10 Months After the Move: Joy, Legos, and Hair in My Trashcan

his very first school picture

We have now been back in the South for 10 months.

I’m not fully adjusted yet. It takes me a year to adjust, and it takes 2 years for me to be fully attached with roots and friendships and all.

Until then, you settle for small talk, you get out as much as you can, you accept every invitation you can possibly accept, and you make the best of it. Also, it would be helpful to study a few maps.

I have been car shopping. I did some in-my-crazy-dreams looking at this Escalade. Laugh. out. loud.  I just wanted to see inside it.

The boys love it here. I don’t mean like it. I DO mean love it.

They regularly ask me if Dad could please just work here forever.

Their favorite thing about life in Georgia is their school. They all have made friends in their classes, their teachers are nurturing and way more patient than I would be if I were teaching them, and their brains are growing by leaps and bounds.

Such a relief!!!

The moving part makes me sad for them. We still have at least a year left here, and Caleb is already talking about how much he will miss his friends. This is a truly seasoned and wise military child.

Double trouble. They begged to sleep together that night.

I’m loving being back close to family. It makes it all worth it to me. Aside from that, living here is still growing on me. I do have a few friends and many aquaintences though, and I LOVE my MOPS group.(Moms of Preschoolers)

 

He’s obsessed.

Moving is getting less and less lonely as the months progress.

I have something that can get me past any issue. I have love. I have Alan and my boys. I have a couple of friends, and I have Jesus joy.

I’m telling you that Jesus joy is a thing. When I sit and pray and meditate on the Bible, this peace and joy fills me that is overwhelmingly comforting. There have been times when it was harder to get to that, but I am there now. I feel like I’m getting back to myself.

Caleb laid out all their clothes so they would be dressed alike for church.

I want you all to know how adept I am getting at actually keeping a PLANNER!

Yes! It’s funny. After being a fairly non-structured stay-at-home mom for 11 years, going back to working is a huge adjustment. Bear with me. As I get more organized, I know I’ll be a better blogger too!

The boys are all as hilarious as ever. Joshua has become impressively responsible with his studies. He is now taking tennis lessons too, which he enjoys.

Yes, I am living the glamorous chauffeur life.

The Eyeball villain from the Lego Batman movie

Caleb came up with the idea for his school to have a Lego creation contest, and his principal was so kind as to actually go along with that. So Caleb keeps building and destroying creations, in search of the perfect Lego entry for the contest.

In other news, Daniel now has 100 sight words, and he is so excited to go to basketball camp this summer. Actually, they are all going to basketball camp, all except JD. We are only doing day camps this year, though.

I will never live down sending them to that church camp last year where Caleb got bullied, and Joshua kept a countdown of the hours until they got home.

Sigh. You do your best. Some ideas work out less well than others. I’m their mother. I think they are turning out perfectly. Love, love, love these guys.

These 2 LOVE dressing alike.

John David has been walking around here singing the songs he has learned at preschool. I was most impressed with the way he sings the months of the year and the wheels on the bus.

Oh!!! And did I tell you that we had visitors from our California days???

Aiden was their best buddy back in their poison-oak catching, bike riding, baseball playing, woods exploring, mischief-seeking California days. 3 peas in a pod right there.

“Mom, can we get a dog?” No. After 11 years of cleaning up poop, that is not happening.

Mr. Tom has a lot of jokes, so he is JD’s favorite.

the lovely Amy and Tegann

 

Daniel occasionally gets up to some of his old tricks.

I pulled open the trash can the other day and saw THIS, but then I felt bad because he said he only cut it because it was in his eyes….yeah….you may call that a fail, but I call it raising one seriously resourceful boy right there.

You know, I’m just trying to use the power of positive thinking. It’s working.

bed time stories with, as JD says, “the best Dad ever!!”

Let me leave you with a couple of funny stories from the 3rd grade.

“Today at lunch, Monty turned SO RED because he chugged so much hot sauce.”

…..Well, I’m impressed…

“Today at recess, everybody wanted to play with Cory’s fidget spinner, but he wouldn’t share with anyone, so we all started chasing him. And then we all had to walk laps because they thought we were playing tag,” my son said, as he giggled to himself and shook his head.

Another great day in the 3rd grade, unless maybe you were Cory, and a pack of fidget spinning-wanting 9-year-olds were chasing you. Haha!!!

He is now a champion of designing your own Lego vehicles. I wish he’d kept this one together because I thought it was perfect.

So yeah, we’re almost settled in.

When we first moved in, I had such moving depression I had trouble remembering to smile or speak to people, and I had to start researching Bible verses about joy.

I’m happy to report that I’ve moved far beyond that now. Every wall has a corner. I have turned mine, and that feels a lot like joy.

Happy kids. Joshua set the record on all the basketball arcade games they had.

“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10

The joy of the Lord is our strength. Amen.

 

I Actually Do Need a Tribe

This is the lovely Amy and Tegann. They were our friends in California, we were beyond excited to visit with them recently!

Right when you move is always at the exact moment that you’ve finally made close friends. In California, we were lucky enough to have a whole group of them.

A Good Tribe Makes Life Happier

My California neighborhood crew

It took a year, though. That first year I knew very few other people. It’s hard when you’re new!

I saw an article headline written by a mom with no tribe. I didn’t read it, so I’m not sure how she felt about that, but I am always happier when I DO have a tribe of friends.

No, actually, I’d go so far as to say I NEED a tribe of friends. It brings me happiness and encouragement. People need people. We do. Yes, I spend almost all of my time with my family, but we aren’t meant to be isolated families of people. I always carve out time to go hang with other ladies too.

When I’m hanging out with a group of gals, I laugh so hard my sides split. And I am known for my loud cackle.

Alan’s mom and her sisters hold us all in awe. Three sisters. It’s like the ultimate tribe. They text, they call, they travel together, and they support and tease each other through life.

Just today, I was at my friend Brooke’s house, thinking how much more I smile when I’m visiting with her or any of my friends or my mom, just a friend who accepts you for who you are.

It takes me over a year to develop a tribe of friends with each place, and I don’t have one here yet. My friend Brooke and I were just talking today about how lonely that is.

I need to get pro-active about that and put together a supper club…any takers??

A Good Tribe Makes Life Happier

My friend Amy, from my Virginia tribe (how I miss them!), came and visited us in California.

 

If I hadn’t missed so many MOPS meetings, I would be calling that my tribe already. I love MOPS and the ladies there, but sometimes I don’t make it because of JD or because I have work to do.

At this stage of life, we don’t have ‘time’ to pour into friendships

and that’s why we have to be extra understanding and forgiving of our friends. Everybody’s busy.

However, I think the mommy years are years when we need friends just as much as ever. I would say more than ever, but I actually can’t think of a single stage of life when we don’t desperately need a support group.

Some people find that group at church or at the playground. I seem to usually find them in my neighborhood, thought that isn’t the case here.

I’ve been blessed to belong to several AMAZING tribes of friends over the years. I just had a different group for each place that I lived. Eventually, I will have one here too. These things take time.

A year from now, I won’t be tribe-less anymore. By then, I’ll just be heart-broken to leave. How do I know? Well, I always have before, so I can be optimistic, and I’m hoping for the best and trying to remember to be friendly and speak to people. Ha! It’s hard for an introvert sometimes, but we need people too.

 

What about you? Do you have a group of pals that make you laugh ’til you cry? It’s not a tribe unless it’s both fun and supportive.

 

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It’s been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

Daniel had his first week of tee-ball. Alan didn’t sign up to coach this year, not even to assistant coach, but he went out there today and helped anyway. And you know what happened? Alan came home so refreshed and happy. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Alan says that Daniel will actually be one of the oldest, most experienced players on his team this year. Yayyyyy, Daniel!!!

Meanwhile, you know what annoys me? Pop culture.

Why? Because it has reached my children, at least one of them, and he has started saying “Dang, Daniel!” all the time. Insert me, looking like an annoyed vulture.

Now some of you have no idea WHAT I’m talking about because you don’t know anything about pop culture. Well, allow me to shrink your brain by catching you up. There was this video that went viral in 2016, originally on Snapchat, of these high school kids saying “D***, Daniel,” over and over again.

And go figure, the video-maker’s name is Josh. So of course, someone told him about it. So now he says, “Dang Daniel” all the time. He’s not allowed to say the original version. Of course, Daniel doesn’t get it at all. Only I get it.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the Ellen clip to explain.)

Speaking of my big boys, I thought this was hilarious. We spent last week hanging out at DaddyO and Nonna’s house r-e-l-a-x-i-n-g. It was wonderful. Check out the amazing amounts of sleep I accomplished, according to my Fitbit. I was so proud. (By the way, I noticed Amazon has the Fibit Charge II $20 off right now.)

Yep! Proud of myself

I wanted to find a funny movie we could enjoy with the boys. I found Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II!!!!!  I talked up how uproariously we would all laugh at this movie.

Father of the Bride Part II

We watched half of the first movie, and then Joshua proclaimed, “You said this was funny! I don’t think this is funny at all!” And then he disappeared upstairs.

What? Not funny? This stuff is HILARIOUS.  I guess there’s an age range for this humor. Remember this?

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

It has been 7 months now since we moved in, and we are starting to feel settled. We’re using our GPS less and less, and the boys are asking to go back to California far less. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. It takes a year to fully adjust to a move.

I’d say it takes two years to actually get past surface-level relationships and put down roots. That’s the lonely thing about it. No one knows you well enough to relax, and you are still trying to figure out all the new people you’ve met.

I can learn their names easily, but sometimes it takes time to root out the kindred spirits from the high-maintenance ones.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

I feel like Alan and I did this ONE particular thing right that’s going to be the thing that makes life fun and frequent moving doable. These 4 boys. I can’t really say we gave them each other because God did that. If I had gotten to decide it myself, there would have been a Gracie and a Josie thrown in, and then our whole family dynamic would be different.

But this is better because this is what God gave us. I can’t imagine our lives without a single one of them. We have two sets of best buddies, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. The younger ones are learning from the bigger ones things, for better and for worse, ha!, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They fill our hearts with so much joy.

And no matter where we move they all have each other, and Alan and I have each other and these boys.

Best of all, we’ve never grown too comfortable with any one place or house. There’s no confusion about where home is. Home is not a building that can be taken away. Home is right here, wherever we are. Home is us. So we are always home.

It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home. It's been 7 months since we flew south, but we are always home.

And now here they are, all telling me that Lego Batman movie premiered today, and they are just dying to know when I am going to take them to see it. Yeah…I might have promised them to take them to see that because Lego Batman is a serious obsession around here.

Maybe I can make it happen today……

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”…            –Jesus  (John 13:34-35)

 

Year-End Christmas Card Letter 2016

Merry Christmas from Monterey! (No, we aren’t actually in Monterey anymore. We took this in April. Man, that was a nice place.) We wanted to have a pretty beach family photo for our Christmas card. It didn’t work out.

Want a good laugh? It was INSANELY windy.

It was a year of big changes for us. I didn’t have any more babies, but we did move across the country, change schools, give up home-schooling, and we switched brands of paper towels…

Graduation day. John David kept saying, “I want cake. Can we have cake now? Where’s the cake?”

Alan got his engineering masters, which was exciting. So we said good-bye to the full-time student life and my beloved whales and sea otters and moved back down south to Georgia.

Alan took the older two boys on an action-packed road trip on his way.

 

As for me, I took my first part-time job since 2005, believe it or not, but I still get to work from home. I’m writing for MontereyPremier.com as well as for Stories of Our Boys. I’m ridiculously relieved to not be home-schooling anymore. I just can’t even tell you!

 

Joshua is still Mr. Basketball. He loves it so much. He also had his first zit this fall. Times they are a changin’. Next year he will officially be a middle-schooler. I think this is the part where it pays off that they are 4 male children instead of 4 female children. Yes!!

 

Caleb is patiently waiting for baseball season. He is also honing his art skills. He’s as friendly as ever, and despite having no close-proximity little boys his age to play with, he managed to find kids on the next streets over. They have formed a Nerf Club, and our house is quickly becoming Grand Central Pre-Teen Station again.

Daniel is a kindergartener now. I can’t believe it either, and you’ve never seen a more serious little conscientious student. When he walks quietly through the hall, he does it like a well-trained soldier, and it is adorable. He also told us the other night at the dinner table, “I’m in love! And I don’t care who knows it!”  (Yes. We’ve been watching Elf.)

He said he made Bullseye into a pirate.

John David is 3 1/2 now. Markers are his favorite thing in the world. Instead of drawing all over himself as all of his brothers did, he draws all over his toys. We are so tired. It’s been 11 years of toddlers now. As in, there has always been at least one toddler/baby/pre-schooler in the house for 11 years. We just don’t even care about stuff like that anymore.

Draw on your toys? Sure. Here’s a marker. They are your toys.

Play in the water hose? Why stop him? He looks so happy.

Wear pajamas all day? Well, they are cozy. I get it.

****************

Best events from 2016:

And read the story of Caleb’s salvation if you haven’t. Caleb chooses Jesus.

-Caleb got baptized.

Alan, Joshua, and Caleb went to the Grand Canyon (That’s a link you can click on to read the whole story.)

-Joshua earned the TNT Clubber of the Year Trophy, a hard-earned award that he got for memorizing a book and a half worth of AWANA verses.

Happiest day of John David’s life. He tried so hard to get that car door to open.

-We went to Disney World WITH our good friends Sean, Amy, Xavier, and Zoe!!

-The boys started a new school, and they are all happy there.

-Daniel learned how to swim and jump off the diving board.

Monterey, photo by Aunt Janet

We do miss Monterey: the people, the waves, and the weather! But we are loving being closer to family too.

If Uncle Keith could take all our pictures, maybe our smiles would always be this genuine! Thank you, Keith!

So, you know, all’s well that ends well, right? Happy New Year, y’all! May God bless all of you. Thank you for reading!

 

Numbers 6:24-26

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

Merry Christmas!! 

 

 

Moving Day, the Surprise Party, and the Power of Good Neighbors

Surprise Welcome Home Party at Kristy’s house. There were 23 neighbors in attendance.

On Friday night, I snuck into my home town. My parents were expecting me at 8:45pm, but truthfully I arrived at 7:30 or so, but I didn’t want them to know that. They were still staying at the rental house, but I did not go straight to the rental house. I went by my childhood friend, Kristy’s, house. We were on a mission, you see.

I grew up playing with Kristy and the other neighborhood kids. Kristy’s grandparents lived next door to us, and she spent a lot of time over there. As kids, we climbed trees, rode bikes, swung, swam in her granny’s pool, and played a good deal of make-believe and front yard baseball.

Then six or seven years ago, grown-up Kristy bought the house across the street from my parents! Pretty cool, huh? That tiny street is full of people who have been living there for most of my life.

They’ve been watching the destruction and re-building of my parents’ house up close and personal. They dealt with the smells, oh, you don’t want to know about the smells, the rubble looters on the day of the bulldozer, the construction crews, and the watching and waiting. They never complained.

Kristy said, “I’m telling you, they could’ve built it faster.”

Mrs. Sara (Kristy’s granny) lamented, “Well, the only problem is they built it closer to the road than it used to be, and the way it’s shaped I can’t see Terry on his front porch, and I can’t see Terry on his back porch. How am I supposed to know he’s okay???? How am I supposed to know it if he falls?”

She’s right, that’s a problem when you have good neighbors. Kirsty reassured her it’d be okay because she can still see him from her front porch.

Neighbors that look out for each other. Such a beautiful thing!

A month or so ago, Kristy hatched a plan for a surprise party. We had no idea what day they’d finally move in, so she planned it for December 10th, and lo and behold, what day do you think they finally moved in? Well, December 10th, of course, so it was pretty easy to get my parents over to the right place at the right time.

Chris, Kristy, and me

We decided the best story to tell to make sure my parents were at the new house unloading at party time was to say that pizza was arriving at the new house at 11am. This was pretty easy. I just used Alan’s obsession with pizza coupons as my cover story.

“You know how Alan is about his pizza coupons. Well, he’s already got the pizza scheduled to be delivered at 11am tomorrow at the new house. It’s a little early, but he wanted to make sure he had plenty of food, and that way when my brother gets off of work, they will be able to get straight to work with the heavy moving then.”

No one doubted that story for a second.

By 11am, every one of us was in place at my parents’ new house, but there was one part I hadn’t thought through. Now how do I get them over to Kristy’s house? Everyone was focused on the mission of moving… Hmmmm

“Hey, um, y’all, I talked to Kristy out in the yard, and she said when Dad gets here to have y’all stop by her house real quick. I think she has a Christmas gift for ya.”

And to my surprise, it was that simple!

They just said, “Oh. Okay,” and started off across the street.

“I think I’ll come too,” I said, motioning the boys to come on. John David was of course shoeless. Alan got his little shoes on JD as quickly as possible, and we all six followed Mom and Dad across the street.

Mom said she did think it was weird that we were ALL coming.

Kirsty opened the doors and motioned for us to all come in. I’m not sure how long it took Mom and Dad to figure out this was their surprise party or that we weren’t actually having pizza. Pretty funny! This was so fun to be a part of.

We all ate together. Mr. Byrd, a neighbor I remember as the one who would buy whatever I was selling from my school fund-raiser every year, said a beautiful blessing before the meal.

We laughed over the surprise, and caught up with everybody.

Then we walked everyone over and gave them a tour of the new house, for those who hadn’t seen inside of it yet.

I know. I know you’re dying to get a peek inside too, and I would show it to you, but Mom’s not as big on posting the minute details of her life on the internet as I am, so I’m going to literally just show you one peek. I’m going to give you Kristy’s porch view of the new place:

Mr. Byrd, Dad, and Chris and Kristy’s porch view of the new house.

It’s not a re-built house. It’s a completely new house. The old one had to be bulldozed and carried away, down to the last scrap of concrete. Nothing could be left. What wasn’t burned was all damaged by smoke, water, and asbestos.

Everything is gone. The trampoline burned too. When they were clearing the house away, there was a huge storm that came through, and lightning stuck the last of the tall pine trees that still stood from my childhood. And as they took away the dumpster last week, they killed the mailbox too.

It was as though God decided that he couldn’t just partially fix it. It had to be completely made new.

We may not understand the ways of God, but his ways are best, and I know that this house is going to be a great blessing to my parents.

Isn’t it funny how God even arranged it for Alan and me to move back down here for two years, so that we were here for all of this? I got to see construction of the new house in all of its phases. I got to pore over paint and tile samples with Mom on my coffee table.

And I got to be there for move-in day, even when we didn’t know until 3 days prior that it would be moving day!

God moves in mysterious ways.

I wish you could see what all Kristy has done with her house too! She bought it after the housing market crashed, and completely re-modeled the place, knocking down walls, moving the kitchen, painting, and putting in new floors. It’s inspirational to look at what she’s accomplished without even hiring a builder, a little at a time!

It makes me smile to see Alan getting to talk to these sweet neighbors, these pillars from my childhood. When I see Mrs. Sara I always smile and think of how she used to call out to us from her front door, “Y’all play purdy now!!” Maybe I should start calling that out my door to the boys and their friends.

Our neighbors didn’t just feed us and visit with us, even though that would have been more than enough. They also SHOWERED my parents with gifts, AGAIN. I say again because they’d already helped after the fire, but they just kept on giving!

opening gifts

Kristy, our lovely coordinator and hostess

They were given a big, beautiful set of Rachel Ray cookware, which I could tell Mom was excited about, as well as all sorts of other useful blessings!

Mom and I have always admired what Kristy can do with her vinyl cricket (cricuit?) machine!

The most emotional gift was this large framed floorboard from the original house, which Kristy wrote their name and anniversary date on. I cried when I saw it, even though I knew she was planning it. Mom cried. I don’t know if Dad cried.

The day of the bulldozing, Kristy had looked for some wood from the house, but there was none available that wasn’t too damaged, so she found a whole plank from the Pergo floors. This made it even more special because Mom and Dad had put those floors down themselves around 10 years ago, and we’d all just loved those floors.

Kirsty laughed about almost getting caught salvaging that board from the rubble. She said she left the kids with Gail and ran over to dig around for something she could save for Mom and Dad. She had just discovered a good board, and all of a sudden there was my dad! He was there to try to save some china, and she quickly dropped the board off to the side, and said, “Oh, here, let me help you with that!” She said she felt like she was almost busted. So funny, because Dad would have had no idea what she was doing anyway.

 

 

We laughed, we ate, we cried, and then we hugged people and got back to work!

This was such a blessing, what the neighbors did for my parents, and I just wanted to share it, the fact that things like this still happen. There are people who are still kind, giving, unselfish, who want to help other people, and we make each others’ lives better in the process.

Thank you so much for all the hard work you put into this, Kristy, and to all the neighbors for blessing us in such a big way. We are so thankful! Our cup runneth over.

 

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  –Hebrews 13:16

May we all strive to be this kind of neighbor. Merry Christmas, y’all!

 


 

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