Our trip home was wonderful and exhausting. We started in Ohio with Jeffrey's family, celebrating the wedding of Jeff's youngest brother, Kyle. Jill got to be a flower girl. And now Amber is a part of our family! We're thrilled to have her.
At the wedding reception, I peeked into the kitchen and saw the team of friends who were helping my mother-in-law with all of the food and preparations. It made me a little teary eyed, remembering my wedding open house from ten years ago where almost exactly those same friends helped her with the food and preparations for me. Then they were strangers; now they are friends.
Returning to Cincinnati is always bittersweet. I love seeing family and friends and driving on familiar streets. But then seeing those same family and friends, I can almost imagine how our life would have been, and it seems like it would be so easy to slip into that life. But, of course, it's never that easy, and we're living the life we've chosen. But still—bittersweet.
Life is good in Grandma and Papa's hot tub!
While in Ohio, my sister-in-law Rachel, who had been on hospital bed rest, gave birth to my newest niece, Valerie. Valerie was born at only 25 weeks gestation, right around 2 pounds. She's already gained a pound, and this week she was moved from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to the Special Care Nursery. I'm amazed at the fight in this tiny girl.
After a week in Cincinnati, Jeff had to return to Juarez, because someone has to work!
The kids and I went on to Indiana. We got to see my grandpa Homer, aunts, uncles, cousins, and my cousins' children during a day in Richmond. My aunt Ann took us to the Richmond public library, and my kids were pretty amazed. We haven't been to a library in a few years, and Richmond has a really nice one. I remember going there and participating in their summer reading program when I was a girl and we were staying at my grandparents' house. It was really neat to share it with my kids.
My grandpa taught Jill how to knit.
Gordon with Aunt Ann, watching as his older siblings feed the chickens at Uncle Steve's house
The next day it was on to Mounds State Park near Anderson. We camped for two days. "We" in this case being my sister, her husband, their four kids, my parents, three nieces and nephews (whose parents did not come, because they had a preemie in the NICU), my brother, my brother's ex-wife, my brother's three children, my brother's ex-wife's new husband, and my brother's ex-wife's two step children. So we had eight adults at the campground and sixteen children (ages 8 and under). It was a little crazy, but really fun. And we only lost one kid once. (Alice decided that she could walk to the bathrooms by herself. Not a chance, sweetie!) Can I just say that I love my family? So, so much.
Some of the kids we had at the campground
You know who else I love? My Hoosier friends. I had friends come from Chicago, Louisville, Indianapolis, and Muncie to meet me at this campground and see me and my family for just a few hours. I felt so loved. There is something very comforting about being around people who have known you for a long time. The visit was too short. I wish I could have spent time with each of them one-on-one and caught up. I used to know their joys and despairs, their daily excitements and obsessions, and now we all live so far away. (Well, some of them still get to see each other regularly, and I'm very jealous of that!) I know their pasts, and I try my best to keep up with their presents, and I work hard to be in their futures. Friends who grew up with you can never be replaced, so it is best to not lose them!
On a funny note, I had brought a cute shirt to change into before getting together with my friends, but we were camping and Jeff was in Mexico and I had four kids and there were a lot of other kids there and I just forgot to change. So I was looking less than fresh from the get go. And then one of my kids actually had diarrhea while I was giving him/her a piggy back riding and running as quickly as possible to the bathroom. And I'm sure my baby gifted the front of my shirt with snot and spit. Two of my other kids actually peed their pants during the get together, but luckily I wasn't holding them for that! Anyway, it was parenting at its finest. I laughed inside about it and thought, "I'm so glad that I've known all of these people for a long time, because I would not be making my best impression today."
Also, let it be known, that claims have been made that my father was convinced by Joe to ride his motorcycle around the campground. I was at the swimming pool with littles, and NO ONE bothered to take pictures or video, and this is 2016. If it wasn't recorded on someone's phone then it clearly didn't happen. I officially request that Phil and Joe need to have a second motorcycle ride, so I can witness it.
My wonderful Hoosier friends
After camping, we went to Muncie to attend church in the ward where I was a teenager. Since my parents moved away in 2005, I think this was only the third time I've been back to attend church there. The first time was fun. The second time I was kind of emotional and actually sat in Sunday school just crying. This third time was just really nice. There are just so many memories in that building. Crushes. Friendships. Dates. Dances. Broken hearts. Betrayal. Figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be. Early morning seminary. Ha. So much! Being a teenager is rough, guys. And so much of it happened in that building. Specifically in the second mother's lounge. Either there weren't many nursing babies in my ward growing up, or all of the young mothers preferred the other mother's lounge, because "my" mother's lounge was almost always empty, and it was the perfect place to hide when I couldn't be around boys. My girls always knew to look for me there. And I always knew to look for them there. But no boy would dare go past the women's restroom and peak in the mother's lounge. I don't know if they even knew we would go in there. Anyway. It's amazing how many memories are tied to places and how being in those places can bring them back.
I currently live a lifestyle where I go many places and have wonderful or trying or amazing or devastating memories in those places. But I will most likely never return to those places. I wonder what it will do for my children to not be able to easily return to the places where they were seven or thirteen or eighteen.
After church, we headed up to Michigan, in the suburbs north of Detroit. My oldest brother had to fly back to Indonesia (where he's working and living right now), and my ex-sister-in-law and her family had to return to Avon to get ready for school that was starting really soon for them. But my sister and her family overlapped with me in Michigan for a week, and my other brother and his wife were there waiting for our return with their three children. So there was lots of Boling wonderfulness.
My kids and I in Canada, eh.
I got to meet my tiny, tiny niece Valerie. I went and visited her at the hospital twice. I was able to reach my hand in and touch her. I'm looking forward to being able to hold her the next time I visit.
My hand stroking Valerie
We did the usual Michigan things: picked berries, swam in lakes, swam in the pool, went to the farmer's market, visited Tabitha's "house," went roller skating. Daniel learned to do the monkey bars all by himself. A new event this trip was crossing the border into Canada. I was curious about the border crossing. The international river border between Detroit and Windsor has A LOT more water in it than the one between Juarez and El Paso. And it was interesting seeing all the signs in English/French rather than English/Spanish. Hopefully next time I'll understand the French!
Me with my dad at the lake
Harvesting potatoes with GranB
Then it was time for one last week of vacation, which brought us back to Cincinnati. In Jeff's family, my kids are the only grandkids, so it's total spoil time for them, which they love. We got to dance at the square dancing social and feed the ducks at the pond. We had play dates with friends from when we lived there. We swam in the YMCA pool that used to be our pool back when Jill could only say "YM! YM!" We did lots of hot tubbing.
Feeding the ducks (Gordon was feeding himself) at the pond by Grandma and Papa's house
Square dancing with Grandma and Papa
Then time did what it does and just like that our month of travel was over. I flew back with the four kids and they exceeded my expectations for how well they would behave with only one parent for a full day of flying.
And now we're back in Mexico, and I'm having to deal with the reality that time did what it does here as well, and somehow my two years in Mexico has dwindled down to only four months left. Africa is still a year away, because we'll have six months in Virginia to learn French and then a month and a half of home leave, but even a year away, it is starting to feel really real.
I've made a home here. I've made friends here. I dug down deep and put down roots here, and I feel like I'll blink and it will be time to pull them up and transplant anew. I vacillate between wanting to distance myself from my friends and this place, so that when I leave it won't hurt as much, and wanting to experience everything deeper and more fully, so that when I leave I won't have any regrets about who I could have known better or loved more or places I could have gotten to know.
I would be remiss if I ended this on this day, August 31, without mentioning all of the upheaval that is occurring in "my" countries. Donald Trump actually visited Mexico City today. He accepted an invitation from President Peña Nieto to visit. (Peña Nieto also invited Hilary Clinton.) I have not yet met a single Mexican who likes Trump. They feel that he has insulted and denigrated them. The big news right now are Trump's visit and the death of "divo" Juan Gabriel. Also today, Gabon finally announced that Ali Bongo won the presidential election in Gabon, extending his family's reign as presidents in that country for more than half a century. It was a hotly contested election, the army has been deployed, violence has erupted, and many are demanding a recount, because they believe Bongo tampered with votes. Also today, Brazil officially impeached their president, Dilma Rouseff, and swore in vice-president Michel Temer as the president of Brazil for the next two years. Clearly, it's been quite a day.
And also today, we found out that Jeff has been approved for a promotion this November! He will move up a rank in the Foreign Service. I'm very proud of my hardworking hubby.
Last but not least, I've listened to this song about twenty times today. It makes me kind of want to laugh and cry and half all the feels about moving and leaving and having a home. It's beautiful.
Me with my baby, enjoying a day at the lake