Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back in Montgomery

I never thought I'd be happy to be back in my "Montgomery home" again.
Sure, the floors are still grimy. Yes, we picked up an ant infestation in the bathroom and the kitchen while we were in DC due to a hidden Cheerio or two under the bathmat and one under the fridge. (Luckily, since Kiko beat me home, he got the ant problem MOSTLY under control before we came home.) And yes, there is still that faint smell of musty cigarettes. Now, not only does our TV not work properly, but the dish washer is broken and my bedside table lamp is out of order...however, in the midst of all of these less-than-ideal circumstances, we are back together as a family in our temporary Southern home and I feel I can breathe a sigh of relief.

I never thought I'd be so happy to be in that springy, uncomfortable bed again, but at least now I am next to my husband and more importantly, I made it safely out of DC with a healthy child....Though I actually had a wonderful time in DC, the last few days were rough because Joaquin had a fever of 102 for three days. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only mother that thinks her child is going to die every time he is sicker than the last. Normally, I am a fairly laid-back mom, but when he was sick this time, it was the first time he's been really lethargic and not showing signs of his normal, happy, inquisitive, chatty self. Add to this worry the fact that we are in someone else's home, imposing on their generosity, without a car, 3000 miles away from our pediatrician and everything familiar to us, and I was a basket case. The poor kid has been dragged from time-zone to time-zone, to new, unfamiliar place, to new, unfamiliar place and he has been a trouper!

Fortunately, we went to Laura's pediatrician who was amazing. If I ever move to DC, Dr. FInkelstein will certainly my doctor of choice for my kids. We waited 5 minutes in the waiting room before they took Joaquin and me in. Both Dr. FInkelstein and his nurses were patient, kind, and very talkative, asking us all sorts of questions about Joaquin, what we do, our time in DC, etc. Turns out, Joaquin just had a bad virus and not an ear infection or strep throat, like the doctor first wondered based on his symptoms.

And his last fever (knock on wood) was at 4:45 AM yesterday morning.

So though the beds in our DC hotel and Dan & Laura's were like beds in the Four Seasons, I wasn't getting much rest in them because I was worried about my little guy.

Even though he was ill, and operating on little sleep, Joaquin was still a fairly pleasant travel companion. Sure, there was the two temper tantrums. First, he was upset because he wanted to get on the airplane and wanted to hold his ticket, so he sat down in the walkway repeating "I want to get on airplane...I want to get on airplane...I want my ticket." I could feel the glares of other passengers like daggers through my spine, as they prayed they were not siting near me and my heathen child. Then came temper tantrum #2, when we were seated on the plane and I broke the news to him that he did not get his own seat and had to share with Mama. Luckily, both tantrums lasted about 45 seconds and he quickly recovered. The rest of the flight he was happy, and is slowly grasping the concept of having to turn off all electronic devices until the captain says it's okay to use them. I explained to him about the light above our seats reading "Turn off electronic devices," and how it's not possible to watch Go! Diego Go!, Handy Man, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while these lights are on. (We have broken up with Dora, temporarily, after the Swiper incident.) He says to me, "Mama, turn off that light. I want to watch Diego!"
With every airplane he flies on, he's learning he can't always have what he wants when he wants it.

There is something about traveling that always makes you appreciate things getting back to "normal." And, quirky though this city is, I am enjoying my time in Montgomery and want to make the most of our less than 2 remaining weeks here. (Hooray for going to our REAL home in just a short time!)

I know this blog is like free therapy for me and to any of you who actually read it, thank you...I always feel better after I purge my latest adventures on this site and today I am feeling particularly grateful for a healthy baby and a reunited family unit. Oh, and minus our TBD Labor Day getaway, we only have 8 nights more here until we come home....) Cheers!

(pictured below is the charming house I stayed in while stranded in DC...Isn't it awesome? Though, not a great picture...) Thanks again, Dan, Laura, & Siena!

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

We made it through hurricane Irene, er "tropical storm" Irene....Daddy had to leave us on Saturday night, just as the worst of the weather was coming into DC. Luckily, his whole JASOC class was able to get out on what was one of the last flights leaving DC that night.

Joaquin and I were supposed to leave later and had to connect in Charlotte, North Carolina. So not only did it not seem likely that our flights would not happen, but Joaquin woke up that morning with a fever, which persisted off and on all day Saturday, so the best option seemed for us to stay in DC until Monday and wait out the storm.

Fortunately, we have amazingly hospitable friends in Dan and Laura as Joaquin and I shacked up with them the last couple days. The stranded hurricane house-guests took refuge in Colonial Heights. And throughout the storm, their house never lost power, so we all felt very lucky, as just a block away, houses were dark and streetlights were out. I don't know what we would have done without their kindness and I am truly grateful for their warmth and friendship.

Tomorrow, we venture back to Montgomery to spend time with Kiko while he finishes his last two weeks of JAG school, then it's back to California to get ready for baby nĂºmero dos and to resume our routine. Hooray! Among other things, I miss our dogs so much it hurts...

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Joaquin & Siena

Joaquin giving Siena a ride in her doll stroller. By the look on his face, he takes this task very seriously.

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Joaquin Showing his Teeth

This photo is taken from our favorite lunch spot in Montgomery. It's actually in Old Town Cloverdale, and it's called Filet and Vine. It's a bottle shop, butcher shop, and deli, and everything we've tried has been delicious.

We realize Joaquin often looks really serious when we take his picture, even though in general he is a smiley little boy, so I thought I'd share this shot.

Other notable things about Joaquin right now, at 21 1/2 months, are:

-He can count to ten, but he always skips 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8. So it sounds like "one, two, free, (pause) eight, nine, ten!" He loves to jump in the pool, and always counts like this before he jumps into your arms.

-If he's walking in between two adults, he'll ask for one of each of their hands and say "I wanna woo," which in Joaquin translates to: Please pick me up and swing me, saying "woooo!" while you do it.

-He is obsessed with Thomas the Train. He has two Thomas trains with him, and one is "Thomas," the other is "another Thomas." The same goes for both of his Percy trains. He likes to have Kiko or me "be" one, and he hardly ever offers for us to "be" Thomas. Usually, it's "Mama, you want to be Dash? Wanna be Dash?"

-He likes markers, too. He always offers for Kiko or me to "be" brown or yellow. He is particularly fond of the purple and blue markers.

-He likes to stack all of his markers together so they make a marker sword.

-He loves all animals, particularly dogs, cats, horses, giraffes, and dinosaurs.

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things i am learning from traveling with a toddler

saying "wee!" during take-off and landing makes flying more fun.

you can never have too much chocolate milk stashed inside your purse.

you also can never have too many napkins or shout wipes, because it is highly likely the over-abundance of chocolate milk will end up sprinkled on the outside of your purse, your shirt, or your pants.

there are a lot of kind people in the world; I learned this when a 250 pound retired Marine offered to let Joaquin put either his head or his feet in his lap while he (Joaquin, not the former Marine,) slept in my lap on the airplane. he obviously was a dad and empathized; either way, i appreciated the gesture.

it can be emotionally unsettling to watch someone take your car seat or your suitcase away at check-in, but this sadness is quickly forgotten once you retrieve them at the baggage claim. i look at the baggage carousel with a whole new appreciation after seeing it through the easily impressed eyes of a toddler. it's like a choo choo made up of suitcases that goes around and around...

airplanes are easy to confuse with the Disneyland Monorail.

everyone, even a stranger, becomes a fair target to play Peek-a-Boo with when you're on a plane.

yelling "we're so high, we're so high!" when you reach cruising altitude is perfectly acceptable.

if you wear sandals all day during travel, including on your walk through a dirt path in the park, when you take your shoes off at night your toddler is likely to tell you, "Mama, you have poo on your feet!" I guess that was his way of telling me it'd been a long day and it was time for me to bathe.

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Adventures in Washington D.C.

two californians arrived in washington, d.c. after getting up at 4:15 in the morning, riding on 2 airplanes, and almost losing our car seat at the airport, just in time for the biggest earthquake to hit DC in over 100 years!

our dear friend, laura, picked joaquin and me up at Dulles International airport with her precious 15 month old daughter, Siena. Siena and Joaquin haven't seen each other in quite some time, but Joaquin was sharing his new airplane toy with her in an instant and making eyes at her in the back seat.

joaquin also started calling Laura "Tia," which is what he calls his aunties on Kiko's side because "Tia" is aunt in Spanish. Laura is a dark haired beauty like his west coast tias, `but I am not sure if he was confusing her for his Tia Alana or Tia Livvie, or if he just felt like calling her Tia. Either way, Tia Laura it was and I think she was touched.

Laura drove us to her house, which is in a charming part of D.C. called "Colonial Village." The neighborhood is comprised of period 1930s homes, all with similar colonial architecture, and it's bordered by Rock Creek Park. I immediately fell in love with the neighborhood, and of course, Laura's hospitality made it hard not to feel relieved to be in someone's home after being in hotels and a seedy apartments for 3 weeks.

While we were feeding the kids lunch, all of a sudden the house started shaking and dishes rattled. (Now, Laura is also from California, and between the two of us California girls, you'd think we'd know what to do in an EARTHQUAKE! But we're in DC....there are no earthquakes in D.C.! Or so we both thought....)

We grabbed the kids from their chairs, then stood under one arched doorway then another, then she's like "let's go outside," which seemed like a great idea to me because this house was old...and likely has not been through many earthquakes like California structures.

As we scurried outside, her neighbors were all coming outside also, calling from their front porches, "Oh my god! Oh my god! Is this/was that an earthquake?"

Of course, then Joaquin, being the parrot-child that he is, starts saying "Oh my God! Oh my God!"

I tell him, "we're okay, we're okay," and then Siena starts crying, and Joaquin repeats "we're okay, we're okay." It was very sweet.

So we decide to move our lunch outside and have a picnic on her front lawn, just so we can be ready in case there's an aftershock. I am still not sure if going outside was our best move, but it made us feel a lot safer.

I am glad I arrived when I did, because apparently, traveling in and out of DC for the rest of the day was not easy. Kiko and the rest of his JAG crew got stuck in Atlanta as their plane was delayed, and public transportation and traffic in the greater DC area was a mess well until the evening.

I guess being from California, I felt like a somewhat seasoned earthquake veteran, even though it still got my heart racing and my blood pumping...

After the earthquake, we took a nice long walk through Laura's neighborhood. I enjoyed the architecture and also was amazed at how there is a woodsy park in the middle of Washington, D.C. Our capital city is pretty amazing! It was also wonderful to reintroduce Joaquin into being outside, since the weather in Montgomery has kept us more or less cooped indoors and near the A/C unit.

Side note - I am not the best on airplanes, but if there is anything to get me over my fear of flying, it was the idea of spending 5 days alone at our place in Montgomery, while Kiko traveled to DC with his JAG classmates...I've never been so happy to get on a plane and go somewhere!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Second Trip to the Zoo

Joaquin & Maddy enjoying their ice cream cones.
Joaquin asking me, "Mama, you want some ice ceam?" (No, that's not a typo. That's how he pronounces cream.)
A far-away shot of the baby bison at the zoo. These animals are amazing to look at. "So cute," says Joaquin.
And here is Joaquin with the baby Maddy loaned him. He was putting her to sleep by pressing her eye-lids closed. Good practice for baby sister!

Things I've Noticed in Montgomery

-There are a lot of billboards for hunting conventions and gun shows.

-There is not a general sense of concern for the planet. If you take a reusable grocery sack to the Winn Dixie, they'll bag your groceries in plastic, then put your plastic bags inside your reusable bags, unless you stop them in time.

-At Wal-mart, the checkers put only one or two items in each plastic bag, unless you intervene.

-They love their fast food restaurants. Some new ones to me are: Sonic, Steak & Shake, (awesome milkshakes, actually), Hardee's (same as Carl's, Jr.), Checkers, Zaxby's Chicken.

-Just like checking your egg carton at the grocery store, check your ice cream carton before you bring it home because someone may have tasted it in the store. Seriously, this happened to us. We got home and our carton of Hagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip ice cream had been pre-sampled in the store. Gross!

-They call pants "breeches."

- They think L.A. Stands for Louisiana.

-Moms might take kids to the bathroom to tinkle. (This brings back specific memories of my southern mother not allowing me to say "pee" as a little girl. A lady never says "I have to go pee.")
Good think we are teaching Joaquin to say "I need to take a leak." Wink, wink...

-There is a Waffle House at every freeway exit.

-People in general are very friendly and talkative. Whether it's the maintenance man at you apartment, the clerk at Dillard's, or the host at a restaurant, they like to know where you're from, how long you're staying, how old your baby is, etc. They also like to tell you about their new Ipod Nano, their next-door neighbor's dog, and the farm they used to own in Mississippi. They are very warm and friendly, unlike in LA, and it's endearing.

-People drive fast. Really fast. This might be because there is hardly ever traffic.

-They are not used to ethnic-sounding names. "Ochoa" really throws them off, and "Joaquin" might just get you a blank stare.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dora, Dora, Dora the Explorer...

Okay, so I am not even going to begin to touch on the controversial subject of toddlers and television, but let it be known, we let our 21 month old son watch TV. Now, it's certainly not a babysitter for him, but heck, the kid's been obsessed with Winnie-the-Pooh since he was 8-months old, and that obsession didn't just emerge from the books we read to him...although, we did read Winnie books to him quite often...

His latest TV infatuation is with Dora the Explorer. Okay, harmless enough, right? One of my friend's little girls, who's one very smart cookie with an extremely advanced vocabulary took a liking to Dora at an early age, so I figured what's the harm? She was identifying leather-backed turtles and jaguars by age 2, so something about this show must trigger even the youngest and hungriest of minds.

What I didn't expect was a new insecurity directly inspired from the show...If you're familiar with the program at all, you'll know that there is a pretty rigid formula for all episodes. One component of the show is that Swiper, the fox, "loves swiping," and often, will swipe whatever tool is necessary for Dora to complete her mission. Now, Swiper is not exactly evil, but he doesn't usually help Dora or Boots, her pet monkey, accomplish their goals.

All of a sudden, two nights ago, Joaquin became obsessed with the idea that Swiper is going to "swipe" his choo choos, his "B" (AKA blanket), or even worse, Mama! At nap time, he says, "Mama, Swiper going to get my choo choo trains?"

I assure him, "No, sweetie. Swiper is not going to get your choo choos."

Then he persists, "Mama, Swiper going to take Mama from me?"

It's both sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. How can I explain to him that it's just a show and that Swiper is not really bad? More importantly, he is way too young to understand the fourth wall. But all I want to do is not let him watch anymore for fear that the insecurity will get worse.

Is it because we are away from home, thus his insecurities are peaking because of unfamiliar surroundings? Or is it because he is really attached to certain things? I am no child-psychologist, but I definitely thought I had a few years before movies or TV started to scare him. Watch a horror film when you're older, or even a Harry Potter movie when you're 10, and then you and Mama can talk about being afraid...but now! Ack! What do I do?

(Of course, the worst idea I had was to play on his insecurities to get him to give up his pacifier. Since Kiko left for JASOC in July, he's been especially keen on his "paci." He even will ask for them by color, i.e. "Mama, I want my orange paci..peez!" It's the "please/peez" that puts me over the edge. We figure he'll outgrow it in time, but the thought did cross our minds...Would we be setting him up for a lifetime of insecurities if we told him "Swiper must have swiped all your pacis...." Ha, I think we'll opt out of that parenting trick for now, and just focus on making him comfortable with his boundaries with fictional characters.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Alternative Housing Arrangements?

Hooray for the weekend! When Friday night came, I felt a huge sigh of relief. Not only had we had a great day at the zoo, followed by a fun afternoon of swimming at the base pool, but now we had 48-hours of uninterrupted Daddy-time ahead of us. Woo hoo!

Friday night, we went out with 3 other couples to a local Italian/Greek place and had a great dinner, (except for the fact that my lasagna didn't arrive until everyone else was finished.) Fortunately, I filled up on salad and tzatziki and our waitress voluntarily took it off the bill.

Saturday morning, we had some errands to run, including stopping by the Air Force Inn to inquire about getting family housing on base. Here's a little taste of our exchange:

Kiko asks the woman at the desk, "Excuse me, ma'am? I was wondering if there is an TFL* available?" *Note, it might be TLF, I am still getting used to the military acronyms, but basically we were asking for temporary family living arrangements. If Kiko was full-time active duty, maybe I'd take the time to learn all the secret codes...

Her response was a terse, "no!"

So Kiko starts to walk away, when I said, "Wait a minute. Why don't you find out if there might be any openings any time in the next week or two."

Then he retreats back to the desk to ask my question, to which she responds: "I don't know. I know handle TFL so you'll have to check back on Monday when the person is here who deals with all of this."

So basically the "no" she originally gave wasn't really correct, but rather it was a "no" I am not going to help you so why don't you just mosey on out of my office...

Great. Nice to know the civilians employed by the Air Force are ready to go that extra mile for you.

Can I Live at the Montgomery Zoo?

In my 8 days of being in Montgomery, my favorite place so far is the Montgomery Zoo. It's great, even as far as zoos go. Now, if you know me even slightly, you know that I love animals. But sometimes zoos give me the willies. Something about seeing all those animals in cages, with people gawking at them and yelling doesn't always sit right with me. But there are a few zoos that I love, including the Santa Barbara Zoo, and now the Montgomery Zoo.

It is clean, small, shaded, and the animals seem to have big places to roam around. Plus, did I mention it was shaded? It was the only time since I've been here I've actually been able to be outside 5 minutes without feeling like I was going to pass out from heat exhaustion. The pathways at the zoo are heavily wooded with trees, and they have misters throughout the park if you so choose to stand beneath them.

The best part was that Joaquin had a blast with his new friend, Maddy. Maddy will be 3 in October, and they became fast friends the first time they met at Saza, a restaurant in downtown Montgomery. Joaquin shared his Peter Pan figure with her, and since then, they are inseparable. He was especially impressed when I took her to the potty the other day and he saw she was wearing Dora the Explorer underwear. I don't think she could be much cooler in his eyes after learning who is on her skivvies. Thank goodness he's still in diapers, or I know what he'd be wanting me to buy on our next Target visit.

The pictures above show Maddy and Joaquin feeding the giraffes; I was amazed at how friendly and docile the giraffes were. The baby, Rafael, was especially cute. You can see his long, black tongue pictured above.

Now, if only our apartment made me as happy as the zoo did...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Day by day...


Day by day, things are getting better in Montgomery.

On Friday, we had a play date at...Chick-Fil-A. Now, I am not sure about you, but I've never made plans where a Chick-Fil-A fast food restaurant, or "Mormon Chicken," as it is affectionately called by some of my friends, is the destination. It's usually a stopover en route to another destination. However, in Montgomery, AL, it is a destination in and of itself. This is mainly because it has an indoor playground with A/C, which is a rarity and a huge plus in the south.

I met two other JAG wives and their kids there and we had lunch, chatted, and watched the kids play, just as if we were at any park. Our trip was a success, and after three hours of play, 2 boxes of chicken nuggets, one fruit cup, one apple juice, and one chocolate shake, Joaquin and I left feeling exhausted. And it was the first day he actually took a nap close to his normal "Calif." nap time! Momma was able to get some writing in, and Joaquin , covered in the grime from his Chick-Fil-A playground romp, took a 2 1/2 hour nap. Hooray!

So all in all, our fast food play date was a success. And while it's not something I would like to make a habit of, when in Rome with a 21-month-old, you will do anything for some air-conditioning and a playground.

Maybe next week we'll try (gasp) McDonald's.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama?

Originally drafted in an email, 8/8/11.

Well, I am here. I am settling into my new "temporary" life as a military wife in Montgomery, Alabama. I reunited with my man Saturday night at the airport, just in time for his birthday on Sunday. The flight was surprisingly easy, and Joaquin had a great time on both flights...I stress JOAQUIN had a great time...Mama has a different song to sing. Being 6 months pregnant and traveling with a 21 month-old, with a bunch of carry on bags including a big camera and a laptop, does not rank at the top of my list of fun things to do. But at least he didn't throw up on me like he did on the flight to Hawaii.

The reunion with Kiko at the airport was wonderful and tear-filled, as Joaquin squealed with delight when he saw him. He then ran up to him and proudly said, "Daddy, I have money," showing him the quarter I'd given him earlier. If only a quarter will make him that happy in the years to come...

It was late so we pretty much just drove back to the apartment (more on this later) and went to bed...I was so happy to see him that the reality of our living conditions didn't really sink in until sometime later the next day.

His birthday was nice. He arranged for us to have lunch with some of the other couples so that I could meet some other JAG wives and not feel so alone. Then we came back to the apartment so he could finish an assignment and Joaquin could nap. It was during this time that I started to go into shock about where I was and what I was about to do...But, since it was Kiko's birthday, I bottled up my emotions and my longing to be home in our own house in Pasadena, and put on a happy face. We had a great dinner at a soul food restaurant named Mama Nem's...It was one of the only places open on Sunday. Apparently, in the south, most places are closed on Sundays, even the drive-thru liquor stores. Fortunately for us, Mama Nem's was open for business, and though they ran out of banana pudding, the mac n' cheese and cornbread stuffing were as plentiful as they were delicious.
Once the birthday celebrating was over, Monday came and Kiko left for class at 6:30, I opened up the bottle of emotions and they pretty much kept spilling out at all the wrong times. (Like, when we were parking at the JAG school to go have birthday cake during his lunch break, and one of his classmates walked up me as I was bawling and feeling particular out of place and like I was a big nuisance....Great first impression of Lt. Ochoa's wife...At least her response was, "Fucking military sucks and Alabama isn't much better....I suggest retail therapy.") Though I was embarrassed, it made me laugh.

The tears kept coming at various times, mainly because I suddenly felt like I have no identity. Since leaving my job, I have had my own share of personal pep talks with myself about who I am and what I want from my life, but suddenly, feeling like a "tagsy-alongsy" military wife, who doesn't even have an ID, so is not even recognized by the military as a wife, has left me feeling shallow, lost, purposeless, and very, very alone...

I am also emotional because I am hormonal and have not been sleeping. I couldn't sleep Sunday night because our bed is not that comfortable and I had anxiety about what the week would bring. I don't yet have my military ID (we've gone twice to get it, but such is the military that they don't actually tell you everything you need to bring, just MOST things you need to bring, because apparently I am an "unusual" case...) The other reasons I couldn't sleep were because I was:
-worrying if second hand smoke inhalation transfers to a fetus through couch upholstery
-a bed spring was poking me in the left thigh
-the A/C is great and powerful, but blows right up my nostrils and makes me sneeze (although, it's better than being hot)
-and I really had to go to the bathroom, but didn't want to walk on the bathroom floor without my shoes on, and my shoes weren't accessible.

So, you might have guessed our apartment leaves a bit to be desired. Kiko warned me that it was small. Small I can deal with. But the residual smell of smoke from the previous residents and the 1/2 inch of grime left over on the linoleum flooring in the kitchen and the bathroom, um, not so much. Call me a a princess, but I feel like Motel 6 might be a step up. This is the apartment the guy you had a huge crush on in college lived in and you tolerated it because he was so hot and he played football, or was at least a red shirt...This is not the apartment you want to spend time with a toddler and 26 week-old fetus with...Okay, so it's not that bad, and after a trip to Wal Mart to buy new sheets, a whole lot of Lysol, some Febreeze, and scented candles, I decided to make the best of it, and now it's a lot better. At least if I forget to put on my flip flops, I don't feel like I am going to get some foreign fungus on my toes. We have a small kitchen, an A/C, a dishwasher, and there is a Starbucks not too far away, so I guess things could be worse. One of the wives said to me yesterday, "Oh, we looked at your apartments. They were nice, but we saw 2 cop cars outside so decided to stay somewhere else..."

Thanks for telling me that. Now, my fears are not only validated, but escalated...

Kiko attempted to make me feel better by saying "Yes, I've seen cop cars here, too, but I think the cops live here."

Um, I am not up on my Alabama state laws, but at least in LA, cops DO NOT drive their cars home. I am pretty sure these cops weren't inside one of our units with their families watching The Big Bang Theory (BTW - does anyone else think that show is totally overrated?), but I am going to tell myself they were here visiting "friends" and leave it at that. The minute I spy one or hear a siren, I am checking into the Drury Inn & Suites around the corner.

For now, I'll tough it out, and quietly keep my eyes open for alternative living arrangements. Surely there are other options. And now, if this ever happens again, I know that I'll need to play a more active role in the search for where to live.

I am anxious to get on a routine, to get Joaquin back on his schedule so I can resume my writing, and to find someplace other than a Wal-Mart to shop. Not sure if they have Farmers' Markets or any non-chain anythings in Montgomery...

If there was anything I ever needed to make me appreciate living in California, this trip might be it. Oh, how I miss the weather, and everything else. Where is my adventurous spirit? Well, I hope to find it somewhere. I am sure it's there...

I am anxious to find the Alabama that Lynyrd Skynyrd sings about in his song "Sweet Home Alabama, where the skies are so blue," or to find the quaint southern town in To Kill A Mockingbird.