Military Families Wanted!
I’m a big supporter of scientific research so when I received this request from the Social Research Development Team at the University of Calgary, I just had to post it.
Strengths in Military Families
What is the Purpose of the Study?
The purpose of this study is to explore the developmental assets, or personal and social strengths, of children from military families. The study will also seek to understand how those developmental assets are related to educational functioning, including academic confidence, school engagement, and social-emotional functioning.
What Will My Family Be Asked to Do?
You and your partner will be asked to independently complete a questionnaire regarding your and your child’s behaviour and emotional state. If your child is over 8 years old, they will also be asked to complete an independent questionnaire. This study will be completed en rely online and should take no longer than 45 minutes per person.
What Happens to the Information I Provide?
To protect your privacy, no names or identifying data will be a ached to the questionnaires. Only the investigators will have access to the data collected for this study.
How Do I Participate?
Week of 11 July – Pack, Load, Clean
This was an extremely busy week. We gave away all of our food and cleaning products to neighbours. The incoming Canadians purchased our appliances and many of our electrical products. We hired a local “man with a van” company to transport the stuff. It was much less stress than trying to do it ourselves. In the end, hiring the company cost less than renting a small moving van ourselves.
The packers did an excellent job of packing our household goods. It took them two full 7-hour days to wrap and inventory tag all of the items. The loading day went very smoothly as well. The truck driver was Romanian and spoke very little English but thanks to Google Translate we managed to communicate.
After the house was emptied we had one last run to the city dump/recycle station and we were cleared. The cleaning team we hired came in on Saturday and Sunday. Canadian friends were doing the move-out inspection on our behalf the following Monday.
16 July – Travel to USA
We flew out Saturday morning. It was a beautiful, fresh summer day. It was heartbreaking to leave – not knowing if we’d ever return. Saying good-bye to everyone a final time brought tears to our eyes. Fortunately, there are social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so that we can all keep in touch. Long-distance phone calls are a thing of the past. With tools like Skype and FaceTime we can connect with friends anytime, anywhere.
Our flight from London, UK to Newark USA was long but rather uneventful. We watched a few movies. I finished a book I was reading. Clearing through Customs and Immigration on arrival was surprisingly easy although it took us longer than most people because the official had to process our visas correctly.
The wait in Newark airport took forever. Our flight was delayed several times and we had to change gates twice. We are NOT fans of American airline companies!
We finally arrived in San Antonio at almost 23:00 CT – very tired. Our rooms were ready at our hotel and we managed to get a good sleep.
Week of 18 July – New Job, New City
The first business day in a new city in a new country and my husband starts work. His first week was spent getting registered and authorized with all the necessary departments. In the U.S. dependents require military ID cards to get access to the military base. We will access U.S. Forces medical services during our posting in San Antonio so we needed to get registered with the health insurance company as well.
We found it very difficult to function during this week because of the heat and humidity. During the day the temperatures were around 40° to 45°C. The nighttime temperatures fell to between 35 and 38°C. Very un-Canadian, non-British weather.
Week of 25 July – Orientation
Our daughter and me started spending our days in our new apartment when my husband was at work. We bought a washer and dryer and had them installed so we didn’t have to go to a Laundromat. We got Internet and cable TV service hooked up. We thoroughly cleaned the apartment and had a few maintenance items taken care of.
August – Registration and Paperwork
We got our daughter registered in the local high school. It was a bit of work to determine which courses from the school in England related to which courses in Texas but it all seemed to work out adequately.
We also applied for our Employment Authorization Documents. These are required before we can apply for a Social Security Number. In the United States, Social Security Numbers seem to be required for EVERYTHING – from banking to health care to being able to obtain a driver’s licence. It is quite different from Canada where you only need a Social Insurance Number for your employment and income taxes.
Our furniture finally arrives and we can sleep in our own beds! It was a great weekend at home and perfect timing as school started August 22nd.
We spent a total of 38 nights in hotels. I’m so glad we’re finally “home”.
It has been a busy past few weeks. Here’s what happened.
Moving Company Assessment
The moving company sends an assessor to your home to estimate the amount of HG&E. This information allows the company to send the right number of boxes and packing material. Because this is an overseas move and all of our HG&E must pass through U.S. Customs, the moving company needed to know on what date and at which airport we would arrive in order to link the HG&E with us.
We could not provide that information because we couldn’t book our flights until we were in possession of our U.S. visas
We applied for our U.S. Visas. The application process starts online. There are many questions to answer such as U.S. address and employer information. We also had to list all of our trips to the U.S. over the past 5 years as well as any other countries we’ve visited over the past 5 years. Once the online process was completed, we sent our passports via a secure shipping company from home to the U.S. Embassy in London so the visas could be issued.
Once we were in possession of our U.S. visas, we could proceed with other aspects of the move.
We are not permitted to book our own flights. Our Relocation Advisor provides that service but we are allowed to state our preferences for flights. When we were on our HHT, we flew from London, Heathrow directly to Dallas/Fort Worth (9 hours) and only had a 90-minute wait before our flight to San Antonio. This time, we’ve opted for a shorter flight, from London, Heathrow to Newark, New Jersey (5 hours). We will have a 2.5-hour stopover in Newark before boarding our flight to San Antonio. This will allow us plenty time to clear customs and security with our 6 suitcases.
Uncluttering and Home Inventory
We sold our U.K. car. We’ve sold or donated almost everything that we are not taking with us. We still need to get rid of food, some cosmetics and other household supplies (e.g. soaps, shampoos) but we can’t do that until the last minute.
The inventory of our household goods will be completed today (yay!)
We have our HG&E ready. We have visas. We have plane tickets.
Achievement unlocked. Level Up.
There are very few perks to being a military spouse but on 12 June we got to enjoy one of them – The Patron’s Lunch!
My husband belongs to the Royal 22me Régiment and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is the Colonel-in-Chief. The regiment was permitted to send a few of its members to attend The Patron’s Lunch in London, England. The regiment chose members who already live in England, my husband and two other members. Spouses were also invited. Because one of the members is single, he gave his extra ticket to us so that our daughter could attend as well. We were very grateful for that!
The Patron’s Lunch was held on The Mall, a road in London that goes from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square. There were 10,000 people invited and security was tight.
When we arrived at our designated entrance, we passed through airport type security (metal detectors) and had our purses/bags inspected. We then proceeded to our designated table. We received lovely gift bags with goodies (including a rain poncho) from Boots and some of the other sponsors and a picnic basket full of typical British food from Marks and Spencer.
My husband did interviews with CBC radio and television and we waited for the parade to start – in the rain! It’s England after all!
At the end of the parade, we saw members of the Royal Family and my husband had a chat with Prince Edward!
It was a great day and many thanks to the Royal 22me Régiment for allowing us to represent the regiment at such a spectacular occasion!
Since we returned from our house-hunting trip (HHT) the workload has increased.
We had a telephone meeting (using Skype) with our relocation advisor to obtain information on how to claim expenses from our house-hunting trip (i.e. reimbursement for hotel, rental car, meals, etc.) We need to mail all of our original receipts to Canada. However, first I scanned all of the receipts so I have a copy in case they go missing.
After the meeting with the relocation advisor we made a formal request to move our household goods and effects (HG&E). There was also additional paperwork to be filled out so that our HG&E can pass through US Customs. Fortunately, we are not transporting a vehicle, food, alcohol (wine/spirits), tobacco, endangered flora or fauna so that makes the process a little easier.
Our move cannot progress any further until we obtain our U.S. visas. We should have the visas within the week or so. Take a look at the flow chart to see where we are in the process (green = completed, yellow = pending).
Here are some of the things we have managed to do in the meantime.
- While we were on our HHT, we booked our hotel for when we arrive.
- We have booked our hotel here for the few days after our HG&E has been shipped but before we are able to leave.
- We have arranged for all of our household appliances and a number of other items to be handed over to the new Canadian family moving in. This is a win-win situation, as they don’t have to worry about buying appliances when they arrive.
- The uncluttering, organizing and household inventory continues.
- we are listing things for sale that we are unable to take with us.
Things are slowly coming together!
The purpose of a house hunting trip is to secure a home in which the family will be content for the duration of the posting. Because this posting is outside of Canada (OUTCAN) the house we chose had to meet certain criteria. It could not be more than 2200 square feet of living space* and the monthly rent had to be less than $3200 per month. Swimming pools are only permitted if there are no other suitable choices.
We got a taxi from home to Heathrow airport at 8:00. We endured a very long flight (more than 9 hours) from London to Dallas. Once arriving in the U.S. we had to stand in line at border control, then collect our baggage and pass through Customs and Immigration. We had to re-check our baggage and then pass through security AGAIN to get to the domestic flight from Dallas to San Antonio. We missed the flight because there were only 2 security attendants and about 500 people waiting in line.
We managed to get the next flight to San Antonio and pick up our rental car at the airport and then drive to the hotel. Thank goodness the rental car had a GPS system built in.
When we arrived at the hotel our credit cards did not work. I had not phoned our bank to let them know we were travelling so they assumed our credit cards were stolen and locked them down. We managed to use another credit card from a different bank to check in to the hotel. Once we arrived in our room, I phoned the credit card company (via Skype) and had them release our credit cards.
It was 3 am UK time by the time we crawled into bed – almost 19 hours of travelling!
We met with the realtor (rental search agent) right after breakfast. We found out that we would have to start paying rent for any home by 1 June because houses rent very quickly and no owners would hold a house without rent for 1 July. Houses for rent for 1 July or 1 August were not yet on the market.
We viewed 5 houses.
Home #1 – This house was within size and price range, had a 2-car garage (storage) but had a swimming pool.
Home #2 – This condo with a nice floor plan but only had a carport with no outdoor storage for securing bicycles or tools.
Home #3 – The house was within price range, had a 2-car garage but well over size limitation (5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms)
Home #4 – We didn’t even bother to go inside this house because when realtor was unlocking the door, a large jet airplane flew very low overhead. The house was inline with landing strip to San Antonio airport.
Home #5 – This was an apartment within a secure complex. It was clean. Maintenance was available on site. There was a pool but it was for the whole complex and maintained by the property manager. It was within the size limitation and secure storage for bicycles was available in multi-level parking garage.
After viewing these five options, our realtor gave us a quick (driving) tour of the military base where my husband will be working. We also visited the military shops (also knows as the PX).
First thing in the morning we toured the high school that our daughter will be attending. We then meet with realtor to discuss our housing preferences. We returned to Home #5 and submitted an application. The application fee (credit history verification) cost $350USD.
We visited Home #6. It was an executive condo with a 2-car garage. It was clean with a good design. It was within the size limitations and price range. However, it was a higher monthly rent than Home #5 but didn’t have any of the amenities.
We returned to Home #5 and found out that our application had been accepted so we began the process of leasing the unit.
Finally it was Sunday and we got to rest! We viewed some of sights around town, visited shopping malls and other services in area around new home.
When on an OUTCAN posting, the military support unit must review the unsigned lease prior to the military member signing the lease. We waited around most of the morning and finally heard back from the support unit that the lease was acceptable.
We returned to Home #5 to sign the lease. We discovered we received a signing bonus of 4 weeks of rent-free living! We don’t have to pay June’s rent after all!
My husband stopped at the shopping centre to get SIM card so he could have a U.S. cell phone number.
We returned to the Home #5 and measured rooms and windows. We got a copy of the floor plan and that will be very helpful during the move-in process. We will be able to tell the moving crew exactly where to put our furniture.
We got a copy of the signed lease and visited the Public Utilities Commission to set up utilities for our new home starting 1 June.
Day 7 and Day 8
My husband had to work both of these days. He had an orientation and got to meet the people he will be working with for the next three years.
While he was working, I set up house (tenant) insurance and provided a “proof of insurance” document to the manager at our new apartment complex. I also started organizing and scanning all of the paperwork to claim expenses for the house-hunting trip.
This was another long day. We dropped of the rental car and went to the airport early in hopes of catching an earlier flight from San Antonio to Dallas. This would give us a little more time to make our connection in Dallas easier. We DID get booked on an earlier flight but then the flight kept getting delayed. We finally boarded the flight but when we landed in Dallas we literally had to RUN from one terminal to the other in order to catch the flight to Heathrow.
We arrived home after an all night flight.
The Next Six Weeks
Here’s what we’ve been up to over the last few weeks while waiting to go on our house-hunting trip (HHT).
Opening U.S. Bank Accounts
We must open a bank account in the U.S. bank account while on our HHT so that we can pay any security deposits or other charges involved in renting a home. We deal with HSBC for our personal banking needs. This bank is excellent because they have an International Banking Centre so we can open a bank account in the United States before we leave the U.K. Three years ago we opened our U.K. bank accounts before we left Canada. There is a lot of paperwork involved. The account opening form was 30 pages long. We also had to provide copies of government issued ID and proof of address in the U.K. (e.g. utility bill or bank statement with full name and address).
Hiring a Realtor
We are entitled to hire a realtor to assist us in finding a rental home. This is great because local realtors are familiar with neighbourhoods and schools. So far the realtor has found us a few nice properties to look at. We’ve even used FaceTime to have a virtual tour of two houses!
We’ve also had a few appointments here at home. We booked a “pre-march out” meeting with the housing manager. He visited our SFA and took a look around to see if there was any work that needed to be completed before we moved out. We were also informed that the house has to be cleaned before we leave.
Our next step was to book cleaners to come after our furniture has been packed, loaded and taken away. For many moves within Canada, we’ve been able to clean our own house after leaving because we were able to pack our cleaning supplies in the vehicle. We can’t do that this time.
Another important item on the “to-do list” is cancelling services in the U.K. Some utility companies and memberships require at least two months notice prior to moving. We expect to be leaving around 15 July so we’ve been cancelled our gym memberships for 30 June. We’ve also returned all of our library books, library cards and asked to be removed from the library user database.
Once we’ve completed our HHT and secured a new house, our actual move will be booked and we will know which day will be our official “last day” in our current house. Only then can we arrange to cancel our utilities.
We’ve also been paying close attention to the mail we receive. We record the people and businesses to whom we have to send address changes.
We’re spending a lot of time uncluttering – removing items we have decided we are not taking with us. Right now, most of those items are clothes. Any clothes that are in good condition but do not fit or will not be appropriate for the climate in Texas, are going to charity. Once we find a new home, we’ll have a better idea of what larger items (furniture, etc.) we should and should not take.
During this busy time of preparing to move, regular everyday life continues. My husband had to travel on two separate occasions for a period of three weeks. I’m continuing to work and our daughter is in school studying for her GCSE exams. Also, we hosted two exchange students from France through the school French program.
Next week’s plan: House Hunting Trip!