Saturday, August 15, 2015

College Station, Texas at last!!

July 2, 2014, was the day!! College Station: Ready or not, here come the Houghs!

We knew we needed to be back on the road no later than 6am in order to avoid the heavy Dallas/Ft. Worth morning traffic. When we checked in the night before, we were surprised and so grateful to receive vouchers for breakfast at Denny's adjacent to the motel. They opened at 5am, so that would work perfectly! And our breakfast (a cost not covered by St. Joseph in the reimbursement package...) was virtually free!!

The kiddos filled their tummies then decided to rest their eyes some more.

Before we exited the diner, Jared and I exchanged a knowing look and one of us said..."This is going to be one, looooong day." Getting to College Station was the easy part. Then we had to meet with the new landlord, sign paperwork to get our duplex keys, get lunch and wait for the moving truck to arrive. Those were easy things, too. But then, we had to UNLOAD the truck--at the hottest part of the day.

Almost three hours into our drive with the potential for bad morning traffic well behind us, we got off the highway for a pit stop just north of Waco. It was the coolest rest area ever! It had a massive jungle gym for kids (and adults) of all ages! Someone definitely knew what they were doing when they engineered that place. We spent a few extra minutes to make sure all muscles were adequately stretched and to expend as much energy as possible.

You wouldn't know it from the picture, but this kid would, in a very short time, become a future parkour lover and American Ninja Warrior hopeful :)

Free from the car seat at last! (Not really, but almost!) JJ making his way to the top.

Surfin' USA!

Wassup Coop?

About an hour and a half later, we finally arrived in College Station. Jared is a human GPS. He totally remembered where he was going and where certain landmarks were. Even though we had both been there just three months earlier to get a house, it was like I was seeing everything for the first time again! (In my was a whirlwind 3 days and we were only in CS for 6 hours--most of that spent in one location!)

We had miraculously stumbled upon a sub-lease option for a duplex from July through October that was only a mile as the crow flies from where our house was being built which was scheduled to close on October 5th. Same ward boundaries, same school zone--as close as we could get without renting in the actual subdivision of our future home. As we made our way to the new rental, we pointed out where Jake would be starting as a freshman. The new College Station High School--which would have their very first senior class that fall. 

It looks like a junior college to me!

We left the burb running, with a movie on, while Jared and I went inside to tie up loose ends with our new manager, Shannon, who had been so good to us--especially long distance. She handed us mail that had come in the past couple weeks while we were in limbo and even told us about some of our surrounding neighbors. Those in unit B next to us were very religious and I believe he is in law enforcement (just what we need) and they usually sleep during the day (oh...that could be bad...). Most of the neighbors on our side of the street worked, but she did make a point to tell me about a stay-at-home mom, three doors down from me on the cul-de-sac. We expressed our appreciation for her help and kindness and jumped back in the car to show the kids our new place.

YAY!! We finally made it to our first new home in Texas! Our duplex was 15107 Hazy Meadow Court, unit A. 

We took a quick peek inside. It was SO cute (and decades newer than our home in Oregon). And so much bigger than it looked. It was 1400 sq. ft, 3 bed, 2 bath--only 300 sq. ft smaller than our previous house. The very first thing I realized was the incredible difference 9 foot ceilings make! Wow! Those two extra feet above your head are no doubt the reason it felt so big and spacious.

I was too brain dead to even have a fleeting thought about taking pictures of the rental unit before moving in, so the pictures below were the ones I took after living in it for three whole months at the end of September when I finally remembered we needed documentation.

Tenants at this complex park in the back parking area which, for the group of duplexes we were a part of, was a big one way loop that began just a few doors down from our unit. 

This was our spot in front of our gate. We had two spaces we could use.

This is the picture from inside the gate, looking out to the parking area.

This is our small postage stamp sized backyard. At least it was fenced!

This is the view from the back door. Lots of boxes and bikes :)

This is the back door and JJ being a gentleman. (For the record, he dressed himself! I'm hot just looking at him in those clothes!)

This is the view right inside the backdoor looking down the hall. Around the closest corner on the right is the first bathroom and a bedroom. The first door on the left is the second bedroom. Beyond the wall with the light switch, it opens up into the kitchen/eating area/living room. The third bedroom is a left right before the piano. The front door is past the piano and TV.

This is looking around the first corner on the right. Bathroom and bedroom number one.

This is the bedroom that Karcyn, Calvin and JJ shared. Each bedroom came with a built in desk/shelf, which I loved, as well as a small walk-in closet.

Here are the kids' beds and door to their closet. We had no desire to set up the bed frames only to take them down and apart four months later. So we slept on our mattresses on the floor!  JJ sometimes slept with Karcyn, sometimes with Calvin, sometimes on the floor in between the two. He was a nomad.

This is the little kids' bathroom and the one we'd send guests to.

The first door on the left after coming in the back door, was the big boys' room. Any guess as to which bed belongs to whom? You'll notice part of our love seat on the right. We were going to put the family room couch in this room, but it wouldn't go through the door frame. So we put the love seat in here instead. Sometimes Cooper slept on it.

Another view of the boys' room and desk area.

Here's the kitchen. It was nice and open.

The white door was a small pantry that held more than I thought it could.

We removed both expansion leaves from our dining room table, which made us all cozy at meal time and had to put our living room and family room furniture (minus the love seat and a recliner) in this space together because of the "great room" concept. Personally, it's not my favorite layout, but I can see where it would be if you were throwing a party and needed lots of space for chairs.

View from just inside the front door.

View from the family room couch.

View from the living room couch. The double white doors are where the washer and dryer were housed (and our food storage about five boxes across and four high on the shelf in there). The hall past the piano led to our bedroom.

It was super tight in our room. Again, I love the desk area where we could put our computer (the computer desk had to go to storage). The door is our small closet. The window looks out on the front porch.

Another view with our family room recliner joining in on the fun (I actually loved having it in the bedroom!) and probably the one and only picture I'll ever have of Calvin reading on his own!

That doorway leads to a sink, mirror and medicine cabinet. The next doorway leads to a jack-and-jill bathroom and shower/tub that we shared with Jake and Cooper. More on that arrangement to come later...

After we were squared away with Shannon and checked out the duplex, we went to eat lunch. The kids chose Fazoli's again and fortunately, it was much less eventful than when we ate there a couple days prior, for which we were grateful. While we were in that part of town, we picked up the trailer we'd be using to haul our extra belongings to storage. Turns out the adapter that was a part of our trailer hitch, attached to the suburban, had been damaged in our moving travels, so in order to rent the trailer, we'd need to replace that first as it was the piece that made the brake lights work. Fortunately, they had an adapter at the store, but I was not happy about the unexpected cost :( All we were doing was spending money and it was starting to kind of freak out this penny pincher. 

We got the trailer then headed to the storage unit so we could sign that paperwork, make a payment and get a unit assigned to us since we'd be back later that night. As it turned out, there was no one AT the front office. You've got to be kidding me. I had even called while we were on the road the day before to make sure they'd be open around the time we'd arrive to avoid this very thing. To further complicate the issue, Jared had pulled up into the drive, with an 8 ft. trailer attached to the back of the burb, thinking he could get through the gate shortly. But we couldn't and because Jared wasn't able to back out in reverse onto the busy street, no one else could come in or out either due to the one-road/one-way type entrance/exit that I swear every storage unit utilizes. So we were stuck. And we had no idea how long it would be that way. 

A few minutes later, a small car pulled up behind Jared. They actually drove around him as best they could and managed to slip into a parking stall in front of the office. We got a "look" from them. I was going to apologize for being in their way but realized they were the owners and was so relieved they were finally there! As soon as they knew who we were, they hit the buzzer and opened the gate so Jared could pull through and off to the side in case anyone else needed to access their unit while we waited.

I got the paperwork filled out and the first month paid, got our unit assigned and then I rushed out the door to quickly find it so we could be on our way again, back to the duplex to ensure we were there to greet the trailer when it arrived. As we drove, Jared began his fatherly pep talk with Jake and Coop, informing them that our day hadn't really begun yet (even though we'd already been up for 10+ hours). Cooper joined the rally and assured Jared he'd be a big help. 

Jared, acknowledging his positive attitude said, "Coop! I like your can-do attitude." 

Jake grudgingly replied, "I used up all my can-do attitude in the car coming down here."

I chuckled to myself. All the kids had been awesome and I'm sure, in some ways, it was harder for Jake, than the little kids. Jared considered that for a moment and countered thoughtfully, "Well, how about a can? Or a do?" Jake said he could give him one of those.

All things considered, the timing of everything worked out pretty well. We didn't have to wait long for ABF to arrive with our stuff. I was worried the driver wouldn't be able to get into the complex. That truck is SO big! But he did and we had just enough space in front of our duplex (and a little of unit B) to park it. We hoped our Unit B neighbors would understand the beastly trailer would not be there for long. I did have to track a neighbor down across the street. They parked directly across the street from us and no one would be able to get through to the parking area around back if they stayed there. I was grateful she was happy to move her vehicle, since we couldn't move the trailer. I signed the invoice (starting to dislike paperwork...) indicating we had received the shipment and he ran us through the things we'd need to do to have it picked up once the container was empty. Then he disconnected the front cab from the trailer and away he went. 

And there we were. Just a family and with every last personal belonging we owned sitting in a gigantic moving trailer. We had made previous arrangements with our new ward to have some help unloading the truck, but that assistance wouldn't be until 6pm, after the men-folk returned from work/school. We were not about to just sit and wait for help to come. We firmly believe in self-reliance--doing all we can first. This was no different. But it would be a bit tricky. It was HOT, HOT, HOT and we had five kids, three of which would not and could not be helpful. I needed to help Jared and the boys though. We herded the three littles inside, after turning on the A/C, and told them to park it somewhere. We brought in some of there things from the burb to keep them occupied.

Then the REAL fun began. It became very clear that we should have packed the ladder or even the little stool last so we could use it to unload all the things in the back that were packed up high. Like dining room chairs, bikes, etc. We were using someone else's stool in Oregon and even if I had been there for the packing of the trailer, I wouldn't have thought of doing that. *sigh* Jake grabbed the garbage can that was on the front porch and took it up to the truck to see if he could stand on that. Jared and I would have to stabilize it for him first. The only problem? It was roasting hot!! I couldn't touch it but for a few seconds! Jake is pretty ninja though and jumped up there with pretty good balance. He was able to get a couple of chairs down and the bikes. Slowly, but surely, weary and dripping with exhaustion and sweat, the four of us unloaded over half of that trailer over the next couple of hours. Every time we came into the duplex from outside, we were blasted with cold air. It was so refreshing. When I looked at the thermostat, it was set at 77 degrees. I never dreamed that A/C at 77 degrees could feel so amazing!

Jared and I tried to get the family room, reclining couch inside, but there just wasn't anything left in our tanks. So we took a break. Jared was getting ready to take the first load of stuff to the storage unit and swing by and get pizza for dinner before the help showed up and I was trying to muster up the energy to sort boxes a little, making sure the boxes with red stars on them went to storage and the ones without stars, stayed with us at the duplex. I also needed to call ABF to let them know they could come pick up the trailer the next day.

That's when someone showed up. It was about 5pm--wow--he was really early. His name was Richard Scoresby. He lives in the neighborhood where we're building our house and he was Jake's new Teacher's Quorum advisor/counselor. We chatted for a bit. We just assumed he was there to help and said he could go with Jared to storage but he couldn't stay, just wanted to swing by on his way home from school (he's a PhD student) and say hi. We brought Jake over so they could connect. Richard invited us over to their house for a 4th of July Bring-Your-Own-Meat BBQ in case we didn't have any plans (which we did not!) and then Richard left for home.

A little bit later the help started trickling in before Jared made it back. Members of the Elder and High Priest quorums: Gary Thurgood, Ryan Rees, Joel Andrus and his two daughters, Kyle Olsen and his daughter, Brother Davis, Brother Higbee, the missionaries, Joseph Harrison, Brother Todd to name a few. 

They worked so fast, I had a hard time directing traffic regarding which items went to storage and which ones stayed. I also had a hard time keeping track of my own children. JJ was wandering around with our iPad which we gave to him to keep him distracted and out of the way. While I was inside, Jared came in with a weary look on his face add with exasperation said, "JJ just dropped the iPad on the sidewalk and shattered the screen." Ohhhh noooo! Dang it. I kicked myself repeatedly for not keeping a closer eye on him. We don't have the money to replace it!! Such a bummer.

The next bad news came--the deep freezer lid had been crushed in the move. It couldn't support the heavy weight that was put on top of it. When Jared called out this info to me from the belly of the truck, all I could do was say, "It's just a freezer. There are worst things that could have happened. Maybe it'll still close." We wouldn't know the fate of that until we moved into our house.

As things started coming through the front door, I noticed black marks on our new living room furniture and on the mattresses. The dining room table legs had big gashes and gouges in them. Multiple boxes were crushed. Opening these up would be very interesting. I was not happy about the damages to our belongings. I try really hard to keep things nice and in good shape because we can't afford to just buy new things whenever we want. I put on a brave face, but inside I was heartbroken.

As we were wrapping up, Jake had been talking with a couple of the brethren and missionaries and Bro. Andrus offered to take Jake to church for mutual that night. Jake asked if he could go. I pointed out he was a little sweaty and dirty. He said he'd change his shirt. Brother Andrus assured us Brother Scoresby or someone else could bring him home. So we said sure. 

I thanked everyone who came to help. We were truly grateful. There's no way Jared and I could handle the couch let alone the piano or other bulky items. When I thanked Brother Thurgood, the Elder's Quorum president, he said, "You guys had most of it done already." I told him we tried to do as much as we could on our own. We just needed help with the big stuff--like that blasted piano! He said they appreciated that we had already been working on it and assured me that it wasn't the biggest piano they've had to move. 

The mini trailer was loaded up with all the things that belonged in storage so Jared and a few other brethren left to go do that and the rest went their separate ways. I was left to clean up a few things outside and to try and keep my kids out of the trailer and trouble.

I turned my back for two seconds and they were out the front door again. Seriously? I was yelling after them, "You guys need to come back inside!" I  cut my hollering short when I saw them talking to a man in a suit. That had to be the bishop. It was. I was sweaty and gross and had black trailer grease on my face and hands. Nice first impression, Jenn. We introduced ourselves and he apologized for not being there to help earlier. I blew it off and said bishops have way more important things to be doing than unloading trucks. He said that Brother Thurgood mentioned we had half of it unloaded before they arrived. I explained we try and practice self-reliance as much as possible. Bishop liked that, too!

I herded my kids back inside for the umpteenth time and after that, it was kind of a blur.

When Jared got back I do remember asking him how loading the storage unit went. He said fine. I asked if everything got put in neatly so if I needed to, I could go there and find what I needed. He said no. It's just in there. All but tossed in. That didn't make me happy either. I clenched my teeth and I'm pretty sure steam came out of my ears. Jared said they didn't have time to make it neat and the guys with us were just randomly putting stuff in to get it done. It took everything I had in my exhausted, too-tired-to-control-myself frame of mind not to say anything snippy. But somehow I managed to keep my mouth shut. C'mon Jenn, you always say it: Beggars can't be choosers. I decided the best solution would be for me to avoid the storage unit completely. In this case, ignorance is bliss.