Wednesday, August 26, 2015

All Our Lives in a Month

We made it to Chicagoland.  They really call it that here, so I wasn't too far off when I said we were moving to Chicago-ish. More about that later.  Now, I want to share about our month-long road trip...since we left CA a month ago today.  

Our time leading up to our trip was sweet and hard...full of fun last things and also broken arms, broken cars, bodily fluids and all sorts of other complications.  I only took pictures of the sweet stuff, don't worry.

Our goodbye time with Kendra and Paul was an impromptu trip to the San Diego Zoo.  What a great day we had together and with all the cute fuzzy animals.

There were other sweet and tearful goodbyes...between friends, students who became like family, and kids who were the best English teachers and hosts anyone could ask for.

We sure loved our Fullerton house, but all good things come to an end...that's part of what makes them so good.  And one day the good things won't come to an end--that's a great consolation to me.  I want our kids to understand that, too.  Jeremy and I spent our last moments before sleep reading some of the wonderful entries in our guest book from our year at iHouse Fullerton.  We were blessed.

And then there was saying goodbye to my parents, Grandma and Krampaw.  They were so sweet and cheerful about it all--they may have been putting on a brave face for us, and I appreciated it.  That's what love does.
A sweet moment of playing one more round of Five Crowns as Jeremy and I had the super fun marital experience of packing a small car for a month-long move across the country.  Is this how the pioneer wives felt?  I think maybe so.

 Here we are on July 27th, with tears in our eyes and uncertainty and excitement about the journey ahead...the cargo container representing the mostly blank canvas of memories ahead of us.

I called this post "All Our Lives in a Month" because our trip seemed to be a flashback tour of old friends, old stomping grounds, old memories...and yet the whole time feeling buoyed along toward our new future by the love and hospitality we received along the way. I kept likening our trip to pioneers on the Oregon trail, only we were headed in the opposite direction...and instead of all new experiences, we were walking and driving through old memories. So I guess it was the opposite. It was so sweet and rich and made me feel deeply thankful.

Our first stop was at the Irvine's home in Phoenix.  We have known Matt and Emily since college, then our families became friends and neighbors during our years back in Flagstaff.  Emily and I walked the streets of our neighborhood the night before Annie was born, trying to get my labor to come, and their family happened to be eating in the same restaurant as Sam and Evan and Jeremy's mom and sister when Annie was born and they witnessed Sam announcing to the restaurant that his little sister was just born.  I mostly wanted to relish the moments together and didn't take any pictures except these 2 of our little birthday celebration for Annie on the morning of the 28th.  It seemed fitting that Emily and her gang were celebrating Annie's birth once again with us.

We spent a day at Jeremy's grandparent's house...we had a sweet and fun time just being together, taking rides on the golf cart, repacking the car (marital stress finally resolved), looking at old slides, playing with Jigger (the dog) and Elvis (the cat) and going to dinner at Chilis.  The kids were so sweet, and when Jeremy's grandma had serious back pain, Evan burst out with the idea that we pray for her on the spot.  What a good day.

Annie's birthday ended with a little celebration at the house of my old friend from high school youth group, Ann Marie, and her family.  They had brownies with frosting and candles and even a little gift.  We stayed up late talking and the kids hit it off with Pete and Jamie. Later, Ann Marie texted me to say that Pete asked when their cousins were coming to visit again...which was confusing until she realized he was talking about us.  We'll be surrogate cousins, no problem!
Our two girls were spitfire peas in a pod.  They played hard and fought and made up like they had known each other forever.
And that concluded the planned portion of our month-long trip.  Yep, we only had one day planned when we left California.  Our generous friends in Flagstaff offered their homes to us, and so we solidified our plans as we drove up to Flag, stopping at our favorite creek swimming hole in Sedona on the way up.  Annie and I even ate wild blackberries while the boys cliff-jumped and rode around on floating logs to their hearts' content.  

Flagstaff was full of all the things that make Flagstaff wonderful.  Memories, beautiful scenery, old friends, traditions...our hearts.  You've heard me talk about Flagstaff too much, so I will refrain for now.  And of course we weren't able to see all the people we would have loved's always hard to figure out how to manage our time when we are there.  If it were just up to me, I'd have every minute scheduled with someone!
Little America truck stop for ice cream and dinosaur playing, of course.  And no one stepped in poo this time, which is an accomplishment since they assigned the pet relief area on the same patch of grass where the children have always played.

$0.75 ice cream, oh yeah.  We went twice.
Our children endured our guided tour of NAU without too much groaning as we pointed out places that are really only significant to us and a few of our other friends who are starting to have wrinkles and gray hairs like us.

A Louie photo bomb, awesome.

We bounced around between open spots in the Rohr's iHouse--avoiding vacationers--and the Cornelius' apartment.  Christy was gracious enough to host us even though they live in an apartment (where they work as community event planners) with their new baby and 2 bigger kids.

We saw so many sweet friends and the kids mostly picked up and played like no time had passed.
Annie and Bonnie, two nursery babies from the same period at FCF

Evan and Gus, two stinkers...also babies together at FCF

Bianca and Kaci

Three out of the original Fantastic Four...Sam's old school friends, Jacob and Dylan.

Sarah Tomich, expecting a girl! after 4 boys, and Christy--holding a suprise a baby after 9 years of no babies and no plans for babies.  And me. No babies for me, please.

Kaci and Sarena, and old MOPS and lightning-chasing friend.
Two of my bestest former roommates still live in Flagstaff.  The bonds between us are as strong as ever, even though the years pass and even though I was a really messy roommate.
Kaci and Sarah--roommates for 2 years, one of the years full of ups and downs as one of our roommates died and half of us were engaged and one of us was student teaching which made her (me) even more messy than usual.  "What's my ISSUE?!"

Kaci and Amanda--who took me in when my other housing option fell through sophomore year.  We didn't know anything about each other except that she was from a small town in the mountains and I was like totally from Orange County California.  She also put up with me and all my stuff and I was there when her future husband (who she had hardly spoken to for a year while they were broken up) yelled up from the street below (in "Say Anything" style), "I love you, Amanda Wistoski" and they were married 3 months later.

One of Amanda's many offspring, Nathan.  Maybe these two will marry someday.  They really hit it off.

Our favorite park, Bushmaster.  Towering pine trees, fun playground, and only a few stabbings every year.
In addition to dinners and coffee dates with special friends, we had sweet times with the Rohrs--our close friends and Jeremy's old roommate from NAU.  I remember telling Mariah that we were pregnant with Evan and Annie, and each time watching her swallow back tears as she yearned so badly for a baby, and seeing her genuine joy for me, her friend.  She was there, literally when Annie was born, and we were there when they told us they were pregnant after 6 years of agonizing waiting.  I remember Mariah saying that our girls would be friends, even though Annie is almost 2 years older.  Well, they are now, and it is sweet to watch on so many levels.
Annie's note to Karli says: "I love you. I have so much fun."

"He settles the childless woman in her home as the happy mother of children.  Praise the Lord." --Psalm 113:9

Another infamous Evan photo bomb

We headed out of Flagstaff and felt the gravity of what was ahead of us.  It felt like the point of no return.  I played "Wide Open Spaces" by the Dixie Chicks as we drove out of Flagstaff.

In my moments of tearful reflection, Jeremy and the kids had the super-sensitive response of making farting noises and fighting relentlessly over whose arm was in whose space and laughing hysterically while Jeremy pretended to make Mrs. Plump drive the car.  Gets them every time. 

We headed into Colorful Colorado, by way of a beautiful drive through the Navajo Reservation (listening to Rich Mullins, of course), and 30 seconds in New Mexico near Four Corners. I kept taking it all in, realizing that nothing in the Midwest was going to look anything like this.

We oohed and aahhed at the beauty of Colorado, stopped at Walmart and filled what little space was left in the car with camping/food supplies, and then said a prayer that the car would make it over the upcoming mountain passes.  I drove the next 3 hours with a knot in my stomach. We still weren't sure where we would sleep that night, and we also had to coordinate with Jeremy's brother, Jack, because he was driving up from Tucson to meet us in CO the next day.
This is a moose, one of several we saw much better than this on our trip.  We saw some amazing animals.  But the kids' favorites were always the domesticated dogs at the houses we slept at (Osa, Jigger, Lucy, Angel, Piper, Libby).
We made it over Red Mountain pass...and it was amazing.  Amazing.  Old mines everywhere, peaks, snow, waterfalls, minerals, animals--even a bear!!!

We made camp at the campground of someone we knew from years ago--and he let us stay for free, which was great!

We spent the day exploring Ouray, CO. We loved it!  And the hot springs pool was the best pool I think I have ever been to!

We collected stickers along the way and put them on our cargo container as souvenirs to mark our journey.  The pioneers marked graves of lost companions with stacks of stones along their way, thankfully we just paid too much money for colorful stickers.  Just as meaningful, though, I'm sure.

Here is evidence that I am on this trip.  Hobo meals made from my hazy memory of the recipe from my girl scout days.

On our way out of Ouray, we stopped in Montrose to see where Jeremy and Jack lived for a few years when they were in elementary school. None of it seemed very picture-worthy, sorry guys. Then we headed on to Winter Park, CO.

Here we are at the top of Monarch pass at 11,300 feet.  I wasn't as stressed this time because we put some of our stuff in Jack's car. In my defense, Jeremy told me when we got the cargo container that we could put a dead body in there and still be fine, and then that totally wasn't true but I had already packed too much.  I ended up consolidating all the extra stuff into one big suitcase that I nicknamed "the dead body" and it became much easier to deal with our stuff every night. I still cringed every time I looked at that dumb suitcase.  Anyway, we made it through the mountains but we still didn't know where we were going to sleep.  And I was afraid of bears.

I couldn't stop exclaiming how beautiful everything was!  We found an awesome campsite at Kenosha pass--it was cold!  We found out later that we camped at over 10,000 feet!  Sam got sick, but we all still had a pretty good time.

Uncle Jack is an awesome campfire cook.  Hamburgers and eggs and sausage. Yum!  Much better than the cold pop tarts I was going to serve.

Our next stop was with Jeremy's friend/roommate from Kansas State University, Josh.  His family (wife Christi, kids Abby and Hannah (son Caleb wasn't there)) welcomed us to their cabin in Winter Park.  We had more great conversations, food, and enjoyment of the mountains.  I couldn't believe how blessed we were with their hospitality in such a beautiful place (and at the last minute!).

Somehow I didn't get a picture of Christi and I, but here are Josh and Jeremy after they spent most of the day riding mountain bikes down the ski slopes.  
The kids did the Alpine slides and Annie did the bungee jump/trampoline.  I told the kids the story about how my dad crashed us on the Alpine slide when I was little because he was trying to race my mom and sister in the other sled.  Somehow, in true father fashion, he protected me from any scratches while he tore up his clothes pretty bad!  My biggest fear was not that my kids would crash but that they would hold up everyone else who spent way too much money on the attraction by going way too slow.  I am so much more motivated by peer pressure than physical safety, it is a weakness in my character, I admit.

As we left Winter Park with promises to not wait another 12 years to see the Skows again, I had butterflies in my stomach because I had made plans for us to stay the night with a friend I met at camp (for 2 weeks) when I was 18 and hadn't seen since.  We had been penpals for a while in college and then reconnected a bit on Facebook.  The kids kept saying, "Now WHO are we going to see? How do we know them?" and it felt a little crazy explaining it to them.
This is the camp we met at--an amazing place for seniors headed off to college, I recommend it highly!
Well, within a few minutes of entering Amy's house and being welcomed by her family, I knew it wasn't crazy that we had come.  We had so much to talk about and it seemed our husbands and kids had lots in common, too.  Her husband, Bryan Dik, has a PhD and is a tenured professor at CSU.  Amy and I could see right away why we had become so close during our time at camp.  We just seemed like soul sisters.

I could go on and on telling about how amazing it was to be there with the Dik family...but I will sum it up as the bond we have in Christ, that we could trust each other and be open with each other and that the Diks could share their home with us so freely.  I hope my kids saw the power of God in our time there.

Bryan travels and speaks on the topic of "Calling" around the world.  He gave us a copy of his book, and later we saw that inside the cover he wrote "To Jeremy and Kaci, with admiration of your faithfulness to your calling."  What continued encouragement we felt as we were lifted and supported by such wonderful people along our felt like we were buoyed up and sped along by each interaction, and it felt like such confirmation for our mission.  It's like we crowd-surfed all the way to Chicago (bad analogy, but totally fitting).

We discussed recreating our old picture, but Amy admitted that she didn't have any short overalls or a winnie the pooh shirt anymore.  Oh well.

As we drove away into East Colorado and flat Kansas, I grieved the loss of the mountains and the places of feeling so "known" and alive.  Again, the kids fought and complained and that helped me move on.  (Actually, I think the kids did pretty great, staying as guests so many places, and unpacking and repacking the car so many times, and having little to entertain them in the car due to technology-free summer and my husband's aversion to totebags full of knick knacks in the car).

We stopped at K State to do another tour of the past.  It was hot and sticky, and the cicadas were so loud!  We bribed the kids to finish the walking tour with ice cream from the on-campus dairy shop (they don't call it Aggie-ville for nothin'--this is farm country, and kids get degrees in milking cows and stuff).  I tried to avoid looking at the signs in the buildings we entered that told where the students were to go in case of a tornado.  These things were weighty to me as I contemplated the fact that I was moving to this part of the country.

Lundgrens make it through life on prayer and ice cream.

We spent some wonderful time with Jeremy's cousin who is like a sister in many ways.  There were a lot of dogs to play with at their house, too, so Annie was happy terrorizing them.

We visited Science City in Union Station and didn't have time for all the good stuff there.  Kansas City is a really great place to go with kids, I'm serious.

While in Kansas City, we stayed with Jeremy's old friend from youth group and KSU, Kevin.
Kevin doesn't always dress like a pink power ranger princess, he is just a great dad.

While we were staying with Kevin and Leslie, there was a reunion of their old youth group.  We went, and Jeremy relished the opportunity to repay the favor of taking me somewhere with all of his old friends and me knowing no one, since it is so often the other way around.  It was fun seeing older ladies who knew him when he was a young teenager exclaim when they saw him.  He enjoyed seeing so many people after more than 20 years...and felt sort of funny to say that he was college.

Like all the ladies on our trip, Leslie was another kindred spirit and wonderful hostess.  We talked about lots of good stuff and enjoyed seeing our husbands together.  They aren't just old friends, they are going to be lifelong friends.
We began to feel really antsy about getting to Chicago, but didn't want to spend too much money on a hotel once we got there, so we made plans to camp for a few more nights in Missouri.  Jack continued on with us, which was really great.  We drove by the headquarters of the ministry he serves with, Child Evangelism Fellowship.  We saw lots of dead armadillos but I never got my wish of seeing a live one.

Evan got really into chopping wood.  Maybe we need to get that kid a hatchet for Christmas!

Sam was feeling sick again, poor guy.

We definitely communed with nature and felt the presence of the jungle-like forest of the Missouri woods.  Very different from the pine forests of the west! And Annie got a tick stuck in her!

We hiked to a spring, which turned out to be pretty small, but so refreshing!

Evan got his dream-come-true and got to see so many raccoons close up in person!  They were soooooo cute...until night fell.  Then, they lived up to their nickname of being bandits!

Jack and I spent the last night fighting off the raccoons--every time we turned around with our flashlights, those rascally shiny eyes would be there taunting us.  Jack had to chase one down to get our pepper shaker, and I had no idea raccoons loved coffee so much!  They almost got away with ours!

Our last morning of camping, we packed up and then stopped outside of St. Louis to meet my cousins who happened to be driving through St. Louis on their way from Oregon to West Virginia.  It was fun to make it work and meet as our paths crossed for the first time in over 20 years.  Family is family and it is so wonderful to feel connected, no matter how many years pass.  They were so sweet to want to make a detour to see us.

Then it was the last leg of our trip, from Southern Illinois up to Chicagoland. I may have been worried that a tornado was forming a number of times along the way...whatever.
As we drove, I finished reading "The Watchmaker's Daughter" outloud to the kids.  It is the autobiography of Corrie ten Boom, written for young people.  It was so good to have her story in our minds as we all experienced a range of emotions about our move.  She lived through extremely difficult conditions in a concentration camp during WWII, and yet she and her sister chose to see God's leading in where they had to go and always sought to serve others, no matter how bad things got.  They thanked God for everything, and were a living proof that there can be beauty even in the hardest of times.  Our move isn't that hard, and there are lots of good things about it.  But it was good to be reminded of seeing our circumstances through God's eyes, and to be ready to serve Him, no matter what.

So here is where the story ends for now, with a cargo-container full of colorful stickers and hearts full of the love we received on our journey. We go forward now, knowing the way might not be easy, but that the blessings along the way and the reward at the end are worth it.  It's a long, hard road, with a good, good end.