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Keeping the family afloat

We uprooted our life just one week ago. That’s when we moved our family of five from city life in the United States to a small village in France.

Wow. Those final days packing up in Colorado were really really stressful. Let’s just say that adding three little children to an international move proved to be a fun challenge. Basically, prime moving hours ended up being 9pm – 2am. We’d go longer but there’s baby that doesn’t sleep through the night and then, the whole household is up by 6:01am.

I’ve never. been. so. tired in my life.

We successfully sold a total of 83 household items. That was good. There were days when I didn’t even know who was knocking at the door for which ad. And then, we were left with those impossibly large piles to fit into suitcases. Piles of clothes that were in drawers that were sold. Piles of toys that were in the storage bins that had been sold. Piles of books that were on shelves that we needed to sell. Our lives, sprawled out on the floor. The closing down and cleaning down, and wiping down seemed to go on forever. And ever. And ever. A dear friend or two popped by with ice cream and grabbed a sponge alongside me and stayed to chat. Those are the true friends, guys.

Finally, at 12:40 am on the final night, Tall Mountain and I took a final walk down memory lane. We walked through the immaculate but now soul-less space to remember the laughter and the tears. We thanked God for the richness of life we’d experienced in that precious downtown abode, and then I waited to hear the screen door shut one last time. We were like zombies driving back with clinking cleaning products in the car to my sister-in-law’s place where we had put kids to bed.

Oh, we were pretty intentional about all the leaving part. The parties, the final play-dates, the sitting in the grief moments. We’d read a lot about leaving well. But apart from ordering a fridge and a washing machine to arrive at our new place, we did so little to prepare for life on the other side of the world.

Now we are on the other side, we’ve realized how little we actually prepared the kids. Big brother yelled: “goodbyeee!” in English to our first local visitors, forgetting we’d switched community languages to French. Then, there was a moment where our daughter pulled out her toys from a box and proclaimed that wow, we have the same ones at home! She might have missed the memo completely, that this is her new home. Or, would you believe that I hadn’t even thought about kid snacks or activities for 13 hours of flying. The flights were nothing in comparison to the logistical challenge of getting to the airport with so much luggage. And how to wheel everything around the airport with three kids. We were just spent. And we’re still spent.

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We’re very much in the overwhelmed thick-of-it state trying to buy many the things we just sold, including new vehicles. We’re setting up insurance, electricity, internet and baby gates to stop the kids tumbling down majestic wooden stairwells again. It’s a race to find linens for guests coming into town and to evict countryside scavenger ‘friends’ from the rafters. All this is going on while TM attempts to help organize a massive global conference in Asia. We wish we could have done more to prepare as things just take so much time to set up in the ‘Old World’, but sometimes theory and real-life are at odds. We simply didn’t have any more energy to prepare for our arrival.

We have no brilliant tips to offer other families reckless enough to uproot their lives and move continents. We’ve each already dealt with varying levels of frustration, loneliness and culture shock. In fact, I thought we’d honeymoon for just a bit longer.

We’re just muddling along the best we can, trying to hear each other out and approach cultural differences together instead of snapping at each other. We’re trying to find extra grace for kids not sleeping and work hard to care for one another amidst the lists sky-high crammed with things to do to set up a house.

I’ll be honest, stress levels in our farmhouse are pretty high at this point. Being the resident French speaker, the entire administrative piece is on my shoulders. As my husband isn’t as strong in French, he bears the weight of constantly being perceived as incompetent and deals with the frustration of not being able to communicate exactly how he’d like.

With the upheaval that is transition, retrieving a semblance of normalcy is so important. For the kids, toys, music, books, a TV show from our old life seem pretty stabilizing. For us, there is so little margin to work with that is not spent on setting up life or managing kids. All the more reason to accept that giving the other space to write, read, run, is a life-giving sacrifice. Today, a breath of fresh air looks like calling some friend or co-worker and talking about something familiar to take a break from all the new. Or, getting outside and doing absolutely nothing related to the move. Just soaking in quality time with one another.

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Those are perfect times to reconnect and to remind ourselves of the bigger picture. That this is just a season. That the new piles spilling out of our suitcases will one day have a home in new shelves. In a new home, starting to fill up with beautiful new memories.

12 thoughts on “Keeping the family afloat

  1. Oh Chers Esther et Andrew, sachez que je pense fort à vous en ces temps d’adaptation, de frustration et de découverte. Je pense à vous non pas parce que je peux comprendre, mais parce que je m’efforce d’imaginer et cela me semble énorme à surmonter. Mais par la grâce du Père, Sa patience, Son amour et Son aide, et les gens qu’Il placera sur votre route, you’ll overcome. Et on se voit bientôt, peut importe que vous ayez tout installé chez vous ou pas. One day at a time, à chaque jour suffit sa peine, non? Bisous. Delphine – PS. Bienvenue en France!

  2. These are hard days, you are both carrying so much. Jobs didn’t take a break, and kids still need snuggles and meals and diaper changes. I would venture, to say, though, that when the fatigue wears off a little and the house has clothes hangars and proper smells coming out of the kitchen- that the honeymoon will come back. The adventure of it all will strike again.

    We are urging you on, from far away, wishing we could pop in with a meal and a few extra hands. Instead, know we are cheering you on, rejoicing over baby gates and garden flowers from a neighbor, over videos of birds not bandits and new cars.

    1. You know what has been so helpful. Yes, the cooking, the hangars, the storage bins – but also, LIFE lived. A guest who comes alongside us and gives us that kind push forward, like a parent pushing you the first time you take the training wheels off your big kid bike. Music, to inhabit the large echoey spaces. Repeat business at local shops until someone knows your name. xoxo

  3. Our story is different and yet the same in many ways. Almost 2 years ago we got rid of 2 thirds of our belongings out of our house that we had built and lived in for 21 years, and where 8 of our 9 children had been born. (Home births.) We left suburban Colorado to move to rural Ireland. We had 2 small children (3 & 5) and 4 teenagers moving with us, and left 3 adult children behind. Heart wrenching. So the details are different but the emotions and the exhaustion are much the same. The adjustments on arriving in our new home were difficult. We thought we spoke the same language … who knew English could be so different! We went from 18 years of homeschooling to putting our last 4 kids in local public schools.
    And now just a week ago we arrived back in Colorado for our first home assignment. And the adjustments, grieving and cultural adaptation start all over again. Our own culture now feels strangely foreign. Places have changed. People have changed. And yet it’s so good to be back. And yet we miss our new home … It’s a life of goodbyes and exhaustion. But it’s also a rich life of sharing bonds with so many people from different cultures. To learn a new culture is to gain a new soul. God bless you on your new adventure.

    1. Ok, first thing I noticed is the correlation between (Colorado!) world travelers and unmedicated, community births. I love it! The second is that you adjusted your lifestyle based on where you lived. You didn’t just import your lifestyle, you adapted with life in Ireland. That takes so much maturity and so much humility! The third, is that our own culture feels foreign again after leaving it for a while. Yes, absolutely.

      You leave me so encouraged by ways of normalizing and humaziing transition: the thrills and the sheer exhaustion, the search for belonging, the concerns we have as parents now of TCKs and how that will affect them the rest of their lives.

      Thank you for sharing your story here, Pam.

    1. How are you doing now, three months later? Are things feeling more normal? Do you have a home yet? We keep saying, we are still homeless so far. We have a roof, but it will take time to make our house our home.

    2. New follower here. Just found your blog via the Newbie Blog Hop! I'm so excited to meet all these new blogging friends! If you get a chance, I'd love for you to stop by and check out my blog! :)Kristin

  4. Hang in there and good luck! I felt some of your pain with our move 3 years ago. Your advice to go outside and take a walk and not discuss or think about the move, is simple but very good advice. I took a lot of walks my first month here. A breath of fresh air always helps.

    1. Thanks, Jo! Oh my but it is so counter-intuitive, particularly for achiever type people, who like to get everything sorted in their first month, and in a society that takes so long to get things done! But it’s only in those moments where you see the bigger picture and the immense gift and freedom in being able to live global lives.

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