Sorry about the silence here. The trouble with blogging is that you need an available computer to post, and whenever we've had downtime, the computer has been needed. Needed for research. Needed to reading. Needed for mapping. Needed for planning. Needed for hoping that somehow by interneting enough, we could somehow shortcut this oh-so-long and drawn-out settling in process. But alas. Try as we might, research as we did, we are still faced with one very basic truth: this process is not fully within our control.
In Pittsburgh (and perhaps all the US), every step of the process hinges on having an address (not a hotel as we currently have). Once you have an address, you can send mail there. Once you have mail at the address (specific mail like bank statements or utility bills), you can use that as proof of residence. When you have that, you can apply for a driver's license. When you have that, you can buy a car. We also need an address before we can send the girls (or at least Ellie) to school. The clock is ticking on that last one, because school ends for the year in June, and I cannot begin to tell you how badly that kiddo needs to go back to school (remember, the school year in Oz started in February, so she has only had 2 months of school this year and is ready to go). Of course, the tricky bit in Pittsburgh (and this is most definitely true here) is the rental market is ridiculously tight, and for the moment at least, we are confined to renting.
Despite the fact that we asked multiple times before arriving to be placed in an apartment, we somehow ended up in a Residence Inn. It's nice. It has two bedrooms and a sort-of kitchen, but it is a hotel, no doubt about it, a hotel in which each of the two bedrooms have one queen-sized bed, meaning the girls have to share with us or with each other. At bedtime, we read to them and tuck them in in separate rooms. When we are ready to go to bed ourselves, we usually move Stephanie (who blessedly doesn't wake) or we surrender and separate, one of us with one of them.
Pursuing the end goal of an address with relentless tenacity (as we have learned from our 4 year old when she wants something she can't have), we have toured various neighbourhoods and even seen some of the few available rentals in the four days we've been here. At the moment, we've narrowed our preferences to Mt Lebanon, near the city, and Sewickley, a very walkable (very wealthy) suburb. Both have great schools, public and Montessori (both! amazing!). Both are very walkable (sidewalks connecting everything). Mt Lebanon is more compact, hilly, older, different than spread out, flat near the river, wealthy Sewickley. We like both for different reasons, but the common theme is the walkability and the community feel. After so many years out of the US, we are finding it hard to adapt to the fact that everything must involve the car. Mt Lebanon is walkable and has a very good public transport system straight into the city. Sewickley has a very nice central shop area and a large, new community YMCA. As Hubby doesn't work in the city itself, he'll have to commute no matter where we live, so we're looking for comfort when we are at home, wherever that will be.
Of course, the market being what it is, we're not sure we can afford to be so picky as to select only two neighbourhoods. We have found two absolutely beautiful houses in Fox Chapel, both in our price range and both stunning from what we can tell. We will see them on Friday. The trouble is the increased commute time for Markus (nearly an hour in traffic, and I don't want to guess in snow) and the fact that both are situated such that if you want any place beyond your own driveway, you have to be in your car. Sigh. So wish us luck. We'll keep you posted!
As for the hotel issue, Markus has insisted and they miraculously figured out that they could actually put us in a furnished apartment rather than the hotel (hey, what do you know?). While I visit some schools tomorrow with our relocation agent, Markus and the girls will visit two apartment complexes and judge suitability. If that works out, we might just be able to bypass the address requirement on everything but schools, since it will be an apartment and not a hotel. As for the schools, I will ask if the Montessori schools require a local address, hoping they won't since they are private. Again, I'll let you know.
Thanks for bearing with me through the long silence and the even longer post that followed! There was a lot of explaining to do! Eventually things will settle down, and I'll take and share pictures as well. Warmest wishes to you!