Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The pros and cons of Midwestern life

After being in Seattle for seven years, the Studly Hubby and I had really acclimated to the Pacific Northwest lifestyle. Moving back to the Midwest has provided a little culture shock - even though it's all still strangely familiar. I've realized I have missed a lot and also will miss a lot now that I'm back.

What I love about the midwest:

1. It smells good here. Did you ever notice this? It smells crisp, maybe it's the dry air?
2. Everyone is soooooo, so, so nice. And not sort of nice, or nice for the first five minutes you meet them, but sincerely nice. This trait in me gave me away as a midwesterner in Seattle, and I really missed it in my interactions with people around me.
3. Prime time starts at 7. I can't stay up past 9, so this is perfect for me.
4. It is CHEAP here. Seriously, gas is $2.95!! What in the heck?
5. The FOOD - like pizza, awesome ice cream, Mexican, cheap Chinese... it is everywhere here, and nowhere over there.
6. Small town/big city. Small midwestern towns (e.g. Iowa City, Madison, Champaigne-Urbana, Lawrence) are famous for being metropolitan, with amazing libraries, restaurants, a progressive culture (our recycling gets picked up more HERE than in Seattle!!!), and advanced art scene. Maybe it's the University influence? Or maybe it's the midwest!!

What I miss about the Pacific Northwest:

1. The FOOD - it took me a while to figure out what food is good in the PNW, but I finally did - it's 'PNW' food: fish, organically grown garden veggies and fruits, with good wine. SO YUM.
2. Prime time starts at 8. Now that I have a kid, and she goes to bed right at 8, it's actually kind of nice - and I never watch much anyway so who cares that I have to go to bed by 9.
3. Mass transit. The Seattle bus system alone has hundreds of routes, and there is also a lightrail, a trolley, a train, and another bus system that the county runs. Our tiny midwest town has one bus, 9 routes, and no other options. It sucks!
4. Water and mountains and old forests EVERYWHERE... ooooohhh myyyyy (as George Takai would say). Every view is amazing.
5. Fresh berries, awesome fruit, green veggies, blooming flowers, all over the city, all year round.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Moving to Kansas, Part II: GET SET! (with a brief story about the Crazy Lady in Fremont)

The movers came on Halloween, and the Studly Hubby helped them pack while Layla and I had our last day at daycare and work, respectively. The next day, Layla and I boogeyed down while the Studly Hubby and the movers finished packing and loaded up the van.

The 'mancave' full of boxes - this is where we stored the already-packed boxes before the movers came
A brief story about the Crazy Lady in Fremont
The day that the Studly Hubby packed and moved all our stuff, Layla and I were trying to have some fun in the next neighborhood over (Fremont) where we were staying with some good friends. We went with them to a coffee shop a few blocks away, and then they took a bus to a playdate while we walked back together to get our car and go on our own way. Unfortunately, Layla (understandably) had said good-bye to too many friends at that point and even though that particular friend was meeting up with us again later that evening, she still unraveled into a great big epic tantrum.
       Some of you already know that when Layla throws a fit, it's quite the event, so you might not be surprised to hear that we attracted some attention. Several folks in our path stopped to lend their sympathy, and one lady in particular stopped to try to 'help.' After a few minutes I realized her version of helping (by trying to engage with our totally unresponsive fit-thrower) wasn't very helpful, and we tried to move on. At that point the lady grabbed Layla to give her a stern talking-to, and that's when I realized the lady must be a bit crazy and we should focus quite hard on moving on - which required picking Layla up and carrying her down the street, even though she was screaming, kicking, scratching, and carrying on. The lady followed us, yelling weird stuff at us (again, trying to be 'helpful' but really not). I stopped at least 3 times to tell her to lay off, more and more aggressively, until somehow I found our friend's house and went inside. The lady wandered away before the Studly Hubby could get there. He pointed out we probably could have called 911 and reported an assault but I wasn't sure if it was that big of a threat since the lady was probably in her 70s. Afterwards, Layla finally understood what had happened and perhaps it was a good lesson to her to pay more attention to her mom than to her own fit-throwing when there's a danger alert (ever since, we have been working on a family protocol to follow when Mom or Dad says 'danger'). Anyways, I was a bit shaken by it all and definitely sore the next day.

Back to the Kansas move:
On Saturday, I took care of Layla again while the Studly Hubby and a friend cleaned up the house, repaired a few problems, shampooed the rugs, disposed of all our garbage (how do you generate SO MUCH garbage when you move???), and did a walk-through with the landlord. It was a very long day. In the process, we managed to spill a couple liters of laundry detergent in our friend's car (sorry about that!), trash their house with all our garbage, overflow their washer with said laundry detergent (sorry about that too!) and then we left town (see Hawaii post, below).

Moving to Kansas, Part I: GETTING READY

I posted earlier about our trip to Kansas to buy a house, followed by a flurry of other trips and business. When that was all over, and we landed back in Seattle, we realized something: it's time to GET READY.

We had a bunch of logistical stuff to do, like find and hire a moving company, decide to drive or fly and then arrange it, close on the house (which we did in Seattle), etc., etc. Then, we both had a bunch of work-related stuff to do - for me, that was organizing all my strains and stocks and files to be shipped to Kansas, transferring my grants and writing a few new ones and hiring a post-doc, not to mention all the normal stuff I had to do related to the job I still had in Seattle.

But what was really, really tough was saying goodbye to all our friends.

It started with a surprise visit from our most favorite neighbor L who gave us the sweetest note and bottle of wine. The note made me cry. Then our beloved baby group threw us a totally unexpected SURPRISE party - we unknowingly walked in on the whole group wearing matching t-shirts and bearing gifts and giving out hugs and passing around margaritas. It was possibly the first time we had ever ALL been together without kids. I cried and cried and cried. Then we had goodbye parties with other friends, each of our work groups, another neighbor party, more baby group parties, even people we didn't even know at the daycare were inviting us over. It was incredible. And a very welcome distraction from the stress of moving. Although, a little bit busy. In the end it got too busy and we had to cancel on one of the things we had planned. But we had a nice good-bye with most everybody and hopefully soaked up enough social interactions to last us until we could make some new friends in Kansas.

Our baby group surprise party - all 16 of us!
Layla's last day of daycare and my last day of work was Halloween. That was also the day the movers came to take our stuff. It was perfect timing - although Layla knew what was happening, she was too excited about Halloween to get down about it (or maybe, she's just happy like that - she's been a good sport overall). She cheerfully said good-bye to everyone at school, had a blast trick-or-treating in her WordGirl (superhero) outfit, and then we went to a friend's to spend a few days until we flew out to Hawaii.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hawaii trip!!

While our stuff was being transported from Seattle to Kansas, we went to Hawaii!!

We decided to go to Oahu, and stayed in a little 1-bdr cottage in a beach town called Kailua (about 30 min from Honolulu). We rented the cottage from airbnb.com, and had a great experience with them.

Our house in Kailua, the "Lilikoi Cottage"
The cottage was 2 blocks from the Kailua beach and about a mile from the Lanikai beach, one of the best beaches in the world.


Kailua beach

Lanikai beach, right next to Kailua beach
We were stressed from just having moved out of our house of four years and bidding tearful good-byes to all of our great friends in Seattle. It was a long flight with our ornery kid. It was the perfect place to land.

The first morning (Monday), we were all up at 4 am (only bad part about Hawaii - jetlag is a beast!). When the sun rose at 6 am we piled into the car and went to the beach. We were so excited we jumped in with our clothes on!

Kailua beach at sunrise

Layla and I, buried in sand
The next day, we went to Waikiki in Honolulu to ride on the submarine. It was pretty fun (we saw a sunken boat, and lots and lots of fish). It was slightly long and boring for a 3-yr old, and Layla had a hard time coping with being stuck there. But she was good enough that we could really enjoy it - I wouldn't have taken her any younger though.

We spent the rest of the trip visiting other beaches in Hawaii, including the North Shore (and delicious shaved ice at Matsumoto's) and Haunauma Bay (the Studly Hubby and I snorkeled while Layla watched or played in the sand, we all really enjoyed it there). We also visited the Farmer's Market in Kailua where we bought coconut and pineapple, and had the most delicious Lilikoi ice cream we have ever had (Lilikoi is the Hawaiian word for passionfruit).

Layla standing near the largest avacado I have ever seen, from Kauai

Layla having some of the most delicious Lilikoi ice cream

Layla and I at Lanikai beach
I was sad to leave on Thursday. We had a loooooong flight back to Kansas with an overnight in LA, and although the weather was nice in Kansas it was not like Hawaii. I hope we can go back someday.