Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life Is Like a Book

Before I moved to Australia life was one big routine.  Get up, get the kids dressed, get them to school, get them home, get them to scouts or sports, make dinner, get the kids ready for bed, watch tv or read and go to bed.  The next thing we knew, it'd be the weekend.  Then we'd start over. I loved it.

If you add in the bookstore, things got a lot more interesting. Get the kids to school, come home for a few minutes, get dressed, head to the bookstore and stay there until 8:00 while Steve ran the kids everywhere.  Somehow shove all the sports and scouts and going to friends' houses in there.  But it was a routine. I loved it.  I missed my kids terribly being at the store all day but it was routine.

Pick us up and drop us in a new country, however, and it all changes.

Since we started packing I've noticed that life has gone in chapters at a time.  We move through an adventure and as that chapter comes to a close,  I forget what has happened and move on.  We have been here for three months and it feels like its been forever.

There's a chapter for us getting through the move to leave.

There's a chapter in Fiji (I liked that chapter...).

There's a chapter for the first week of being in Canberra.

There's a chapter for searching for houses in Canberra.

And on and on.  My life has been broken down into small sections and when I look back, I'm amazed that everything that has happened only took a few short weeks to actually happen!

I went back and read my blog from March.  I was amazed at what I'd been through and how much I'd forgotten. I really had two sleeping kids during the airport run in Salt Lake?  And only a few weeks into the time in Canberra I was so frustrated that I couldn't find a house and worried that I was being picky.  If only the Me now could go back and point and laugh at the Me then.  3 months later and still no house!

Picky is good when choosing a house.  If you're not picky, you end up with a heap of mold for a house that makes your family sick. Picky is better than being desperate and taking whatever you can get.

Anyway, my point is, I'm glad I've been writing this because it has allowed me to look back at where I was before I got here and where I am now. I'm stronger, smaller (I really need to go clothes shopping for pants), wiser, a better packer, and hopefully wiser than I was when I started on this trip.  I have a stronger testimony and more appreciation for the Church for what it has given me during this time.  I'm glad that my life has happened in chapters instead of remembering everything that has happened in the last few months.  It makes it easier for me to continue moving on instead of yelling "ENOUGH!!!!" and giving up and going home.  It's already happened enough with taking just small doses at a time!

So where are we now?  We're still by the coast, enjoying the sea air.  We made move number seven (yes, seven in 3 months) yesterday from the cottage to an apartment that the owners of the cottage own.  They'd had a booking for this weekend already set for the cottage and they couldn't break it so we got to move. With all of our stuff.  They helped which was very sweet of them.   On Monday we move back because its cheaper there. I'd rather stay here. SOOOOO much more space.  But truth be told, we'll have to move again on Friday anyway so what's another move?  Like I said before, I've gotten to be a very good packer.  Our entire amount of belongings packed up in 3 hours?! Not bad.   It took 3 vanloads and 3 carloads(of the owners' car) to get our stuff here. Yes, we do that again two more times.

Our house is nearly taken care of.  With a doctor's note on our side and hopefully three reports (those have been interesting to get a hold of...), we have quite a good case for ourselves.  Andy developed asthma after being in the house for less than 10 days. Yes, we were in our house for less than 10 days.  After that, whenever we'd go in there to clean stuff out and vacuum or have inspectors come through, Steve, Heidi and I would start feeling sick.  Headache, sinuses going out of whack and various other aches and pains. When we would leave the house and go back to the cottage, all of the symptoms would disappear.

The agent is willing to let us out of the lease but the owners are not being so kind. The agent doesn't want to deal with VCAT and the trial that goes with it.  He wants to try and keep things smooth between us and I'm ALMOST willing to allow them to help us find a house.  Steve would be except for one minor detail.

Last Wednesday we had a plumber come to fix a leak in the shower and while he was looking at the water heater outside (for some reason we had more water pressure in the hot water than in the cold water and apparently that's not supposed to happen), I noticed a gas smell in the family room. It was the only room in the house that smelled that way so I was going to just brush it off.   The plumber finished his work of sealing the knobs for the shower onto the wall (whoever built the house didn't so water had been leaking into the wall and down into both the master bedroom and into the stairs and ceiling below it!!).  As he was leaving I smelled the gas smell even stronger and mentioned it to Steve.  He smelled it too so we decided to grab the kids and get out.

Across the street from the house, we sat in the van and called the agency to get the gas company out to us.  We got the voicemail for the repair lady so we called the gas company ourselves and were told we'd have a team out ASAP. Well, 50 minutes later on guy showed up and found a leak inside the house.  He turned the gas off and was getting ready to leave when Steve got a phone call from the lady from the agency. She YELLED at Steve saying that he had no authorization to call the gas company because she needed to send someone out to prove that were was actually a leak. When he tried to put the guy from the company on the phone, she hung up on him!  They found the gas leak, got it fixed and all was well that way.  But as far as we were concerned Ray White had royally messed up by yelling at us for fixing a very urgent problem.

Because of that, we don't want to go back to Chadstone, nor do we want to have anything to do with the agency that has been so unhelpful with anything.  Which of course makes it difficult to keep the kids in the same school because the majority of the houses in that area are managed by the same realtor!  I'm just glad that we're out, that Andy's symptoms have disappeared (no inhaler for 3 days now), and that we can hopefully move on.

I don't regret taking that house.  I regret the fact that Andy got sick.  He said to me, "I wish we'd never left America because then I wouldn't be sick."  Way to break your mother's heart, Andy!  But I think we had to take it to be ready for the next house.  We know more about our rights, we know how more of the government agencies work here and we know what to watch out for in looking for houses.   I honestly never felt good about that house.  I tried to be happy in it. I tried to make it a home.  But I never felt at home.  As we'd walk toward it my kids would yell "yay, we're home!",  and I would cringe and say "yay....." in a quiet "I hate this house" kind of way.   But I think it served its purpose.  I think we've learned a lot.

So onto the next chapter of our lives.  As we sit and enjoy the constant trains out our window,  we do searches for more houses.  The beach is just down the road from us but we haven't been there since we moved to the different apartment.  We might not before we move back to the cottage. Its enough to see it at the end of the street as we walk to the train or car.

We've done a little more searching for houses.  Some are awesome.  Others need help.  We got smart and instead of waiting for each inspection, we drive past the houses and see what vibes come from each house.  We've gotten rid of several on our list that way.  It saves hours.  Today we were able to rid ourselves of all but one by seeing that the photos hadn't shown the mold or other interesting pieces of information we'd find as we drove by.

We DID find a house not far from here that we're almost in love with.  It would mean a new ward for church and a new school but the school is across the street and the house is in a neighborhood full of families.  We didn't get that in many other places.  We did find that in Wantirna when we were there to see the temple.  We even looked for homes there but couldn't find anything to fit us.  But this was different. It felt different.  The kids were cheering when they saw the house. They cheered when they saw the school across the street.  They cheered as we drove through the neighborhood and saw all the big houses, cars and families in the area.   And I smiled.   I see the inside of the house on Monday.  I'm hoping for good vibes then too.

The crazy thing was that when we were trying to leave the area that morning, things kept happening to prevent us leaving.  A guy tried to run into us (the dork ran a red stop light!) so we had to turn and go the other way (it was easier than trying to wait for another open window in the traffic). Then the road was closed or there was construction or a dead end. When I realized where we were, I remembered that there was a house there that I was supposed to look at on Monday.  SO we went to go see it.  It was after that, while I was smiling, that we made our way out of the area and headed off to go house hunting. Call it coincidence if you will but I choose not to.  I needed to see that house.

After giving up on 4 homes because they weren't great and it would have been an hour or two until the showings, we headed off to the zoo.  Actually it was a sanctuary.  The drive was AMAZING.  It took a while but it was totally worth it.  Green, rolling hills, farm country, wineries (no, we didn't stop),  and farm animals.  I had to keep reminding myself to focus on the map to get us where we needed to go while Steve drove.

This sanctuary had all Australian animals.  I wanted to take a koala bear home with me.  They were adorable!  The platypuses were my second favorite. They were smaller than I expected but awesome. We also saw dingoes, bilbys, wallabys, kangaroos, brown snakes, tasmanian devils and on and on. It was so much fun!   We were sad to leave but Heidi was ready to leave after sitting in a stroller for 3 hours.

We enjoyed the trip back and then went to a fish and chips place.  The food was SO good but as it was fried, I had to peel a lot of the breading off.   The kids all devoured everything in front of them and we all left happy. We came home and showered and sat down to watch Mr. Bean.  Now Steve is going to enjoy a movie and I think I'll read my book. Or maybe fall asleep.

This book has had happy parts, sad parts, frustrating parts and parts where we just fully enjoyed ourselves.  Its been a joy to be part of.  I love Australia. I love learning the culture, meeting the people and seeing the sights.   I will be interested to see how everything continues on.  As long as it has a Happily Ever After. ;)

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