Thursday, April 24, 2014

(Mis)Adventures in Camping

We've decided to become a camping family, and I am fully on board with that idea. Me, a camper! Who knew? I am usually a girl who likes luxuries and conveniences within arms reach. I mean, I get giddy over the fact I have at least four Targets (including a Super Target) within a 15 mile radius of our apartment. But, we've had a lot of fun camping at the Acoustic Cafe for the past two years, and enjoyed a successful overnight stay at Tims Ford State Park two years ago. It seemed silly to use our giant tent, air mattresses and sleeping bags just once a year, so we started looking at local campgrounds to do a another trial run before this year's music festival.

Our schedule is pretty tight these days (hooray for a social life), so Fred wanted to go last weekend. The weather forecast was promising, and he really wanted to go for a two night stay. I was reluctant because I was convinced we would end up with food poisoning due to our hot dogs not staying fresh in the cooler, but really, I was just stalling. I like camping when I'm actually in the wild (with bathrooms just a two minute walk away), but I admit, the idea of it seems just so tiring. The weather was on my side, as rain was in the forecast all day Friday. Who wants to set up a tent in the rain? We decided to just go for Saturday night instead. There we met Problem #1. The campsite we chose, Don Carter State Park, only accepts two night reservations over the weekend. So we went ahead and booked both nights, hoping the rain would hold off. Nope. While Violet and I were busy buying camping supplies, the heavens opened and it started to rain. And rain. And rain. Yep. We paid $30 to sleep in our own beds that night.

The next morning was still pretty miserable, but Fred assured me the rain was going to blow over. He showed me the forecast to prove it. I had my doubts because Google showed me a forecast that called for rain all day. So we headed north, hoping to see a break in the clouds. And finally, the sun! Yes, the sun was shining over Fred as he went to confirm our reservation in the visitor center. Well hello, Problem #2! Fred came out a few minutes later looking very bemused. "The ranger says we made a reservation in the wrong place. We booked a spot in the RV campground. We can still camp there, but we have to move the picnic table. I have no idea what's going on. It didn't say that on the website." Apparently, there are two campsites at Don Carter. One is for "primitive camping" which means no bathrooms or water, and you have to leave your car behind and haul your gear to the site. The other is mainly for RV's. Is it just us, or is that weird? Can RVing even be considered camping? We have three kids and a lot of gear. We need to park our van right there, and have bathrooms close by. How much of a problem would this be?

Turns out, it was kind of a big problem. As we drove around the campground looking for a spot, we couldn't see any that would fit our tent. Now, we don't have a HUGE tent. It's an 8 person tent, which is perfect for us, and pretty standard for families. Luckily, we found one spot that would work. And yes, we did have to move the picnic table. Man, that thing was heavy. We got the tent up pretty quickly, and set up mattresses and stashed our gear. By that time, we were starving and it was time for lunch. We piled back into the van and it started raining. That was Problem #3, and for once, I hated to be right. It wasn't a heavy rain, more of a steady drizzle. But the temperature dropped too, so we felt pretty chilly. It held off long enough for us to go on a hike and enjoy the park. We found a playground and a beach, which Ruby declared to be "paradise". And it really was.

We headed back to the tent as it was time to start a fire. There's nothing like hot dogs and brats cooked on an open flame. And let's not forget the s'mores! That's when Problem #4 turned up in the form of rain and wind. No matter what we did, we could not keep that fire going. The paper would not burn, and the wood just smoked. It was so disappointing. Eating at a Mexican restaurant was not what we had in mind for this trip, but that's exactly what happened. And it wasn't even that great. We didn't even have s'mores to look forward to when we got back. Just chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers in a bowl. I think Ruby's face says it all.


Of course, with no campfire, it was cold outside. Fred and I had no choice but to go to bed at the same time as the kids. Now camping wears me out, but not that much. And here we met Problem #5, the cold. Because the sun had stayed behind the clouds all day, the tent didn't hold any daytime heat. Also, I don't like sleeping bags, and we really have nowhere to store them in our apartment. Fred was okay with just using blankets, so that was what we packed. Except we didn't pack enough. I was freezing! I ended up wearing five layers, including my hoodie. I kept the blanket over my head and I was still cold. I barely slept. Poor Violet felt the cold too, because her sleeping bag was too lightweight. Cy and Ruby were fine in their all weather sleeping bags. I woke up more tired than when I went to bed! And I was so stiff too, because I had been so tense all night long, trying to stay warm.

So was this trip a disaster? Actually no. We all had a great time. Sunday morning turned out beautiful, and we went back to the playground for breakfast. It's really nice to get away from home, just the five of us. The kids LOVE camping. It's just a huge thrill for them. And because they're happy, we're happy. I just wish we could've had s'mores.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Still here

Yep, I'm still around. Still in Atlanta. Still not working. I'm going to try and make a concerted effort to update this blog more than once every five months. Surely I can find something to write about.

Actually, I do have a story from today. I got kind of lazy about logging in to our bank account (funny how the convenience of online banking sometimes becomes a chore). After closing our account back in Tennessee, I left the money in our checking account as we would be buying a new-to-us van (yep, did that two weeks ago). So for once, I wasn't worried about our balance. I finally logged in today and noticed that Fred had been to Arby's. At least I assumed it was Fred. I knew it wasn't me. Then I found a few low purchases at various gas stations. And at Walgreens and CVS. We haven't been to those stores in forever. The same with Kroger. I'm a Publix/Trader Joe's/Target loyalist. There were some Target purchases, but I haven't been to Target this week, and I never been to the store in Alpharetta. Or the one in Duluth. I've never even been to Alpharetta or Duluth. Somebody stole Fred's card details (the card is still in his wallet) and went on a shopping spree. For 10 days. I actually think it's kind of genius how they made relatively small purchases at stores pretty much everyone uses, probably in an attempt to conceal the theft. And they probably think we are incredibly dumb for not doing anything about it for 10 days, making over $600 in purchases.

Luckily, our credit union couldn't have been more helpful, and some of the money has been credited back to our account already. The customer service has been nothing but top notch since we joined late last year. I think it's time to write a letter to corporate.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Think the Universe Might be Trying to Tell Me Something

On Sunday, Violet got hold of my iPod and for want of a better word, broke it. The touch screen was completely locked up. Because she broke the home button over a year ago (why do I let her even look at it, let alone play with it?), I couldn't even turn it off to reboot. It had become a very pretty and pricey paperweight. I decided to stop by the nearest Apple store that afternoon to see if they could take a look, but had to make an appointment for the next morning, which happened to be Columbus Day, which meant a day off for the big kids. I would have to take all three kids with me, but I figured Cy and Ruby could keep Violet entertained while I talked with my Genius. I took the earliest appointment so we could do something fun afterwards. We had a plan for our extra day together. Ha!

That same day, Violet had some tummy trouble (why yes I am talking about my child's poop on my blog!! That's what blogs are for, right?). I didn't think much of it besides how hard it is to deal with a newly potty trained kid who needs to poop a lot. On Monday morning, she was still having issues, but was able to make it to the bathroom in time. Until she didn't. I was just finishing up in the shower when she told me she had pooped in her underwear. Poor kid. It took me a few minutes to realize it wasn't confined to her underwear. Yuck! And we were just about to head out for my Genius Bar appointment too. I guess I was in denial when I contemplated keeping the appointment, but my mummy brain kicked into gear and I rescheduled for the next morning. That was just as well as it soon became clear Violet was pretty sick as she soon developed a low grade fever and she had to use the bathroom several more times. We weren't going anywhere. Cy and Ruby weren't too disappointed as they had some friends to play with.

But before Cy went out to play, I noticed something stuck to his shoe. A closer look confirmed dog poop. Ack! Could this day be any more stinky? I spent a good 20 minutes trying to dig dog poop from the grooves in the sole of his shoe, during which time Violet had an "incident". Luckily, she was wearing a pull-up but still, it was awful. This all happened before noon. I was exhausted. The big kids finally went off to play, but a couple of hours later, Cy came home and told me he wasn't feeling good. Every fall/winter, he gets some weird cold that settles in his chest and he starts wheezing. In my expert (ha!) opinion, I think it's a throwback to the walking pneumonia and bronchitis he had as a little kid. So I now had two sick kids.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning, and Violet was in our room before 5:00 am, crying and demanding breakfast. That never happens, so I put her back to bed and within 30 minutes, she was crying again, and when I went back in to comfort her, she threw up. Yikes! I brought her back into bed with me where she promptly fell asleep. But because Ruby just had to join us, and she does nothing but fidget, Violet woke up and demanded I clean up her bed so she could go back to sleep. I sleepily obliged. Cy was still feeling puny, so I kept him home from school. I figured he was just just about well enough to make the quick trip to the mall to get my iPod fixed (oh yeah, even though the screen was frozen, the thing still worked and my alarm went off at 6:00 and I couldn't turn it off), provided Violet was up to it. But by 8:00 am, she was still asleep, and we needed to leave before 9:00. As (bad?) luck would have it, the Apple store called to ask me to reschedule for the next morning as their Internet was down.

That made three failed attempts to get my iPod fixed. Surely, I could finally get it taken care of on Wednesday. At least Cy would be well rested and ready to take on his homework after his friend brought it home, as arranged with their homeroom teacher. Except his friend was never given Cy's homework. His teacher forgot all about it. Poor Cy started worrying about how he was going to fall behind with his work. Tuesday was just as exhausting as Monday, and to top it off, Violet pooped in the tub. At least Fred was home to help with that one.

This morning, Violet was a whole lot better, but Cy still wasn't feeling good. I decided to keep him home as he has a field trip tomorrow, and I'm hoping an extra day of rest will mean he can go with his classmates. I decided today was the day I could keep my appointment and get the iPod fixed. We hit the road and BAM, we hit traffic on I-285. It's really disconcerting to come to a dead stop on the interstate, I always forget Atlanta doesn't really have rush hour, it has traffic. All day long. And even though we are close to so many things, if we have to take the interstate to get there, it's going to take a while. It started to feel like I wasn't meant to have a working iPod because everything that could stop me from keeping my appointment seemed to have happened.

But we did make it to the Apple store, "just in time" according to the check-in guy. Apparently, if you are more than 15 minutes late to your appointment, you need to reschedule. If that had happened, I might have thrown a Violet style tantrum in front of the Genius Bar. Luckily for everyone, that didn't happen and I now have a working iPod, albeit one wiped clean of photos, music and apps. That means Violet has no reason to use it now because all she liked to do with it was watch videos of her cousins and take photos of the floor. And all it took was a 10 minute fix, and a ridiculous amount of drama in between.

(As you might recall, I'm no stranger to days filled with bodily fluids and seemingly endless sagas.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Just Peachy

I really don't want to give up this blog, but for some reason, I am struggling to find the energy to write new posts. I've been struggling a lot lately, but that's a post for another day.

So here we are, four months into our new adventure, and while things are not going according to plan (hello unemployment and van repairs), things are going well. Cyrus and Ruby like their new school. They have a lot of friends, including a few who live here in the same complex. The weather has been gorgeous, and we have discovered that while we might not have a backyard, the kids are perfectly happy to play outside on the stretch of grass behind our apartment. If I can just get them to keep an eye out for dog poop.

Violet and I have been keeping busy with playground visits, trips to the library, and running errands. I like getting to hang out with my little buddy. I have even managed a couple of mom dates with some new friends. I get to have a social life here.

Fred is still very happy at work, and keeping busy with new projects. I am still actively looking for work, applying for every library job that I can find. I even joined LinkedIn to try and start networking. I tell myself it's only been four months, and in the grand scheme of things, that's not too long to be looking for work. Something will turn up.

So yes, life is good. I like it here.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Summertime

One might think that with no job, all the unpacking done, and plenty of hours spent at home trying to escape the Atlanta heat, I would be able to write blog posts galore. Clearly, I suck at blogging. But I promise to try harder.

So, what have we been up to? Well, last month, we went on vacation. An honest-to-goodness holiday (that's what we call vacations back home, and I do have some readers overseas - hello Mum!!). Fred's parents celebrated their 60th birthdays and their 40th wedding anniversary in March, so their boys decided to treat them to a week in the Virginia mountains, but only on the condition we could tag along too. Luckily, they agreed which was just as well as this cabin would have been awfully big for just two people.

When they said it was a log cabin, they meant it.


The cabin is located in Massanutten Resort, just outside Shenandoah National Park, so we just had to go hiking.

Dude, we totally saw a black bear lope across the road in front of our van! It was so cool!


And play Hide and Seek with willing aunts and uncles.



As well as stop along the Skyline to check out the view.

They were impressed. Really, they were.

We decided to pay our respects to Thomas Jefferson and visit Monticello. We were not disappointed.



And sometimes, we just hung out around the cabin.


When we weren't hiking of course.

I skipped this one for babysitting duties. Maybe next time.




It really was a great vacation, and we can't wait to do it again. Where should we go next year?


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Changing Things Up, Again.

No, no, no, we are not moving again. I don't plan to leave this apartment for at least another two years. Besides, I only just starting hanging stuff on the walls. I have made holes now. This is home.

No, it looks like I won't be working as a school media specialist after all. It's not for a lack of trying on my part. I have applied to over 20 jobs in three school districts, and I have had the sum total of one interview. That was over two weeks ago, and I still haven't heard back, so I've given up on that one. It's too bad really because it was for an elementary position at an International Baccalaureate school. It's a Title I school in a really nice area. I think I could've made a real impact there. But it clearly wasn't meant to be. And that is okay.

So what does this mean for our little family? It means I get to go back to being a stay at home mum again. I haven't done it for five years, and after doing it for a month, I think my mojo is coming back. It'll just be me and Violet at home, as Ruby starts Kindergarten this year. We will have fun!

The best part though is we can actually afford for me to do it, and that's without deferring my student loans. Okay, so it might mean we can't go back to England anytime soon (we're still working on that) or buy a house within the next five years. But it means we don't have to stress about money each month. At least I hope not.

My plan is to try and volunteer in the library at Cy and Ruby's school, if I can find affordable care for Violet, so I need to research Mother's Day Out programs. And maybe that experience will enable me to get "in" the school system. But if that doesn't work, we'll be okay. Just like we survived our year apart, we'll get through this. Besides, Violet is pretty cool. I think I'll like hanging out with her.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Perks of City Living

We've been here for four weeks now, and I love it. I really do. I find it so weird that I barely think about the Tullahoma house. In fact, I struggle to remember it at times. I guess that's a good thing, that I'm not pining for something I no longer have. There are several things I miss about Tennessee - my work friends, daycare (I will miss that place forever), Cy's school (which would have been Ruby's this year), the friends my kids had so much fun with, and the backyard we left behind. But we're adjusting nicely, and we're very happy to be here.

Our apartment is in a great location. I sometimes can't believe our luck that we found this place (I'll share pics when it doesn't look such a mess). I knew I'd like living in civilization again. I just didn't know how much. This is what I like about it.

  • Multiple branches of the public library, and we can use every one.
  • Not having to fill up the gas tank all the time. During our epic commute, I was filling up the van several times each week.
  • Being able to make a quick Target run in 45 minutes. I didn't even know such a thing was possible.
  • Access to multiple walk-in clinics because we don't have a doctor yet. Fred and I both had strep, and went to the local Minute Clinic for quality care.
  • It only takes 20 minutes to get to IKEA.
  • Cute little neighborhoods just off the main roads.
  • Community schools can still be found within the big city. Cy and Ruby will start at one in August.
  • Needing to get out of the apartment because we have cabin fever, and knowing there are several places to go within a 15 minute drive.
  • Access to numerous local stores and restaurants that are not national chains.
  • Parks and playgrounds in every direction.
  • Panera. I think my kids are addicted to their bagels.

I think this list will get longer the longer we live here. I'm excited to find out what else will make it on there.