Wednesday, July 27, 2011

6 months

July 20th marked our six month anniversary of living in Peru. Six months doesn't seem like a very significant amount of time, but for us it has been. This has definitely been the hardest period of time our family has ever experienced. I just took a little stroll down memory lane on our blog to remember our first few months. From our move and first week to first lesson in patience (didn't take long). From my first bout of homesickness to trying to enroll the kids in school to the worst week I've had so far here. What is normal to us now was strange and new at that time.

Through this all, I have just been so proud of our kids. They didn't ask for this and yet they have rarely complained. I know I've said it before, but we freaking moved our kids to a new country and put them in a new school where every single person at that school spoke a language that they didn't understand. Between learning Spanish and the abundance of rote learning in schools here, our kids have worked harder this year in school than ever before. There were days where Riley would come home from school and study until bedtime. And there were days where she would cry because it's just too hard to have multiple tests in a foreign language hanging over your head.

This experience has knitted us closer together as a family than ever before and for that we are grateful. More than ever we understand that we are a team and we are in this together. We have been there for each other on the hard days and celebrated with each other on the good days. Doors have been opened for us to discuss hard spiritual things with our kids and thankfully the outcome has always been more of an acceptance of why we are here.

So, we had to celebrate our anniversary! Our desire was really to celebrate our kids and tell them how proud we are of them. The night was a surprise for the kids. We sneaked and made their favorite American meal while they were playing. When dinner was ready, we asked them to go to their rooms, dress themselves up, and wait for us to come get them. The table was set with candles, our fancy plates (meaning not plastic), and affirmation letters for each kid.

IMG_9464

Blake escorted the kids to their seats.

IMG_9471
IMG_9478

Everyone read their letters.

IMG_9487
IMG_9486
IMG_9484

We enjoyed our lovely dinner together.

IMG_9494

We asked the kids what their favorite part and hardest part of the past six months was. Here are their answers:

Hardest part
Riley: Missing friends.
Ford: Learning Spanish.
Brady: English. "Um, Brady, do you mean learning Spanish like Ford?" "No, I like Spanish."

Favorite part
Riley: Finding friends. (She's not social or anything, is she?)
Ford: Being together as a family. (Totally unprompted and absolutely heartwarming.)
Brady: School! Everything! (I want to be Brady when I grow up.)

Another gem from Brady, "I didn't want to move here, but I do."

The kids re-read their letters again.

IMG_9495
IMG_9497

And then everyone dug into dessert.

IMG_9508
IMG_9514

When I was putting Riley to bed, I said, "I hope you know how proud we are of you." Her answer? "I do for sure now after tonight!" Small Victory Celebrated.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

what an expat does with 12 free hours in the States

We added one day to our trip to the States so that we could try to squeeze in everything that we were missing. Mainly, food and Target. The kids were set on going to the bagel shop for breakfast, so my parents, sister, and her fiance took them in the morning while I caught up on a little sleep. After I got ready I met them there and the girls continued on to find dresses for Riley and Tyler for my sister's wedding. Thankfully, we found dresses for both girls.

IMG_1130

My mom and sister then took Riley and Tyler back to the house so that I could enjoy lunch at Panera alone. I miss Panera like crazy. It was always my happy place. I went there whenever I needed a break from the kids. I would sit in peace and read a book. The broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl is major comfort food for me. So, being there brought back feelings of peace and comfort. I can't say that I have found a peaceful place to get away from my kids in this crazy city we live in now.

IMG_1131

From there I stopped by Old Navy and then I met up with my kids, Blake, and mom at Chick-Fil-A for their lunch. Blake misses CFA like crazy. We had a special guest for lunch- my 96 year old grandfather! It was so great to see him, even if it was too brief.

After lunch we took the kids back to the house for some slip'n'slide fun with my dad which turned into a big water fight. It's winter in Peru, so the kids loved having a day in the water and sun. Blake and I went on to what was the most important destination of the day...Target. We had big plans for Target because we have found most "stuff" to be more expensive in Peru than the US. For example, we didn't bring any frames to Peru because they took up precious packing space and we assumed we could easily buy them here. Then we got here and after scouring the stores, the cheapest frames I could find were $20 (for a small and not so cute frame).

IMG_1132

For those wondering, here's most of the items that we bought at Target:
-8 bottles of kid shampoo.
-8 tubes of kid toothpaste.
These tubes of toothpaste cost almost exactly the same. The one on the left is what is available in Peru and the one on the right what is available in the US.
IMG_9458

-6 frames for $5 each. This was my favorite purchase of the trip. Target had the cutest frames that matched our living room perfectly. After having a bare house for 6 months, it was so fun to come home and decorate a little.
-Crap from the dollar bin (of course).
-8 bottles of OxiClean. Stain remover is hard to find here.
-A few cute shirts and earrings.
-Batteries.
-Gum.
-Swedish Fish, Chex Mix, Teddy Grahams, Nilla Wafers, Goldfish, Ranch dressing.
-Kitchen canisters.
-Chair for Riley's desk.
-Candles.
-Pens, crayons, electronic pencil sharpener.
-Puzzles.
-Inflatable pool in anticipation of summer here!
-Diapers (Tyler still wears them at night).
-10 large tubs of Peanut Butter.

When the magic was done at Target, we had plans to go to Mellow Mushroom for dinner since I am obsessed with their pretzels. We quickly realized that our time was running out and that we had to pack everything (which is a fun game of weighing and repacking). So, Blake and my mom picked up Mellow Mushroom and brought it back to the house. This allowed me to start packing instead of trying to wrangle 4 kids at a sit down restaurant.

My parents took the kids for yogurt after dinner and I think they finally went to bed around 10. Blake and I followed them a few hours later after we finished packing and I enjoyed a delicious bowl of chocolate ice cream. It was an epic day in the good ole' US!

Friday, July 22, 2011

unexpected

Not much has gone as we expected in Peru and last week was certainly no exception. Six months ago when we moved to Peru, we knew that our first trip back to the States would be in July of 2012. Two weeks ago, we knew our first trip back to the States would be this October (for my sister's wedding). As it turns out, we just got back from the States early Monday morning after attending my gramma's funeral. My gramma's death was a hard pill for me to swallow because six months ago, I lived an hour and a half from her and would have been able to be with her before she passed. Instead, I was sitting in a foreign country wondering if I would even be able to make it back to her funeral.

Thankfully, we all were able to go to the States and be there for my gramma's funeral. We knew that it would be a huge undertaking with four kids, but we wanted our first trip back to the States to be together. I didn't want to experience both my gramma's funeral and my first trip home without Blake. I needed him by my side to process all of the emotions these two unexpected events would bring out in me. I even wondered before we left if I was emotionally strong enough to handle it all. I knew that it would be hard to have a taste of life in the States and then leave it again so abruptly. I didn't want to face all that we were missing out on. But I also knew that I needed to be there to say good-bye to my gramma.

The trip was exhausting. My gramma had funerals in two different states, so we traveled (by plane) four of the seven days that we were gone. That's not really advisable with four kids, but we did it. We saw the inside of seven different airports and logged over 10,000 miles in the air. We started with a 10 hour flight and 2 hour car trip that didn't get us into bed until 4am the morning of my gramma's funeral. Also not advisable to go into an emotional week with no sleep. But it was totally worth it. I am so grateful that I got to be there for everything and that I got to be with my family through it all.

IMG_1570

My favorite night of the whole trip (obviously Bekah's too). It was the only night that we got to eat dinner together as a family. After dinner, we walked around outside in the most perfect weather. It was a huge breath of fresh air for me to have such a beautiful night outside with my family. It was quiet and peaceful. Then we all got ice cream sundaes. I wish every night could be like that!

IMG_1628

IMG_1634

And you know who we were most excited about being with- Ever! It had been six months since we had seen our only niece/cousin, so there was lots of hugging, kissing, and holding in store for her.

IMG_1564
IMG_1631
IMG_1659
IMG_1693
P1010369
P1010373

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

gramma

Almost two weeks ago, my gramma passed away. My gramma was in her nineties, so in many ways I was prepared to lose her, but it still happened very quickly and so I also felt unprepared. I am absolutely comforted by the fact that my gramma had a long and full life, but selfishly I wish she could have been around forever.

My gramma was an amazing woman who lived an amazing life. She lived to help people. She was defined by her compassion, honesty, courage, faithfulness, strength, and love. If I am half the woman that she was, I will be satisfied. Her passing and funeral felt like a commissioning. She isn't here anymore, so her legacy falls to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It is a burden that I gladly carry.

I am so inspired by my grandparents love for each other. It is hard to mourn my gramma's passing when she is now with the love of her life. She had been waiting for the day when they would be reunited. To see my grandparents still madly in love with each other was always beautiful. It didn't come easy for them and there were many issues that could have brought them down, but instead they always turned to each other and only grew stronger together. They were best friends, allies, and each other's biggest fan.

I am so thankful for all of the time that not only I had with my gramma, but also the time that Blake and my kids also had with her. Going to visit my gramma in the desert was always a time of respite for our family. We loved being there with her. The kids loved sitting around the table having lunch with her and entertaining her with their stories. I will never forget singing happy birthday to her and having cake on her 92nd birthday. It was one of my last times with her.

I will miss her support. She was always there for everyone in our family. We all knew that she cheering us on in whatever we did. I think that I took for granted how comforting her presence in our family was. Now we are sorely feeling our loss. I will miss telling her how hard it is some days to have four kids and knowing that she understands. I will miss telling her about our life in Peru and seeing the pride in her eyes. I wish that she had been able to see us launch our program and hear about the women we will be working with.

I do believe that she is now watching over all of us and I'm pretty sure that this girl is going to make her great-gramma proud.

IMG_1637_2

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

the need for easy answers

I've been staring at this page for about 10 minutes, trying to come up with something to share. Obviously, as I've been posting less, I am having a hard time finding the inspiration to write these days. I think that it's a combo of being utterly exhausted from living in a foreign country and being tired of writing posts where I seem to complain about living in a foreign country.

I have been trying to put my finger on the reason that it is so exhausting to live in a country that you have never called home before. The one thing that I keep coming back to is that ever since arriving in Lima I have been living in two worlds.

I am physically living in Peru. Immersed in this culture, speaking their language, adjusting to the Peruvian way of doing things. But my thoughts, my ways, my language, my family, and my friends are of and in the United States. My facebook feed is full of life in the United States. I watch So You Think You Can Dance. I speak English in my home. I eat my main meal at night. Two worlds- both tugging on me; one demanding my attention, the other has my heart.

Yesterday was a perfect example of our paradox here. In Peru, it was a normal day. The kids went to school. Blake and I spent four hours at Spanish school. We had tutoring, did homework, ate a Peruvian dinner, and all crashed in our beds pretty early. Yet in my head I kept thinking about all of our previous 4th of Julys. Neighborhood bike parade, my kids spending the afternoon in the pool, grilling out. As the coldness of winter surrounds us here, I hear about how everyone we love spent the holiday. It is hard. There is loss.

But more exhausting then my two worlds, is the paradox of my thoughts and feelings these days. I mourn the loss of our life in the United States, yet I am so thankful for our life in Peru. I hate Peru, but I love Peru. I am scared of what we are doing to our kids, but I am sure of what we are doing to our kids. I don't want to learn Spanish, but I want to learn Spanish. I question God, but I don't question God. I am angry that this has to be so hard, but I am thankful that this is so hard. How can I cry tears from the physical pain of our loss, but also cry tears at the goodness of our new life at the same time?

Most people don't want to hear about the conflicting emotions of our situation. We all want black and white. Right and wrong. Yes and no. Do I like living in Peru? Everyone wants a straight answer- including me. My body is feeling the wear and tear of vacillating between so many emotions. We want labels. Is living in Peru good or bad for our family? I need an answer for that. But the answer seems to be both and my mind has been rejecting that. If it's hard for your family than why are you living there? Because it's hard and it's good.

There are no easy answers here. And I am beginning to appreciate that.