the last few months have been a blur, similar to a tornado or a force not to be reckoned with.

we finished our medical screening in July. in August we applied for our passports. we got our final approval paperwork the 2nd week of September. the movers packed up our apartment on the 26-28 of September. we sold my Trailblazer. my husband’s truck went into storage. we did our final walk through of our apartment & turned in our keys. on Halloween my husband checked out of his command & we our flight from Norfolk left @ 1345. we’d been all go, go, go!! but not the dr. seuss version.

in our last days at home in Virginia Beach my parents came up to say goodbye. despite the hustle & bustle of the last few days it was nice that my parents had time with our kids. i’m so grateful for that.

it was also nice to eat out at nice restaurants {hello pf changs!} & stay in a hotel for 2 nights after roughing it for 5 weeks on a futon & floor. but more importantly we had 4 extra helping hands and grandparents are just itching to help!

it was nice to have girl shopping time with my mom {thanks for the new shoes!} & i’ll never forget getting a pedicure in an empty salon in the midst of Hurricane Sandy. a girls toes need to look nice!!

even with all of the early preparations of the previous months of

cleaning out closets,

selling things on craigslist,

consigning the kids last bit of clothes,

donating things to goodwill,

my husband taking in a huge box of pantry items to work,

there were STILL things left.

i couldn’t grasp my mind around it. i’m not a hoarder. where did all of this stuff come from? i move the fridge & oven monthly to clean, primarily to find lost toys. i was shocked beyond belief.

tip #10 start purging now. do it every day. don’t stop till all that’s left is what you’re taking with you. if family will be taking things home to store, put them in boxes & label these so you can account for what’s in them

over the past 2 1/2 years our wonderful 2 bedroom apartment was full of baby gear that came & all the other accoutrement’s that come with kids. who knew little people had such baggage!!

with the “reinforcements” in place my husband & i had the best date night ever:

a romantic dinner with many bottles of wine followed by a movie & then a moonlit walk on the beach  {in my dreams, no more Nicholas Sparks movies for me!}

a late 2 1/2 hour cleaning spree of our apartment, primarily the task of cleaning “le oven”, the task that my wonderful husband graciously accepted.

anyone that’s ever cleaned a non self cleaning oven knows it’s impossible to clean an oven with 2 busy toddlers running around due to the nasty fumes that come from the chemicals in the spray you need to use. after 4 sessions of cleaning the oven, yes 4, we were finally satisfied, exhausted & headed back to the hotel. i’m quite sure we both fell asleep in about 180 seconds!

none of this would’ve been possible if grandma hadn’t supervised bedtime. we love you!
{credit for things like this always goes to grandma }

my dad was there as he always has been & graciously accepted any task & willingly patched up the holes on our walls left from picture frames. i secretly think he has a love affair with spackle.

at the very end it was another trip to the dumpster, another load to the car. my dad’s suv was full of borrowed items, a table, crib & items of ours they’ll keep for us while we’re in Japan.

i generously gave back to the residents in our apartment complex by leaving presents by the dumpster which included both large & small trash cans & an pretty much every cleaning product available at Target.

tip #11  take inventory of your cleaning products & use up what you have before you go out & buy more. cleaning products are hazmat & can NOT be shipped overseas.

the morning of our flight i made one last trip to Target, Babies R Us & the bank. i got back to the hotel just in time to cram more stuff into our suitcases & pack food in our carry on’s.

the housekeeping staff in the hotel made out like bandits with what we left in our room. the sheer joy on one of their faces as we rushed out of our room on our way to the airport, warmed my heart. what we’d left behind & had served us well & was on its way to new homes.

tip #12  the morning of your flight, check everyone in electronically & print your boarding passes. this will save you time.

i printed our passes from the business center in the lobby of hotel before running out on my morning errands.

when we got to the airport we still needed to check in at the counter for our baggage as we were on orders & had 2 bags a piece.

tip #13  if you have a rental car, have a family member return it to the lot at the airport so you can check in at the airport. you will need that time.

my mom returned our rental car & my husband & dad watched the kids while i checked us in at the counter.

tip #14  have single bills, about $20 for the porters. the last thing you want is to not have enough money or wait for them to break a large bill, or worse not be able to. if you have 14 bags & 2 car seats you’re going to need help getting everything inside.

in the US the Navy will fly you on Delta as that’s who they are contracted with. when on orders Delta will allow each dependant 4 checked bags at 70 lbs each.

AMC {military flights} allow each person 2 checked bags no more than 80 lbs each.

therefore we had 2 suitcases per person, for a total of 8. one of our suitcases was simply for diapers.

tip #15  if your kids are in diapers plan to pack & carry with you a minimum of  a months supply. you will be limited the sizes of packages & brands here in Japan & you do not want to run out as you won’t have a car & it will take time before you can have them shipped as you’ll need to set up your PO box.

our son is in pampers cruisers size 7, our daughter is in size 4’s. the largest size of cruisers they have here is size 5. if your child wears huggies they have a bigger selection but you are still limited with the count in the box. get used to buying diapers from amazon!

we had a set number in the diaper bag. one of the kids duffel bags we used as carry ons had more diapers for when we ran out of our supply in the diaper bag. a checked bag had the rest of our supply.

we each had our own carry on & our diaper bag & camera bag were considered personal items, which brought our carry ons to 6.

add our 2 car seats that the kids sat in for the flights & our double stroller which we gate checked. we were certainly a sight to be seen.

it’s never easy to say goodbye, especially when you’re moving to a foreign country.

tip #16  before you leave, make plans of who you will contact once you safely arrive at your destination. let them know how you plan to contact them, be it through e-mail, Facebook, or a phone call.

it was nice to know that once i e-mailed my mom she’d notify the rest of our family. it was one less thing for me to worry about. i’d update my status via Facebook when i had a minute but initially my concern was sleep.

tip #17  as much as you plan for your last few days & day of departure, know that it’s not going to go as planned. things will come up & you’ll save your sanity & that of everyone around you if you accept that now. it might rain. the restaurant you want to go might not have a reservation for 7 o’clock. one of your kids might throw up on the plane. sure it’s great to have a plan of action for every imaginable situation but you can’t change what life gives ya.

{trust me, i have a very hard time on this one & if you don’t believe me ask my husband or my mom.}

after our bags were checked & all that remained were our carry ons, car seats & stroller we said our goodbyes.

i’m not sure how many times i reassured my mom that everything would be okay & we’d Skype with them soon, but it broke my heart to see her cry.

her baby was leaving to go somewhere far, far away. i’m quite sure my husband isn’t her favorite son-in-law anymore!!

i’ll never know what went through her head but i had to remain strong for my kids as i knew if i didn’t we’d have a mega meltdown.

it wasn’t until our plane took off from Norfolk as it headed to Atlanta that i had a smile on my face.

it was our kids very first flight.

as a former flight attendant i’d played out several “plane” possibilities in my head. you just never know with kids.

but then we went barreling down the runway and just as the wheels lifted up into the air i heard my son say, “funny”.

when i looked over at him the smile on his face was from ear to ear.

& somehow, i hoped that on the ground beneath us,

grandma had a smile on her face too.