It's been so fascinating to compare the return from this vacation to the return from the last one.
As mentioned, Chris and I went to Texas for Christmas. We partied with the Roberts clan, wandered at the zoo, caroled on the river, and constructed gingerbread houses. And I got to play with a handful of the little cousins. Or were they nieces and nephews? Either way, it was so. Much. Fun.
Over Thanksgiving, we also took a little trip. We intended to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and their four little boys. They're a rowdy crew, as we learned on our last visit with them, but man do we love them. Chris wrestled with them (or maybe they wrestled with him!) until they were all completely tuckered out. As for me, I got a few special little moments of feeding baby Jacob, comforting sensitive little Miah, laughing out loud at Jadon's endless energy, and catching a glimpse of the old soul looking out of Jon's eyes.
A repeat of that experience was not to be had for Thanksgiving, however. One of the boys got sick, placing the whole gang under quarantine. But, we pouted, we've practically already left! We tried to make it work, we really did. In the end, we reluctantly decided it wasn't a good idea to go see Jen and Bob and the boys. Chris simply couldn't risk getting sick with all that he needed to do for school.
And so Plan B began to form.
Chris' best friend, Josh, lives in Madison, Wisconsin, right between where we live in Indiana and where Jen lives in Iowa. We were already packed, we reasoned. We already budgeted for gas and food, we mused. Josh probably deserved a little harassing, we decided. So, we called.
"Of course you can come visit!" he said. It's so fun how excited he gets about things. "I uh, just bought a house though. So I'm going to be painting all week. And will probably put you guys to work. But yeah, you should totally come!"
And that's exactly what we did. It was an incredibly different week than Christmas was. Completely unstructured, meals at strange intervals, plenty of manual labor, and plenty of cold. Still, we LOVED being there, and when we got back to our apartment, I cried.
I remember snuffling into Chris' shoulder. "It seems like I should be excited about being here again," I said, "but I'm not." It's only now, after the holidays are done, that I realize why I was so upset.
I was exhausted.
The first semester of graduate school is just plain hard. So are the first couple of months in a new place. So are the first few months of being married. We had needed a break from "real life" so badly that I was scared to go back. (And I wasn't even the one in school!)
Contrasting that to where we are now, I feel so richly blessed. We survived the first semester. We know each other better now. We know what to expect - and what it's best to just ignore. We are better, happier people than we were a few months ago. Our focus, organization, and drive is growing. Our goals and subgoals are becoming more clear.
In short, after Christmas, I actually felt like I was coming home. No longer overwhelmed by the newness of it all, I could finally soak in this life that we've come to love. I realized, hey, we're getting the hang of this! And that's a wonderful feeling.
That said, I'm sure that new challenges are on their way. They always are. But I also know that together, we can face whatever comes our way.
After all, that's just what we do.