Saturday, July 30, 2011

One Month Later...

Wow. I thought I'd written not long ago. So much has happened in the last month that I'm not surprised its been so long!

The Fourth of July came along and we went to TGI Fridays for an American meal.  We even had an American waiter. I was thrilled. I got my steak, potatoes and corn on the cob, Steve got Salmon, and the kids got pizza, cheeseburgers and chicken fingers. I was thrilled. We even got video of Heidi doing her Peppa Pig impression. I'll have to get the video posted when I can use my own computer again.

The next day was Gavin's birthday and the poor kid had a rather lameish birthday. He didn't get much for his gifts, the cake turned out nasty (it didn't bake all the way through, the spring form pans leaked and the butter is much stronger in flavor so it was more buttery than we liked it) and I was sick.  BUT he did get to go bowling which made up for everything. It was AWESOME.  Ok so the scores weren't, but we all had fun. We used the bumpers for all the kids and they had a blast.

Among one of our house hunts, Steve took the kids to the park while I fed Heidi in the car.  They came back and Steve had a white wallet that Jakob had found on the slide. He looked through and found the school ID so he called and the school put him in contact with the guy that lost it.  They met at a shopping center the next day and the guy was so relieved that it was Steve that found it rather than someone else.  He said that not many people would have given it back - especially with the money still in it.  He was very thankful that we were honest people.  Steve also helped buy a train ticket for an older lady that needed one.  He had walked past knowing he had no change but then realized he could use his credit card so he bought her one. She was very happy.

We went on a few road trips among house hunting, while we had use of a car. We'd heard that the Great Ocean Road was beautiful so we decided to try it. I loved the trip TO the road. The land was gorgeous. We stopped at Bunnings Warehouse (like Home Depot that has a catchy little tune that the kids would sing whenever they'd see the store) and let the kids use the restroom and then continued on.  It was about this time that Ethan started screaming because of his ear.  I held his hand and we kept driving. It was getting dark by the time we got to the Ocean Road but we still saw some gorgeous views.  We stopped at one spot and went to see the beach. It was amazing. Only Ashley decided to put a hole in her foot on something in the car so that kinda put a damper on it for her... Ocean water doesn't feel good on cuts, just so you know.  I held Ethan's hand all the way home.  The next day at nursery Ethan had a very rough time.  His other ear started hurting until he was able to eat and pop both ears. Dumb hills.

We found out that the real estate agent for the Blackburn South house we wanted was fighting to get us into the house that they rejected us for on the basis of the house being too small. Four bedrooms too small for 8 people? They apparently didn't see our two bedroom cottage...

Anyway, they got us the house and I really fought it.  I wanted to feel good about it. It was in the ward I wanted for church, the kids could do scouts (only one stake in all of Australia still had scouts that were affiliated with the church), it was walking distance to a school and it was a good size. But I couldn't.  It was a house though so I told Steve to go through with it. I figured that maybe it was just because anything permanent would make the stay longer or something.  At least that's what I was told by several people and I figured it must be true. Any bigger purchases felt the same way.

The day we signed for the house, we went to the doctor and found out that Australia hasn't approved the thyroid medication dosage that I need.  Not good.  They have 25, 50, 75, 100 and 200.   I use 137.  Odd number but its right between 125 and 150.  125 was too low and 150 was too high.   The doctor told me he could just "mess with the dosage until they got it right. Uh, that's my life buddy boy.  I was born without a thyroid so I have nothing to go on. And you mess with that, you mess with the chance of doing severe damage.  So I emailed my sister and asked for her to get a refill of my pills along with a few other things I needed.

The big day arrived and we moved.  We had our good friends help us, which saved us 2-3 trips.  After moving our things we went to a lady's house (a friend of one of Steve's work colleagues) that had furniture for sale and picked up a couch, washer, bookshelf, table and chairs, and two smallish fridges.  We took them home and got all settled, warming ourselves in front of the gas heaters.

The first sign that something wasn't good was the itchy arms. I was laying on the couch and my arms started going crazy so we put a cover over the couch.  Then I noticed that in certain parts of the house my sinuses (that were admittedly already stuffy) were going berserk. My eyes started itching, Heidi was breaking out in a rash and the boys were rubbing their eyes.  I vacuumed several times thinking maybe it was the carpet.  That just made it worse.  Then we got an email from the property manager not to vacuum because that would make the allergens go up into the air. So, we don't vacuum?  Steve asked if they could pull out the carpet (that was probably about 50 years old and nasty) and he laughed and said no.

A few days into being there, I had to fill out the condition report for the house (so they know what it looked like before and after we move in and out) and noticed that they had written that there was mold in the edges of the shower. Wait, what? They KNEW there was mold. They KNEW we're allergic to mold, but they let us move in...? So I did some more inspecting. The wallpaper in the bathroom was curling and there was mold in there.  There was swelling and molding on the edges around the outside of the showers. There was mold in the wallpaper in the laundry room AND the linoleum was bubbling up in several places. NOT AGAIN!!!

Steve made spaghetti one night and went to dump the water into the sink and out came a plume (not that you could see but that you could certainly smell) of mold.  The kids that were in the room and Steve all started coughing and gagging. Luckily the spaghetti hadn't gone into the sink along with the water... A few days later it did the same thing.  You had to run any water for a good minute before it stopped smelling. And the list goes on...  Every time I thought maybe I was imagining things I'd walk down the hall to get something and get hit with mold in the hallway or closet or laundry room... it was insane!

We knew we were in trouble. None of the houses we'd looked at the whole time we'd been in Melbourne was mold-free.  Even the wood floor houses had issues. Several were awful. So what do we do?  We kept fighting through it.  I unpacked and told our friends at home to send our stuff. And then a few minutes later had Steve write back and have them NOT send it. I liked not having a ton of stuff and I just didn't feel like they should. Boy am I glad we didn't have them send it.

Steve was going to be on a three month project. He was so excited for it and I was excited for him. It was a business analyst position that would have been so good for him. He was supposed to be doing a different job for Fosters and that fell through, good thing too, he would have come home every day smelling like hops.  So this would have been his first one and he loved it.  The first week went great. He got along well with his coworkers, the bank he was working with loved him and it was awesome.  Then one day we were going to meet in the city to go to Costco and I got a text.  Steve said he was done with the bank for now and I didn't know if that meant for good or for the day.  The next text said that the bank had decided to consolidate and they dropped Steve's project and my jaw dropped.  It suddenly felt like the last thing keeping us in Australia was gone. We decided to go to Costco anyway but didn't get what we'd been planning to get.

Over the next day or two, while fighting Steve's nasty cold, allergies and more allergies we had several discussions. We decided that we were to the point it wasn't worth our family's health to stay.  I offered to take the kids and go and let Steve finish his contract and he decided to go with us.  It would not be right to separate the family like this just for a job. Steve emailed his boss and let him know what was going on, and told him that we were leaning towards leaving Australia and going back home to the US.

Jakob, Andy and I then left for the movie theater to watch Harry Potter 7.2.  The release in Australia was July 13th so we got to see it two days earlier than friends and family in the US. Woohoo!  While it was driving me crazy to know what Steve's boss would say, we wanted to go see the movie even more.  We were all bouncing in our seats on the bus and then walked through the mall while we waited for it to start. We LOVED IT.  I was sad about one or two changes but still LOVED it.

After the movie was done we started walking to the buses and I texted Steve. It went something like this:

Me:  Hear anything?
Steve: Yeah
Me: What'd he say?
Steve: We can't leave the country.
Me:  What? They can't do that!
Steve: Just kidding.  He totally understands because of health reasons and will let us go.

Funny boy. If I hadn't been so relieved and happy to be going home, I would have smacked the guy.  Instead, I announced it to Jakob and Andy and cheered. We were in shock.  After all this, we could go home?  Was it time?

Our agents were willing to let us out of the lease because of health problems. That was also a huge relief.  They even had a showing while we were packing. Really? Confirmed mold in the house and you still want to rent it out again? Nice.

Since we didn't want to move AGAIN we knew we needed to get out soon.  Steve bought tickets to Fiji and then on to LA because it was the cheapest way to go. We were going to spend a few days in Fiji until we realized it would be  $500 a night at a hotel. No thanks.  Then the tickets to Las Vegas were expensive so we decided to rent a car from LA to Vegas.  Two cars actually...  The trip was planned so it was time to play. I mean, pack.

We decided to kick the sightseeing into gear and went to Ballarat to see an old mining town for a day.  We picked the last weekend that the Vline trains between Melbourne and Ballarat were shut down, so we got to ride on a bus.  The ride was long, but Sovereign Hill was so much fun!  They had a whole town built up with a newspaper office, general store, clothing store, brass makers, bowling alley (that was awesome. It was all manual you bowled and then went and picked up the pins for the next person), a mine you could go down in, wagon rides, and several other things. The kids got to dip and dye candles and pan for gold.  It was an awesome day. That turned into a cold day at the end while waiting for the bus that was late.  We missed one bus by about 5 minutes, and got to wait for another 30 minutes out in the cold.

The next day, Saturday was spent cleaning and packing. I'd wanted to go to the zoo but that just didn't happen.  Then Sunday we went to church knowing it was our last day of church in Australia. It was very sad.  We went and Heidi followed her friend Emily everywhere. It was so cute!   We said our goodbyes (the week after we said hello again) and then headed off to our friends' house.

We had a delicious dinner and dessert.  Dinner was tacos and spaghetti pie.  Dessert was a pavlova that was amazing. Its egg whites and sugar that's baked, and then you put passion fruit on top, and man its yummy.   We had fun talking while the kids played outside and inside and just plain had fun.  Heidi kept following Emily and we were so sad because we knew it wouldn't be much longer before we left.  We got pictures of all the kids together before we went home.

Monday was spent walking.  A lot.  We walked from the train station to the kids' school which took 1/2 an hour and let the kids say goodbye.  It was Andy's birthday and he wanted to be at school at least for a little bit. We got pictures of the kids with their classes and then left.  We walked to another train station and talked to my parents on skype while we waited for the train.  They got to see a train station - and so did we. Apparently my iPhone didn't want us to see them. Silly thing. We got on the train and went to fill out the forms to vacate the house.  All we needed to pick up the form was for them to fill something out and hand it to us.  That takes 45 minutes apparently. Especially when one agent thinks the other one is doing what needs to be done...

After that got done we headed on to the Chadstone Shopping Centre. One of the biggest shopping centres in Australia (or THE biggest... not sure).  Steve had to do claims for health insurance (lucky Steve) and Andy really wanted to pick out a birthday present. So we split up. We got the ds game he wanted and Steve did the forms.  We went home and got more packing done.

Tuesday was spent packing and loading cars. We gave away almost more than we kept.  All our dishes, food and the furniture we just bought got loaded up and went to our friends' house to either sell or give away.  The kids were getting more and more antsy to leave.  Andy and Jakob were getting more frantic because they couldn't find Andy's ds. It did a disappearing trick. There one minute, gone 10 seconds later. Even now we still haven't found it...

After everything else was cleared out we loaded up our bags. I managed to consolidate everything and used three less bags. We'd been planning to ship most of our stuff - until we heard shipping costs.  $285 per 20 kg.  Which is around 40 pounds... Yeah. No thanks.  SO glad we didn't have our stuff shipped to Australia! I can't even imagine the cost of what it would have been to send everything back. As it was, it was $195 to send a box of books. And that was sending it at the 4-6 week rate, by sea. Yuck.  While shipping the books, Steve found a store that sold root beer.  Unfortunately they were sold out, but we would be having our root beer again soon enough.

Anyway, our friends took us to the airport in two cars. It was a lot of fun but sad at the same time. I miss them terribly!

We got to the airport and got everything checked in.  We had fun trying to get everything checked in. They were pickier than before, for some reason they keep changing their security standards, but they ended up letting a few things through that they didn't charge us for.

I'm ending here to break up the huge post.  Stay tuned!