Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Big Move: Our 2nd PCS Journey (Part 1)

It's been a while since I have posted.  Mainly because of the move prep, we have been incredibly busy!  But FINALLY we have internet here at our new place, so I have a series of posts planned for the next few days. Warning though, I wrote these mostly to update my family, but feel free to read about our adventure, everyone is welcome here.  (Unless you're a meanie, then go somewhere else *wink*)

***

After a wonderful year in Oklahoma, our time there came to an end.  We loved it there, and we will miss it a lot.  But we were ready for our next big adventure in Tennessee and Kentucky.  I say both states because, many people don't know this, but Fort Campbell is located on the Tennessee/Kentucky border, so you can choose to live in either state or on post.  After researching the area, we found ourselves building a home in Clarksville, Tennessee.  You may have seen some of the beginning pictures of project a couple months ago (see post here), but now it's pretty much done and we have since moved in (full story in part 2).

Saying goodbye to friends was really hard.
The packers came for two whole days to pack up all our stuff. And they brought all their packing gear... I tell you, it was a full time job keeping my kiddos away from the bubble wrap roll!

Beware, they will pack some of the most random things if you don't keep an eye on them!  When we got here, we unpacked part of a curtain and a rod that didn't belong to us, the nasty drawer liners that belonged with the rental as well, and some crazy trash!!  They also packed some things we told them not to, like Ben's Sunday clothes.  But I have to give them credit, they packed our stuff crazy well!  All our breakables made it here intact! And from all the horror stories I hear, that's saying something!

After two days of the packing, the movers came and loaded up their big truck with all our worldly goods.

Jake ended up banished to his room with the child gate up for most of the time because the little guy would NOT stay away from the truck and it's ramp.  He wanted to play so bad and was in the way like times five!  While the movers were moving out the stuff, my dear friends came over with breakfast and cleaning supplies and we ate and cleaned place.  It was so fun!  And it meant the world to me that they came to help out!  And after the movers left, I had the most handsome little helpers to help me clean up the rest of house!
And the missionaries came over and helped us weed the garden so the new people who moved in would have a lovely place to come to!

Facebook Update: These awesome missionaries helped us weed the jungle this morning! They braved the goffer holes, massive bees, toads, and various other bugs and critters to make this place more presentable for the new renters. We sure love our missionaries and their willingness to serve. Also a big shout out to my dearest friends who popped by with yummy breakfast foods yesterday with the willingness and positive attitudes to help me clean the place! After they left, the movers came and told me how impressed they were with their kindness and friendship - and how they had made an impression on them (not to mention the yummy food we shared with them). So thanks ladies! (A special thanks to Tammie Sylvester for braving the mouse poop!)
And for the record, my pajama-clad boys did not help at ALL with the weeding.  They were too scared of the bugs that lurked.  But they would never miss a photo-op with the missionaries!

Then come Monday morning, we packed up everything we had left into the car and mini van and off we went on our new adventure!!

I don't know about you, but I REALLY like driving and enjoying the scenery.  ESPECIALLY if I have never been there before!  You wouldn't believe it if you didn't see it, but eastern Oklahoma is VERY green and lovely!
But when you get to Arkansas, all you can see is trees.  Like the WHOLE time.
Walls of trees.  All the way.

Then you THINK the trees will break before you get to the "Big" city of Little Rock.  Ummm... not really.  This is Little Rock coming in:
We crossed over a bridge to more trees and buildings hidden within.

Facebook update: Made it to Little Rock safety, thanks to many guardian angels I am sure. I learned a couple things about Arkansas: first, it's mostly trees, trees, and more trees. Not much to see on the road trip. And those trees in the picture? That is actually the city! Little Rock! Secondly, Arkansas drivers are totally nuts! Mergers coming onto the freeway think they have the right of way and will shove you right off the road or into other vehicles if you don't let them in. We almost died a few times, a couple of those from a heart attack. I was so high strung with stress when we got here, I was very snappy. The kids think I'm nuts. Oh, well. Off to the pool in a few minutes to soak these swollen pregnant legs. Then hopefully a nice sleep!

It was beautiful though!  And I LOVE trees.  Just after 5 hours of driving in trees, I was ready to see something exciting.

Good thing our hotel was pretty dang awesome!!
 This is our view from the third floor of the lobby and eating areas.  Yes, that is a glass elevator and creek with a pond.
 The boys LOVED the elevators!
 Just outside our room. They also had an indoor pool.  We rocked that pool with lots of screaming, splashing, and fun!  The kids were so tired when came back to our room, they were ready to crash!!
Facebook update: The pool was so fun! The kids are sure to sleep like rocks tonight after the long car ride. When we got out, Sam wrapped his towel around his waist and Nephi told him he looked like a girl. Sam replied: "No, I don't. I look like Jesus." Hands down best comeback of the day.

They were pumped that they got their own beds in our suite:

Nephi looked so little in the big bed!

The next day, we headed for our final destination: Clarksville, Tennessee!!

Overall, the drive from Elgin, Oklahoma to Clarksville is almost 12 hours, so we split the days in half and did about 6 hours each day... which was actually 8 with all the potty and snack stops we had to make.  But it worked out just fine!

The highlight of my road trip was crossing the Mississippi River!  Going to Oklahoma was the most east I had been, really, so every foot past that was farther than I had been in the states!  As a history buff, I have ALWAYS wanted to see the Mississippi river, and this was my chance!

Tennessee welcomed us right in the middle!!
And Memphis awaited us just on the other side!!
Tennessee is GORGEOUS!  Rolling hills, GREEN GREEN GREEN EVERYTHING, and lots of trees!  But not the same as Arkansas, because there is more to see within and around the trees.  It was a lovely trip!

But getting into Clarksville was exciting and marked the end of a long road trip.

The kids pretty much passed out at the hotel:
Facebook update: We made it safely to Clarksville! It was a long drive and this little guy is all tuckered out. Not as tired as his mommy is, though! Looking forward to some yummy dinner and a dip in the pool. .. my swollen legs will love me!

We stayed at the hotel for two nights so the builders could put the finishing touches on the new house!! So exciting!!

Part 2 coming soon!

-Cat

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Military Life: Best Tips for Shopping at the Commissary

I posted on Facebook yesterday for all my military friends to share their best tips for shopping at the commissary.  Know how many responded?  Zero.  Zilch. Nada.

Okay...

Either no one shops there, or they don't know how to utilize the commissary... or they just don't care.

So, I am going to share with y'all all I have learned about the commissaries and how we as military peeps can benefit from them financially.

For my readers who have no idea what the commissary is, it is an on post/base grocery store for military families and vets.  Anyone who carries a military ID can shop there.  The commissaries are run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCa) and you can find one on any military installation anywhere in the world -- which is great for people in foreign countries who really want some good old American food once in a while... or for families in Hawaii who don't want to spend $7-9 on a gallon of milk at a local store!

The much debated topic concerning the commissary is:  do you really save money shopping there or is it better to go on the civilian side?  Well, the answer to me is, it depends where you are and what you are buying.  According to DeCa, military families can save up to 30% by shopping at the commissary were you pay no sales tax (however, there is a 5% surcharge -- and even this I question a little because when I look at my receipt from my recent visit, it looks more like a 3% surcharge, not 5) and you get items at cost.

Sure, sometimes you can get stuff a little cheaper at Wal-Mart.  Like produce -- but seriously, is anyone impressed by the quality of Wal-mart produce lately?  And there are some things like toiletries, makeup and other non-food items that are WAY more reasonably priced somewhere else than at the commissary.  However, our commissary recently posted a sign that said they price matched... so there you go!

Ben and I decided to put the commissary vs civilian grocery store(local NOT Wal-mart) to the test this last month to see if we really saved or if it was just a bunch of hype.  We went and bought the same items at each store.  Turns out, that we actually saved almost... are you ready for this?  We saved almost $100 by buying at the commissary.  No kidding!  We even thought we were getting specials and deals, when in fact, there wasn't much a deal about it in the end.

Now, here are a few tips on how YOU can save at the commissary too:

1. Register for a Commissary Rewards Card:

Ask any register at the commissary for a Commissary Rewards Card and then pop home and register your card online.  It only takes a few minutes.  What is super cool about this card is that you can load your commissary coupons and savings on it so you aren't hauling around the paper ones.  Then at check out, they will scan your card and they will automatically be applied to your purchase.  How awesome is that?

2. Bring ALL your Other Coupons Too!!!

The commissary accepts manufacture coupons.  So bring them in!  They also have a bunch in the aisles you can collect as you shop along.  I assign one of my kids to be in charge of the coupons and he takes his job as coupon collector very seriously!

The commissary does NOT accept expired ones, BUT they do if they are overseas.

For rules and regulations of commissary coupons, click here.

3.  Check out the Commissary website often for deals!

Plan your shopping around what sales are going on.  You can always buy extra and freeze right?

4.  The Commissary has Case Lots Sales!!!

Yep, twice a year!  Rumor is, they are around May and September, so keep an eye out for more BULK savings!

5.  Shop During the Week BEFORE Payday:

This is the sneaky tip that a lot of people don't know about.  Prices in the commissary go down right BEFORE payday and they have the best deals.  Come payday, the prices go back up a little and the deals aren't as great.  When is pay day?  The official pay day for the military is the 1st and 15th of every month unless they land on a weekend or holiday, then it is the day before.  BUT if you bank with USAA, you get paid the day before!  So the commissary is usually hopping the last day of the month and the first day, and then again on the 14th and the 15th.  So if you plan your shopping BEFORE those days, you will get MORE savings and less traffic.  Seriously, we went the day before payday, yesterday, and there was hardly anyone in the store and the savings were GREAT!

6.  And PLEASE don't Forget:

Parking:  General Parking does NOT mean it's a general parking place!  It is a parking space for Generals and their spouses.  I have heard of people's vehicles getting towed for parking here.  Also, those pregnancy spaces are AWESOME, but some bases require you to have sticker to park there, so ask your OB/GYN office about that.  Here at Fort Sill we don't need one, but where we are going at Fort Campbell, you do!  When in doubt, just park somewhere else... I like to park in the back because I like the exercise... even pregnant.

Always bring your military ID.  No ID no food.  No nothing!  You can have guests with you, but YOU have to provide your card and pay out of your wallet.  If your family or friends want something they will have to pay you back BEFORE or AFTER you enter the store.  I actually asked the cashier about the policy and that's what she told me.

Bring some cash to tip the baggers.  Unlike the civilian world, the baggers are "volunteers" -- which means they don't get paid to bag and take them out to the car for you.  I usually tip $2.  But don't be afraid to tip up to $5 if the weather is terrible or you have a TON of groceries.  If you don't want to tip, then use the self-checkout lane (but I think they have a grocery limit on those lanes).

And don't forget to avoid the paydays!

Seriously, they aren't kidding when they say it's a zoo.  And if you have kids with you it's even worse!!  Better to pop over to Wal-Mart or Target if you have to.

Did I miss anything?  What are your best tips?

-Cat

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New House, PCS Checklist, and Army Issued Compression Socks

My husband got on my blog the other day, and told me that I needed to post some updates.  I have been so busy with life, that blogging has been the last thing on my mind.  However, yesterday, I got caught up on all the dishes, I got all the laundry done, and cleaned my house.  So today, I have a few minutes to type up a quick update on the going-on's at the Nutshell.

Our new house is coming along!  In fact, we were told that they will have the interior painted by the end of the week!  Everything will be done and ready for us to close the middle of August!  Yay!
This was the update last week.  But they have a LOT more done now... But the last I saw, was over Skype, so no more recent pics for now.

We got to Skype with the Realtor and have a tour of the inside.  It is SO FUN!  And so PERFECT for our little family!  And after living in rentals for the last 10 years, having a place of our own for while is a dream come true!

So I have been going through all my stuff trying to get rid of "weight" we don't need to take with us.  We have a couple new heavy items since our last PCS, that has me concerned about going over our 12,000 pound limit.  Like the treadmill and bunk beds.

Yes, we are doing a partial move.  We are taking two vehicles and loading them up with 1200 pounds of stuff.  Then driving them to Fort Campbell ourselves.  The movers will do the rest.  I will be over 7 months pregnant when we move and there is NO WAY I am doing a full DITY move.  I want to be pampered... a little... what pregnant woman doesn't?

So we will split the trip into two days.  Our first night we will spend in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a hotel with a pool of course.  And then onto Clarksville, TN where we will stay until we close on the house.  It will be a fun adventure for all of us... if it goes smoothly.  Fingers crossed.

So I have this HUGE PCS checklist I made of all the stuff I have to do before we go.  It's about 2 pages typed.  You would think a list would stress me out.  But a list means organized thoughts... and organization makes me less stressed.  I just need to follow the list and I will survive this!

Meanwhile, when I am not sorting, cleaning, wrapping up loose ends, and checking off my PCS list, I am managing my three boys, a busy husband, and a pregnancy:
And OH is this humidity making me pack on the water weight!  Good news is that it isn't mostly fat... but it still makes me feels that way as my arms are swelling out of my short sleeves, cutting off circulation, and it feels like I am sitting on cushy pads that were once my butt-cheeks.  My legs look like hippo legs... and they hurt a lot.  My doctor isn't SUPER concerned because my blood pressure is so perfect (must be my running!! Yep, still at it!) but he did issue me some compression socks courtesy of the Army.... and they are SEXY!
I know you're jealous.... I hope we can still be friends.

And before you comment leaving me a list of sites with your favorite designs, I have to tell you, we can't afford it right now.  With the baby coming and the big move, we are on a very tight budget... beggars can't be choosers, so this is what I get.  But I am okay with them... you should have seen me rocking them at church the other day.

And they help my legs, they really do.  So it's worth it to feel a little uncomfortable than to have the massive cankles, right?

So here I am at almost 25 weeks pregnant looking rather "round" in all my pregnant bloat glory:
Only 15 weeks left to go!

Looking forward to the end of the summer and the coming of fall -- I heard Tennessee and Kentucky are gorgeous in the fall and I can't wait to check it out.  And when Halloween comes rolling in we will be having our 4th little baby boy... This is going to be a great year!

My motto of the month:

Everyone have a great week!

-Cat

PS:  There are only a couple more days to vote for the Best Military Family blog.  Please take a second to pop over and check on the heart next to my picture/blog link.  You don't have to sign up for anything, and it's super easy.  You can vote once a day.  Your love and support is appreciated a TON!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Hero of the House

If you ever want to make your man feel like man, break something you know he can fix. 

Last week the microwave burned out. We don't want to buy a new one, because the new house comes with one built in. So Ben got to work trying to fix it. No matter what he did, it wouldn't work. I think he was really frustrated because electrical stuff is his thing.  I felt really bad because I knew it was a serious blow to his self-esteem.

Then, yesterday, I was literally about to take it out to the trash, when I decided to make dinner first. I was making Asian Chicken Salad and needed to use my food processor to chop the cabbage all perfect. So I used the outlet that the microwave was previously using, and my processor wouldn't power up! Then it hit me! The microwave wasn't broken! The outlet burned out! 

I ran into Ben's office and said, "The microwave isn't broken! It's the outlet!" He looked at me blankly for a second, then he said, "did you hit the reset button on the outlet?"  I nodded.  Duh, of course I did.  Then he asked me if I checked the circuit breaker.  I said I had no idea were it was!  And I had looked before and couldn't find it.  He took me out to the garage, opened the storage closet, moved a few boxes, and there it was.  Oh, really? Are you kidding me?

We checked the breakers and nothing was wrong.

Then his face lit right up. 

Outlets were his THING. I watched as he excitedly marched into the kitchen to check it out.  He got out his handy dandy Gerber and unscrewed the outlet.  Yep it was burned out!


Ben's confidence shot right through the roof and I watched him head out to the hardware store to get a new outlet.  He was so pleased to have something he could fix.  When he got it all fixed up and the microwave running, he became the hero of the house!

We all cheered.

Every man needs to be the hero of the house once in a while. 

-Cat

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Winner of the Lil'Troops Giveaway!

Okay, so I am a couple days late announcing this.  Oops.  

I seem to be having a lot of Oops moments lately.  I just keep forgetting stuff!  I think it's the pregnancy and lack of any real deep sleep.

But enough about that!

Without further ado, the winner of the Lil'Troops giveaway is:

Katie!!!!

Who said: "ooh so fun!! Rescue pilot and recon :) Love these!"

Congrats!!!

Everyone else, stay tuned, because we have another SUPER FUN giveaway coming up again in the next few weeks :)

-Cat

PS  Disclaimer:  I choose all my winners using random.org in order to be completely fair and impartial.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Oklahoma Highlights

I am really going to miss Oklahoma!

Elgin, OK is such a fun place.  Away from the city enough to be rural, but close enough for shopping purposes!

So if you get stationed at Ft. Sill, come to Elgin!!  It's a great family place, and you will get the REAL Okahoma experience.

Now, what am I going to miss?

Fort Sill:




The wildlife:


The gorgeous skies!!

The treacherous yet beautiful ice storms!




The OK Jailbirds Paper:  Just in case being arrested isn't embarrassing enough...
Now all your friends and neighbors can know all about your naughty behavior.

The history:


The small town set ups:

This is small town Oklahoma's version of the DMV. It was GREAT!! This little place is our town's all in one stop for car registrations, driver's licenses renewals, Pike Passes (pre-paid toll-road passes), fishing and hunting licenses, etc. You can also get some locally made honey treats, catch up on local events posted on flyers, and even have a chance to purchase that used bike out in front. The lady that works there has two darling little helpers and that Oklahoma friendliness that I love so much!



The People:
But I think more than anything, I am going to miss the friends.

There is no one more welcoming and more accepting than these Oklahoma ladies.  I wasn't even living here a week before I was invited to their workout group and included in their group texts planning lunch events, play dates, swim parties, BBQ's, and girl's night outs.  I have never felt so loved and wanted by a group of women... ever.  I will miss them terribly!  I feel super blessed to have each of them touch my life. (Note: not all the amazing women here are pictured above... but I want them to know I love them too)

And their kids are pretty dang awesome too!!
There will always be a part of our hearts in Oklahoma!

-Cat

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Attention military families!!!

There is this fun contest going on right now!  Check it out!