And we are so grateful we were able to celebrate it's grand arrival at HOME.
Here in the desert.
I cannot believe the whirlwind of activity going on in our family for the last couple weeks. In some ways I wish I had written more down...the sparkling of the eyes, the bursts of squeals of joy, the funny things the kids have said. But sometimes capturing those kind of moments of stillness in your heart is better than any kind of written record. I haven't even known were my computer is, let alone done any work on it. I have loved soaking in every magical thing about our renewed appreciation for home and Christmas and new beginnings in a new year. And I have treasured being fully present with my family through it all.
But oh how I want to remember these days.
Our kids worked their little guts out taking early finals in China...finished them off on the 23rd, and we boarded an airplane to leave Shanghai that night after a crazy packing hurricane and goodbyes to so many people we love there. I wrote in my real journal to keep track of the last few days in China. I scribbled down lots about last visits to the fake market, fabric market, homework galore and mixed emotions but for now it's easiest to just jot down a few excerpts from our flight back to kind of get caught up here.
I am sitting in a tiny commuter airplane from L.A. to Salt Lake City on our connection home from Shanghai, wondering how in the world our small mountain of extra large boxes and suitcases can possibly fit in the underbelly of this miniature vessel and can actually be lifted so swiftly into the night sky.
The rest of my family is scattered through the plane (we couldn't get seats by each other) and all around us are native English speakers.
It feels so foreign.
Claire was in awe that all the signs in L.A. were written only in English and we were quite a spectacle trying to get through customs with all our "stuff."
My feet are perched carefully behind the bulk of the few small paintings my new Chinese artist friend Chen painted for me before we left (I've been protecting them like nobody's business) and my special Chinese vase is tucked safely in the overhead bin six rows behind me after I clutched it out of the dangerous grasp of the "gate-check" option. I am protecting these small souvenirs from our adventure in China just like I want to fiercely protect the memories we are carrying from there, spilling out of our hearts, the good with the bad. The frustrating along with the rich and rewarding.
Yesterday (really today but it seems like a week ago...the 23rd of December is the longest day in our history...you gain a day when you come home) was filled with suitcase packing, gift giving (neighbors and teachers), goodbye-saying, confusing chaos trying to get all our stuff packed into 14 suitcases and 14 bulky carry-ons. My brain was so foggy and full of emotions. Could I ever give sufficient thanks and returned love to all those people who helped us out so much on our China adventure? How in the world can I possibly cement all that we have learned into our family tapestry? How do you decompress from an adventure like this?
When Dave and I pulled our luggage off the rack in L.A. to re-check we couldn't help but give each other a huge hug. We did it: the adventure of a lifetime. We got through 18 flights, 12 airports, visited 5 countries, 0 lost bags, 0 accidents on crazy roads filled with all kinds of scooters, traffic and pedestrians, 562 hours of grueling homework (ok, estimate, but it sure seemed like that!), and countless lessons learned. It's too much to even write down. I'm too grateful. My heart is too full.
Now on to the next adventure: Utah Christmas and HOME.
We went through Utah on our way home to hang with my parents and Utah family (yes, lugging all that crazy luggage everywhere we went...which was so worth it!), and then we arrived HOME, kids squealing in delight, racing through the house, friends spilling in and out. Claire ran up to me in the middle of the hoopla with the hugest smile across her face, grabbed my arm and said, "let's never leave this place again!" And she was the one who shed tears when we left China.
As I lay down in our own bed after so many months of absence, I couldn't help but smile myself to sleep.
Home is a good place to be.
Sure we miss China. We all do. And we are all so grateful for it. But the whole thing made us appreciate this place more than ever before.
Now my girls are all snuggled in their beds, socks tied in their hair, backpacks laid out, anticipation glistening in their eyes for their third "first day" of school this year tomorrow morning. And the big kids, Dave and I are just chilling...basking in our last night of vacation. I'm bracing myself for re-enrolling all five kids in each of their three schools all around the same time in the morning, crossing my fingers all credits transfer smoothly and schedules won't be disrupted much. It's going to be a morning for the books.
Happy New Year to everyone!