I wrote some diaries during the first few months in California and have decided to post some extracts of them over the next couple of weeks, (although slightly adapted).
Our First Week in Southern California
We had booked ourselves into a hotel for the first few nights as the house was only part furnished and we needed to buy beds before we could sleep there. The morning after we landed we excitedly headed to see our new home for the first time in the flesh. As we drove up to the front we were happy as it looked inviting from the outside. It has three of the most giant palm trees we had ever seen, they tower above everything else. We met our realtor and had a look around. This was when I started to wonder what we were thinking renting a house we had only ever seen on the internet!!! It was dirty, the freezer was mouldy, the house was badly maintained, and the pool looked a state. There is a big dog next door who looked through the fence and howled at us a lot (we have since affectionately named him Wolfy and he mostly just stares at us sadly, now that he knows us, we hadn’t met his owners at that stage, but we later discovered from them that Wolfy is actually a she named Dakota). The kids seemed ok about the house as its very big and spacious, but I know for certain that my husband and I both had a real moment of doubt, wondering if we had made a terrible mistake. We went back to the hotel and the realtor told us she would help us sort things out. We felt so much pressure to make this move a success for the kid’s sake that perhaps our expectations were too high. The kid’s and I went for a swim in the hotel pool while my husband was on a work call and suddenly it didn’t seem so bad after all. We knew we had two more nights in the hotel to sort everything out and it would all be fine.
The next day the house and pool were cleaned, and suddenly it all looked better. It is a real shame because the house has so much potential it just hasn’t been looked after. The owner had dementia and then died, and her daughter left the house vacant for over six months as she struggled to imagine someone else living here. We met some of the neighbours, of course I forgot most of their names instantly, but there was a lovely family opposite us. We had a swim in our own pool and started to unpack a bit and the kids didn’t want to go back to the hotel which we took as being a positive sign. We ordered beds for the kids and got them their bedding of choice, Minecraft for him and Shopkins for her and, as I never let them have character bedding in the UK, this was a big deal to them. We were planning to go watch the 4th July fireworks but both kids were asleep by 5pm, which unfortunately resulted in a 3.45am wake up, they were so tired it couldn’t be helped. I’ve been a bit concerned about the boy as he has had a bad tummy since the day before we left the UK, I think it’s a combination of anxiety and too much dairy and we had a slight accident in the supermarket as it was so out of his control, the poor thing.
Finally, after two days at the hotel we properly moved into the house and we were all so ready because it was really starting to feel like home. The boy was feeling much better and the girl was her usual excitable self (so much so that she ran into the bug screen on the back door and pulled it off its hinges!). The kids were invited across the road by the neighbour to play on the trampoline and have popsicles (which the kids have since discovered are ice lollies), the kids are around 2, 5 and 9 so I am sure they will all become friends. It is nice being on a cul-de-sac, feels safe.
We have discovered that the wild life here is very different from home. Lizards everywhere, lovely little lizards that don’t bother us at all and the kids don’t appear to be scared of them. We seem to have two rabbits that hang out in our garden at night, hoping around. We have named them Cali and Fornia, they act like they live here. There are also a lot of crickets and you can hear them communicating in the dark so loudly that it feels like you are in a tropical rainforest at night which will take some getting used to.
We discovered we don’t have hot water as we need the gas turned on and it seems we are going to have to stay dirty for another 6 days, but we have some free passes for the gym, so I think we will go shower there as we may smell. We don’t know how to work the a/c (we later found out it was just unplugged!) and have had to have the plumber over twice due to serious leaks but we are loving it here. My husband has put up lots of outdoor lights, so we have enjoyed a cocktail by the pool under the fairy lights. The kids are loving having the pool and have come on leaps and bounds in their swimming.
The only real down side for me is that I feel a little trapped. I am petrified to get behind the wheel of a car here and I had thought maybe we could walk to places. I didn’t understand why no one walks anywhere here but after walking 10 mins to the park I completely understand. It is just too hot to walk.
This morning we got more floats for the pool, very essential. The kids love being in the water and the boy can dive down and retrieve hoops from the bottom of the pool, makes me feel so proud. He was determined, trying again and again until he could do it, we have never seen him show such determination. There was a time I thought his fear would mean he would never swim. The girl is also growing so much in confidence in the water and I think she’s a little unhappy at him getting the attention which is making her try harder, never to be outdone.
Things we have discovered so far:
-everything tastes a little bit different here, some better, some worse
-squash doesn’t exist here
-there are so many different food shops and they all sell completely different food its very confusing
-chemists sell alcohol!!!
-no one knows how to make my Cortado coffee (but they do sell hundreds of other types of coffee, mostly cold varieties)
-EVERYTHING is very expensive here
-root beer does not contain caffeine (but still tastes horrible in my opinion)
-TK Maxx is called TJ Maxx here
-the service you get is amazing from the restaurants, to the shops and or the cable guy
-portions are huge but everyone takes home their leftovers and eats them for lunch the next day, we have already done this
-there is a guy down the road who puts flags in his garden on 4th July one for every year of his age, he is 74 and it took him nearly the entire day (with breaks), to take them all down
-post boxes are at the end of the driveway and the mail man drives everywhere, moving his funny small white van a little bit in between every house delivery