We’ve been transferred from Western Europe back to the States, and while parts of every move are exhilarating and hope-filled, sometimes we need to call other parts what they really are: stressful at best, and totally crappy at worst (right?). But it’s amazing how quickly the things that seemed so hard can become hilarious in their retelling with a little time and reframing. We all need to cry before we can laugh though. When the dust finally settles and the challenges are a blurred memory, the stories take on a life of their own and become comic relief — a great story at a dinner party!

Now that we’re looking back….

I’ll tell about how I got a new phone number on our US cell plan, and then kept getting voicemails from an area correctional facility, asking if I would accept an inmate’s call. Special thanks to my number’s former owner….

Or about how the very night before we boarded our transatlantic flight home, John’s fingers got trapped in the hinges of a heavy hotel door and we heard the crunch of bone. Cue the ambulance, the Luxembourgish ER and a summer cast. (What I’ll remember is that John flirted his head off with his nurses, who loved him, and that all he really cared about was whether he’d get a lollipop like the other kid getting a cast at 9pm.)

I’ll tell about how we lived out of suitcases for 10 weeks over the summer, changing locations eight times, each move requiring a full day’s packing, cleaning and resettling…..where I started using Rob’s deodorant and our 6-year old son wore his big sister’s underwear to bed one night as pajamas because I. Couldn’t. Find. Anything.

Or how for weeks on end, Rob and I made GIANT life decisions from two different cities via text after a roller coaster ride that began eight months prior…

I’ll tell about how the only available rental house, which was to become home while we awaited our closing date in Peoria, had a smelly flooded basement with ripped up carpet and exposed tack strips. Rob broke cobwebs with his face on a walk-through. So two days before the kids and I landed in Peoria from New Orleans, we logged another unexpected week with Rob’s incredibly gracious folks in Chicago while Rob scouted hotels within our school district’s boundaries, which was necessary for enrollment. We made a hotel home for three weeks (no extended stay was available in the district), feeding a family of six with a single hot plate that we bought on Amazon, a mini-microwave and a college dorm-sized fridge. One night I steamed fresh broccoli…and made the entire second floor of our hotel smell like a fart. Rob said it even smacked him in the lobby when he got “home” from work.

Maybe we’ll mention our mad-dash house-hunting trip only days after touching down from Europe — seeing 20 houses a day — and how in the midst of negotiations, our builder changed his mind and decided not to sell, then woke up with a change of heart and said it was ours after all. When we set down earnest money and start remodeling, we learned the school two blocks away (which inspired our home-purchase) was over-enrolled and may bump us elsewhere. (We were overjoyed when we received acceptance email in early August!).

And how in the midst of our gigantic transition, we discovered we had LICE and spent a quick grand on professional remediation, calling in the pros. (Cue the humbling texts to everyone we’d visited in case we’d left them an unexpected gift). Our personal lice SWAT team met us at our hotel and worked her magic until we got the “All Clear,” which required daily checks and multiple nights sleeping with olive oil on our scalps. I can’t imagine what the hotel staff thought of our towel situation.

I’ll tell about finding out our Carmax Suburban wouldn’t be delivered for four weeks. When the long-awaited family car finally arrived from South Carolina via Carmax, it smelled like wet dog, had petrified French fries under the seats and a frenetic rattling window. So after all that, we caravanned back to Bloomington for the second time with all four kids (two hours round trip) and returned it to the dealership five days later.

Now we can laugh about how our air shipment, which should have arrived within 10 days of our flight home from Lux, arrived four weeks later with some critical pieces missing, including Rob’s entire work wardrobe.

In the midst of it all, we had a grand total of seven ear infections between the four kids (and Bitsy slept in a rather large bathroom closet for several weeks).

Hey, it ain’t all glamorous. No one ever said it would be. We’re tired and weary and we’re suffering from SDF (Severe Decision Fatigue). We’re squeezing what could be years-worthy of life decisions into a month.

But almost all of these experiences register somewhere between a mild to major inconvenience…. Nothing more. And more importantly, there is a formidable flip side to each of these stories…these soon-to-be punchlines…these “hardships” we survived (because when I think of true hardship, these do not even qualify). 

Each and every time we packed up and moved locations, we landed with a different family member who welcomed us with open arms, filled my children’s hearts with love and adoration, and did everything humanly possible to make us comfortable and welcome. They filled our tanks and talked us through whatever big decision we were making at that point in time. They let me ugly-cry. They made us laugh. We made incredible memories that summer.

Little John never once complained about that cast. As we boarded our flight home the morning after his accident, the pilot of the international jumbo jet in London came back and found us in our seats, inviting our entire family to meet him in the cockpit when we landed, where he signed it.

Now THERE’S a story we’ll tell forever.

Each silly car rental (as we waited for our ill-fated Carmax delivery) helped show us what car to actually buy. And each time I felt stranded without wheels, I thought of all the hardworking folks who are building beautiful lives with so much less. Our crazy home search gave me confidence in our ultimate selection. I feel so blessed that we have the space to host family and friends after three years away.

Receiving our late admittance into our children’s school made me even more excited and grateful to be able to live in a walkable neighborhood. Sitting on that bubble for a while gave me empathy for the families who were likely bumped within the district to an equally wonderful school in a less convenient location.

And those three weeks in a hotel? I was touched and even flattered by all the friends I haven’t seen in 10 years (and in some cases much longer) who invited us for play dates, pool outings and family dinners. And while, at the time, I thought I might lose my mind, our kids will only ever remember the hotel swimming pool, the waffle maker at our breakfast bar and not having to make their beds. I certainly enjoyed piles of fresh towels each morning.

We each have our moving war stories, where we’re in the trenches and we feel our stamina puttering out. But I do love arriving at that point when we can laugh, revel in how far we’ve come, and appreciate how lucky we are.

I feel so grateful for these hard decisions we’ve made, because each one is allowing us to design the next stage of our life. To dictate what is most important and to fill our calendars, home and hearts based on what we’ve learned about ourselves.

Life is pretty darn good. In fact, it’s way better than that. It’s amazing….and we’re only getting started.

(Now I just need to to block a certain incarcerated caller).

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