Thursday, January 31, 2013

Becoming SLOcals...

      We set off on this journey knowing that we needed to go. We thought this job would be great for J (and it really is), that it would be hard to leave family and friends (and it was even harder than anticipated), and that this would be a nice place to live (it's even better than we expected). We honestly really like it here, largely because God has already crossed our paths with some very kind and welcoming people. People whose thoughtfulness and hospitality totally put me to shame. One of the most important things in our adjustment has definitely been finding a church we really like. Being a part of a community is such a huge thing for me, and the church we found is great. The other young (do I still count as a young??) moms I have met there are great and the services have resonated with us. I am looking forward to building deeper friendships.

      We love the school and the fact that there aren't a lot of choices so everyone in our town really does go to school together. I got to volunteer in B's class, which was really fun, too. Her teacher is wonderful and B seems to be enjoying the new group of kids. T is loving his school, too, and is often disappointed when I get there "too early" to pick him up. Because its small we walk around town to both kids' schools, dance class, the park, the post office, and the farmer's market and actually see the same people. We drive into the adjacent two towns for things like church, the dry cleaner, the library, and Target, or over the hill to San Luis Obispo if we want to get crazy and go to Old Navy or Costco. I have to plan my errands a bit better, though I am spoiled with a Trader Joe's as the only grocery store in town.
       We have only officially lived here for over a month. It feels way longer than that. Not in a "terrible, every day is a billion years" kind of way, but more in the "wow, a lot has been figured out and happened in the last thirty days." Lots of logistical things have been taken care of: we are settled into our house, I know where to grocery shop, family members have had hair cuts, we have been to the DMV (3 times), and to the doctor (5 times :/ ). I remember being in Kenya and feeling a sort of culture fatigue after we lived there for our first month. It's where you are just tired because basic tasks take more effort to accomplish and friendships require lots of intentional thought so you don't scare them off with your craziness. At first, there is just no auto-pilot playdates or errands. And sometimes it makes you tired. Kenya was obviously significantly more so, but this much smaller scale feeling is reminiscent of that. I do feel like in these wearying new and unfamiliar situations God comes near and causes me to grow. I am very grateful for that. 
      Because J hasn't had to travel yet, we have had lots of family time which has been SO great for all of us after what was a very travel-ful 2012. On the weekends we have been to the Santa Barbara Zoo, Shell Beach Park, Avila Beach, and Morro Bay. The beaches are still pretty windy and cold, and the kids inevitably get soaked and subsequently whiny, but we are enjoying the pretty views! We found a group of people with children adopted from Ethiopia who get together monthly, too, which was a great find in a "not-so-diverse" area.  

There have been some things we have had to get used to or have discovered by living in a smaller area, too. Here are a few random observations...
1. If you need clothing and want to drive less than 30 minutes, Target, Kohl's, and a J.C. Penney's, that looks like it is on the verge of closing down, are your only major options. 
2. People on the Central Coast love Tri-tip steak - the grills at the parks are large enough to put entire cows on.
3. SLO county is very "green." The city of SLO has no drive-throughs to prevent pollution from idle cars, and the entire county has outlawed plastic bags. I remember to bring in my reusable ones about 50 percent of the time (this is up from never in AZ). The remaining time I have to buy paper bags for 10 cents a piece...
4. The majority of people in the area went to one of two high schools and the remainder went to Cal Poly. They are also often married to someone's cousin or at least know 2/3 of the population.
5. Fruit is fresher and more delicious here. They enjoy native hybrid berries like the Lala berry? Sometimes in conversations about fruits or vegetables or vineyards I feel like a city slicker. I have never seen a Lala berry in Costco's produce section...
6. The majority of neighborhoods around here have neither sidewalks nor streetlights...that's very different for us!
     All in all, a lengthy 30 days in, I feel like we have all adjusted pretty well so far. J's job is great - he is a really good fit for the direction the organization is headed. We are pretty excited about what the spring will be bringing for Lifewater and the people they serve! (One way you can get involved is with their Significant Sacrifice Project. I will post more about that soon.) And, being away seems to draw us closer as a family, since we really depend on each other. We have only had a couple of teary times missing our dear family and friends, and phone calls from AZ help a lot! The grandparents will both be out in the coming month so we are feeling really excited to see them! Who's coming out next?!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One Week In...

At the aquarium

      Wow, much has happened in seven days! We left AZ one week ago with teary goodbyes to parents/grandparents, and then stayed a couple of nights in hotels along the way to our new home in the Central Coast. We did stop at Long Beach aquarium for a little fun reprieve for the kids. The touch tanks were a particularly big hit - we started calling T the "shark whisperer" as he was all over petting the tiger sharks. W also enjoyed sticking his hands in, though his salty, wet hands often ended up in his mouth directly after :/ He did get car sick later on that afternoon, but who knows if the water from the starfish tank could be to blame. B loved the sea lions and then spent a good amount of energy trying to negotiate a trip to the gift shop. The timing was bad since we had just been quickly reminded of the ridiculous amount of stuff we (read: she) already has as the truck was being loaded. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun to go back to a place we hadn't been to since we lived in CA several years before.

    On the 29th we arrived to our new home which is absolutely wonderful! If you remember our experiences with apartment renting in Pasadena this is especially significant. It is a great space and fits us quite well. Our landlords are unbelievably kind and thoughtful. They built the house themselves (literally, not the way J and I have 'built' spec homes). It has gorgeous details like a fireplace and crown-moulding and wainscoting. The neighborhood is like nothing we have experienced - very quaint and rural in nature - two doors down they have a horse, our next-door neighbors have what appears to be Mater parked on their side yard, and certain homes seem to have taken the whole HOA-free thing and run with it. All of the neighbors are very kind. Many of them have lived here for decades. On day one the elderly man across the street came and told J his insulin schedule immediately. Then the 13 year old boy from the next house over told J he doesn't speak to said elderly man because he started a rumor that his mother was running a brothel out of her house. This was a lot of information to take in on your first day in town. The lady on the other side came over and told me her somewhat sorrowful life-story within moments of meeting us, and the guys who unloaded our stuff were wearing wranglers and saying, "How d'ya do, ma'am?" to me. I felt renewed in Christ's calling to love people, regardless of their background and how different they are from me. I have always known that is what Christ calls us to and attempted to do it, but I guess in my previous context I just didn't have as many opportunities right around me to get uncomfortable. I think I'm realizing that different can be good even if it only slightly moves me out of my HOA-stucco-coated-track-home comfort zone. And, we have since met several families at the park and the local children's museum who live in our area and absolutely love it. 

Our house from the backyard (didn't have a front pic to share!)   

      J is really enjoying his job which is so exciting and confirming that we are in the right place right now. They are doing great things at his organization and his talents are a great fit for where they are headed. We are so proud of him. B even made him a "congrats on the new job, hope you have a good year." picture today. :) He has also been great with me and my emotional swings through this. Moving is intense...I seem to forget that even though we have done it rather frequently. I think interstate moving takes it up a notch though for sure.
     The backyard                                                    Behind the backyard near the creek and berry bushes.

The kids have done really well - they love the backyard, the land behind the yard, the park down the street, the stairs, and the fact that we were able to go spend the day at the beach on Monday. We found a gorgeous cove beach about 40 minutes away. The big kids got almost completely submerged though it was still cold and they were wearing winter clothes. B went home in her shirt and undies, T however had to wear his sandy wet pants, because upon arrival we discovered he had neglected to wear undies that day. All that being said, they have mentioned multiple times missing their family and friends in AZ, and I can certainly relate. 

         We are starting to meet people which is good because B and I desperately need friends, acquaintances, people who know our name...anyone really! She has been really nervous about school and wrote up a list of her worries to give to her teacher. It absolutely broke my heart to read her being worried about "if no one likes me, if I can't find the bathroom, if I have to cry, etc." Since then, I have almost accosted every little girl we see who looks kindergarten age and "encouraged" her to be B's friend. We did find a little girl in kindergarten at her school who she played with at a museum, so that was huge. Next week she will have her first day, so I am praying for fast friends. People keep raving about the school and apparently she got the best kinder teacher so I'm happy about that! Stay-tuned for the first day of school and adventures in unpacking (exciting, I know...) Thanks for the emails, texts, fb messages...they definitely help this girl when I am feeling homesick!