The New Hood

Day One:

We didn't see any neighbors out and about at all today, but I'm really excited to meet them.  I mean, we're in a real neighborhood.  There will probably be block parties and kids getting their ball stuck in our backyard and everything!

Day Three:

No one has come to welcome us into the neighborhood yet.  It kind of fractures my image of the American suburbs, but I guess I could be jumping the gun.  Maybe they’re waiting for the wall of cardboard boxes to subside from the windows—a sign that we are less hectic with unpacking.  Considerate of them, really.

Day Five:

Maybe this house is haunted, and no one dares to brave the property to warn the unsuspecting newcomers.  I haven't seen anyone anywhere near our street.
But maybe so many people have come and gone from this property {it’s been a rental for a long time, I think} that it’s not worth developing a relationship when they’re likely to disappear in a relatively short matter of itme. 
Meh...I'd rather this house not be haunted, thanks.

Day Seven:

I spotted a neighbor for the first time.  He was in his front yard on a ladder taking down the icicle Christmas lights from his rooftop.  I was kind of relieved to see him out there.  For a little while I thought we’d moved into Stepherd or something… perfectly quiet, no faces in the windows or kids in the driveways. 
He was proof that we weren’t the only living souls around.  I was relieved for another reason, too.  His Christmas decorations were awesome {giant inflatable Santas and such} but tiny high-pitched Christmas tunes played continuously from somewhere in their yard.  I, um, probably won't miss that too much.  Every time I went outside I had to resist the urge to barrel through his yard, locate the source of the music, and rip the thing apart.
Luckily, I have great self-control.  Not sure that would be a good way to make friends.  And oh, I’m stoked to make some friends here.
So I tried to make eye contact with Mr. Christmasmusicman when he climbed down from his roof.  I was sitting at our table eating breakfast and we don’t have any blinds on our windows so… well, I was pretty hard to miss.  The houses are so close together he was practically standing at our front door. 
I thought maybe he’d wave?  Smile?  Nod?  Grimace?  Come on, something!  Did you miss the trailer  stuffed with furniture and boxes?  You have new neighbors!  Acknowledge us! 
But he avoided me and my creepy attempt to catch his eye.  An hour later I walked into the kitchen and noticed his son out there pulling anchored decorations out of the ground.  So they have a teenager.  That’s cool.  He wasn’t any more eager than his father to bring over some baked goods or anything, but if I keep this up I think I’ll get to know them pretty well.  I’ll just keep slinking around and staring out our windows.  Totally normal.

Day Nine:

I got up early and went for a run.  It’s still night dark at six a.m., but it’s not so cold that you can see your breath fog out in front of you.  Love Arizona. 
Once I was outside I wished I had some headphones.  The stillness of the neighborhood is really eerie.  You’d think you’d at least see shadows in the windows or something, people moving around inside.
In those thirty minutes a few cars pulled out of garages, which made me feel a little better, but I still didn’t see any actual people.  Where is everyone?!
Next time I’m going to see if Roy will go out with me. 

Day Eleven:

On tonight’s late run I saw a lanky shadow slip out onto the sidewalk.  It scared me so bad I almost tripped!  I’ve never seen anything bigger than a cat moving on these streets!
It was a neighbor walking out to his car.  Just a faceless silhouette in the dark, but at least it was a live neighbor.

Day Thirteen:

Our doorbell rang!  We had our first neighbor come and visit, a friend of the Buckmasters who happens to live a street away.  He assured us that there are nice people living all around us.
Hmmm... I'll be the judge of that.

Day Sixteen:

An adorable seven-year-old girl scout showed up on our doorstep in uniform with a wagon full of cookies.  Sure, she was after our money, but at least she included us in the neighborhood.  Ah, those mint cookies really made me feel like part of the community.  

Day Nineteen:

-I'm on a soccer team with a bunch of adults in the community!  
-Roy and I hung out with my cousin and her family that lives just a few street away!  
-I have a workout buddy at the gym who is an exercise science grad!  
-I met the other girls that I'm running the Ragnar relay race with and they all live within running distance!  
-It's getting warmer and kids are riding bikes on our street!

When Roy was outside pulling weeds (we got a warning!  oops!) two different neighbors stopped by to welcome him to the hood.  So sure we didn't get any cookies we didn't pay for, but I'm thinking I'll like this neighborhood.  I think we just scared everyone into hiding at our abrupt entrance with 30 people helping us move.  Slowly, the neighborhood is coming back to life.  I'm stoked to be a part of it!

We've Moved!!!!

Ever feel like you’ve been hit by a train?  I’m still reorienting myself, figuring out which way is up and which drawer has the silverware in it.

Luckily, though, I’m not talking about a literal locomotive.  Those days of rumbling, blaring trains barreling through our front yard are far behind us.  We’ve moved!  We’re in a real house with a real neighborhood and we have a real kitchen and bedroom and everything!  And there is a train… but it’s a good ten miles away.  Far enough to still be sentimental, but out of earshot.
For six months we’ve been wanderers, graciously accepted into different houses.  The last few were with my parents.  Every night we came home from work and school and there was a good, hot meal on the table.  Living with your parents definitely has its perks, I don’t care what people say.
So now that we have our own place and food isn’t magically generating anymore, it seems like we’re playing house—like it felt when we first got married.  Me cleaning our own bathroom, Roy fixing our own furniture.  The hubby is still on his break from school, so I came home from work one evening and he’d made macaroni and cheese from scratch!  It was scrumptious.  We did the dishes together; just two plates, just two cups.  Just the two of us.

It’s quiet.  At first I wasn’t sure if I liked that.  At Mom and Dad’s there was always something going on.  Even in our old apartment we could hear the couple below us screaming at each other, the dude to the right of us bumpin’ his tunes, babies crying, chairs scraping, doors slamming.
We’re not sharing any walls now.  It’s quiet.
Hey—now we can be as crazy as we want!  We won’t need the subtitles on our movies anymore, we can turn up the volume, we can laugh loud, we can have a dance party, and no one is going to slam their broom handle {thump thump thump} under our feet.  I’m liking this quite a lot, now.
The Buckmaster and Collett clans joined forces to help us move in.  I love the help, love it.  I can’t, and don’t want to imagine how much time it would take to move all our junk on our own {how have we accumulated so much junk already?}.  But honestly, I also find it a little awkward.  Um, don’t mind all of our personal things strewn out everywhere.  Yes, I still want to keep that Spiderman bobble head, Dad.  I know I have a lot of shoes, Zac.  Thanks for your slave labor, Kirsten.

 Hopefully these people know that we have their backs forever.  We will be there for moves and hospital visits and whatever else comes in life.  We love you guys.
Roy’s family stayed at our new place, sleeping on air mattresses and couch cushions, using whatever blankets have been gathering dust in the storage unit for the last half-year.  What troopers.  I tried to get them to go out and do something fun in Tucson, but they were set on helping us get settled.  Without them I’d still be organizing the kitchen right now, I’m sure.  They’re awesome.
Even with all that help, we’re still putting things away.  There are a few boxes in a pile, waiting for me to go through them.  And yes, it takes me hours because every little thing I pull out has to be properly admired and I have to tell whatever story connects with it: Awww, this is that card Lynn made me when my cat got eaten by coyotes!
Don’t you feel kind of bad for Roy?  Me too.
What else is on our checklist?  Painting the hideous purple ceiling in the kitchen, getting shelves for the garage {we have a garage!}, and putting blinds up on the windows.  Our landlord is pretty awesome, and doesn’t mind whatever alterations we make.  ;-)
OH!  And we have a backyard!  Some people would consider it a box of dirt, but it’s our first back yard!  Between noon and one o’clock there is a little sunlight that peeks between the close rooftops and hits the dirt.  What is this perfect for?  My first garden.
Seriously, there’s an especially shady corner of the yard where several weeds are just thriving.  We even have a few weedy flowers that have sprung up just in the few days we’ve been here.  Maybe I’m ignorant {and in denial about living in a desert again}, but I’m determined to have a garden we can eat out of.  Squash, watermelon, carrots, the works!  Whatever hardy fruit or vegetable can survive in Arizona soil is going to be planted back there soon.  
Or maybe the real issue will be whether they can survive Buckmaster caretaking.  When Roy and I were dating he got me a “love plant,” which was a potted cactus.  We killed it in three weeks flat.  But Weasley has stayed alive so… maybe we’re getting better?
Our neighbors have an orange tree which billows up over our wall and drops occasional gifts.  I like that.  Maybe we could get an orange tree too.  I’ll start saving seeds J.  We’ll have a whole jungle back there!

¡Feliz Navidad!

When the Buckmasters told friends and co-workers that they were going to Mexico for their Christmas vacation, they didn’t exactly get positive reactions.

“Why would you go there?”

“They’re killing Americans down there, you know?”

“Be safe!”

But Dennis rebounded with, “Well you gotta die sometime, might as well be together in Mexico.”

Yes.  And with that philosophy we happily crammed into the car and drove down from Phoenix, through the border, and to the oh-so-very-Americanized Puerto Penasco (Rocky Pont).  We’re glad they weren’t easily deterred, because it was a great trip.

Just before reaching the border, we stopped in a tiny speck-of-a-town for some ice cream.  All they had were frostbitten dilly bars.  That's when we knew what kind of vacation this was going to be.

Once we were actually in Mexico, one of our first stops was the local mercado.  Honestly, I haven’t been to one of these in a long, long time.  It made the experience of Mexico a little more foreign.  The Buckmasters were eager to get out if “Rocky Point” and see the real Puerto Penasco, and it really inspired me to have a more Mexican experience when we go down from now on.

I mean, when you bring all your groceries from the US you miss out on things like this:

We also found a little panadería that sold tortillas and bread.  The shop was attached to a house full of kids.  The madre came out to us, really shy and sweet.  She spoke zero English, so it was fun to use some of my retired Spanish skills.

We visited that panadería twice more, I think.  Best tortillas ever!

December is a great time for a trip to the fish market.  In the summer you’re shoulder to shoulder, being carried through the town in a river of tourists and vendors, everyone sweaty trying to keep in the shade.  But in the winter, and first thing in the morning, it was just us.  Of course, this means you get special attention: vendors calling out to you from their shops, kids following you with their boxes of bracelets.  But it was nice!

Yes, the weather was as perfect as it looks.

Art gallery.

We got a few souvenirs.


We found a church!  Yay, Elliot’s dream come true!
Everyone indulged me, let me scamper around inside and snap a few pictures.

Usually {in churches and cathedrals I’ve been to, at least} the bell towers are locked up.  Imagine my giddiness when the wood door swung open!  {Yes, ask Sarah from my London days, I try every door to everything.}

Kirsten threatened to ring the bell on me, so I finally got out of there.

When it was time for lunch, we opted to try one of the restaurants.  Dennis made a "friend" out of one of the many waiters that pummel you with "special deals for you."  It was called...

Yeah, Beto's Place wasn't a good idea.  But we didn't know that yet.  Look how happy and unsuspecting we are!

Maybe I should have been clued in by the fact that our little plastic table was on top of the roof... if you could call it that.  We were really just on a couple of wood planks.

Let's just say that very little sleep was had that night in our condos.
Maybe it's not fair to blame poor Beto, though.  Jamie, Leah, and Kelsey never got sick.  So maybe it was a 24 hour flu?

Whatever it was, I felt bad that the Buckmasters had to deal with it on their vacation.  We will choose our restaurants more carefully next time.

Another cool cultural experience was at the railroad tracks.  Because it’s public property, people can stake out a little square and set up house for free, right there on the side of the tracks!  Cool deal!  That is, if you don’t mind cardboard walls and barbed wire everywhere.

The people are happy, though.  Really friendly, too.  My uncle Rod has helps organize different kinds of charity work throughout Puerto Penasco, including occasional feasts at the railroad tracks.  This time it was a barbeque, with hambergers, hot dogs, chips, and plenty of dulces for the niños.

When we drove up and started unloading the grills, those ninos came out in droves. 

 Kelsey was pretty much adorable with them.

Laura was grilling up a storm!

Jamie and Leah worked really hard getting the condiments right.  Through head nods and shakes, they were able to figure out whether each person liked mustard.

And they had to dodge the dogs, who were picking up the scraps.  *Shudder*  I was dancing around those things all day.

I did see one kinda cute dog, though.   But not as cute as the little boys holding him!

A group from Utah had brought down all kinds of lightly used clothes and toys to share with their Mexican brothers and sisters.  Some people got some great finds.  Like this little turtle dude:

Or this guy!

It was a success!  And an awesome experience.  I was sorry some of us were still too sick to make it out.

Marco!  Polo!  Who even plays that game anymore?
Jamie and Leah do. 

As their silly game wore on, more and more random strangers joined in until the whole pool was playing.  Old ladies, little kids, even people outside of the pool, stretched out on lawn chairs, were crying out “Polo!”

Roy and I sat on the side with our legs dipped in, “Polo!” echoing around the pool area.  It was one of those moments in life that make you smile, and you realize human beings are generally good, fun-loving.  If you are a child under the age of 18, disregard.  Don’t talk to strangers.

Anyway, there was one person—ONE person—within a fifty foot radius who wasn’t playing.  His white hair was slicked back, his sunglasses were on, and he was just relaxing on a step in the pool.  Either he was sleeping or he had no emotional capacity—because how can you not smile at a pool of strangers in a game of Marco, Polo?

Jamie was “it.”  Out of all the tons of people playing, Jamie found this guy’s flabby chest.  It looked like he got his fingers all tangled up in the man’s curly white hair before he opened his eyes.

“I don’t think you want me.”

“Oh.  Sorry.”

Meanwhile, everyone just peed in the public pool because everyone is laughing that hard.

On the last full day Uncle Rod let us borrow his quads and took us out on the sandrail!

Jamie got stuck once, but luckily my cousin Shane and I were following them around in his car, ready to jump start anyone who needed it.

Who knew there was wet mud out in the desert?

And then, of course, there was shopping on Shack's 5th Avenue.

The end of the trip came too quickly.  We didn't even have time to finish our Christmas puzzle!

 You know what I had to say about returning to the states/work?

But Friday came anyway.  As our last act, we took an ugly Christmas sweater pic {a Buckmaster tradition} Mexican style.

The drive back was way more eventful than I thought possible.  First of all, we locked the keys in the car at a gas station in the middle of nowhere.  Literally, it would have taken a locksmith all day to get to us.  But apparently this sort of thing happens a lot at this little place.  The manager got out his whole break-into-a-locked-car-kit and Roy had the situation figured out in no time flat.

About thirty minutes on the road after this little event, Kelsey had to go to the bathroom.  Bad.  We’ve all been there before, right?  Willing to squat behind a bush to avoid wet, warm pants.  Unfortunately for Kelsey, there weren’t a whole lot of bushes around.  And there’s not much you can do to hide from the border patrol helicopters either...

"Um... I see something but..."
"Roger that."

To make matters worse, Kelsey had a run in with Nature.  Apparently Roy told Kelsey to be careful as she ventured out for a good spot to go, but we should have been more specific.  The girl has never been out in open desert before!  So of course she tripped over a knee-high cactus and had stickers all over her leg.  Lovely Arizona souvenir.

We piled back in the car after we thought we got all the thorns out of Kelsey’s leg.  It only took about thirty seconds for the little pricks of poison to set into Kelsey’s leg.  And only about forty seconds before we passed a gas station.

Yes, I had to take a picture of it.  I couldn't hold still, though, I was laughing too hard.

And that's our Christmas vacation, told really fast with lots of things I've forgotten, I'm sure.  It was definitely one of the best weeks of the year!

¡Hasta luego, México!