Unpacked

I talked to a good friend last night. I last saw her in June at her new house. She had been there for three months and was still slowly unpacking boxes, one at a time, putting things exactly where she thought she’d want them to be for the next decade of her anticipated residency there. It made perfect sense to me, but later I thought about it and realized that I had no such luxury. If it took me 3 months or longer to unpack, I would never have a chance to enjoy that “settled in” feeling before I needed to start weeding out accumulated stuff and getting ready for the next move.

Two weeks ago today, the truck pulled up and delivered our stuff. Two days ago, Bill hung the last curtain, and we hauled the last of the boxes from the main living areas. We’re not “done” – the swing set needs to be assembled, the basement room I’ve decided to use for school is a huge mess, and I need to set up a playroom in the basement as soon as the foam padding I ordered gets here (tomorrow). There are some boxes in my closet that I need to sort, and there is some furniture that I want to paint, but now we’re dealing with the usual, never-ending list of things that I want to do…sometime…before I die. I don’t think anyone is ever “done” – perhaps in between projects, but never “done.”

Yesterday, Bill put on his uniform for the first time in five weeks. He signed up for an in-processing slot, tried to touch base with a few contacts and came home. Rough first day back at work, huh? He headed out a bit ago to go to his in-processing appointment, and will be home by lunch time, and he just may be done at that point. In-processing is expected to take up to two whole days, but he’s already done a number of the things covered: get our cars registered on post, get the dog in the on-post vet’s system, transfer all our health insurance information to this different regional system. Once he’s done with all of that, he’ll be free to do whatever he wants (within the local area) until August 7th when he needs to pick up his school books.

I’m enjoying every minute of his time off work, but I think he’s ready to get back to a normal routine. I think perhaps the Army is less demanding than I am. On Monday afternoon, Billy asked him what his plans were, and he said he was hanging curtains, “because Mommy loves curtains, and hates Daddy.” Actually, Mommy loves curtains, and hates the old, yellowed and patched roll-up shades covering every window in this house. And Daddy just happens to be a superb curtain hanger, using fancy tools like a level and a tape measure to get things just right. I prefer to eyeball it, and really don’t care if the left side is a quarter inch lower than the left, since I can’t see up that high anyway.

And I won’t be living here for a decade.

And now on to establishing new routines, new habits, new schedules. Which will last approximately 3 months when the new baby will decide that the whole known universe needs to conform to his/her preferred way of doing things. I think our big goal this year will be focusing on working independently.

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Acclimation and re-acclimation

TV and radio stations begin with the letter “K”. I think, but I’m not positive, that America’s favorite carbonated beverage is called “pop” around here. And if the latest breaking headlines will be on at “eight-seven Central,” we’re in that Central time zone. Bill may actually be able to watch some Monday Night Football for a change.

If a sign says “left lane closed ahead,” cars in the left start to move over right away. And cars in the right actually let them. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to get anywhere, but it’s because of the distance, not the traffic. I’m convinced that parking spaces around here are wider to accommodate the requisite big pickup truck or SUV.

I’ve yet to see a store open 24/7, and the locals aren’t up in arms over that fact. Stores are smaller and with fewer options. For the first time in my adult life, I bought American cheese that was yellow, because there was no white American cheese available.

Most of my Midwest living was as a child, but that’s where my heart is. Sure, I learned how to drive in Jersey and city streets and traffic don’t bother me. Sure, I fought my way through that hustle-bustle busy-ness that defines East Coast living and survived. Sure, I lived in a highly competitive and comparative environment where parents enrolled their children in enrichment programs from birth, sought the best preschools to give their children the edge for kindergarten, and kept the pressure up throughout their school years in order to get them into the best colleges, and I figured out how to balance that attitude with what was better for my family. If I have my family around me, I can be happy anywhere. But I think I can be happier here. Or at least more at ease.

I will admit that I am frustrated by rural shopping. The local stores are sufficient for most daily needs, and I’ll earn to live with yellow cheese, but there are a few items I’d like that I’d prefer a big selection: curtains, area rugs, stuff like that. It was nice to live close to many competing chains who had to offer a wide variety to draw people in. It was nice to go to huge grocery stores with 20 different international cheeses and whole aisles dedicated to imported specialty items (OK, I didn’t have that in Virginia, but I did in NJ). And it was nice to have the option of shopping late at night.

But I’m sure I’ll adapt. I’ll reorder my life in such a way that these things don’t bother me much. And I’ll continue to use online shopping for that 24/7 convenience and for a greater selection. And just when I’ve gotten used to this way of life, again, I’ll move right back to DC and have to relearn how to hurry up and keep busy.

Home, Sweet Chaotic Home

I don’t understand why people with wireless internet for their home don’t lock it to avoid other people from sapping their speed. I don’t understand it, but I am very grateful. Thank you, stranger, for making my web-surfing possible.

We got to Kansas without incident on Monday and picked out a house. I’m glad we didn’t wait much longer. Even though school doesn’t start for the soldiers for another month, most people seem to be getting here early, setting up house and taking vacation. There are only a few houses left in this neighborhood, and in another week or so, had we chosen to come that late, we probably would not have a choice. Not that there’s much choice, really. They’re all basically the same, with only personal improvements made by previous tenants. Some have nicer landscaping. Some have minor interior improvements. Ours has a room in the basement with linoleum flooring over the painted concrete and seven hooks hanging on the wall in the staircase going down. The seven hooks sealed the deal for the kids – we HAD to move in, it was MADE for us. For me, the room with the linoleum was a bonus. I think we’ll set up a school room down there.

Perhaps the best thing about the house is the location. Bill’s school is right here. The parking lots he would use if he had to drive are no closer than our front door. The grocery store on post (commissary) and gas station and, most importantly, the Class VI (where they sell the booze) are all very close. Our street is quiet, except for the sounds of children, especially boys engaged in light saber fights. Our back yard abuts a large communal property which is grassy and shaded and has a treehouse.

I’m certain we will be happy here.

While Bill signed the lease on the house, I called the transportation office with our new address to arrange delivery of our household goods. They told me next Monday, the 16th. I took that disappointing news with my usual stoicism, but resolved to go to the office in person the following morning to try to finagle something else (it was late afternoon, it was brutally hot, and I had 5 kids and a dog crammed in the van – now was not the time).

Another of the soldiers in the lease signing meeting happened to get the house right across the street from us. As we both got to our new homes around the same time, Bill overheard the neighbor bragging about how his wife went to transportation in person and managed to get a delivery of their stuff for the very next day. “You’ve got to go down there,” he told me. “I’m planning to,” I replied. “Wear that blue shirt,” he suggested. The blue shirt is a very fashionable one which happens to accentuate my, um, hormonally enhanced chest. I remarked that it may be a woman who helped me, but he felt that I looked cutely pregnant as well, and the shirt would “work” for any gender. So, yes, my husband blatantly suggested I flaunt my pregnant sex appeal in an effort to get our stuff delivered early.

As an aside, while at the zoo last week, we saw the hippos. They have a window where you can watch them swim. “They look so graceful,” Bill remarked. I think the husbands of pregnant women have a skewed idea of graceful and sexy.

But I did wear the blue shirt, and I did go down there first thing Tuesday morning, and I did get our delivery moved to the very next day.

And now, I am living with boxes as my main element of decoration. I slept in my own bed, although it didn’t help much with my lower back which I think I strained yesterday. I am getting old. The telephone and cable people come today, so I’ll have my own internet connection and won’t have to live off the generosity of others. And I really hope to get my kitchen unpacked so we can eat simple, but homecooked, food for the first time in a while.

But now I’m off to a place called The Daily Grind. I used the very last of my coffee to make a weak half-pot for Bill and I, and we need something a bit better to get through the day.

Riding in cars with boys and girls

It was close to dinner time yesterday, and we were still about an hour away from our destination. I looked over at Bill and said, “So tell me…I died, and this is Purgatory, right?” It couldn’t have been Hell. I still had tremendous Hope that the misery would end…eventually.

Wednesday morning at breakfast, Jenny turned her big, beautiful eyes on me and asked, “What will Daddy and you do when we’re all grown up?”

For starters, we will not take long car trips with children under the age of 5.

Jenny spent every waking moment yesterday complaining. I did not think it was possible for a child so young to be able to keep up a grouchy mood for so long. Surely, I thought, she’ll just give up and fall asleep. But no, from sun up to sun down was a continuous monologue about how unhappy she was.

Imagine: I’m hungry. (inhale) I’m hungry. (inhale) I’m hungry. (inhale)

Attempting to offer snacks simply generated fifteen minutes of frustration while she expressed her displeasure about the available options and listed all sorts of choices available to someone with a fully stocked kitchen, but not readily accessible to those trapped inside a 12 passenger van.

The next hour might have been I want to watch something else over and over again as all four of her siblings happily watched a new video. The promise that she could pick the next video did not pacify her, although the promise that if she didn’t cut out the complaining would guarantee that she would not pick out the next video bought us about 20 minutes of quiet.

Of course, we did our best to ignore her, but we’re not deaf, and by dinner time the persistent little stream of annoyance had eroded every last bit of civility in my normally doting mother’s heart.

They say we’ll miss these days. Hmmm.

Right now, Bill is at the hotel pool with the older three, and Jenny and Peter are concluding their much needed naps. We’ve been to the top of the Arch and inside the Old Cathedral today. If good moods prevail, we may go to the zoo which is open until 7 pm. The one good thing about having little ones is that budgeting only 2 hours for the zoo or any other museum or venture is realistic. We know we won’t see it all, but that’s ok, we know better than to try to.

Here’s one thing I just don’t get. The Old Courthouse near the Arch is where the Dred Scott decision was made. They are “commemorating” the 150th anniversary of this ruling. Why? I’m all for remembering just how stupid judges can be, lest we forget and make the same mistakes again. {Ah, who am I kidding? We don’t learn…and Roe v. Wade is proof.} But the air around the courthouse seems to make the Dred Scott ruling a cause for celebration.

Perhaps, someday, when my kids are all grown up, I’ll be able to stop in at exhibits like that and see why they want to keep the horrid memory alive. For now, though, I’ll offer up all my suffering for the conversion of those who consider other people to be of less worth than they. That may be the only thing that helps Jenny reach her fourth birthday.

Happy Independence Day

From rain soaked Columbus, Ohio.

We had a lovely day at a local park with my brother, sister-in-law and niece before the deluge. My uncle and aunt even drove down from Louisville, Ohio to see us. I hadn’t seen my uncle and aunt since Peter’s baptism (they are his godparents), but I have been happiest to see my brother and his family. The last time I saw them was over three years ago when their daughter and Jenny were infants.

Our time here in Ohio is too short. We leave tomorrow for St. Louis, where we plan to spend four nights. I’m not sure if we’ll make it there with our sanity still intact. Jenny and Petey have been most out of sorts, and even the older kids are a bit…touchy. It’s a bit rough, emotionally, to be homeless, to not have your stuff, to not be able to run around like a lunatic since you’re living in a hotel and your parents think you ought to be respectful of other people who just might not be interested in your antics.

As for me, I miss my mattress terribly. I never sleep well on other beds. And it’s possible, with all the packing and hauling around of boxes and other things, that I pulled something in my back. I’m just not comfortable.

But despite the short tempers, the achy back, the clingy little ones, and the bickering older ones, I am enjoying this time together. I’m loving this adventure, where I have no forwarding address (yet), no schedule to keep, and minimal guilt about late bedtimes, late wakeups, and poor nutrition on the part of us all. It’s just one week, and we’ll be back to a new state of normal soon enough.

And as for all the little highlights of my life in the last three days – and there have been many interesting goings-on – I’ll never get all the details down, and won’t even try. We did manage to leave town without too much trouble (just a last minute discovery of two kitchen cupboards the packers overlooked!), and our drive to Ohio through that narrow section of Maryland between Pennsylvania and Virginia/West Virginia was picturesque and blessedly uneventful, although quite slow given that our van is towing our other car. Besides just hanging out with family, I had the pleasure of spending a few hours on Sarah‘s farm, which just happens to be a kids’ paradise: big yard, trampoline, toys, barn, livestock, minimal traffic, and bologna in the fridge. What more could a kid need?

It’s a top priority of mine to get Pete some naps while we’re in St. Louis. Hopefully, this will also give me a chance to do some blogging. We’ll see. Another top priority is actually using my camera. I want to kick myself that I didn’t get it out even once while seeing my family and have no pictures to prove that we actually spent time with my niece during her childhood. Of course, having a cranky toddler or a clingy preschooler constantly in my lap or pulling on my leg might have had something to do with distracting me from photo-journalistic opportunities.

And now, with all the kids and even the dog asleep, I head to bed myself.

No snoozing

Somewhere in my bedroom…

…in a buried box…

…taped shut…

…is my alarm clock.

This alarm clock has a feature that you can turn it “off” for the day, but it will still be set for the next day. It apparently also has another handy feature that the backup battery will power the alarm even in a power failure, or, in my case, even if unplugged and packed in a taped box buried somewhere in your bedroom.

I don’t mind getting up this early. I usually get up after one snooze cycle anyway. But what is truly amusing: not only did I have to nudge my husband and wake him to advise him that the annoying sound he was hearing was not going to stop any time soon, but his response was to mutter something about hoping it didn’t keep on for too long as he snuggled deeper into his pillow and successfully managed to ignore the noise.

And he’s still there, sleeping away. And the alarm has an Energizer battery, I’m sure of it.