Sunday, January 23, 2011

Moving In

We’ve been in Alabama 18 days now, and in our house for 17. I’m sure anyone will agree that moving is a roller coaster ride…

There’s the anticipation. You’ve waited in line for your turn to welcome the moving truck. Finally you strap into your seat and head to your destination, gripping the sides through several drops and loop-the-loops, sometimes screaming with panic, sometimes just enjoying the ride.

Then you reach your destination, which you foolishly think is the end. You climb out of the car, stretch your legs and take it all in, happy to be on solid ground. Then some unseen force pushes you into a seat of the rollercoaster that just appeared right next to the one you just dismounted. You don’t even have a chance to buckle up before you’re zooming away again.

The name of that roller coaster?

“Settling In”

Now, it hasn’t all been head knocking turns, suffocating drops and rattling tunnels. But I’ll list those first to get them out of the way…

The downstairs heater stops working.
We’ve been told by countless Alabamans that the first week we lived here is the coldest they can remember… in decades. I don’t think it dipped below the teens (which Ohio does easily), but it was certainly cold. A day or 2 after getting the keys, the ground floor got alarmingly chilly. We fiddled with the thermostat and tried out the circuit breaker. We discovered the (wonderful, beautiful) gas fireplace is purely for ambiance- on the highest setting it emitted the vaguest warmth.
So we called maintenance. After poking around for a while, he asked me to come upstairs with him. I followed him to the attic and he showed me 3 light switches near the door. 2 controlled the lights up there. 1 controlled the AC/heater downstairs. I had accidentally turned it off after checking out the attic. At least it was an easy fix.

Leora goes to the ER for high fever and vomiting.
That first Sunday morning Leora woke up hot and cranky, so I stayed home with her.
Fred had his own adventure taking the older 3 to church. When he got there the parking lot was empty. Turns out it was Stake Conference that day. YAY for GPS and a phone with internet access. He was able to find the Stake Center and even a few people from our ward, including the 1st counselor who came over later to help give Leora a blessing.
The next day the base was closed due to the inclement weather. The main concern was ice, but there was snow expected, too. I never saw a flake, but the ground was pretty solid frozen. Leora hadn’t been able to keep anything down and her fever was still soaring. Because of “ice day” ALL local businesses were closed, including the base clinic and all urgent cares. So Fred had to take her to the ER. He got a massive headache making sure we were following Tricare’s protocol- with the “ice day” it became a unique situation. She did get seen and her fever broke, so they sent her home.

Leora goes to Urgent Care for ear infection.
Her sickness turned into a nasty cold which turned into an ear infection. Her fever was on its own roller coaster, sometimes close to normal but suddenly zooming way too high for my comfort. She wouldn’t eat or drink anything. So back to Urgent care she went, coming home with antibiotics and pain meds. Within 3 days she was finally back to normal.

The bug makes its way around.
Leora was the first to get sick.
Kai followed, getting a hot fever and yucky nose and eyes for almost a week.
Charla got the rotten fever and yucky nose for a few days.
I got a fever for a day, head cold, and lots of aches, although it’s hard to tell how much of that was due to sickness, and how much was just fatigue brought on by unpacking and caring for sick family.
Fred brought up the rear, having the fever for at least 2 days, one of them being the day he was going to start at work. His head cold hung around for a while and he hurt everywhere, too.
It’s never fun to have a sick family, but it’s just not fair when it happens days after moving. I’m just so grateful Gregory never got it. *fingers crossed*

½ of the Downstairs is cast into darkness.
When I plugged in a floor lamp, there was a loud *POP* and all the lights went out in the living room and family room. Amazingly (I call this a tender mercy) the outlets in the family room still worked, so I could plug sick kids into the TV. Call me a bad mom- there just wasn’t enough of me to go around!
Cold weather persisted, so we just dealt with it for a few days, assuming maintenance was probably busy dealing with more urgent matters. Frankly, I was also a little embarrassed to call again so soon for something so closely related to the last call. Finally, they came out. I had played with the circuit breaker too, but the guy got it to do his bidding, so we had light again.

Un-Packing horrors:
So far we’ve only found one broken picture frame, but there was a few irritating discoveries…
* An elaborate Captain Hook costume I sewed was wrapped around the head of the weed whacker. WHY???
* My snow boots had gone missing when the packers packed up our stuff- they had been by the front door because I was wearing them because of the SNOW. Well, I did find them… with cook books
* We got pretty anxious when the box that had a detailed drawing of our flat screen monitor contained our old traditional monitor. Luckily we found it in another box in the hall way. How did they find the time to draw that thing… and on the wrong box??

General settling in frustrations.
I’m tired. Oh, so tired. And just to insult me, for about a week I woke up almost every hour throughout the night for no apparent reason. So tired.
Carrying boxes upstairs and downstairs that the movers put in the wrong place.
Arranging and re-arranging furniture. I actually enjoy that part, but it’s not as fun when there’re still mystery boxes waiting to be incorporated into the house.
Hundreds of boxes and billions of sheets of packing paper to haul to the curb.

The family still needs to eat, bathe, have clean clothes, eat on clean dishes, kitties need to be serviced, kids need help with homework… the everyday stuff sometimes overwhelms me without the addition of unpacking.

Then add to it all the mere frustration of NOT being in control of it all, because there is no humanely possible way that I could be. I look forward to spring time, in the hope that we’ll have settled into a comfortable rhythm by then. Moroni 10:22 comes to mind… “And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair…” (hopefully the 2nd half of that verse would not apply to me). For now, I cling to the hope of normalcy in the not too distant future.


I’ve enthralled you with the turn by turn account of the stomach twisting “Settling In” roller coaster ride.

But I would be very ungrateful, and rather pessimistic, if I didn’t share the exciting, tummy tingling, breathtaking moments hidden in the ride…

Fred has a generous commander.
The major who lives next to us used to be an OTS instructor, like Fred will be. At that time the OTS commander was a real jerk and morale was low. He’s heard about how the current commander is leading much better by being positive and supportive of his Airmen and their families.
Fred’s commander, Col. Welch, is very family oriented. He told Fred to do his duties, but to take every opportunity to be with us. He warned him that the job will be VERY demanding, but that he’ll be disappointed if he sees Fred there for anything other than essential duties like lesson preparation. I took that as a veiled way to also say, “Don’t suck up to me by hanging around work more than you need to, especially at the expense of your family”, but I also know he sincerely wants his instructors’ morale to be up so they’ll be in the best frame of mind to be stellar teachers. From the day Fred found out about this assignment, I knew the next 3 years would be demanding (lots of single-parenting) but it’s reassuring that the boss is considerate of the families.

First to live in a remodeled historic home.
We’ve heard that the house was built in the 1920’s. I LOVE the charm. Almost every entryway is arched. There’s crowned molding throughout. I love the hard wood floors downstairs and the new carpet upstairs. There are so many windows! The dining and living rooms have elegant tall double-doors serving as the windows. I’ve wanted a fireplace for years, and now we have one, with a beautiful mantel. The house has a full attic, with its own staircase leading up to it. I just love fantasizing about what the first owners must have been like, how they must have furnished the house and what everyday life was like back then.
It also has all new kitchen appliances, cabinets, and counter tops. The neighbor took a peek at the pantry and explained that it’s all new. The entry into the pantry from the kitchen used to be the entry to the servants’ quarters. From the back of the house there is the original door that still opens to that space, which is now just crawl space under the pantry, but you can still see the steps that used to lead up into the kitchen. I laugh about the bathroom. The only downstairs toilet is in a tiny closet off the pantry, originally the servants’ WC. The sink in the pantry was added with the renovation- you used to have to wash your hands in the kitchen sink!
The garage is detached and connected to the neighbor’s garage. It really isn’t big enough for our cars, but it holds boxes and utility shelves as good as any garage. We have a back patio and hope to get some sort of gazebo to protect our patio furniture from the rain. The backyard is huge and level, with some great mature trees and a few privacy bushes. The base contracts people to do all the grounds maintenance, which is WONDERFUL!
The neighborhood is so open and peaceful. Enormous trees arch over the streets. I feel safe. We’ve taken the kids on walks and bike rides. Some evenings I just open the windows, turn on the fireplace, turn out the lights, and sink into the couch with a blanket, letting the breeze wash over me, feeling a moment of tranquil peace.

We barely slipped in.
Our reputation precedes us. Or at least that’s how it feels. At church and at work, people already knew Fred as the Lieutenant who moved into the “Big houses” on Maxwell. It’s only ever been open to senior officers: Majors and up. They allowed a handful of captains to move in after Thanksgiving last year. Then we and one other Lieutenant moved in. On Friday Fred found out that they are no longer accepting junior officers into this neighborhood. Honestly, I feel a little nervous, wondering if a neighbor is irritated that a Lieutenant moved in next to them. I can imagine senior officers feeling that living here should be earned by years of dedicated service, and if it fills with young officers, then there may not be houses available for those who “deserve” it. That’s just my speculation of course.
From the day we found out we could live in this house, I’ve acknowledged it as nothing less than a tremendous blessing from our Heavenly Father. And now I feel it more than ever. We are just a stone’s throw from the kids’ school. It’s such a beautiful home. Fred can ride his bike to work, which also means he’s close enough to visit if he gets a window of time once things start getting really busy at work. It’s just all around more than I could ever have hoped for.

The school is great.
I’ve learned that Maxwell Elementary is the last DoDs (Department of Defense) school in the US. The kids like their teachers already. They have high standards and frequent homework, which I personally like… well, I like it more when I’m not unpacking. But what I also love is how it’s infused with such patriotism. The kids not only recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but also sing the National Anthem every day. They make many accommodations for the parents, some of which are sometimes not able to see their kids often because of military duties. There’s even an area designated for parents to eat with their kids at lunch time. They encourage parent volunteering, have an active PTO (I plan on getting involved) and there are activities that coordinate with things on the base, like 50 cent bowling for students at the base bowling alley after school. Add to it all that it’s a 3 minute walk from our house, and it’s almost perfect.

We have new friends already.
One of the best things to happen here developed this past week. We found out the neighbor to our left has a little boy in Gregory’s 1st grade class. He and Gregory became instant best friends, sharing a passion for Lego’s and Star Wars and just being silly boys. His mom and I have gotten to chat, too. They seem like a great family.
We finally all got to go to church today. I’ve been home with sick kids the previous 2 Sundays here. Just like we were told, people welcomed us with open arms… literally. They were excited to get 3 more Primary kids- it was Leora’s first day of Primary. They said she did great. Kai helped strengthen the nursery. We even got an invitation to a potluck some families have organized this week in our neighborhood
The Primary presidency was thrilled to hear that I play the piano and have Primary chorister experience. Everyone is especially excited that we’re staying 3 years. At any given time there are at least a couple dozen Airmen there for training that lasts anywhere from 2 weeks to a year. I’m a little nervous about what callings they’ll be giving us.

General settling in perks
It is a beautiful place. I was madly in love with Ohio and its vibrant seasons and how green it is. I’m certainly bracing myself for a hot, sticky summer, but right now this place is heaven.
The base has all of our essentials. The hospital is much smaller than Wright-Patt’s, but it meets our needs, even our more unique ones. And if there’s something we can’t buy on base or if we’d like to eat out, practically every store and restaurant is available in a little town 20 minutes north of the base.
We’ve already had a fun family night at the base bowling alley. I’ve read about many different activities the base sponsors and I hope we’ll be organized enough to remember when they are so we can participate. I’ve even already hit the family gym once, where there’s a safe area for the kids to play and watch movies while I work out within sight of them.
Being a smaller base means it’s possible to cater to everyone. This week is a Spouses’ Call, where they’ll be providing information to all the military dependents about services available to us. I’ve heard there are dozens of interest groups and even base-wide play dates.

To wrap it up…
I don’t presume to say I’ve had a chance to dismount the “Settling In” roller coaster and collapse on a park bench. But it does seem to be mellowing out a bit. I think it will ultimately smooth out to a more steady pace in a month or 2. Then again, life itself is a roller coaster, unpredictable, always keeping us on our toes. But it’s the ultimate thrill ride and I wouldn’t trade it for any boring ol’ Ferris wheel… although there are days I would consider it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Big Move

It's been one crazy move.

On the morning we planned on heading out of Ohio, several things went wrong. We thought just Fred could be at the final inspection for the house, so I stayed at the hotel packing up the last stuff into our 2nd vehicle. Turns out I needed to sign papers, too, so I went nuts loading the last stuff as fast as I could so I could get there in time. Then as we rearranged some items in the cars, I accidentally left the headlights on and it killed the van's battery. The latch on the hood broke, so I couldn't open it to jump the battery. Fred drove to a store and bought a device that jumps a car by connecting them by the cigarette lighting outlet thingy- it worked!

I took the girls to grab lunch for everyone at Sonic. A few minutes after receiving our food, I reached for the cup of Ocean water from the cup holder in the car, but it was empty. Turns out there had been a lego in the cup holder which punctured the cup, causing it to drain the entire large cup. Joy.

We finally got on the road after 3 in the afternoon. We loved visiting with my aunt and cousins, the Hopkins, one last time when we picked up our kitties from them in Cincinnati. We pulled into the Motel 6 in Nashville, TN after 10pm, and collapsed into the lumpy, hard beds.

It was only 4 more hours to Maxwell AFB, so we did some site-seeing. We visited the Nashville temple...

and then toured the recreation of the Parthenon- SO cool! We also enjoyed lunch at Jack-in-the-Box, which was a real treat since there aren't any in Ohio.

(just off the Parthenon there was this jet... on loan from Wright-Patterson AFB Ohio!)

We arrived at Maxwell AFB at 10pm Wednesday, the day after leaving Ohio.

(with a rocket ship JUST inside the Alabama state line)

They lost our reservation for staying on base, so we got redirected to a hotel 20 minutes away... it gets complicated when you have kitties.

The movers called the following morning saying they were here and ready to unload- we hadn't expected them until the 10th. Within an hour of signing the lease papers and getting the key, the movers were rapidly filling our house with boxes. I had counted on having time to see the house, so that I could be confident about telling them where to put what. Oh well.

Then we discovered that the garage was FULL of garbage- we think it's stuff from the renovating. We're the first tenants to live in the house since they spent 2 years renovating it. But this meant everything that was supposed to go into the garage is now sitting on the back porch.

Things were going smoothly until the moment we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel for one more night. A shrill scream came from upstairs. At first I thought Charla was just being dramatic, but the screaming got more and more hysterical. When we got to her, she was standing at the top of the stairs, her left hand maimed and bleeding- a LOT. Leora had accidentally closed Charla's fingers into a door, by the hinges. It caused the skin on her 2 middle fingers to detach from the nail bed up to her first knuckles.

Fred took her to the ER. They think she might have a hairline fracture on her middle finger, but it was hard to tell. They were able to reattach the skin to one finger, but they said she'll lose the nail on the other. Luckily, she had screamed so much, she wore herself out to the point that she slept through most of the procedures- no stitches, just tape. They told us to follow up with her doctor in a day or two, and just pump her with Motrin in the meantime. She still hasn't woken up this morning- poor thing.

So today we check out of the hotel by noon. Fred is meeting with his new commander to process in. Then we get to fearlessly wield our box cutters and hopefully make some sense of the chaos that is right now our new home. Because of the our experience with Charla's finger, we got to meet our neighbor across the street when we asked for directions to the hospital. She was SO nice! She brought over several tarps to cover our things in the backyard in case of rain. She even offered to lend us her teenage daughters to watch my other 3 kids so I could go to the hospital with Fred last night. What a blessing.

Well, time to go eat breakfast at the hotel's impressive continental breakfast... it'll probably be the nicest breakfast we get for a while :P