He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Operation Surprise Move

We ought to be experts on moving after 16 moves in 18 years of marriage, including 7 overseas moves.   Maybe that's why I convinced myself that pulling off a surprise move for Jason would be do-able.   That, and I love a good surprise, especially a challenging one.  And moving overseas?  Let's just say challenging does not exactly describe it.  

I've mentioned that this has been a pretty stressful season for our family.  Work responsibilities increasing and therefore travel increasing for Jason, school decisions being made for the kids etc etc.  Just a lot going on.  In spite of all of that, when an apartment became available on the ground level (meaning patio and yard space) across town we knew it was not something we wanted to pass up on.  Our current lease overlapped with when the apt would be coming available so we also knew that we would be able to move gradually which was a good thing considering our available time in the spring/summer months was essentailly zilch.  

Here's the thing.  Jason detests moving.  The entire process- the packing, the cleaning out, the organzing etc etc.  Not only does he detest it, but he has a herniated disc in his back and was told a few years ago that he was one false move away from needing back surgery.  Since then he has "tweaked" his back several times doing minor things resulting in being in a good bit of pain and immobile for days,sometimes weeks.  It stresses him out for me to tell him not to lift stuff and then to watch me lifting/moving things and it stresses me out to think of him hurting himself more.  Ironically, I actually enjoy the process of moving and setting up a new home.  I love to nest and make things pretty.  It's funny because I am actually very much a homebody and change is not my favorite thing.  I come from a very deep-rooted family especially in the sense of physical location.  My Memommy still lives in the same house in Memphis that she moved into in the 1950s.  My parents live in the house that they moved into when I was 5.  Despite that, I enjoy the setting up of a new home.  

All that to say, when I began looking at our spring/summer calendar, I began strategizing and planning how I could move us during Jason's 15 day trip to the states in April.  His work schedule has been crazy busy,  and my true motivation was a desire to bless him by freeing him from the stress that comes along with the moving details.  AND I wanted to get our family settled.  I didn't want the move and not knowing when it was going to happen to continue to hang over us.  We have family coming this summer and I wanted us to be settled in our new home!

So Operation Suprise Move was put into effect!  I was able to pack some boxes gradually before he left for his trip without him being suspicious.  We knew we'd be moving sometime in the next few months so it made sense to begin going through closets, gathering piles of clothes and toys to give away etc.  

The morning that he left, I gathered the girls and told them the plan.  I hadn't told them in advance because I was pretty sure that at least Naomi would not be able to keep it to herself.  I explained that it was likely to be a pretty stressful few weeks but that we were all going to work together and really surprise Daddy.  They were all about it.  I also recruited help from many dear friends in town.  These friends were amazing during these 2 weeks.  We absolutely could not have pulled this off without our overseas family gathering around us.  I am so thankful for all of you- you know who you are!   

So here are some things you need to know about moving overseas:
  • we do not use a moving company- we hire guys off the street with a truck.  I don't know how else to describe it.  We have a guy who does handy- man type work for us and he knows guys who are looking for work so he recruits them and supervises them and comes up with a truck for moving day
  • because we don't use moving companies- the taking apart of furniture, wrapping of furniture to be prepped to move, packing of breakables etc is all done be yours truly (and those who helped)
  • it can be an adventure coming up with the needed boxes, packing materials etc.  let's leave it at that.
  • "guys off the street" typically don't hold your stuff in the same high regard that you do
With Jason being gone 2 weeks, my plan was to get us moved in sometime during the second week so that we could have things somewhat set up by the time he got home.  It would kind of defeat the purpose if he came home to a ton of work needing to be done in the new place.  During the first week work was being completed at the new place- plumbing work, painting etc.  While we waited on that to get done, I worked on packing boxes at the old house.  He left on Sunday and by the next Saturday the house was move-in ready.  Many friends came over on Saturday to pack up my kitchen with me.  The girls were a great help also.  This massive role of bubble wrap was gone by the end of the day...

We packed the kitchen, books, breakables, and the guys who came to help, wrapped furniture with cardboard and old sheets for protection during the move.

(pretty much the entire house looked like this for the majority of the week)

After packing up the kitchen, we still had about 3 days in the old house so we had to get creative for meal time, but we kind of survive on popcorn and cereal when Jason travels so that was no big deal...

I realized about half-way through the packing process that it might be challenging to keep the secret especially when Jason called on Skype.  He would definitely be video skyping from the US and a house overflowing with boxes would be hard to hide.  We usually have the computer on the kitchen table when we Skype, so we left this corner of our kitchen set up so that he wouldn't get suspicious..

So by the end of Saturday, a large part of the house stuff was packed up.  At this point, the moving truck was set to come on Tuesday morning.  I spent Sunday and Monday, along with some wonderful friends, taking loads back and forth from the old place to the new place in our van.  I was able to get most of the kitchen unpacked on Sunday as well as bathroom cabinets, toiletries and bedroom closets.  The good thing about an across town move is that you can just throw stuff in laundry baskets and not even worry about fully packing up clothes etc.  We moved clothes on hangers, dresser drawers fully packed, loosely packed boxes of toiletries and food from one house to the other.  

So one of my biggest stressors in this whole process was the taking apart of furniture.   We have a pretty massive bunk bed for the girls (twin on top, double on the bottom, with a trundle underneath and stairs going up the side with cabinets under them).  I remembered how stressed Jason was the last time we moved about taking it apart and then re-assembling it.  The first time we bought it, the company came and put it together in the room for us.  Abbey also has a loft bed that was assembled in her room and had not been moved.  Some of my amazing recruited help had taken apart the beds on Saturday- no small task and were coming back Monday evening to move them to the new place and re-assemble them.  I was afraid that the pieces might get damaged by less than careful movers and wanted to be super careful with certain things.  We drove the bed parts apart town basically hanging off the back of an opened pick-up truck around 10 PM Monday night and the guys were up to well after 1 getting them re-assembled.  My task was to drive behind their truck to make sure the parts didn't fall out when they went up hills.  I'm not sure what exactly I would have done had they fallen out besides wreck, but thankfully all the pieces made it intact (and I begged a drink out of a closing Starbucks at 11 that night- I must have been pretty pitiful because they gave me a drink even though they were officially closed).
The girls were thrilled to sleep on the floor several nights....

Monday night I was more than thankful to get in bed by 2.  At some point that afternoon I hit panic mode and really thought I might be pulling an all nighter (thus the drink that I begged off of starbucks). I realized how much furniture still needed to be wrapped and padded with cardboard and of course, with any move, there are always the last minute odds and ends that really add up.  

The "movers" (and remember, in this part of the world we use that term loosely) were set to arrive around 9:30 with the truck giving me just enough time to tie up some loose ends, get the girls off to school, and take Anabelle to a friends house where she would be staying for the day.  So of course, at 7:50, when I walked out my front door to take Anabelle, the guy in charge of the movers was already standing out front looking at me like,"where are you going?"  I reminded him that he was 1.5 hours early but let him in (along with a friend who was there to help me supervise things) so that he could start the process of getting everything ready for the truck.  I went to drop off Anabelle and remembered that I had forgotten to get a cooler to unload my fridge and freezer into (I had barely remembered the night before that I needed to unplug them and let them thaw).  Took care of that too and arrived back in a tizzy (not that I hadn't already been in a tizzy for a good week at this point).

When I got home, the truck and all the movers were there.  I was greeted as I walked up the 3 flights of stairs by several of the "movers" dragging my kitchen table down the stairs.  Got that little issue corrected and soon another of my friends arrived to help supervise the loading of the truck.  The next 2 hours were a frenzy of moving, loading, and yelled requests like BE CAREFUL, DON'T DROP THAT, PLEASE DON'T DRAG THAT etc etc.  

And then it was done.  

The truck was loaded, a few things were dinked up pretty good, but all of Grandaddy's pieces (mahogany bookshelf and coffee table) came through without a scratch and they even managed to get the piano in one piece as well.  Wheew!

The unloading at the new place was not nearly as stressful as the loading.  I'm sure being on the ground level helped that!  Again, thanks to the help of dear friends, by the end of the day, we had all of our beds put together and made, and even most of the furniture somewhat in place.  

It took a day or two to get the washer and dryer hooked up, the oven hooked up and the gas replaced to heat water but all things considered everything went VERY smoothly.  

Obviously, by this point, our little skype station for talking to Jason was no longer set up, so we had to stretch the truth just a wee bit when he tried to call.  I was able to tell him that the internet just wasn't working and I couldn't figure out why.  Which was actually entirely true, I just didn't mention that it was still working just fine at our old apartment.  I did have a moment of panic (another one), when I realized that he might be less than thrilled about the move if he got home and we had no internet access, but then a friend reminded me that he would be able to use his iPhone to create a WiFi signal.  Whew!!  

So we spent our first night in the new place on Tuesday and Jason was due to arrive home on Saturday night.  We had several days to unpack boxes and get further settled.  By the time Saturday arrived we had most of the boxes unpacked and out of the house.  I got very few photos of this whole process but here are a few...

Naomi and Anabelle are now roomies...
I love the purple and red!

I considered (for about a millisecond) doing away with the crib at the same time as the move but she is showing absolutely no signs of wanting to be out of it, so I nixed that plan pretty quick.  It's nice to still have her confined and happy about it at naptime and bedtime.

Abbey and Maddie are roomies now but I haven't gotten a shot yet of their new room or our room.  

Here's the family room and kitchen.  I love color on the walls and went with a terracotta for this area.

 Here's grandaddy's bookshelf that made it without a scratch- PTL!

I am SO excited about our new dining room table that we bought from our friends who moved out.   I love entertaining and we often have large crowds so it will be great to have room for all of them!  If you look closely you can see the one unpacked box in the back corner.  I'm not allowing myself to start on that one until things slow down a little more.  It's all I can do not to nest, but I know me and I know I can become a bit consumed by the best placement of framed pictures and decor (which is what's in that box so I'm leaving it alone for now).  I also still have all of my breakable house decor stuff in the china cabinet and will work on arranging all of that in the next few weeks when things slow down.

Here's the living room.  AND for the first time in our overseas experience we have light fixtures instead of bulbs dangling by a wire from the ceiling!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that during the craziness of moving week, the girls and I loaded up our rugs and took them to the car wash place for a good cleaning before putting them down at the new place.  They did a fabulous job.  

By the time Jason got home on Saturday, things were pretty well settled.  His plane arrived at 12:30 AM.  The girls really wanted to have him taxi to our old place and walk in and find it empty.  I told them that would be a great idea were he arriving in the middle of the afternoon, but I didn't figure it would go over to well in the middle of the night.  I ended up going to the airport to get him and just driving straight to the new house without saying anything.  He wasn't paying a lot of attention when I turned the "wrong" way- I think he was checking soccer scores for his fantasy league, but he finally looked up and said, "WHERE are you going?"

"Home," I said.  

He was confused, then shocked then a little worried.  I think he had an idea that I planned to start moving some stuff but I think he maybe thought he was going to come home to a mess of situating furniture, figuring out how things work at the new place and unpacking boxes.  Thankfully all that was left for him to do was unpack his suitcase into his new closet.  

Yes, I'm still catching up on sleep, and yes, there are still things to figure out in the new place- house training our dog for one- she's been going on newspaper on the balcony for 4 years and it's proving to be a hard habit to break, figuring out how to stay a day ahead of the constant dust since we are right next to a construction sight and on the ground floor, figuring out what to do with ripsticks, roller blades and other outdoor paraphernalia- I bought a padlock to chain down a footlocker on the patio but of course, the chain wouldn't fit and the lock wouldn't close so I'm working on plan b for that one.  

We are super excited about actually having a yard to garden in- yay!  Maddie has big plans for that!  Speaking of yards we've had some house guests in the back that we discovered about a week after moving in- a momma cat and her 5 kittens.  It's been fun watching them, until today when I discovered that the smallest one had died.  That was major trauma and a story for another day....

Anway, all in all, Operation Surprise Move= big success!!

Looking forward to a summer of settling in!

Friday, May 24, 2013

So things have been a little busy...

And that, my friends, is a massive understatement.  I mean there are busy seasons, and there are calm seasons, then there's the in between normal that we kind of define ourselves by.  I think it's safe to say that as a family of 6 with kids ranging in age from 2-13, that our "normal" is really quite busy, and we're actually kind of used to that.  We do well with busy.  We enjoy activity.  But the last few months- holy moly.  It has been busy redefined and I could use a break!  It's been one of those seasons of life where every so often I'll stop and think, God must be trying to teach me something here with everything that is going on and if I actually had time to THINK about it, I might figure it out....   Well, I haven't really had time to think about it yet, but I'm sure there are many life lessons packed in the pages of the story of our lives over the past few months and maybe one day I'll figure out how to unpack them.  Not today.  Today is for mindlessly posting pictures and stories on the blog and sipping my grande white chocolate frappuccino and soaking in the quiet.

So WHAT exactly has made things so crazy?  Definitely not any one thing.  More a combination of all the little things (and a few biggies thrown in there).  Here's a recap.  Some of these things will probably eventually get their own post once I get my feet back under me a little bit and actually organize my time enough to schedule "computer time"...

So, a recap...  The biggest biggie is that we moved.   Just across town.  But the girls and I did it while Jason was out of town to surprise him.  Completely crazy, probably.  Am I still catching up on lost sleep?  Definitley.  Worth the surprise for him and the heartache that it saved him?  Absolutely?  

Here's a little of the "crazy" he got to miss.  This event will definitely get its own post...

Let's see, what else?  Spring in Amman means baseball season for us on Fridays.  It makes for a full weekend, but the girls love it.  Abbey and Maddie are on the same team and Naomi is on a t-ball team.  Fridays are spent at the ball park for the first 2 months of spring.  They had their last regular season game today and Abbey and Maddie's team are first place in the league.  Tournament games will be next weekend.  
2 happy little t-ball players

I will tell you that I have gotten pretty good at the single parenting thing while Jason travels.  Obviously I don't love it, but he travels a good bit and we are fairly used to it.  Watching Anabelle at the ball park while trying to watch the other girls games ranks among my least favorite activities to do while Jason is out of town!  

Here she is talking to the team in the dugout...

Abbey was Dorothy in her drama group's production of The Wizard of Oz this spring and she did an AMAZING job.  We were so proud!   The play was in a small (ish) community style theatre, kind of ampitheatre style where you are sitting in pretty close quarters.  Anabelle was very enthusiastic to see Abbey every time she came on stage.  When Dorothy throws water on the wicked witch to melt her, AB was very concerned and kept yelling, "Abbey, you o'tay, you o'tay?!.

Aunt AJ came for a visit about a week after we got moved in to our new apt so that I could go on a trip with Jason. It was an amazing treat for the girls and such a blessing to Jason and me.  Anabelle really took to AJ and I think they had a great week together.

AJ treated us to Chili's the night before she left and we even got the chocolate molten cake- a rare treat! 

Anabelle was pretty sure it was all supposed to be for her...

I mentioned going on a trip with Jason.  Unfortunately, I went on the trip, but my suitcase didn't make the trip with me.  It ended up spending about 12 days in Istanbul but did finally find it's way back to me.  That was a little unneeded stress for sure!

In the midst of all the craziness, this little mess-pot turned two.
Here she's enjoying hummus and falafel- her favorite, before her "nemo cake" party.

And here's the much anticipated "nemo cake"

So, as I'm re-capping all of this, I'm thinking, this doesn't really sound all that crazy!?  Just take my word for it!  I'm not mentioning all the boring stuff like financial reports, school hunting for next year, meetings and event planning, and did I mention we moved?  Without Jason?   Just wait for it.  If you've never moved in a foreign country you will see when I get around to posting about it how all consuming it can be!  

So anyway, we're still here.  Settling back into a calmer routine for the summer (I hope).  Jason is currently on his last trip until September- yay!  We have a few trips as a family but we're very excited about being together for the whole summer.  That's been another part of the craziness is I'm pretty sure that Jason hasn't been home for more than 10 days straight since February.  I take that back, he was home for 3 weeks in March but otherwise, it's been going, going, going.  Of course since he's gone, I'm sick.  But I'd rather it be me than the girls for sure. 

Looking forward to a summer of family visits, memory making and lots of quality time, and hopefully enough down time to record the memories we make...