Wow! It has been awhile since my last blog post. A lot has happened since then. We are in the midst of a PCS, one of those military moves where we won't be at our next destination for months and we are living with relatives and traveling to visit friends. These are all good things, but it has been exceedingly stressful planning this out with 4 children. On top of the craziness of getting our house ready to be packed out, we are making this move with a season change: wardrobes for 2 seasons for our family of 6 with a cross country drive at the end of these couple months. We have been consciously trying to pack our belongings in a way that we hope will fit in our vehicles when we drive from the east coast to the west coast (and trying not to stress out over a 5 day drive with 4 children, in the meantime). I packed our winter clothes lightly, with the hope that the winter will wrap up soon. I'm relying on layering and the one winter jacket I brought for each family member. It is the first day of spring and snowing so it seems my good intentions are for naught. My children are going to be shivering for the next couple weeks! Could it please warm up soon?!?!
This PCS was one of the craziest PCS's we have made. I think I said that last time as well. When I first got married, I remember that being a whirlwind. California to the New Hampshire/Maine border in February was a shock to the system. After that, we were always moving with children. We had at least one child for our next 4 moves. I remember it being busy. When we moved across town with 3 children, I was ready to pull my hair out, but we still managed and my parents came to help us unpack. When we moved to South Carolina, we still had 3 children, but this time our twins were toddlers. I had them play on our patio as we unpacked the house and we managed to unpack quickly. PCSing a household with children is not convenient, by any stretch of the imagination, but still do-able. I search for the do-able.
I'm not sure why it was so hard on my emotions and my stress level this time. I struggled a lot. While my husband and I worked on one area of the house, the children were destroying the other side of the house. I expected that, but I still found the level of mess that they were able to make in a short time hard to handle. One day while we were painting chairs, they "went camping." The three of them stripped their beds and stuffed their pillow cases and duffle bags with their entire wardrobes, their favorite puzzles (poured into the pillow cases, out of their boxes), and Playmobile people. I was mortified to discover this mess and it took us nearly an hour to clean it up. Afterwards I felt horrible because their little faces were so sad that I was upset. They were having such a nice time camping and I put a kibosh on the whole thing because of the mess.
Mentioning painting the chairs brought in another new element: DIY projects. My husband and I have never PCS'd with 4 children. We have also never tackled the number of DIY projects we did this time, all the week before our pack out. Since we are building a house at our next duty station, we have decided that we also want to decorate it nicely. I did some thinking and browsing of my favorite designer sites and blogs and decided that I had a multitude of pieces I wanted painted or fixed up for our next house. My hubby and I discussed if we wanted to paint them in our current duty station or wait until we arrive at our next duty station. We decided-- since he will be reporting to a boat at our next duty station plus unpacking with 4 children-- that we should tackle as many DIY projects as we can before the pack out since we will still have much to do once we arrive. (I want my hubby to build us a couple pieces of furniture as well.) Looking back at how we spent our time before the pack out, I can confidently say that we undertook way too many projects. It was so stressful managing these projects as well as the children. I told my husband this and he agreed-- it was too much. However, he also pointed out that it would either be too many DIY projects before our pack out or too many DIY projects after we arrive at our destination. I agree on that. He also said that at least this way, it is all finished. I also agree with that. So, I don't know. Maybe there just isn't the "best time" to get a lot of DIY projects done with children and with a PCS; I can say I am excited to decorate our house.
...and our house. That was another first. This is our first time buying a house plus we are building it. It is all new to us. That has been stressful as well, but not nearly as stressful as my husband and I thought it would be. I think what helped us is that we were on the same page about the whole house buying process. We found what we were looking for. We liked our realtor. I was far more nervous approaching this than my husband was (he wanted to buy at several of our last duty stations) and we did have a number of disagreements. I think I just expected much more disagreements than we ended up having. I am very nervous about selling when we PCS next time, but I'm putting that in a bubble and letting it go. We will cross that bridge when we get there.
Along with my husband and I's emotions approaching this PCS, our children's emotions really came in to play this time, much more than last time. Our oldest had just turned 5 when we moved to South Carolina. He was nervous about leaving his friends and cried all the way from North Carolina to South Carolina; it was heartbreaking. This time, at 6 years old, he had a lot of anxiety approaching the move. He remembered PCSing and didn't want to leave his friends. He frequently complained about his tummy hurting and his emotions were very up and down the weeks before we moved. That was very heartbreaking. Our twins are almost 4 years old and mostly fed off of the emotions in our house-- my stress level, their older brother's stress level. They had very short tempers and there were a lot of tantrums to contend with. In general, there was a lot of conflict between all the boys, much of it to get our attention and much of it because they all weren't sure how to process what was going on around them. The baby fed off my stress level at times, but he was mostly grouchy because, of course, he got sick. (And did I mention that one of our boys caught a stomach bug days before the pack out? Yeah, horrible timing.)
Now that we are settled in my parents' house, we actually made a huge change and enrolled our oldest in kindergarten here. He started on St. Patrick's Day and will finish out the year here. This is a big change for us as we homeschooled 5-year old preschool last year and kindergarten this year. We had started feeling God put the possibility of traditional school on our hearts several weeks ago when our oldest was having such a hard time with the uncertainty of our upcoming move. His anxiety and upset stomach really broke our hearts. Since he is a child that loves and craves routine, we started thinking that school would be a great option for him next year, for first grade, after we arrive at our next duty station. We felt that the routine of school would be good for him with the ups and downs of submarine life; no matter what the boat schedule is, no matter how uncertain our days are, he would have the consistency of his school routine. We felt like that would be a good option for him and felt that we would just use the rest of this year and this summer to continue to pray about it, marinate on the idea. I, for one, loved the flexibility of homeschooling. When my husband and I discussed school, it basically came down to homeschooling works best for me and traditional school might work best for our son. Anyways, so the children and I moved to my parents' house and settled in. We had been here for 4 days when I saw the stress starting to peek through in his behavior. I called my hubby and we decided to enroll him here at my parents' house, where I will be living until this July. We also felt that being in a place he is comfortable and familiar with might be a great place to get his feet wet with traditional school. My hubby also thought that it would be a great place to try it out because there are so many adults living under one roof-- plenty of people to help with baked goods, carpool pick ups, and volunteer days-- and plenty of people to make sure I places on time. Also, now that he's started, when we do get to our next duty station and enroll him in first grade, he will know what to expect from school; it won't be so foreign to him.
We are all settling into this new temporary routine. The boys are all also enrolled in a gym program so we have plenty of space to get the wiggles out. The toddlers have especially enjoyed taking advantage of the open play hours in the afternoon while our oldest is at school. I've enjoyed taking them to it as, while my parents' house is quite comfortable, the open play can accommodate them much better than this shared space (and there is no possibility of them breaking anything!). It is strange going out with 3 children instead of 4. I'm constantly feeling like I left someone. I have to admit, it is nice doing activities geared towards our toddlers without feeling like it is too big for our toddlers or too young for our oldest. Our oldest is also especially tall and strangers are often reprimanding him for being in places that are "too young for him," when actuality, it is geared for his age, if not his height. So far all of the boys seemed very pleased with our new routine. Our oldest is loving school and its accoutrements. We bought him a new lunch pail, appropriate jeans (how do every pair of his jeans have holes in them?!), and he loves toting his things to and from school in his backpack. He loves his teacher and classmates. He loves showing us his work at the end of the day. It is a big change from homeschooling, though I'm feeling peace about the decision. I was exceedingly sad and shed many tears when we moved in this direction because I thought we would be homeschooling him for at least 1-3 more years, but this was the time for us to move in a different direction and we have all embraced it well. I'm sure I could write much more on this topic, but the boys are starting to get restless.
A lot of big changes at our house. A lot of new routines. A lot of changes on the horizon. For now we are focusing on enjoying our time with family before we move to the west coast; I'm eagerly planning visits with friends before that move as well. We are taking one day at a time and following where God is guiding us!
****P.S. During this PCS, we have switched to disposables. I know I've written several blog posts on cloth diapering, but I could not figure out how we would manage cloth while living with family for several months and making all the trips we have planned to visit friends. If you are a cloth diapering military family, did you cloth diaper while PCSing? Even with a TDY? How do you handle cloth while traveling?