Drive to Utah. Attend wedding reception. Attend baby blessing. Attend family reunion. Fly to California. Look for a place to live. Fly to Utah. Drive to Idaho. Attend wedding reception. Pick up extra baby for three weeks.
Whew. It's been an exhausting week. Let's start from the top.
The week began with my cousin's wedding. The reception was held in my aunt's back yard, and seemed to go very well. If there's one thing my extended family is good at, it's making up food for large numbers of people. It's a skill honed over years of family reunions, but even so I was impressed with the spread (can you tell I'm a guy?).
Child's one disappointment was that the fudgeballs on toothpicks turned out to be meatballs on toothpicks, but not before I rescued one that was about to go into her mouth (after first putting it there). The six chickens in the backyard also enjoyed the reception, or so I gathered from their delighted pecking at the continuous stream of food conveyed from the tables to their coop by numerous small children.
That was on Saturday. On Sunday, we attended the baby blessing of a small niece. She was very well-behaved for a two-week-old and the blessing went well.
That evening, we discussed the placement of two small children (1 1/2 years, 6 months) who are currently parentless due to their parents being in jail (for the umpteenth time). If anyone tries to tell you that drug use affects no one but the drug user, feel free to laugh in their face. I could probably list 500 people (by role, if not by name) whose lives were negatively impacted by the drug use of these parents.
Of course there's their children (who deal with physical and emotional neglect, if not abuse, which will probably destroy the rest of their lives, as well as future generations), their friends, parents, siblings, a constant stream of people they steal from to sustain their drug habit (including parents, friends, and family members), judges, lawyers (actually, maybe it's a positive impact there!), policemen, jail employees, drug program employees, religious leaders, landlords/motel employees...that's just off the top of my head.
I could rant on for several more paragraphs (and started to, before erasing it), but that's probably a topic for later. Moving on with the week...
Family reunion! For a change, the weather was sunny instead of rainy, but for some reason my extended family apparently has a fascination with alpine retreats. Just once I'd like to camp at an altitude lower than 8,000 feet. The scenery might be nice, but it's frigid at night. Not so bad when you're snuggled in a double-wide sleeping bag with your wife, bad when there's a baby sleeping between you who hates being under covers. Worse when your allergies kick in the moment you step out of the car, and apparently morph into some sort of cold, complete with fever and hyper-sensitive skin. Add to that the dry alpine air that dries your lips to the point that it hurts to smile, and you don't have a very relaxing vacation. Ah, the good ol' days of Missouri, with the warm air, warm lake, warm river, and chipmunks that don't pee on your air mattress...
But I shouldn't dog the family reunion too much. It was nice seeing everyone again, and...well, yeah, that's about it. When you're trying to deal with two squirmy kids, both of who need constant holding and one of which will stick any alpine detritus she can find into her mouth, everything else is mostly a blur.
Wednesday morning we drove to Salt Lake City, flew to Long Beach, rented a car, drove to Carlsbad, and checked into our motel. Kudos to Child for putting so much effort into our itinerary; everything went very smoothly. The company was paying for the trip, but in an effort to keep costs down we stayed at a Motel 6 for $55 a night. Granted, that price didn't buy us amenities such as a toilet seat lid, alarm clock, a working TV, or a continental breakfast, but they threw in morning coffee and the soothing sounds of the nearby interstate for free.
Our daily activities in Carlsbad consisted mostly of driving, eating, and looking at houses and apartments. We hooked up with a real estate agent who went far, far out of his way to accommodate our brief stay (I guarantee his commission, should we end up purchasing a house through him, will not have been worth it). We found a few possibilities, but I think we're going to end up just renting for a few months after we first move there while we continue looking. It's very hard to purchase a house when you're living in a different state, and I don't even want to try.
My mental view going to California was a picture that consisted mostly of traffic and gang wars. Although we didn't see any overt gang members, Child claimed she heard gunshots during one night and the traffic was everything I feared. Every road seemed crowded, and even though people complain about Utah drivers, they have nothing on California drivers. Because of the thick traffic moving at high speeds, if you have to change lanes, you just have to swerve out in front of another driver. The hope is that their car is enough more expensive than yours that they don't want to get in a wreck, and so slam on their brakes to let you in.
Returning to the airport Friday evening during rush hour on I-405, I found out why Karen (our GPS unit) had taken us by a toll road on Wednesday when we first arrived. Traffic was stop-and-go for about 15 miles on the regular interstate, adding about an hour to our travel time. Watching the estimated arrival time on Karen slowly converge with the departure time of our flight, I simmered in my juices and mentally kicked myself for trying to save the company $4.75 ($4.75 for a toll?! What is this, California?! Oh, right...) but it was too late to change horses at that point.
After exiting the interstate, we made sure to stop at every traffic light on the way to the airport. Finally reaching the airport, we hurled our rental car key at the Alamo people, sprinted to the JetBlue kiosk in the terminal...and found out that our confirmation code didn't work. Neither did scanning the barcode or looking up our flight by our credit card. A desk attendant called for people leaving on the SLC flight, so we ran over to her and she finally got us checked in. We reached the gate at the very end of pre-boarding, so we actually had a few minutes to spare, but that's cutting it too close for my liking. In a normal-sized airport (Long Beach is a small one), we wouldn't have gotten through security nearly as fast.
Arriving in SLC around 10:30 PM, we picked up our car and headed down to Provo to spend that night. It's normally a 45 minute drive, but we didn't arrive at Child's parents' house until after midnight. There was nighttime construction going on along I-15, so the entire interstate narrowed to a single lane for several miles. More stop-and-go traffic. After dealing with it on the other end of our flight, I wasn't particularly happy to see it again--much less in the middle of the night when I was exhausted and just looking to crash in a nice soft bed.
We finally made it, slept for a few hours until Ash decided that it was morning time, then got in the car and drove four hours back to Idaho. After unloading the car and putting everything away, all I wanted to do was nap but it was time to go to the wedding reception of another cousin. At least they had cream puffs.
While at the reception, Child and I picked up one of the afore-mentioned children from my parents (the six-month-old). We'll be caring for him for the next three weeks, then returning him to my parents when we move to California.
It's been a long week.