Today we hit the road again. Our toys were gone. Our clothes were in suitcases. Our artwork no longer decorated the walls. The apartment that we turned into a home was just an apartment again. We only got to live there for six months, but we really filled those six months with so much life.
Friends. So many friends. We were incredibly blessed. We were able to renew friendships with people we had loved from when we lived in Herndon, Virginia, before. We were able to continue friendships with other Foreign Service families we had known from Mexico or training. We were able to meet a plethora of amazing new people from our neighborhood, school, and church. Even though we were only here temporarily, no one held back, saving themselves the pain of a goodbye so soon after the hello.
I'm a fairly positive person, but sometimes negativity swirls through my brain that is hard to shut down. There is one common negative refrain that plays on repeat through my brain as I move—yet again move. "Don't get to know us—we're not worth your emotional capital." or "We're just going to love you and leave you." A bit harsh and extreme, but I kind of live by extremes. But it wasn't like that at all. Parents and kids opened their arms and hearts wide and let us move inside. Even though we were just going to turn around and leave.
I loved so many things about where we lived in Arlington, Virginia.
Barrett Elementary School
Barrett Elementary has to be on the top of the list. I loved that school. The principal was wonderful. Daniel got hurt on the playground one day, an altercation with another child, and the principal actually found me to tell me about it. I couldn't believe that he would even know about such a small incidence, let alone be able to connect me as the mother to inform. The office staff was so friendly and helpful and reasonable. The school encouraged parental involvement instead of continually standing as a barrier to separate parents and children as some schools do. I always felt welcome. The kids went on so many field trips! We were only there from January to June, and each child went on at least five field trips, and because of being blessed with so many friends willing to watch Alice and Gordon, I was able to chaperone every single one. The teachers were so prompt in responding to my questions either by backpack mail, email, or text. And they always seemed happy to see me if I popped in during class with a concern. Jill and Daniel both had such amazing teachers. I was really impressed to see how their teachers handled their learning. Coming from a different school system, Jill and Daniel were behind in some areas and ahead in others, and their teachers took it all in stride and allowed them to continue ahead in their strengths, creating custom learning paths for them to grow in their weaknesses. I also loved the class size. They both had 20 to 21 kids in their class with one main teacher and a secondary teacher. I also loved that Spanish was offered, and it was so cool that Barrett is a NASA Discovery School. My kids really loved getting to go to the discovery lab to learn more about space. Gordon was so popular at that school. So many kids that I didn't know knew Gordon. I had kids ask me if I could bring Gordon to school to play with them. And on the playground, he almost had trouble playing, because there were so many kids following him around. He was a superstar. Alice had her own niche at school as well, because she was able to get speech therapy services through the school. She had her therapist, who she called her teacher, and her own little classroom with one other classmate. Barrett Elementary truly was a school that exemplified what it means to be the neighborhood school.
Another thing to love about Arlington, Virginia, was the opportunity that we had to play sports. Jeffrey got to play basketball and tennis multiple times a week. Jill and Daniel were both on soccer teams, and I got to be Daniel's coach. I loved that little team! I got to play on a soccer team through Fairfax Women's soccer. I even scored two goals! Alice participated in a gymnastics class, and Gordon in a tumbling class, and we just all enjoyed so much how easy it was to find the sports we loved. Also, the PE classes at Barrett were incredible. It was Daniel's least favorite class at his old school. He would often get caught trying to run away and play at the playground, but he loved PE here. And it has been so cool to watch Jill and Daniel learn new sports, especially basketball, since that is one their father loves so much.
I was able to walk to so many places! In twenty minutes or less, I was able to walk to the public library, the metro station, five (probably more actually!) playgrounds, the elementary school, the Foreign Service Institute, the grocery store, the post office, a pharmacy, another grocery store, and countless restaurants. I put a lot of miles on that double stroller during those six months. I would go days without using the car, and it was really, really nice to be outside enjoying the day (okay sometimes it was freezing cold or raining or super sunny, but I walked on!). In Juarez, Mexico, I could walk to some stores, some restaurants, and the Consulate, but the sidewalks were not always adequate for pushing a stroller, and I've heard that in Libreville, Gabon, I won't really be able to push a stroller either, that the roads aren't very safe for walking. So I walked as much as I could in Arlington and loved it. Gordon and Alice got tired of it sometimes, ha.
Hopefully I have made it clear how much we all loved our time in Arlington, Virginia, these past six months. Thank you, Barrett family. Thank you, Arlington First Ward family. Thank you, Foreign Service family. And thank you, Herndon family.
Jill was baptized. Daniel learned how to read. Alice really left toddlerhood behind. Gordon really left babyhood behind. Jeff learned French. And I got to coach for the first time. It's amazing how much you can grow and change in just six months.
We toured the White House. We walked for hours in downtown DC trying to complete a Boy Scout hike in which we accidentally went the wrong direction for a significant amount of time. We attended the International Submarine Races at a Navy base. We toured the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. We video chatted with an astronaut. We attended the Mars summit. Jill was a Brownie Scout, and Daniel was a Lion Scout. We went to a DC United game. We spent a week in Cape Cod. We spent a weekend at Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg. We went to a Nationals game. We participated in a Science Fair. We attended a Step competition. We attended four plays. We got to play in snow and see spring unfold. Our apartment building had a coffee machine that also made delicious hot chocolate.
Life was very, very good.
And now we're off.
Here's a bit of memory lane.