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PCS to South Carolina

Organizing my books
We have successfully PCS'd! This is my first blog post in South Carolina. So far I absolutely love our house. This is the biggest kitchen we have ever had! I can't believe that I actually have unused space in my kitchen cupboards. When I was showing the empty cupboard to my husband, he says, "Well, there is no reason to go out and fill it either." I think he was trying to tell me that I don't need anymore kitchen gadgets. Since I'm fairly certain there is a Pampered Chef consultant in my neighborhood, I personally do not think that cupboard will stay empty long. ;)

We moved into a four bedroom house and decided before we got here that we would have a playroom, a guest room, and bunk beds in one bedroom, the boys' room. In fact, we were so certain of this decision that we took advantage of a sale at Pottery Barn Kids and bought a bunk bed and a single bed in preparation (military families: be sure to ask for the military discount at Pottery Barn! They apply it on top of sales!). The boys' room idea is working great so far. Our oldest loves being on the top bunk. We put a shelf up there for all his special things and his little brothers are not allowed up there (or even on the ladder). The rule is going well for the time being.

Enough about the house. How was PCSing with three kids, including 2-year old twins?

This was actually an awesome move. I am so glad this was our first move with three kids. My husband was home on both ends; during our past moves he would only be home for the pack out and usually not both days of the pack out. We had three days of pack out this time and we had a direct move! Our HHG's were loaded onto a truck in North Carolina and the lead packer drove the same truck down to South Carolina and unloaded our HHG's there. The lead packer was excellent. We told them which of our high value items we wanted to watch him pack; we only told him once and he came to get me to say he was about to pack them up. We've had barely anything to claim. The crew that unloaded our HHG's in South Carolina was very nice. I tend to be surprised at how much furniture they are taking off the truck, "Where would you like this bookcase, ma'am?" "Omigosh... I totally forgot about that bookcase... We are going to have to rearrange all the furniture in this room..." Instead of the usual barely concealed eye rolling that I've received from moving crews in the past, these guys would say, "Sounds good. Tell us where you want it." They didn't rush me to make up my mind about where I wanted furniture and they unloaded our goods in a timely manner. I was very impressed with how quickly they unloaded our HHG's. When we moved from Hawaii to North Carolina with far less things (we only had one child then moved into a two-bedroom apartment), the movers took well into the night to unload our things, despite my attempts to get them to hurry along the process. But there were a lot of problems with that move.

This was our first time using I really hated filling out all the move information online. I did not understand why I had to go through the whole process on only to then give all the same information to our Transportation Office over the phone and then again to a move coordinator. We were also in a remote location in North Carolina; our closest Transportation Office was about an hour away. I really wanted to just go into an office and get the whole thing over with-- no more trying to get a hold of someone just to get a small question answered. I really felt like I was the only one who cared about getting the ball rolling on our move; the gal I spoke with at the Transportation Office was exceedingly disagreeable. However, once everything was squared away, we were assigned a move representative who was fabulous. I mean, absolutely wonderful to work with. It was so nice having a phone number and extension for one person who I could call whenever I had a question. She got back to me in a timely manner and if she didn't have the answer right away, she would call me back the same day with the answer. I loved that. The only ridiculous aspect of having a move coordinator is when there were discrepancies, like she had the wrong move date in our paperwork for some reason. When I told her the correct move date, she had to call the local contracted moving company to verify the move date that I had given her and then call me back to tell me she sent me an email verifying the correct date. It felt like a bit of a production. Whenever I wanted to complain about it though I realized she was the one doing the verifying and not me-- which I liked.

With three children-- a five-year old and two-year old twins-- we decided that we wanted to move to a hotel the first day of the pack out, not even deal with attempting to somewhat baby proof a house rapidly filling with boxes. Even better, local friends of ours volunteered to take our oldest son for most of our pack out. They picked him up the second day of our pack out and kept him at their house until the day we left North Carolina, a total of three days. We found a Hyatt Place that accepted dogs since we also had our small dog Louis with us. Originally we had reserved a 2 bedroom suite at the Residence Inn, but our move date was bumped up by a week and there was a price jump between the two weeks that was far more than we wanted to pay per night. So we stayed at the Hyatt Place, which is basically like a really large hotel room. There is a half partition between the 2 queen beds and the couch area. The space was comfortable once our oldest went to stay with his friends. That first night when all five us and the dog slept in there we were feeling awfully cramped. My husband slept on the couch that night and I slept in a queen bed with our oldest while the two toddlers shared the other queen bed. Without a five-year old bouncing around in the room touching everything ("What's this little fridge for? Can I drink this? Why is the television like that? What does this button do? Louis, fetch, boy! Fetch! Let's jump from bed to bed!"), I easily entertained the two-year olds with the Duplo blocks I had brought with us and the Llama Llama stories. I also was able to get them to nap without their older brother keeping them up. I originally questioned whether I wanted him staying so long away from us during the move time-- like I wanted the whole family together-- but in the end I was extremely grateful that they had volunteered. It really did make things easier.

During the pack out days, we dropped the kids off at drop-in childcare. We kept them there from about 9 am to 2 pm each day of the pack out. The last day of the pack out, when our stuff was gone and we were starting to get the house prepped to hand the keys over, we dropped them off again for an hour and a half in the evening. It is amazing what you can get done in an hour and a half without two toddlers clinging to your legs. I picked them up in the afternoon and went back to the hotel room with them to attempt to get them to nap, or at least to enforce a quiet time. My husband was in charge of the pack out, watching the movers pack our things and keeping track of what was put in the parts box. I picked up lunch for each of the three days. The first day we had picked up a sandwich platter from Costco along with a fruit bowl. The second day we served the leftover sandwich platter and my husband and I had take out since there wasn't enough for us too. The third day we picked up one of those family meals from KFC that has a big bucket of chicken. We made sure to have bottles of water every day for the movers.

The North Carolina end of the move went smoothly. We had lots of help from friends and knew where restaurants were and what resources we had, like the drop-in childcare. The South Carolina end was tricky. Our kids were with us from start to finish. The third day of our pack out was on a Friday. Saturday we had our house cleaned and did the final walk through, turning over the keys. Sunday we drove to South Carolina. Monday morning we got the keys to our new place and had our HHG's delivered (I'm telling you, direct moves are awesome!). The kids were bouncing off the walls the entire time we were in the housing office. My husband and I were really worried how it would go when our HHG's were delivered since we had nowhere for them to nap and weren't sure how they would behave. Surprisingly, they did great. The movers were friendly and let me know when they were about to bring in something big and heavy. We also were able to quickly get outside toys off the truck which kept them very entertained in the driveway. Late in the afternoon we found both pack'n'plays and set them up in one of the bathrooms for a nap. The movers were quiet outside the bathroom door and we were able to get them to take a power nap.

We have friends who are also living in South Carolina. They brought us over a platter of enchiladas and a delicious bunt cake the day our HHG's were delivered. My husband and I decided to eat it on Tuesday night since we had errands to run Monday after the movers left. We got a quick bite to eat Monday evening and then drove the boys to Costco at the fussiest time of day to do a "quick trip." Again, they did surprisingly well. We were expecting full on temper tantrums the whole time, but I think everything was so new and exciting that they were too distracted to misbehave. We did get in and out of there as fast as we could though! Tuesday we got to the house and set up the boys' room right away. I had brought all the sheets for our beds with us so we wouldn't have problems finding the sheets in South Carolina and also so I wouldn't have to wash them before putting them on the bed. Once there room was set up, my husband got to work in the garage and I got to work in the house. It was great smelling those enchiladas baking in our oven that night for dinner! We were so happy to be checked out of our hotel and finally be home, even if home was a house full of boxes! All in all, we spent six days in a hotel, four days in North Carolina and two days in South Carolina.

Our oldest sleeping through our HHG delivery

It took us eight days to get our house out of boxes. Eight days of waking up and starting before 7 am and finishing around 2 am. I know where the Costco, Sam's Club, and Target is here. I've been to Target many times already. My husband has worked tirelessly to get our garage organized. I think that was a bigger project than getting the house together. We spent many evenings and mealtimes hanging pictures, times when the boys were either strapped in their high chairs or in their room in bed. With kids, you unpack the house by order of priority: the boys' room so they can sleep in a baby-proofed space, their playroom so they have somewhere safe to play, the kitchen so you can cook their meals, the bathrooms so the family can get ready for the day, the closets, the laundry room, and the living room. Next comes the guest room. The office barely makes it on the list and has become a catch-all for the random box or two we still need to unpack and the things we need to organize (why on earth do I have so much art supplies?!). The last couple things we have to do are small: we are waiting on the couch we ordered to be delivered, I'm getting some things framed for our living room, and I'm painting canvases for the boys' room. These things will eventually get done and I'm not worried about them. Our office may never get done. That is a project I'm definitely putting off for some long, dreary day this winter. :)

While there were many factors that got us unpacked so quickly this time, I always like to give myself a deadline of when I will get the house unpacked. I'm worried that if I don't, my whole house will end up like our office, an unfinished project with random bits and pieces stacked in corners. I don't want to live in a house, even for a short amount of time, that doesn't feel like home. I've written before about how up in the air our schedule is here (read "Asthma, STA-21, commissioning, and PCSing-- yikes!"). We could be in South Carolina anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, though we shouldn't be here much longer than that. On top of wanting our current house to feel like home, my husband and I agree that we don't want to start having "garage boxes," as we call them. When the movers are unloading the truck, you tend to give them an area to put boxes you are unsure of where they go, like if a box is marked storage or whatever, you tell them, "Oh, just put that in the garage. We'll go through it later." But the later never comes and the next time you move, you have these random garage boxes that never got opened. During our in-town moves in North Carolina (read "Across town move"), we ended up with a couple garage boxes. I opened them all up before we PCSd to South Carolina and was surprised at what I found. One of them was a donate box, another full of puzzles and games that I'd been looking for. I really would like to put off accumulating garage boxes for as long as possible! I'm sure it is inevitable we will have some with such a large family, but we are fighting the uphill battle for as long as we can.

I plan on writing a blog post about moving with our five-year old. The two-year olds have done great. They have had the expected amount of tantrums from their routines being totally thrown off and their parents completely occupied with unpacking the house. They have enjoyed tasks like shoving the moving paper into empty boxes. They have really enjoyed climbing in empty boxes and pretending they are racecars. Our oldest misses North Carolina a lot. He misses his friends and is feeling unsure about the new place. We are trying to set up familiar routines here to help him feel a little more in control here. I have absolutely loved our new community here. Our neighbors are wonderful. Not only have they watched our boys when I needed childcare in a bind, but we've also already had two playdates in the short 12 days that we've been here. One of our neighbors has even been picking our oldest up when they go for family walks in the evening. I was so worried about making friends when we moved here because of the challenge I had doing so at our last duty station (read "Making friends"). This moving experience has really made me fall in love with the military community all over again; my husband and I have felt so incredibly blessed by our neighbors here.

Now, I would attach some of the good pictures that I took with our Sony Cybershot... but all the cables are still packed in the office boxes...

Things that were extremely helpful during this move:

-Our move notebook (read "Write it all down")

-A clipboard with a pad of paper, like the Greenroom recycled clipboard from Target


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