Ode to supportive family and friends
Before writing this piece, I googled "ode" and clarified that is is poetic in nature, which this post is surely not to be. But I have opted to keep this as my title because in my mind, I hope to sing the praises of the amazing family and friends who have made the last few weeks of our transition from our Madison home to our temporary Wisconsin home (thanks Mom and Dad!) to our Costa Rican home (which we arrive to tomorrow - woo-hoo! I'm writing now from a hotel during an overnight layover in Newark!) literally possible. Anyone who thinks they are going to move abroad with little kiddos and do so without some amazing support is crazy (or hella rich and can just pay for everything to get done without batting an eye...). Because, trust me, this process is messy and pricey and mental-and-just good-'ol-general support is an absolute must if you're going to survive it!
Here's a list of that support system in our lives over the past few weeks. These people ROCK, and we are very grateful.
1. My gramma (of course the gramma comes first!): About a week before we moved out of our house, she and my mom offered to come by and pick up a bunch of junk furniture we had to haul to a dumpster. They showed up in our driveway the day after with an SUV and a mission: to cram all the stuff that wouldn't sell (and couldn't even be given away) into the trunk. We dismantled bookshelves ("Sara, just get a hammer!"), smashing stuff to smaller pieces out there on the sidewalk, which was actually welcome therapy for all the other stressors going on at that moment. At one point, I was smashing the side of a stubborn bookshelf case, and she came over, seemingly disappointed, as I was unable to break it loose with my incessant hammering. "Sara, let me show you how to do this..." She took her bare hands and forcefully thrust the vertical shelf toward the ground. It immediately snapped off, and she picked it up and threw it in the car. Well, that made me feel a bit pathetic. "I've smashed my share of furniture over the years," she told me. This woman is amazing.
2. My uncles: Uncle #1 owns a construction company and responded to my (ridiculous, I'll admit) request to refer me to someone with a forklift and a trailer to move Johel's COVID playhouse from our urban backyard 26 miles into the country to my parents' pasture.
This was decided in a moment of nostalgia a few weeks back as the kids and I read books and picnic'd in it, and it made me a bit sick to think that it would just become a potential storage unit for the incoming kid-less homeowners. My uncle, instead of recommending someone, tracked down a second trailer in addition to his own and headed over with his bobcat. The day before we closed, Johel removed a chunk of our fence and in drove my uncle, hoisting this heavy structure up, expertly maneuvering around our fire pit, clothesline, neighbor's garage, and all kinds of electrical cables, and depositing on a snowmobile trailer. Off it went into the country where it now sits happily in a grove of trees. Uncle #2 didn't hesitate a bit when I texted asking if he could shuttle all our 17 (yes, that's right!) pieces of luggage to the airport (an hour or so round-trip) so that the five of use could ride with my parents in one car together on our day of departure. This, I hoped, would help not only from a space perspective - it would have been hard to decide which of the kids we would have wanted to leave behind in Madison in order to fit all the suitcases in the car to head to the airport - but also that then my parents, who are surely a bit sad (this is a major understatement) could ride home together after leaving us behind.
3. My siblings: Both my younger sister and my older brother & sister-in-law made efforts to visit us from out-of-state during our last few weeks in Madison, which was a major treat, in particular for our kids. My sister took little Leo for a much-needed one-on-one sleepover (this poor kid had literally two 3-year-old centered playdates since COVID started and was in desperate need of attention). My older brother & sister-in-law came during our garage sale to take all three kids to downtown for several hours (I think truthfully they were planning on taking just the oldest two, but I slipped Leo in the backseat of their car when they weren't looking). All kiddos were in heaven, and it gave us a much-needed break.
4. My friend and quasi-neighbor: In addition to taking a bunch of our stuff for the year (drum set, camping gear....), saving me a trip to storage, this amazing woman was willing to come and help me clean our house the day before closing. More importantly, she showed up with frozen yogurt cups and her own spoons (because she knew mine would already be packed!) and brought her own kid to distract mine while we worked. (If you think you can clean your empty house-of-11-years while your three young kiddos just "hang out peacefully", you're nuts. It's basically Hunger Games waiting to happen as they have nothing better to do than get on each other's nerves before ultimately just trying to kill each other - unless, of course, you beat them to it out of stress. Get a sitter or send them elsewhere!). This woman literally cleaned my house from bottom to top; I, meanwhile, basically wiped out my spice drawer, washed two toilets and confusingly moved boxes back and forth between rooms. When my parents showed up to take a load to storage, she hauled boxes out to the car. She even volunteered to run items to St. Vincent's thrift store to save me a trip. I didn't have to ask for any of it: she just offered and did it. I am so, so grateful!
5. All of our honest Tico laborers working on aspects of our house (our former, crappy project manager/architect is excluded here): our Costa Rican dream-house turned into a total nightmare project mid-May and has been that way ever since. On August 23, we finally parted ways with our (horrible, dishonest) architect/project manager and since, Johel has been trying to pick up the pieces to get the house livable by the time we arrive tomorrow. (Trust me, this was a huge feat!) But with the help of a few good references, in the last week, a lot of stuff has gotten done because the people who are remaining on the job are doing amazing, efficient work: they are reliable, hard-working, trustworthy, and talented. While this loss-of-in-country manager as resulted in Johel literally living on his WhatsApp 24/7 for a week, everything is falling into place thanks to all the people who have committed to doing their job well. We are very grateful (and yes, it looks like we might even have electricity within a day or two of moving in...woo hoo!) This gives you an idea of how low our expectations have gotten in relation to our house timeline thanks to the messiness of the project!
6. My Tica sister-in-laws: A lot of what is good in #5 is thanks to several of Johel's sisters who have willingly stepped into the role of quasi-project managers, running errands to purchase needed building supplies (faucets, sinks, mirrors) for the house, buying and coordinating shipping of some much-needed furniture (mattresses! Yay!), or making payments to subcontractors who have completed their work. Just today, as we got on the plane, Johel was getting frantic messages from his younger sister as she was shopping at a store, snapping photos of stool options for our kitchen island so the kids would have somewhere to eat breakfast. Rumor has it, a task force of his sisters is heading into the house tomorrow morning to clean it up so we aren't moving into a construction-dusted site with all of our belongings.
7. My parents (of course the parents are saved for last): For just about everything else that made it possible to get through the last few weeks, from lending us their trailer for days on end to haul all of our personal belongings to either their house or their office storage space to watching the kids so we could have one last date-night where we didn't have to share our beloved Graze cheese curds, we are grateful. We lived at their house, ate their food, drove their cars, washed our clothes in their washing machine, and had our kids loudly take over their home (there were daily kiddo - and periodic adult - meltdowns to put up with). My mom even went out and replaced her customary unsalted butter with salted just so that when I began baking at 10 at night to feed a late-night sugar craving, the cookies actually ended up tasting like something. They were supportive, patient and uber-helpful. For them, we are most grateful. So much so that I will even forgive my mom for starting our kids day today with a celebratory last-morning-in-Madison breakfast of pumpkin pie and jello (what?! and WHAT?!). Don't worry, Mom, you will always be the kids' #1 Meema!
Thanks to all of you wonderful people! We owe you big and look forward to hosting you in our (hopefully finished) La Flor home! :)