Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter for the Hound Dog

Eiger loves the snow - most of the time.

Up until last Wednesday's storm of snow and ice, I could take him around the block to exercise in the school yard.  These pictures were taken after last Monday's storm when we had about 14-16" on top of what was left from the week before.  I'm losing track.

Eiger is a tall dog - long giraffe legs.  So running him around in deep snow is great exercise - until the ice came.  Now we worry about sprains, tears or breaks since the top crust crumbles beneath his/our weight but you don't know when and it's uncomfortable to lurch across the snow. 

He had fun when it was good though:
It's so deep that he runs like a rabbit pulling both back legs up and forward at the same time.  It's very amusing and the more we laugh the crazier he acts.
Taking a breather - I think he's such a handsome pup.
Trying to find something - head completely buried.
Canine winter bath:
In this next pic you may or may not be able to tell Eiger is walking gingerly around the yard.  The backyard has become a minefield - not from his piles (those are in a frozen pile in a corner when I can find them!) - but from the crusty collapsing over the chewed up snow from layers of storms.

He continues to show reluctance to go out and take care of business - any business - in his own backyard.  I thought he was a bit pycho.  He may be but I found out that everyone else's dogs are having the same problem.  It is therefore necessary to walk them a bit more and seriously - it's been 8-10 degrees most mornings and 15-20 at night and this furless human doesn't relish the bundling and fresh air much anymore.  It's safer to walk them on the icy sidewalks and streets than their own backyards.

I'm writing while watching the snow come down in our latest nasty storm.  I thought I saw enough of cold winter/snow from living in Iowa and our location in NJ is suppose to be closer to weather in Zurich - which I liked.  This winter has had more snow than any of our winters in IA and has definitely been as cold with below zero mornings and days that stay in the teens/low 20's - plus windchill.  Granted, we only had 4 winters in IA - I know there are years that are worse.

I just did a little research and found that as of last Thursday, Newark Liberty Int'l Airport had reported 61.7 inches of snowfall for this winter season - we are in the next "snow band" west of Newark so we get a little more with each storm.  And Al Roker has reported NY hasn't had this much snow since '82 - if you can't trust Al for weather, who can you trust?  So yeah, we are getting dumped on and I was really looking forward to Live with Kelley & Michael this morning for snow day TV fun but all I can get on every channel is Live News showing me all the weather mess that is falling right outside my window.  I think I'll change to HGTV. 

And then we girls will get bundled and go to work clearing off the cars and walks before our snow changes to sleet......

Can you tell I'm done with winter?  So is Eiger.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

You thought I was gone?

I have to admit. I knew it had been a long time since I've posted to this poor, lonely Blog site but Sept. 6th! Wow!

I have various reasons of course.  Most valid (moving again was time consuming).  Some not (should an infatuation with Love it or List it replace dedication to ones Blog?). The most likely reason is that I chose to focus on what mattered most (family and health) in the past 6 months of moving and getting to know another place and community and maintain my sanity.  Very often this did not mean sitting down at the computer other than to pay bills and respond to emails - I've been woefully inadequate at responses as well.

After multiple moves, I can't say I'm the best at it.  Each move has been different and provides its own challenges.  I can say that I've fought my personality a bit in the last couple years and this has been reflective in my blog absence as well.  I'm getting through the book "Quiet- the Power of Introverts" by Susan Cain.  I found I wasn't sure what to write anymore - I needed purpose.  Living in Switzerland gave me purpose - I was sharing my different life with family and friends at home in the US.  Moving back - I lost focus and as I expressed to a friend recently the way people communicate changed significantly while we were in Switzerland and I don't necessarily feel like I fit into the fast-paced society we've become.  No one wants to wait for me to process information or develop my thoughts or listen to a full sentence - I'm not complaining, it's just an observation.  In talking, I realized the Blog had been a release for me in communication.  One I haven't had for a while.  It is not about getting more readers or showing anything off - simply sharing life and some fun pictures and knowing someone is slowing down enough to read something I wrote.  Something I had to say.

Kendra's white board with a Stephen Hawking quote says a lot:

 
 

So - I'm going to try again and we'll see what happens! What's been happening lately in our world is weather.  I have a lot of snow pictures today for you.  Now I love snow and have enjoyed some of our snowy weather this year but not this week.  Which is why I have to turn yuck! into something beautiful - right?

This was Monday - our 4th and final built-in "snow day" for school.  We received between 14 - 16 inches on top of what was left from the prior week.  It was a heavy snow but manageable.  Poor neighbors nanny was on the street when the plow came by - they dug her out before it made another pass later in the day.  Oh, and two ladies were cross country skiing down the street as well - wish I had them myself.


These next two pics of our house were taken at different times and I'll try to describe what happened.  The first pic is fairly early on Monday, we don't have much snow yet and you can see the snow on the roof and bushes under our windows, Yes?


Now you don't. See snow on our roof or many bushes under our windows.  Wednesday mornings storm brought snow and then sleet which caused everything to crust over with ice.  No one moved on the street until after 11am.  Around that same time, the ice and snow from the roof decided to come sliding down.  All of it.  Loud and hard and sadly, from the amount of breakage I can see, we just experienced natural selection in landscaping.  The large bushes next to our door are still covered in ice - some leaves and branches have 2inch layers of ice on them - it's wild. 
Everything was covered in ice but sometimes it's really, really beautiful:
Beautiful tree on the grounds of the school down the street:

Close-up of how ice covered everything.  All of our trees were covered like this and then the wind was blowing and it was crackling - very spooky.  If the wind blew hard enough it would send little shards of ice falling down - trees were so sparkly in the sunshine the next day.  In spite of the sun, that ice did not melt until today - Saturday.


Here's Kendra doing her best "Lucy" impersonation as it looked like we were living in Narnia:
Rachel on her way to a Semi-Formal dance last week - her first dance here in NJ. 
Here is the big dog having a run in the school yard.  Thank goodness he likes the snow!  What has been difficult is the way the snow iced over with Wednesdays storm.  He alternately slides on the iced over snow or suddenly breaks through it.  We worry about him hurting/breaking a leg and I'm starting to take him on more walks because he's so uncomfortable on the backyard snow, he won't do his doggy duties.  So we are more than ready for this icy mess to go away.

And Blogger just deleted the pic of Bart with his shovel.  I'm supposed to be going upstairs to say good night to the girls.  But I'm sooooo close to posting this that I will.  I'll post a pic of Bart with his favorite snow shovel (sarcasm implied) later.

I hope everyone reading this is well and if you are reading this, Thank You! 

Friday, September 06, 2013

School has started - sort of

School finally started for the girls on Wednesday - Sept. 4th.  It's been a long, long time since my girls started school after Labor Day weekend.  I believe it was Preschool?  Everyone else we know started by at least the last week of August - my sister's kids in Hawaii started the first week of August.
 
And then they had yesterday, Thursday, off for Rosh Hashanah - Jewish New Year.  Which would be great.  If it didn't follow the first day of school. They are back in school today, Friday.  Although we found out that other school districts with higher Jewish populations get today off too.  
 
So in my mind, school really starts next Monday - September 10th.  Which has made this summer just a little extra long.  Moving to a new place and waiting longer than we are accustomed (IA, Switzerland and CA schools all start earlier) to get into the normal routine has been trying at times.  As I explained to the girls, we are all feeling a little out of sorts and snippy with each other because we're tired of being one another's sole source of company and entertainment!
 
High School Sophomore!!!
 
7th Grade at the Middle School! 
See - finally downloaded pictures.  I'll share more eventually but have to sort through everything.

One might think this move would be easier than Switzerland but it wasn't.  Switzerland was supposed to be temporary, CA was supposed to last a while.  So a lot of choices were made based on that - furniture, appliances, investment in the property, etc....  We rented in Switzerland, owned in CA and now in NJ.

We thought CA was full of ridiculous bureaucracy but NJ is definitely more so.  Example:  CA school district accepted the medical physical reports required with the Swiss Dr.'s signature.  NJ would NOT accept the physical reports signed off by a CA Dr.  So even though the girls had physicals under the 12 months required and vaccine's are the same - we had to go get new physicals so that a NJ Dr. could sign off.  For these purposes I'm glad the job change included an insurance change - otherwise we would have had to pay out of pocket for physicals to meet the signature demand.

OK - blowing off a little steam?

Hmmm - air conditioner had to be looked at.  Three gas valves on our range were leaking so we are still (6 weeks later) waiting for those parts to arrive so cooking is still on limited basis (we manually open the gas line to the stove when needed and open the windows but my fear is I'll forget to close the line and what if?? ).  It's humid.  Property, although nicely landscaped, not nicely weeded and most of our lawn is field weeds/crabgrass so we will need to do work there - it was ok to have a weedy lawn in Switzerland but is a mess here. Barbeque is half working.  It's humid.  Needed to re-line furnace chimney.  Sampled and have rugs on order so that Eiger reduces his risk of strains/sliding on the hard wood floors.  Rachel is still on a mattress on the floor until her bed comes in.  Kendra's still waiting for a dresser/desk so her things can get off the floor. It's humid.  My stuff is still on the floor even though my clothes chest has arrived because I need time.  Estimates, quotes, Dentists, Orthodontists - all of these things take up so much time.  It's humid. So it's not so much fun when you move. 

But we are getting there.  And I am really OH SO THANKFUL for : good recommendations for Doctors, Dentists and Orthodontists. That my husband made the decision to have the whole interior painted before I arrived instead of the 3 rooms/ceilings we initially planned on - that was such a gift to me!!! The AC is working fine now.  I can use my oven and since it usually takes me about 2 months to get back in the cooking groove after moving (seriously, I'm not kidding!) I figure I have a couple more weeks and by then the stove should be 100% operational. We are getting someone to help with the lawn.  We did not have to camp in the house like we did to and from Switzerland.  That in spite of the crummy job the movers did on both sides, not more was broken or damaged and we have managed to find most of our stuff in one box or another.  That we have found a great kennel for Eiger when needed - not cheap but it is working out really good.  The furnace chimney is relined and found that our regular chimney flu is leaky so get to have that fixed too - lucky us!  The floors are beautiful and creaky(I like the sound except when Eiger gets up to pace at night - we might have to crate him again) and we are only waiting on 2 more rugs.  We have awesome water pressure here which CA did not.  Internet is super fast here and not interrupted constantly like in CA. 

And I love my new little old house!  Not that it's soooo small but seems so compared to CA.  We went down about 500 squ ft and from 3 car garage to a 1, very tiny, car garage.  CA house had 9' - 25' ceilings depending on the room and large open spaces while this house has 8' ceilings on 1st flr, 7'5" on upper floors and 6.5 - 7' in the basement.  Kendra's CA Youth group leader is 6'9" - John would have a hard time being comfortable/concussion free in our house.  So everything fits a bit tighter here which in most of the house is great - I could see my stuff here.  Closets:  houses built in the 1930's did not have our 2000 mentality in mind and that's all we will say about that for now.  I will post a picture of his and her closets later.  They are NOT in the same room.  :) 

Oh, and much of what was in the 3 car garage must of course be stored in the house now.  I am very thankful for good attic storage space and the basement storage areas are working well.

So it is a lot of work but we are happy to have Bart home a lot (will change soon enough!) and if you could just pray the girls would develop some good friendships here.  They are probably our biggest item of prayer/concern.  Naturally, as parents we want everything to go well for our children.  We know there will be hurdles and just pray they jump over them with dignity and grace and when they fall (because they will and they actually need to sometimes), they will pick themselves up, brush themselves off and use what they learn to continue.

One more thing to be thankful for - very nice neighbors who have introduced themselves and brought goodies and wine and phone numbers and introduced their kids to us!  We didn't know what to expect but the neighborhood have been so welcoming and inclusive.  They even have an annual block party this coming weekend - another great chance to meet and get to know them more.

So I can blow off a little steam but really, the thankfulness will always outweigh the frustration.  Except if I ever post about driving here.  Honestly - is there anywhere you can go now where rules are followed?  :)

Thanks for reading this rambling post as I try to get back into the groove.  Have a great day!

Any guesses on what I will probably not find myself thankful for? Ever.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Let's try this again!

OK.  First, you should read the first and last paragraphs of my last post which apparently was written, May 18th. 

Yeah..............

So what now?  Now we are in New Jersey.  And a lot of stuff has happened between then and now.  There's really so much that's happened since the beginning of 2013 that I will probably never touch a majority of it.  And that's OK.  Otherwise, I will feel even more behind than I already am.

There are no pictures today.  They are all still on my camera's or phone and I've not sat down to download anything yet.

I have to go pick up Eiger who is at a "5 Star" doggy kennel because we have no other resources here yet and it had an opening.

We spent a weekend in Minnesota 1)  visiting Bart's parents - very briefly as we had to drive up to Detroit Lakes and back within a 24 hr span (8 hrs driving, 8 hrs sleeping and the remainder trying to get in a good visit which is hard at a nursing home! and Barb is doing OK) 2) meeting up with some of his aunts and sister and 3) reuniting with a large group of expats who all have Switzerland, the International Baptist Church of Zurich and Minnesota/Iowa in common. 

Now we are back for a week full of school orientations, more orthodontist trips and preparation for school starting next week.  After Labor Day?  Yes, we actually start after Labor Day.  I don't think the girls have ever attended a school outside of Preschool that started this late.  With the move it's made for a long summer but they don't seem to mind too much.

I see a small light at the end of the tunnel - I may actually get back to some regular Blogging.  I miss it.  It's good therapy for me.  It's an easy way to share what is going on in the lives of the Olsons without competing with time zones.  And it helps document our life as I am woefully behind on photo albums - like since Kendra was 2.  She's soon to turn 13.

So Hello Again Bloggy world and will return real, real soon.  No promises.  Just a little new determination this time around as we settle once again.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dear Blog, Please accept my apologies

I am so sorry Dear Blog, that I've kept you in the dark and feeling neglected. Hah, there are days I feel that way too!

It seems that after all the thought and deliberation and finally being able to tell people what was going on (I'm sure many of you can relate to the needed confidentiality of changing careers, etc...), life went into warp speed.  There was no slow build up.  There was a schedule to maintain, a final couple weeks for Bart, a 5 week period of him being home (ask me whether we're ready for him to retire yet!), the start of a new job and getting the house ready to put on the market.

So I thought I'd share a little of the fun and a little of the work.

First, I left off right before Spring Break.  We spent it in Hawaii so we could have some vacation time and some family time (with sis on Oahu).  Short story is that we spent 50% of our time on the Big Island (Hawaii) with either Bart or Rachel in the throes of food poisoning.  We did get to go on our snorkel trip (awesome!) and then spent a day at Hapuna State Beach boogie boarding.  Although Rachel only had energy to bounce up and down in waves as she was still in recovery.  As the wife and mother of sick individuals, I was as sleep deprived as they were - but with a great appetite!  It was great to finally go to the beach our last day.

See?  I'm smiling - I caught some really good 'waves.' 

 
Bart had to fly back to finish out his days at the Firm while the girls and I headed to my sister's on Oahu.  It was great to see Deb, Neti and the kids.  We took them to the beach, got to watch their baseball games and the 3 older ones in a Tahitian dance performance at the Shell Amphitheatre in Waikiki.
 
Here's a little on their dancing.  The boys (older 2) are training with fire now and treated us to a routine in the backyard - hose on hand for emergencies!  They are very proud of this and take it very seriously.  Here's JT - he's 9!
 

That night was also prep night for the following evenings dance performance.  Artificial flowers are not involved.  They all gather Ti leaves and flowers from nurseries and around the neighborhoods (watch out bougainvillea's!).  They strip and braid Ti leaves for the boys head and neck pieces and girls flowers are sewn on and weaved in and - it's a lot of work for a show!  I can strip and braid a ti leaf now......Deb is working on a braid:
Here is the gang.  It was great to spend some time with them and oh, the twins are getting so big.
 


We got back from HI and went straight into full rehearsal mode and performances for Kendra who did "Pirates of Penzance" with the local Children's theatre (Rachel had chorus concerts before Spring Break).  It's a great program and I'm glad she got the opportunity.  She has the blue sash in the middle:
 
In between performance weekends, Bart and I went house hunting in New York and New Jersey.  More on that later but we will probably, most likely, almost definitely be New Jersey residents.  There will be a limit on the number of 'New Jersey Housewife' jokes I will allow!
 
So while Bart had some time at home (he also took care of me for something and then went to spend time with his parents in Minnesota), we had to work on some areas of the house as we looked toward putting it on the market.  Our realtor (and friend) kindly suggested we pack up the books and move bookcases in the garage to "de-clutter" the house.  Let me just say that de-cluttering and keeping things de-cluttered is a full time job.  With time and a half.  Except no one is paying me for it.  Except it may sell the house so I guess I do get paid???
 
Anyway, we have this bookcase:
 
And this bookcase:
And contents from this bookcase:
In the garage.  Not to mention the other one from Kendra's room and the two that we donated to Goodwill and the 15 boxes of books that accompany them and probably have 5 more to fill.

And here are 4 of the 7 bags of books we gave away.  Plus 2 boxes I'm sending to my sister.  It would really be nice to have a library in the new house but I don't think it's in the cards.
Near the end of Bart's "un-employment" we took a little time to get out of the house and enjoy some spring weather.  This was taken on a hot! April day and we chose to go to Point Pinole (on the bay in Richmond) as it would be a little cooler.  Per a request, here are Eiger and I - you can see how big he is now.
He's a sweet boy.  He is currently at a kennel for some board and training while we are showing the house.  The trainer said it would be a good idea as he is a good dog but because of his markings he needs to be better than the next dog; "if your dog and a golden retriever get in a fight and the retriever started it - your dog will be seen as at fault because of his looks."  Doesn't matter that he's 3/4 lab, the markings subject him to doggy discrimination.  A shame as I think he's beautiful because of his markings!  Additionally, dogs tend to slobber and shed so him being gone right now really helps with keeping the house in the "near perfect" state required for selling a house.  But look at that face:

Lastly, these two:
These girls keep me busy.  Busier than I ever thought.   I love them and they are my joy.

That's a brief on what's been happening in the Olson world and while I know it's not much, it's all I have computer time for.  This has been the "least easy" of any of our moves for various reasons and thus many days seem like fire-fighting days.  I'm still learning the many lessons God has for me - I'm so thankful He's patient!!!