It is our first Christmas in the new house and so far, it has been a lot of fun to figure out how exactly we will do things differently this year.  Where is the best place for the Christmas tree? Where will everyone sleep when they come? Which bathroom gets the holiday towels, or should we put them in the kitchen?

Some things don’t change, like the girls putting on Santa hats and Christmas music while they decorate the tree together, Bubba and I popping in to stuff something yummy into one mouth or another and hang a favorite ornament.  Others had to change; we have no lights on the outside of the house this year because this 100-year old gem doesn’t have an electrical outlet outside.  We mixed a few things up by going to the Nutcracker for the first time in years to see four of Eve’s classmates dance and by getting our shopping done early so we could have time to prepare for the arrival of Bubba’s entire family this year.

But what won’t ever change is the odd little things that make us who we are.  You know, those unexpected events that you just can’t plan for or that make you laugh when you realize how others must see them.

For example…

Every year around Halloween, Eve and Lola begin deciding what they’ll make for everyone for Christmas.  I started this tradition when they were toddlers with salt dough ornaments that they painted and gave to grandparents and aunts and uncles.  As they aged, the girls had fun exchanging homemade gifts with their cousins, too, and every year we work to come up with something that will be fun and meaningful without being useless.  Just in case any relatives happen to read this before December 25, I won’t reveal what Lola chose to make for everyone, but Eve, well, since we had to come up with Plan B, I can say that she wanted to make dark chocolate almond biscotti for her gifts this year.  We amassed all of the ingredients and spent hours on Sunday making our own gluten-free flour blend, toasting almonds, and mixing the dough.  I have never made biscotti before and didn’t realize it is a two-step process, where you bake the loaves of dough once, cool them, slice them and then bake them again until they are crisp and crunchy.  The house smelled divine.

We finally finished late Sunday evening and couldn’t package the treats until they were cool, so we set them aside until morning.  Monday morning was a mad dash to get to school on time and I nearly came home and tucked each biscotti into its own gift bag but decided Eve would probably really enjoy doing that herself, decorating each one with ribbons and labeling them appropriately.  I ran around the house, cleaning up and making lists and when I left to get the girls from school the biscotti still sat in neat rows on the cookie sheet near the stove.  When I came home the pan was overturned, the kitchen floor was coated in a fine dust of crumbs and the dog lay under the kitchen table moaning, his whiskers sprinkled with evidence.  He had eaten them all.  Off of the kitchen counter.  In the 20 minutes I was gone.

Predictably, Eve was furious at the loss of hours of hard work and panicky that we wouldn’t have time, between basketball practice and homework this week, to make more.  I was disgusted with the dog and myself for not packing them all up safely, and more than a little worried that the dog had ingested a lot of chocolate.  Beyond being incredibly thirsty all night, he didn’t seem to show any outward signs of illness, and I figured we would be lucky if he just ended up with a serious case of constipation.

Tuesday morning I took him for a walk after dropping the kids at school and was rewarded with, well, chocolate biscotti.  Not only was he not constipated, but he filled three bags with poop that was dark, dark brown and studded with almonds.  Slightly different shape, same look.  If I hadn’t known better….

So this morning I headed out to the UPS store to mail the goodies the girls made to family members we won’t see this year.  I had everything divided in to three groups that just needed boxes and packaging.  As the clerk began typing in the addresses one by one, he remarked that each of the destinations was within a short distance of the others with two being in the same town.

“Too bad these people aren’t all getting together for the holidays, and you could just send it all in one box and save yourself some money.”

“Nope,” was my reply. “They all know each other, but…”  my voice trailed off as I realized the irony.

As the groups of gifts were lined up, they were going to

a.  my dad’s first wife (my mom),
b.  my dad’s second wife,
c.  my dad’s third wife.

With a line of people behind me, I pointed that out to the clerk who laughed and admitted he’d never heard that before.

Oh, well. We’re quirky like that.

Imagine this:

A family of four (plus a dog, two hamsters, a cat and a fish) were moving. The new house had been purchased and would be available on June 6. The current house had been sold to a lovely couple with three small boys who wanted to take possession June 6. Sounds good, right? Perfect timing.

Until Bubba remembered he had a business trip that week (where his client was oh-so-lovingly putting him up at the Ritz Carlton).  Until I realized that in order to let the new family have our house on June 6, we had to have our house packed and emptied and cleaned by then.  Which necessitated at least one night’s stay in a hotel on our end. With the dog.

And the one hotel in our area that allows 80-pound retrievers (but not cats, hamsters or fish) charges $250.00/night.

I made a reservation anyway because, what are you going to do?

So Sunday night the girls and I packed a suitcase each (for two nights plus an additional night or two of not really knowing where our stuff was in boxes at the new house) in anticipation of moving to a hotel while our house was (THANK GOD) packed up by a moving company on Monday and loaded into a moving truck on Tuesday.

Monday after school we headed to the hotel to check in after settling the cat and the hamsters for the night in the old house. The fish, sadly, died a few days before moving. Perhaps it knew what was to come….

We arrived at the hotel only to be informed that it was under a great deal of renovation and we had been put in a room on the 6th floor. With our dog. Meaning that every time he had to pee, I had to take him out from the top floor of the hotel. Despite having requested a ground-floor room for this very reason.  But I didn’t make a fuss.  The receptionist assured me it was a lovely room at the far end of the hotel complex and she was sorry for any inconvenience.

Oh, and had someone neglected to inform me of their new policy regarding dogs? They needed an additional $100.00 non-refundable deposit since they had decided to shampoo the carpets in every room following a pet’s stay. Whether you stay 2 days or 32.

I had no choice. With two tired, hungry kids, a rambunctious dog, three suitcases and a 30# bag of dog food in tow, not to mention the fact that there was no other hotel I could likely sneak the dog in to, I paid.

We drove to the far end of the complex, unloaded the car, walked in the door and saw a prominent (read: LARGE, RED) sign on the elevator door: CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION.


So now every time the dog has to pee, I have to schlep down (and then back up) six flights of concrete stairs. And first, I have to lug three suitcases, a dog, and a 30# bag of dog food up them simply to get in to the room.

We made it through Monday night and the girls headed to school on Tuesday.

Had you been anywhere in the vicinity (did I mention this hotel is attached to a mall?), you would have seen a pajama-clad woman in flip-flops trudging outside in the pouring rain at 10:30pm or 6:15am, a sopping wet dog in tow and green plastic doggie-do bags in hand.

Tuesday I picked both girls up from school and we headed back to our room. This, after I spent the day helping load our earthly possessions into the moving truck and making sure the house was ready for the new owners. Both girls were tired and asked if we could have take-out for dinner and I heartily agreed. I left them doing homework and headed out, but not before realizing that the deadbolt on our newly-remodeled room’s door was stuck in the ‘on’ position, effectively rendering the door incapable of closing.  The deadbolt stuck out and slammed into the door frame despite all my efforts.  I figured I’d solve that problem later and went in search of dinner.

The girls and I sat down to a feast of Thai favorites and then worked on the door unsuccessfully for a while.  Eve offered to run down to the front desk and ask for help after I phoned them and it rang unanswered 30 or 40 times.  She returned 15 minutes later saying nobody had been at the desk.  We barred the door with our massive cooler, full of the remains of the fridge from the old house and fell asleep.

Around 3AM, I heard Eve’s alarmed voice, “Mom?!?” and sat up just in time to see her hang her head over the side of her bed and start barfing.  I leaped out of bed, pulled her long hair out of the way and watched her entire dinner make its way on to the carpet next to the pull-out couch.  After about 20 minutes she sat up and said, “Whew! I feel a lot better, now!” All I could think was, ‘Wonder when Lola and I will start regurgitating dinner…’

She fell asleep nearly instantly and I spent the next 5 minutes locking the dog in the bathroom so he wouldn’t eat her mess before I could clean it up.  Lola slept through the entire event and by 4:00 I was back in bed, having cleaned it as best I could.

The following morning, Eve assured me she felt just fine and we packed up to leave.  I headed to the front desk to retrieve a luggage cart so we wouldn’t have to make more than one trip and, while I was down there, I informed the staff of the malfunction with our room’s deadbolt.  They fell all over themselves assuring me that I was mistaken about nobody being at the desk last night, and I simply turned to walk away and said I was checking out.  I was furious at this point and, unfortunately, probably translated that to the girls as I stomped back to the room and asked them to hurry up and get their stuff together so we could get them to school on time.

As we made our way down the now-working elevator (on the day we were checking out, of course) with three suitcases, two backpacks, two lunchboxes, a massive cooler and a 30# bag of dog food on the cart, not to mention the dog and the girls, we rounded the corner and the entire bag of dog food tilted crazily off the side, spilling kibble in all directions. Just then, my phone rang.  It was Bubba, calling from the Ritz.  I silently handed the dog’s leash and the phone to Eve just as Lola burst into tears and fell to her knees to start scooping dog food.  I heard Eve tell her father, “I spent the night throwing up, Lola’s crying, Mom’s pissed, and the dog food is all over the hallway!”  Bubba wisely told her he loved her and hung up the phone.

Somehow, we made it out to the car without the help of any of the staff or other residents of the hotel (don’t ask me why – they all saw the chaos that happened. Perhaps they found the steam coming from my ears intimidating).  We missed Eve’s carpool, headed to the house to retrieve the hamsters and the cat and drove to the new house, dropping Eve at school on the way.  Lola decided to skip her last day of school and help me get the pets safely to the new house instead.

Through it all, I didn’t crack.  I wanted to, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t.  I kept thinking that something was bound to go wrong during the process of the move and, if this was it, I’d take it.  Better than broken treasures or really sick kids or financial issues.  In the end, we laughed heartily at the mishaps and craziness and after a long, very calm but pointed email to the manager of the hotel detailing our horrible stay, the cost of our entire stay was refunded to the tune of about $650.00.  I don’t feel a bit bad that they had to shampoo the carpet where Eve tossed her cookies – they were going to anyway, remember?

It could have been a whole lot worse, but when I look back on people’s pitied reactions to the news that we were moving (things like ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Moving sucks. Good luck. You poor thing. I hate moving. Etc., etc.) now I get it.  There are so many moving parts, so many balls to keep in the air, that moving is bound to have some insanity involved.  I’m just glad I’m looking at it from this side now.  And, yes, Bubba did come home after all the chaos and insanity and yes, we welcomed him with open arms despite his perfectly lovely stay in a lovely hotel.  He knows how lucky he is.