Wednesday, June 27, 2007

...first week in FL

Things have been going very smoothly and we're still getting used to Florida. The humidity is pretty bad and it feels like NJ in Aug but it's still June. Oy. At least our A/C works just fine. :)

Ever since we've unpacked our last boxes (and we've even freecycled our boxes!), we've been on vacation mode pretty much. We've explored different beaches and even stopped along causeways to play in the water. :) The first 2 things that hit us was that the water is so warm and so clear! We've been able to wade in and find live hermit crabs scurrying around (Jana likes to pick them up and eat them) and sometimes tiny school of fish! And where there is sand, it's been very fine and soft (Jana tries to eat this, too). So now we've learned to always keep a spare bathing suit/swim trunks and swim diapers and all that beach stuff in a bag in the trunk for when we spot good patches of beach. We're hoping to make a trip to Honeymoon Isalnd, Fort DeSoto Park and Caladesi Island soon. Rated top beaches in this region! :)

We really love the location of our condo. It's very convenient to a lot of things (esp. Target and Costco!) and it's right next to Ruth Eckerd Hall, a performing arts center! We can literally walk there! There are also a ton of churches in this area. We are still looking into them, trying to figure out which ones to visit. We're thinking an American church that has small groups and is open to the Spirit. :) If anyone has any suggestions, please let us know! We are also very close to Kev's work and to a nearby strip of beach. Yay!

Some fun things about FL: You make an appointment to go to the DMV. We had to get FL licenses to start the process of getting insurance and all that, so we call the DMV and find out we can make an appointment. What a novel idea! Yesterday, we show up at the appointed time and then leave with 2 license in hand within 45 minutes! That's with 2 kiddies in tow. I do have to say that the DMV by the Quakerbridge Mall has gotten really efficient, too! Anyways, there's also a supermarket chain called Publix down here. At the checkout line, they ask you if you've found everything, they bag your stuff (even the manager has bagged my stuff) and they can help you load your stuff into the car, if you'd like! I think I'll take them up on this service when Kev is working. How fun!

Since it's been so warm out, we've been grilled a lot. By, we, I mean Kev. :) We've been getting lots of juicy Kev-burgers and succulent chicken. He's going to try his hand at pork chops and sausages next. He swears by the Cooks Illustrated method and our trusty meat thermometer for good eats. My taste buds are happy. :)

Anyways, we also go thte kids at wooden play kitchen for their summer birthdays. We got a special deal on it and it looks something like this. We'll hafta take pics of the kids playing with it soon. It's been so cute to watch them play with this - Jana just likes to open and close the doors and put stuff into the cabinets and take them out. Aidan really gets into it and we get all sorts of 'gourmet meals' out of it. Haha! Maybe he can make dinner for the family when he gets old enough to see over the stove? :) Anyways, might have to look into some play food for them, though we had just pared down their toy stash for the move and also they don't play with it all. We don't want them to take things for granted from having too many toys, you know? When we saw our they were still jsut as happy play with a few things when we had to put a majority of their toys away from showing the house, we realized that more toys doesn't really make them happier. I mean, we knew that but didn't really believe it. Haha! Anyways, off my soapbox and into bed. It's getting late. One more thing, we hope to have the house ready for pics soon - so you all will get to see what it looks like. Plus, we're having guests over Friday - a major motivation for us to get things organized. Alrighty, g'night!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

...our first few pictures of FL

More details and pics to come...but just wanted to show you all some pics of our trip down (didn't take much b/c we were really intent on just getting there) & where we ended up staying before our stuff arrived (an awesome house right next to the Gulf).

Without further ado: please click here. :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

...what it will be like to move all the way down Rt. 95...

So, we're finally here In FL and have even rested up a whole day. Now, we can started sharing a bit about our move. :)

Moving day: It went really well. The movers from Wade Odell Wade showed up right on time and had no trouble parking their humongorous van in our parking lot. Angel, our driver, and his crew did a great job! They were careful and courteous - we're very pleased at this point. It took them a while to load the truck b/c they had to rearrange a bit to fit everyone's stuff in (we were sharing this truck with several different families) but when they were done, they had room to spare. Since the moving crew will be the same one in FL - we plan on tipping them here. [We did feed them a scrumptious lunch of Stop-n-shop subs, though. We recommend these sub sandwiches - very tasty and easy on the wallet. :)] If the crew does a good job here, we'll definitely leave them glowing feedback here.

Packing: Looking back, we're so glad we colored coded the boxes with the different rooms and numbered them. We wrote the contents on the box on a separate sheet of paper, so we can find things we need without opening box after box. It has already helped us once when we realized we packed something we wanted to give away & found it immediately - yay! Let's hope that it will work just as well when we need to unpack. Will be back to report. We also loved the self-sticking bubble wrap that we got from my sister (she had leftovers when she moved) - this stuff is perforated every 12 inches and sticks to itself and/or your goods to make packing super easy. Plus, it was very entertainment for the kids when we wrapped up their stuff just so they can unwrap it - haha! Thanks to all those wonderful friends of ours - those that helped us entertain the kids so we can get some serious packing done (Jenn, Kathryn, Sandy, Scott, Fanny, Julie), those that lent us packing tape (Dave, Christina), and those that brought us yummy food (Scott, Sandy, Fanny, Tineesha). Without you guys, we might not have been ready on Thursday... :D

Driving down: Goodness, I think it was the longest drive that we've done in a while (even between the 2 of us) by ourselves [we had to drive separately since we had to bring down our 2 cars]. We did get to stop about halfway at my parents in Cary, NC but having the 2 kiddies along was pretty hard. But after about 4 traffic jams (GPS did save the day a few times), several stops, and 1 torrential downpour, we made it to our Auntie's house on Sunday around 11pm.

We did learn a few things, though. 1)Always have lots of snacks on hand that are easy to pass to the back without you having to look. (e.g. Pretzels, Pretz sticks, etc) 2)Have multiple sippy cups available in case the kid throws them somewhere that you cannot access w/o having to stop the car. 3)Borrow or buy some new-to-them DVDs for the toddler that likes videos - it can buy you hours of time! (Thanks, Jonathan, Jeremy and Zach for lending us your DVDs!!) We loved our portable DVD players for this trip. 4) Try to stop every 3 hours or so but make sure you can get food/gas/bathroom all in this trip or you'll hafta make even more stops. 5) Learn how to pump your own gas. (This is for you, New Jerseyans!) 6) Make sure you pack enough diapers and wipes for your entire trip. 7) Definitely get realiable headsets for your cell phone. If you have Verizon like we did, we got to chat, safe and hands free, for about 6 hours total without paying a cent. I wonder what the Verizon Wireless biller will think when he gets our bill of 360 in-network minutes. Haha! :) Alrighty, enough of the unsolicited advice.

So, we picked up the keys on Monday and got to take our first look at the townhouse. It's a great place, guys! We're so thankful and pleased. And when the realtor told us about how we got the place, we knew it was God. Basically, I was just surfing the web in the moring for houses to rent, like I regularly did 3 weeks before we were about to move, when I happened upon the ad for this house. It fit the bill in every way, so we gave a call to Auntie Celina living close by. So she went to see it right away and called us right after she saw it to tell us to take it. What we didn't know was that the realtor has just listed it when I called. Also, after Auntie Celina had called to see it, 15 other people had called about it shortly after. So, if we had hesitated in calling our Auntie or if she had no time to see it that morning, we would not have gotten this steal of a house. Plus, the realtor told us he had initially told her to rent the place out for $2000/mo. But since this woman wanted to rent it out right away, he suggested $1500/mo but somehow she decided on $1200/mo., which was exactly what we could afford. Amazing, eh? Gotta love it!

Anyhow, we're just waiting for our stuff to get here. It's scheduled to arrive tomorrow moring between 9 and 10am. So, I can't wait to get set up. We have some food and cleaning supplies, but that's about it. Oh, one more fun thing. I called to see when our stuff would arrive and my move coordinator also told us that our stuff weighed in less than what was estimated and so it's cheaper than what we had expected. Praise the Lord. He really watches over his sheep, even all the way in sunny Florida! :) Pictures to come...

Saturday, June 9, 2007 things will pan out

So, moving day is getting closer and closer and we're packing faster and faster these days. :) The moving van is coming on Thursday and we're driving down on Saturday. We're excited to get down there and be settled already, you know? Anyways, God has taken care of us in so many ways lately, that we are constantly reminded not to worry.

Our condo: We had put it up for sale the end of February and got the offer that we had wanted within a month and a half. However, that was after working with several people on low-ball offers. But we had this impression not to sell it yet and then, lo and behold, we get our bottom line price (we also got this number after we prayed). With the way the real estate market has been going these days, even our realtor was so surprised we got what we wanted. Praise the Lord! We had also wanted someone nice to move in and join the community and we did meet the buyer and he's a really nice guy. :) Getting the place ready for showing and actually showing it was pretty tough. I felt like I was constantly cleaning the house, instead of playing with the kids. :( Then, praise the Lord we got an acceptable offer so quickly, so I didn't have to do it for long. But we did get into a routine about things so it was less effort to clean. FYI - I love Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser. Not only did it clean the microwave and walls - it also works wonders on soap scum!! I had been scrubbing and using different cleaners but this sponge took it right off without too much elbow grease. I LOVE IT!!!! (No, I'm not working for Mr. Clean. :D)

Our housing in FL: We had been looking since Feb for a place that would be close to Kev's work, not too old (didn't want to be fixing stuff or calling the landlord all the time) and in a great neighborhood for kids. After searching online almost daily and contacting realtors, we finally found something 3 weeks ago. This was exactly what we wanted, at the price that we wanted and the landlady is very nice. We were getting a bit worried about this b/c we didn't even get to sign the rental contract til last week. But apparently, people in FL are so laidback that the realtor said we could sign the day we move in. We must be true Northeasterners, then. :) The whole process was interesting b/c we didn't have the funds to go down to FL again but my MIL remembered her cousin lives 'somewhere' in FL. And a quick call revealed that she lives 20 minutes away from Clearwater - how convenient is that? Plus, she was soooo nice - she even drove around and looked at houses that we were interested in for us and gave us a report afterwards. That's actually how we knew it was OK to get this townhome.

Moving company: We had been getting quotes from reputable companies after researching on this excellent website. Reading all the horror stories of ppl having to pay more money than they were quoted just to get their stuff off the moving vans really concerned me, esp. since we were doing an interstate move! So, I was on a mission to find a reputable moving company and really helped. We were also toying with the idea of Uhauling it but not having enough friends down there (and I didn't want to deal with the hassle of hiring locals that might not show or didn't have insurance) made us nix that idea. Plus, June is the busiest month of the year to move. So, with all that, we were a bit apprehensive. But when we found Wade Odell Wade and talked to them extensively and asked lots of questions, we felt so much better. Still, we haven't moved yet but will let you know how it goes. We learned so much about this moving process. If you ever want to know more, let us know! ;)

I have also been trying to get to know Clearwater area moms to get recommendations for different things: pediatrician, cable companies, playgroups, babysitters and the like. This website was really helpful for that. I've also been in touch with some MDC moms - so I might have people to get to know already. Yay!

Now that I won't have so much help, I'm thinking I might really need a double stroller. Does anyone have any recommendations? I want one that is pretty lightweight, compact (fits in my Camry folded up) and sturdy. I'm thinking about this one right now. Does anyone have any experience with this? Alrighty, should go pack some more....:)