Valentine’s Day

My sister’s children sent us inexpensive pre-done valentines – the kind you get at any drug store. One of them came with a small tattoo. My girls have placed their tattoos on their ankles.

Oh, how I long for the days of my youth when the only tattoos I knew about were on the biceps of brawny sailors or scary motorcycle men, and my knowledge of them was gained through TV and movies and not real life.


For the first time ever, my husband took the early shift with Mary and let me stay in bed. She was most unhappy. “Daddy, go back to bed,” she ordered. In his defense, he was deployed for 6 months and our last house had a master bedroom right off the living area. Since I’m naturally an early riser, sleeping while people are talking (or babies are screaming) right outside my door is impossible. Last night I made sure my iTouch was charged and in my room. Not only did I get an extra 90 minutes of sleep, I got to check email and headlines without interruption. That’s a lovely Valentine’s Day gift.


Yesterday, my husband anchored our living room bookcases to the wall, and we unpacked the boxes of books and the knick-knacks that were on the bookshelves. When I saw that the packer had wrapped a small porcelain rose in a single piece of paper, I knew things didn’t look good for my larger porcelain rose grouping. Sure enough, a single piece of paper was used to protect this one as well. The small rose survived; the larger grouping was destroyed.

Other victims included my statue of St. Nicholas, now with an amputated arm, and my favorite statue of Mary, armless, handless, and decapitated. I’ve googled and been unable to find statues like these, so if you have any clues, let me know. The bodies are wood, the capes are metal and the arms and head are porcelain. Not only do I want to replace them, I want to claim their cost with the moving company.

While every move incurs some damage, this is over the top. I had more paper around inexpensive drinking glasses than I did around those flowers. It makes me mad. It’s not the attachment to the things as much as it is the complete disregard for my belongings. The flowers are irreplaceable. Bill gave them to me in the early 90’s when we were dating, and they aren’t made any more. I don’t want to replace them anyway. Bill has learned: you don’t give knick-knacks to an Army wife, especially not ones that break. I’ll take the money we get for them and buy a cookbook. Hardback. Useful and sturdy.


Speaking of cookbooks, with Lent approaching, I’m planning a menu and heading to the grocery store today. I like to go meatless for Lent, which doesn’t really fly in this house. I tend to make meals like tacos where everyone can have meat, but I use beans. This year, though, I’m determined to subject them to more meatless meals. I don’t know why, but they don’t like soup. Too bad. I’ll make bread or rolls, so they can fill up on that if they don’t want what I’m serving. For inspiration, I’m digging into two of Brother Victor-Antoine d’AvilaLatourrette’s books: From a Monastery Kitchen: The Classic Natural Foods Cookbook and Simplicity from a Monastery Kitchen. I do not own his Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, but maybe I’ll take the St. Nicholas and Blessed Virgin blood money and buy it. Most of the recipes in these books are simple. All are meatless.

PCS Move Part V

At the end of the work day, the packers leave your home a maze of boxes. They also leave their packing supplies behind, which gives you an opportunity to pack a box or two of things they refuse to touch.

This is the second time we’ve had movers who won’t pack up alcohol. The last time, they wouldn’t touch the wine or the liquor. This time, the wine was ok, but the booze was not. We have about a hundred pounds a few bottles of alcohol that I wrapped and boxed last night.

Also left behind were any liquids in my pantry, even if they were factory sealed. A bottle of cooking oil, vanilla and almond extract, rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce. These things add up in weight and volume and cost. I am unwilling to give away that much of my pantry staples, so I wrapped them up too.

On one move, I didn’t check the kitchen cupboards until long after the truck left. The packer missed a big lower cabinet that held all my tupperware and all my cookbooks. So I try not to wait until the last minute to check for missed items. Sure enough, last night I found a skipped drawer that held my measuring spoons and cups. I could have pointed it out to the packer today, but these light objects helped fill one of the very heavy boxes full of liquor.

Before I went to bed, I remembered they hadn’t yet gotten to the bathroom and there are tons of things in there they will reject. Right after my shower, I will box them up, too. I think I’ll have three self-packed boxes when I’m done which I will slip in with the others.

Lastly, the movers will not take anything flammable or explosive. This includes innocuous items like kitchen matches and cooking spray and more obvious items like propane tanks (even empty ones). If the truck took these items, they would have to follow procedures for transporting dangerous materials, which is a hassle. Although it seems like a good idea, I’m sure sneaking that Pam spray into a box violates all sorts of laws. Therefore, I, being the scrupulously law-abiding citizen that I am, would never do such a thing.

PCS Move Part IV

The packers are coming in two hours, if they are on time (more likely 3 or 4).

Naturally, I have paced myself over the last few weeks, and everything is good to go. I’m relaxing and having a nice cup of coffee before taking up another chapter in War and Peace which should kill the time until they get here.

Yeah, right.

My main goal has been to put things away, which makes sense, but it has also been to “think like a packer.” That means realizing that everything located within one room (or nearby rooms) will likely get packed together. Now sometimes this makes sense. You do want all the books on the bookshelf packed together. But perhaps you happen to keep a jar of rosaries on the bookshelf as well. You may or may not want them together, especially if you want the rosaries, but you have left the 85 boxes of books as lower priority in unpacking. It’s not easy digging through 85 boxes to find the one you want, but moving the rosaries to another area may make finding them easier.

This theory really comes into play when you have, for convenience, put things in different rooms of your house. For example, school books are not necessarily consolidated because some books, mainly history, might be read anywhere. Or you may have, for lack of wall space, hung decorations in bathrooms or halls or odd spots that you would not necessarily choose to repeat in another home. Or you may have stored things, like tablecloths and cookbooks and your entire liquor inventory, in cabinets and shelves in the living room because your kitchen was too small.

So, I’ve been feverishly working to put apples with apples, so to speak. And I’m almost done and very pleased. We’ll see how it goes on the opposite end when we open up a box and find things from two entirely differently parts of the house, which has happened before.

One new thing I will try is to put up signs on various doors/areas indicating what labels I want on the boxes. This was a tip on my mover’s information sheet, and it seems a no-brainer, but I’ve never done it before. This will be especially helpful if I can get the packers to label the school books (located in the downstairs family room) as such and can distinguish them from the other books (located in the upstairs living room). The school books have a higher priority in unpacking.

Well, off to War and Peace…? Truthfully, after my shower I have to sort a few cabinets in the kitchen, straighten up my bedroom, do more laundry, pull clothing out of drawers so we have something to wear for the next week or so…and hope that the packers are a wee bit late.

Because we just can’t return a not empty keg

The kegerator, unbelievably, still has cider bought before Bill deployed. It was only a sixth of a keg, but I guess I’ve proven I’m not a big drinker.

We are moving. The kegerator must be emptied.

I remembered this as I passed the appliance on the way to the storage room for more cleaning.

“We must drink the cider,” I thought, and went back upstairs for glasses.

“We must drink the cider,” I told Bill when I returned. But I looked at the clock. “Do you think it’s too early to drink?”

“It is only 9:40,” he said. “Perhaps we should wait until 10 out of a sense of propriety,” he said with little conviction.

“Yes, we shall wait out of a sense of propriety. Not any real feelings of propriety, but just for the sense of it.”

We are on our second glasses, and it doesn’t seem ready to quit yet. This pre-moving business is rough stuff.

Those naughty movers who swipe children’s artwork and other valuables

Yesterday a friend watched the kids so Bill and I could do some cleaning and decluttering. Our main focus was the kids’ rooms and toy room.

At one point I asked Bill’s opinion about some “prized possession.” Bill hypothesized that the owner would be very upset if we got rid of it. “Only if he found out,” I assured him. Nevertheless, that item stayed.

Just before picking up the children, we stopped at the post thrift store to deposit some things. It really wasn’t much, but it was probably the third or fourth trip we’ve made. Certainly, our children have way too much stuff. It is one reason I proposed a nice vacation in January as a family present for next Christmas.

This morning, Jenny asked me, “How come the packers and movers always lose our stuff?” Other children have suggested that Dad drive the moving truck to ensure nothing is misplaced. It’s so nice to have a scapegoat.

PCS Move Part III

“If I only had a brain,” wished Dorothy’s scarecrow. Well, having “lost my mind” many times, especially every PCS, I can assure you that you can have a smooth move, even without a brain. It just takes a bit of organization.

One of the most important things you can have during a move is a notebook. I prefer mine to be pretty.

In this notebook, I keep a running to-do list. Things like “mail forwarding with Post Office” and “mail deposit for new water company.” It is also where I list all the utilities and services I am starting or canceling, their phone number, my account number, and any other important information. This way, if the cable guy does not show up on the appointed day to install my service, I have all the contact information in one place. I will also use it temporarily as an address book, especially at the new home where I may get a few suggestions for a piano teacher or a babysitter and I need to call around until I settle on someone who will go in my more permanent address book.

And then, those last days at the old home, I have handy sheets of paper where I can scribble notes to people to leave on doorsteps: “Thanks for loaning me this book. Sorry I missed you. See you in two years.”
Next you need a big, zippered envelope. This holds all of your PCS related paperwork: receipts, the papers the movers give you, the papers the transportation office gives you, half a dozen copies of hubby’s orders.
I also have this small, portable filing bin that I use all the time. This is the last thing I would remember in a fire, but the first thing I would wish I had grabbed. It contains the most important documents: birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, kids’ immunization records and their most recent physicals, dog’s shot records, our mortgage, rental agreements, social security cards, and similar papers. We have other filing bins that we let the packers wrap up and the movers transport, but this filing bin goes in our car.

Lastly, I will keep my address books with me. Someday, I will have all that information in electronic form, like on my iTouch or in my cell phone. But for now, the old fashioned kind is all I have. I must admit that I do not have my parents’ home phone number memorized. They relocated to Florida after the invention of speed dial, and I have never forced myself to learn it. However, they are probably the first people I might call with a question like, “Mom, can you google the phone number for the cable company that I forgot to write down in my notebook?”

Friends and family are always a good backup for a missing brain.

Fun in the Sun?

We took advantage of yesterday’s sweltering temperatures (50 degrees!!) to play and work outside.

Down comes the swing set. My husband is insisting this is it’s last move.

I’m just happy we’re having this heat wave. Last week’s bitter cold (OK, nothing like the Midwest, but once you get below freezing and the wind is howling, cold is cold) had me concerned that my husband would abandon the swing set altogether. I didn’t even like going from the house to the car, so there was no way I would make him work outside for hours.

One final jump. Trampoline comes down today.

Notice the very non-wintery clothes. It was hot, I tell you. Well, not me. I was wearing a sweater. Kids, though, seem to have different thermostats.

Un-excavating the raised garden that I never filled with vegetables.

Little boys feeling the enormity of the task.

These boys zealously spent hours digging a bunker in the garden. I told them they could, but they’d have to put the dirt back before we moved. Now that it’s time to fulfill the promise, digging is no longer such a fun job. Every five minutes they would ask if they could have a break.

Admittedly, the job is a little harder this go round. The ground isn’t frozen, but it sure is hard. I spent a few minutes manning a hoe, chipping away at the mounds. Then I decided I had better things to do. Besides, I didn’t make the hole in the first place.

Temperatures are expected to remain above freezing, even at night, for the next week, so hopefully the job will get easier.

PCS Move Part II

The packers come in 11 days!

Last week, I had a few goals: weigh vehicles (I did one of the two), declutter the bathroom (um, failed on this one), and start giving stuff away (I’m working on this – so far, so good).

Today I am canceling utilities and services. In fact, I am on terminal hold with a faceless, mammoth TV/internet provider. Good thing I have nothing better to do, right?

I’ve now canceled: electric, cable, water, trash pickup, newspaper, fencing club and the Officer’s Club (pool). The only thing I didn’t cancel was the heating oil because the last delivery’s check is in the mail, and I want to wait until they get it before I call them. Side note: I use Quicken to keep track of bills and expenses, so I went through the last month or two to make sure I didn’t miss any services (like the newspaper).

I’ve set up a walk through and key turnover for our rental home. Can you believe it will take them up to 45 days to give us our deposit back? Thieves. We’ll be rolling in the dough in March. February might be a bit tight.


I had wanted to live on post for a variety of reasons, but there was no room at the inn. We could have put ourselves on a wait list, but this would mean either living apart for months (didn’t we just do that?) or finding temporary housing for months (and then moving again). Since neither of those appealed to me, I chose to find a house to rent. This makes moving that much easier, since I can tell the movers exactly where to take our stuff. It also gets me a headstart on setting up utilities at our new home.

I am now on hold with faceless, mammoth internet/TV provider #2 to set up new service. It’s been a long day.

OK, I have done electric, cable, gas and I have only water left (hours are 9 to 12 and 3 to 5…what’s up with that?). Newspaper can wait. Trash pickup is provided.

Besides water, I need to make hotels reservations for me and 4 kids for the two nights between leaving our current home and our reservations for vacation at Myrtle Beach (the realtor doesn’t work weekends or I would camp out here) and reservations for Bill and 2 kids for the night before he can get the key to the house and get our stuff delivered. He’ll have the dog, so hopefully the hotel will accommodate that. I have already made reservations for the dog to be boarded at the new vet while we are on vacation.

Besides that, this week: weighing the other car, decluttering the bathroom, and continue working on organizing and thinning out our stuff. Oh, and, trying not to hyperventilate.

PCS Move Part I

It was with a certain amount of panic that I realized on Monday that WE ARE MOVING THIS MONTH. Bill went to Transportation yesterday and, officially, the packers will be here in NINETEEN days.

For you non-military types, let me assure you that this is not nearly as big a deal as if we were doing it all by ourselves. I have no boxes to pack, really. Nothing to arrange, really. They come, they pack, they move. (Anybody want to provide the Latin for that?)

I thought I would chronicle the steps to a PCS move for those in the military, and also for non-military families too. This will be our 5th military move in less than 5 years, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. May as well share the knowledge, right?

As I said, Bill went to Transportation and made the arrangements for the move. We always do what is called a “partial DITY” or do-it-yourself move. You have to tell them before you move that you want to do this. Then you have to weigh your vehicles at some point (empty). Many truck stops offer scales for a low fee (perhaps $5) and some military installations have scales for free. If you have a hitch, you can rent a trailer to haul stuff, or you can just load your cars to the gills. Even if all you put in your car is your clothes for a few days, it’s worth the money. They pay you for the weight you move, so you’ll have to weigh the vehicles again after loading them up (children don’t usually count as household goods, FYI).

Goal for this week: weigh vehicles.

Next, I picked a spot in my house where I can put things I do not want the movers to pack. Things like: the dog, our clothes and toiletries, sleeping bags, snack food for the drive, valuable paperwork, the laptop, other valuables. I picked the master bathroom because it is big enough to hold all that stuff, yet the amount of things to pack out of there is very small.

Goal for this week: declutter this bathroom and relocate any items in there I want them to pack to the other bathroom.

The packers will box up anything that is not nailed down. I now need to put things where they belong so that when I open a box it makes sense. Right now, on my desk, the pile includes a video, some books, a cookbook, some toys, my camera, coupons, CDs, bills, the lid to the container for Fritz’s Latin flashcards, kids’ artwork, and reference material that belongs to a friend. My life would be much easier if all of these things were put away properly BEFORE the move. I am resigned to some amount of decluttering AFTER the move, but things, especially things that belongs to local friends, should be put away first.

Goal for this week: put things already slated for “give-away” in the car for drop off at the thrift store tomorrow night. And drop them off, too. Make a list of give-away items for a friend who may need them.

Since it’s Wednesday, I think that’s quite enough work for this week. Stay tuned for more tips on moving your household goods 900 miles in less than three weeks.

On moving

Things that are more likely to happen in the weeks leading up to and after a big household move:

  • Something you meant to keep away from the packers being taped up
  • Something you were sure you wouldn’t need (so you let it get packed up) being needed
  • Something noisy like a toy or a battery powered alarm clock being taped up
  • Damage to a vehicle (yours or one you are driving)
  • Emergency room visits
  • Other significant injuries (especially back aches)
  • Lost wallet, purse or ID card
  • Lost cellphone
  • Lost paperwork
  • Lost in transit (as in, “I thought we were supposed to go north, not south, to get to the interstate…”)
  • Lost locally (as in, “I thought there was a grocery store here…”)
  • Lost driver (as in, “I won’t be delivering your stuff until next week…”)
  • Lost hardware (as in, “Where would they pack those brackets?”)
  • Lost tools (as in, “I just had the hammer, where did I put it?”)
  • Lost children (as in, “I thought you were watching him…”)
  • Having a credit card denied due to unusual activity
  • Having a bank card swallowed because you used the wrong pin too many times
  • Confusion over day of the week, time of day, or current location
  • Upset tummies due to poor diet
  • Headaches due to dehydration
  • Dark circles under eyes due to lack of sleep
  • Sunburn (since you taped up something you didn’t think you would need)
  • Excessive reliance on restaurants or prepackaged foods
  • Money spend on things you don’t need (like souvenirs)
  • Money spend on things you shouldn’t need (but need to buy because you can’t find or get to the ones you have…like brackets…or sunscreen)

Items in bold happened this time around. Bill probably has a few more things to add. I’m sure I’ve already repressed a few memories.