San Diego Zoo

Last weekend we took a trip to San Diego.  It was Ike’s longest planeride yet.  It went OK, as in nothing too mortifying happened, I don’t think anyone complained about us, but I am not too keen on doing it again anytime soon.  Four and half hours is a LONG time to keep him occupied in a confined space.  Food helped.

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We made it nevertheless and Ike got to hang out with his Dori and his west-coast family.

Isaac’s three cousins, two Aunts, and Uncle all live in the southern California area and were sharing a rental home in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego.  They were all thrilled to hang out with Ike, he is such a little rock star.  We went to the zoo, while we were there, because it is San Diego and that is what you do there.  I am not particularly fond of the zoo, any zoo, but I have to say, if you are going to visit only one zoo, make it this one.  It was spectacular.

It was also incredibly crowded.  Ike was attached firmly to his leash when he wasn’t being carried or pushed in his stroller.  He was very thrilled about it.

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There was every kind of animal you can imagine and a few that you probably can’t.  The exhibits are layed out in a most creative fashion.  My favorite was a cheetah cub and a puppy that shared a habitat because they had become friends as babies.  How sweet is that?

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They also had Koala bears, which I challenge anyone to take more than a 2 second look at and not melt a little inside.  Bonus.  There was a baby Koala!  Perched safely inside his mother’s lap, I couldn’t even see him for a while.

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This is what Ike though of the Koalas.  Maybe the baby koala told him he was thirsty?

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Here’a all the family taking in some warthogs.  Ike had their greeting down pat and they loved it.  Sort of looks like he is trying to hop in there and join his clan.

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And Thomas? Oh he’s fine.  Really.  San Diego is a walking kind of city and a little adjustment to us city-folks.  Several people shared the use of the wheelchair throughout the day.

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Checking out the giraffes.  Ike is not interested in giraffes in California or Atlanta apparently.

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Ike waving hello to the Rhinoceros.  Well, the Rhinoceros’s butt.  Maybe he was saying Bye.  I don’t remember.

Here’s a picture of a donkey named Sophia.  Despite persistent pleas from Alencia and Karlos, she refused to turn around, thereby validating everyone’s nickname of “Ass!”.

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Again, I cannot recommend this zoo enough.  It’s a little pricey, but totally worth it.  It’s HUGE though, so spring for the rental strollers or wheelchairs if you are so inclined because there is a ton of walking.  There are also assorted food/refreshment stands to keep you strength up.  We bypassed the enormous elephant habitat to refuel at one of them.  Budget extra money for libations throughout the day, or pack your own if you’re into being thrifty and prepared (our family is not).

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Eighteen Months

Ike is a year and half old.  In just six short months he will be celebrating his second birthday.  These past six months have been such a wealth of growth and learning for Ike.  He has aquired skills at a mind boggling pace!  He started school back in March, and although very rocky at first, he has learned so much from the other children (friends) in his class.  They all adore him and he is learning quickly about how to interact with them constructively.  Every day when he timidly enters the classroom, he is greeted cheerfully by all of his friends “Hi Ike” “Look that’s Ike” “Hey Ike’ and he is visibly more comfortable.  He’s learning words, fine motor skills, and all about his own independence so fast right now.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with how much of his babyhood has faded into strong-willed/independent little person.

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He can do so much and so many things he comes up with surprise and delight me.  Here are just a few of Ike’s most adorable things right now.

Adorable Thing No. 1:

Ike puts on everyone elses shoes and walks around calling himself their names.

Gabby’s Chuck Taylors: Ike “Sissy, sissy, sssisy!”
Dad’s black dress shoes: Ike “Dado, Daddio, Dad, Daddy, Daddio, Momma, Dado!”

Adorable Thing No. 2:

Hugs.  When Ike is playing in the living room or outside, every now and then he runs back over to me and grabs my legs and squeezes and buries his face in my knee caps.

Adorable Thing No. 3:

Dancing.  The kids loves music.  He takes every opportunity to dance.  He has tunes in his BMW toy car and jams out like those crazy people you see stoppped at a red light acting like they are in the front row of a concert.  It’s to die for!

Adorable Thing No. 4:

Ask Ike how old he is.  Go ahead ask him.  He will smile and tell you a bold faced lie!

“Two” he says with a grin.  

Another area of massive growth is Ike’s speech.  He’s always been a pretty chatty guy, but now more and more of his gibberish is turning into words (or at least the first syllable of words).  Here are just some of his words, and his vocabulary bank grows almost daily.

Words:

Mom (Mom-Mom)
Dad (Daddio)
Coco (the dog)
Ball
Bubbles
Music
Car
Walk (wah wah)
Sissy
Cheese
Banana (anana)
Shoes
Mawmaw
Nell (Ivanal)
No (he is becoming pretty fond of no)
Awe Man (totally my fault)
Wow
Two (it’s how old he is, he swears!)

He’s still pretty open about food and I will continue to appreciate his flexibility.  Although his great love of milk is still very strong, we have been successfully limiting it.

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Here are the current favs.

Favorite Foods:

Avocado
Cheese
Strawberries
Blueberries
Green Peas
Potatoes
Pasta
Cheddar bunny crackers
Anything from Gabby’s plate

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(He’s also fond of chocolate pudding).

Ike’s definately got a strong affinity for all things car-related.  He also enjoys packing and unpacking.  He has a shape sorter box that he likes to take blocks in and out of; but can be enteretained by taking toys out of a basket, putting balls into a box, removing all the wipes from the wipe box I accidently left within his reach.  I think his absolute favorite thing to do is help his grandma unpack her suitcase when she comes to visit.

Favorite Toys:

Airplane Riding Toy
BMW Car
Little blue chair (outside)
Little red chair (inside)
Shape sorter box
Spiderman Ball
Slide

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Finally, he is growing at a ‘good’ pace, whatever that means.  With every doctor visit, I become less and less concerned with those percentiles they present.  Whatever, he is solid, he eats, he excersizes, he is happy.  This numbers girl is not impressed with your numbers AAP.   Here they are anyway, taken with a large grain of salt from mommy.

Weight. 26.5 lbs
Height. 33 inches
Teeth.  5 (with 8 on the way)
Head Circumference. Huge. Twenty and a quarter inches.
Hairs.  Out of Control!
Clothes Size.  2T

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How to spot a GREAT realtor

While Isaac and I once loved our current house, it was so convenient to work at less than 8 miles, there was never any traffic.  It is near enough to downtown Atlanta to have plenty of restaurant and entertainment options within a 15-20 minute drive.  Linda and Mei were about the same distance away.  The house was plenty large enough for the two of us.

Well, two years and two kids, and two more extended family members later, the house has shrunk considerably.  We could use an extra bathroom, a larger kitchen, and a little more space for everyone to spread out.  Ike needs a yard, since he is shaping up to be quite an outdoorsman.  Isaac needs a man cave since we women out-number him 4:1 at present and Ike generally takes mommy’s side.  My baby sister Ivanal needs a place to get out from under our mother.  Gabby needs a place to park her car out of the street.  Isaac and I want to be in a better public school district when Ike goes to kindergarten.  In short, we needed to move.

Ivanal will be starting high school this Fall and Gabby will be moving into the dorms, so this summer is our optimal time to move.  This sounded like a reasonable timeline when Isaac and I decided on it back in December.

We started out with a realtor from in-town Atlanta.  Although we decided a while ago that the ‘burbs were best for our family.  The southern ‘burbs ultimately.  The schools are excellent, the commute is reasonable, the towns are safer, and the property is much more reasonable than Atlanta proper.

We dawdled around with our first realtor for several months, not exceptionally happy, but also not really upset by anything in particular.  He didn’t really know the area, he rarely sent us places to look at, he gave very little input on maximizing our current home’s curb appeal.  He just sort of took cues from us.  He did refer us to a lender, which was a clear disappointment, but that is a story for another time.

At the end of April we met with a different realtor, this one was referred to us by someone who lives in the area we are looking at, because well duh.  We don’t live in the area and while we love it, we really don’t know much about it other than what we can read online and glean from friends who live there.

What a difference a good realtor makes!  Ten days after meeting her we had:

  • Made an offer on a new house at an unbelievable deal
  • Listed our home
  • Juggled multiple offers and accepted one on our current place

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These are some tips for spotting a really good realtor:

  1. They know the area that you are shopping in. They can tell you about the schools, the nearby entertainment options, the age of the neighborhood, the market climate in the area.
  2. They ask you your price range and they stay within it. We gave our realtor a price range and a short wish list of amenities that we wanted.  She sent us 10 properties and every single one was within the range or negotiable to our range.  They all had everything we asked for.
  3. They know how to do market research. Our home is not in the area that our realtor typically works.  But she took only two days to provide us helpful comparable sales and gave us good advice on what is and isn’t worth putting into the home before we list it.  She priced it spot on and it had offers within 48hours.  Offers with an S.
  4. They make time for you. Both our realtors really met this, but it’s important.  We called the new realtor on a Saturday morning about a property that had just listed the night before.  I was leaving town that afternoon but we really wanted to visit the home before I left.  She squeezed us between her two existing appointments and although late and a bit disheveled, she was there and able to give us some very good advice on the home.  We made an offer that evening.
  5. They help you with an offer. This one is key.  We found a property with our first realtor that we wanted to make an offer on.  But we felt that the ask was way high.  He pulled comps in the area, but he gave us no advice or opinion about the real value of the home or any indication that we should offer more or less than our very uneducated guess.  We didn’t make the offer because we felt too uninformed.  The new realtor provided comps and information for the neighborhood and the area just a few hours after we visited the house.  She called us and gave us an actual number for our offer.  She talked to the listing agent and told us what she could about the probability of acceptance and negotiation.  Isaac turned in the letter as I boarded my flight.

We are currently under contract on both homes and are busily making plans for the big Moving Day.  I am so happy that we chose to go with the new realtor.  She really made all the difference in the world.  If you happen to be shopping for a home in the south atlanta suburbs, I have a phenomenal realtor for you!

On the Road with Ike

How far we’ve come from the days when a 20 minute drive from our house to the doctor’s would send Ike and me both into a whirlwind of despair.  We seem to be on the go almost every weekend with extensive carseat time.

I owe most of our car-related stress relief to Raffi and other kids-centric music.  Ike’s latest craze? Old MacDonald or more affectionately known around our house…E-I-O?

We took a trip over to Birmingham this Friday to see my little cousin graduation with her Doctorate Degree in Nursing (very impressed is this lowly Bachelor’s degree holder by the way).  The trip was about 2 and half hours each way.  He slept most of the way home, but on the way there, I’m pretty sure we heard Old MacDonald at least 1,000 times.  Every time it ended we heard this from the back seat:

“Daddio?”

“Mama?”

“E-I-O?”

We played Old MacDonald from Raffi, from Dora, from Barney from EVERYONE!  Over and over and over. But I guess that’s better than hysterical screams from the backseat for two hours.

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Here is Ike and me with the beautiful smart graduate, who is also getting married this fall.  What a year right?!  We are so proud.  This is about 30 minutes before Ike had a world class melt down and I was more or less shamed out of PF Changs, but let’s remember the good times shall we?

 

The Hidden Costs of Moving

Our offer was accepted! We are moving into a new house!  A dream house, with a dreamy back yard and a huge deck and a true gourmet kitchen and a finished basement and finally FINALLY a room for everyone.  Can you tell I am a little excited?

Excited, definately.  Anxious, yes that too.  Now the race is on to get all the details done in time for moving in about FOUR weeks.  These details are small and large and my to do list is currently off the page with tasks to complete.  From “SELLING OUR HOUSE ASAP” to “remember to pack toilet paper on top” my mind is abuzz with things that need to be done.

The big costs and to dos are obvious.  Find a house, make a down payment, sell your house, pay the realtor, hire movers (or willing friends).  Those things are easy, but I already see so many more costs and tasks with new ones popping up every day.  Some of the major hidden costs of moving, so far.

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  1. Closing Costs.  Okay not really hidden, but there are a lot of prepaids and other things that can drive up the amount of money you have to bring to closing.  Be sure you have a good estimate from your lender.
  2. Staging.  I can usually keep the house in OK shape, usually (at least when there are people coming over), but for showing the house to potential buyers, it needs to be pretty spotless.  We hired a cleaning service to give the whole place a good cleansing, and we packed up a truck load of stuff to make the house look less cluttered.
  3. Storage Unit.  All that clutter that we decided we could live without for a little while? Well, we got a small storage unit to “hide” our crap while we show our house.  We chose a slightly more expensive, but flexible, month-to-month unit that I hope to have for only two months or so.
  4. Appraisal and Inspections.  Both ranged between $350 and $450 each for our home.
  5. Boxes, tape and packing supplies.  I’m pretty resourceful about finding/saving boxes and newspaper and even some bubble wrap here and there, but I’ve also had to purchase copious amounts of packing tape to patch back together some of my second-hand boxes.  I’m sure I will end up buying a few sturdy boxes before all is said and done too.  I mean you can only put so much in a  tape enforced Pampers box.
  6. Deposits.  If you are changing counties, like we are, you are likely changing utility providers.  That means you are paying deposits again.
  7. A lot of frozen yogurt.  When your house is on the market, it’s generally a good sign that lots of people want to see it.  But, they want to see the house, not you or your adorable family.  So that means, when the house is being shown, we have to be gone.  On the weekends we can plan fun activities from our Spring Bucket list.  But when it’s 5:30 on a Wednesday evening, we generally go to the nearest frozen yogurt shop and kill an hour watching Ike fish every piece of strawberry from the cup before eating the yogurt.  Despite the Menchie’s frequent shoppers program, this is starting to put a dent in my budget.

Prague, Czech Republic: the High Points

Truthfully, I spent most of my week in Prague inside of the Hilton hotel; in meetings, in symposiums, in hospitality suites.  In, in, in, in!  But on Thursday the conference ended around lunch and I was free for the afternoon with a flight first thing Friday morning.  I had to get out, out, out in a hurry!

I had about 5 hours time to visit/experience the important things in Prague. I did my best.

1. Took a boat tour ($12US).  The Vltava river flows directly through the city of Prague and many beautifully ancient bridges cross it.  The boat tour picked up about two blocks form my hotel. The tour provided a beautiful view of the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, and the metronome that marks the former location of the Stalin statue (imploded in 1962).

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2. Caught the tram to Old Town Prague ($1US).  We took the tram just on the other side of our hotel into Prague’s “Old Town”.  I think it’s funny that this particular area has been deemed “old” because with the exception of a few modern buildings here and there the whole city is pretty old.  We saw the astronomical clock, the colorful Jewish Synagogue, a handful of torture museums (dude!), the State Opera, and an authentic Czech outdoor market (where I bought Ike an authentic handmade slingshot, $2US).

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3. Ate Czech Beef Goulash ($14US).  I was told shortly after arriving in Prague that I’ve not had proper goulash until I had Czech Goulash, so obviously I had to make that happen.  And, after 5 days of nonstop Americanized hotel food (very good Americanized hotel food mind you) I was ready to have some authentic cuisine.  At the recommendation of a co-workers wife who had spent the week sightseeing while we were in meetings, we ate at a small, halfway underground restaurant/pub.  The goulash was AMAZING.  If you’ve never tried it, you should go to Prague and get some immediately.

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Happy Goulash Girl right here.  By the way, Goulash is a traditionally Hungarian dish of stewed beef and vegetables seasoned with sweet paprika.  Mine was served with super savory potato cakes.

4. Shop for some crystal.  ($0US, if you don’t count the noncrystal souvenirs I picked out for the kids in the crystal shopping district). I didn’t know before I arrived, but Czech produced crystal is some of the finest in the world.  And buying it from a place as inexpensive as Prague makes it a very budget friendly shopping item.  There were endless shops selling crystal vases, glasses, jewelry and more along the streets in Old Town and downtown Prague.  If I had an extra day there, I would have spent some time trying to replace the various wine glasses that I’ve broken over the years.

While I would have loved to have more time to explore Prague, I feel content in seeing the major landmarks, and of course trying out the local food-fare.  I hope to go back again someday, the city is beautiful and the people are very nice and friendly and generally helpful.

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