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I mentioned that in my last post I have been avoiding blogging lately because life has been hard and no one really wants to share about the hard times.  Someone asked me a few weeks ago how we were doing since we moved down here and the best way I can describe it is “Miserably Happy.”  I don’t want to paint a picture that we are down here in sunny Florida living our best life ever, but at the same time I don’t want to portray that life is horrible and sad here either.  It’s a complicated mix of the two.  I had a daughter sobbing uncontrollably on her floor 2 nights ago because life is so different and hard here, and tonight she’s out at a movie with a new friend and I even saw her laughing and smiling.  That is just about the torn tension we are living in and learning to grown through.  Dan is in Wisconsin this weekend helping at our old church as they move to a new space.  This is the 4th time he has been able to go back and my heart aches to get myself back there.  I am holding down the fort here this weekend and I am really truly happy that Dan was able to go back and use his talents and gifting to help the church.  One of the pieces of advice that I give my kids as we figure out our new “normal” here is to focus on the good.  Focus on what IS going right and on what IS good.  I thought, in order to help myself remember all the good that is happening, I would blog about the good.  So….here, my friends, is a slice of the good.

We celebrated Lanie’s 9th birthday at our second home…the Magic Kingdom!  Dan’s birthday was 2 days before Lanie’s so I guess you can say we celebrated his birthday there as well.  I know Disney isn’t for everyone and some people love it and others hate it.  When we go it’s always a toss up if it will be a good day to do Disney or if it’s too hot and crowded to stay…but on Lanie’s birthday, it was a great day to be there!  Not every little girl gets the joy of spending the day at Disney for their birthday and Lanie soaked it up!  It was a good day to turn 9!  We took Dan to Hollywood Studios a few days before his birthday and he was able to build himself a new remote controlled droid (I think that’s what they are called) from the new Star Wars land.  It’s hard to be sad when you are on the happiest place on earth!

The kids have settled in at school and have found themselves trying out and participating in sports.  Our beautiful ballerina has moved on to cheerleading for the year.  Watching one of your kids give up something they were born to do (at least in my eyes) and try something else is so hard but yet so inspiring at the same time.  Abbie has surprised us the most of any of our kids with this move.  She has gone from a girl to a young woman.  She misses her WI friends so much and I find her FaceTiming and talking to them a lot, but she has also opened herself up to make a few friends here which we didn’t think would ever happen for that sweet child of ours!!  Sadie has still been battling with turf toe and had to sit out the cross country and fall soccer season.  The very last race was at the ESPN sports complex in Orlando and there was NO way that child was going to miss that run.  So with no training or meets for the season, she mustered up enough strength and courage to run.  It wasn’t her personal record and her toe was killing her, but she finished and is looking forward to healing for the next CC season.  Basketball tryouts are tomorrow for her and I can’t wait to see her back on the court.  That is another good thing that we are focusing on here.  While we loved our WI high school dearly, the competitiveness of the athletes was crazy good.  Sadie would never have tried out for basketball there, but because we are at a smaller school the opportunity to make a team is greater.  Gavin just wrapped up his flag football season and is now playing fall baseball and he also just made the basketball team.  While that boy is a bit shorter than most in his class, he sure is fun to watch when he competes!  All of the kids are involved in something.  Our schedule is just as crazy and wild as it was before and little by little we are trying to make this “home.”

Our sweet Griffs has become the toothless wonder here!  One day I am picking him up from soccer practice and he has a mouth full of teeth and at his next game he is missing half of his teeth!  Our baby is gonna be 8 in a few weeks.  Time does not slow down, that’s for sure!

After celebrating our September birthday’s, we moved right into October to celebrate Molly and Kenadie.  This was the first year I wrapped their birthday gifts!!  I wanted to start a new tradition down here.  In WI, we never wrapped their gifts.  I know, so lame.  I think that tradition started when we were in the thick of having 5 kids 5 and under and we didn’t have time to wrap gifts and were just thankful we remembered a birthday if I’m being honest!  I wanted to be a little more intentional with their birthday’s this year and we had mixed reviews from the kids!!  Maybe I’ll keep half unwrapped and wrap the other half next time.  Molly turned 17 and celebrated with a birthday bash at our house with a bunch of her new friends.  The next day Kenadie celebrated her 13th birthday with a pool party with her volleyball team.  While I don’t know many of the parents of the friends yet, the kids I am meeting have been so kind and welcoming to our children.  At Kenadie’s party I started to tear up as we sang happy birthday to her.  Since Kenadie was in grade school, she has been celebrating her birthday with the same group of awesome and amazing girls from WI.  They love and adore each other.  Kenadie and her best friend, Carrie, did everything together.  My heart longed for her WI friends to be here to sing and celebrate with her and I know Kenadie is missing them all so much.  This is the miserably happy world I am living in.  On one hand I was so happy that Kenadie wanted to have girls over to celebrate and yet on the other hand my mamma heart was so sad that she wasn’t celebrating with the friends she would have normally celebrated with.  Ahhhh, it’s just such a hard place to be in.

We have been blessed to have some family visit us over the past few months.  My niece, Sophia, flew down for a week and we just love her dearly.  While the kids had school and I had work, we were able to spend some good time with her!  I took her to the beach one day and we soaked up the sun.  Well, she didn’t soak it up because she lathered herself with sunscreen, but the sun sure felt good!  It is always sad when a part of your heart goes back to the place you love and it’s almost like you have to put the bandaid back on your wound and heal some more.  It makes the time we have together more precious and intentional for sure and that means the hugs might last longer and the phone calls have to fill in the gaps for now. On one of the days that I was struggling to hold it together, my dove wrapper said this, “keep life moving forward, looking back is only for time travelers.”  I know that sounds cheesy and childish, but in that moment that one little dove chocolate gave me a gentle reminder.  God has great plans for us.  While it’s ok to look back and see what He has done, it’s also exciting to look forward to was He IS going to do.

A piece of “good” for me here in Florida is the weather.  I snapped these pictures on my morning ride to work the other day (safely while stopped behind a bus of course).  I am watching our WI community start to post pictures of kids wearing hats and gloves, trick or treating in the rain and basically looking freezing cold.  Currently my morning consists of trying to decide if I should bring a light sweatshirt to work in case I get cold in the air conditioning!  There was a morning last week where it actually felt a little cool and we all got excited and we ran back in for sweatshirts…and then by the time we left school at 3:30 I think it was 88 degrees and hot.  I don’t think I will ever get sick of the blue skies filled with fluffy clouds.  That was something I longed for in WI and while the sun can be annoying and hot, it’s better than gray skies and gloomy days.  See?!?!  I am focusing on the good!

And as I wrap up my blog “pep talk” to myself on the good, I will close with this.  If I would have known how hard moving would have been, I would have never agreed to it.  I don’t like change.  I hate being away from everyone and everything I knew.  I have guilt like you wouldn’t believe for “doing this” to our kids on a daily basis.  My heart longs for everything we knew back home.  I miss my family and would give anything to give all my nieces and nephews a hug.  I’d take a date at the Cheesecake Factory in a heart beat with Michelle or an afternoon meeting at Nellie’s house while her kids nap or a day at our old church planning for the weekend with Tina, Kristen, Nicole and Mary or a walk with Jennie or a after school conversation with Tammy about the weekend plans for our girls or a dinner with the Tinus clan or a hug from Mr. Mark reminding me of a Father’s Love or a shopping date with my mom and sister-in-laws or a basketball game at St. Paul’s filled with familiar friends and faces or a haircut and highlights done by my sweet friend Amber or or or.  I could go on and on and on.  I have said this a million times, but what I miss most about WI is the people I had the privilege to do life with there.  The community we had.  The love we shared.  It is SO hard to plop yourself in a new state and have to build a new community of people all over.  Everyone in WI knew how wild and crazy we are.  People in Florida don’t know us so when we are our wild and crazy selves we live in the constant state of wondering if people want to be a part of our wild and crazy of if they’d rather just run from us!  I feel like I should hand out friend “references” to everyone we meet down here.  Here, call these people and have them tell you a little about us and maybe that won’t scare you away! While I have gotten way off topic now, my point was this…while trying to figure out new friends and who our “community” will be down here, that has meant we have had to lean on each other more.  Our family bond has definitely become stronger and for that reason alone, I would move any day, anywhere…because that is the ONLY thing that matters.  Each of our children are stronger than I could have ever imagined them being.  Life lessons are being learned.  New friendships are being made.  Family time is much more frequent and I do feel like walking through something like this together has made us stronger.  I mean 1 year ago my 17 year old daughter would not have climbed into bed with me and asked me to help her type her paper while she dictated it to me at 11:00pm while Jack Skellington watched over us and 1 year ago the sister bond that these 3 now have would not be there because they would not have had to rely on each other to get through this together.

God is in this.  He is providing what we need here in Florida.  He is moving people into our lives that make us smile and fill the holes of community we are feeling.  We have met some pretty awesome people and we are just beginning to open ourselves up.  Some days we are miserable.  Some days we are happy.  Some days we are a happy mix of the two.  We aren’t in the clear and I know we have a long way to go.  The thought of packing up and moving back crosses our minds more than anyone probably would ever admit.  For now, this is where we are.  We are a wild and crazy family with a love for the Lord and a love for each other and while we are “miserably happy” we are so grateful for our miserably happy life.