12.31.2011

2011 in the rearview mirror

Our year started off with quite a bang...literally.





We waited to hear from the Army as to MacGyver's short-term fate and, after months of waiting, we heard back that he gets to stay in!


For the time being.


His initial promotion was rescinded and he will have to reboard in the spring but no one here is complaining. Following that wonderful news, we were quickly brought back down to earth by the news that we would be PCSing off the rock that we had come to love into the very flat midwest...about as far away from the ocean as you can possibly get while remaining in the United States. C'est la vie.


We finished out our first year of homeschooling with a bang...and a play! Both The Boy and The Girl enjoyed our homeschooling adventure and asked to continue on the following year (yes, I did ask and yes, their opinion carries with it a lot of weight). So I set about analyzing our successes and failures, our likes and dislikes, and researching the necessary changes in curricula. Thankfully, there wasn't much change necessary.


In the face of the impending move, we set about to hike as many trails as possible, enjoy as many beaches as possible (collecting samples of sand from each), spending as much time with friend as possible, and soaking up as much of Hawaii as we could possibly soak up. We also made a massive "TO DO" list for our visit and started laying plans to move back as soon as possible.


2011 wasn't the easiest of years for our family but it was, in no way, the most difficult. And for that, I am grateful. I have many friends who faced incredibly challenging circumstances this year and my prayer is that 2012 brings with it more good news than bad, more good health than illness, more successes than failure, more joy than heartache. For all of us.

I'm going to close with something I rarely do - a quote from someone I don't know on Facebook. Her perspective gives us all something to think about as we close the door on 2011 and look forward to 2012.


I got onto facebook today thinking that I would post about hoping 2012 will be easier than 2011; but my facebook friends quickly made me realize that this past year wasn't really all that bad. I was going to complain that Troy's contract is up again in two weeks; but then 2 amazing young wives of Wounded Warriors, 4 incredibly strong fiancées and girlfriends who never got to marry the man of their dreams, and 2 inspiring young Widows raising little boys who barely, or never, got to know their Daddies made me realize that having some extra time with my husband at home isn't really such a terrible thing. I thought about complaining that the Marine Corps sent me back a boy who is different both physically and mentally than the one I dropped off at MEPS in 2007, and that he'll be starting off 2012 jobless and still with no help from the completely overwhelmed VA; but then 10 wonderful Marine Moms and 2 incredible Marine Dads who will be starting their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 15th years without their sons reminded me that, no matter what, I am so lucky that he came home at all. I came on here to complain about not having what I thought we needed to have a better year...but you all made me realize that, no matter what, I definitely have everything I need. God Bless all of you and your families on this last day of 2011, and all through 2012.





Pau.




- hfs




p.s. go click the links to the left! Please? Thanks!

12.28.2011

Well that didn't go as planned

The best-laid plans of mice and men...


Yep. They went out the window. The holidays snuck up on me and totally derailed my plans to be a more prolific blogger. Between the scramble to get it all done before departing on our holiday travels and the scramble to get all of the schoolwork done before the holidays hit, the computer was cast aside like a Christmas sweater from Aunt Marge. Which is not always a bad thing.


But I'm still here. Still on vacation with no plans to change that any time soon. And it's glorious! We traveled to the west coast to visit family and friends who are like family and had a great Christmas. Even better because there won't be the normal post-Christmas panic attacks when opening the credit card bill. Thanks to a website called Swag Bucks and cashing in all of our change, I was able to pay for the children's Christmas gifts (including the "Santa"/family gift) with Amazon.com gift cards. Everything else was purchased with spending money. I will admit that the plane tickets were purchased with the credit card but no one's perfect, right?


I can't say I'm sad to see 2011 leave. So many of my friends have faced challenges and heartache this year - just seems like a lot of people were nailed with a 1-2 punch or kicked when they were down. I can't count on two hands the number of friends whose main bread-winner either lost their job or faced a serious cut-back in their hours and/or salary. I'm hoping that 2012 brings with it some improved circumstances for everyone. Our situation remains tenuous, moreso by the fact that MacGyver's slot for a class was pulled. We were hoping he could get into the class as a way to help boost his chances when he goes before the promotion board in 2012 but it seems that is not to be. Instead, he will be flying his 'okole off (figuratively, not literally) and racking up as many hours as possible. In the meantime, we are researching Guard and Reserve options as well as civilian employment possibilities. Ideally, we want to get back to Hawaii but that might not be possible. We'll see.


And yes, before anyone says anything (*ahem, my Godmother...ahem*), I am well aware of the fact that, until about 2 years ago, I was counting days until I could get back to the mainland. Stop reminding me. I'll say this in my defense: I moved out when I was 18 to go to college. My parents sold my childhood home and left the state toward the end of my freshman year. I've not found a place since that I could truly call home. We loved Colorado but we were college students. We loved Alaska but didn't put down roots there, really. I don't have any desire to live in California ever again (I will if it comes down to putting food on the table but, really, it's a sinking ship that the rats are leaping off of).


But Hawaii...Hawaii became home to us. Six and a half years is a long time to live in one place, especially if you are a military family. In addition, some of our best times and some of our worst times happened in Hawaii and we were supported through it all by incredible friends. Our children know nothing but Hawaii and we all miss it desperately. It's home. I'm not sure exactly when it became 'home' but it is. I was talking with a friend of mine who IS Hawaiian and I was telling him that I wanted to come home. He asked where 'home' was and I told him, Hawaii. He was so happy to hear that - he and his family work really hard to make everyone feel at home in Hawaii.


So it's home. Didn't mean for it to happen that way but it did and that's how it is. And I'm homesick. Miserably so. But I'll live. In the meantime, I'm hoping and praying a full-time Guard slot opens up on O'ahu for a Chinook Maintenance Test Pilot. A girl can dream.


The new year will bring with it a few more opportunities for travel - up to the DC area for the milblogging conference and to visit family, hopefully out to Colorado to visit old friends and eat good food, possibly up into Nebraska to visit the zoo up there, and throughout Kansas to explore the state. The weather this week and into the weekend is supposed to be unseasonably glorious so I'm hoping we might be able to swap out the water pump on my car. MacGyver doesn't seem to think my clutch is a problem - most likely the noise I'm hearing is coming from the engine mounts. We'll see. He'll be able to look at it as he's tearing out the old water pump. I'm hoping it's not the clutch - that's just money I don't want to spend and the clutch on my car is a bear to swap out (MacGyver has done it on his car - same model - in the past). The beginning of 2012 will usher in a slightly tighter budget with the hopes of paying down more of our debt. My goal is to make us as light as possible, in terms of debt, by the time the promotion board results come out in the summer in addition to beefing up our small savings as much as possible.


That's a tough balance to strike. In the face of a possible loss of job, how do you know how much to put toward paying down your unsecured debt and how much to put toward stashing in savings? Do I stop paying more than the minimum on our credit cards and squirrel away every last penny into savings so that we have more to live on should the paycheck stop arriving? Or do I pay down the credit cards as much as possible in order to not only lessen the monthly burden of minimum payments each month but also to free up as much available credit should we need it to make ends meet? Tough call. Thoughts?


We're about as lean as we can get in terms of expenses. We are ditching Netflix in favor of RedBox. I'm still lobbying to ditch cable completely but I have no one else in my corner. Our utilities are as low as they are going to go. We rarely eat out. The kids are in 1 extracurricular activity. I don't even go to Starbucks much anymore and, when I do, it comes out of my spending cash. Once the holidays are past and the lines thin out at the post office, eBay and I are going to strike up a relationship as I start to sell off a lot of our extra "stuff". I've already started stashing a lot of what I deem to be unnecessary in the guest room downstairs. That way, if we find that we need it, it's still there. If, by the time I get around to putting it up on eBay (or Craigslist if it's too big to ship), no one has noticed that it's missing, then we obviously did not need it. Right now, it's mostly books, baby/toddler clothes, old toys, etc. but there isn't anything that's truly safe in our house unless it was handmade by a family member. Everything else will be scrutinized for possible sale. Not only will this bring in some extra cash but it will also lighten our load should we need to store stuff.


I need to start digging into the regs surrounding Involuntary Separation Pay and what the restrictions with regard to federal employment are as they pertain to it. Ideally, we'd transition directly from the active duty Army to either full-time Guard or Reserves. But I'm not sure if that's possible after accepting the Involuntary Sep Pay. And then there is a the GI Bill to look into. If all else fails, MacGyver can put the new GI Bill to use and pick up a part time Guard slot on the side. So there are options.


For now, it's time to have dinner with friends. And start thinking of the next blog post.




Pau.




- hfs

12.12.2011

Changes are a-coming

Actually, they are already here. If you look to your right, you'll see the Google AdSense toolbar over there (and the Amazon widget further down the right side). I had it set up a while back but when I changed the layout, it got lost in the shuffle. And now it's back. In my efforts to eek out income any and everywhere I can, we'll see if the old blog can help out. Even a quarter is 25 cents more than I had yesterday, right?


I'm in the process of creating a new blog aimed at focusing my efforts to improve our finances. I'm not sure exactly how it's going to look just yet but I have ideas down on paper. I'll let you all know when it goes live.

In the meantime, if you're so inclined, feel free to click on any of the ads that catch your eye. Every little bit helps. And (in reference to an Ann Taylor ad I saw a few minutes ago) I scored Ann Taylor jeans - my absolute favorite jeans IN. THE. WORLD. - for half off the sale price WITH free shipping. All told, I paid about 25% of the normal retail cost ($80+) for brand new jeans. When we lived in Hawaii, I scoured Savers on a regular basis for used AT jeans. I'd find them occasionally for anywhere from $10-20. So $25 for brand new AT jeans is a STEAL especially for things I need (as opposed to simply wanting. Having spent the past 6+ years in Hawaii, I had 3 pair of jeans to my name and 1 pair is falling apart). SCORE!




Pau.



- hfs

12.11.2011

Apple-pumpkin butter

A few years ago (eek...more like 12 now that I think about it), I came across apple butter. I don't remember where but I do remember liking it. I dug around for a recipe and found one but it came out tasting kind of one-dimensional. It was my first attempt at canning anything and I realized how relatively easy (though rather time-consuming) it was. I started trying to come up with ways to 'dress up' the apple butter around Thanksgiving and canned pumpkin was on sale so I decided to mix some in and see how it turned out. I liked it. MacGyver liked it. But the litmus test would be his family.


Each year for Christmas, MacGyver's family makes pumpkin spice pancakes for Christmas breakfast. I figured their pumpkin spice pancakes would go nicely with my apple-pumpkin butter so I brought some along when we went home for Christmas. The A-P butter was HIT - so much so that it garnered me the top-secret recipe for the pumpkin spice pancakes (well, that and actually marrying into the family). Now, when Thanksgiving rolls around, I get the same question each year..."You ARE going to make your apple-pumpkin butter, AREN'T YOU?!?"


So here is the recipe. Enjoy!




Apple-Pumpkin Butter
3 pounds McIntosh apples
2.5 cups apple cider
1.5 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
15 ounce can solid pack pumpkin
1tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp each ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon

1. Peel and core apples. Reserve. Combine peels and cores + 2C cider in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 mintues. Press through strainer to extract juices. Reserve juice. Discard peels and cores.

2. Meanwhile, combine peeled apples, sugar, and spices with remaining 1/2 cup cider in large saucepan. Boil over medium heat. Reduce to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally 30-40 minutes or until apples start to fall apart.

3. Add reserved juice to apples and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally 45-60 minutes or until thick. Discard cinnamon sticks. Stir in pumpkin.

4. Heat oven to 300*F. Pour mixture into a 9x13" baking pan/dish. Stirring every 15 minutes, bake 1-1.5 hours or until thick. Blend in blender to remove lumps.

5. Spoon into sterilized 1/2 pint canning jars. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims and threads clean. Top with hot lids and screw bands on firmly. Process in boiling water 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely.




Pau.




- hfs

Gunfunnit

Seems the Army has thrown a big monkey wrench into my EMT plans. MacGyver was supposed to be on the list to take the Advance Course here, locally, as all of the slots at Mother Rucker were full. He's been pushing to get this class because it will help his chances when the promotion board convenes next spring. He had secured a slot for the class here and then it was taken and given to someone else. So now he has to go to Mother Rucker for the course early next year for six weeks.


I had been counting on his presence to make it possible to FINALLY take the EMT-B course again. It's not in our budget to pay a sitter to watch The Boy and The Girl while I'm in class. It's just not do-able. We're quite tight right now and every extra penny (and there aren't many, trust me) is either going to pay down our debt or into savings in case the Army says "thank you for your service. Have a nice day." next spring. Oh, and possible a new clutch AND a new water pump for my car. Yay.


So, barring a major change in plans, no EMT course for me. I'm frustrated and disappointed. I've been trying since 2000 to retake this silly class, having taken it originally in SoCal before we left for college and got married. The first time I had the opportunity, I found out I was pregnant and you couldn't take the class while pregnant. Two years ago, I found a class in Hawaii but MacGyver's deployment put the kibosh on that idea due to the logistics of being a single parent. Then he didn't deploy but we made the decision to homeschool and that killed off that idea again. I thought I had it in the bag this time - courses are free, MyCAA is still in effect to cover the class even if it weren't free, the school is just down the highway, it was a night class so MacGyver would be available to at least pick the kids up from me when he was done in the evening, etc. Sadly, it does not seem to be meant to be.


And before you remind me that I should be grateful that my husband still has a job...shut up. This is my blog and I'm allowed to have a pity party. After staring into the abyss that has been my life for the past few years, NO ONE is more grateful that her husband is still employed than I am. And I'm very relieved that he will be able to take this course and that it might counteract the effects of the past two and a half years and might possibly allow him to remain in the Army. I GET that. But I am also disappointed and frustrated that I wasn't able to work this out. Please don't rain on my pity party.


So now that I'm not taking the EMT course, it's time to figure out some things to do to help pay off our debts and build our savings a bit. The Army's "golden handshake" is pretty generous but that won't last very long, especially in light of the debts we're carrying. We've been chipping away at them over the past 2-3 years but, each time we start to get ahead, something hits the fan (see above where I mentioned the need for a new clutch and water pump? Yeah..there you go.) I'm going through all of our stuff and starting to get it organized so that I can start putting things up on both Craigslist and eBay. We have too much stuff to begin with so selling things off kills two birds with one stone. I'd put it out for a yard sale but that won't be possible until spring and I want it all gone before then in addition to wanting to pay down these debts as soon as possible.


In addition to selling off a lot of our excess, I'm starting to look for more frugal ways of doing things. Pinterest has been a treasure-trove of resources for this. I've found recipes for homemade laundry detergent, homemade dishwashing detergent, homemade hand soap...all for mere pennies per load/wash whereas the stuff you buy in the stores costs 10-20 times that amount. If I can make my own laundry detergent for 1/10 of what it costs to buy it (even at the commissary), then I'm all for it! In addition, it's better for you as it doesn't have 1/2 of the unpronounceable chemicals in it. I have two children who have relatively sensitive skin so this is a bonus. Plus, it's fun!


There are a bunch of other things that I am doing or plan to do as I cinch down our budget even further. Moving from Hawaii was painful in more ways than one...we lost our cost of living adjustment and we're no longer renting for LESS than our housing allowance. Quite the double whammy to the budget. I think I'm going to start up a blog about our financial adventures and what we're doing to lower our expenses and pay down our debts.


And maybe writing on that one will help me remember to write on THIS one! (and the homeschooling blog)


For now, I'm going to lick my wounds and wrap up this pity party.




Pau.




- hfs

11.14.2011

Whoops...

Didn't mean to let the old blog sit around unattended for so long! Sorry about that. I guess this whole 'settling in' thing takes more time and effort than I last remember. Or I'm older. Or both.


Still waiting on couches. They should be here in about two days. Thank goodness! Now I'll have somewhere to sleep when MacGyver's snoring keeps me awake. Most of the boxes are gone and the remainder will be gone this week - have to make room for the couches! Just in time to have family come and visit.


The kids and I took off to go visit my mom and some family in Georgia. Great trip but a LONG drive. Can't say I want to do THAT again any time soon. Nothing eventful save for the rain on the way back. I picked up two dressers that my father made. One will go in the guest room and the other will hang out in the media/Lego area for the time being. I had planned to give it to The Girl but we found her a dresser at a yard sale so she no longer needs it. I had hoped to bring back a rocker my dad made and a few other things but I didn't have room for them in the truck. That's ok - they aren't going anywhere. It's nice to have some things that he made beyond just my bed and the few other odds and ends he gave me over the years. His craftsmanship is unrivaled. Once I get the dressers set up, (and get my hands on a flash card reader that actually READS flash cards and works with my computer) I'll take pictures of the dressers and his work. You can't find furniture like this anywhere.


The day we got home from our road trip, it was raining. Thankfully, two of my mom's friends came and helped us load the dressers and cover them with tarps. One of the guys is prior service coast guard so those tarps weren't going anywhere. The next day, it was still raining and we took off to church for a military spouse get-together. When we came out a few hours later, the rain had turned to SNOW! The kids were beside themselves with glee! The Boy scooped up his very first ball of snow and then promptly threw it at his sister's back. They are HUGE 'Calvin and Hobbes' fans and have been itching to recreate some of Calvin's snowscape masterpieces. Sadly, by the time we got home,t he snow had turned back into rain. I consoled them with the fact that there will be plenty of snow again soon enough. The next morning, they were up with the sun, donned their snow gear, and headed outside before I had even made it out of bed. There was nothing more than some ice on the back deck but that didn't bother them - they had a great time. They'll have a blast the first REAL snow we get!


I found out I did not get the coaching job. They hired a head coach from within and I was interviewed for the assistant coaching position but they opted to go with someone else. I think this was a blessing - the more I thought about the job, the more I realized that the logistics of it all would be a hassle. It was doable but not necessary. And I think that taking the job would have made taking the EMT course I want so badly difficult. So I remain unemployed and I'm ok with that. Gives me time to surf the Hawaii real estate ads.


I'll write more soon - hopefully from the comfort of my new couch!!




Pau.




- hfs

10.21.2011

A full plate

I was bouncing around the internet the other day and came across the job listings for the local school district. I'm always curious to see who is hiring, what positions are open, what the pay scales are, etc. Not that I plan to set foot back in a classroom anytime soon (other than the one that is in my basement) but I like to keep up on things in my profession. While I was meandering around, I came across the listing for a head swim team coach at the local high school.


Hmm...


I could do that. Maybe. So I dropped the Athletic director a note, inquiring as to the particulars of the position: pay, practice times, season dates (boys' and girls' seasons are separate), etc. the information I received back assured me that, yes, I CAN do this. The dates/times/pay all fit in with this thing we call our "schedule". The Boy and The Girl might have to sign on as my assistant coaches each day until MacGyver can pick them up but it won't kill them to spend some time on a pool deck. And I should probably be able to tweak practice times on the days that my EMT class meets so that is a bonus.


I dusted off my resume (actually, I redesigned it thanks to a friend and her advice...it's what she does so, if you are in need of resume advice, drop me an email and I'll give you her contact information. Her rates are quite reasonable!) and my cover letter and filled out the online application. I sent it off this week and now I wait to hear back. I suspect that attaining the job will be the easy part. The logistics of actually performing the job will be the challenge. Homeschooling two children with a husband whose flight schedule is anything but predictable should get interesting. Especially when you throw in a night class to make things interesting. But it will work out. I hope.


If not, the kids will also get to schlep with me to my class and learn all about trauma care. Fun times!


The weather took a turn toward winter this week. Woke up one morning to a low of 23*. My knee is anything but happy about that one and my Raynaud's issues decided to flare again. Wonderful. Though maybe the Raynaud's is a good thing - I can always try to get it classified as an EFMP (exceptional family member program) qualifier and get us sent back to a more temperate/tropical locale...


MacGyver has flown a few more times including some night flights. The Boy and The Girl are not used to this so it's been a bit of an adjustment for them. They don't remember a time when Daddy's schedule was not 9-5. I find it amusing that, for someone who craves routine and predictability (me), I am relieved to have him back on an unpredictable schedule. My brain confounds me most days. He has a few TDY trips coming up (business trips) in the near future so the kids and I will get to experience that part of military life again as well. I need to pop over to my mom's (does anyone 'pop' 1,000+ miles? I don't think so) so we'll probably do that while MacGyver is TDY. We'll see...need to work some logistics out there as well. But I need to get it done before serious winter weather sets in: partly because she has the majority of my winter clothes but mostly because I don't want to be driving across several states in icky weather. And it will be good to see her again. The kids haven't seen her since she was in Hawaii more than a year ago. I'm hoping we get to visit other family that is in the area as well.


Then it will be time to gear up for Thanksgiving. I'm excited to have a Thanksgiving that involves fall temperatures and NOT sweating my okole off in the kitchen. But I am going to desperately miss the big potluck dinner that we normally have at church. I'm counting the days until May when we get to go visit. Hopefully our couches will be here before Thanksgiving.


Tonight it's girls' night out. The kids are hanging with MacGyver and I'm heading out with a good friend. Nothing exciting - dinner and maybe some music. But it will be nice to head out for a bit!




Pau.




- hfs

10.16.2011

Hail and Bail

'Hail and Bail' aka 'Hail and Farewell' aka 3 hours of one's life you'll never get back. It's one of those wonderful events that, when handled at the unit level, can be a lot of fun but, when handled at the Battalion level, is never really the same. MacGyver's been a part of this unit for a whole week and came home in those first few days with a calendar.


Keep in mind the fact that, during my last 2 years in Paradise, I was so far off the FRG's and battalion's radar that I never heard word one about upcoming events. SO I was a little surprised when he brought home a calendar in the first few days that laid out not only social events but training events as well. It's going to take me some time to get back into the swing of this whole "Army wife" thing. Heh.


Anyway, because this was MacGyver's 'hail', we HAD to go. Thankfully, children were welcome because I don't have a babysitter yet. I have to admit, I was really not looking forward to it. At all. Call me a coward. Call me a wuss. I don't care. After the last two years or so, the last place I really want to be is surrounded by a bunch of battalion-level staffers and their spouses. I'm a little gun-shy. It's that whole 'once bitten, twice shy' thing. But I plastered a smile on my face and got dressed.


And I'm glad I did. There weren't too many people from MacGyver's unit there but the few people I did meet were nice. His platoon leader was there and he and his wife seemed quite friendly. And - small world that Army aviation is - we ran into a woman who wrote a letter of of recommendation for MacGyver back when he was applying to flight school. She's retired Army herself and married to the SGM of the battalion. I thought I recognized her when I first saw her but couldn't place her. After the festivities were over, she came up and introduced herself and said hi. Small world! The company commander also introduced himself and made the anticipated pitch about getting involved in the FRG.


I politely declined.


Don't get me wrong - I will go to the meetings, meet the spouses in the unit, attend some events as warranted. But that's as far as it will go. There's some serious scar tissue there.


In more exciting news, after 28 months of being out of the cockpit, MacGyver has flown again! He texted me after he landed with some of the best words I've heard in a while: "I are a pilot!". Alongside from "charges dismissed" and "retained in the United States Army", they brought a smile to my face. Looking back, neither of us thought he'd EVER see the inside of a cockpit again. This was most definitely a sweet, sweet moment. And now, hopefully he'll be flying his proverbial okole off. His future in the Army is very much up in the air so the more hours he can get under his belt, the better off we'll be if he needs to start looking for civilian employment. In the meantime, he's planning to fly as much as possible. And, given the fact that the unit and the battalion are short on MTPs, that shouldn't be a problem!


The settling in process continues to move along. The house is kind of stalled - all of the other rooms are good to go but the living room is still unfinished. We finally ordered living room furniture this weekend but it's going to take about a month to get here. That was the biggest furniture purchase MacGyver and I have made in our entire relationship - made me feel like a grown-up. Ick.


School is going well. The kids are settling in well and have plenty to keep them busy, including friends. That is a huge blessing - it broke my heart to see my daughter so sad and homesick and lonely. My homesickness continues but I can handle it. I pipe Hawaiian music through my phone into my car stereo and I listen to my pastor's sermons online. So denial is a great place! It's getting cooler here but the weather is still quite beautiful! It's just about fall and I can't wait to break out the fall-scented candles and warm sweaters. Oh, wait, I don't have many warm sweaters. I've been shopping Goodwill and the Salvation Army and all of the sales on line in the hopes that I can find a few deals. Most of my warm-weather clothing is at my mom's house so I need to figure out how to get it here. Might be a roadtrip coming up soon!


In the meantime, we are enjoying our time here and reminding ourselves to be thankful that MacGyver is still in the Army and still flying. It doesn't get any better than that!




Pau.




- hfs

10.06.2011

Three years

Time flies.


Photobucket


I miss you, Dad. Mom's doing well. You'd be proud. Or you'd cringe because she's using the hedge trimmer and other power tools...I'm not sure. But she's doing well.


love,
me

10.04.2011

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

I'm sure you've all heard of the children's book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie". There is a spoof on that story titled "If You Give a Mom a Muffin" and both pretty much resemble my life at the moment. I'll get started on something - putting the contents of a box away - and then, in the process of putting something away, I'll come across a window track that is filthy (they are ALL filthy...ick) or items that are in one room but belong in another, or a picture that needs to be hung - and the box is completely forgotten and left sitting half-empty with the contents strewn about. It's moving-related ADD. I wish there was an 'H' to go with that acronym but there is not.


We are still without a couch which makes it challenging, mentally, to get my living room truly put together. And it also makes it tough to have friends over for dinner. I have nowhere for them to sit unless I bring in the beach chairs (um, no.). We drove out to the big city (about 100 miles away) to check out this massive furniture store (and go to COSTCO!!! Good Lord, do I miss Costco!) but didn't really fall in love with anything. We know what we want but we didn't find IT. So we're going to head in the opposite direction this weekend and see what we can find. In the meantime, I scurry around trying to get things put away.


We've sorted through a lot of stuff and already have 2 big boxes set aside for a yard sale. And lots of stuff is also in the "donate" pile as well as in the garbage. I'd love to weigh what we're getting rid of just to know where we stand weight-wise but I can't. Hopefully what we get rid of will outweigh the new furniture we're planning to buy!


Homesickness is hovering and I hate it. The Boy isn't really homesick much, especially now that he has his stuff around him. But The Girl is struggling. She misses her friends, our church, our neighborhood, our activities...everything that is familiar to her. I can't say I blame her. I'd hop back on a plane in a New York minute if I could. But I can't. So I do my best to set it aside, focus on finding things to do here, getting settled in. But there's an ache there that hasn't been there since we left Colorado in 1998. I didn't think I'd ever miss anywhere as much as I miss Colorado. But I do. More so.


MacGyver had his first day at work this week. A lot like your first day at a new school. Thankfully, the Army is small and the Chinook world is even smaller which means we know people here. More than I even expected! We're running into people we've not seen since we left Alaska. It's great! And, in even better news, MacGyver is on the FLIGHT SCHEDULE for next week!!!! I'm so excited, I can barely contain myself. I'm tempted to toss the kids in the car and go spectate. And take pictures. Except that MacGyver would probably throw things at me.


The trees here are just starting to turn colors. I need to take pictures of the trees on the way on to post each day so I can time-lapse them and watch the colors change. I can't wait for it to be full-blown fall. Right now it feels more like summer in Hawaii than fall. Everyone is amazed that it's as warm as it is given the fact that it's the first week in October. I have a feeling, based on a few things that I've heard and seen, that we are in for one hell of a winter. Thankfully, MacGyver's truck is 4-wheel drive and I have experience driving in snow and on ice. I am NOT looking forward to the wind. At all.


More good news on the EMT front. The classes were offered this semester on the two days that most interfere with our family's activities. But NEXT semester, they are changing the days around and the class will be offered on the two days that are perfect for our schedules. I'm hoping to get to the Ed Center on post and get things rolling soon.


There's a "Hail & Bail" coming up soon. We'll see how that goes. I can't say I'm interested in getting involved in anything having to do with the FRG or the unit aside from getting together with friends. It's that whole "once bitten, twice shy" thing.




Pau.




- hfs

9.29.2011

If These Walls Could Talk

The war on cardboard continues and I think I'm winning. The empty boxes outnumber the full boxes so that's a point in my favor. The fact that the empty boxes are still here is driving me batty but that should be remedied this weekend, thanks to Craigslist. Currently, there is a wall of approximately 25 Dishpack boxes separating me (where I sit in the kitchen) from my living room.


Not. A. Fan.


The house we've rented is huge. It's easily twice the size of our house in Hawaii and then some. Our goal during our time here will be to NOT expand to fit the space. As I unpack, I am amazed that we managed to fit so much into so small of a space. In Hawaii, our "school room" was simply space in the living room that I eeked out. Here, we have a basement that measures somewhere in the vicinity of 800 square feet that will house not only our school area but MacGyver's office and the kids' video games and Legos. Both The Boy and The Girl now have their own room whereas in Hawaii they shared a room. And it's funny because, in Hawaii, I thought they had too much stuff but now that they are each in their own space, their rooms seem sparsely furnished.


The town that we live near (not in...we're *just* outside city limits) is a combination of the typical "outside the gate" town combined with a town that actually has quite a history. Many of the homes in the original city neighborhoods date back to the 1920s and earlier. The "downtown" district is ripe with history too but the socioeconomic situation prevents it from truly showcasing that history. And that kills me. The houses here have what my dad would call "good bones" - old Craftsman-style homes with sweeping front porches and tons of architectural detail. The buildings downtown are the same. This town is ripe for an episode of "If These Walls Could Talk" and yet, no one is developing this. The houses are run down. The downtown district has more bars and pawn shops than actual stores or eateries. It truly is a waste. Part of me wishes we were going to be here longer than we anticipate so that I could not only buy a home in the "historical district" and fix it up but also get on to the Chamber of Commerce or city planning committee and encourage them to work to bring in businesses that better reflect the character and history of the town as well as to start up a city beautification push.


I did find out - through MacGyver's inprocessing - that classes at the local community college are FREE. F.R.E.E. FREE. So that EMT course that I was interested in taking just became a little more attainable. Now I need to see about a babysitter because it looks like MacGyver is going to be busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest once he gets back in the cockpit. Which is just fine by me.


It's late and I'm getting the stink eye from my husband so I will wrap this up for now. More to come. In preparation for my next post, I encourage you to read the children's book, "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie". Trust me, it will make sense once I post.




Pau.




- hfs

9.20.2011

I need a name

The state that we've moved to requires us to name our homeschool. I am not creative in any way, shape, or form. So I"m asking for input from you. Ideas? I'd love to come up with something witty, using Hawaiian words, or a possible Calvin & Hobbes reference. Let me know what you come up with in the comments!




Pau.




- hfs

9.18.2011

Adventures in Moving - Road Trip 2011 (part 3, I think)

I had to go back and read where I left off so I know where to start. Story of my life! Grand Junction wasn't anything remarkable...mainly because we weren't there long enough to see anything. The next day, we rolled out after gassing up and started our long, slow slog up the Continental Divide. About an hour outside of GJ, we passed what had to be the most pristine setting for an RV park - right on the Colorado river and right next to a horse pasture. If we had only known...


However, if we had known, the 10 year old would still be there after refusing to get back into the RV. So it's probably a good thing we didn't know. The drive up the Rockies was slow but relatively uneventful, save for the beautiful scenery. And the gorgeous temperatures, given the fact that my car was without a/c. The descent into Denver was stressful for me, driving behind the RV that my husband drove which carried my children. I do not doubt his driving skills. He's a solid driver. But gusty winds, winding roads, 6% downhill grades, and a 28' RV with a 12' trailer make this mama stressed out. Thankfully we all made it safely. We spent 2 days in Denver which is nowhere near enough, if you ask me. But we'll be back.


We introduced the kids to the glory of Beau Jo's pizza. They got it. Part of me was hoping that they didn't so I could steal their pizza crusts and slather them with Colorado honey. Alas, they gobbled up their crusts and didn't share any with their mother, the woman who gave them LIFE. Ingrates. Both of them! We spent a few hours at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in LoDo. Not nearly enough but it was a start.


We'll be back.


Then it was time for the 500 mile push into the Sunflower State. It was a hot day and a LONG drive. That pretty much sums it up. MacGyver reserved us a site on a lake which was a nice introduction to Kansas. Pretty scenery, nice people. We're slowly getting acquainted with our new surroundings. We hit the ground running the next day, scoping out houses. After a few days of searching, it looks like we have found a house that works for us which is a blessing. After our last temp lodging experience - all 75+ days of it - I was worried we'd see a repeat and wind up languishing in temp lodging hell yet again. I'm doing my best not to count my chickens before they hatch (we do not have a signed lease as I type this but we do have a verbal agreement) but it looks like we have a house.


The house is more than DOUBLE the square footage of our house in Hawaii. I'm not sure how I'm going to fill it - we don't have enough furniture to fill that kind of space. We'll have a bedroom for The Boy and The Girl (previously, they shared a room), an office for MacGyver, and a dedicated guest room! In addition to that, the basement family room is big enough to serve as both the family room (read: video game area...no video games upstairs! Yay!) and our school area. I am beyond excited! I can put a map on the wall, a white board, posters...you name it! There is room not only for my desk but for the kids to each have desks/tables once I find them on Craigslist. The master bedroom is easily double what we had in Hawaii. The backyard is huge and has a nice hill that will make for some great tubing runs once the snow falls. It's in a quiet neighborhood that is comprised of both local and military families, is relatively close to the airfield, and is close to a few friends. We're hoping to solidify a move-in date and a date for delivery of HHGs this week.


We've not yet started school (1OCT is our start date) but we did hook up with the local military homeschool group and go on a field trip/tour of a local dairy. We were able to see how the cows are raised, the milking facilities, the veterinary facilities, the bottling facility, and we were able to taste some incredibly delicious farm-fresh milk. The families in the group seem nice and were quick to welcome us which was great. It's not as involved as our co-op back in Hawaii but they offer art classes, a choir program, and monthly field trips.


And, because every move needs some excitement, I've managed to catch a cold and I'm losing my voice. My kids are thrilled. I am not. Hopefully it's short-lived. MacGyver should be hopping back into the cockpit in the next few weeks. It's been 26 months so he's rusty but he's studying as much as possible and I'm hoping it's a lot like riding a bike in that it comes back to him quickly.


So that brings us to today. Somewhere in that chaos, The Girl turned 10. I'm not sure how that happened, exactly. She was just born yesterday. But now she's 10 and wearing my shoes. We're taking her this week to get her military ID. She's over the moon about that prospect. Where does time go?


I should hit the sack and see if I can regain my voice somehow.




Pau.




- hfs

9.10.2011

Adventures in Moving - Road Trip 2011 (part 2)

We've managed to survive 3 days of our road trip thus far. No one has been killed, no children have been offered to the Gypsies, and no obscenities have been yelled. However, we're only about 1/2 way there. We've had some major changes in our plans, starting off with deciding not to drive the RV up to the Pacific Northwest. Given our experiences over the past three days, I'd say that was a wise decision on our part. Let me recap.


We were aiming to leave SoCal around 9am (entirely too late in my opinion but it had it's upsides). Between the last minute minutiae (I LOATHE minutiae of any kind) and a blown fuse that prevented the inverter from, well, inverting (and thus powering our assorted electronics), we didn't really get on the road until 1030am. And that was after being accosted by two of the grumpiest old men I've had the displeasure of coming across in the Costco parking lot.


When the kids and I landed back in SoCal, MacGyver picked us up...in MY car!! We could only ship it to SoCal on the military's dime and we were going to pay our of pocket to ship it on to Kansas because it wasn't due to get to SoCal until after we had left. But it arrived EARLY. I was so excited to see it! And, since we had it before we had to leave, we decided to take it with us. Because we are towing a trailer, I am driving my car. It saves us (after deducting for gas) about $600 by not having to ship it in addition to having the added convenience of having a car and not having to drive the RV in and around town.


So back to the trip. We drove out of SoCal and made it as far as Adelanto (near Barstow) when the RV suffered a blow out. Thankfully it was on the rear and MacGyver was able to pull off safely. We swapped it out with the spare and were on our way. Just a side note to the story: my a/c blew a hose days before it was to be shipped. Not a big deal - MacGyver planned to fix it once the car (and we) arrived in Kansas. We didn't plan on driving it through the desert of Southern California in a late-summer heat wave. Needless to say it was HOT. And my car runs warm on the inside to begin with. Not fun. I chugged more water that day than I have all summer long. We made it to Zion late in the evening, missing the splendor of the drive in. We found our camp spot and settled in for the night.


The next morning, we awoke to some of the most majestic views a person can imagine. If you've never been to Zion, I would recommend you do so. Tomorrow. We didn't get to see 1/10th of what we wanted, having only a day but what we saw was incredible! The kids now have National Park passports and are learning all about our National Park system. I was sad to drive away from Zion this morning.


From Zion, we started our slow climb up to the Continental Divide. We made it as far as Grand Junction and that is where we camped for the night. A few maintenance issues took up most of our time this evening but thanks to MacGyver's skillz on the waffle iron, we had delicious waffles for dinner. Next, it's on to Denver. I can just about taste the Beau Jo's pizza from here!


And we received word yesterday that our HHGs are already in Kansas, waiting for us. w00t! Now we just have to find a place to live.


For now, sleep. Pictures when I have decent bandwidth.




Pau.




- hfs

9.02.2011

PacNorWest

It's COLD up here. We were supposed to have driven the RV up here to visit friends and family on our way to the Sunflower State but, after giving that some serious thought and checking out last-minute ticket prices on line, we opted to fly up instead. Actually, some of us opted to fly. MacGyver, given the fact that it's been 2+ years since he last set foot in a cockpit and given the fact that he's going to have to hit the ground running (to the cockpit) once we arrive, opted to stay home and bury himself in the -10, the 5&9, and the MTP checklist/handbook that he has. Saved us wear and tear on the RV, 20+ hours of hard driving, and really only cost us about $150 more than driving up would have cost.


All in all, I think it was a wise decision.


So the kids and I are visiting while MacGyver studies. We're freezing while he bakes. It's chilly up here, even when it's warm. And SoCal is still experiencing quite a heatwave. One of the first things we did when we arrived was go SHOPPING. My poor children only had shorts and T shirts. So we hit up Kohl's, Target, and Fred Meyer. Oh, how I have MISSED Fred Meyer. During our time in Alaska, that and Sam's Club were the only evidence that civilization existed in Fairbanks. I spent many an hour with my baby girl in Fred's in Alaska.


Today we hit the Point Defiance Zoo with the cousins and had a great time! We've missed them and it's always good to reconnect with family. I did not bring a camera on this excursion so I don't really have pictures to post. The zoo was nice - the setting was gorgeous. And the fog burned off nicely to the point where I could actually say I was warm! Tomorrow is supposed to be even nicer!


I had to resist the urge to buy The Boy a Carhartt jacket. It was a great jacket and I had forgotten how much I love Carhartts. They are a staple in Alaska. But I couldn't justify spending $75 on a jacket for a 7 year old boy. So I didn't. It's very possible that we might wind up living over this way in the future so I'll think about it if and when that happens.


It's been great to hang with old friends here. It's a lot like going home. It was so hard to say goodbye to them in February so it's wonderful to be with them again. Almost like we're back in Hawaii, hanging out as usual. And it won't be AS hard to say goodbye to them this go-round because we'll be back in a few months for Christmas. So I'm not dreading it quite as much.


I'd write more but there is a Tempurpedic mattress along with a warm blanket calling my name. So I'm out!




Pau.




- hfs

8.27.2011

Adventures in Moving - Road Trip 2011 (part 1)

It's been a week since we left Paradise and the start of Road Trip 2011 is about here. For those that don't know the plan, we are taking MacGyver's parents' RV and hitting the road to Kansas, although it's the scenic route. We're heading north to see friends and family. Then we'll meander our way south and west, stopping off in Colorado to see more friends (and eat Beau Jo's pizza!!!) before heading to the Sunflower State.


Our week here in The Land of Fruits and Nuts has been...odd. I haven't lived here since MacGyver was at Basic/AIT in the late 90s and I feel like quite the foreigner in my own hometown. Not a fan of that feeling. We packed the kids' BMX bikes in our plane luggage so we have them with us and have been checking out the local BMX tracks. They are quite different from our home track on Oahu (where else can you ride BMX bikes by the OCEAN?) but different doesn't always mean bad. The people have been incredibly kind and welcoming, the tracks have been a lot of fun, and it has been great to experience BMX riders and their families outside of our paradise.


While we've been here, we've had the chance to hit LegoLand and spend some time up in Big Bear. I had forgotten how much I love the mountains. The smell of a Jeffrey Pine is probably one of my favorite smells on this planet.


Now we're back home and loading up the RV for our road trip. As we load our stuff on the RV, all I can envision is Cousin Eddie.





Oh, Eddie... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now.


Just so you can get a visual, here's a picture of our tenement on wheels.





That's not actually a picture of ours - just one that is similar. We drove it to the BMX track last night to get a feel for it...well, MacGyver drove it. I did not. Driving something that big in Los Angeles traffic makes my stomach tie up in knots. I should be good on the open road but LA traffic in town is stupid nuts. Not to mention the fact that they are doing work on I-5 and the shoulders are all tore up so the lanes seem even more narrow. I was a basket case going out to the track last night. I keep reminding myself that I've driven a U-Haul truck in this traffic and that, if 65 year old men (and women) can drive these things, so can I but I might need a Xanax to do so.


Thankfully, MacGyver found the manual for the RV and it has a very helpful graphic on the front to help remind me of my role in this road trip.





You can't see her feet but I'm pretty sure she's barefoot. And that skirt hides the fact that she's pregnant too. Cracked me up.


I have pictures from our time in San Diego and Big Bear but I've not yet edited them. I'll get them up a little bit later. Right now, it's 110 degrees outside right now and the pool is calling my name.




Pau.




- hfs

8.24.2011

California dreamin'

Forgive the absence, if you will. We've been out and about. We loaded up the rent-a-dent and took off south. Hit a new (to us) BMX track in San Diego and had a blast. While it's not our usual (where else can you find a BMX track on the OCEAN? Nowhere.) it was a great ride. The track owner has done copious research into what materials make for the best track surface and it shows - hard packed, good drainage. minimal dust, even in SoCal.


The Girl managed to eek her way into the mains after the two front-runners managed to get tangled up a mere 5 feet from the finish line in moto 3. Herself being several feet back from said front-runners (both male) cruised on past them and into the main event. Her father and I appreciated the universe's reinforcement of our advice to never give up, even when you're in last place. She was thrilled to take home her 3rd place trophy.


The Boy, after taking first place in all 3 of his motos, took a header in the main event. It was a total point race so he walked away with a 2nd place trophy even though he finished last in the main event. His fingers are a little worse for the wear, given the fact that his gloves are shredded and he needs new ones. But he'll heal up. They both had a good time and ranked the track "the second-best track we've ever raced on!". Never mind that they've only ever raced at two tracks...


We hit LegoLand (second time for the kids, first time for MacGyver) and had a great time. My favorite is MiniLand and I especially adore the Star Wars area. I often wonder how one becomes a designer for LegoLand - I could do that all day long, even if they never paid me! It took us most of the day but we finally convinced The Boy to go on a roller coaster. He was quite hesitant at first but once we got him on, we couldn't get him OFF! I wish we had time to get him to Magic Mountain before we have to leave but I don't think we have the time. They each were able to select a set/toy from the gift shop before we left and that took longer than any of the rides! The Girl and her father spent a good 30 minutes trying to use Braille to figure out which minifigure was in each package - they each had specific ones they wanted.


Then it was off to the mountains for a few days. MacGyver's parents have a cabin up in the mountains and it was great to just crash for a bit. I had forgotten how much I love the smell of the mountains - the Jeffrey Pine tree's scent is amazing. MacGyver and I both agree that we could easily spend the rest of our lives in the mountains. And the number of foreclosures in the area is staggering - plenty of properties that we could turn into a home. We hiked up some trails, learned a little bit about the Gold Rush history of California, spotted 1,942 lizards, learned about the different kinds of pine trees in the area, examined an old log cabin, learned how gold ore was ground out, and saw some amazing scenery.


I would post pictures but my husband is hogging the cameras and all I'm left with is my cell phone, which takes decent pictures but getting them from my phone to this blog is a little more time-consuming than I care to mess with. He took lots of pictures so I'll upload some of them here once he gives up the flash card.




Pau.




- hfs

8.20.2011

Adjustment

We are spending a week in Southern California with family before heading off on our "National Lampoon PCS Vacation" tour. After a day to nap and catch our breaths, we're up and running (well, walking...no running). About 10 years ago, our hometown created a wildlife exploration center up in a canyon above the city. So we took off to explore it today. And we found that my children have lived a very sheltered existence in Hawaii.


The wildlife center has exhibits about all of the different wildlife in the area: snakes, coyotes, jackrabbits, mountain lions, bobcats, all sorts of birds and falcons, bugs, and spiders. The only critters we have really ever encountered in Hawaii were some birds and some spiders. And mosquitoes. But snakes? No snakes in Hawaii, other than the occasional Hawaiian Blind Snake. Coyotes? Not unless you count Wyle E. Coyote on TV. No mountain lions or bobcats except at the zoo. My children were...stunned. And a little scared. There were lots of questions about whether or not we'd encounter any of these animals and critters on our hike. Thankfully, the only thing we encountered that was out of the norm was a baby (tan) Praying Mantis.


The other adjustment is how DRY it is here. In addition to being a little dehydrated from the flight, it is much drier here than in Hawaii so they are both quite dehydrated. Thankfully they both like water and I don't have much trouble getting them to drink. It will be an adjustment for them though.


We are heading south to see some friends and hang out at LegoLand in a bit. Thus begins our Road Trip extravaganza.


More later.




Pau.




- hfs

8.18.2011

Final hours to aloha

Our bags are packed and the car is loaded. We've said goodbye to countless friends and I've held back more tears than I care to think about. It's about time to rip this bandaid off and get on with things. It hurts to leave so I'd rather just be done with it.


We hit the beach one last time in Kailua. After a short squall, the day was beautiful and I wish we had more time to enjoy the water. Such is life, isn't it? We were blessed to be able to stay with friends rather than in temp lodging (I think 81 days on the inbound portion of our time here was enough) and it was wonderful. They are like family and I am going to miss them terribly. We'll get to see them again in about 9 months when we come back for a visit but it's not going to be the same.


I'm already scoping out properties here to buy if and when we come back. I should be looking for houses in Kansas but instead I'm looking at houses in Hawaii. Denial anyone?


The rental market is not providing us with the options we'd like so we're looking at buying with the intention of renting the house out when we leave. We'll see how that pans out. Buying a house scares me more than having children did. Eesh. If anyone has advice on buying a house, feel free to impart that wisdom. I'm a rookie and clueless. Though we do seem to have a good realtor in the area - a friend of a friend. Buying seems so...permanent. Ick.

Never mind. Some things have changed which may possibly shorten our time in the Sunflower State. Therefore, buying is off the table as an option. We're back to scouring Craigslist and ahrn.com. Whee. Thanks for the advice though!


We are meeting up with friends for a last supper of sorts after dropping off our luggage. One last goodbye...er, aloha...and then we're off. I'll try not to cry.




Pau.




- hfs

8.10.2011

I hate this part

So the movers are here for their final day of packing and loading. They've been wonderful - quick, efficient, friendly, and they brought great music! - and I would recommend Precision Moving and Storage, Inc. to anyone. They did the living room, outside stuff, and garage (pack AND load) the first day, which was an impressive feat, especially given the fact that there are only 3 guys. Yesterday they hit the bedrooms, bathrooms, and office (as well as the linen and art closets). Today it's the kitchen and then they are done.


I got so busy yammering that I forgot to write about the part I hate. Even though the house is packed up, there's all that minutiae left to deal with - the things that need to be given to people, the trash that needs to be taken to the dump, the random things that the movers (and we) missed, luggage, etc. And no matter how hard you try to get rid of it all, it's never-ending. You'd think that, with less crap in the house, you'd have an easier time clearing it out. Nope. Annoying.


When we arrived on island, we had 13 crates of stuff. We came in at a gross weight of 13,795#. From that, they deduct 10% for packing materials as well as all of the "pro gear" weight. So we were under our allotted weight limit for MacGyver's rank. Usually people tend to accumulate stuff while they are settled and that's one of the upsides of moving frequently - you tend to purge frequently. We've been here 6 years so my concern was that we'd blow our weight limit. But it seems that, even before deducting for pro gear, we should be ok. Right now, I think we're actually going to leave here with fewer crates than we came with. THAT would be impressive, especially if you know my husband. Update: I was right. We came with 13 crates. We're leaving with 12.5 crates. Works for me!


The day that our HHGs (household goods) were delivered in 2005, I realized that I couldn't understand a word that the movers were speaking to each other. When they spoke to us, I could but I couldn't understand their conversations amongst themselves. They weren't speaking full Pidgin but it was close. Fast-forward 6 years and not only can I understand what they are saying, I could probably throw out a little Pidgin of my own if I weren't worried I'd look like an idiot. Amazing what you pick up. I can only imagine what it's like to live in a foreign country for 6 years and how much of the language you pick up when you're immersed in it. Makes me want to go live in Italy!


Even though the majority of our HHGs are in boxes, in crates, on a truck or in a warehouse, this house is FAR from empty. And I'm realizing my husband does not understand the concept of traveling lightly. The kids and I each have a suitcase. Just one. And their suitcases are not nearly full, even with their pillows in the suitcase. Mine is more full but nowhere near it's limit. MacGyver, on the other hand, has the following:
- a suitcase (full)
- a garment bag (full)
- a box of PTs and Army undergarments
- a box of electronic-y stuff (wireless router, hard drive with all of our backups, and other electronic-y stuff)
- another box of something else that I've since forgotten what it's contents are.


And that's in addition to the kids' BMX bikes (another box) and their race gear (helmets, armor, clothing, goggles, etc.) (another box). Oh, and we have a suitcase of shoes. I'm sure there another box or suitcase floating around here somewhere. We're going to look like the Clampitts getting to the airport. And people wonder why I rented a full-sized pick up truck...


The kids are each struggling with the move in their own way. The Girl, who had been SO anxious to get this show on the road a few weeks back, is now quite sad over the idea of having to say goodbye to everyone. I wondered when that reality would hit. The Boy is a typical 7-year old homebody. He burst into tears when the movers packed up his XBOX 360. He burst into tears again when he realized that there was nothing to eat in the fridge. He burst into tears again when the last apple was eaten. he burst into tears when he lost a game he was playing with his sister on the iPad. He's out of his element and he's not happy about it. And, as excited as he was to get going, he's also sad at the thought of having to say goodbye to his friends. He's only ever known Hawaii and I have a feeling that the excitement of snow is going to wear off quickly this winter. Moving is stressful and I don't envy them. I lived in the same house my entire life, only moving out at the age of 18 to go to college. And only because my parents forced me to because they were retiring and moving back east. If it were up to me, I wouldn't have moved out until I got married. Can you sense my intense dislike of change? A GREAT trait in a military spouse, isn't it?


We're cleaning as the movers clear a room so we're ahead on that part of the game plan. And we have a bunch of friends from church coming over in a few days to help us do the final clean. Then we'll hand the keys over and be on vacation! We have a list of places we want to eat before we leave as well as a few last "bucket list" items to take care of. And then we begin the next saga in our Adventures in Moving series: Road Trip 2011. Fun times.


Baseboards are calling my name to be wiped down so I am off.





Pau.




- hfs

8.06.2011

No words...








Pau.




- hfs

8.05.2011

Because moving isn't fun...

...unless you're SICK. Breakfast today was Sudafed + Motrin + caffeine. The breakfast of champions. Keep in mind, I rarely get sick. Usually I get one cold per year - which blesses my family by taking away my voice - and that's about it. Occasionally throughout the year I might get the sniffles or a sore throat but rarely do they bother me and rarely do they require medicine or rest (beyond my normal).


Apparently, my immune system was boxed up somewhere along the line and now I am sick. Not enough to warrant staying in bed but enough to make me feel like poo and take pills. I can't hear out of my left ear. I am hacking like a life-long smoker, I can't take a deep breath without hacking like said smoker, I can barely breathe through my nose (I HATE mouth breathing), and my throat hurts. Fun times, I tell you. Fun times. So drugs it is.


The movers did their walk-through yesterday. YESTERDAY. They were supposed to start packing us out TODAY. Nothing like being on the ball, yeah? Amazingly they opted to start packing us out Monday. The guy estimates that we have (between the two of us) 4,000# of professional gear. Impressive. We'll see how that affects out total weight once all is said and done. Because of that, I have no fear that we will come in under weight. Yay for pro gear!


My house looks like a tornado hit it and it's driving me street-rat crazy. I avoid the living room like a cockroach avoids light. All of the major cleaning (pressure washing, washing the walls in the kitchen and bathrooms, cleaning windows and tracks, etc.) is done and we've done all of the move-out repairs that were on our list other than touch up paint. This place will be in better shape than it was when we moved in and that's how I like it. In the meantime, I stay in the kitchen (the one room that is still somewhat tidy and orderly) and pretend not to notice the rest of the house.


Fun times!




Pau.




- hfs

7.28.2011

6.5 years ago

I wrote this post. I just stumbled across it while looking for something else and I find myself laughing at my whining and yet completely understanding how I was feeling at that moment. I chuckled at the comment about a $5 gallon of milk. I was at the local grocery store earlier today and, without a club card, their milk was $7.89/gallon.


Let me just say "WOOHOO for COLA!".


I look at a lot of my concerns and they are quite similar to some of the concerns I have now about moving. It's nice to know some things never change. And I read how unhappy I was to be moving here (who, in their right mind, is UNHAPPY to be moving to Hawaii??? Eesh) and I contrast that with how unhappy I am to be leaving now and I pray that I settle in at our next location like I've settled in here. Well, maybe not quite so much. Or else I won't want to leave there either.


There are days when I wish MacGyver had never joined the Army. There are days when I wish that we had been like many of our friends back home and settled in our hometown. It's not like Los Angeles is a small town. We had plenty of options. And then I wouldn't have to have said goodbye to so many incredible people along the way. I wouldn't have to deal with the completely unrealistic desire to live in 4 different places at the same time. I could just stay in my Southern California bubble and be content. But then I think about all of the incredible opportunities and blessings military life has afforded us over the past 13 years and I cannot begrudge that. I know I'll miss it when it's gone.


Our time here is getting short and I find there's a war going on inside myself: the desire to withdraw from anyone and anything here because it will make leaving slightly easier and the desire to skip sleeping for the next 3 weeks so I can soak up as much as humanly possible of this place and the people I love.


Sleep is overrated. Highly overrated.




Pau.




- hfs

Adventures in Moving - Dominating the list

The "dominating the 'to do' list series" continues throughout the week. Today was somewhat of a down day as The Boy is sick. Probably just a virus but enough to throw a wrench into the works. And, after not having slept well for the past few days, I was dragging today as well. Not that I didn't get anything done...I just didn't do as much.


The list is much shorter now. Here's the bulk of what's left:

~ schedule shut off of water (everything else is done)
~ scan pics and important documents, burn 3 discs (1 in safe, 1 to my mom, 1 to MacGyver's parents) for safekeeping/backup purposes
~ pick up my medical records (kids are already in MacGyver's possession)
~ make copies of all medical records
~ pick up school records
~ mail homeschool materials ahead of us
~ call dentist to cancel fall appts.
~ call new dentist and set up fall appts
~ pull clothes out of kids' old dresser
~ fix old dresser, give to friend
~ start setting aside what goes in suitcases/on plane
~ finish taking down wall decor
~ finish spackling
~ touch up paint (hopefully we have the right color)
~ dump run
~ clean oven and stovetop
~ replace switchplates
~ wipe down all baseboards
~ clean upstairs windows and screens
~ box up things to which we still have original boxes
~ KIDS' ROOM


With regard to the kids' room, I've pretty much left that one alone. I didn't want to disrupt their space until the last minute. Everything else is a bit chaotic and out of sorts and they are both beginning to show signs of it getting to them. So I am doing my best to minimize the disruption in their space. Next week, I will begin, in earnest, to pack up and organize their room. The movers are set to start packing next Friday so I'm aiming to have their room pretty much done by Wednesday evening. That will give me Thursday to tie up loose ends and whatnot.


The majority of the pro gear is set aside and/or boxed up. I went ahead and boxed up the homeschooling stuff because I had the boxes to do so and it was pretty easy. So that's all sitting pretty in a corner of my living room.


Rental car reservations are made on both ends. MacGyver insists on taking full advantage of the fact that our airline allows us EACH 4 bags up to 70# a piece. That's 1,120# of luggage. So I rented a truck. a full-sized truck. On both ends. He doesn't think this is necessary ("We can make more than 1 trip!") but I do and I'm not budging. The last thing I want to do on my last day on this island is sit at the airport with luggage, waiting for him to go back and get the rest of it. No thanks. Not unless I have a mango mojito in my hand, thankyouverymuch. So I rented a full-sized truck. The BMX track and one of my favorite beaches is just a few short miles from the airport. I plan to watch the sunset at that beach and then meander my way to the terminal to drop off luggage and the rental car (truck). I plan to walk through security, trailing sand off my slippahs as I go. I'm being forced to leave this island against my wishes so I plan to go out MY way.


That being said, I'm already planning my trip back here. A few of my kids from church are graduating this coming school year so I will head back for that as well as a few other things that will be going on around that time of year. I already have dates planned and frequent flier miles are being accrued as I type. My hope is that I can manage to get back here for a few weeks at a time each year. I'm choosing to see our next duty station as though I were going away to college. I'll go, have a great time, make some friends, and then come home. Yep, sounds like a plan.




Pau.




- hfs

7.26.2011

Adventures in Moving - SNAKE!

While I was out pressure washing the lanai and pathways, I found a SNAKE! In Hawaii...the state that doesn't HAVE snakes!





It's a Hawaiian Blind Snake (Google it...go ahead). The name is ironic because they really aren't blind. We hung on to him (her?) long enough to take some pictures and a short video and then put him (her?) back where we found him (her?). Hawaii has had a rash of snakes - either found or turned in - recently. I think I read that there had been 14 since January. That's a lot for an island that doesn't have snakes!


The "TO DO" list was significantly diminished and dominated by the time I was done today. As was the pressure washer which gave up after about 3 hours of solid work. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to brush my teeth in the morning. All told, here was the tally:


- 6 loads of laundry run
- 4 folded and put away (last one is in the dryer and will be folded, along with load #5, in the AM)
- dishes washed
- both tubs scrubbed
- toilets scrubbed
- 75% of concrete pressure washed
- 75% of lower half of house exterior pressure washed
- exteriors of all lower level windows washed
- tracks and interiors of kitchen windows cleaned
- car washed (not very well but enough to get the dirt from the BMX track off)
- 1 load of give-away stuff dropped off
- car loaded for errands tomorrow
- landlord called regarding screen replacements
- children kept alive and fed
- sign language practiced
- touch-up paint purchased (needs to be returned - not the right shade...grr.)


Not too shabby. Tomorrow is errands and working on the rest of the downstairs windows as well as yanking things off the walls, pulling nails, spackling, etc. Then I can start on the upstairs windows. Yay.


And we have TICKETS! Finally. So now I get to start reserving rental cars and finalizing our itineraries as we ROAD TRIP!!!! MacGyver has already started clearing so that will be a big help too. Hopefully we can get as much out of the way as possible before the movers even get here. Hopefully.




Pau.




- hfs

7.24.2011

Adventures in moving...the "TO DO" list

So the "TO DO" list is still pretty long. And we're moving into crunch time - about 2 weeks until the movers come. So I've issued myself a challenge for tomorrow: get as many things done on the "TO DO" list as humanly possible before I go to sign language practice in the evening. Assuming I can roll my lazy butt out of bed when MacGyver heads off to PT, that will give me 12 hours to tackle the following (in no particular order of importance):


*** note to self...SUNSCREEN!!!***
- pressure wash the walkways, back lanai, driveway, lower half of house, trash and recycling bins
- run laundry
- fold and put away laundry
- wash exterior sides of windows
*** note to self...SUNSCREEN!!!***
- scrub both tubs
- wipe down/scrub out tracks of windows
- call to confirm screen repair dude
- call to set up appointment with dermatologist
*** note to self...SUNSCREEN!!!***
- pull clothes out of kids' dresser and box up/set aside for packing
- fix dress drawer pull and prep to give to friend
- scan important documents and burn copies of DVD for record-keeping purposes
- finish taking down pictures and wall decor
- dust pictures and wall decor
- wash all walls
- spackle all holes
- Home Depot: 1 pint touch up paint
- touch up paint
- bring in GINORMOUS extension ladder
- dust fan in living room
- box up remaining homeschool items and set aside as "professional gear"
- Post Office: ship boxes
- wash and wax car
- vacuum car
- take bulky items to dump
- clear out pantry - trash, give to friends, donate to foodbank
- call water company to set up shut off date


I'll post tomorrow night (if I'm not comatose) as to what all I get accomplished. *movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*
*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*movingisfun*


If I keep telling myself this, maybe I'll believe it at some point. Fake it till you make it, right? *sigh*




Pau.




- hfs

7.20.2011

Adventures in Moving - Doors and windows

I wallowed pretty good last night about the Perfect House falling through. And I'm kind of still wallowing. However, like my Godmother said yesterday, when one door closes a window opens. My friend who lives where we are headed found another house on Craigslist (what in the world did we DO before Craigslist?) and this one - while not "Perfect" in the built-in-1918-and-completely-remodeled-on-an-acre-of-land sense - is even better in that it is NOT surrounded by every pedophile and sex offender in the state and it's all of 3 blocks from said friend!


Still within our budget, a little smaller than we were looking for but not as small as the house we live in now. Not horribly far from post but not right outside the gate either. So we'll see. I dropped a note to the realtor that's managing it and I'm waiting to hear back from her. However, even if this house doesn't work out, we have the RV and there is a lake nearby that has RV slots and hookups so we can park there for as long as necessary until we find the right house.


In addition to planning this move, I'm also trying to plan our upcoming school year. Obviously, it's going to get off to an unorthodox start, given the fact that we'll be homeless and on a month-long road trip for the first few weeks of the school year. I currently have 5 Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes packed and ready to ship to SoCal ahead of us so that we have all of our school stuff with us on the road. Not sure how much of it all we'll get done but we can try. For science this year, I am piecing together a botany/horticulture/gardening/chemistry curriculum. This was originally centered around the Perfect House's existing vegetable garden and fruit trees but now we will include carpentry in there (building elevated beds for the garden) and our PE unit will include digging up grass, raking, hoeing, tilling, mulching, etc. I've ordered a few books including Apologia's Botany text (and notebook) so we'll see how this comes together. I'm looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our labor (pun intended)!


I should hit the sack as the "TO DO" list is still in existence and needs some more attention tomorrow. I was able to take down the decorative towel racks in preparation for Spackle Saturday and was also able to set up shut-off dates for our utilities. Two more things marked off. More tomorrow.




Pau.




- hfs

7.18.2011

Making headway

The domination of the "TO DO" list continues. The yard sale over the weekend was successful, if you don't count the two stashes of stuff I meant to put out to sell (not including the fake ficus tree)...whoops! Thankfully, I had a friend who wanted the Pampered Chef stoneware that I forgot about in the kitchen and most of what was in the box in the living room can either go to friends or church. It's amazing to me how much CRAP we've managed to accumulate over the past 6+ years (less, actually, because we've had 1 or 2 yard sales over the years).


When we moved here, we maxed out our weight limit (13,500# for a CW2). My goal is to get us to Kansas with less than what we came with. I'm not counting the motorcycle we're moving with because (much to my MIL's chagrin) it belongs to my father-in-law, not us. MacGyver managed to find a pristine 1979 Honda CBX. It's a 6-cylinder in a color that Honda did not actually offer on their initial line. He saw the ad on eBay, shot an email to his dad (he knew his dad had always been interested in them) and his dad wrote back immediately and said "SOLD!". The gentleman we bought it from was the original owner and the only thing wrong with it is that it needs the carbs cleaned. She's a beast - a good 600#. And she's loud...almost obnoxiously so. But the comments she garners are worth it ("Oh my goodness! Is that what I think it is?!?").


Anyway, she belongs to my FIL so that doesn't count. And last time we moved here, we didn't count MacGyver's tools as professional gear because he wasn't a maintainer nor was he yet a Maintenance Test Pilot. But he is now and therefore (because he does use his own tools for work) we get to count them. And all of our homeschooling materials (books, texts, school supplies, printer, laminator, computer, etc.) count as professional gear for me. That's a HUGE chunk of weight. I wish there was a bonus for coming in UNDER budget for weight! We've sold off the couch, a couple of bookcases, we're selling the dining table, a few other living room items, and a 2nd motorcycle.


Today we deposited the proceeds from the yard sale and cashed in all of our change. I paid the kids in dollars for the change in their piggy banks and, combined with our change stashes, we cashed in almost $200 in coinage! The CoinStar machine doesn't charge a fee if you opt for the Amazon.com gift card and, combined with my SwagBucks gift cards, we have enough in our Amazon account to cover the bulk of the kids' Christmas gifts this year. And, because we'll be back on the mainland, I can score free shipping, which is not usually available to me on The Rock. w00t


We're still wrangling with transportation and finance. If you live on the mainland (i.e. a CONUS location) and move to another CONUS location, you can get paid to drive two vehicles (you'll be paid less to drive the second vehicle but you'll still get paid). Not so if you're coming from an OCONUS location, even if that OCONUS location is still part of the United States. We were planning to ship our primary vehicle ahead to Kansas (well, to the nearest Vehicle Processing Center/VPC) and then drive another vehicle (which we were planning to pick up in California) to Kansas. But, if we ship the 1st vehicle to KS, we cannot be paid mileage and per diem to drive the 2nd vehicle. So, because we're coming from an OCONUS location, we're only "allowed" one vehicle. I could understand this if we were coming from Korea or Germany or another foreign country where the likelihood of bringing back a 2nd vehicle that would be legal on US roads would be less likely. But the policy as it pertains to Hawaii and Alaska is asinine.


In other news, it looks like the house we were hoping to rent when we get to Kansas might no longer be on the table. If you Google the words "registered sex offenders Junction City Kansas" you will understand why. Perfect house. Perfectly awful location. I cannot knowingly put my children in that kind of situation. It would be one thing if I had no other choice. But I do. So we're back to trolling the internet for possible rentals. I was so looking forward to driving right into the driveway of our new house when we got there. It was a great house too - 4BR, acre of land, completely remodeled, built in the early 1900s, allows dogs, garden and fruit trees, 2 car garage + workshop, etc. PERFECT. Not.


I don't "do" disappointment very well. Can you tell? Stop laughing at me. I'm incredibly bummed.


The mojo I had when I started writing this post early this afternoon was completely sapped by the information I found out about the house and the area in which we were looking to rent. So now, I think I'm going to take my disappointment and go to bed. Poo.




Pau.




- hfs

7.13.2011

Project ValOUR-IT





I have been remiss in highlighting the Project ValOUR-IT fundraising competition that is currently taking place. I apologize. This year, the fundraising campaign has been moved from November to July. Currently, as of this writing, Team Army has raised $13,000+ of the $25,000 it hopes to raise by July 14th. There are 136 wounded servicemembers waiting for a laptop - a laptop that your donation could provide. It's the least we can do.


There are some incredible posts out there. Every year, my fellow milbloggers completely knock my socks off with their eloquence, their honesty, their insight, and their wit. This year, my friend Chuck posted his mother's thoughts on her son's injuries and his subsequent recovery - a recovery that resulted in the existence of Project ValOUR-IT. Alice is AMAZING. I've met her once and I thought she was a saint simply for raising Chuck, let alone how she supported him during his recovery. Her story is humbling and inspiring. Go, read it, and then donate to this incredible cause.


I am.




Pau.




- hfs

7.12.2011

Feast or famine

Let me start this post off with the fact that I am NOT complaining.


We were waiting to hear back from Branch as to whether we'd be allowed to stick around a few extra days to make the whole pack-your-house-and-run-around-like-a-chicken-with-your-head-cut-off scenario just a little easier. We were hoping for 5-7 days.


They gave us 17. Apparently, when we asked for 8AUG, they saw 18AUG. So that's our new departure date. Works.For.Me. We now have 17 extra days to enjoy the island - hiking, beaches, water park, friends, food, church, trade winds, etc. We went ahead and bought season passes to the water park here. Odd, given the fact that we're leaving in 5 weeks. But the cost of a pass was barely more than a 1-day admission so it made sense. We've already been once this week. We'll be going again before the week is up. And again next week. And the week after. We are also revisiting some of our favorite hikes this week while MacGyver takes some time off. He has mass leave accrued and it made sense for him to take some time off to "play tourist" and get some work done on the garage before the movers come.


My OCD is in full-swing. You'd understand if you saw my little spiral-bound notebook. It has 3 tabbed sections and I am putting each to very good use. The first section is the "to do/pertinent info" section. In it, there are the following lists:

~ master "TO DO" list
~ "To Sell" list
~ freezer contents/meal list
~ monies (moving money, deposit refunds, BAH for here and there, estimated budget for KS, estimated expenses for KS)
~ Regulation/JFTR references, just in case anyone wants to argue Pro Gear definitions with me
~ day by day lists of things that need to be done
~ rental car info


The next section is a room by room account of what needs to be done or cleaned. Each room has a page. Eventually, I will print these out and post them in each room. Yep. I'm that anal.


Last one is our packing/travelling info:

~ what to pack in luggage (1 page for each person)
~ what to ship (instead of put in luggage)
~ items for our advance shipment
~ Homeschool curriculum to ship
~ day by day travel plans
~ rental car and lodging info for travel


There are also a few handy little pockets for holding receipts, print outs of the JFTR, etc.


Right now this pretty little spiral-bound notebook is ruling my life. But at least I know what it has planned for me! And I have more time in which to get it done. Seventeen more days, to be exact!




Pau.




- hfs

7.11.2011

When I grow up, I want to be...

...a paramedic. Seriously. When I was living in SoCal, I took the EMT-B course, LOVED IT, and then promtly moved to Colorado (never taking my NREMT exam) where they paid EMT-Bs a whopping $6.50/hour. I could make almost double that coaching so I never worked as an EMT.


Fast forward to the year 2000. I'm living in Alaska, working as a teacher, and I find that UAF has an EMT program during the summer. PERFECT! I get all signed up to redo the course and possibly put it to some actual USE (in addition to taking the NREMT exam) and I find myself pregnant. UAF prohibits (and rightfully so) women who are pregnant from taking the course. Phooey.


Fast forward to 2006. The city and county of Honolulu find themselves in a predicament. They are short on EMTs and paramedics. So they decide to start paying people to take the EMT courses. Sadly, that one didn't work out for me.


Fast forward again to 2009. I find that there is an EMT/Paramedic program at one of the community colleges but it's WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY downtown and it's a semester-long, 5 days/week, 8-10 hours per day program. Plus (at the time) it looked like MacGyver was deploying and that would mean my children would see their daycare providers more than they saw their parents. I couldn't do that, especially amidst the upheaval that a deployment brings. And then life came crashing down around me and all thoughts of taking the EMT course were set aside.


There's a glimmer of hope on the horizon in that there are several accredited EMT programs in the state of Kansas and I'm hoping and praying I can find one that works for me and my family. We'll see.


The reason I type all of this out is to illustrate what a NERD I am. I have a substantial first aid kit. Just because I never took the NREMT exam doesn't mean I've forgotten the things I've learned. In addition, I work with the youth at church and my family and I do a lot of outdoor activities, including BMX riding, (plus I am the parent of a 7 year old boy) so I find that I need a little more than your average first aid kit. So I took my cues from a PA friend of mine and put together my first aid kit. It's nothing too special...I don't have DermaBond or anything cool like that but I do have gauze pads, steri-strips, butterfly bandages, my CPR mask, a lot of gloves, a bunch of common meds (Motrin, Benadryl, Tylenol, etc), etc. If I really wanted to get adventurous, I could steal MacGyver's Combat Lifesaver kit and put that in there but I don't know how to start an IV yet so that's probably not going to do me a lot of good.


But that's not the nerdy part.


The nerdy part is this: I had to get a new bag for my kit this weekend. I had a chem ice pack blow on me in the bag and the chemicals destroyed the zipper of the toiletry bag that was my kit bag. So I found a new bag - ironically (no, not intentionally) it's a Swiss Army bag. Complete with pretty little red cross. It was all they had at Target that wasn't a big POS. So I spent the evening transferring all of my first aid stuff from the destroyed bag to the new bag. I checked all of the expiration dates, made sure I had restocked things from when The Boy split his head open, and added in a few things as well. It's all good to go and I am quite proud of myself.


Now, just to find a class I can take so I can put my nerdiness to work!




Pau.




- hfs