We have had so much happen since then. The kids finished their school year in Manila a week early as we went through the usual routine of purging and packing up the house. I am so glad the State Department moves us to help with some of the stress. I'm pretty laid back with the whole process now. I will say, that the moving company in Manila was as careful with our possessions as I knew they would be. In true Filipino style, they took time to wrap every item carefully before placing them in the box. I'm a little excited/anxious to see the mountain of packing paper we'll have when we finally unpack everything in Belgium. They were also amazing with an exact-o-knife and cardboard. They crafted a cardboard desk and chairs to work from as soon as they arrived in our apartment and many of our items were packaged in custom fit boxes. Dan and I were cracking up.
Our home leave this year lasted about four weeks. As usual, we didn't get to spend as much time with everyone as we'd like, but we still felt blessed to be back in the states with family. We were all freezing to death for the first couple of weeks, especially at night. Manila's temperature never dropped below eighty (like, ever) so the chilly desert nights in Utah felt cold.
Our favorite events in Utah were our visits with family and cousins, Logan's first EFY, Walmart (Seriously, when you haven't had one for two years, it's heaven!), driving though canyons with cousins and finding snow in June, riding in the back of Grandpa's truck, my beautiful niece's wedding, a fun trip with friends, an emergency room visit for Logan (maybe not a favorite, but definitely memorable), Fourth of July with family, and the simple feeling of being home. Dan and I have been blessed to have so much family and we love spending time with them.
In Utah, we purchased a new van (our old one was sold in Manila) so we were able to drive it across the southern part of the United States to Washington DC. We drove through Colorado, New Mexico (past Albuquerque and Billy the Kid's grave), Texas (with a quick stop at my brother's house and the Alamo), New Orleans, Alabama (Finally!), and Savannah, Georgia before arriving in DC. I wish I had more time to talk about our visits with everyone, but we crammed so much into the trip it would take a while. I'll just say that we loved every second we were able to spend with family and friends! One of the hardest/best parts of living a "Nomad" life is number of friends we've accumulated in so many different places. It's wonderful to know so many fantastic people, but I always feel sad about not being able to give more time to everyone. I guess in a way, that's just how life and time are. Whenever we move away from friends, they still hold a place in our hearts. I think it was Maya Angelou who said something like, "You may not always remember a person's name, or what they did, but you will never forget the way they made you feel." (I may be way off on that quote, btw). From my experience, I believe that's true.
Anyway, moving on. We arrived in DC mid-July and stayed our first night with our good friends from Manila. They left just after us and came straight to DC, so it was really fun to see them so soon. The next morning we moved into our new place in Falls Church. Our kids love our apartment complex because there are so many other foreign service kids here. They've all adjusted pretty well. I think Logan had the hardest time saying good-bye. He had some great friends in Manila. That's the hardest part of this life-style. We spent the rest of our summer visiting museums, zoos, libraries, our pool, and escaping the mid-day heat of Virginia while Dan went through various trainings. Most of the kids ran into friends they met at past posts. Finally, on September fifth, everyone started school (9th, 7th, 5th and 3rd) and I started French language training full-time with Dan.
I wasn't really sure what to expect from language training, but I can say that I seriously underestimated how hard it would be. We have class from 8 to 3 everyday with hours of homework each night. If you can imagine trying to cram strange new words into your brain continuously while at the same time attempting to form rudimentary sentences with those same words without saying something ridiculous or even obscene (by accident of course ... hee hee) for hours on end and then waking up the next morning to do it all over again all week, that's pretty much what we do. We finished our first month (which covered enough words to fill an inch-thick book) and are starting our new section on Monday. I am planning a major review this weekend!
The hardest adjustment has been having Dan and I both gone all day. It's new for us. It's been a month now though and things have really started to even out. The kids have stepped up. Logan gets up every morning for seminary (a religion class our church has for high school students) at six and is out the door at six-fifteen. He hasn't complained even once. I've been so proud of him. The other kids too have just been so supportive. I feel blessed. Dan and I have the unique situation of going to and from work together (although our classes are different). We've had to divide our past duties differently. I miss being home and feeling like I have everything in complete control, but I love how letting go of some things I used to hold on tightly to has helped myself and everyone in my family grow.
I guess that's all for today! I'll be in touch again so soon. We are planning some fun autumn activities. It's our first autumn in four years, so it must be celebrated! :) Here are a few pics from our trip:
Saying good-bye to this view was not easy. Forty-six floors up!
Logan's thoughtful spot.
Our "Manila" family picture!
While in Utah we were able to get most of my large family together one place! I love this shot.
My shot of the eclipse here in Falls Church.
Linc looking up.
We were lucky to have visitors during the eclipse. Logan and Adam got to hang out together.
A shot from Billy the Kid's grave
Ellie turned nine!
Lola's happy in her new dog park. BTW, just so you know, dogs get jet-lag too,
and it's pretty dang funny!
At the Alamo!
Man was it h-o-o-o-t-t-t-t.
Love these crazies!
Old Town in Albuquerque.
I thought this old church was so beautiful.
My dad, enjoying watching all his kids and grandkids together.
We love our cousins.