Monday, February 3, 2014

Mini SC trip

I am enjoying this regular old Monday in a way that I didn't know was possible.  There's been nothing special about this day at all -- just the contentment of being at home, doing the things we normally do at the times we normally do them.. and it doesn't hurt at all that it's 75 degrees out!  

Last week Delaney went to school on Monday, and the rest of the week was called off for snow.  The base was closed too.  The good news was that Delaney didn't end up having to miss a day and a half of school so we could take our mini-trip to Parris Island, SC.  The bad news was that we went right from being cooped up for days in our house to being cooped up for 6 hours in the car, and then stuck in a hotel room together.  Yesterday afternoon I went for a 4-mile run and it was the best.  Ah, the sweet taste of freedom!

Our plan for Parris Island/Beaufort was to arrive Thursday evening, get dinner, and go to bed in our hotel room.  Not suite, room.  Then Friday we had a tour of base housing scheduled.  There are two locations for base housing for anyone going to Parris Island or the Air Station in Beaufort.  We had heard that living on base at Parris Island was the best, but we really wanted to see for ourselves the neighborhoods and the interiors of a couple of these houses in both locations.  Then Friday afternoon we had tours of houses out in town in Beaufort.  Saturday we would just drive around the different neighborhoods, check out the Catholic church, the Y, whatever else might be of interest.  We had a tour of one house scheduled, I believe, in a new development in a highly recommended area (both in terms of schools and neighborhoods) called Lady's Island.  

As we were driving down Thursday, I got a FB message from someone I'd been talking to who lives on Parris Island, inviting me to dinner with her and some other members of the Officers Spouses Club.  I had mentioned to her that we'd be visiting that weekend.  Bear in mind that I have never gone to dinner with the Cherry Point Officers Spouses Club, and we've been here 3 1/2 years.  And this would be for Thursday night, after a day of being on the road ... "You should go," Tim told me.  I knew he was right.  These ladies would be a wealth of information about the area, it would be a kid-free dinner, and I'd have a head start on making new friends since that is something I always have difficulty with.  I replied to Erika that we'd be traveling that day and I'd try to make it, depending on how things went.  I was still hemming and hawing about whether or not to go after we arrived at around a little after 4.  Tim said, "You should go.  The alternative is.." he gestured around our little hotel room, indicating the three little people bouncing off each other and the walls.  So I said, "Alright, I'll go."  This was so far outside my comfort zone to go out to dinner with people I've never met, but I was so glad I did.  They were so kind and welcoming, I had a nice seafood dinner and a glass of wine, and got to pick their brains for two hours.  I took many mental notes of things to tell Tim.  There is no way I would have gone to this dinner had this been 3 1/2 years ago when we were moving here.  I've changed a lot since then, and believe much more in the importance of making connections.  

That first night in the hotel room was ROUGH.  Timmy and I had one queen bed, Tim and the girls had the other.  The air was hot and dry, and I couldn't sleep because it felt like my nasal passages and throat were lined in cotton.  It wasn't until after 10 that anyone was ready to sleep because the kids couldn't settle down.  Being in such close proximity to each other and us whipped them up into a frenzy.  I remembered why we don't do things like this.

In the morning I took a zinc tablet first thing.  That is my go-to remedy when I feel that telltale scratch in my throat or tickle in my nose.  It hasn't failed me yet.  Later we had our long-anticipated tour of base housing.  The first one we went to is the one that the ladies at dinner had warned me to stay away from, and to not get sucked in, no matter what.  It was what we expected.  It's another housing area about 25 minutes from Parris Island (which negates the main advantage of living in base housing, a short commute.)  The neighborhood was pretty ugly save for one nice circle of houses right on the water, which we were brought to.  The house we were shown was nice looking and spacious, and had everything we could need and want in a base house.  But the location sucked as we'd been told.

After that we went to Parris Island for our next tour.  I thought Erika had been exaggerating when she told me how nice the neighborhood is, but wow, it is really nice.  The below picture is the view from one end of the neighborhood.
The next picture is the view from the other end of the neighborhood, about a quarter-mile away (taken on different days, of course).  It blows my mind that there is one road that divides the officer family housing from 4th Recruit Training Battalion, the female battalion.  I was there myself, it will be 16 years ago this summer (I am oooooold!). When I was there as a recruit, I believed myself to be as isolated from any kind of normal civilized life as possible.  But I was a stone's throw away from houses where families lived!  I couldn't get over that, and I kept taking pictures as we drove around.  Tim was there 20 years ago this summer, and we were both trying to remember where we were when.  We thought the barracks at the rifle range looked different than we remembered.  As we passed the base pool I said, "Look, kids, the pool!"  As soon as I said that I then caught sight of a building directly across from it that said "Depot Laundry."  I said, "I was a laundry recruit and I remember throwing the bundles of linens off the truck and being jealous of the kids splashing and playing in the pool!"  But other than that I barely remembered anything.  It all looked the same to me!  And I have no memory of seeing a civilian anywhere until Family Day.
I love the juxtaposition of these photos.  It was totally unintended.  On Friday there were no recruits outside for me to gawk at.  But on Saturday when we came back just to drive around, they were all over the place.

It was a very long morning that involved talking with three different individuals in housing, as we wanted to have the best chance possible of getting a four-bedroom house on Parris Island.  There are far fewer houses available on Parris Island than that other place, and they really want to fill up the houses in the other place.  After that we had lunch and then coffee/smoothies in lieu of afternoon nap.  I took this picture and posted it to Instagram and Facebook to let everyone we knew what fun, fun, fun we were having with our adorable kids.
Then we decided to cancel our afternoon house tours out in town.  This was partly due to the fact that I'd been warned away from this development, and Tim had also driven by it and been less than impressed.  It was also due to the fact that the kids were exhausted, cranky, quarrelsome, and driving us and each other out of our minds.  We knew it would be a challenge to see what we wanted to see with them in tow, but wow.  It was even harder than I had been prepared for.  In one house on base, I closed them in a corner bedroom so they could run around while we tried to talk in the kitchen.  Then the thuds and the screaming ensued.  Tim talked to the base housing lady while I kept running off to deal with the kids.  We didn't imagine that would get any better as the day progressed.  We were satisfied with it having been a productive morning, however, and we'd pretty much made up our minds by then that we definitely wanted to live on base.

We went to an outlet mall near Hilton Head to get Timmy new shoes, and then Tim made the mistake of sending me into the Coach store.  We had ended up returning a Coach bag he'd gotten me for Christmas because I didn't think it was me.  He just wanted me to look around and get an idea of what I wanted.  I found a bag that suited me, and it was 75% off the clearance price.  I had them put it on hold while I went to find Tim to talk about it.  He had taken Timmy out of there to walk.  He thought it was an impulse buy and was inclined to disagree.  After a lot of back-and-forth (and maybe a little bit of pouting on my part) he wound up going in and getting it for me.  It is lovely, and even with the deep discount, costs at least five times as much as any purse I've ever owned.  I am spoiled.  Tim is a 'browse, go away, analyze, come back and browse some more' kind of guy.  He will think twice before he sends me into that store again! 
After that we had a nightmarish dinner at a Japanese place, during which I almost marched out with Timmy, growling stomach be damned.  It was one of those horrible times when you do nothing but threaten your kids with gritted teeth every few seconds, and then feel like a monster for it.  It turns out that all this togetherness -- in the car, in the hotel room, in the booth at the restaurant -- is like poison to our family.  The two of us felt like the worst parents ever, like we were at our lowest point.  The only thing worse would be to just be swatting at our kids while everyone looked on.  I was in tears as we drove away and Tim was asking me, "What would make you feel better right now?  Do you want a drink?  I'll get you a drink."  He went into a convenience store and came out with a little brown paper bag.  Inside was a can of Bud Lite.  I had to laugh.  My brand new designer bag was now sitting on my lap with my beer zipped inside as we drove up to the gate of the air station.  I said that it probably wanted to scream, jump out of my lap and run back to the Coach store.  This bag is very roomy, and will hold up to a 6-pack, should that ever be necessary.

We decided we'd leave in the morning after driving around Parris Island one more time, and looking around Beaufort.  We cancelled the tour of even the nice house in the nice neighborhood, deciding it would be a waste of time and energy.  Besides, Tim was reeling from all the money that had been spent in the last couple days.  Another meal out would break us.  The good news is, we all got a good night's sleep the second night in the hotel, and I successfully warded off a cold with the zinc.

I am glad that we went and I am glad to be back here.  We have a few months of normalcy before things get crazy again.

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