Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Part II

Stormy took to his new home quite well, in fact much better than he took to our house when we first got him. He hid for all of 20 minutes, then his curiosity got the best of him and he started exploring. Gigi, the cat who was already queen of the house, was not at all interested in this interloper and hissed at him whenever she got a chance, but the dog Magena was thrilled to have a cat in the family who actually paid attention to her. Stormy liked having another cat in the house, even an unfriendly one (he grew up with 2 other male cats and one unfriendly female, so this was like home to him). The girls carried him around from place to place for the first day he was in the house.

I spent a very short weekend in Brookline with my dad, then ran back to PA on MLK day – if I picked Terry up at his dad’s on Monday morning and drove him back to Philly where he’d left the truck, I could avoid having to drive the round trip on Tuesday to bring the extra car up to his dad’s … so around 7am on Monday I got back in the car and trekked back south. The visit was short, but dad will most likely be our first visitors, in June, so we won’t even really have a chance to miss each other!

The rest of Monday I spent scurrying around doing all the last minute things I had forgotten to do previously, and being very thankful that I had the extra time to do so. On Tuesday I drove all the stuff we weren’t having movers deal with to the hotel I would be staying in for the rest of my time in PA. The government generously pays for up to 10 days of housing and per diem for packout, starting the day before packout begins – which makes sense because once you pack the sheets and pillows, what do you have to sleep on?

My friend Valerie arrived later that day to assist with the packout. Packout is what happens when the movers show up. We were told that we were not allowed to do any of our own packing, and later discovered that movers are happy to peek into a box, satisfy themselves that nothing inside is likely to break, then just wrap up the box as is. The packout itself went just fine, much more smoothly than I had expected, although after this experience I can say with full confidence that it is not for the single individual. Beg, bribe or pay homeless people to help you because if you don’t, all your things may get packed into cardboard boxes and taken out of your home, but you will never see them again because you will have no idea which thing was put into which box, and who knows what gets lost along the way. To add to the fun, one of the movers was adamant about fitting the most things into any box without regard for keeping like items together, so our mixer attachments are in 3 separate boxes, none of which also contains the mixer itself. Yikes! We’ll have fun looking for those things when we are back in DC or if we ever get a post that uses 110 voltage power.

Friday morning I bade Valerie farewell and headed off to my new adventure – my super cute, super short haircut! I had donated my hair for Locks of Love a few years previously, and had really wanted to do it again before we left. My hair hadn’t had time to grow quite so long as last time, so after Gina took off the minimum 10 inches, she then circled me in the chair muttering to herself “Now what can I do with this?” I trusted her completely and she did not fail me, although I do admit it never again looked as cute as it did after she styled it. It has been 2 months now and my hair is still the shortest it has ever been.
Monday I began my final journey to Virginia, arriving on Tuesday to begin my stay at the “retirement home”. To backtrack, Terry began his training in one location in Virginia in September, and moved to a different location way outside of anywhere in November. When he moved, he got a house with 4 other guys in his class, which they originally dubbed the “frat house.” Terry, Larry, Will, Jim and Yavuz learned what happened when people stopped being polite and started being real, except that MTV wasn’t paying for the housing or putting them into wacky situations. One thing they learned is that most of the house inhabitants were in bed by 8:00pm.

Because at this point the concept of spending one whole consecutive week in one location is just not fathomable, we decide to go up to the cabin my first weekend in Virginia, with friends from Terry’s training class. It turned into a lesson in outdoor survival preparedness as the well pump stopped working within about ½ hour of our arrival. Luckily, we had some amount of drinking water that we had left there and the stream was running – it wasn’t too cold up there – so we could get water for toilet flushing. It turned out that Terry’s dad had left 2 large buckets filled with clean water, and they had frozen, so Saturday night was spent boiling small quantities of water to pour over the ice and try to melt it, then re-boiling the melted parts so that in the end there was water for each of us to take what was essentially a sponge bath. I am pretty sure JT and Yoko have never roughed it like this before!

The next week was glorious for several reasons – one, the house sale was to close; two, the standard part of Terry’s training would be over and there would be a nice graduation ceremony; and three, we discovered I was pregnant.

As usual in my dealings with our realtor, there were problems. The main one being that although I had called her before I left Philadelphia to confirm that there was nothing further she needed from me, she failed to tell me she needed the receipts from the contractors who did the work that had been required by the home inspection. Her first proposal was for me to fax her the receipts. I explained that the nearest public fax machine was 12 miles away and it was her responsibility, not mine, at this point. Her next lovely idea was to hold our settlement check in escrow until the contractors sent the receipts, which she assured me would be the very next day. At that point I went ballistic, and the end result was that her commission check was held in escrow. Of course, the contractors did not send the documents as promised and I was slightly gleeful when she called to ask my help in getting any kind of document to prove the work was done and we paid them. Of course, she got us back because although she assured me that all utilities were paid out of the closing funds, Philly Gas Works is not so paid so we had to deal with getting a final bill and of course it was overdue. However, we were able to pay it without penalty and we got the settlement check a day or two after closing so in the end it all worked out very well.

That weekend I went to Florida to spend time with my mother before we left the country. In speaking with my sis-in-law before leaving, Heather told me that my mom thought I was going to get off the plane and tell her I was pregnant. So, of course, I had to consider it but thought of how she was then going to have to drive us home and figured it would be best to wait. I did tell her the next day and cautioned her that it was still way too early and I never would have told her yet if I weren’t leaving the country and I was still deeply in potential miscarriage territory. Her response was of course “pooh pooh and kana hora you say such a thing” but she did promise not to say anything. Of course, you’d think it was be a little telling when, later that week, we were driving a friend to the airport and helping bring her bags to the car and my mother was trying to wrest the bags from my hands. Yeah, very subtle mom. Various family responses to the news: from Heather “Really? Really? REALLY?” from Randy “Well THAT’s a bet I would have lost.”

After 3 ½ months in the retirement home, it was finally time to move on. In preparation for a month of hotel living, we brought both cars to PA and brought Kirby to stay with Terry’s dad. Unfortunately for us, the day we left was during the huge PA “unable to clear the snow” scandal that left three major highways closed for about 4-5 days. We knew the ride would be longer than usual because (1) our normal route took us on 2 of the closed highways and (2) like everyone else, we would be packing the one remaining major highway so the traffic would be insane. What we did not expect, although in hindsight should have, was that when we got onto the one remaining major highway a tractor-trailer carrying hazardous materials would jackknife on the side of the road we were on, thus closing the highway for a few hours. Adding to the fun were (1) we were in separate cars so we couldn’t even keep each other company; (2) I was in the car with no antenna and only 3 cassette tapes; and (3) I was pregnant, which if any of you know anything about pregnancy, means that I needed to stop for a bathroom break about every 1-2 hours. To keep perspective, though, we reminded ourselves that on the night of the actual snowstorm, people were trapped on the one (now closed) highway for us to 36 hours. No joke. This is why it was a scandal.

After 8 ½ hours on what is normally a 4 hour trip, we finally arrived at Terry’s dad’s house. The original plan to go up to the cabin that weekend was quashed because (1) we didn’t want to spend one more minute in a car ever again and (2) the third highway that was closed and not reopened during the weekend was the one we’d need to get there. Needless to say, the trip back to Virginia after the weekend never seemed so quick. We spent a lovely 5 day week at the Comfort Inn, where – luckily – a guy in Terry’s class was also staying so he drove Terry to work and I could have the car – this hotel wasn’t as centrally located as the retirement home was and I would otherwise be trapped with only a 7-11 for entertainment within safe walking distance.

Saturday was best because we finally moved into DC. It was wonderful not needing the car except for the trips out to Burke to see my family.

Other than the immediate family, we had been doing our best to keep mum about the baby until we passed the first trimester. Around week 9 (the week before we left), I was tired of not telling anyone and, hell, I was just damn tired. I went from the one who woke after 8 hours of sleep, no matter what time it was, to the one who went right back to sleep after the alarm went off and only woke again – briefly – to say goodbye when Terry left for work. And 2 hour afternoon naps didn’t leave me groggy, although they also didn’t leave me too well rested. I had also gotten an ultrasound at my 8 week appointment so it was confirmed that there was a fetus – only one – and it had a heartbeat, so I was feeling pretty good about everything. According to the ultrasound, baby looks a lot like an anvil-shaped white blob.