuff, we've been listening to Christmas music whenever possible, we put our tree up last year, I wrapped all the presents Thursday night, and I'll finally have time to do my baking today.  Even my Christmas baking has been seriously scaled down.  But that's okay.  I'm sure my hips will thank my later.  ;)  So I'm getting ready and I'm really excited for tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to a break from my crazy life, quality time with my husband and son, a home cooked meal that isn't organic mac and cheese or spaghetti, and the Christmas program at church.  I'm also looking forward to keeping up our annual tradition of opening presents with my parents and brother via webcam.  This will be our fourth year, I believe.  It's been fun and helps ease the fact that I'm all the way across the country from my family. 

I hope you guys all have a great Christmas, if you celebrate it, and a wonderful holiday season regardless of what you celebrate! 

And to make up for not posting in two months, here are a series of posts I made about two years ago of my favorite holiday memories.  Memory 1, Memory 2, Memory 3, Memory 4, Memory 5, Memory 6, Memory 7, and Memory 8.

A short story for Halloween

This month in language arts, T and I studied scary stories.  His writing assignment for the month was to write a scary story.  He wanted me to write one too.  Since I did scary last year with my haunted corn maze, I decided to try to creepy/unsettling instead. 

            He used to haunt me in my dreams so I stopped sleeping.
            It’s not enough.  Every time my eyes close, even to blink, I see his face.  Pasty white skin, the edges a faint blue, stretch taut against his skull.  Bruise-colored raccoon circles ring eyes so black and deep, I fear I’ll fall in and drown.  He looks so familiar, like someone I’ve known my whole life, and yet I have no recollection of ever seeing him outside my dreams.
            My constant companion, he follows me everywhere.  I’ll glimpse him out of the corner of my eye, but he disappears every time I turn to look.  What does he want from me?  No matter how many times I ask, he never answers.  His presence makes my skin crawl; the temperature drop. 
            My friends ask me why I’m always cold, always jittery, always looking about like I expect someone to jump out at me.  Don’t they see him?  Their brows furrow in confusion.  I stop asking when the confusion turns to worry and then to pity.  They think I’m crazy.  Maybe I am.
            The days drag by and I’m so tired.  I doze off once and he comes to me.  Water drips from his clothes, streaks down his skin like tears.  He reaches a bony, trembling hand toward me.  I back away from him, but there’s nowhere to run.  I can’t let him touch me. 
            He steps closer, closer.  Inches away from me. 
            My breath is ragged, tearing from my lungs like knives.
            I startle awake, my heart slamming against my chest.  I can’t stay here.  I need to keep moving.  Need to stay awake.  I go for a walk.  Maybe if I go far enough, I can escape him.  I keep my eyes resolutely on the ground, my hands cupped around the sides of my face so I can’t see him. 
            Someone bumps into me.  I reach out a hand to steady myself, touching cool, smooth glass.  I look up.  A mistake.  There he is.  A misty reflection wavering in a sliding glass door.  I turn and run, but see him everywhere now.  He chases me through windows, puddles, mirrors.  Any reflective surface.  I can’t run fast enough.
            At home I pause outside my door, gasping in fear when I see him in the polished knob.  I have to look away to open the door.  Inside, I race through each room.  There are too many mirrors.  Too many windows.  Too many shiny things.  I grab my sheets, towels, anything to cover them all.  Only the bathroom mirror remains.  But I’m out of coverings. 
            He stares at me from the silvery surface. 
            “What do you want?” I scream.  “Why won’t you leave me alone?”
            He raises his hand toward me.  Can he reach through the glass?  I don’t wait to find out. 
            I yank the mirror off the wall and throw it to the floor.  It hits with a satisfying smash.  Shards of glass spray across the room, cutting my legs and feet.  I hardly notice.  All I see is his face a thousand times.  Blinking at me from even the smallest slivers of broken mirror. 
            I dash from the room, slamming the door behind me.  I fall to the floor, folding my knees to my chest.  Tears stream down my cheeks.  I can’t sleep, can’t leave my house.  I can’t do anything for fear of seeing him again.  If I’m not crazy already, I’ll surely go mad soon.
            I lay there for so long that time seems to stop.  I’m not sure if it’s hours or days before exhaustion overcomes me and I sleep.
            This time when he reaches for me, I can’t wake up.  The instant his skin touches mine, we’re transported. 
            We’re at the lake.  It’s a beautiful autumn day.  The leaves on the trees and scattered across the ground are ablaze with color.  A blanket is spread before us, a picnic basket waits, filled with sandwiches and an apple pie.
            He points, directing my attention to a couple holding hands and walking along the dock where a rowboat floats, tied to a piling.  They look hazily familiar.  The boy steps along the very edge like he’s on a tightrope. 
             “Careful,” the girl warns him.
He stumbles forward, arms freewheeling, fighting for balance.  Her eyes widen with horror.  She cries out, grabs for him.  Laughing, he easily recovers.  He’s only teasing.  The girl huffs at him, shoves his shoulder.
            This time, he really does slip.  He reaches for her, hands grasping only empty air before he falls into the water.  His head hits the edge of the dock. 
            I remember now.
            The girls screams become my own.  I’m no longer watching from the distance.  I’m there, at the edge of the dock, hands outstretched in vain.  The crystalline water turns crimson with his blood as he sinks further and further away from me. 
            I jump in, swallowing a large mouthful of lake.  The frigid water paralyzes me.  But I can’t let him die.  I will my icy muscles to move and plunge beneath the surface.  Again and again, diving deeper each time.  At last I find him.  It takes all my strength to drag him out of the water and push him onto the dock. 
            I’m too late. 
            Tears blind me as I scream over and over.
            I’m too late.
            “I’m sorry,” I sob.  “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.”
            “I know,” he says.  He stands over me.  Over his body. 
            I shiver uncontrollably as I look up at him, expecting to see anger in those dark eyes.  I find only sorrow.   
            “Forgive me,” I plead, desperate for him to stop haunting me. 
            “I already have,” he says.  “Now you need to forgive yourself.”
            I close my eyes and when I open them, I’m back on the floor in my hallway.  I stand and slowly open the bathroom door.  The mirror still lies broken, but now when I look into the jagged pieces, I see only me.