As I start to write this, it's the day after Christmas and I'm doing so from the third home that my family has lived in over the course of a year. I realize that for some people this could be considered standard fare, but this year has been far from that.
It started about this time last year, when we decided to take a big jump and move up to Washington thanks to an amazing opportunity at work. Shortly after we made this decision we were blessed with additional news. Jen's parents had decided that they would be following us up to Washington as well! They had always loved this area, and it was a great opportunity for them as well. We celebrated our "last Christmas" with a little extra fervor and joy.
The new year began and with it plenty of challenges I never expected to face. The girls had started public school shortly before the break, and there were new adventures and challenges for them with that. However, Haylee started developing what appeared to be sporadic outbursts or tics, particularly towards bedtime. Soon after these manifested themselves into full body tremors. These had escalated to the point that I left my monthly trip to Washington a day early to do her being hospitalized, they were getting that bad. Two days and a handful of tests revealed that they weren't seizures or anything of the "big scary" variety, but it is unknown what the true cause of them were. There were no medications currently available that would cure the issue, only help lessen the effects, and the side effects seemed nearly as bad as the problem. There was a good chance that her body was going through a "perfect storm" of stress, body maturity, and body chemistry, so we decided to do what we could to help her get through it. A lot of signs pointed to finishing the move and getting reestablished would make them go away, so we transferred the girls back to home schooling and move we did. Some days were better than others but things have not gone away. Rylee, being as tightly bonded to her sister that she is, started getting the effects of this in her own way. She would wake up at 4 in the morning, terribly nauseous. Nothing would really settle her stomach, and she would vomit regardless of food or no food it seemed. It took about a week to two weeks to find a delicate schedule and diet to get her through the mornings without incident.
You'd be surprised as how much stuff you can have hidden in a house after 10 years. Having your house be on a hill so that the underneath serves as additional storage doesn't help much either 8^D The purge was hard. Time was starting to get the better of us, especially with me gone once a month for a week at a time, Jen and the girls sick a bit more frequently than usual, and Haylee's tics continuing to make things difficult at times. We were very blessed to have friends that took time out of their day and weekend to help us purge and pack. We spent quite literally up to the midnight hour finalizing what boxes needed to be packed and throwing out things that weren't truly of essential need. Moving day came and we were fortunate that everything fit into the huge truck the company brought (though they admitted they though they had brought a truck large enough for two house moves) and we were scrambling to actually throw away all the junk we had purged. Four truck loads to various dumpsters across the town (thankful to the business that let me purge a few things there) and we were ready to go. We still couldn't fit all the essentials into our two vehicles though that we wanted to bring with us. Fortunately Jen's parents were literally moving 10 days later and had room for a few of those things.
It was time to leave the house, though the house didn't really want to leave us I think. During the packing time we had to actually sell it. This had problems all its own. We had bought the house back in 2006, right before the housing market had crashed. When we purchased it, we had gotten into a bad mortgage loan and was barely paying off any principal on things. 10 years later and we were barely on the other side of "upside down" with the loan, but still in a rough position with actually selling the house and making money. We had heard good things about selling the house ourself to avoid some of the costs and went down that road with no success. It turned out that the comps that we were given for the house won't the most accurate, or more likely, since all of the houses in our area were custom builds and a lot of them were larger, the pricing wasn't respected, despite our corner lot and nice view. Getting a bit desperate, we tried one of those "we pay cash for houses" type places. We were given nothing but the runaround for a week. The local representative for this company actually approached us because he knew we were getting strung along and said he could help us short sale the house. The prospect of this wasn't looking too encouraging given the financial hit we would take, but from what we had heard it wasn't as bad. But to do that we had to actually get a listing in. The crazy thing was that somebody actually made an offer on the house for the "break even" amount. Our potential buyers had their own issues, and timing of some of the inspections was drug out, so we moved out with a favorable chance of having things done, but no final paperwork signed. We discovered that having a lot of phone calls back and forth is nice, but the paper beats all.
Finally the end of May came and we were on the road! Two vehicles packed to the gills with children, pets, immediate needs, and a 5 state trip over the course of two days ahead of us. We were an hour into our drive when Jen called me. She was nauseous, not the I ate something a little funky type of nausea, but the kind that makes you pull over to the side of the road and say a few prayers kind. It wasn't going away either. We were an hour from any major kind of stopping places in either direction. It honestly felt like something was trying to keep hold of us. We had to push forward. There was no way to have Jen's car towed or even have her tow mine because there was no room for the other person to sit. Thankfully (and prayerfully) we made it to Kingman, AZ where we were able to get a pet friendly hotel. Jen immediately crashed and slept things off and I took the girls to the pool. I also picked up some new tapping and ratcheting tie downs because the current one wasn't cutting it and there was some rain forecasted in our drive ahead. Things got better, but not by much. Our two day trip turned into five with a few extra stops along the way. We had a few more nausea incidents along the way as well. We also found out along the drive that apparently moving companies don't take standard checks or credit cards for the second half of your payment. They take money orders though, which have a limit, so we took out most of what was left in our savings to cover this. Between this and the extra hotel rooms (and food) we were putting on a CC, we were strapped to the gills pretty fast
We arrived in Issaquah, Washington a few days later than planned, and literally about an hour before the moving truck showed up. This was a small blessing in that we would have our first night in our own bed. We didn't have anything setup yet and there was an extra $200 needed for the extra flight of stairs the movers had to go up. But we were here. We would get a good start on unpacking during the weekend and start adjusting to this new thing called apartment life. I was blessed that a friend from work came over on Sunday to help finish moving up a few heavy things. I rolled into my "first day" on the job a bit more tired than planned, but ready to continue on with the biggest project I've ever worked on that had started at the beginning of the year.
We were about two weeks in and it we were going through a longer adjustment than anticipated. The local library was nice, but the kid's program was far lacking compared to the program we had in Prescott. Most of the free events during the summer we took advantage of (art, science, etc.) just weren't available. There were several home school groups on Facebook Jen had looked into and had posted at, but she received responses from none of them, far different from what we had found elsewhere. Without a deep freeze to keep our normal stockpile of Costco goods in and a smaller fridge/freezer unit, food budget and planning had to change. Sadly we still haven't found a church to call home, even though there are two just up the block from us that show potential. Between sickness, other events, visits, and trips it has been hard to go. This may sound like an excuse to some people, but we need it to be a full family event to check these places out.
However, Haylee was showing signs of improvement. There hadn't been any tics during the drive out (often a change of focus helps) and her tics had been very minimal after being out here for two weeks and making the change. Even Haylee had said something to us herself about the change. This was a great sign! Then one morning while I was gone at work the fire alarm went off. It was about 9 in the morning and everybody was still getting into the groove for the morning. I wasn't there, but there was a scramble: kids, pets, valuables. As everybody made it out Jen was then told that this was only a drill to test the devices. We weren't informed in advance. Well sort of. An e-mail was a delivered an hour later saying tests were being conducted. Haylee's tics returned, nightmares occurred over the course of a few weeks of apartments burning, animals and family lost. It was almost like we had gone back to the beginning of the year.
Jen's health had caught up with her as well. A mixture between body fatigue, flu like symptoms, muscle spasms, heart palpitations, light headedness, and others came at her in various iterations. It was hard for her to get the time needed to rest and reset. Her body was showing signs as well that her thyroid levels were acting up a bit again and her endocrinologist in Arizona wasn't the most responsive. We began to find naturopaths and an endocrinologist here to build a "team" to get her healthy. There have been lots of doctors visits and followups to get her body back to some sense of normalcy as well.
Amongst all this, Jen's parents were having issues of their own. They were in the same apartment complex as us, but they were having a rough time with the people in their building, especially with the noise. To add to this, Jen's dad's office wound up being further south than originally planned. To top it off, he had to drive another hour plus from there to meet with his potential clients. This was not working well for them. Fortunately, they came across a great opportunity and were able to purchase a house. However, it is a little over an hour away from us. I'm truly excited for them and we enjoyed a great Thanksgiving break over at their new place. It has also changed some of our traditional weekly plans for "nana and papa night" and removed the "quick pop over" things we used to enjoy in Prescott.
The arrival has been delayed. We knew the transition was going to be big, and there were going to be challenges to face, but this many? Even small things, like finally wrapping up the sale of our house, seemed to balloon into huge ordeals, with no room for error on timing and unnecessary headaches to work through. We finally did sell our house to the people that made that first offer, but we had to come up with an additional $900 and change to get everything paid off. Any kind of "starting point" to eventually build or buy a new house starts from ground zero.
Around October we finally had some glimpses of change. The girls had started going to a Karate dojo nearby and have really been plugging in well with the program. The principles and tenants they hold to go far beyond the standard moves and katas they learn. They encourage and expect self discipline and respect for each other and their parents. The girls even signed up for a 1 month commitment to adhere to these principles. Most notably was seeing Rylee do her board breaking ceremony. She had written down a personal challenge on this board and using the techniques she had been practiced busted the board in half on her first try! Given how timid Rylee can be at times, there was true "leveling up" of her confidence, attitude, and demeanor after that event that still shows. Haylee's board breaking came a month later with just as much excitement.
Outside of my work family, and they truly are like a family to me, we have made a couple of friends here. The first was from the dojo itself. The girls met another girl there that is the same age whom they have hit it off well with. Jen and their mom have a lot in common with homeschooling, so there have been some common ground in which to build from. What was particularly nice is that they had invited us up to their place in Snoqualmie to go trick or treating. Their house was tucked in an area where there were plenty of houses to visit, but no crazy lines or groups like we typically experienced in Prescott on Mt. Vernon street. This gave the kids time to run around and the parents to talk more and they attend a church not too far away that sounds really promising as well. While it could be dismissed as "nothing big" gesture, having their family invite my family over to partake in an event like this was big. We also hit it off really well with the couple that lived on the floor right below us. They have a similar love of books, puns, games, and overall life that meshes well with ours and we can easily talk for hours on end. We've also setup the "husband on loan" program when an extra set of strong arms are needed for moving a few things. We've done some pet sitting swapping as well and overall love to just run into them whenever we can, both for diner or going to the farmers market.
Finally we have our third home (yep, remember how I opened up this?). With the apartment so close to the main street, the fire alarm, the dog barking whenever a door slammed on the first floor, and crazy rent (we're paying about 1K more than our mortgage was), things were becoming unbearable. Jen had found out that once we were here 6 months, we were eligible to transfer to other units in the complex for a small transfer fee. All the first/last month fees were waived. She took the girls down and looked at some of the Townhouses that were available and absolutely fell in love with one. I quickly fell in love with it too. It is actually smaller than the apartment was, we went from a three bedroom to a two bedroom. However, the kitchen / dining / living room layout was a nice and simple open one that we were able to play with. There was a desk with some cabinet space in the kitchen area that can serve as Jen's study area and apothacary desk. The unit also comes with a rather large tandem garage. It is large enough that we are able to close up storage unit (money saved) and move everything in to there, park my truck, and have Jen's car in the driveway. While small, we actually have a back yard. The "grounding" you can get by simply walking barefoot into the mossy grass is profound in its own way. The walls are a bit thin, but overall the neighbors are pretty quiet and it is odd having such a silent house to sleep in again. Since it is a winter contract, we are saving roughly $300 a month on rent and since the guinea pig and hamster died (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that above) we were able to qualify the dog and cat as ESAs for the girls and so they are pet rent free. The ability to actually put money into savings for our end game can finally start.
But most importantly, it feels like home. You climb up the stairs after a day of work and you have a warm, inviting place with a huge batch of bookshelves, a table in which to play games and talk about the day, and can then go upstairs to retire for the night with a nice window view to greet you for a new day. We had Jen's folks over for Christmas day and it was everything we had wanted it to be.
I've tried to make sense of all of this. Why so much struggle, and burden, and long nights along the way through all of this. I've asked God about this off and on through the year and don't have any solid answers or even remote ideas about what all of this means, but I do have three things that I've learned (or have had reinforced) through this all:
First: God's timing is far different from my own, and far better. I can't really point to anything in particular and say "oh yeah, that's why we had to wait for that", but what I can point to is that when we absolutely needed something, like a check to go through to handle the rent, or particular resource to be available to help the family, it simply was there. It often came out of an unexpected place, but it simply was.
Second: God loves us, plain and simple, and I need to trust that. Late one night I had clicked through to a blog post a friend had shared. The gist of it revolved around a mom who had an ailing son and how everyday she would prepare her "court document" of prayers and things to do to present before "god the judge" to make sure that she got was she wanted (her son's health) in the end. It is amazing how sometime we can "craft" our prayers or our attitudes in such a manner, as if we're sly enough to present our matter before the "court of god" in order that we work the system to our favor. The post came to a head when one of her particular prayers weren't answered and she was upset. She goes to God's house one night to argue her case and why it should be answered. When she gets there and sits down in her office, she begins to notice pictures of her son in his office. Drawings he's made for him, pictures of them together at various events. She then realizes that God loves us, no matter what. He is good and just and actively cares about us. He will work things out in his own way, and all this "legal mumbo jumbo" to some extent was insulting. We should simply present our requests and trust in Him.
Third: Daily (and hourly) Bread. The Lord's prayer came up during some of my morning Bible reading and the sentence "Give us this day our daily bread" really hit home. Shortly after this I even began to talk to God out loud while in the car or walking the dog. It may seem kind of weird (on either side of the coin really) but aside from the group prayers I would say at a meal, I typically prayed "in my head" or "in my silence". It seemed like if I wasn't vocalizing it, I was really engaged with the person I trust with my life. So I talked more, and in doing so, I talked more about the daily bread needs: have this paperwork done, have Jen make it through the day without any major health issues so I can take care of the kids the following day. The worries of tomorrow, or next week, were so far away, and so far irrelevant to the needs of the day. At times, especially during the road trip to Washington, the needs were hourly. Just get Jen to this next major city without issues and we can rest. Just let the hotel have this particular need of ours. Things like that. Things got a lot more real through this process and they didn't get "better" per se, but they were manageable, knowing that the creator of the universe was alongside me, and I suspect often enough times carrying me.
That, as they say, is the road so far.
The Patterson's have finally arrived home in Washington. We are eager to see what adventures await us in 2018.