Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sentimental Settlement

So here's the thing. They say that Instagram has killed blogging. And that may be true. But for me the problem is a bit more broader. It isn't just the ease and efficiency of posting quick stories on Instagram that makes it more and more difficult to sit and write a lengthy blog post, but just the camera-phone itself. I take soooo many pictures with my phone because it's always there and at-the-ready. Actually typing up a blog post is kinda easy (mainly because I just ramble and don't think too much about what I want to say), but the hard work is sifting through all my photos, deleting the poor ones, and deciding which of the other ones I want to upload and add to the blog. A task only made more difficult by interrupting children and technological glitches.

But God bless the camera phone because I don't generally drag the big camera to Cub Scouts meetings and without it I would have missed this capture!
I should also add here that my faithful DSLR has been suffering some serious neglect since we arrived in Hawaii. Not just because it's inconvenient. But between the wind and rain and sand ... I hardly bring it out of the house anymore. So family, if you're looking for a Christmas gift idea, perhaps a rainproof/windproof/sandproof camera bag would be a good idea.

We returned the car we were borrowing from one of Jon's co-workers. The kids said they lived at the end of the rainbow.

Evening beach jaunts--how I keep my sanity when Jon is traveling.
But all image-capturing dilemmas aside, there's one other roadblock to my wordsmithing and that would be reading. I try to read in seasons, because I know how easily I can allow a book to consume me. But it's also nice to have something relaxing to do in the evenings before bed. So, knowing Jon would be traveling this week, I purposely chose to re-read (for the third time) a book that I knew would be entertaining, but that I figured I could also easily put down and thus not interfere with the rest of my life.

So I pulled out the "Mark of the Lion" series and well, oops. Despite having read it twice before (I think before I was married), it's still just as good as ever. So sorry blog, but I was momentarily transported from the sandy beaches of Hawaii to the sandy arenas in Rome and Ephesus. And also, if you haven't read the books before, I highly recommend them.

So here we are, 6 weeks after move-in date and I'm trying hard to remember what it was like to live in this house after the crates arrived.

Needless to say, it is overwhelming.

But I'm getting better! This is only our fourth military move (and that includes the DIY move we did a few blocks away in Virginia Beach.) So we're not exactly the most seasoned military family. But we've done it enough to know what to expect.

We expect the house to be a disaster for a while. We expect a few things to end up broken. We expect to go through a period of time where it feels like not everything will fit and it will never feel like home. We expect to get rid of some things. We expect to still have to buy some things. And we expect the whole "settling" process to take some time.

Therefore, the entire move was as we expected. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite all of the above, the move was, in general, quite smooth.

My mom made her famous Chex Mix for Jon and I the week we were moving out of the Maryland house. Days later, after we were back in PA preparing to fly to Hawaii, we realized we hadn't seen the Chex Mix container in a while. Lo and behold, it turned up in a box of kitchen towels here in Hawaii! (And surprisingly just as fresh and tasty as always!)
It's always nice when dolls and doll clothes are one of the first things to be unpacked!
We've heard all the horror stories--stuff getting stolen, boxes or large items getting mixed up and delivered to the wrong state/family, whole crates getting "lost" and never to be found again, water gushing out of crates once they're cracked open... I was bracing myself for the worst. But everything arrived at once.

Well I should say, everything we intended to arrive. (There are a few items that intentionally never made it onto the truck but that our kids think got dropped in the ocean or something.) We ended up with a few broken items--a glass bottle Jon used to collect change, our two model ships that were packed by themselves in a box labeled "fragile" but then somehow ended up under Jon's kettleball.

The girls' yard sale play kitchen got damaged while being packed, so we knew before we left the mainland. It's currently functioning with a healthy amount of duck tape. But I think the biggest disappointment was the couch. It arrived just fine, was carried into the living room and then (apparently) "roughly" set down. The back support snapped and is now protruding out through the fabric. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't directly facing the front door. In fact, it rather conveniently acts as a door stop.

Other than the fact that it looks bad and could be potentially harmful to small children, the couch still functions normally. So we're just deciding if we want to replace it, and therefore invest in new furniture while living in an area of unkind elements. Or just deal with it for the next 4 years. Jury is still out.

Anyhoo, back to living in a house of box towers. So we always choose to unpack ourselves. One time we let the movers unpack for us, and it was nice to have everything out and all the boxes and paper taken away at once. But I personally found it more distressing to have all our stuff just lying around waiting to be put in its proper place. And I can only imagine how having four kids would exacerbate that feeling. So we systematically unpack as we go ... and I always start with the kitchen.

It's rather nice that our current kitchen has a very similar layout to our previous one. So I kept most of the cupboards the same. The biggest difference is I don't have a pantry here, but I do have additional cabinet space. And of course, some cabinets are bigger than their predecessors and others are smaller. So it's a bit like solving a puzzle. I finally got everything put away in its proper place ... and then discovered an entire lazy susan cabinet that was completely empty. So I'm sure there'll be some re-working in the future.

We're just re-discovering all our forgotten toys and furniture!
Moving helps you discover your vices. I learned that mine are dishes. I had thought I'd leave behind my blue and white china, milk glass vases, and blue glass. But we ran out of time (and room) to take things to our parents' for storage. So we brought them all along. And then they stayed in boxes for a few weeks until I could figure out what to do with them. Because this is what happens when you move out of a house with window sills, a mantel, and built-ins into a house with nothing.

Jon's vices are books and Coast Guard paraphernalia. I'm sure you're surprised. You'd think that books would be my problem. I put most of mine in storage and only brought the ones that I thought I'd want to read or reference over the next four years. Jon put a few of his in storage and then brought boxes and boxes of the rest. Apparently he's planning to do a lot of research on politics and the middle east while we're here. Hmmm.

That black and white blur in the top right corner is a bird. And this is not the first (or second) time we've had a bird in the house. Too many doors + too many children.
And then there's all that nautical tchotchke we've collected over the last few years. You all know what happened to the model ships. And a number of other things got taken to Jon's work because (yay!) he actually has a real office now. He then went out to Target and bought two bookcases and that simultaneously provided book storage plus a shelf for glass. And also a cupboard for my office stuff--because I no longer have a desk area.

In fact, storage has been going so well that we actually have a few empty areas--like a cabinet in the office, drawers in the guest room, and baskets in the living room. Not that we need any more stuff, but it's nice to know we still have room to grow!

Not pictured: me washing the car while she sat and watched.
We pretty much got everything unpacked within a few days. And it only took another week or two to finish off the final boxes of all that stuff I just mentioned. The only thing left to do at this point is hang stuff on the wall. Normally we try to knock this out right away, but we've been faced with two challenges this month. First, Jon (the official wall-hanger/hammer-wielder) has been on two separate trips and hasn't had much time to help around the house. And second, these cement block walls. While I feel quite safe during hurricane season, I'm none too pleased that we can't just drive a nail into our walls. I'm a firm believer in finding a way around anything, so until we figure out that route, most of our walls remain blank and most of our guest room is just piles of wall art.

(And before you mention Command hooks, we do have some, and they "may" work. But I'm afraid to trust them with breakable items because we have textured walls + an insane amount of humidity.)

Other than the kitchen, I think the only room that is officially complete is the boys' room. And I haven't taken a picture of it yet because it's always a mess. Okay, not always. We make them clean it up, but it never stays that way long enough for me to take a photo.

Those Hawaii rain showers.
Oh, and the patio. You guys, if a patio could gross you out it was this one. It smelled like a fish tank, because there was literally algae growing on the cement. And then there was all the hidden rusty staples that my girls' toes found our first week. Also, it isn't covered. An uncovered patio in rainy Hawaii isn't much fun. The rainstorms are usually quick, but then all your outdoor furniture is wet. But I am happy to says we have transformed the space completely, and it all started with a power washer. More pictures to come when the entire house is clean and I get the big camera out.

Sneak peak of patio improvements. Make me gag!
We're trying our hand at gardening ... again.
But enough about the house already. The moving truck arrival was the start of a new season for us ... and a busy one at that! Three days after move-in, we celebrated the Coast Guard's Birthday on base. Here's the thing you guys. Hawaii has some amazing beaches and weather and mountains and hikes and views. But you know what just might be my very favorite thing about this duty station? The people. Everyone we've met here is so kind and so generous. Community is very, very strong here in the Aloha State. For the first time ever, we actually have a lot of Coast Guard friends (and neighbors!) And lots of military friends in general. And we have school friends and MOPS friends and we're working on church friends... There is so much to do here and there are so many people to do it with--I think that's what makes Hawaii so special.

Rock climbing wall at the Coast Guard Base.

She made it like 3 feet.
A water slide that ended in a literal mud bath. This was their favorite activity, obvs.
And speaking of things to do, our first weekend with our stuff was also our last weekend before school started. It was hard, but we purposely walked away from all the boxes and tasks to do something fun as a family. Our original plan was to hike the Pillboxes but it had just rained recently and after passing several people, covered in mud, suggesting we turn back ... we did just that. (Jon and the boys have since done the hike and I'm a tad envious of their experience!!)

Not a bad family trail. Uphill the entire time, but at least it was all paved!

Instead we drove a little bit further down the coast to visit the Mokapu'u Lighthouse. It was an easy walk (although entirely uphill) and had gorgeous views. The kids did fairly well (Joci was on Jon's back and Julia ended up in my arms for 2/3s of the way back down.) And it afforded us a few good hours of family time.

After climbing that tall mountain, the little lighthouse was a tad anti-climactic. 

Monday was a big day because it was the first day of school! Yes, we started on August 1st this year. It's a little strange, starting school in the middle of summer. But it's kinda summer all the time here. And I was very thankful this year to get started on our fall routine a little early after months of living in limbo.

When I ask Jude for a picture, he stands very still and smiles for a photo.

When I ask Jack for a picture, he runs away.

And then I have to be all sneaky with the camera and this is the best I can get.

I don't even ask Julia for a picture, she asks me. Girlfriend, it's not even your first day of school.
The boys LOVE school. Heck, I love this school. I mean, it's cute enough to be in a movie. And both boys are doing well so far! 

There are rainbows over the school parking lot, the principal stands outside to greet the parents every morning, the 6th graders do the Whip/Nae Nae as they direct traffic, and unicorns play out back during recess.  (Okay, so that last one may be a slight exaggeration.)
Our biggest adjustment is homework, specially 2nd grade homework. Some evenings it seems like a lot. But maybe that's just because trying to tag team homework between two boys, during dinner prep and the witching hour, IS a lot. But it does get done. Because when everything is done and I sign off on Jack's agenda, he gets to "clip up." And Jack is all about the "clipping up" and earning gems and getting to pick out an extremely fragile piece of junk from the "treasure box."

That's not a cage, that's a gate to keep the unicorns in.

Here's a picture of Jack [not allowing me to take a picture] standing by his desk!
Unfortunately, during our second week of school "island fever" hit the family. I just made that name up. But there's something not entirely right about being sick, in August, while living in paradise. Or missing school the second week, for that matter. And as illness usually works in our family, the children fell like dominoes.

Just enough energy to shuffle Legos around on the couch.

A week after recovery from that pretty terrible stomach flu, she got hit with a new kinda flu.
Medical staff love when I walk into their offices with all my children.

We stumbled upon a free carnival after leaving the doctor's office and suddenly everyone forgot they were supposed to be sick!
Because what appeared to be a 48 hour fever for each kid, ended up being nearly two weeks of "being down" as a family. I'd say it was annoying because we couldn't really do anything or go anywhere. But I still didn't have my car at this point. So we weren't do things and going places anyway.

Grocery run sans vehicle. We have to save money on gas so we can afford $7 boxes of cereal.
In fact, it all felt very appropriate. We were officially settling in now. We had all our stuff. We all built up our immunity at once. And our minivan was supposedly making it's way west FOR REAL THIS TIME. Yes, it's all starting to feel a bit more like home.
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