Tuesday, June 26, 2012

house guests

Today Richard and I practically hosted a New Zealand reunion! Danielle and Krista (two of our missionary forerunners) spent the afternoon visiting, reminiscing about New Zealand, catching up and watching Fr. Michael's farewell video. We were having so much fun that they were three hours late for their next appointment. They both loved the miniature Kiwi accents from Maria and Bernadette (I hadn't even known that Bernadette had acquired an accent; I thought she just spoke in Baby Chipmunk). It was a really special afternoon and it was only after they left that I realized that I had actually never "met" Krista prior to today. (Her face is so familiar - and I heard SO MUCH about her from the girls' group for two whole years.....) One thing we all agreed on emphatically - you are very special people and we all miss you - and your beaches - very much. Hopefully next time we have a New Zealand reunion, some authentic Kiwis can be present as well!

Friday, June 22, 2012

unexpected changes

(Disclaimer - I don't know why most of this post is highlighted white - 
there is no significance to the highlighted sections
except to show how technologically incompetent I am....)

After many months of uncertainty and waiting on the Lord, we thought that the biggest elements of our everyday life had finally solidified. We thought we knew what kind of work Rich would be doing and in what area of the country we would be living. He had been unofficially selected for a position in a thriving Diocese in the Midwest, and was looking forward to being involved in lots of awesome branches of ministry including those pertaining to youth, young adults, engaged and married couples. Tonight we learned that the position has fallen through, due to extraordinary circumstances. We are pretty shaken and deeply disappointed. But in this too, the Lord is at work. There is nothing to do but cling to Him in trust.  What follows is the post I had been working on this afternoon, hours before we got the sobering call this evening..... 

Life is good - really good. There's tremendous peace in finally knowing what kind of work Rich will be doing - and until he starts, we are in a sort of fleeting season of leisure, rest and deep contentment. The kids are sleeping well, eating normally, scrubbing toilets, bringing in paychecks and not crying at all. Just kidding - but they are sleeping well and crying less. Last week we picked out a twelve week old All-Black kitten, named her "Sara Socks", and she has helped immensely in the child-joy department. She doesn't (much) mind Joseph pulling out large chunks of her fur, nor Bernadette carrying her everywhere in a chokehold, nor Maria forcing her little whiskered face into the food bowl to "help her" eat. 
Every morning Joseph naps right after Mass, Richard gets some peaceful time to either fix up the house for sale or to relax, and the girls and I go visiting. All of my good friends in Pennsylvania have children who match mine in ages - and because the mothers are so lovely, naturally the children are unfailingly delightful as well. (Just like mine.) The girls and I are enjoying our new lives as social butterflies. A lot. And Richard is getting lots of projects done in these child-free hours. Everyone wins. 
Richie's latest achievement: repainting the bathroom
(Joseph woke up a bit early and Papa had to finish painting with one hand
while holding the little guy with the other hand....
we're still working on getting the paint off his tiny feet) 

Our afternoons have been full of splashing in the little wading pool, swinging on the porch, visiting parks & playgrounds - and refereeing whose turn it is to hold the kitten. But by 6:30 each evening, all three kids are tucked in bed and Rich and I get to spend truly peaceful evenings together. It's been like a series of little honeymoons. For the past six years he has been out doing ministry anywhere from three to five nights a week - this little interlude of quiet evenings at home is such a treat. We're playing board games and card games - and talking - and just being together in happy silence. Our marriage feels especially blessed and rejuvenated. We're loving having our porch swing again, and our tranquil little neighborhood overlooking a beautiful cemetery. We're amazed by how the fireflies have proliferated in our absence - and how the stinkbugs have disappeared. It's lovely. 

It is going to be hard to leave it all again. And for good this time. 

even lovelier glittering with fireflies at 9pm

Pennsylvania itself has no hold over me. P.A. is to me what L.A. is to Neil Diamond. In other words,

P.A.'s fine,
 but it ain't home
New York's home, 
but it ain't mine
no more. 

Pennsylvania itself has never felt like "home" to me. New York, for all that I resist much of what defines it, is still the place that just "feels" like home. My goodness, I would never want to live there ever again - it's just that things make sense to me in NY. I know how to get places, all the little towns are like old friends and even the way that people drive makes sense. (Richard insists otherwise, but I think that New Yorkers' hyper-aggressive, horn-obsessed driving is just regular, ho-hum, normal driving.) Since I left NY, I've spent four years in Rhode Island, two in Ohio, four in Pennsylvania and two in New Zealand. My husband insists that New Zealand is his "true homeland" but I'm still searching for mine. Maybe it's waiting for me in (the Midwest). I am so much more cornfield than I am Times Square - and I have liked every single person from the Midwest that I've ever met. But it's a little sad now to think about leaving the pieces of P.A. that are very home-like. Our house here is the most perfect little "Kelly home" that I've ever lived in. My friends here really feel like home to me - I didn't appreciate that fully until just this month. Our kids have grandparents, aunts, uncles - family who love them - here. 
a purple bedroom, a new kitten, and the entire Little House series:
little girl heaven

I think a week ago, Rich and I were in a bit of a sadder place about leaving all that we have just so recently regained. These last few days have brought a lot of peace and hope. We're much more focused now on the possibilities and adventures that await us, rather than on that which we will leave behind. We still will leave with some pain and difficulty of course, but also with deep conviction that we are  following the plan - the very good plan - that the Lord has laid out for us. Rich is so enthused about this new job and I love to see that. We are both a bit anxious about where we will live and about how the whole moving thing is going to go (selling our house, living apart temporarily, finding a new neighborhood and house that is a good "fit" for us, helping the kids - Maria in particular - deal with more loss, more transition, more instability). But He knows what He is about. And we trust in that. 

I can do nothing other now than reiterate those last two thoughts from earlier today, even though our circumstances have changed so dramatically in just a few hours. He knows what He is about. And we trust in that. For the past two years in particular we have dealt time and again with hard news, uncertainty, challenges and devastating surprises. And He has seen us through all of it. We have done best when we have had nothing but Him to cling to. So I am - in some true but odd sense - glad for this.  Or at least at peace with it. I'm not properly "glad" - far from it, actually. But I only want to be where He wants us. If He wants us in that job after all, He will work it out and we will be absolutely thrilled. If not, He has something else that He is asking of us, and we will embrace that. Please pray for us to remain steady and unwavering in trust. And obviously for work - the Lord has provided for a little while more of job-searching time, but due to Joseph's medical issues and our unborn baby, we are hoping to be insured as soon as possible. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

another week closer to normal

the squirrel who used to eat all our birdseed
has not budged an inch in two years

I'm not caught up on email yet. I've only made two non-essential phone calls so far. But otherwise, I really thought that we had more or less come to a place of some sort of stability and calm. But then on Monday we completely forgot about Joseph's doctor appointment and on Tuesday we actually missed our plane as we set out to Richard's most important interview. Those of you who know me will know that I do not miss doctor appointments or airplanes. Ever. So - perhaps - we are still a lot more inside-out and upside-down than we realize. I'm starting to feel that the excuse is wearing thin though.

The airplane thing was really something straight out of a movie (and not the boring kind of movie where everything works out awesome for the hero). After a series of hiccups and tangles that delivered us to Pittsburgh International Airport only an hour prior to takeoff, we got stuck in endless lines both for check-in and security. We cleared security only twenty minutes before takeoff and sprinted to our gate. I've not done much sprinting in maternity jeans during any of my previous pregnancies and I don't recommend it. Those pants just did not want to run as fast as I did. So Rich galloped ahead, lugging all four bags while I tried my darndest to keep up. I had Joseph in the Ergo on my back and the diaper bag bouncing wildly over my shoulder (the girls were staying with their grandparents). I'm pregnant enough to be a little short of breath while just rocking calmly on my porch swing - this sprinting business left me gasping for air and clutching frantically to my falling-down jeans, which were being shoved off by the ergonomically-designed waist panel of my back-pack style baby carrier. Joseph - who had been sleeping- was bobbing and crashing manically in the carrier and about every four strides I had to create a free hand to firmly yank my sliding elastic waistband back up as high as possible. "Jesus, I trust in You!" I was frantically praying. We arrived at the gate juuuuuuuuust in time to see that airplane backing slowly away from us.

Thy will be done.

I think Richard may have said something like, "Rats!" I couldn't hear him that well over the wheezing gasps of my own breath and the blood throbbing in my head and the nononononononononoNO! screaming in my soul. I did noticed that my ever-calm husband was covered in sweat and looked like he might be sick in a moment. Joseph starting laughing and kicking, wanting his "pony" to return to that crazy-fun gallop. Neither parent spoke - to him or to each other - for quite some time. And the pony  wouldn't try even just a trot - not even hours later.

We did board a later flight - and had a wonderful trip. But the first thing we saw upon arrival at our final destination was this - 

Kiwis, I do apologize!
(I walked around this airport globe three times looking for you -
but it appears that you might no longer exist.)

We're waiting now on a final decision and have a lot of praying to do. Richard's keeping busy with some projects around the house. I'm blissfully engaged in repainting old furniture (a beloved hobby I have not indulged in two years) and the kids are enjoying having their very own grass in which to get bitten by their very own ticks (Joseph, today). Maria is struggling very much with the prospect of another move, and if there was only one thing I would ask prayers for, it would be for her peace of heart.

power-blasting the back porch

one coat of primer on the kid's drawing table -
I'm thinking about going for "robin's egg" 

picnics in our front yard

finally got the kitchen (the last frontier) organized!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

finding an equilibrium

slowly adjusting to the tastes of America

Last night was one full week since our plane touched down in Pittsburgh. The week was a fast-moving, stressful blur, but it was a super-productive one. The house is (mostly) in order. The kids are (mostly) sleeping. We now have internet, phone, utilities, bank accounts, drivers' licenses, temporary health insurance and - as of tomorrow morning, a car.  In other words, we're in a much more relaxed place today than we were seven days ago. Actually, I'm amazed that it only took seven days to get to this place. We owe a huge thank you to Rich's parents for all the work they did getting our house ready for us before we even arrived. They gave us an enormous head start and saved us days and days of cleaning and hauling furniture. We also owe much thanks to my mother, who flew to meet us at LAX and offered our girls a timely distraction, enabling Rich and I to catch up on sleep, catch two peaceful flights and gather luggage.

helping to get everything in order

Thanks to all for the prayers and email/FB words of encouragement as we went through the craziest and most intense days of transition. Rich and I feel really great now about how things are unfolding. We're having a lot of fun together shaping our life here and the Lord is showing us that His Providence is overseeing all. For example, this week I contacted a real estate agent (who I selected randomly based on her cool website and the fact that she looked "nice" from her photo). As we chatted on the phone, it turned out that she has been supporting an American missionary in New Zealand over the past few years! There have been so many of these unlikely coincidences that we have a real peace that the Lord is at work as we patch together the life we are going to lead now that we are home. We continue to put the pieces together (in a much more peaceful fashion now than a few days ago) and will give updates as the biggest pieces fall into place!

learned how to climb a tree this week

not 100% unpacked and organized, but getting closer every day

Sunday, June 3, 2012

can we go back to new zealand?

The short answer to the question "How are things going so far?" is this:


A more elaborate answer might go something like this:

Well, the house - the four room house - is in absolute disarray and chaos and I can't seem to make any palpable progress because of priorities like groceries and diaper changes and locating underwear for four people amidst mountains of stuff. All three kids have been crying and/or awake every single night until 2 am (or just beyond) and Richard and I are averaging about five or six hours of sleep daily.

around midnight, first night in our own house

Maria, who already lives at a level of existence intensely elevated from most of humankind, is now absolutely overwrought with stimulation and is having mood swings akin to a very hyperactively ecstatic Dr Jekyll and a horribly angry, mean and tearful Mr Hyde.

Bernadette is crying all night begging me to sleep with her, eating barely enough to keep a hummingbird alive, vomiting dry heaves - and "hating" everything in America ("hate" - being a word Bernadette may have used three times in her life prior to landing in America - has now become a word she uses at least five times hourly.) Before she even laid eyes on our house, I told her that we were going to drive over to see it and she informed me, "I hate our house." It's been like that.

Joseph is also crying all night - responsibly filling in for Bernadette during the hours she falls silent - and seems to be stuck on New Zealand time for sleeping and waking.

please don't let these happy faces fool you for a moment

We still have not found a good minivan to buy. Up until today we have been living the Amish dream, totally technologically cut off from the world, without internet or phone. We've been mooching a car and our meals off of Rich's parents. I could go on, but I think the picture emerges fairly clearly and that the reader will understand why Richard and I keep giving each other looks that say, "In five minutes, I may just give up entirely."

"I hate that and that and that"

The travel was actually easier than these first days have been. Fr. Michael drove us to Auckland and there was none of the usual drama associated with taking three small children on a fairly long drive. We arrived with the perfect amount of time to check-in, check our five allotted bags, plus the one that was going to cost $115 to check except that the lady decided not to charge us. Then with our stroller and  six carry-ons (some of which nearly doubled the allotted 7 kg weight maximum) we said a sad goodbye to Fr. Michael, ate a leisurely dinner, passed through "security" without a hitch (including the random selection of only our two lightest carry-ons for a weight check). Within an hour we boarded, took off and got started on the eleven-plus hour flight. Everyone was happy. The girls watched Up (but refused to wear headphones and hear the movie as well). A meal came, which neither ate - the first of many, many meals that Bernadette would not eat - she has not really eaten a normal meal since we had lunch in Mt Maunganui the day we left). Then they slept - all three of them. For about three hours. Maybe less.

 the calm before the storm

Joseph woke up first and began screaming. I mean, the kid was screaming. The whole plane had been  asleep and he woke everyone up. Including, of course, his sisters. Nothing would calm him - not even the man behind him angrily taking the Lord's name in vain.  He screamed on and on and on - for hours. It was hideous. He finally settled and slept shortly before we began our descent, but the rest of us landed at LAX exhausted. By the time we checked into our hotel I'd been awake for 30 straight hours. The girls were doing really well, despite their lack of rest, until dinnertime. They happily went to the pool with my mother and splashed merrily for over an hour. But neither one ate a bite of dinner and finally I had to remove them, crying, from the hotel restaurant. We bathed them and put them to bed, expecting to get some serious sleep, but all three simultaneously awoke at midnight. There was no coaxing or commanding them to sleep. Lights, crayons, pretzels, grape juice, ESPN, coloring books....at 2 am they were ready to give that whole sleep thing another go. And except for the first night home, when they slept the whole night through and had to be woken for lunch at 11:30 am, they have repeated this pattern every night since. Usually with more crying and sometimes with vomit.

partying at midnight in LA

Richard has a couple of interviews coming up over the next two weeks. I honestly don't know how he is going to pull it off. If I had to interview for a job this week, they'd probably take one look at me and make me take a drug test before the interview even began. Once I started talking they'd probably make me take another. But all will be well. Somehow. Please pray for us!