Thursday, February 04, 2010

Six months and we're still alive!

We made it! It's been six months since we crossed the border into Mexico with our car full of pets and enough food to feed them for a year.* And of course we had Scott's bike. And a new TV. And about three times as many clothes as we have actually worn, although my beloved Miami hoody has come in handy lately.

If you've been following along on the blog, you may have the impression that we are counting down until this adventure is over, but that's not really true. We are enjoying it...maybe not EVERY minute, but overall, we are enjoying it and if there is any counting down going on, it is to remind us to make the most of every day that we have here.

Today, school was canceled because of the crazy rain and wind we've had in the area this week and, for the first time, Brynn actually acted disappointed when she heard that she wouldn't be going to school today or tomorrow!

For Scott and me, her reaction was confirmation that she has not only adapted to the different culture at her school here, but also that she is enjoying school and this new experience. She has been staunchly opposed to admitting that she might possibly be having fun at school here, so seeing her let her guard down was really exciting.

When we first arrived, Brynn was having a tough time adjusting to school. I emailed a friend at home who has great perspective on issues like this and she said, "Hillary...don't minimize what you have asked of her. Regardless of how adaptable she is here in Colorado Springs, this is where she feels safe...don't tell her it will be ok and things will be fine. If it were me, I would tell her it sucks, and that it is scary and feels uncomfortable having to adjust. This validates where she is." She then went on to give me some tools for how to deal with Brynn's discomfort here and I have to say, her advice was a key to getting us through the tough first weeks when Brynn was really unhappy.

I am a minimizer, an avoider, and I have been for as long as I can remember. When something is wrong, my instinct is to pretend that everything is fine and hope that eventually the problem will just go away. Believe it or not, I actually teach conflict management as a part of interpersonal communication. You'd think I might model better behavior. My way of dealing with Brynn's unhappiness in our first weeks and months here was not the best way to care for Brynn and I am SO thankful for my friend who set me straight. Brynn may have adapted just as well if I had ignored her problems, but she wouldn't have felt like she had an ally in the process.

Callie, on the other hand, adapted relatively quickly and easily. She immediately became friends with a great group of girls at school and has remained friends with them all year long. She loves her teachers, she loves her class, and she is absolutely flourishing in the environment here. The one problem we've had here is Callie's lack of sleep. She goes to sleep later here, wakes up earlier, and rarely naps, all of which lead to more cranky moods and more tantrums. Barring those problems, this has been a really positive experience so far for Callie.

Returning to Colorado is going to be bittersweet for us. While we really love our neighborhood and our school and our access to the mountains and open space where we live, we will miss the beach, the slower pace of life here, and much more. I will especially miss the girls' school, where I see DAILY the evidence of my children being adored by their teachers and working independently and interactively within a strict structure that benefits them in so many ways. When school starts next fall, I know that my kids will return home with piles and piles of silly worksheets. I know that I will go volunteer in my kids' classroom only to be saddened by the harried pace at which their days progress. I will be frustrated by the food choices available to them in the cafeteria and so I will pack their lunches every day so that I can be sure they are eating healthy food.

I will love being back in my house with only my dog and my cats and my kids instead of all of the animals and kids who live in my neighborhood. I will love getting my CSA box again and I will love spending time at our pool with my closest friends. I will love not having to douse myself and my children in mosquito repellent in fear of Dengue. I will love sleeping under a down comforter in June, July, August, and September without lying in a pool of my own sweat. I will love to get back into my fun little car and to be able to drive it on smooth roads. I will love being back at my church and being able to worship in a renewing, familiar environment.

But, there is a lot here that I will miss.

*There is, of course, pet food available here. We're just, well, you know...picky about the quality of the food our family eats and how we spend our votes (dollars) when it comes to buying food, even pet food. So we chose to bring a year's supply of pet food from The Honest Kitchen for Nacho and Libbie, who are both on special diets, and we are buying Kirkland Signature food for Anna until we get home and put her back on her normal Halo diet.

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