Thursday, August 30, 2007

17-Month-Old Going On 17-Year-Old

I'm not sure what is going on with Chase. Maybe it's her teeth. Maybe it's all the moving. Maybe she's tired of her toys. Maybe she doesn't like our temporary housing. Maybe it's the fact there has been a lot of construction outside so she isn't sleeping well.

At any rate, her behavior makes me feel like I have a teenager in the house. Except I guess I'm lucky because teenagers storm out of the room and take off in the car. Chase, on the other hand is still too afraid to be more than a couple steps away. And even if she mustered up the courage, how far could she actually get with Bedtime Bunny, Lola, Grr Bear, Baba the Sheep and her three language books - which must go everywhere with her - in tow?

But seriously, I don't have the faintest clue as to what is causing the fluctuation in Chase's behavior. She is a perfect angel one minute. And then the littlest thing happens - or nothing happens - which causes her to have a breakdown - which includes crying, screaming, arching her back and twisting her way onto the floor, where she flaps her arms and kicks her legs, as if to say "you just don't understand."

After trying multiple times to soothe her, I have found that distracting her with a "look what I'm doing, isn't it fun?" works the best. The problem is, I'm having a hard time finding new, fun, things to distract her with - every 5 minutes - which seems to be how often she has her breakdowns. So sometimes I pretend to ignore her (which I never really do and I am always very close by to ensure she is safe).

She has yet to throw a major tantrum in public. I think when that happens (and at this rate I'm sure it's just a matter of time) I'll just sit down next to her, get comfortable, and let her get it out of her system. Or maybe I'll make a scene, too. See how she likes it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Denver: Home Sweet Home

So the sellers caved and gave us the money to repair the roof. Hubs thinks they were afraid we'd walk away. I think it's karma.

We close Friday at noon.

Tonight we pick up my car. Yes, it's a Volvo. I'm all about safety these days. Having a car will free us from the four block radius we've been walking every day. Now we can go to the zoo. To playgrounds. To parks.

And maybe even meet people.

I must say, I really dislike having to find new friends every time we relocate to a new city. It feels like dating. Except it's harder. Not only do I have to like the woman and agree, on some level, with her parenting style. But Hubs also has to like, or at least be able tolerate, her husband.

And then, of course, they have to like us.

But that's the easy part, right?

Hi Ho, Hi Ho - Off To Montessori Chase Goes

A hard decision, but (fingers crossed) a good one.
And if it doesn't work out, I can always give 30-days notice.

So, starting late next month (when she turns 18-months-old), Miss Chase, who has been away from me less than 10 times in the past 15 months, will begin Montessori school (M-F) from 8-11 a.m.

My little girl is growing up!

Overheard At Starbucks

"You have to report all dead bodies, even before they are verified." - One lady said to the other.

"I know, I know. The coroner really got on my case about it." - The other lady responded.

Perhaps I should mention at this time that our temporary housing is located close to a hospital.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Montessori or No

I'm torn. Utterly and completely.

I love the concept of sending Chase to a Montessori school in the mornings (to build her independence, provide her with a change of scene, teach her to interact with other children in a respectful and meaningful way and empower her to explore the world on her own), but I hate the idea of sending her to a Montessori school in the mornings (I don't trust anyone with my darling girl). Yes, I have a problem.

It would also give me a much needed break from the constant care, and a much needed child care solution if I needed to go to see a dentist/doctor. And, of course, it would provide me with an opportunity to freelance - get back in the game, so to speak.

So, I filled out the Montessori school forms.
But I find myself on the fence about turning them in.

My biggest worry, beside the constant nagging thought that Chase would be better at home with me, is my career. Up until I had Chase, my career was moving swiftly forward. Now nothing but Chase and Hubs seems to matter. It's the most profound experience I've ever had; my feelings for my little girl are so deep and so strong.

So what do I do? Do I enroll her and try it out? I can give 3o-day notice. Seems like it would make sense to at least give a shot, especially given how long the wait lists are to get into other schools (the only reason why there is space is because it is a brand new location). Or would she be better off with me at home?

Ohhhhh. I don't knowwww. It makes my head hurt.

Update: Radon

We learned today that our house "to be" has, what is considered to be, a very high level of radon (did you know the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today?).

I, of course, obsess about this kind of thing (which drives Hubs crazy). Why is it worth obsessing over? Because it is invisible, tasteless and odorless (just like pesticides).

After talking with the US EPA, the Colorado Department of Health, and a local radon removal specialist, I am happy to report that they all concur - radon is extremely common in Denver. The issue can be resolved by installing a ventilation system that pushes the gases outside.

For fun reading about radon, visit:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Driving Miss Daisy

"Right turns are easier to make than left turns. It's a fact." - Hubs

Having just moved to a new city, we naturally rely on a map to get us from place to place.
Hubs drives, I navigate.
And it always goes something like this.

We get in the car.
He starts driving.

I start flipping through the map trying to find our destination saying "can you just pull over for one second? I need to figure this out."

He drives faster.
Then he starts asking me, "Do we turn left? Do we turn right?"

I say, "I don't know, give me a minute."

He says, "What do you mean you don't know, you have the map. The person with the map is supposed to know where to go." (Hubs is always so logical. Oh to be so logical.)

We've had this same conversation over and over.
But yesterday was different.
Yesterday we came to an agreement.

Hubs can start driving, but I have five minutes to get oriented before he can ask me any questions. I am SO loving this agreement.

My darling girl is UP ... I've gotta run!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No bodies found in the backyard

Hurray! Inspection went well. The roof is the only major issue (hail damage), but we were planning to take it off anyway. We hope to take possession next Friday.

We visited the local Montessori school - it wasn't in session - but I really liked the feel of it. I really must get back there to see the kids in action. We talked briefly with the teachers and then had a longer conversation with the woman who started the original school.

Chase wanted nothing more than to get down, out of my arms, and get to work!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why Temporary Housing Is Good

"I just moved to town," I told the Starbucks Barista this morning.

"Welcome the neighborhood," she said, rolling her eyes. "It used to be a nice neighborhood before the gangs moved in. Now my husband and I don't go out on Saturday night because there are drive by shootings and gang members hang out on the corner just over there." She pointed to the closest street corner.

"Is public transportation safe here?" I asked. Trying to ignore the fact that the local Barista just informed me that we unknowingly selected temporary housing in an urban war zone. And trying even harder to forget how much it is costing us per month.

"Just stay close to the driver and you should be fine."

Thanks a latte, lady.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Day 3: Offer Accepted

So we put in an offer today. Crazy, I know. We spent two days looking for houses - and because the Denver housing market is SO wacky, we just had to do it.

The good news: we got it for about 40K less then it was originally listed for - and it's right around the corner from two homes worth over 1 million. So if we can pony up the dough for improvements over the next few years (rework kitchen, expand bedrooms, add two baths) we should be in great shape when it comes to reselling. Even without these improvements, the house is great as is, so we're happy!

One little thing about the Denver housing market, besides the fact you get nothing for a lot of money - there is a brilliant option when you're making an offer. You can better offers of your competitors by adding a clause that you will add $2,000 (or whatever) to any offer - with a ceiling of XX (you decide). If that makes sense. Anyway, it's brilliant because whatever the competition is offering, you come in at $2,000 more, which makes your offer "make more sense." The other thing we love - you can add an "as is" clause, which doesn't actually mean "as is." The buyer can still back out after the inspection.

We found a car. It wasn't gold. But it was totaled in the garage. And a white boxer puppy - we go see him tomorrow. We are looking forward to having our kitten out as well - and then we'll be all set!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Home?

So we think we found our new home. Problem is, someone else thinks it is their new home too. Nothing like being in a bidding war in a buyer's market. Tomorrow we will, most likely, put in an offer, because another bidder came in with an offer this afternoon.

Hey, but wait, that's not fair... isn't this the market where houses aren't selling?

To make sure we wanted to put in an offer, we first drove out to the *burbs,* which I must admit, scared me. It did look like a kid's paradise though... Lots of little ones running around, a big pool, a club house, a barn with horses, nice trails and wilderness close by. All at the base of the foothills. A gorgeous sunset painted the sky pink. And then we realized that there is nothing but strip malls around. And the houses are on tiny lots, so you better hope you like your neighbors. Goodness knows what would happen if you didn't!

Hello Desperate Housewives.

The house we are currently considering, on the other hand, is 5 mins from the Denver Zoo, a huge park, 10/15 mins from Downtown, the Children's Hospital, Museums, etc. The house has three beds on the 2nd floor - okay, the fact I said three beds and second floor in the same sentence means you should be in disbelief - plus a bed and bath downstairs. Plus a huge garage (which sadly makes the lawn space quite small), but there is also a shop next to the garage (Hubs loves this). Plus it is just really nice inside (but the kitchen is a little funky and would need a big remodel).

It's tough. Do we hold out for something better or do we make an offer?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Notes From A High Altitude

We arrived in Denver yesterday.

The air is clean.
The sky is blue.
The roads are wide.
There are lots of trees.
And mountains.
And good food.
And expensive homes.
And gold volvos (more on this later).
And the altitude is - HIGH.

Our rental car is huge (go America!) and a strange sea foam color. And just when I thought we were the only ones on the road in such a car, another one passed us - would you believe it was the same color.

Thank goodness our temporary housing is, well, temporary. We've learned it's always hard to know exactly what to expect when one moves to a new city and must find temp digs. I can say, however, that it is better than the mole hole we lived in when we first moved to Switzerland.

So now we are v-e-r-y motivated house hunters. We went out today. Optimistic we would find the house of our dreams. No such luck. We found, in fact, quite the opposite. And not just one house we didn't like, but 9 houses we didn't like. Why? The style of old homes in Denver is quite different from anywhere we've lived. First: they like to have bedrooms on the main floor. Second: They don't build up, they love basement living. So most of the houses have one or two bedrooms on the main floor (of a very small house) and then one bedroom - or two bedrooms - in the basement. Egads. Not exactly what we were hoping to find.

And so now we are actually contemplating, like the crazy Allbrittons we are, buying a home and blowing the top off it. Why? Because we can buy it for not much and the home is that it is right next door is worth 1.2M. But then I worry about all that work, especially with a little one, and think about how nice it would be to be out and about, rather than working on a house, and all of a sudden those big old cookie cutter homes start looking really good.

And if that isn't enough to muddle the brain, we also need to buy two cars. So I'm thinking about a Volvo Cross Country, but we just keep finding them in GOLD. And I don't want gold. Now if they had sea foam green ... just kidding.

So with all this running about, Chase didn't sleep a wink during the day. So she claimed revenge this evening. She crashed at 6, slept until 8 and will be awake until at least 11.

We should have known better...

Saturday, August 11, 2007


So first, a huge apology to the friends I haven't called and to one of my favorite supervisors of all time, who was in town, but due to my schedule and family obligations I couldn't meet up with...

So what can I say about re-entry? Well, I realized I needed to stop myself from buying huge quantities of pharmaceuticals and various dried goods (like we've been doing every time we've been here for the past four years). Yes, that's right. I can buy them any day, any time! Same goes for Hostess fruit pies. How amazing and terribly convenient.

I've been revelling in the fact that I actually understand conversations happening around me - all the time. Although I must say that most of what I've been overhearing is completely inane. Discussions about the latest this and the latest that, and did you know Sue is sleeping with Richard and Richard doesn't like Sue, he likes Jenna, blah blah blah.

I've turned on the TV - and the news channels are flashing headlines on the latest disaster. And saying, "this just in, temperatures are higher than normal, could it be global warming?" To which I say, of course it's global warming you dumb %$#, and stop talking about it and start doing something about it. At least I can rest at night now, as Paris Hilton is apparently campaigning to save the world. Interesting how time in jail = uber environmentalist. If that's so, I can think of a few people who might benefit from time in the clink.

But on to brighter, all American things. I have started to fantasize ...about owning a home again. With our stuff in it. With things we haven't seen unpacked in five years. I wonder if we will still like our stuff or if we will end up giving it all to Good Will. And as luck has it, the mortgage market is down in the dumps at the moment - lucky for us, not so lucky for everyone who is currently trying to pay off mortgages they couldn't afford in the first place - meaning it is suddenly very much a buyer's market.

But before we can buy a home, Hubs just has to decide where in Denver he will be located (the company he works for has two offices there) - and decide on which job he will take (he has a couple great options), and then we should be all set.

Meanwhile, I have continued to look into schools - the process is long and I really need to actually visit the schools and talk to parents before I can decide anything. So I guess it is good news that there is such a long, formal application process to the schools I'm considering for Chase. But I must say, it is hard to know in October what my needs will be in March (aka morning program vs afternoon program vs full day).

Speaking of such things, I am finding the Mommy culture here to be a shocker. I went to the Zoo the other morning and there were moms and kids lined-up outside. All the moms were totally kitted out - the babies were all dressed perfectly, with animal hats and jackets. It kind of made me want to puke.

I looked at Chase, who smiled sweetly at me, blissfully unaware that she was not wearing the latest animal print dress and feather boa - next time, my dear. Good thing I had her little hat with bunny ears on it (good save, mom!). But what gets me about it is that being a mom in America feels like I'm going to my first day of high school - all over again. But this time it isn't just me, it's also Chase - and are we wearing the right things, do we look like we just rolled out of bed (chances are we did), did we bring enough snacks, did we bring enough diapers, toys, wipes, yada yada. Pressure is on!

I've already noticed there are several different kinds of moms. There's the "I just came from the salon" mom. The grubby, run-ragged, "I never shower" mom. The "my child must match what I'm wearing" mom. The "here, eat anything" mom, the "not unless it's organic and there's no sugar" mom.

I've found I am definitely a mom who needs time at the salon but is having too much fun getting grubby.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

This Just In..

Chase slept through the night last night for the first time since we arrived. I, however, woke-up every other hour.

I am officially a zombie.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


I've been in Portland now for a week and have been operating under the radar. I literally haven't seen anyone - except immediate family. Why? Because last time around I flew from place to place, non-stop, and thoroughly exhausted myself - and Chase. It wasn't pretty.

I've noticed this time around that she has become increasingly clingy. She grabs onto my leg and won't let me walk from one end of the Schauffler's kitchen to the other. This says to me that she needs reassurance - and that all of this moving about is starting to impact her. I look forward to the "settling down for a while" part that I think will come with moving to Denver.

Besides all the moving about and living out of suitcases, Jet Lag is really a bear. Chase had just overcome jet lag from our flight to Dalian when we decided to return to the US. Poor girl (and poor mama, who has been up at all hours for a week now!)

During the day, when she's awake and full of energy, we've been playing with water, collecting pine cones, and picking blueberries (which she calls boo-berries). At night, we've played stacking games, among other things.

And while there are other stories to tell, I must try to take a nap now, while she is still asleep...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Big Flight

The flight from Dalian, China to Portland, Oregon, went as well as could be expected. The check-in desk in Dalian had no record of my flight. After speaking to the supervisor, my ticket seemed to appear out of nowhere. Once we were on the plane, I was relieved to discover that the airline was clever enough not to sit anyone beside me, so Chase had her own seat.

Chase managed to pee through her diaper - right onto my leg - on the flight from Dalian to Korea. From there, I enjoyed a lovely 5-hour stay in Korea. We made lots of friends in the business lounge, but what she enjoyed most was the kids romper room. Those Koreans are brilliant, to actually create a space where children can get all their energy out between flights. Chase slept more on the next flight than she has since she was an infant (again, in her own seat).

I was paid a special visit from the lead flight attendant on the Korea - Vancouver flight, who made it clear he had intentionally kept the seat next to me vacant and if there was A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G I needed, to let him know. It was clear he wanted to make sure that Chase and I were happy bunnies. And the fact he talked to us in a whisper made it pretty clear he was hoping we would also talk in whispers.

So after a 10-hour flight, I rolled off the plane with a well-rested baby in my arms. I actually got more sleep on that flight than ever before.

The next flight was on one of those little planes. Chase on my lap. The woman I sat next to didn't respect the confines of her seat. At one point I had to rest my left arm and I ended up lowering it slightly, only to have my arm touch hers - and ugh - our arms stuck together for a moment, because we were both so hot (it was while we were on the tarmac, before they had turned the a/c on to full). Chase slept almost the entire flight.

And now we find ourselves battling some pretty stout jet lag.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Final Note On Dalian

Things I loved:
- Flora & Qin
- Our apartment (with four people to help bring groceries in!)
- The view from our apartment (overlooking the Yellow Sea and restaurant row)
- The food (in small doses)
- The people
- Travel around China
- The culture
- The tailor (Er Qi)
- The Chinese boudoir photo shoot
- The tea
- Walking along the Xinghai boardwalk

Things I tired of:
- Sketchy health and safety practices
- Eating only three salads in nine months
- Small xpat community
- Limited food selection
- The black dirt that never seemed to come off the floor
- The smell of sewage in our bathroom (gag!)
- The mosquitoes that with one prick make your entire arm or leg swell
- The tiny washing machine that didn't dry (=sandpaper towels)
- The holes in the ground (in lieu of toilets)
- General sanitary issues
- Grubby beaches
- The "marine layer"
- The water
- Being stared at and pointed at everywhere I go
- People trying to take Chase from me
- People reaching out and touching Chase's face, hair, hands, feet

Things that I will not forget:
- The extreme poverty: shanty towns and allys where people live on the streets
- The moms begging with a baby in their laps
- The Chinese New Year fireworks
- My friends
- The time we had here...