Good news: no one died on our cross-country trip.

I’m not going to lie- I thought about it. Especially in Utah where there was no Starbucks at ALL because there was like a million miles between exits. But we survived. And so did the surrounding motorists. Winning.

This was not the first time J and I drove across country. Ohhhh no, this was the third. AND WE ARE STILL MARRIED. Amazing, I know. The first time we drove across, we took a northern route from Virginia to Washington and then down to Southern California. The second time, we took the typical I-40 route through the south. This time, however, we went straight across the middle through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma (to visit family), and then back on to the I-4o through Arkansas, Tennessee, and then Virginia.

It took us about 4.5 days to drive the whole thing. We stopped in Oklahoma for a day and a half, too. You’re probably thinking we are crazy for driving that fast through but we had sent E with my mom so we wanted to get back to her as fast as possible. Which ended up being pointless because I don’t think she even noticed we were gone. Perfect.

I did, however, do what any famous and awesome blogger would do in a situation such as this- I thought of a bunch of awesome tips for a road trip that probably a thousand other people thought of but I’m going to undoubtedly think I’m the only person EVER to think of these things.

I know all you really care about are pictures from our trip. But I haven’t uploaded onto the computer yet because I’m still stuck in between paper and boxes and more paper and more boxes. I’ll put them up soon…ish. If you still care, read the tips below.

  • Have kids younger than 5? Don’t bring them. I know this isn’t an option for everyone but if you can work it out, send your offspring to the relative closest to your destination. Maybe I sound cold-hearted but you will thank me during those long stretches of no-mans-land when your three year old just wants OUTTTTTT for five minutes but there is no exit for 52 miles. We sent E with my mom and I bawled for the first hour after we dropped them off at the airport and I was super anxious the entire trip, but J and I got to actually have some what comfortable trip (ie, sleep) and spend some time together not talking about the baby. It was like a long date night. Perfect.
  • Don’t overpack the car. I know you’re probably like…duh…but its easy to say, “Well, let’s just bring this. And this. And this would be good too.” But if you cover every square inch besides your seats with stuff, you’re more likely to kill each other because you will be uncomfortable as all get out. Leave spaces for your feet, make sure you can recline (another reason to ditch the kids), and try and keep the important things like food and phones in arms reach.
  • Have a dog? Bring soft treats and a yoga mat. If your dog is anything like ours, he/she/they won’t each much during the trip because the are nervous. They are like kids though, so they always seem to be able to munch down a treat or twelve. My suggestion is to bring soft ones, like these, because they don’t put a million tiny crumbs all over your back seat that you find 8 years later. The other thing we found to be awesome for this trip was a yoga mat. We have leather seats and every time Pendleton would sit in the back I would cringe with the thought of her nails digging into seats. Blankets don’t work because they slide. So, being the genius that he is, J discovered I forgot to give the packers my yoga mat and put it on the back seat to hold the blankets. Worked like a charm. We could have bought one of those dog blankets for the car, but you know, we’re cheap.
  • Take pictures OF EACH OTHER. Despite this being our third road trip together, we are still really bad at taking pictures of each other. We probably have thousands of scenery but honestly, who cares about that stuff? A few of the general area are nice but no one is going to remember/care if that tree was in Colorado or Kansas or your backyard. So take pictures of each other at the different stops and in the pretty scenery.
  • Have a to-go bag. When you PCS, you have to remember that you may get to your destination before your boxes do. That means you have to be prepared with clothes and toiletries for the road trip AND up to a week after you arrive. If you’re like me, that means almost your whole wardrobe which means a big heavy bag. However, if you are stopping at hotels at night, you’re not going to want to dig out and bring that big ass bag inside with you every night. So pack a t0-go bag- a bag with a few outfit changes, travel toiletries, and a bathing suit. Why a bathing suit? Indoor pools people. Especially if you are sans kids. They are wonderful after a long day in the car.
  • Everything has a place. This was the end-all-be-all for our trip. When you’re spending day after day in the car, its easy to lose track of where you put the camera, your phone, the extra set of keys, etc. So designate a place for every thing. Even if its going into a purse or bag, make sure it goes in the same place every.single.time. Believe me, it will save you from a lot of “WHERE DID YOU PUT IT?! DID YOU LEAVE IT INSIDE THE MCDONALDS BATHROOM?! Oh no, here it is…” type arguments.

Road trips can be really fun or they can really suck. It just depends on you make of it. Make sure everyone is comfortable, everyone is FED (hungry people are cranky), and don’t get to stuck on a time line (unless your orders depend on it!). Taking your time and being comfortable will make everyone feel better about being in such close quarters together.

Right now, we are at our destination and in our new house. Our goods have already arrived and the house is unpacked. Nothing is in place yet, but its all out of boxes. J has been working fervently on the yard while I’ve been honing it out on the inside. I’ll have pictures for you of our road trip, some tips for packing and unpacking, and pictures of the new house (yay!) soon. We do, however, live in the boondocks so we are JUST getting internet and I barely have time to write right now. But I’m really excited about all the work we are doing (and the shopping!) so stay tuned!

If you are making a PCS drive soon, good luck. The drive ends, I promise. Please feel free to post any tips/tricks you may have for long road trips below!

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I now know why everyone hates PCSing.

Dudes, I’ve been enlightened. I have seen the other side. I have drank the cool kids juice.

We have officially done our first PCS pack-out.

See, even though I am a seasoned milspouse (ha), I have never done a “real” PCS. When I first moved out here, J and I weren’t married (gasp!) so we packed everything ourselves in a U-Haul towing our hand-me-down Ford Explorer behind us. Then he deployed and I went home, so we packed everything ourselves and had a few of his Marine friends come help us put it in storage. And then I hired people to take it out. So needless to say, before this day I thought to myself, “What’s the big deal? People come, they pack you, they move sh!t, end of story.” No, no, no. Not the end of story. Just beginning of story.

First of all, there is the prep. OH MY GOD. I am an organization freak so I like things in certain places in certain boxes in certain piles. And then the moving people come and they basically throw your stuff you worked days and nights to organize into one giant pile. Cool.

Then there is the other kind of prep. Housing prep. We live on base so every wall we painted (read: my mom and I painted) had to be painted back. Ugh. Side note though: I didn’t have to paint this time. My mom and J did it. Which basically means I am the most awesome getter outter of stuff to ever live. Someone had to watch the baby, right?

Of course, once you have it all painted and things perfectly organized so that any sane person walking into your house would understand that that thing goes with these things and they all go in this box, the movers come and basically don’t give a rat’s azz. They will pack it at lightning speed and after the first hour you just don’t care anymore because there is no stopping them.

After the movers leave, you have to clean. You haven’t moved your bed or couches in years so there are dust bunnies the size of actual bunnies, Goldfish crackers, and that long-lost DVD now crushed in a million pieces scattered all over your floor. Gross.

If you have kids, get rid of them. No, I’m just kidding. Just find a special place for them to hang out. THANK GOD ON HIGH my mom was here. She watched E allllll during the prep days, all during the pack/move day, and every other time in between. I seriously don’t know what in God’s name I would have done if I would have had to watch packers and watch her. It would not have been pretty.

I have learned so much stuff while gearing up and going through this first PCS. I will talk about some of that stuff and some helpful hints at some point. Later. In a few weeks, since we are moving and all.

However, the worst part of this particular PCS is leaving my neighbors. My friends. They were my first “military” friends. I have never lived on a military base and they showed me so much love, support, and compassion over the past two years. I am going to miss them more than they will ever know. No neighborhood will EVER compare to these people. Ever.

To my neighbor to my left: You and your family are amazing. There is no other word to describe it. You helped our family in more ways that I would have expected any neighbor to ever do. You are motivating and you always brightened my day in talking with you- from you no bullshit attitude to your unending willingness to watch E, lend me your stuff, or take my dog for extreme extended periods of time. I will never forget you coming over with your entire family and singing me “Happy Birthday” and presenting me with a cupcake and massage gift card while J was deployed. I’m tearing up thinking about all you have done for us. I don’t think I will ever have enough words to describe what you mean to us. Any person will be lucky to live next to you.

To my neighbor to the right: Not only will our family miss you guys and your generosity in letting us use your mower and other various appliances, I know both E and Pendleton will miss your dog. We had amazing neighbors on both sides of us. I wish we had more time to spend together. We hope to see you on our side soon enough.

To my neighbor with the cat and the huge car that she looks funny driving in because she is the smallest person ever: We will miss her little paw prints on our windshield! But seriously, you are THE strongest woman I know. From your multiple deployments, to taking care of G, and dealing with your own personal things, I am inspired by you. I am so happy for you that things are working out and I will continue to pray that things go well. You are so sweet, so kind, and such a great friend. I hope the Corps brings us back together.

To my neighbor with the girls/all the cool toys E wants to steal: What can I say (as I type this from YOUR computer)- you and your family are beyond generous for letting us stay in your home while ours gets packed away. Your beautiful daughters will be missed by E (she keeps asking for them) and I will miss seeing your bright shining face in the col-de-sac. You were there for me when I was worried about E’s health and J was gone. You have been a listening ear. I will miss you terribly but I CANNOT WAIT to come visit you!!!

I have made some of the most amazing friends while I have lived here. I hate that we have to move away, but I am excited for everyone’s new adventures. The Marine Corps is small and I hope it brings us back together at some point. We love you all and we will miss you so dearly.

PS- We left this picture in a frame for all of you to remember us by. We aren’t vain or anything, we just figured you’d miss us.

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Just kidding (but feel free to print it out and frame it in a, say, 20×24 frame? Cool.)

I think my husband found a new calling.

And that would be as a realtor.

We have been house hunting for about a week now and J has been busting his butt trying to find us the perfect home. Checking Redfin and Zillow, looking at mortgage rates and loan companies, and researching areas, drive-times, the closest Starbucks (ok, that was my job), and a ton of other stuff I’m not really sure about because 1. it all sounds like jibberish, and 2. E.

In all seriousness, he has been working super hard for the past week and I’m really proud of him. Astonished might be the better word. Not because I didn’t think he’d do such a great job, but because he’s going above and beyond to make sure our family is covered and protected, and in a house/area that is great for us. He’s an awesome husband.

Even through all the jibberish and E suddenly learning how to make her body go limp when I’m trying to walk her over to change her diaper, I have learned a TON through this whole house-hunting and buying process so far. I went into this venture thinking that it would be fairly easy to find a home we loved. I thought I’d walk into a house and think to myself, “This is it.” I thought my husband and I would agree on everything. NOPE, NOPE, and HA.

But what I have learned is that things are complicated. Not just the terms, not just the math and finances, but emotionally. There are people on both sides of the process, and I think you forget that when you’re in the midst of looking at homes. You see the house but not the people selling it. You don’t know why they are selling the home and what that means to them. You walk through their house and see their pictures, their clothes, their dirty dishes in the sink, etc and you realize that people LIVE here. They have laughed, cried, fought, hugged, and given their little brothers noogies here. It personifies the home and this whole process in a way I didn’t expect. It’s kind of…bittersweet.

But let’s get to the person that really runs this show: E. Anyone who has a baby, toddler, child, teenager, or sometimes (but let’s hope not) grown adult sucking the life out of your wallet knows that traveling away from home can be difficult. Luckily through all of this, E has been pretty good. Sleep hasn’t been fantastic (she’s waking up at night for quite awhile and is crying when we lay her down), but I figure that comes with being a relatively new environment. She is getting along fabulously with my parents who have very graciously watched her while we have spent 6-8 billion hours out looking at houses each day. And we were worried about how E would handle us being away from us and with people she doesn’t see too often (ok, I was worried) but she surprised us all.

When we traveled to my parents house over Christmas E was NOT having it with anyone. She was all

KOBYRA0117 KOBYRA0116

whenever anyone looked at her.

And now she’s all like

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and saying, “nooooo” when I try to take her from Nana or Gramps. So it is great that her attitude towards family members has done a 180. Looks like we found some babysitters!

Home, Sweet Home: Wait, where is that exactly?

So Uncle Sam came a-knocking and finally told us a few weeks ago that we are PCS-ing (for those non-military, it actually means Permanant Change of Station. Or pack up you’re sh*t because we’re moving you). We are super excited about where we are moving to because we will finally be close to family, but with this being our first “real” PCS, its freaking scary.

First of all, we have a whole house full of stuff to pack and move. This time we are having packers and movers come because like hell if I’m packing up all this crap and then watching J and a bunch of his Marines scratch up my stuff while they load it. Again. So I’m pretty nervous about that because I’ve never done it before. I don’t know the procedures. And I hear if you’re not careful they’ll pack up your garbage!

Secondly, we are moving clear across the country. Granted its a place I’m pretty familiar with but we also have to do this with a 19-month old and a dog. We want to stop and visit some of J’s family that hasn’t met E yet, so we have to drive together at least part of the way. I’m trying to convince him to buy an RV so we can just hang out in the back while he drives, but he’s not taking the bait. Dang.

Thirdly, and probably the most-scariest (totally a term in this case) is that we are thinking of buying a house. Military families are constantly putting their lives on hold. For J’s whole career there will always be an impending move. But we also need to set down some roots. Its good for our family, and the Marine Corps is getting better at letting families do that by keeping them in once place for a longer tour. The area in which we are moving to is where we would like to be long term, too. We only have orders for a year but we are thinking we will end up staying for at least 3. Base housing is crazy difficult to get and for a house the same size as what we have now, or even a little smaller, we will be paying more than our BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). We are tired of throwing our money away on rent, we are financially sound, and we are ready to make a steady investment.

In beginning this journey, we have asked friends and family for advice and their experiences. Some things are the basic house buying procedures, but some things are great advice that we didn’t really think about. Here are some of the wise-words we’ve heard so far:

  • Speak with neighbors: don’t be afraid to knock on your potential neighbor’s doors and ask how they really feel about the neighborhood, area, and even other neighbors. They may give you some insight that no realtor ever could.
  • Check the neighborhood at different times during the day: sure it looks like Pleasantville at 2pm when everyone is at work or school. But drive around during the early morning, afternoons, and late evening to see how the neighborhood functions on a daily basis.
  • Drive to local stores and gas stations: you can really get a feel of the surrounding neighborhoods when you walk into the few places that everyone, no matter what, needs to visit on a regular basis.
  • Take your planned route to work during rush hour: commuting is a huge part of living in the suburbs. Can you deal with the drive or the ride day after day. After day. After day.
  • How marketable is it?: This is especially true for military families who often end up renting their houses out. Just because you can stand the 50 minute commute, will most people in your situation? Where is large city-center where most people are communting from? Is the space easy to fit different furniture?
  • How close it is to Starbucks and Target?: ok, so maybe that’s just for me…

I’ll be honest, not everyone thinks this is a good idea for us for different reasons- the length of time we have orders being the biggest one- but we are exploring our options at this point.  We understand that our family and friends are nervous for us. Its unpredictable. Its a scary thing. But its our thing. We aren’t doing it just because we think its time to buy a house. We aren’t doing it because its “the next step.” We are doing it because, right now, we feel like this is a smart decision and the best one for our family. Luckily, our family is wonderfully supportive and although they are relaying their cautionary tales to us, we know they will stand behind us in our final decision.

Do you have any thing you’ve learned from buying a home? Have you heard any advice from family and friends when you were going through the home searching and buying process? Leave a comment below!