November is a month of gratitude. Lots of people have been posting things they are grateful for on Facebook this month, which I think is wonderful. But for me, it's been a year of gratitude. Way back on January 1st I decided to keep a gratitude journal. I made it a goal, in fact, to have 365 things I was thankful for by year's end. And I have been true to my goal. I think back every night on the events of the day and find something I'm grateful for. Sometimes it's silly (cheese!), sometimes it's obvious (family), sometimes it's seeing God's hand in my life that day. Actually, often it's seeing God's hand in my life. I don't think it's a coincidence that I started this journal, and 29 days later Clark lost his job. I was NOT feeling very grateful on some of those days. But I had made a goal, and I was going to keep it, gritting my teeth if necessary. Being thankful helped me notice that we didn't have to make a single house repair while Clark was unemployed - not even 1 burned out lightbulb. It helped me notice that the very week I was worried about feeding my family on a non-existent income, we received 3 dinner invitations, the contents of the fridge and freezer of a family that was moving across the country, and the CSA pickup of a friend who was going to be out of town. And the RS president showed up with butter, pajamas, and encouragement. Because I was writing this all down, I could look back at that week, and see miracle after miracle. It was amazing.
So far I've had 10 months of gratitude, but it's been pretty much for my eyes only. Lately, I have been feeling like I should really write a thankful post in this month of gratitude. So here are the top things I'm grateful for:
Family. Obviously, right?
Pie. All kinds.
Employment. Oh, how grateful I am for Clark's employment. Heavy burdens have been lifted, and tears of frustration have been replaced with tears of joy. What a blessing.
Being Veterans Day, I'm feeling especially thankful for veterans. I wore my poppy all day, and thought of the men and women who have served our country. We went to Cantigny Park tonight, and visited the First Division Military Museum. They had luminaries set up all across a field, and there were soldiers keeping watch, even in the snow. I may have shed a tear or two. God bless our veterans.
I am thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and perhaps more importantly, for my testimony. My religion is something I hold near and dear to my heart, and I don't think I've brought it up much on my blog. But it must be said that I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer., and that through his atonement, I can be made whole. I also believe with my whole heart that Christ's church has been restored on the earth, and that the Book of Mormon is true. The power of that book is boundless. By reading from it daily, I come closer to Christ. How blessed we are to have it. If you haven't read it, you should. I'm sure you can even request a free copy from lds.org. Or I can give you a copy. I have a spare.
That should do for now. Perhaps there will be a part 2 in a few days.
After the random assortment of thoughts I just posted, here is a random assortment of pictures!
First day of school, take 1 (in Michigan):
First day of school, take 2 (In Illinois):
Ella wanted her picture too, and who can resist that face?
We pulled out some taffy Aunt Kim sent us ages ago, and had a great time pulling it (and eating it). Ella was less than impressed.
We went through quite the building phase a few weeks ago. Legos were out every day. Even the blocks made a reappearance, after being tucked away for probably a year. Here we have a city, created by all of us. It includes a U for Utah, the tabernacle, Dow Gardens, and the Fox River. It appears to be a conglomerate city, adding components of Utah and Illinois and Michigan. Sounds like a great place to live!
The Cosley Zoo (a small children's zoo a short drive from our house) had a pumpkin patch section. There were pumpkins for purchase (we opted out), and all your typical pumpkin patch stuff. Including a cut-out for pictures, a miniature corn maze, and hay bales. What a great way to end our trip to the zoo!
Here are my Halloweenies! Ella is Cinderella, and Julia is a black cat.
And I'm a witch. Complete with a "wart" on my chin! (or really just a zit [I thought I was supposed to be done with zits in my 30s])
And finally, the pumpkins. The girls put their orders in, and Clark did all the carving. Most of it after they went to bed. Family togetherness!
-When I was little, I loved Where the Wild Things Are. There were few things finer in my mind than having my dad read this book to us, at night, on my parents' bed. Because if we were on my parents' bed, we could really rumpus. And as I read the book now, I realize that I always thought my parents were IN this book. They were some of the wild things - my mom was the red-head and my dad was the guy with dark hair and a beard. Did my dad have a beard? No. Do they look anything like my parents other than hair color? No. But still, that was them. I mentioned this to my mom a year or so ago, and she said a lot of kids think that. Really? Do any of you remember thinking this? Perhaps she meant books in general. Thoughts?
-I've always thought it would be lovely to travel by train. Though, to be honest, I probably want to travel by train in the 1950s. The idea of having a dining car and a room with a pullout bed and riding a train overnight just sounds so romantic. Not as in "lovey-dovey romance," but as in "dreamy and exciting." Like in the movie White Christmas. I want to travel on that train. Is that weird? That I want to travel for the mode of travel more than the destination?
-And speaking of White Christmas, I love snow. I love it! I even want to wash my hair in it (not really, they obviously haven't ever experienced snow). The thought of a good snowstorm thrills my little heart. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority on this one, but winter is loads better than summer.
-Another thing from my childhood: I always wanted a Teddy Ruxpin. My friend Amanda up the street (a girl named Amanda on Amanda Ave, true story) got one, and she never wanted to play with it. Meanwhile I was DYING to play with it.
"Hey, Amanda, can we get out the Teddy Ruxpin?"
"No, let's do something else."
"Are you sure we can't just play with him for a minute? Just one minute. Please?"
"You have to play what I want or we can't be friends."
"Ok. *sigh* Bring on the My Little Ponies."
(You think I'm exaggerating, but this conversation happened more than once. It's how I learned what the word "threatening" means.).
I've been told they are actually pretty lame, but how would I know? Maybe they are every bit as exciting as I always dreamed! Can anyone confirm or deny the awesomeness of the Teddy Ruxpin? And was I crazy for wanting one?
-I'm a book lover. Finding the library in town saved my sanity that first week in Illinois. Going for 5 days without a library card just about killed me.
-In related news, I was invited to a new book club here. I went to our first meeting, and suddenly, Illinois was home. Something just clicked. We live here now. I am breathing a sigh of relief.
Ok. We're about to get very real here. Brace yourselves.
It's been about a month now since we moved. From the get-go I've known that the first few months would be hard, that it takes time to settle in and meet new people. I've done this moving thing a few times, and I knew that once the dust settled and the boxes were banished to the garage, things would start to feel like home.
The dust has settled. The boxes are banished. This still doesn't feel like home.
There is so much to be happy about. Clark has employment (HALLELUJAH!). We have returned to a regular schedule, with Dad heading to work every morning, and Mom staying home with the kids. Julia started Kindergarten, and has adjusted very well. We have a plethora of restaurants in this town. We're so much closer to a number of museums and zoos. And I am very happy about all those things. I keep trying to put on a brave face, and tell myself that this will all work out, to give it time.
But this doesn't feel like home yet.
I miss MY house. Part of me wishes we could just move back in. But I know that's not possible, so I want the house to sell quickly so we can move on financially. And there is really nothing I can do about that except wait and hope and pray that someone sees it and loves it as much as we did. I miss our old routine, our old preschool, all-day Kindergarten. And most of all I miss my friends. My dear friends! Between our moving and the moving of other families we know, I've got little pieces of my heart scattered all across the country, and at this moment? I feel like my heart will never be put back together.
And then the holidays are coming up. Oh, the holidays. What on earth are we going to do for the holidays? Christmas was still a bit sad in Midland, being so far from family, but now? How do I keep that happiest day of the year from becoming my own personal pity party?
Basically, what this all boils down to is: Wah. Moving is hard. Pity me.
We discovered Cantigny Park a couple weeks ago, and we all love it there. The gardens, the prairie, the mansion, the tanks. Julia especially liked the military museum, and begged to go back the next week. Shocking, I know. Obviously it's a well done museum if my 5 year old girl wants to go back. We're starting to explore the area and find our new favorite places to go. And maybe, just maybe, this place is starting to feel a bit like home.
To say our moving experience gone off without a hitch would be a lie. We've had a number of actually big issues since we got here.
First off, getting here was rough. You'd think a 5.5 hour drive wouldn't be so bad, but it was. It really, really was. I had the girls by myself, and Clark had the big truck with all our stuff. I wanted to climb out of the moving car about an hour and a half into the trip. I love my children, but they can be...trying at times. Particularly Ella. Somehow we survived. I'm just glad it's over.
Then, once we got here, we noticed one minor detail: the only dryer hookup is gas. And we have an electric dryer. So our dryer sat in the garage for about a week, while we worked that one out. Thankfully we have a great landlord, and he had an electrician come put in a line for us. But things got a little dicey there when we all ran out of underwear. I ran a load of undies and then hung them up all over the house. It's a good thing we don't have any friends who might drop by, because it was crazy underwear house over here.
And then we smelled gas. The kind from a line, not a person. It was coming from the stove. So we shut off the stove, called the gas company, and discovered that we did, in fact, have a minor leak. No stove for a few days. After having an appliance repair guy come out and discover that the part that needed replacing cost about $400, the landlord decided to just buy a new stove. Not a bad deal for us. Again, we have a GREAT landlord.
And who could forget the Internet Saga 2013. We signed up to get the internet started the week after we got here. I waited and waited at our house on the appointed day, but no one came. Until I looked out my window and saw someone pulling OUT of my driveway. You see, we live in a townhome, where the garages all face each other, and my front door faces a pond. So the cable guy had pulled into my driveway, called Clark (who was at work), and then decided no one was home. Despite my car parked in the driveway. Despite the fact that he had never actually found the front door, or, I don't know, KNOCKED. It turns out we even have a doorbell on our garage. I guess cable man didn't see that either.
After many different phone attempts, we were told that they rescheduled us for the next week. At a time that wasn't convenient. Without asking us first. I was pretty riled up over this tidbit of information, but in truth, I just wanted internet access again, and I was willing to do anything to get it. So we waited. And now, obviously, we are all hooked up. Patience is a virtue. I guess I still need to learn that one.
And finally, the AC in my car is not working. I keep telling myself that this is no big deal because fall is on the way, but it certainly was a big deal when I had to go get milk in 95° weather. And it continues to be a big deal any day the sun is shining. Come on, fall! Where are you??
OK. Rant over. Hopefully all the glitches have been resolved, and we can just live our lives normally. For a while at least.
There are toll roads. Lots of toll roads. I think it cost us 4 or 5 tolls to get here from MI. Tolls, tolls, everywhere!
There is a fee to register your child for school. On top of the lengthy supply list (even for Kindergarteners). On top of the tuition you must pay for full-day Kindergarten. We have opted for half-day, because $230/month for school isn't in the budget right now. This is a bit disappointing, as half day is only 2.5 hours long. Sigh.
You have to pay to have your trash taken away. Recycling is free. Trash is not. You buy trash bags and/or trash bag tags at the grocery store. I like this in theory, but I miss having an outdoor garbage can to put stinky trash in.
The cost of housing is quite high. Basically, it's not cheap to live here. Illinois is broke and wants my money. Unfortunately, I am also broke, and am ticked about giving it to them. Not a happy relationship so far between me and the Prairie State.
There are a LOT more stores and restaurants here. A. LOT. We have everything you could ever want. But see above about lack of funds. So someday, we'll get to eat at some fantastic restaurants.
Having more stores also means having more discount grocery stores. I haven't purchased a gallon of milk for under $2 in years, YEARS I say! I could get used to that.
We found a lovely walking trail/bike path right by our house that takes us around a pond and ends up at a playground. This is everything our family could ever want. Score.
The ward has seen HUGE growth in numbers the past 6 months or so. Lots of people moving in. In fact, there was another family that moved here the same day as us, just up the road, and we have mutual friends. So that's promising.
All in all, I think we're going to like it here. We'll have to spend more money, but I'm trying to look at it like a challenge to find all the free/discount things to do around here. Like a game to see who comes out on top, me or the state. I'm a determined cheapskate, so watch out, Illinois, I WILL beat you at this game!