Jeanette told me on Monday that she was pregnant. What a surprise! She is nearly five weeks along.
We have been in California 5 years. In our time here I’ve learned quite a few things. First, you can’t put a price on happiness. Living In a beautiful place does not compare to having a place I can call home. What I mean is this: while California definitely has its physical beauty, it lacks in all other areas. It’s nice that the weather is always beautiful. You can hop in your car, drive anywhere from an hour to a day and visit mountains, lakes, parks, beaches, zoos, forests, etc. However, on a day to day those things don’t mean diddly when you’ve got high prices on everything from eggs to gas to a decent place to live. Also, the people may be beautiful on the outside with the help of silicone, liposuction and a good personal trainer. However, most Californians, native and transplant alike, are superficial and ugly as can be on the inside. People here seem to be angry all of the time which is something that I can’t figure out. You would think that with the weather, and scenery that we are blessed to have here, people could at least smile every now and then. Instead, most of the time I am met with scowling faces and dirty looks. There is no sense common decency or camaraderie. Forget about meeting your neighbors or talking to someone in the grocery store.
While living in the “Golden State” I’ve also learned to count my blessings and make the most of what little I have. Luckily, I’ve never been one that has to the need to keep up with the Joneses. Out here, more than most anywhere else, keeping up with the Joneses will eat you alive. For instance, if we were to try to live the California way, we would have bought a 2000 sq. ft. house for $750,000 when we moved out here and would now be drowning in debt from an oversized mortgage that we can’t pay. I’ve learned to be grateful for all that I’m lucky enough to have and humble enough to know that it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye. I’ve seen so many people throw their lives away on the material and superficial. Living in the now rather than looking toward the future and doing what’s best for themselves and their families.
I’ve learned a lot, and am still learning, about business. How to run one, and what NOT to do. I’ve learned that your future is what you make of it. You can NOT sit around waiting for others to dictate it for you. Your life is what you make of it. If obstacles get in your way, it’s the choices you make to clear those obstacles that determine your future. It’s up to you to choose the right path. Not choosing is no solution. If you choose not to choose, that’s still a choice that YOU’RE making. It’s never someone else’s fault.
As we head back to Texas and embark on our next adventure, I’m taking all that I’ve learned here and building on it. This path that Alex and I have chosen has great potential and we’re excited to see where it’s going to lead us. We know that there will be obstacles, but we’ll take them head on, one at a time and plow forward. Always forward.
Today we took the boys to the mall to see Santa. We got them all dressed up in their Christmas attire. Nicholas was so excited. We wrote his letter and mailed it off yesterday. So we had a special breakfast this morning of doughnuts that we made a special trip to the grocery store to get. Nicholas got to pick them out (he was so excited). We left after breakfast at about 10:00. I figured it was early enough to get there, stand in line for an hour or so, see Santa, have a little lunch, and get back in time for Conner's nap @ 2:00. We loaded the boys in the mommy bus and headed on down to the mall. When we got there, of course there's no parking, but that didn't bother us because we were going to see SANTA! Finally, we found parking, put the boys in the stroller and headed in to see Santa. It took us a while to find him because he wasn't centrally located like he had been in other malls. When we got to the line, there was a 'Santa's Helper' there turning people away. He says to us, "Sorry, we're booked." I said, "what do you mean booked? Since when do you have to make an appointment to see Santa?" We're new to this town, so I'm thinking it's possible and we just didn't know the custom here. He said, "we're not letting anyone else into the line, you'll have to come back in 4 hours." "4 hours?", I said, "What makes you think the line won't be this long in 4 hours?" He says, "we're not letting anyone in line until after 2:00, then we'll start a new line". So of course by now Nicholas is asking what's going on. We walked him up to the front of the booth so he could at least look at Santa. By now I'm fuming. How to you tell your 4 year old that he's not allowed to see Santa? So we casually walked away and said, "Let's go see what's in the Disney Store!!" Luckily, that was enough of a distraction. There were other parents who weren't so lucky. There was a pair of little girls standing in front of Santa where we had taken Nicholas just bawling their little heads off. I felt so bad for their daddy who was trying to console them.
On the way to the Disney Store, I stopped by the information desk to fill out a comment card. When I was half way done filling it out, a woman asked if I'd been helped. I told her no, that I was just filling out the card. She asked if she could help me with my concern. So I told her about being turned away from Santa. She couldn't believe it. (as I couldn't) After I gave her all the details, she said she would find out what was going on because they weren't supposed to be doing that. (which is what I figured) She got my cell phone number and said she'd call me as soon as they got it sorted out.
I thought WONDERFUL maybe they'll put us in the front of the line or give a free picture or something for making them aware of the situation. So off I go to find Alex and the boys (who had gone on since the boys were getting restless). We did a little window shopping, had some lunch and still no call. It was a good 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Finally, we decided that we'd leave since Conner was getting sleepy. On the way out, I stopped by the information booth to see if they'd found anything out. The gentleman says, "I was just going to call you." (sure you were) "The manager of the mall spoke with the Santa people and repremanded them. Told them they weren't supposed to do that. They won't be doing that any more." I said, "well it's too late for us, we're going home" He says, "Sorry for your trouble". (yes, and that's it! so much for customer service!)
It was a big let down, especially as a parent. At least we got to spend the day with the boys out and about. Looking at toys and such.
We now have a new member in our family. Her name is Sophie, she is a 2 1/2 month old Cairn Terrier. She is very adorable and loving. She seems to like her new family as much as we like her. If you like to see her cute little face, you can go here.
Hello everyone, Alex here. I hardly know where to begin with this update since so much has happened, but I'll make a valiant attempt...
First, the house we're renting now is far better than most of the places we lived in San Diego. Temecula is still fortunately outside the real-estate insanity radius of Southern California and houses are barely affordable if you are at or over a six figure salary. Still insane but not nearly as insane as Santa Ana where I work. A cardboard box on a curb would probably cost you at least as much as a one bedroom house in Texas. Either you buy in to the illusion or you don't, and we aren't, well, anytime soon anyway. Charging more for a house because it is located in a nice place is one thing, but pricing out 90% of the market is another.
Temecula is a nice smaller town surrounded by mountains and we like it so far. More cultural variety (meaning we aren't surrounded by Filipino or Vietnamese), less traffic, and easier access to a lot of places like parks and shopping. A nicer place to raise a family.
Jeanette is now on the board of the Mom's Club of South Temecula! Her post will be Secretary and will add her laser-honed organizational skills to the group, taking minutes and being a mediator at meetings. I also believe the board wants her to revamp their new member procedures, since one doesn't exactly feel welcome as a new member, as the joining process is not clear. What's nice is she's able to be with other women her age who are also mothers.
On the movie front, Jeanette went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which she enjoyed but which was again short on detail as is standard translating books to film. When I mentioned the movie was already two hours long her response was "So? Make it three hours long!". Quite the die hard fan. She also took Nicholas to see Shrek 3, and I took him to see Transformers. Nicholas' favorite varies, but the first one he picked was coincidentally my first Transformer: Ironhide! Not exactly awe inspiring as a mini-van in the 1980s, he is now a GMC semi cab truck! Optimus Prime is now known as "Octopus Prime" to Nicholas as well, and the one he wants most for his birthday is Bumblebee.
We now have grass in our backyard, the owners installed sod, some sort of leafy ground cover and trees this past weekend. The boys enjoyed playing there with the sprinkler while Jeanette and I had a wonderful time trying to get the soaker hoses to stay put. It is definitely nice to have a place outside for the boys to play without getting run over though.
I have been working long days (and nights) on this game which is nearly finished. My job is to implement all music, sound, and VO so that it plays properly and is mixed well. This is the first Dungeons and Dragons game I have worked on and having enjoyed D&D a great deal growing up, it is very inspiring to see the detail and story quality that is in modern video game representations of the tabletop classic. I also got a little giddy compositionally, writing about 40 minutes of music in addition to the 80 already written by an outside contractor, making over two hours of music for this expansion pack. The original game has only 40 minutes. One of the best things about Obsidian is that they allow me to get my own dinner if I am working late, and less than two miles away is a Chick Fil A!
Finally (and this is mostly information you can find on the main site's pictures, but...), little Conner is coming into his own a bit, being able to wrestle Nicholas. The two of them roll around occasionally with many a giggle coming from the knot of arms and legs. Its very nice to see them play together. Conner is also talking a lot more, saying "ball" with fervor. He's also getting into books, "Moo, Moo Brown Cow" is his current favorite, so we read that to him regularly. He enjoys counting the animals also.
Signing off for now. Tell us what YOU'RE up to (if we don't already talk to you regularly)!
Life has been busy busy busy here in the Brandon house. We’ve been caught up in a whirlwind of waiting. Our landlord is selling the house we’re living in and has asked us to leave. At the same time, Alex has been interviewing with a company in Austin. It’s a great job opportunity and would mean we’d be near my parents again. So we’ve been in this sort of limbo waiting to hear about this job with our move out date looming nearer and nearer. They flew Alex out last week for a personal interview (the rest had been on the phone) telling him that he was the strongest candidate, they have a very strict screening process and he’s the only one who made it through. In other words, they pretty much told him he had the job, but they would have to get a signature from the higher ups to make it official and would give him a definite today. So we waited all day and they finally called him just to tell him that they suddenly have another candidate and they’ll let him know as soon as possible, (though he’s still the strongest candidate). However they can’t give him a time line on when that would be. Luckily we found a house a week ago that we like and put a deposit on it. The owner was nice enough to hold the check for us until we found out the outcome of the interview. SO, we’ll be moving next week some time. Our landlord here has been nothing but a big pain in the rear about this whole thing. First, changing the lease claiming he has a problem with the management company and wanting to cut out the middle man. Then all of the sudden springing the sale of the house on us. Originally he said that we'd go month to month to make it easier on us so we'd have time to find a place to live. Then he changed and said he wants us out on May 24 because his realtor said it would be easier to sell the house while it's empty (understandable). Now that we've found a place and want to move out earlier, he's refusing. You would think he would appreciate that we're leaving a few weeks early so he could get this rat trap ready to sell and on the market. But he's making it as difficult as possible. Ce'st la vie
On a happier note Conner is becoming quite a funny little baby. He's getting close to walking. He can walk around the furniture now and will stand unassisted if he's concentrating on something. He enjoys walking around the house whether he's assisted by Mommy, Daddy or his walk along. He just walks along with a big smile on his face and usually screeching with joy. He's starting to learn the word "no" although he doesn't abide by it. As a matter of fact, he's begun to retaliate. Just yesterday I was folding the laundry and he decided to throw it around the room. So I slapped his hand and said "no!" He retaliated with a whopping smack and went on flinging. He's quite the hitter. He loves to hit his brother. We'll be sitting on the couch and he'll reach over and smack Nicholas on the head. I can't imagine what he's going to be like at 2 or 3 if he's like this now and he's not even one yet.
Nicholas is still in his terrible 3's, becoming more mouthy every day. He's learning the hard way not to talk back to Mommy and Daddy and boss us around. It hasn't started to sink in yet, but his punishments are getting harsher and he's such a smart boy that, for his sake, I hope he starts to get a clue soon.
The boys and I just a wonderful visit with my parents in Texas. The three of us made the two day drive out to Thall. Contrary to what you might think, it wasn't too bad. Thank goodness for portable DVD players and DreamWorks Studios. You can see pictures from our trip here.
Wish us luck and we'll be sending everyone our new address soon.
We had planned on taking Nicholas for either a ride on Thomas the Tank Engine (life size) or for a tour of the USS Midway (an aircraft carrier) for his birthday. Unfortunately I was not well on his birthday, so we spent the day at home. Finally, we were able to take him last weekend for a belated birthday treat to the Midway. He had a blast. It's impressive how he can differentiate the different aircraft. Especially for a three year old. What a smart little cookie we have.
This weekend we went and visited Santa at the mall. Nicholas was very excited to tell Santa that he wants the "Cars" movie and a crane for Christmas. Conner was very interested in the funny looking man with the hairy face. He couldn't take his eyes off of him.
Quite a lot to report here, so sorry for not updating. Here's the latest set of news from Brandon Land San Diego...
FIrst, Jeanette has her first set of acoustic drums! We traded a set we bought from Midway's studio (some Roland V-Drums) for a beautiful 6pc. Gretsch Catalina Birch set. Conner and Nicholas are eager to play it.
The lil' boys keep her pretty busy. :)
Also, lil Nicholas Scott Brandon has just turned three! He had a wonderful birthday with a Thomas and Friends cake and lots of presents from the entire family. These boys are lucky to have so many generous relatives. The playroom is filling up so fast with toys that I fear it may burst!
In not so good news Jeanette has had a fever for a whopping nine days, so daddy has been learning what "respect" really means taking care of Nicholas and Conner full time. Fortunately this daddy time has been great for me. We've gone to Balboa Park and when Jeanette recovers (hopefully very soon) we'll be taking Nicholas to see the USS Midway aircraft carrier. I took Nicholas on a preview drive by of the Midway and he's very excited. Keep Jeanette in your prayers everyone, she works far too hard and is far too generous a person to have this kind of illness. Prayers will probably work far better than doctors anyway with the way healthcare is run 'round these parts.
More to follow soon I hope, potentially some very big news!
As previously mentioned, the San Diego Brandons drove to visit Auntie Joan this past week. It was a wonderful vacation and much needed for all involved. There will be some pics posted on the family section of the website soon.
We're quite proud of the boys, who were very well behaved right up until the last few hours (it's almost as though they knew we were in the L.A. area again, and began the waterworks). We first drove to Sacramento straight up I-5. Being that it's such a long drive from one end of Cali. to the other, we split the trip into two days.
Though Sacramento is our state's capital, it is somewhat like San Jose: small and unassuming, also not all that interesting. I laughed at the huge sign indicating it was a "city of trees". People on the west coast south of the redwoods really have no idea what a forest is. :) But, the hotel was nice. Jeanette did a great job finding places to stay.
Next we took 299 west to Eureka and then north to McKinleyville. 299 was very winding and caused a bit of nausea in the passenger seats, but the scenery was beautiful and the rural setting was, for the most part, very welcome (having Hell's Angels occupy a single gas pump in a forest hamlet was a bit daunting, so we drove to the next town).
When we arrived at Auntie's we were relieved to find her not just ready for us but very excited and full of energy through the whole of our stay. She cooked marvelous meals (a very thick spaghetti, cornish hens, and homegrown salad) and we did what we could to help the process of getting her garden going, as well as Jeanette assisting with the cooking. Teddy and Nicholas became fast friends and Teddy seemed just as happy as Auntie with our company. Nicholas took great pleasure in walking up and down Auntie's rock garden, and even helped Daddy move some bricks to assist with completing Auntie's side door path.
We visited the redwood forest where we had a picnic at a serene public park, and afterward took a beautiful and relaxing hike among the huge conifers that stretch to the sky.Conner slept in his baby bjorn and Nicholas bounded along the path with Daddy and Mommy keeping a close eye on him. The forests are truly a wonder to behold, and another fascinating aspect about them is how quiet they are. You could be next to a road or river and not hear it until you stumbled on it.
Auntie, Nicholas and Daddy walked on the beach the next day. Auntie got a thrilling surprise of over a thousand pelicans who had decided that the coastline of Moonstone Beach would be their restaurant that day. Nicholas also discovered just how much he loves the ocean, and not only was willing to get his feet wet, but get carried across a shallow inlet. Sand was also a great toy for him as he would scoop it up and fling it to the ground, sometimes to have it smack him in the face by the wind. Funny boy. :)
We wrapped up the trip the next day with a fond morning farewell. It is interesting what you learn when you visit family you haven't seen in awhile. I (Daddy) got to discover a great deal about my father's side of the family, and Jeanette learned a lot about starting her own herb garden. A great many thanks to Auntie for her generosity and strength during our visit. We'll have to go again soon!
For the trip's last leg we drove south for a day in San Francisco, and the boys got their first ferry ride around San Francisco Bay. An absolutely beautiful day, but it is best described with Jeanette's pictures. We then ate at the Rainfoest Cafe on Fisherman's Wharf, which is a great family eatery and reminded me of the Pirates' House Rainforest Bar in Savannah. We returned to our hotel in Mill Valley and Nicolas topped it off with some jumping around in the pool, even using a small surfboard for the first time (riding on top of one being held by Daddy, that is).
That day, and in fact the whole vacation couldn't have been better. Back to our daily lives, but if the trip did one thing other than entertain, amuse and relax, it reminded us that these kind of experiences are what we strive for in life, not things that we schedule "when and if we have time". Now if only we could have trips like this with the ENTIRE family....