Well, we did it. We survived our first year in Garden City.
This morning I was sitting in the living room, in our comfy red chair (thanks, Aunt Vernie and Uncle Dennis!), watching Bonnie fly around the living room and drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful sunlight in the front room. And I thought, for about the thousandth time this month, I am so glad that it is this year and not last year. Last year at this time we were frantically, exhaustedly, packing up more boxes, struggling with Bonnie, and saying goodbye to everything we knew. We were leaving our cozy little apartment and our good jobs and heading west, to a house without running water, or a refrigerator, or even worse, cable and internet. On December 30th of 2015, we weren’t even sure if the heat had been turned on in the house, or if there was electricity, or if U-Haul would really have a truck for us when we showed up the next morning.
We were excited, sure. We had been praying and planning and opening our hearts to life in Garden City for close to 3 years. But when it came time to go, to actually turn the dreams into a reality, it was incredibly frightening and uncertain. I had a good job lined up, but at a new college, with new people, in a totally new system. I was terrified. Steven was taking his job with him, but anxious about how it would work via distance, without an office, in a house without heat/water/electricity/internet. Bonnie’s entire world was being put into boxes around her and she responded by refusing to sleep and clinging to us every second of every day. I couldn’t blame her. With every box we packed, I wondered if we were making a huge mistake. With every step toward Garden, I worried that it was a step in the wrong direction. We kept moving forward, and I thought the excitement would overtake the fear. But the fear had remarkable endurance.
In the end, we made it. We packed up the U-Haul, said goodbye to dear friends and our beloved apartment, and made it all the way to Garden City, late on December 31st. We rang in the new year in our new place, and wondered what on earth 2016 had in store for us.
It was truly an adventure.
We spent New Year’s Day unloading the U-Haul with Matthew and Anna’s help. We had heat and electricity and a mini-fridge for Bonnie’s milk. My sisters and Anna had come over the day before to wipe down everything they could with clorox wipes and vacuum carpets and closets. Eventually, we got running water. Until then, we stayed at Dad’s house, ate sandwiches, washed bottles at Betsy’s, lived out of suitcases and boxes, and brushed our teeth with bottled water. The upstairs got all new plumbing. The bathroom got new fixtures and a new toilet and a new floor. We unpacked. Slowly, but surely, we unpacked some more. We got cable and internet and it started to feel more like a home. We rearranged furniture, and had people over for dinner. In March, after several meals on the couch and, in some cases, the kitchen floor, we finally got a real table and chairs (thanks, Linda!) In April, after several floods and more than one plumber, we successfully completed our first load of laundry in the house. We washed bottles in the sink, in the bathtub, at Dad’s house, at Betsy’s house, at the office. With God’s grace, we adapted, and then adapted again, and finally adapted some more.
Thankfully, we had a mild winter. Steven washed windows and blinds and curtains. Spring came early and the house got HOT. I missed our basement apartment in a whole new way. We bought a window unit and Steven installed it and we settled in again. Finally – cool air. We sweat a lot, but again, adapted. By the time fall came, we were comfortable. I forgot all about the rough parts. I was amazed to look back and realize just how long it had taken us to get situated. There are still boxes in the kitchen that have never been unpacked. We work around them, never pausing to put them away. There are a few things on the walls, but it’s largely undecorated. Somehow, it doesn’t matter. This is home. Bonnie is cute. Toys are everywhere. We are content.
On Cinco De Mayo, we found out I was pregnant. Bonnie was so small. We were still so unsettled. It was unexpected sure, but a blessing. A beautiful gift. A reminder to be thankful, to refocus, to have a little perspective amidst the chaos. In June, I took a new job. In July, Steven took several new jobs. This fall we worked hard, harder, hardest. Bonnie went back to daycare full-time and flourished. We got more involved with the church and started to build a real community here. We had people over for football games, cooked food, made friends, got busy. Life now looks closer to what I had imagined a year ago. We are here. We are really here, building a life and a family and a home. We made it.
We have learned oh so much this year. We learned about plumbing, so much about plumbing. We learned that living without a dishwasher is not the biggest hardship – it’s living without central air. I learned to just buy curtains. There’s not always time to make them, and they make a world of difference. We learned that when you have wonky plumbing, you should always check the basement. Always, always, always check the basement. We learned just how expensive it is to not check the basement. Seriously, guys. Just go down there. Steven learned the joys of tree removal. So much tree removal. We learned that a wooden spoon is infinitely easier and more effective at keeping Bonnie out of the kitchen cabinets than any child proofing mechanism on the market. We learned to eat meals together with Bonnie and to pray together and to honor bedtime. We learned to sleep train. (God bless sleep training). We learned about Bonnie, about each other, about working hard and communicating and persevering in prayer. We learned to be patient. Patient with each other, with Bonnie, with ourselves, with God.
Bonnie learned so many things in this wonderful house. She learned to sit up, to eat solid food, to scoot, and then crawl, and then walk, and then run. She learned to dance and blow her nose and ask for milk and drink from a cup. She learned the hokey pokey and the itsy bitsy spider and ring around the rosy. She learned to climb and blow kisses and wrap us around her finger even more.
2017 will bring even more change. We’ll meet this new baby (boy or girl? I still say boy). We’re house shopping. Maybe we’ll be house buying and moving again and starting all over, with (fingers crossed!) fewer plumbing problems. There might be more job changes, because, with us, there always seem to be job changes. Bonnie will turn 2, become a big sister, change more in every minute than we do all year. She will give us sweet hugs and sloppy kisses and wipe her nose on my shirt and fill my heart with more peace and joy than I could ever have imagined. And there will be another one! A brand new human to love immeasurably, to be changed and saved by. We will be sleep deprived. We will be overwhelmed. Just when we feel like we’re surely drowning in diapers and spit-up and fear and worry and sticky, needy, jam hands, we will be buoyed by love, so much love.
May God bless you in your own unpredictable life in 2017. However you can, fill it with babies. They save us in so many ways.
PS – You might have noticed that I’m not regularly updating this blog. I switched to a weekly email format in September that has been working MUCH better. If you’d like to get weekly updates on the Miller family and pictures of Bonnie and Fievel, send me your email and I’ll add you to the list!