Yesterday was the first day of the Area Orientation. Hannah, a new friend from the homeschool group, arrived at 7:30 in the morning to spend the day with our younger kids. Hannah isn't actually homeschooling yet; she and her husband of 2 years are in the adoption process, planning to adopt siblings from Ethiopia. They plan to have biological children later, Lord willing, but are choosing to adopt first. Anyway, when she was introducing herself at the meeting Wednesday evening, she mentioned that she had nanny experience. I chatted with her afterward, and lo and behold, she was perfectly willing to help me out as she can during this whole orientation process! She's a dear--we got to chat more in the evening when all was said and done, and I'm very impressed with her wisdom and maturity.
So anyway, we left Kenna, Lucan, and Zaden in Hannah's very capable hands (she was also watching another little boy Lucan's age, so they were thrilled to have each other for playmates) and took Charis, Tobin, and Arden to the youth center for the last event of the summer. Because the orientation is mandatory, we didn't have to pay for their activities: bus ride to Carney Park, the Navy recreation center (on top of an extinct volcano!); games; swimming; pizza. The younger 3 could have had free care at the Child Development Center, but even though they were put on the waiting list long before we arrived in Italy, they were still numbers 4-6 on the list.
Ted and I bid our older kids goodbye and walked to the theater, all set for a full day of information overload. About 20 minutes after we began, we were dismissed until after lunch! That's because Ted is Air Force and did all of his in-processing separately; most of the folks there were Navy and had to do that. So, we found ourselves with some free time on our hands! Woohoo! We made a date of it. :-) First we went to the housing office to check into things there, looking at a few more rentals online and discussing whether or not we were truly interested in base housing.
See, on Thursday we had gone as a family to look at one of the 4-bedroom units. I had met a couple of moms at the homeschool meeting who have 5 and 6 kids and live on base. They described some creative uses of space that made us wonder if maybe we shouldn't give base housing a chance--if we WANTED to, we COULD get it. The question was...did we want it?! The kitchens are certainly quite large and spacious, considering; and the bedrooms were a pretty good size. Since we downsized quite a bit before leaving the States (putting a lot of items in storage as well as selling off bigger things), we decided after seeing Aileen's unit that yes, we could indeed make base housing work. There are obviously some advantages to that--no bills to worry about, no driving to and from the commissary, walking distance to the chapel and AWANA and Scouting activities (the boys are considering Cub Scouts this year), security.
But...it would definitely be tight. Visitors would make things even tighter. We decided to keep our options open and continue with our plans to see some rentals later that afternoon, plus keep the appointment we had with a base agent for the week after orientation.
After our visit to the housing office and browsing the computer listings, we wandered through the NEX and the Commissary before hitting the food court for lunch. After lunch we endured several moderately informative briefings (school, legal, housing) and then slipped out to meet Luisa, a real estate agent recommended to us by one of Ted's co-workers.
Our adventure with Luisa merits its own post, so I'll merely say here that we visited 3 houses, all vastly different, and arrived back on base close to 6 p.m. Hannah had texted a couple of times letting me know how things were going (she picked the older ones up from the youth center when they returned in the afternoon) and assuring me we should take our time. I feel so blessed that Ted and I were able to be out for so long and not have to worry about the children!
The back-to-school block party was going on when we got back, so we grabbed some cheeseburgers and chips (given away on a for-donation basis) to take up to the apartment for our family and Hannah. Her husband plays tuba in the Navy band and has been in Ireland all month! He returns Sunday. So, we invited her to stay and have dinner (such as it was) with us, and I enjoyed getting to know her better. She is so sweet, and I look forward to praying with her as she and "Tuba" (her hubby's nickname, go figure!) go through the adoption process.
We made stove top popcorn after Hannah left (a rather interesting experience with a gas stove, a small pan, and washcloths for hot pads) and watched a movie, then crashed in bed!