“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
Oh Twenty Eighteen, how have you challenged us? This year has literally been a rollercoaster for us. Unexpected and unpredictable at every turn.
If you’re not familiar with our story this year here’s the whole long story:
We began the year bouncing back and forth between the US and Russia around 4 times, each without recovering from jetlag before switching again with three kids under four. Two weeks after returning to Moscow in March, we along with 59 other families were given six days to pack our entire house and exit the country with no warning. It was utter chaos (and not just from our kids). Move literally around the world in under six days? A process that usually takes months. Filled with emotions and exhausted, we left the country and can’t go back.
Suddenly, we were in the US with no clue what comes next. I attended coordination meetings as my toddlers slept in the floor from jetlag while my husband continued going into work each day (and managed to get my questionable parenting published in a magazine). After two months of confusion and uncertainty, we were reassigned from Tokyo in 2019 to Stockholm NOW. We had nine days from getting our orders until packers were showing up. This includes researching anything special you need (like Sweden regulation winter tires), a stock of gluten free back up foods, and anything we needed in the next two years and couldn’t ship. At least nine days is better than six right?
After our stuff headed to Stockholm, we were left with four suitcases to live out of while we drove cross country for our three weeks of home leave. We stayed in 12 different places and crossed through 15 states as we saw grandparents, our dog, and returned the van we used while in the US.
We arrived in Sweden tired and drained. We’d gone through so much in the three months prior. It was a tough transition despite the beautiful views and all day sun. Our kids were still asking to go “home”. I had no answers for them except that this hotel room is our home today. Having three toddlers makes socializing and meeting new friends a little… challenging to say the least. Moving into a house after the first month and being able to tell our children that we’d be staying there longer than any other place they’d ever lived was amazing. Fun Fact: After this two-year tour the girls will have lived in Sweden longer than any other country in their lives.
We had several other personal challenges since moving to Sweden. One of the hardest parts right now is the darkness. We get less than six hours of sunlight per day and most days are gloomy and feel like night. We are loving that our sun is now slowly coming back.
I wrote this blog as a record for myself of our year so I wouldn’t forget the intricacies of our emotional journey this year. But as the quote at the beginning of this post says, you can’t change and grow without challenges. We’ve seen how an exceptional community can come together in Moscow to make things happen. From meals, to childcare, to Marines carrying our suitcases. It’s an experience that I use regularly to remind myself what I am capable of doing and that sometimes help can come from unexpected places when everything starts crumbling around you. We saw our own strength physically with no sleep and emotionally trying to balance our distraught kids, pitch in where we could for the community, and pack our house in those 6 days. We saw the love and passion of our nation’s diplomats as we boarded our buses to head home and in the airport as we arrived in the US.
In DC, we were again supported and lifted up by so many people. Friends that we never expected sent coloring books and toys to help with the kids, people we never met dropped off meals. We met the challenge of uncertainty head on. There were fights and break downs but we came together as a family and made it through. Living in a tiny apartment with our kids and minimal belongings as well as our road trip taught us how little we really need to survive. And again we had our friend Deb who helped us and was an answer to our prayers.
With both a six and nine day pack out this year, I have a feeling we won’t be nearly as frustrated as most foreign service families with our future move preparations. Despite only being in this job two years we are now pack out pros. That will save me so much panic and frustration throughout this career. As well as plenty of jetlag experience!
In Sweden, we were challenged again by living in a new country and making it into a home. We learned how well we can persevere. Despite feeling like I was failing on all fronts, I started celebrating small victories. I’m thankful for what we do have rather than how we got here. (Although, I still have a lot to learn in this department of life). There is always a silver lining you just have to get yourself to find it. This year, I hope I can learn to do that quicker.
Our kids throughout this learned to be more flexible and learned that home is where were all together. They got to travel to so many places and learn about new cultures as well as different parts of their own country. They are clueless that most toddlers don’t live in three countries in one year. We are so thankful for being able to provide such a unique experience and it makes the craziness so worth it. I’d do it all again as long as we’re all together. (But yeah, preferably not again ?).