Friday, July 29, 2011

Moved In! Sort of...

Well, it's still only "moved in...sort of" because though we are now moved into our new apartment, we are still waiting for our crate to arrive from Asia.  But, the happy thing is that all of our possessions on the American side, yes, that's right, everything that we own in America is now in ONE location, 225 Crescent Hill Place #113.  Happy day!

We successfully made the trip down to Louisville on the 15-16th, and have spent the last week and a half living at my brother and sister-in-law's house, enjoying some great conversations with them (usually late at night, ha!), seeing our girls play together happily, and then doing a ton of moving tasks like getting our phone and internet set up, choosing paint and beginning the painting process, organizing, sorting, trying to find things that are buried in the luggage somewhere, cleaning. . . all those things that go along with getting to a new place.  It's been a joy to be back at our home church again and reconnect with friends. 

I am more than ready to be settled.  We've been living out of suitcases for about 6 weeks now and life has been in transition for much longer than that.  But, though we're still in the midst of the mess, there's a light at the end of the tunnel because it looks like our crate will be arriving on Monday!  So yes, that will be a ton more work of unpacking, putting together furniture, organizing and finding a place for everything, but it will be SO good to have our stuff safely delivered.  It's been quite the process with this crate.  We were surprised that after our very thorough and complete list was submitted to the Asian customs, they wanted to open the crate anyway.  (Perhaps a moneymaking scheme, since they charged us a fee to do so?  Who knows...)  But then, when it arrived at the port of Los Angeles the US government had ordered an x-ray exam of the contents, called a "non-invasive scan" for another $200, and then decided that wasn't enough.  The last step was that they did a full examination of the contents of the crate and then charged us another $1600 for that process.  Yikes!  This is in addition to the regular fees that applied for the actual shipping of the crate!  We learned later that this is not unusual.  Household items, like ours, are often shipped by drug or weapons smugglers--sofas with drugs or other illegal items sewn inside, cars whose gas tanks have been filled with drugs, things like that.  So, I am thankful the government is doing its job, and also since we had nothing to fear from an exam like that--you know, they found out that box 49 really did include one wooden cutting board, 50 pieces of silverware, and a set of knives--it would be no problem to get the crate released. 

So, now it's been released, put on a train, and will arrive in Louisville by Saturday, hopefully.  A cartage company here will pick up the crate, put it on the back of the truck, and deliver it on Monday morning, if all goes well and according to plan.  All I can say is, if it truly turns out that we will be unloading those items on Monday, hallelujah!  It has seemed many times in this process like it may NOT happen, so if it actually DOES happen we will rejoice greatly!

So for today I've got paint under my fingernails, creaky knees from crawling around on the floor doing the trim while John does the rolling part of the painting, enjoying the freshly painted, colorful walls, and thanking the Lord for how He's provided thus far.  We have had so many timely provisions in the last week--offers of help for childcare just when we needed it, a ladder and other supplies for the painting to borrow so we didn't have to buy, the schedule working out so we could finish painting before the crate comes, even a 10% off coupon to Lowe's that helped us purchase our paint, some rugs, and a beautiful porch swing very inexpensively!  Praise the Lord! 

One thing that is very humbling about about being in such transition is that I have been the one who is always needing help.  I have no well-equipped kitchen to offer a meal or a tasty snack.  I am not able to offer to watch someone else's kids or bring a salad to the potluck.  But people have been offering me this kind of help, and it has been truly helpful.  So though it humbles me to accept, or even to ask for help, I am thankful for those that the Lord has put around us this week to help us get a lot done and be ready for our crate to arrive.  It is always exhausting to move, and this international move has been quite the process.  But the Lord is faithful and we will get settled one day!

Thanking Him tonight for His provision, His blessing, and this new place to live.  The girls are sleeping on the floor and John and I are sleeping on a futon, but we're in our new place!  That's a testament to His grace.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Moving Day!...sort of

It's only moving day...sort of since we have had several of these big days lately!  But, we are thankful for the Lord's faithfulness, protection and care as we have transitioned back to the States in the last few weeks.  It seems almost unbelievable that we've only been back a little over two weeks, so much has happened!  All has gone well (busy, but well!) and we are now ready to begin our move to Louisville. 

We rented a van through a local shop, attached a hitch to it and have a U-Haul trailer behind, and this afternoon, after lunch at Pizza Ranch (of course!) we'll begin the drive to Louisville.  We are taking my parents with us on this adventure!  They'll get to see our new place, visit my brother Mark and Beth who are already settled in Louisville, and then will help us by returning the van to the Rock Valley area next week.  We plan to all stay with Mark and Beth and their girls when we first arrive in Louisville, and hope that we will soon get word about our belongings that we shipped from overseas.  The crate was supposed to arrive in Los Angeles two days ago, but so far we haven't heard any word yet!  I am still holding it loosely in my thinking, if we see those things again, it will be by the Lord's sheer grace!

So, we'd appreciate your prayers as we travel today and tomorrow, and as we begin the moving process again.  One day, we will be settled!  I'm looking forward to that, but also seeking to enjoy the process and be thankful for all the Jesus has done for us as we go.  It's His grace that has brought us this far!   We're excited for the next step in the journey!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Recent Quotables

On Sunday morning, a friend told me that she had asked Clara Anne if she was excited to be in America now.  Clara Anne said, "Yes, well you know, I lived in China my whole life!  Seven years!  Well, actually 6 years but I was in mommy's tummy before that.  But I am happy to be in America.  There I was a foreigner but here I'm just normal."

There's some raw truth to that statement!  Clara Anne seems to really enjoy making friends with anybody because everyone can speak English.  I think we're going to see her become more outgoing.

Tonight we were coming home from playing at the park and I was helping Chloe get her seat belt buckled.  As I reached across her, she started squeezing my upper arm again and again.  "Mommy, you're so soft," she said in an admiring voice, then added, "and wobbly!"  Ha!  There's some truth to that statement too!  Gotta get life settled down a bit so we can exercise again!  I think I have my exercise clothes but not sure where my shoes are and have no idea where the dvd got packed.  It's here somewhere!

Christin, upon waking up in the wee hours last night, screamed bloody murder.  As I ran to her bedside to ask what could possibly be wrong to make her scream like that, she said, "I want to read books!"  "No Christin, it's the middle of the night.  We cannot read books."  "I want to talk."  Nope, that's not going to happen either, Christin!  I know you have some jet lag, but it's still the middle of the night!  The funny part was, then she settled right back down and slept until 8:30 this morning.  PTL!  Everyone's sleeping much better, except John.  He's been staying up late packing and then waking up early anyway.  Hoping for a better night tonight!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

First moments, in pictures

 Let's take a look at some pictures from our almost complete first week back in the US!  Ok!  Above, just moments after arriving at my parents' home.  The girls were hungry and devoured bowls of cheerios (as you can see from Christin drinking the milk to the last delicious drop!).  Grandpa was happy to have us all safely arrived!
 Finding toys...this Melissa and Doug castle was left behind last time we visited the States and the girls were so excited to find it again!
 Grandma willingly read a story with all three girls crowding her!
 We've had lots of time outside, including the girls eating lunch on the lawn.  Isn't it so pretty and green?!
 Don't believe what anyone says, jet lag is REAL.  Christin passed out on the couch and would not wake up for anything!
 Clara Anne conked out in the middle of the living room floor.  Yes, it was piled high with boxes.  Did we mention there's been a lot of moving, sorting, organizing, and packing going on around here lately?
 Grandma and Grandpa went all out and bought gifts for everyone's once!  The Little People Farm is a huge hit! 
 Enjoying the backyard SO much...the girls have had such fun running in and out, and in and out of the house, enjoying the freedom to do so!  No one is scared of the grass this time (Christin had just a few moments of uncertainty but got used to the feel of the grass on her feet really quickly) and everyone has loved being outside, me too!  It is so refreshing to the soul and body.  Tonight we sat on the deck to eat Blue Bunny ice cream and saw a hummingbird, several other types of birds, watched the moon rise and the sky streak with pink, and felt the evening hush descend.  How great is our God and how his creation reflects His beauty and glory!  I even enjoyed an hour of deadheading flowers today...something I hated to do as an immature teenager who didn't like to "waste" time in the garden.  My perspective has changed so much!  I feel like I'm just soaking up the natural beauty and reveling in it, weeds, mosquitos and all.
 The girls were so curious to see if there was anything in the mailbox.  And there was!  A birthday card for Chloe came from Aunt Sarah.  How excited she was!  Thanks, Auntie Sarah!
 Grandma and Grandpa like to take bike rides in the evening, and the girls each got a ride!  They thought it was great.
 We've had some fabulous feasts already, including grilled hamburgers, sweet corn, fresh garden lettuce, a roast beef dinner, and a Mexican chowder tonight with chips and guacamole.  Wonderful!
 Ok, keeping it real...this mess has occupied the majority of our last week.  There's been unpacking of our 8 suitcases, finding and sorting through all the belongings that we had left here for the last 8 years (MUCH more than I remembered), shopping for clothes for the next year at Rock Valley's fabulous consignment shops which "happened" to be putting everything on clearance this week so the already low prices were now 50% off, sorting that stuff, arranging dental and doctor appointments, making plans to rent a van and trailer in order to move to Louisville, going through mail that has piled up for us here, etc etc etc.  And of course there's jet lag to get over, meals to make, dishes to wash, children to keep occupied, and the usual daily stuff.  I am not sure why I had the idea that in the midst of the most major transition of our lives I thought that we would get to Rock Valley and just relax!  But, we're taking it a day at a time.  Most of our stuff is now packed up again and ready to be loaded for Louisville.  And though my heart sinks a little at the thought of unpacking and organizing and finding a place for everything again, at least we plan to stay put in Louisville for awhile.  I think that keeping a cheerful heart in the midst of this mess and boxes and life in upheaval has been my biggest challenge!  Jesus, make me more like you through this!  Please!
By His grace, here we are.  My parents made this sign for us and so on the 4th of July, we put on our red, white and blue (such that we could manage) in order to take a picture out front with the sign.  We are so thankful that we can be here, that we ARE here safely and well.  It's been a blessing to be with my parents and I hope we've been a blessing to them already too (despite the noise, mess, and rapid consumption of their food that comes from having 5 extra people around!).  We're thankful for His grace and mercy bringing us this far, and trust that He will continue to guide and protect as we make the transition to Louisville in a few weeks.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Traveling Highlights

Our recent trip to the States was unusual, even for us who have done a lot of traveling, in that: 1. we were leaving our home in Asia and actually moving back to the States, an international move with 3 kids; 2. We couldn't "forget" anything because there wasn't anything left behind except stuff we gave away or sold!; 3. We were traveling probably the quickest route we've ever had...our city to the capital city, the capital city to Chicago, then Chicago to Sioux Falls, a total of only 19 hours; 4. We were brought to the airport in our city by a large contingent of friends, who spent all of the last moments with us until finally we felt we should go through security in order to make the flight without rushing. 

The scene at our city's airport was a bit rough.  It was so good to have our friends there but that was a very tearful goodbye.  So thankful for all of those who came to see us off, though--it was a blessing!  I have pictures, more on that later.

But some funny moments did happen.  Here are a few:

*Our tickets for the long flight were booked a bit late and we got the middles of three separate rows--two in one, one single, and two in another.  Thankfully, we were able to switch the one single so that one of us was sitting with two girls and the other with the last girl.  About halfway into the flight, we switched, not by design but just because I needed a break from two squirmy girls trying to sleep on my lap and fighting over space.  I figured John could handle that better, so I was then in the row with Chloe.  She also fidgeted and squirmed for about an hour, until finally I let her sit up and asked if I could put my head on HER lap!  She readily agreed, saying, "It's like I'm the mommy!" and I got a needed hour or so of sleep before sitting up again and having Chloe lie down.  I just felt so desperate to lie down!

*You know you have travelin' girls when they ask you excitedly if they can play at the playplace in the Chicago airport..."You know mommy, the one with the huge wooden helicopter and the phone to talk to the control tower and..."  They remembered it in great detail!  Sadly we didn't have any time in Chicago, we waited in a customs/immigration line that must have had 2000 people in it.  We barely made our flight!  It was one of those small jets where you have to actually walk out on the tarmac and board the plane that way, just as we rushed up they called out "final boarding call."  Yikes!  So thankful we made it!

*Just at the beginning of our long flight, Christin turned to me after wiggling and being restless for a while and said very clearly, "Mommy, I don't like this airplane.  I want to get off."  When I assured her that she couldn't get off and in fact had 10 more hours to sit through, it didn't help much.  So, we pulled out the crayons and made the best of it!

*This time in Chicago customs we were sure that we were residents, not visitors (unlike last time where we were honestly confused) and were also extremely thankful that our trunk full of Asian food items did NOT get opened in customs! 

Well, that's all my jet-lagged brain can think of at this moment, it's time for me to get to bed!  Yesterday morning the girls lasted until 4:30, but then Christin cried for a drink of water and though I laid down with her to help her fall back to sleep, and everyone was resting quietly, finally at 5:30 Clara Anne came and said in a whisper, "Mommy, is there anything that will get me to sleep?"  And then Chloe added in plaintively, "When will this night be over?"  Finally I asked Christin if she was sleeping, and she answered in a loud whisper, "Nooo."  So I let them get up and look at books.  We tried to keep them up all day yesterday but Clara Anne conked out on the living room floor in the middle of playing at about 4:30 and we couldn't wake her up until after 8!  She was just sleeping so soundly!  We even brought her outside to eat burgers with us on the deck, but she sat and nodded and slept in the chair (sitting upright) and finally when she tried to lie down on the ground we relented and put her back on the couch again.

Christin also fell asleep yesterday and slept HARD for numerous hours in the late afternoon, she ended up going straight to bed.  Chloe lasted until 7:30 last night, when she nodded off while doing a puzzle with Grandma.  So it's maybe no surprise that everyone was up by 4 this morning.  Argh!  

The good news is we kept the girls fairly busy this afternoon with a trip to the Pizza Ranch, Walmart, and Kids Corner, and so since nobody slept during the day I'm hopeful for a better night.  John and I continue to make progress in packing and organizing--we're unpacking our luggage from overseas, packing up things that have been left here for the last 8 years, and sorting through and organizing a large-scale mess.  We will conquer the mess someday!  But it will not be this day.  I'm off to bed to grab what sleep I can!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Made it safely!

Hi Everyone, just a quick note tonight to let you know that we are safely arrived in the US, about 24 hours ago.  All went well on our flights, we didn't have much extra time throughout the travel day but the girls did great and we were so glad to see Grandpa and Grandma waiting on the other end!  Our luggage didn't make the final connection but was found and delivered already early this morning, so no big deal.  We're so glad to be here!  After the packing and moving craziness, it's good to be here (though not done with the packing and moving, since this is only a stop on our way to Louisville). 

I have some funny stories to tell from the trip but for now I'll just share a few highlights from today which include: blue skies, perfect summer temps, the girls running through the sprinkler, opening boxes of stuff that we forgot we left behind and being reunited with things, (like the girls finding dolls and toys here that they were sad to leave last time...still here!), doing about 8 loads of laundry and sipping great coffee! 

We're so thankful to have arrived one got sick, nothing got lost, we had mostly cheerful girls throughout our travel, such a blessing.  Thanks for praying!  More tomorrow...