Saturday, August 20, 2016

We put the "stay" in staycation

We ended up "hamping out" for 25 days. It actually went better than I originally thought, but was still very challenging. Even more of a predicament than living in an empty house, was living without a second vehicle. We're still not exactly sure what happened, but apparently the company we used to ship our minivan out to the island held onto it for a month before sending it to California. So what should have only been a 29 day process, has now turned into two months and counting. 

But for that first weekend, while Jon was off of work, we were able to settle into our new town and start exploring all this side of the island has to offer!

The boys have picked up boogie boarding like they picked up bike riding!
We moved into our house on July 1, the start of the 3-day holiday weekend. So naturally, we were excited to be out of the city in time to celebrate the birth of our nation in small-town style.

We weren't quite sure what to expect, especially when considering this was our first Independence Day NOT in one of the 13 original colonies. But for the most part, it reminded us of 4th of July parades back in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The biggest differences were that instead of waving, the Hawaiians do the shaka. And although we got some candy, we also got a LOT of seasoned dried seaweed. And no one in the J Crew was a fan.

The tree house at our friends air bnb place!
But then the holiday ended, Jon went back to work, and I was stuck in an empty house with 4 kids, no car, and days upon days on end. It was a little bit of a "thorn in the flesh" type of experience.

For the most part, the kids did quite well. I'm amazed at how much fun we were able to squeeze into those small carry-on backpacks ... and how long the fun lasted! It was also a good opportunity to get creative with building habitats for tiny plastic sea animals and army men.

Food Trucks are a big thing around here--they've even influenced Jack's Lego building!

Why yes I packed hillbilly teeth in the kids' carry-ons.
Having the bikes around was a huge blessing as well! And we were able to dig up enough things around the house to build bike ramps and create obstacle courses.

We certainly had our share of behavior issues, but I'm still trying to decide if it was the stress of moving or just the shift of having all four of my kids home all day for summer break. Either way, we've had some long, tough days. And it wasn't just the kids. I had a difficult time adjusting as well.

But I also learned a lot about myself during these past two months. For instance, I had become entirely too dependent on Target runs and Chick-Fil-A stops. Or maybe just the whole idea of "getting out of the house" in general. I'd gotten really sloppy with planning and errands, because it was just too easy to "run out" and grab something when I needed to. But even more than that, when the kids were driving me crazy and I couldn't get away, at least I could get everyone away. I could meander the kids down the Target Lego aisle while sipping my Starbucks. I could let them run loose at the Farm Park while I allowed myself to complete a thought or two on the bench. I could give myself a day off of dinner and dishes if we hit up CFA (because they're just soooo nice there, it has to make up for the unhealthy aspect!!)

And suddenly I don't have that anymore and all that's left is just me--this mess of a mom who desperately needs Jesus each and every day because I.just.can't on my own. And so when people asked me how we were doing, I'd just say it's hard but good. Hard, because I realized there were too many things in my life ("good, but limited things," as our pastor here would say) that I'd allowed to become anchors. And good, because it showed me that hope in Jesus is the only anchor I need. And so while I'm thankful to have had this wonderful experience of "hamping." I won't be sad to see it end!

This is our new church. We talk about anchors a lot because, well, that's it's name.
One particular frustration for me to deal with was living so close to so much, and not being able to enjoy it. Once Jon started his new job he immediately jumped into working long hours and getting into a good working groove. Most days, he's up at 5am to hit the gym before work. And then not leaving the city until well after 6:00--getting home in just enough time to kiss the kids goodnight. So we not only had to adjust to not having a vehicle for the majority of the day, but also not having a second adult around.

We made up lots of fun with whatever we could find!

My birthday gift--a hammock chair for reading and all around not-being-disturbed! It hasn't worked yet.
One day I was sitting at breakfast, literally watching my tan fade away, and decided that was it. We weren't going to spend another minute circling bikes in the driveway when the beach was so close you could almost hear it. (Okay, not quite that close.) I mapped it and, according to my phone, the closest beach access was .6 miles away, or a 20 minute walk. Except I forgot to tell my phone that the walking would be done by 4 kids ages 7 and under. But hey, even if we doubled that time (and we sure did!) we at least would be relaxing by the ocean.

So we set out on an adventure and started out strong--so strong! Everybody had a backpack to carry our lunches, towels, and beach toys. Of course, the boys insisted on bringing boogie boards, despite my protests. And both discovered their hands could no longer carry them about halfway there. And then Joci's legs just stopped working, like they usually do when things get too tough.

But then we arrived and it was just beautiful! And so empty. We practically had the beach to ourselves! And then the first child started screaming. Because apparently, when it's especially windy (like it had been the first two weeks we lived in our house) the Man 'o Wars come in. I didn't even know what these things were. We're used to jellyfish in the Atlantic. But these guys are little and dark and I don't even know how you'd see them in the water. Obviously. Because throughout the course of our beach day, 3 out of 4 of my kids got stung both in the water and on the beach. Jude actually still had one attached to his leg when he ran up to me and I had to pry it off. So fun!!

So note to self, when our stuff finally arrives and I have an actual beach bag, keep some vinegar in it for the Man 'o Wars. Hawaii has a learning curve.

One of the tricks with having so many kids is remembering to take care of yourself. I know "self care" is a big buzzword these days and usually involves lots of chatter about mommy pedicures and overnight hotel retreats. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about making sure each and every one of your children is fed ... and then realizing 3 hours later that you never fed yourself. Or, as in this case, lovingly applying sunscreen on all your offspring, only to arrive at the beach and discover you forgot to bring some for yourself. You know, basic mommy survival skills.

So we spent the whole day at the beach until everyone agreed they were ready to go, and then began the long trek back. The long trek made even longer but four small and tired children. Joci's legs stopped working before we even made it to the beach path. So I ended up carrying my toddler, the boogie boards, and the beach bag over my sunburnt shoulders the entire .6-but-felt-like-no-point-6 miles back. We made it. But let's just say mama has not attempted to walk to the beach with the kids since.

Another challenge I wasn't anticipating is that during these first few weeks of settling in (actually, make that months now) we spend so much time working on house projects and running errands for stuff we need, that we have no time for exploring the island. Everyone keeps reminding me that we have four years to get to know Hawaii better. But it's just a tad disheartening to know that most people accomplish more in their one week of vacation than we have in our nearly-2-months of living here.

Lanikai Beach with the Mokulua Islands in the background. Everyone tells me we have to watch the full moon rise between the Mokes, so it's now on the Hawaii bucket list!
So we've made it a point to put down the housework, step away from the tools, or put off the laundry a few hours longer and do something fun as a family on Sundays.

Rain or shine (or even super-windy before a tropical storm) we've been at the beach at least every weekend!

Bellows Beach--the other side of the Mokes!

They call this "the pool." It's funny how much they appreciate dirty back-water simply because they can stand in it and there are no waves.
After about 3 weeks of hamping, one of Jon's co-workers loaned us his third vehicle. It didn't have AC or carseats, and we couldn't drive it on base, but at least we had it around when we were in a pinch. I was excited to finally have the freedom to explore more and get out of the house with the kids. And then "Paradise Fever" hit the family. And we were right back to being stuck in the house.

But first, I need to go back. It was our little Jocelyn's third birthday on July 21st and I kinda forgot. Or not so much forgot, but just did not realize, it was coming up. When you live without a calendar and you have no commitments because you have no car, time just sorta runs together. So I kept telling myself I had time, because her birthday was at the end of the month. And the next thing I know, it's her birthday week and I have NOTHING planned. And no Marmie to bake a cake to bail us out.

You guys, she's such a fiery little thing and I hate that she just keeps growing up!
 I have no idea how or why, but she suddenly went from requesting a "Paw Patrol AND Frozen" cake for the last 4 months to simply wanting a "Hawaii flower," Yaaas! I can do that. So the Fantastic Four and I walked to the grocery store and spent a small fortune on birthday cake supplies. And in case you think I'm exaggerating about the local grocery store (me, exaggerate??), I snapped this picture of proof of the "Everyday!" low price on Life cereal.

So in going along with the our summer theme of "work with what you have," I made a flower birthday cake using a glass casserole dish and red serving platter, both on loan from our friend Cara. Only the best for our Omega Baby!

I actually had a whole list of birthday gift ideas on Amazon, but since I forgot about her birthday until a few days before, there wasn't time to order. So I made a late night trip to Target 15 minutes before they closed and grabbed a few junky toys off the clearance rack. I hated spending money on toys knowing that it wouldn't be long 'til she'd be reunited with all her fun stuff again. But the poor girl just HAD to open SOMETHING!

To make it up to her, we announced that we'd be taking the whole family to Sea Life Park for our fun experience that weekend. Cheers all around! Joci had requested to swim with the dolphins for her special treat, but after checking out the prices, we had to gently break the news that she just wasn't that special. It didn't really matter much anyway because by the time we pulled into the park, she was getting super-duper whiny.

She kept crying about being hungry. So we bought her a very cute and very expensive lunch and she refused to touch it. By now, I was getting annoyed. And when she practically ruined the dolphin show for me with all her moaning and fussing, I was kinda over it.

We made it through the rest of the park. And at least the other 75% of our kids seemed to have a fun time.

But after spending the final hour holding a screaming, crying baby, we decided it was time to head home. So we started walking towards the exit ... and that's when she threw-up on me. And not just ON me. Like, after it happened, I thought, "Phew, that's not so bad." And then I looked down into my shirt. Oh, there it is. Puddling in my bra. Try cleaning that out in a public restroom. We scratched our plans to visit a lighthouse and drove straight home.

And since this was hamping in a totally non-glamorous way, we used beach buckets for barfing and beach towels to ward off chills. Poor thing didn't even have a couch to sit on, so I ended up moving my air mattress out to the living room so I could keep an eye on her. And then this went on for days.

She wanted to help me label all the school supplies.
I thought this was just some 24-hour stomach bug. Oh no. By the fourth day, she had hardly eaten a thing, had kept down nothing, and hadn't urinated since early that morning. By the time I called the clinic they were closed. So they referred us to the Army hospital ER. But we had to wait until Jon got home since he had the car. (Also, he's our designated ER attendee.)

It was after 6pm by the time they left and after midnight by the time they returned. But thankfully they let her come home, because apparently they had discussed keeping her overnight. She was so dehydrated they had a lot of difficulty accessing her vein, which I'm sure was a traumatic event. And then they filled her up with two bags of IV fluids.

Of course, if you ask Joci about all this, she'll just tell you about "my pink hospital" (yes, the Army hospital is actually pink) and "my purple popsicle." And now all the kids are jealous and looking for an excuse to visit the "pink hospital" themselves.

My now 3YO baby slept with me that night. We cuddled up together on the single air mattress, and it didn't even matter. Because I knew that it was our last night on the air mattress. Assuming all went as planned, Tuesday was the day our household goods were arriving. My little girl was on the mend, my husband was about to have an actual day off of work, and in less than 24 hours, I'd be sleeping in my very own bed for the first time in 43 days--hooray!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Hamping it up

Usually, when you live in your home without any of your household goods, you say you're "camping out." But that's not really accurate, since the word "camping" doesn't usually conjure up working bathrooms and stove/ovens... or several rooms. But it's not "glamping" either, because personally, there's nothing glamorous about air mattresses and sleeping bags (especially in July in Hawaii.) So I think we need to go a bit further and create our own word to describe our experience these past four weeks--hamping. House camping.

Starting good habits of riding bikes in the house.

Don't even ask me how many times a day I have to say "Stop hanging on the counter!"

The one part of our new house that's "bigger"--the kitchen!
It goes without saying that there are many aspects of this move that I'd wish we'd done differently. Or rather, that I now know better for when we move out of Hawaii.

Remember that Advanced Shipment we sent out before Memorial Day in Maryland? Well that arrived on-island safe and sound and was delivered on Friday, July 1. Eight days after we had arrived and the timing was perfect. If we hadn't had that shipment, I'm not sure I could have pulled this off. When we were deciding what to send ahead back in May, we had no idea we'd be moving into our house early. Otherwise I would've packed very differently.

Dining room.


Girls' room.

Girls' closet. Overtime I open this I see the scene from "Pride and Prejudice": "Shelves in the closet, happy thought, indeed."

Boys' room. 

Not as many shelves in this closet, because apparently, it's meant to be actually used for hanging clothes.

Master Bedroom. This room is SMALL and it's also the hottest. Which is sad, because the master bedroom should not be the saddest room in the house.

Every day I look at this sink/cupboard combination and try and figure it out. And every day I just don't get it. Why not use a sink that is also a vanity? The world may never know.

Main bath. What you can't see is that there are no exhaust fans in these bathrooms. My boys think this is hilarious and like to lock their sisters in the bathroom when they are particularly "stinky."
But we did decide to send all our camping stuff, just in case we got tired of living in a hotel and wanted to get out in nature for a little while. I didn't actually go through our camping supplies--we just set the bins out to be packed up. But for the most part, it was enough to get by. We had one pot, one skillet, one kettle, plastic plates/bowls/cups/flatware, and cutting board. We also had our camping grill and my Blendtec blender.

This is our camping awning that we're using temporarily.

Our yard is a pretty decent size for living in town in Hawaii!

And we have a 2-car garage, which can be hard to find here!

You guys, I am trying to get into this whole "no shoes in the house thing." I know it's better. But now I just have a house full of muddy footprints.
For sleeping, everyone had a sleeping bag. Unfortunately, due to some mishaps, we were down to only one air mattress. And then we had three camping chairs. We had thrown in a folding table and chairs and our new patio table set that we had just purchased from Ikea (and kept flat-packed in the box.)  Originally, we were going to send our beach stuff ahead but since the shipment was going out right before our east coast beach trip, we decided to keep it back. But we did send our bikes--and having those for the kids was pretty much a game changer!

This child. I just can't.

We went from barely making it out of the driveway to riding loops around the neighborhood without training wheels in about 3 days!

My biggest kid.
So despite having some essentials, we still had to make several pricey Target runs. Pillows, for instance. They're not expensive. But when you multiply each pillow by 7 (because a certain family member requires two), it's a bit more than I'd rather spend on something we wouldn't even need in a few weeks. We also got each person a new beach towel and that was to be used for both recreational and essential drying needs. A cheap knife, some measuring cups and spoons, a mixing bowl and spatula...

This is how we brewed our coffee each morning. It tasted so good but took so much longer!

6 towels!

This is how I ironed--folding table, towel, and an iron we bought for Jon to use at work.

And this is how I cook bacon without a stove exhaust. I mean, it's Hawaii. Why would you not want a stove exhaust? The world may never know.
In short, it was enough to "get by," but not exactly easy-living. Thankfully, because Hawaii is truly a "small world," the sister of a friend I went to college with (and who married on of Jon's best friends from high school) is also living here and she not only dropped by to say hello and introduce herself, but also came with a box full of kitchen things, extra towels, and sheets. I gotta say, more than anything, I was most excited about the sheets. Sleeping bags are not my jam. Ew.

We're still adjusting to geckos in the house. 

And cockroaches everywhere. I think it may take the full 4 years to adjust actually.
The first few days of "hamping" went fairly well. The kids had lots of new things to keep them occupied. We're not used to this whole 2-car garage + large/flat driveway deal, so our new MO became wake up, open the garage, and ride bikes around for a few hours. I had to go out and by some new pajamas just so I could be dressed appropriately for sipping coffee and watching kids on the front stoop by 7am. Speaking of the front stoop--we quickly realized we needed some comfortable seating for the many hours we would be spending out there. I had my heart set on rocking chairs. We've never had a front porch before and although this doesn't quite fit the bill, this small bit of Pennsylvania farm charm warms my heart!

I always thought the best set-up was a window over the kitchen sink facing the backyard. But a kitchen window overlooking the driveway seems to work much better here!

It rains here pretty much every day.

Making a animal habitat out of packing material.
As is typical, everything seems to go wrong when you move into a house. Even though our lease started in mid-June, we had told our landlords that we weren't moving in until July. So they didn't quite have everything ready. That was okay. But within our first few days we noticed that the fridge was leaking, and that it had been leaking for a long time, and that the wood side panels around the fridge were now covered in mold. *shudder* Mold is kinda a given here in hot, humid Hawaii. But I'm still new. So I'm just gonna go ahead and let myself be grossed out.

More fun with packing materials!

It's a Coast Guard helicopter! We're not used to living so close to Coast Guard action--it's pretty fun!
The leak was caused by the water hose and we had to turn off the water to the fridge (and the new replacement fridge does not have a water hose) so now we no longer have a filtered water dispenser or automatic ice maker. Which makes me a little sad. Because it's hot, humid Hawaii and mama likes her ice. But after making our own for the past several weeks and filtering our own water, I can say it's not really so bad and I'm no longer worried about losing hours of my time each week to making ice and filtering water. Just call me an overcomer.

First real meal in our house--Mango Chicken Salads. They were sooo good, but even better after weeks and weeks of not cooking!

Speaking of overcoming. Let's talk about air conditioning. Houses in Hawaii, especially older ones and ones on this side of the island, generally don't have AC. First, electricity is much more expensive here. And second, when it's breezy it's actually quite pleasant. It's just the days that it is not breezy that are borderline unbearable.

FaceTiming with our favorite Spicy Family! Gosh we miss our BFFs!

You can just imagine how smoothly FaceTiming with 8 kids goes...

After weeks of sitting on folding chairs, we were all just dying to relax on a couch!
Personally, I'm a huge fan of this set-up (at least for most of the time.) I love breezes and keeping windows open and not being shut up in some artificial box of artificially chilled air. It's nice, because I can hear my kids everywhere--outside or inside. Although I can also hear my neighbors, and what music they're listening to or what movie they're watching (and smell what they're having for dinner!) And when you consider our spicy family, I'm sure they're hearing a lot more of us.

When you really like the taste of your sister's My Little Pony toothpaste but don't like the picture on the front--duct tape!

The neighbors dog keeps coming over. I have no idea why.

This is our neighbor. She's really attached to her dog.
But like I said, there have been some unbearably hot days. So our first major purchase was a portable AC unit for our room. Sorry kids, you'll just have to deal. Our landlords decided to upgrade the one AC window unit in the main part of the house. And they paid big bucks to have a professional install it and professionally build out one of these ancient louvered windows. It wasn't until it was all said and done that we all realized the unit's plug was not compatible with the nearest outlet.

Playing [I have no idea] with whatever we can find in the house!

This girl, she's got a pose for everything these days.
And so then we had to have an electrician come in and build a new outlet closer to the unit. But thankfully, we now have this shiny, new AC unit that I'm scared to death to use because I have no idea what it will do to our power bill!

Ah yes, power. In order to save on electricity, many houses here use solar panels. They're expensive and the waitlist can be several years long. So often people will just get them for their water. Which is what we have. But since the landlord's weren't ready for us, the solar panels weren't flushed/turned on/whatever it is that needs done. And since we're living on "Hawaii time" now, it was at least two weeks before the solar panel tech guy could finally find time to make it out to our house. So for our first two weeks, we didn't have hot water.

She begged for a tubby our first day here... and then drew all over the walls. Making ourselves right at home!
Well, sorta. There is a way to override the solar and heat water with electric (for overcast days), but it takes about 30 minutes to heat up. And then it automatically shuts off after a few hours. Let's just say, as a mother of four, I don't exactly schedule my showers, laundry, or dishes 30 minutes ahead of time. Or I will, and then something will come up, and by the time I get around to it, the water is back to being cold. It was an experience to be sure. But it's been so hot that cold showers weren't really a problem anyway!

Playing with the hose ... While it's raining.

We love sitting out here ... when it's not raining.
And then there are the typical adjustments with moving into a new house. Jon and I hardly slept a wink that first night. Between trying to sleeping with the windows and doors wide open in a neighborhood that is completely unfamiliar ... and trying to identify all the weird sounds and new lights, it was hard to relax. Also, the curtains that came with our house are rather, er, questionable. Some are mildewy, others are ripped, and all are stained. Most don't even fit the windows, but since you want the breeze to flow through, you don't really close the curtains anyway. So while it gets dark a little earlier here (before 8pm), the sun is up before 6am ... and therefore, so are my kids.

Front porch views.

It's hard not to move into a hew house and just see all the things that need done. We need new curtain rods in all the rooms, new curtains, shelves here, shelves there, the patio needs power-washed and refinished, the laundry room would look so much better if the floor was painted. The can lights needs spray painted. The closet doors need painted. The back patio needs some sort of shade. We need plants! Can we build our own Bermuda shutters for the front windows? Replace all the shower heads! Replace all the fans! Build more shelves for the closets!

I'll just stop there. Because there's this tension between, this isn't our house and we don't want to dump too much money into something that will give us no return and, we have to live here for the next four years, let's try to make this as comfortable as possible!

No TV for 6 months! So we watched movies on the laptop.

We've been on a quest for the perfect after-church brunch restaurant. TripAdvisor led us to this interesting establishment. Let's just say, I don't think they have building codes in Hawaii. 
So yes, this has been our earliest experiences in our house. We spend most of our free time doing projects and then forcing ourselves to take a break and do something Hawaii-esque--gotta take advantage of living here somehow! But those first few weeks of camping weren't all about the house. There were children involved too. And next time, I'll tell you all about entertaining children in an empty house with no car. Until then!
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