Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nothing is ever as easy as it seems...

We knew this move was going a little too smoothly.  We have the dates set, the whole trip reserved, and have been spending weekends emptying out the extra stuff in the house on Craigslist.  We even found a fantastic rental house the day after we got orders to Homer.  Or so we thought.  After going back and forth for the past month with the owners of the home (who are also a Coast Guard family leaving the same ship we are going to) about deposits, dimensions, appliances, neighbors, everything, they suddenly decided that they are going to rent their house to someone else instead.  There are no words for how upset we were upon getting that news in an email yesterday.  Besides the fact that what they did is apparently illegal (nice to have good friends who are lawyers to tell us such things), we are in disbelief that they would do such a thing to a fellow CG family.

So now the stress has really begun.  We have discovered that the rental market in Homer is tough.  Really tough.  As in, when we call about rentals we are finding that we are the fifth Coast Guard family to call about the same ones, and nothing is available right now.  There is government housing, but it is apartment-style, and we could rent our own apartment for about a third of our monthly housing allowance (if it came to that) and pocket the rest rather than fork over the whole thing to live in housing.

We bought a house when stationed in Atlantic Beach, NC, and loved owning but hated the added stress of selling it while moving on a specific timeline.  We said we would never buy again until The LT retires from the CG.  Now that we are faced with a location with an obvious need for more nice rentals, we are toying with the idea of buying a home and then renting it out when our time there is up.  That would mean that we may end up buying a home before seeing it in person, but between the great realtor who has been helping us and some contacts we have in Homer who would probably be willing to check out some places for us, it could be done.  We have also gotten some great help from fellow Coast Guard families on the Facebook group Coasties on the Move.  People we have never met are calling around to their contacts, trying to help us out.  So in the meantime, we will wait out the next month or so and hope that we find a rental or make the decision to buy.  Let's hope that nothing else goes wrong with this move...and if you have any contacts in Homer who may know of some rental openings, please let us know!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A few photos...

We have been going back and forth on whether to post photos of the family on this blog since it is public.  We realize that when we begin our cross-country journey we will probably be posting pics of us all anyway, so here are a few recent shots for our non-Facebook friends who haven't seen us in awhile.  We will just refrain from using our first names, so please do the same in your comments if you know us in real life!

In other news, our Overseas Screening paperwork was finally submitted this week.  We had to visit all of our doctors and dentists to be cleared.  It was a little bit of a surprise to see in writing that The Princess's asthma "could escalate to a life-threatening situation under extreme circumstances" but I guess that's the same with anyone with asthma.  The pediatrician was sure to note that, also, and indicated that it is now well-controlled (NO wheezing episodes this winter, yay!) so it shouldn't be an issue.  Other than that, we are one healthy family!

The LT has been working on Move.mil to get our actual move process going.  This is the first time we have moved since they started the self-service military moving process online.  So far, so good.  Our only hiccup is that, due to the ship schedule in Homer, the family whose house we will be renting may not have moved by the time we are scheduled to arrive.  That means the possibility of a few extra nights in a hotel at the end of the trip that we hadn't planned on, but we are so thankful to have already found a great place to live that it will be worth it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Incredible Journey

Incredible? Absolutely. But when you see it all outlined in front of you, the first word that may come to mind is "long"...or maybe even "crazy." We have spent many hours during the past few weeks planning out our 5000+ miles of quality family time in the car. After determining how many days it is going to take us (FIFTEEN), we set about planning the route based on places that we really want to visit along the way. Then came researching hotels that will fit all of us comfortably and allow Midas (the wonder dog) to accompany us. So here's an outline of what we came up with. And even more impressively, all of the hotels are already booked. That may sound like overkill in the pre-planning department, but when you are traveling the Alaskan Highway in the summer without pre-arranged hotel reservations, you very well could find yourself camping at the first available roadside turn-out.

Day 1: CT to Youngstown, OH (547 miles)- no significance to this location, just a good place to stop for the night.
Day 2: Chicago (403 miles)- We have never been here and it's the only major city on the route. I foresee pizza for dinner this night!
Day 3: Sioux Falls, SD (573 miles)
Day 4: Gillette, WY (486 miles)
Day 5: Yellowstone National Park (355 miles)- we have been here before and can't wait to return!
Day 6: Extra day in Yellowstone
Day 7: Calgary (595 miles)- This is our longest day of driving
Day 8: Jasper National Park (267 miles)- This will include driving from Banff to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, a place that we discovered by accident on our last drive out of Alaska and want to return to explore.
Day 9: Extra day in Jasper
Day 10: Dawson Creek, BC (328 miles)- Dawson Creek is the start of the Alaska Highway!
Day 11: Muncho Lake, BC (431 miles)- One of the most beautiful spots to stop. We have visited here before.
Day 12: Whitehorse, YT (422 miles)- I hear there is a good brewery here...
Day 13: Tok, AK (387 miles)- Finally in Alaska!
Day 14: Anchorage, AK (318 miles)
Day 15: Homer, AK (222 miles)- Finally!

We welcome input on any of these places, or points of interest along the way! Just remember that we will have the dog with us, so we can't do a whole lot of indoor activities.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Overseas Screening

We received our "official" orders last Friday, so now the insanity officially begins. First stop is to pass the Overseas Screening. Yes, I said overseas. The military considers Alaska overseas because it is OCONUS (outside of the continental U.S.). In order to be allowed to make an overseas transfer, we are required to pass a screening process that includes medical, dental, and financial information. They want to make sure that we won't need any specialty care that we can't easily access in our new location, and that we aren't in a poor financial position to handle the high cost of living in Alaska. It really does make sense, but it can get very time-consuming.

After all of the hoops we need to jump through to get to the actual packing-up and moving-out stage, we may very well be certified circus performers. The kids are easy. They see civilian medical and dental providers who will complete the necessary forms (that's the 4.H.2, for those wondering). The LT doesn't have it so bad, either. He can make the necessary appointments right at his workplace. I, on the other hand, am a bit more complicated. Because we live near a Navy installation (Naval Submarine Base New London), my primary care doctor is at the Navy base clinic--the clinic at the Coast Guard Academy does not see dependents. I also see civilian specialists and dentists. Rather than the Coast Guard Academy being able to complete all of my paperwork, I have to go through a special office at the Navy base. The past two days have been spent making appointments and dropping off authorization forms to my civilian providers so that the military facility has all of my records up-to-date. The reaction of the dental receptionist when I called to say that I was supposed to have all of this completed within 10 days (making my previously-scheduled appointment in April way too late) was impressive. She made me an appointment for Thursday with the dentist himself doing my cleaning and exam rather than the hygienist, just to make sure all bases are covered. I'm not sure that is a good thing, as my dentist is close to retirement age and does things the old-fashioned way. My mouth aches just thinking about it. But at least it will be done.

In true military clinic fashion, the Navy clinic can't get me in until mid-month, while the Coast Guard expects me to have everything completed within 10 days. I can't just drop off paperwork as I did for the kids...that would be far too easy. Yet another reason to be excited about the move--we will live too far from military medical providers and will be allowed to see anyone we would like, at no cost out-of-pocket (this is called Tricare Prime Remote).

Keeping us organized and on track could easily become a full-time job in the next couple of months. Knowing that in advance, I have put my lia sophia business on the back burner for now. I have access to the new Spring catalog and can place orders, but I'm not planning to do any more parties for now.

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Questions? Helpful advice? Please feel free to drop a comment below!