Lessons from Moving to Mars

1) There is a benefit to being the teacher's pet. On the last day of school in MN, Madeline's teacher asked if she could keep Madeline in her classroom for lunch and order her pizza from a pizza place. She allowed her to bring two friends as well.....I wonder how come my teachers never ordered me pizza???? (Don't answer that teachers…..)

2) If you are going to attempt to fix your numerous dried out, deeply cracked and bleeding fingers by dousing them with liquid bandage in order to make packing easier, make sure you grab the right bottle and not the Clear Away Wart Remover. (And seriously Medicine Cabinet, where did THAT even come from?!?!) On the plus side, I will never have warts on my fingers because I believe the Clear Away mixed with my DNA somewhere in there….at least it felt like it.

3) If the moving companies say they will need two 24 foot trucks to move your stuff, don't think you can fit it all into one 26 foot truck if you just pack well. (I think this was Kurt's way of secretly forcing us to get rid of even more than we already did!)

4) Saving $8000 by moving yourself can cost close to $15,000 later (you know, when you have to replace all your furniture…..)

5) Do not try to buy beer in Mars between the time church gets out and a Steelers game. (That line at the store would give Space Mountain during peak season at Disney a run for its money…..glad I planned ahead!)

6) The logic here fails me: You can only buy 12 beers at a time in the grocery store in PA. However, if you go right next door to the state-run wine and spirits store, you could buy two 24 foot truck loads of wine and liquor all at once, no problem. (But you'd still have to replace all your furniture.)

7)  Minimalism (i.e. purging ones belongings) is a life long pursuit but well worth the effort. (You know, if you enjoy those terrible dreams where you keep running and running toward your goal and the more you run the longer the road becomes to get there…..and if you ever do arrive you realize that what's there isn't what you thought you were running after and then you see what it was you wanted in the distance so you start running and running again only to find THAT road getting longer and longer and so on and so forth…..)

8) Not all cardboard boxes are created equally. (And if your only option is cheap Wal-Mart boxes versus carrying it all by arm, carry it:  Every.Last.Piece! See #7 for help with that!)

9) Moving can bring on the crazy like nothing else I know.

10) I love space. (This view from my kitchen window is well worth what it took to get here...)

Looking out from the porch off of the family room

The horse farm across the way

Happy New Year from Mars.
(Seriously, it just doesn't get old!)


Merry Christmas from Mars

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, especially not a bearded dragon because…..well wait, let me start from the beginning….

In case you are wondering how moving right before Christmas effects a person's sanity, let me tell you my tale of woe.

You see, Lily wanted a Flying Squirrel for Christmas and while I am totally agreeable to the idea, finding a Flying Squirrel breeder, or a vet who will doctor them, here in western PA (or probably anywhere for that matter) is like something right out of the bible. No really, it is. It was so important that I think Jesus mentioned it in Matthew, Mark and Luke when he said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than finding a Flying Squirrel breeder right before Christmas in the kingdom of God," or something along those lines.

At any rate, I had checked with the pet stores in the area, asked around about vets for exotics, and was having no luck when I saw that one of the pet stores was having a sale on Bearded Dragons. A light went on in my head as I thought, surely Lily would love having a dragon instead of a squirrel. "Lily and her Dragon" -- Doesn't that have a nice ring to it? (Yes folks, I have issues, let's move on.)

So there it was, two days before Christmas and I was in the store with my seven year old daughter buying a bearded dragon. The alarms are already going off by the time I make it to the register but I forge ahead, full steam, ready for the happiness that will abound. And then we got home and it hit me: I JUST BROUGHT HOME A FLIPPING DRAGON! I go into full panic mode while I set the terrarium up, completely freaking out over the fact that now, not only do I still have a new house to get in order, but I have this random reptile whose temperatures I am going to have to monitor and what the heck was I thinking?!?! It didn't help that I hadn't eaten all day, had been running on two or three cups of espresso and coffee beverages and my blood sugar started totally dropping out. I started shaking like I might pass out while wondering how do you keep one side of a tank cool and one side hot WITH A TWO YEAR OLD TURNING THE TERRARIUM LIGHTS ON AND OFF REPEATEDLY!

Kurt got home and, being the only half reasonable and responsible party in the entire scene, he turned on the heat lamp that I had placed on top of the cage like it showed in the pictures. Meanwhile, I frantically called the pet store to see if I could bring the darn thing back, less than three hours after having brought it home. It was already 9:00 at night and we seriously are 20 minutes away from civilization but luckily due to special holiday hours the pet store was open until 10. When the store clerk answered, I was about to tell her I would pay them to just take everything back when the very calm voice on the other end said, "Hey Karen, it's no problem. Just bring it back and we will totally take care of it for you."

I quickly scurried up to tell my heartbroken little girl that it was a mistake, that "we have to return it right this very second and WHY AREN'T YOU IN BED CHILD?!" when I find (after throwing the cat OFF OF THE SCREENED LID ON TOP OF THE TERRARIUM FOR THE SECOND TIME!) that the heat lamp was in the process of melting the darn thing and melted plastic was beginning to drip down the edges of the lid and oh, the stench....

Really though, if you think about it, my panic attack was a blessing in disguise because surely it saved us from burning our brand new house to the ground (ok, maybe a wee bit over dramatic here) or at the very least, saved a baby dragon from its demise via overweight and very eager cat. And to top it off, the pet store took the entire thing back, melted plastic and all, for a total refund. (I'll love them forever.) And as for Lily, all she really wanted was a 'doctor's kit' after all. (Grrrrrr….)

So, dear readers, if you ever feel like your life is crazy, just think of me and it will set you straight. You're welcome. Oh, and Merry Christmas. 


This House: Part Three

On the eve of our move to Mars…..

Dear House,

The last few days have been entirely crazy. I had wanted to have a chance to thank you for all the years you have kept us warm and safe, for the growth that has taken place, for the incredible journey we have shared under your roof, but really, let's be honest, we just packed up our entire house, WITHOUT MOVERS and loaded most of it on a truck (I say most because apparently when the moving companies said we needed TWO 26 foot trucks, they were saying so because THAT'S HOW MUCH SPACE WE WOULD NEED TO ACTUALLY TAKE EVERYTHING!) …. So house, really, WHO HAS TIME FOR THIS?!?!?

It is 4:30 a.m. and within just a few hours we will be trekking across the country, in the middle of a snow storm, to hopefully arrive at our new home in time for Christmas. So, while I could say a whole bunch of beautiful things, I really need more sleep because HOLY SMOKES! We are going to be moving across the country in a snow storm!!!!

Anyway, sweet, sweet House, we will miss you. And one day, I will spend some time to actually thank you appropriately, without the anxiety (read: total irritation) that I am feeling at this moment.

Thanks for understanding House. (Although, you are a house, I am pretty sure you don't really care, at all, about anything.)



This House: Part Two

The second letter was written in the spring of 2007, right before we moved away to California. Kurt had held onto the first letter and he responded to it with a letter of his own.


Dear Karen,

I love our house too. I'm not much of a writer, but as we spend our last few days in our home, I can't help but be saddened to the point of tears, and wanted to do my best to repay you for the sweet letter you gave me soon after we moved in.

This is the first house we've ever owned as a couple, and two of the best years of our lives have been spent in this house. This was the house Lily was born in, and the only home that Madeline, and most likely Aidan, can remember. This house sits in the only community I've ever felt we truly integrated into. This is the house I saw one of our kids (Aidan) run out to play with one of his friends from…..something I've looked forward to for as long as I can remember. The image of Aidan and Nile standing in the neighbor's yard in between our two houses is worth every penny we ever spent on this home.

This is the house we've worked through issues in, grew as people and grew as a couple. We moved into this house with me stressed about money and my career, and we move out with those worries quickly fading into nothingness. This is the first house we lived in when I started to feel optimistic that I can turn things around. When we moved into this house, every flaw annoyed me and made me miserable. Now I know the flaws and have grown to love them as character flaws in a house that is home to a guy who shares the attribute of countless character flaws, but also the attribute of trying his/its best to give a better life to everyone else in the home.

As I said at the start, and you already know, I'm not much of a writer, and I haven't thought through the words that I want to say, but the bottom line is that as much as I was troubled by this house when we moved in, I'm as troubled finding a way to let go of it.  And, although I know my efforts to be a better person, a happier person, a better husband, better dad, better friend, etcetera, have no end, I feel like my time in this house has helped me move quickly down that path -- which will make our next home that much better and that much more filled with love. Only time will tell if you ever "get over" the loss of a house, but I know one way or the other, this house will be a part of the rest of our lives. I also know that, as much as it hurts to leave, we will soon be happier and equally in love with another home, because I don't think it was the house that we loved, it was the people who made it home, and that is something we will never lose.



This House: Part One

In the following few days, before we leave this home and begin a new adventure somewhere else, I want to share with you a series of three letters written about this house. Think of them as our love letters to this house, or at least, about it. The first was written somewhere in mid-2005, when we were having issues with the house and with life and it seemed like we spent so much time longing for something different, for things to be what they were not, that we forgot the blessing that was this home. And then one day, something changed, something in me and in us and well, the rest is history.


Dear Kurt,

I love our house. It is just right. It is big, but not too big. It is beautiful, but not too beautiful. When the kids and I come home and walk through the door, it wraps its big, warm frame around us and holds us securely. It is just right.

It is cozy but not complete. It has room for more, yet is content with less. It is calm at times and brilliant (read chaotic) at others. It is just enough, maybe more. It is just right.

At first, I thought the yard was small. Then I watered it by hand. It is in fact a big yard. Today, we laid down in the grass and let the blades tickle our bodies. We watched the clouds roll overhead and heard mosquitoes buzz by our ears. We swatted at them and rolled over, getting up to run around the trees and through the bushes, like the wind which swirled our hair into a sticky mess. We tiptoed over the gravel and filled the birdbath with water. We hope for birds but will probably breed mosquitoes (like the apple we put out for the rabbits that only collected ants.) We watched the chipmunk dodging to and fro and the rabbits passing by. We sang songs with the robins and the sparrows that live in the hole in the side of our house and that little yellow bird I don't know the name of yet. The yard isn't small. It is busy and friendly. It is just right.

When we came back inside, we ran in circles on the hard wood floors which felt cool under our sticky, bare feet. We sat on the cushy, carpeted stairs and watched through the big windows how the wind ruffled the trees and the sky became gray and ominous. We watched how the storm made its way, slowly this time, toward our big, beautiful, warm, cozy, sometimes calm, sometimes brilliant (read chaotic) house. We were safe and it felt just right.

And when you walk through the front door after your day at work, whether it has been a stressful day for you or for us, or not, this house is ready and waiting to wrap you up in its big, warm frame and hold you securely, too. And we become more complete. And everything is just right.

We love you. And we love our house. And even when things don't go quite like we want them to, we still love you, and we still love our house. We hope you do, too.

Karen, the kids
(and the house)


The Rest of the Story

I know you are all on the edge of your seats wondering how the 'paint all over the new carpet while we are in the middle of a huge move' story ends…..

Outside of Solomon being grounded until he is able to leave home (we would just take away Santa but Santa gave him the finger months ago) I quickly drove (as quick as you can on icy roads anyway) to Home Depot to pick up the best invention ever: The Traffic Master. I spoke to the paint people there who looked at me with grim, horror stricken faces, gave me some mumbled words of advice (something about getting all the paint out or it will dry crunchy, as if that were the worst of it!) and sent me on my way.

An hour later, the bright blue blotch (and by blotch I mean a 3 feet by 2 feet area) was completely gone and the carpet, although completely soaked, was as good as new, kind of.

Kurt, on the other hand, had died a little inside. And by the time I had put the two little ones to bed, gotten the four 10 year old boys in the house quieted down and made my way upstairs, he was in a sound, but fitful, sleep.

Solomon awoke the next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and made his way downstairs before us, ate half the donuts that were intended for the big kids, and later started singing: You'd Better Watch Out, You'd Better Not Cry…..mixed in with a little What Does the Fox Say.

I will tell you what the fox says: NO SANTA FOR YOU KID! NOT EVER, EVER, EVER! Tra la la la la la la la la!

Solly Strikes Again

How to Give Your Husband a Heart Attack in Two Simple Steps**

1. On Friday, one week before moving day, pay almost $4k to have brand new high end carpets installed in the entire basement level of your home.
2. On Saturday, during your ten-year old's sleepover party, allow two-year old access to a quart of bright blue professional wall paint and let him accidentally dump it all over aforementioned new carpets.


**Please don't try this at home unless you want to cause a scene right out of the Incredible Hulk meets Psycho.**