the week before last we were in austin as a family, from wednesday to sunday. i had returned solo with bina back in november of 2016. this was our first trip all together since we moved to michigan in may of 2016. we had a really nice visit. bina slept a lot more than last time! always a plus. we didn't sleep much because we stayed up way too late of course. had to make the most of our time with some of our favorite people! and while i did experience thoughts of "this is what our life would have been like if we had stayed," i didn't feel as strong of a pull as i did last november. time is passing and we are growing roots in michigan. the visit felt like the closure i so desperately needed on that season of our lives. i didn't have the chance to get it when it felt like we left so abruptly and in such busy chaos that we didn't have time to think about and process the changes we were going through.
on wednesday when we arrived we decided to tour our old neighborhood while bina took a short car nap. we drove by our old house, saw the new school that was being built when we left. i was struck by the diversity of the kids out on the playground. i hadn't noticed it as much when we lived in austin. when bina woke we made a stop at the play for all abilities park north of where we used to live. more diversity there. i spoke with a woman who was wearing a headscarf. her son and bina were "sharing" sand buckets. we talked about this stage, and she asked how i managed to get bina's hair elastic out of her hair without ripping out her hair. i don't. ha. i kind of marveled at how easy it was to encounter and interact with people who look differently than me. that is more difficult to do in our neighborhood in michigan, which is mostly white demographically. it made me mourn the loss of such beautiful diversity in austin, and mourn the loss of the opportunity for bina to attend school amidst such diversity. if she were to attend school in our city in michigan, she would hardly experience any.
on friday of our visit we spent the morning at UT austin. it was the only cloudy and somewhat rainy day of our five days in austin. which was oddly fitting for our mood.
returning to campus is bittersweet. though david's studies seemed to be a dead end in terms of launching a career, so much of our lives were invested in that path. for me, UT was the place where i finally felt like i was progressing in my own career, only to leave it seemingly prematurely. i could have seen myself retiring there if we had stayed. i had a shorter visit with old coworkers this time. i was glad to hear how well things were going in the department. it also made me sad to not be a part of it myself!
when we left campus that day, i had mixed feelings. i also only remembered all the good things about my job, and not all the hard things. now that i'm almost a year removed, it's hard to remember what it was like to leave bina while i went to work. how much i missed her when i was gone. how much it bothered me that she spent more time with other caregivers than me, her mother. how frustrating and annoying it was to pump milk. so i let myself think for a moment about how different things would be if we had stayed. how i would still be a part of the graduate program in the department of biomedical engineering. how i would know my job even better than i did and have almost completed my third year there. i enjoyed the people i worked with and for. i was well supported in my role as a working mom. i had my beloved window office! i felt accomplished after each major milestone completed. after each event, improving based on what i learned from the prior year. i was sad when we left campus that day, under cloud cover and just beating the torrential downpour (thank god!).
whatever decision mothers make, whether to work full time and do full time childcare, work part time and do part time childcare, or be a stay at home mom, there are sacrifices we have to make. i thought back to when i felt like god presented us with a fork in the road and said, "here are two viable options. each of them requires sacrifice. each of them is good. pick one." so we weighed the sacrifices each road required, and we decided the ones we were more comfortable with making were the ones that led us to uproot and move our lives to my home state of michigan.
after visiting UT and feeling down about the sacrifices we made to leave, i thought again about the sacrifices we would have had to make if we had stayed. first and foremost, the commute. ha. further, it wouldn't be financially feasible for me to stay home with bina. if we had chosen to have another child, i would still need to return to work because the cost of daycare wouldn't be enough to justify the loss of my income. that would probably have led us not to consider having more than two children. we wouldn't be near any family. we wouldn't have been able to afford a larger home, and we probably would have downsized even further to get closer to campus to shorten our commutes long term.
and then i thought about how much i enjoy being at home with bina now. how much i enjoy seeing her grow and develop. how much i have learned in the time since i have become a mother. how much she has taught me in her 21 months. how much i enjoy bina being able to grow up around one set of her grandparents. how much i love our church. how much i am enjoying the relationships i have built over the last year. how excited i am about our adoption journey. how thankful i am for the space of our current house. how much i love our quiet neighborhood, with birds and lawnmowers being the sounds i hear most in warmer months, and shovels and snowblowers being the sounds i hear most in cooler months.
i love our lives here in michigan. i loved our lives in austin too, but now michigan feels like home. i knew it would take about a year to feel this way again, as that has always been my experience with cross country moves. and so. i feel like we we have finally made it though. i thought we made it four months post move, but that turned out to be just the start of my mind and body reacting to all the stress and change of the prior 10 months. it wasn't until now, about 15 months past our decision to make this transition and about 11 months after our move, that we are on the other side of the hard transitions. now we can enjoy returning to our beloved austin to visit friends and eat lots of great food and experience 80 degree weather in march, and be content with the decision we made to relocate to michigan. instead of continuing to mourn the loss of our lives in austin, i finally experienced some closure.
we did love those four years of our lives in austin. we have some very valuable austin souvenirs we brought with us: jake, bella, and bina. not to mention artwork and furniture and UT austin paraphernalia. austin was where we experienced the most painful and fruitful growth in our marriage thus far. it's where we adopted our first pet. bought our first house. adopted our second pet. had our first baby. sold our first house. we experienced some major milestones during our time in austin. and now, our new chapter in michigan is in full swing. we both left full of love for austin and our dear friends there, and also with an assurance that we are glad that we made the sacrifices it took to allow me to be home with bina and back by some of our family. being a stay at home mom isn't the right choice for every mom, but it was the right choice for me and my family.
now enough of the sappy stuff. during our visit, bina's schedule was WAY off. she was up until 10-11pm (11pm-midnight our time). and she napped from like 3-4pm (4-5pm our time). but all things considered, she handled the trip really well. we got some really sweet photos of her during our visit. my favorites are below.
this pink bench. that face. adorable.
jesus himself gave me this amazing photo opp in the bluebonnets. praise him. he also led me to put bina in that sweet dress. i had her in another outfit and decided to change her last minute. because jesus knew he was going to give me these photos.
besides our friends, i most miss austin food! here we are in front of a taco food truck with our lovely hosts and one of their two fur babies. mmm mmm breakfast tacos.
and italian food truck.
so much good food.
and we couldn't leave without a quintessential austin photo of us in front of one of the many graffiti art walls.
we got back from austin at 9pm the sunday before last. we weren't in our home until after 10pm. the next day david's brother and his family were coming to stay with us for a few days. they are missionaries in nicaragua and we hardly ever get to see them, so their visit was a special treat. they are a crew of six! we were so exhausted from the austin trip and i knew that bina would be off her schedule while family was here, so i just decided to toss aside our normal routine and go with the flow. i figured i could work back to our normal routine the next week. it's all good. thankfully i had time on monday before everyone arrived to clean and grocery shop. and then we had a blast hosting everyone from monday through thursday last week.
i had the revelation a few months ago that i am actually an extrovert when before i thought i was an introvert. becoming a stay at home mom taught me this. so i actually loved having david's brother and his wife and their four kids, ages 18 months to 12 years old, in our home. it was chaos, and it was fun! i enjoyed figuring out dinner the first few nights (wednesday my dad and step mom graciously hosted our crew for pizza, lifesavers) and just trying to keep the house somewhat picked up and clean (dishes and sweeping were my two main jobs). i started thinking: i think i really am ready to grow our family. and it took our return to austin and closure for that season, and then hosting david's brother's family in our home for me to realize that. i love my family. i love my life. and i'm excited for the future. i want the beautiful chaos of life in my house. let's do this!
when david's brother and his family left on thursday afternoon, i found the house eerily quiet! i know we're still a ways out from getting placed with a baby for adoption, but, god willing, i'm really looking forward to that day. i think bina is too. she LOVES babies. every morning while our visiting family was here, she climbed onto the air mattress setup in our smallest room for our two nephews. one morning she brought one of her many baby dolls with her. and of course, even their outfits matched. then she proceeded to "read" a book to baby.
so. much. love.
now, i think she will not be so keen on a sibling once she realizes she no longer has mama all to herself. but we will tackle that adjustment together, one day at a time. just like we tackled our adjustment to life in michigan. it may be bumpy, we may have some unexpected curve balls, and we will definitely need help from our tribe. but we will conquer! and to god be all the glory. cause we know it's all gonna be him working through these broken vessels to create his beauty out of brokenness. just like he has done in our lives thus far.