Category Archives: Moving

On the Road Again

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When I told my friend Suppers it was time to say goodbye, she said, No, you know what it’s time to say?

FUCK YOU.

Yeah, I deserved that one.

How many times will we do this? Move in, get comfortable, make forever-friends, look with them at the far-off horizon–the 5-year man school program our kids are enrolled in, the changes to the community we’d like to institute, the stats on the high school (when my oldest hasn’t even hit middle school) . . . And then we leave.

The Scientist, for whom the term “settled” is anachronistic (“That soooo 20th century”), has already made the physical and emotional leap to the Motherland, so the rest of us are lagging behind.

But it’s time now. Time to say goodbye. Time to get on that road in the sky and head to the UK. Only, because it would be so conventional (soooo 20th century, perhaps) to fly east to get to the UK, we are flying way, way, way west and traveling to the UK the long way around the world. How boring to move and not hit almost every time zone known to humankind. Kids + jet lag rocks.

And speaking of awesome combinations, I hear China + WordPress don’t mix, so I might have to sign off for a while. But in the meantime, Poor Princess is thinking of writing a memoir about her meshugana life schlepping her kids everywhere. A How Not To kind of book. Maybe that will keep her occupied in China and her new life in the UK where she has no job or life to speak of (I know, you’ve all heard that one before). Until then, 再见!

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That fleeting feeling of being settled . . .

 

Why I Can Vagabond My Kids All Over the World and Not Worry

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Yesterday, my kids started a new school. Not one of their friends from their old school are at their new school. It’s not in our neighborhood (or state; my mission is to have them try out Jewish schools in every American state and Canadian province and whatever they call them in the UK so that by the time they grow up, they will the world experts on Jewish schools. And NHL players, because that’s what they say they’re going to be. And doctors, because I always tack that on to NHL players). How will they make friends? Who will they talk to? Will it be like our arrival in the US a few years back when I got weekly calls from LL’s kindergarten teacher who would say encouraging things like “LL spoke in class today! I said his name and he whispered “Here.” Most of us even heard him!”?

In nervous anticipation of the transition, I turned–where else?–to Facebook. I scrolled through hundreds of friends. On the list: someone I spoke to twice at a conference in Barbados one year when she was dating someone who was a student in the program where The Scientist was a postdoc. She has since broken up with said student, who graduated, wrote a novel, and moved to England, and as for her, FB tells me she moved to Turkey and married a Turkish guy, and is having a birthday today, and all this is to say I am highly doubtful our paths will ever cross again, and I have no idea why she is on my friendlist. “Friend”? Marky Mark, can you come up with a variety of terms to designate these people who end up on our daily feeds?

Aha! I discover that a fellow who spent the year in Israel with The Scientist and me two decades ago has kids at the school my kids are about to attend. Thank you, Marky Mark. Loose ties are awesome. Sorry for the complaint.

I ding him. Back then, he was loud and obnoxious, which I don’t mean as an insult, because I’m also loud and obnoxious, and I was even louder and more obnoxious then. In fact, I rather liked him and his loud, obnoxious crowd.

He’s a rabbi now. Which somehow makes perfect sense. Who wants a quiet, mousy rabbi?

“We’re meeting Rabbi Loud’s kids tonight,” I tell my kids after arranging a date with his absolutely fabulous wife. “Please pretend you’re not obnoxious.” I have the word obnoxious in my head. Also, my kids are obnoxious. In fact, as I say this to them, they are beating each other with sticks. “You need to have friends in your new school.”

LL pshaws me. “Oh, mama, of course we’ll make friends.”

We arrive at their house, the kids all run off to play Wii, and they’re immediate besties. Guess LL was right.

He and Cool J start school. They’ll be taking the bus, but I drive them on the first day, worried they will be worried. They are not worried. I go home, and I wait anxiously for them to return. “Hey, Mama,” they call out as they burst through the door. They are all smiles. I ask a hundred questions; they ask to play Wii. “Can you tell me one thing?” I ask. “Did you have any friends? Did you talk to Rabbi Loud’s son?” LL looks at me like I’m crazy. “Of course I did,” he says. “He’s my best friend.” “He is?” “Well, of course he is. He’s the only person I know!”

I get fewer details from Cool J, but today he comes home with double the smile he had on yesterday. “Did you have fun at school?” I ask. “YES!! It was the best day at school ever!!” “It was?” I ask, delighted. “Well, sure,” he says. “It was better than yesterday, and there have only been two days, so it was the best day at school EVER!”

My kids are happy, positive people. Sometimes I think LL has something of my grandmother’s spirit in him (she was rather a glass half empty kind of person), but maybe I’m just mixing them up because they both love(d) to eat matzah year-round. Remind me of this when I’m obsessively scrolling through my FB friendlist next year in anticipation of our move to the UK.

new school

Bri’ishisms and the Housing Market

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One pro that people keep touting in terms of our potentially moving to the UK is that people speak English, so we wouldn’t have to learn a new language. But this is problematic on two counts:

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1. I don’t see not learning a new language as a pro at all, but a flat-out con. Oh, to speak fluent Español, Français! Italiano! I would love for us all to learn to roll our tongues just so or watch a Fellini film sans subtitles.

2. I don’t understand the English of the English. I’m not just talking about the accents in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. I’m talking vocab. I’ve got boot, lift, and shag down. The rest is a mystery.

To wit, here is a typical property description of a house for sale on a British real estate website:

800px-Buckingham_Palace,_London_-_April_2009

No upward chain! No upward chain!

The details:

Five Bedroom Detached Family Home
Chain Free
Three Receptions
Off Road Parking
Rear Garden

What the heck is an upward chain, why should I be excited not to have one–or any “chains” at all? And why are they going to give me three receptions when I buy their house? My wedding reception was enough reception for a lifetime!

Also, I am so glad this house has a “fridgefreezer,” but why does it not–as none of them seem to–have a dryer? How does one dry one’s clothes in England, when no one owns a dryer, and it rains every day?

In any case, the houses cost too much for us. I’m also skeptical that they’ll give us a mortgage with no UK credit rating. If one needs a “letter of introduction” to open a bank account there, what will they require for a mortgage?? The prices for rentals look, at first glance, quite reasonable. Only £615 for a cute little bungalow? Why, that’s not bad at all–that’s about $930. Even if it’s out in the burbs, and the house is not new or beautiful, still, it has 4 bedrooms and its own personal garage (sheer luxury for us–we have never ever had our own garage). But wait–what is this “pw”? Pretty well £615? Posh washrooms included? Alas, British rentals are listed per week. £615 = closer to $4000/month for a piece of crap. Which is better than any of the listings with prices “pppw.” Don’t you know it–per person per week. At 5 of us x whatever the price is = too much money.

Oh, boy. Housing is going to be fun. I think we’re going to need a translator. IF we go, that is . . .

QEII

This Vagabond Life–Forever???

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All three kids have now lived a good part of their lives in the US, a good part in Canada. Is it time to move on? Are we destined to be vagabonds forever, moving from one country to the next, never settling, never buying that aluminum-siding, characterless McMansion, never investing in any long-term commitments (like phone contracts), never, as they said back in the 20th century, “putting down roots”? Is that, perhaps, not such a bad thing?

Alright, readers, here’s the thing: We have a chance to move to the UK.

S0–should we stay or should we go?

Option A

Option A

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Option B

Put another way:

Option A

Option A

Option B

Option B

Well, this could go on. I will give you the pros and cons for our family, and you will tell me what to do with my life.

Here we go–

The Pros:

* Jewish day schools are state-funded in the UK. That means FREE! (you can give a *voluntary* donation, which is bubkas compared to what we pay on this side of the Atlantic). Not only are they FREE, but they are also multicultural (since they can’t discriminate on the basis of religion for a state-funded school). 

*We would live in Europe! Granted, it’s not the continent, but the continent is a hop, skip, and a cheap Ryanair flight away. Hello, weekend in Barcelona, ski trip in Slovenia, a little shopping in Milan.

*The Scientist would be in a “real” job–an actual faculty member in a strong department with good research. As he moves from mid- to late-thirties, the time might be nigh to play big boy!

*We can vote. Apparently our Commonwealth status is worth something somewhere beyond Canadian borders. Of course, I know nothing about British politics, but it might be nice to get to have a say about the place I’m living in. Can I vote, by the way, for Canada not to be a part of the Commonwealth anymore (I’m really big on that whole republic thing, and do not appreciate being a monarchy with a foreign head of state), or would that be kind of self-defeating? (Would I be voting down my right vote?)

*We love welfare states! That’s so left-wing pinko commie academic of us, too, and sooo Canadian, too. But universal healthcare, you are a beautiful thing. It means the end of the very American kind of mail that arrives at our house and startles the crap out of us: “This is not a bill. Emergency room visit: $1480. Your insurance paid: $260. You owe: $0.” Huh?

The Cons:

*I LOVE SUNSHINE. The Scientist is of the opinion that weather “doesn’t matter,” but I DISAGREE! I might DIE in the grey, dreary, and drippy short dark days of the UK. And does it ever end? Rainy winters lead into rainy springs lead into rainy summers . . . Well, you get the picture.

*I would be jobless, friendless, and colleagueless. English departments at UK unis seem utterly devoid of American literature. I suspect the attitude is something along the lines of, “So, have they produced anything over in those colonies yet? Nah . . .”

*Babi and Zaidy and Gramma and Saba and aunties and uncles and all the cousins will be oh so far away. And phone/Skype conversations might become a challenge once our accents have morphed and we can no longer understand our family or them us.

*At heart, there is something deeply American (aka materialistic) about us. We go on about getting rid of clutter, going all minimalist, etc etc, but the truth is this: we love stuff. When I asked an American in the UK recently what it was that he missed most about the US, this is what he said: STUFF! (I panicked. What? No stuff? No stuff? What will I do without stuff?) He then he went on to point out that in the local Sainsbury’s or Tesco, at best you could find 30 or 40 kinds of cereal. Only 30 or 40! I mean, we’re not going to starve, but–?! (Ugh, if I were a better person, this would go in the pro list. So maybe the more appropriate con is that I have to realize what a bad, materialistic person I am.)

*We will be even poorer than we are now–in a not so cheap part of the world (some would say obscenely expensive, even). I know I’m all, yeah, whatev, I’m used to being a  באָרוועסר פּראָפעסאָר

. . . but can I handle being any poorer?

So–what should we do?

Bedtime Battle Royale

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Picture it: Two vagabond parents pack up everything they own and throw it all into storage, then they drag their kids from their (now empty) home, stick them in the car, drive for hours, and when they arrive at a little house in a wooded lake town in the mountains, they say, “OK, everyone, sleep tight. This will be your home for exactly two weeks. Then we move on again.”

And they expect the kids to crawl into their chosen beds, pull up the covers, and not be heard from again until morning, when they eagerly rise to find their clothes in new dressers, eat their breakfast in a new dining room, and start a day at a new camp or at a new beach, make new (albeit temporary) friends, and try out new activities. Oh–and some of this in a new language. They have crossed an international border during their long drive, you see, into a land where most people do not actually speak English (and if they do, they pretend not to).

No problem. And really, no problem!–for the big kids.

You see, the big kids are used to being schlepped hither and thither. LL has probably been to more countries than many adults–among them, Japan, France, England, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Mexico, Italy, Germany (twice)–and he’s been to most provinces in Canada and almost half the states in the U.S. And as for living, he started life in the Northeastern US, moved to Western Canada, then back(ish) . . . Schlepping? No problem.

But the youngest–it’s hard to say that Baby MoFo remembers anything before our life in our princely town, save a visit to Gramma and Saba in the sunny state over winter break. If you think he remembers the famous camping incident or even this very country house that we stayed at last summer, you would probably be mistaken.

And perhaps this confusion is what has contributed to the BEDTIME BATTLE ROYALE.

I say “contributed” because even before leaving the princely town, we were having our share of woes: Baby MoFo diving out of his crib 1, 2, 10, 26 times and being returned 1, 2, 10, 26 times until he finally fell asleep. But now these woes have been ratcheted up a notch.

Now, the out-of-beds are more rapid (no crib), easier (the doors don’t close properly), and more disruptive (the boys are all sharing a room here), and they go on for much, much longer (sunlight be gone!). And to make things worse, this sneaky child’s mama feels guilty because she’s the one who is schlepping him hither and thither and then telling him to just sleep tight.

The routine goes something like this: Baby MoFo is readied for bed (bathed or not, changed into PJs, read stories). He gets some milky in a sippy cup which he is likely to throw at my head (I will confess, at this inopportune moment, that I took away his bottle exactly 2 days ago–which my pediatrician will likely say is insane because I should have done it a year ago or more, and my mother tells me is insane because a time of life changes is not a time to add more life changes). He is tucked into bed. Then he comes out and is returned to his initial bed for hours. Then the other kids beg us to take him elsewhere (I can swear I heard Cool J shout SHUT THE FUCK UP while fast asleep) and he goes into my bed. Then his bubby’s bed. Then the couch in the foyer. And then we’re back to his bed and he comes out and I put him in and he comes out and I put him in and I sit beside the door of his room and eventually he either gives up his wakefulness right at that border–

Or maybe makes it all the way into the living room and onto the sofa to come sit beside a mama who is too exhausted to return him to bed one. more. time and gives up there–

Yes, eventually he falls asleep. On his terms.

Please oh please oh please readers–mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, pediatricians, people who have nothing to do with kids but like to dispense parenting advice nonetheless– do send me your brilliant insights and your deep wisdom, for which I would be so grateful — How, oh how, do I get this child to GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP?–in his bed, at bedtime.

[Here, my readers, is Cool J’s suggestion:

Cool J: “Hey, mama, look what you can do with this laundry hamper? BABY JAIL!!!!!!!”

The Poor Princess’s Tips on How [Not] To Pack and Move

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A week before the move, anxiety levels start to run high. Believe me, I know. So here are the strategies I employ:

1. Try on everything you own. It sounds like busy work, but it is far more interesting than wrapping picture frames in 5 inches of packing paper. And it’s efficient! Why move with that hideous bubble gum pink satin skirt you wore to your brother-in-law’s wedding (thanks for that color scheme, by the way . . . I really owe you one). Or the fuschia shoulder-padded lace jacket you had made? Try them on, realize you will never wear them again, and on to Goodwill they go!

Sartorial sloughing

2. Listen to every CD you own. You might find some gems in there . . . or not. Do you still like Soundgarden? Roxette? Tripping Daisies? (yes, these are/were all in my collection). Do you only like one song on each CD? Then take the time to copy that song onto your computer and for goodness sake, trash the CD (or take it to your local record exchange shop — maybe you’ll make some money!).

Disc dump

3. Is your baby still a baby? And if not, is your womb retired? Then you probably don’t need that cocoon babycot, the car seat adapter for a baby seat, or that activity mat. Bye bye baby, and farewell pedaphernalia!

Farewell Pedaphernalia!

4. It’s possible that you’ve figured out the other activities I think are important by now, like looking through each of your photo albums as you prepare to pack them (and scanning some classics to Facebook that piss off your old friends — for goodness sake, so what if we all had big eyebrows, fat faces, and bad acne when we were 16? Get over it!). This is the time to smell the proverbial roses! Those photo albums just sit there and collect dust the rest of the year. But now is their time in the sun! (or at least your hands . . . and scanner).

To not completely be cut off from said old friends, I am not going to re-post the lovely pictures I put up on FB earlier today . . .

5. OK, we’re getting there. Time to relax. I did so by going to a ghetto fair today:

The very classy mouse roller coaster

6. This will be the final tip for now. Here it is: don’t forget you need your strength when you’re packing and moving! The Scientist eyed my dinner skeptically, but I was quite pleased with my inventiveness. I made a bowl of cannellini beans with a cube of frozen basil (clearing out one pantry item and one freezer item), followed by sunnyside up eggs with kimchi (two fridge items). I drank an unloved Trader Joe’s Vienna Style Lager with it (one more fridge item!).

. . .Now, hopefully you’ve figured out how to extrapolate from the above list. Have you watched all your DVDs to make sure you’re not moving with any scratched ones? (I did). Did you skim through all your books to see if they’re worthy of your bookshelf? (I did). (Dan Brown? Really?). You get the picture.

If you’ve really gotten rid of all the things I think you’ve gotten rid of, as I have, congratulations!! You have saved yourself money in packing materials and moving time so I think you ought to reward yourself for your hard work and achievements by calling your mover right away and telling him that with your extra money, you are going to have him pack up all your stuff before the move. That’s what I’m going to do!

Good luck!

-PP

Another year, another home for the Perambulatory Professors/Wandering Jews

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A soon-to-be happy 9th anniversary to The Scientist and me! Here is a hint as to how we’re going to spend our anniversary:

Some people get married, buy a house, and spend their lives in it. Maybe they move once or twice. In 9 years of marriage, we have moved a few more times than that.

Here I was at our Southern apartment complex when we were newlyweds:

Southern complex, 2003

The next place, a total of 567 shared square feet, was a little less luxurious:

Northeast urban condo, 2004

But a year later we were in a nicer home, with 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a patio, and a winter view of the river:

Suburban Northeast townhouse, 2005

And then our jobs took us really really far away–into the Canadian hinterlands–where we dropped back down to one bathroom. The condo was OK–we were grateful to find a place in a province where it is both legal and popular for owners to choose not to rent to people with children under the age of 18. Here I am  with Cool J in the oven and latkes on the stove:

Canadian Hinterlands condo, 2006

We got two years off moving in 2007 and 2008, so in 2009, we had to move several times. When we subletted a furnished place, we had access to other kids’ playthings, to the delight of our own kids, whose personal cache of toys has long consisted of Lego, Lego, and more Lego:

Canadian Hinterlands sublet #2, 2009

Luckily, we ultimately landed in the ultimate house:

Canadian Hinterlands Dream House, 2009

But sadly, that didn’t last long. By the end of 2010, we were packed up again and ready to go. We found a house with one bathroom (for the now 5 of us!) sandwiched between a House of Prayer and a Urologist (The Scientist chose to go to neither). Here are the boys and their cousins in our current house (Messy? You try having 7 kids stay in your 1200 sq ft house!):

A Princely Town Duplex, 2011

And here we’ve been installed for a whole year and a half. A lifetime! But alas, all houses come to a quick end for us, and a couple of weeks ago, The Scientist walked around our house, studying it thoughtfully, and at last declared: “OK, I’m done with it.” And so we all are, it would seem.

On to the next adventure, and to our new house, which I am calling The Nut House, owing to the series of nut-named streets in the area, and for no other reason at all! (3 nutty children? irrelevant!). The Nut House has a small, overgrown backyard, no parking (not even on the street out front), and an uphill when you walk out of the front door that is going to kick my butt when I’m on my bike, but it does have 2 bathrooms (woohoo!!), and my kids’ all-time favorite house-feature, an “upstairs-upstairs.” It’s a bit bigger and it’s nicer than our current house, and being the wandering jews that we are, we embrace the new adventure (moving is fun! moving is fun! moving is fun! Repeat ’til the page is full, printer, or, um, blog).

Pictures of the Nut House in a Princely Town, 2012, are forthcoming . . .