Thursday, February 28, 2013

Luke's Surprise Party

I have to say that throwing a surprise party for your spouse is next to impossible. Not only did I have to keep is a secret from Luke, but I also had to keep it a secret from Jack (which was hard to do when I was shopping with him at the party store.) For three weeks I was sneaking around, hiding things at my parents house, and I even had to open a secret email account in order to invite our friends. But the biggest challenge was figuring out how to get Luke to go to the clubhouse after hours without arousing suspicion. We thought about having a neighbor ask him to walk over with him, or I could even come up with a reason to go over there... but the party started at 6pm which is when the clubhouse closes (unless you have it reserved). Plus, Friday night is typically our night to go to the local brewery for dinner so anything other than that would be suspicious. I finally came up with a plan and had to get our apartment manager, Jon as an accomplice. Luke was working from home that day so I told him we were going to be gone all day and we would meet him at home at 6pm to head to the brewery. We spent the day shopping and then decorating the clubhouse. We had to keep lookout and make sure Luke didn't decide to come to the clubhouse to work or get coffee. Everyone showed up for the party around 5:45 and then right at closing time I got Jon (clubhouse manager) to do his part. He was to go to our apartment and tell Luke that I was trying to get ahold of him (Luke has no cellphone) and that I called the clubhouse when I couldn't reach him by email. Jon needed to tell Luke to come to the clubhouse and talk to me on the phone. It worked!! Luke walked right into our trap and we were all there to surprise him with "Happy Birthday!!!" 

Party guests
The theme of the party was "RIP to Luke's Youth"

Luke's cake
The party was a blast! We split into groups (guys vs. girls) to play some funny games:

And we ended the evening with Cards Against Humanity.
It was a great night and a great time with friends to celebrate Luke's birthday. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our new apartment

As soon as we decided to stay in Colorado (pretty much the same day that decision was made), I called our apartment complex to find out if there were any two bedroom apartments available. Just our luck, there was one available on the first floor right next to where we already were. I went over, checked it out and signed the lease that same day. We moved in February first and I absolutely love our new place.

First of all, it has two bedrooms!!! Yay! Jack finally has his own room again and hopefully Lily will be moving into his room sometime this year.
Jack's bed. He finally has a real mattress and room after
six months in the closet on a blow up mattress.

Jack's table and toys and a nice view of the lake

Secondly, I love that it is on the first floor. Now I don't have to struggle carrying 22 pound Lily on my back and 50 pounds of groceries up three flights, and I also don't have to worry about them playing on the balcony and falling. Now, I can leave the back door open and they can come and go without me having to worry much.
Our view from the first floor

New living room

In addition to getting everything ready for the move, I had to return all of our rental supplies and start buying all new things. I am so happy that we don't have to use the cheap rental stuff anymore! We finally have our own silverware, knifes, plates, towels, etc. again. We also had to make a run to Ikea to buy some bookshelf, a dining table and a bed frame for Jack. Talk about an expensive month!!
Yay for sharp knives and an assortment of cookware

Our new kitchen

We finally have a toaster that works! And strainers, and bowls!!
But my favorite kitchen item is our double waffle maker.
Sunday waffles are everyones favorite breakfast.

I splurged and bought some nice cookware.
For six months I lived with one pot and one pan
that burned everything I cooked. I have never been
so thankful for my new non stick pan.

My hand mixer is my second favorite kitchen item.
I can finally bake again!!

A nice, new silverware set

Our new bowls, plates and cups.

Lukes favorite kitchen item. 
Re-buying all of our housewares from scratch was quite a chore and a huge expense. Now that Jack's room and our kitchen are in order, we will soon focus on our bedroom. We are still borrowing a foam mattress from my parents that is just laying on the floor and my dad's 30+ year old dresser. I dream of the day when we will get another king bed and I will finally be able to use our nice king size sheets that Luke brought back from storage. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The scary

Let's talk about buying cars on craigslist. Have you ever done it? Well, we have. When Luke and I got married he bought a truck off of craigslist. And then when I found out I was pregnant with Jack we bought a Saturn Vue off of craigslist. Both were great cars with no problems. So when we decided we were staying in Colorado we had to buy two cars. We went straight to Craigslist. Pretty quickly I decided that I wanted a Toyota 4runner, so I spent every day searching for 4runners. Luke, on the other had, was really struggling with buying a "practical" car or a "fun" car. One car that seemed to meet both the requirements was a VW, so we drove over to take a look at it and it looked great. It was Friday evening so Luke said he wanted to take it to a mechanic on Monday morning and if everything looked good then he would buy it. Well... it sold on Sunday. Luke was back to looking for cars. The next car he found was more of a "fun" car but it was practical too since it was an all wheel drive subaru. Luke didn't want to miss out on this car so he called right away. It turned out that it was a guy in Denver who was selling this car for his friend who had moved to Dubai. Luke negotiated the price down and then told him we would pay cash the same day. So we loaded the kids in the car and drove to Denver.

We drove to this guys house right next to the college and the car was parked right outside. The kids and I waited in the car while Luke took it for a test drive. When he came back Luke gave the guy the money and then he drove the car home. Once we got back to our house Luke said he wanted to take it straight to the dealer to have it tuned up and a few things fixed.

The next day we got a call from the dealer saying that the car was "a rust bucket." To fix the car would cost over $4,000. Right away we knew we had been taken. But now what? That's what happens when you buy a car off craigslist, right? Well we weren't going to give up without a fight. We kept Jack home from school again and we drove back down to the guys house in Denver without warning him. Once we got there Luke walked right up to his front door and pounded on it ready to confront him. You can only imagine our surprise when a 300 pound 8 foot guy opened the door. I was in the car with the kids so I couldn't hear what they were saying, but all I knew was that this guy was bigger and wider than the entire door frame. And he wasn't happy. He was shaking his head at Luke and I could see Luke was trying to prove a point but the guy wasn't having it. I watched the drama for a while and then another car pulled in the driveway and I had to move my car for another tall guy to step out and join the confrontation. Luke and these two huge scary muslim guys argued for a long time. At one point, one of the guys came over to my car and looked in the window and looked back at Jack and Lily and then left. I decided that I better reposition my car to have a quick exit, so I pulled out and backed in so and left the car running so I could get out of there in a moments notice.

After an hour or so, Luke finally came back to the car with an update. Apparently the guy who sold him the car didn't live there. At first, the original big muslim dude had no idea who Luke was talking about when he said a guy named Mohammed sold him a car. But eventually he figured out that Mohammed must be his friend  Moe who lives in Colorado Springs. Luke told the scary guys that Moe sold him a lemon and that he wanted his money back. The scary guys told Luke to get lost, there was nothing they could do. Luke told the scary guys he wasn't leaving until he had his money. The scary guys said no way. Luke came back to the car and we decided that we weren't leaving. I parked my car right in front of their garage so they couldn't leave and we turned off the engine and rolled down the windows so everyone could hear Lily crying (she had been in her seat for almost 2 hours now). Finally one scary guy came back outside and said he would call Moe.

Meanwhile a car pulls up behind us filled with several other scary guys and parks right behind us and no one gets out. At this point Luke and I both were getting nervous so we left and parked down the street. Finally Moe calls Luke and they work out an agreement to meet the next day and Luke would sell Moe the car back for $1,000 less than he had bought it for. Moe reluctantly agrees. Moe tries to tell Luke to leave the car at his friends house, but instead Luke drives it to a Subaru shop 15 minutes away.

The next day we drive down to Denver for the third time and we go to the Subaru shop where Luke had left the car. We were supposed to meet Moe between 1 and 2 pm, so we were there right at 1. By 1:30 the kids were getting antsy so Luke decided to wait in the Subaru shop while I took the kids to Subway. I wasn't there when Moe showed up, but apparently a little after 2 pm a black Lexus SUV with tinted windows all around pulled up. They texted Luke "come. outside. now." Luke walks outside to the tined Lexus to find all three scary guys inside. It's about this time that I finally returned from Subway to see Luke making the exchange with the scary guys. About five minutes later, the scary guys left and Luke came back with money in hand. Apparently, the scary guy who had looked into my car and saw the kids the day before had a heart. He told Luke "Dude, you have kids...." and I guess he talked Moe into giving us our money back. Moe was not a happy camper. But he did the right thing. He gave Luke our money (minus $1,000) and took the crappy car back. Luke went right in to the Subaru shop and bought a very reliable, practical car for himself. 

The Good

So what's good about not going to England?

1. I love Colorado! This is a great state and I love the mountains. the sun and the people

2. Nana and Papi. Who knew that when my mom and dad moved out here four years ago that we would end up living five minutes away? Jack and Lily have seen more of their Nana and Papi in the last six months then in the last fours years combined.

3. Luke's business. Luke had a goal to start a company when he was 30. And now he has the chance to fulfill his dream.

4. Church. We found a really great church five minutes from our house.

5. Craft beers. Sure, England has great beer.... but what about Blackberry Wheat Beer?? Only in Colorado can you find thousands of locally crafted beers.

6. Our apartment. I love our apartment. I love the running trail right in our backyard, and this summer I will love being at the pool every day. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Bad

There's no getting around the fact that I really wanted to go to England. When Luke first got the job back in March I tried to talk him out of it. "Oh, it will be so gloomy," I said. But the job seemed so awesome that we both decided to move forward and I started to get excited about England. After all my favorite book of all time is "The Kings and Queens of England." So now I would finally be able to explore all the castles and the history. And we would still be close enough to France to be able to practice our french. So I spent 9 months getting excited about moving only to have it come to an end...almost like a stillbirth.  Sure, there will be good things about living in Colorado. But this post is about the bad. The things we gave up. The dreams I had that will never be...

1. Experiencing a new culture in England. If living in Switzerland has taught me anything it is that I really don't like to travel. I don't like to be a tourist. I have found that living somewhere is a unique experience that you cannot get as a tourist. I was looking forward to experiencing this again in England. Not just visiting England, but living in England. 

2. Becoming fluent in French. Yes, I can take French courses here in Colorado. And I am planning on doing so. But there are not many native speakers here and being so far from France is a huge disadvantage to becoming fluent. 

3. Jack attending the multi lingual school. The first thing I looked into when Luke accepted his new job were schools. And I fell in love with this school that would have been 5 minutes from our house. It is a European School and their focus is turning out multilingual students. Jack would have started kindergarden with 50% english and 50% french instruction. Then, by the time he was in middle school, he would take another language course so that by the time he graduated high school he would be fluent in three languages. There is nothing like that in Colorado. 

4. Jack and Lily having cute british accents. :-)

5. Lost all our stuff. Yup. Had to donate two years of our life away. 

6. Lost several thousand dollars shipping our stuff from Switzerland to UK. Ouch! Not only did we lose everything and then have to re-buy it. But we even had to spend our own money to ship our things from Switzerland to the UK. Double whammy.

7. Lost our plane tickets. We all had one way tickets back to London that we can't use anymore.

8. Missed out on having a carless life for a while. I was really looking forward to buying a bike and bike trailer and being without a car for several years. I loved that in Switzerland I could walk Jack to school, I could walk to several parks, I could walk to the grocery store and post office, I could walk to the train station. I hate cars. I hate car seats. I really was looking forward to a car free life for a while. 

9. Missed out on Scotland, Ireland, Wales, etc, etc, Yep. No England, means no weekends in France, no weekends in Scotland, no trip to Norway. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Ugly

Once the decision was made that we weren't going to England, then the real problems began. First off, everything we own was sitting in a storage unit in Oxford. It would be too expensive to ship it all back, so we needed to figure out what to do with it. Then there was the issue of starting a new life here from scratch. At least when Luke and I got married we received tons of housewares, etc as gifts. This time around we had nothing. Well, we did have plenty of housewares sitting in storage in England but they aren't much use to us now. So it's back to basics. We have to buy everything all over again. Plates, cups, can opener, utensils, etc. I am a thrifty person by nature so re-buying these things when we already had perfectly good ones in storage just killed me. (oh, and when I skyped Luke while he was in England going through our storage and I had to watch him donate all of our stuff I could have thrown up...but that's for another post).

And as if we didn't already have enough to buy, now that we are staying we had to purchase two cars. Talk about expensive. I have a whole post to dedicate to our car buying experience so I won't say much here...other than, buying one car is a pain in the butt... two cars is almost always a recipe for disaster.

Then there's the living situation. Since we were not planning on being here more than a month or two we rented a one bedroom apartment. That means Jack has been sleeping in our closet for six months now. He doesn't seem to mind, but I couldn't in good conscience keep him in the closet long term. So we decided to move apartments. We have been really happy at our complex so we decided to stay right here and upgrade to a two bedroom. It just so happened that there was a two bedroom (1st floor!!!) available right by our original apartment. So we moved quickly and packed up and moved apartments.

Talk about an exhausting month. And this is just the beginning. Luke's new job requires him to be in Colorado Springs three days a week. This means that he will leave on Tuesday morning and we won't see him again until Thursday night. This will be a big change for our family since we haven't had to deal with Luke traveling much in the past. I will try to stay busy by signing up for some french classes and hopefully blogging more.