After four amazing years in France, our family made the big move back to the United States this summer. It still amazes me that we pulled it off - the sheer number of tasks that needed to be accomplished was mind-boggling. In March, Kevin accepted a position with the Montessori School of Raleigh (North Carolina) as principal of the new high school that is being built. After that, it was full speed ahead.
In May, I flew to Raleigh with Ian (his second trans-atlantic flight) to find a house. Thank goodness my mom met me there, because I got sick just in time for the trip, and I can't imagine how I would have survived the week of house-hunting with a baby without her help. As soon I got back to France, there wasn't a spare minute - we had to find movers, book our flights, sort through all our belongings, list and sell most of our furniture, cancel all our utilities and other accounts, get the kids' medical and school records together, take the dogs to the vet in preparation for the trip, and a million other things. Whew! All of that would have been easier if Ian had been sleeping through the night, but he wasn't. Between all the travel/time changes and his tummy troubles, he was still waking up every couple of hours. Somehow, we got it all done, though, and we made it back stateside.
Serena and Beatrix set off on their own adventures this summer, so it was just Kevin, Ian, and I on the plane to the America in July. We flew into Chicago and spent two weeks with our families before driving down to Raleigh to close on our new house. Meanwhile, Serena was in Oregon, staying with her dad, climbing, camping and hanging out, and Bea was back in France, spending the summer on an island off of La Rochelle, with her best friend's family. When they arrived in Raleigh a week before school started, their rooms were painted, their furniture was in place, and the dogs were waiting for them. Luckily for them, they missed out on the first few weeks of more or less "camping out" in the new house as we waited on furniture deliveries and the arrival of our household goods from France.
Ian was a champ while we were househunting. He was really fussy the first day, but after waking up the next morning with a new tooth, he was totally content. He was so good in the car, driving from house to house. He absolutely LOVED the ceiling fans in all the houses. We didn't have too much time to hang out at the hotel, but when we were there he "read" his books and played with toys and started waving "hi" and playing peek-a-boo for the first time.
The house was in total chaos in the weeks before the move. I was so grateful that Ian wasn't crawling yet! It's amazing how much stuff we accumulated in only four years. We really tried to minimize what we were shipping, so there was a lot to donate, give away, sell or throw out. The only furniture we shipped was our dining room table and chairs and my Pilates equipment. Everything else was sold or given away. I even got rid of the baby things, because it was going to be two months before the shipment would arrive in America, and I figured we'd need stuff for Ian (high chair, crib, toys, etc.) before that. So, we sold everything in France and then had to get new stuff. Well, no one said moving was cheap. Lucky for us, my brother, Andy, and sister-in-law, Kelly, gave us their crib and changing table, along with a jumperoo (the same one Ian had in France!), a high chair, and a bunch of other toys.
Before we left France, Serena decided to cut off her hair and donate it to the organization Children with Hair Loss. She had donated her hair once before we moved to France, and then again last summer. After last summer's donation, it had only had one year to grow, so it wasn't super long. That meant that to have enough to donate (you need eight inches), she had to go REALLY short! It was a big change, but she totally rocked it. I'm so proud of my little girl, who is becoming such an amazing young woman.
Back in Illinois, we breathed a sigh of relief to be finished with the "leaving" part of things. We still had a ton of work ahead of us (driving down to Raleigh, setting up utilities, closing on the house, buying all the furniture...), but the worst was behind us. Ian loved eating fresh strawberries and raspberries from my parents' berry farm, and he had a blast when we managed to fit in an afternoon in the pool - it was his first time, and he loved it!
I have amazing parents. I had ordered a mattress and had it delivered to my parents' house so that we could drive down to raleigh, close on the house, and sleep in the house right away that first night (I figured that if I waited until we got there, we would have to order something, and it wouldn't be delivered right away, so we wouldn't have anywhere to sleep). Well, when I looked into renting a truck to drive down, it was crazy expensive, and my dad offered to drive down with us with his truck and trailer. Awesome! Then, my parents offered to loan us the car that had been my grandma's, so we wouldn't have to buy two cars right off the bat. So, in the end, my mom and dad drove the truck with the trailer, filled with the mattress and a bunch of other things we gathered (including the baby stuff from Andy and Kelly), and Kevin, Ian, and I drove my grandma's car. We stopped in Charleston, WV for the night and got into Raleigh the next day. The drive down was pretty long - we had to stop to feed Ian fairly often, but we made it. It was great having my parents there to help us (and my dad's trailer to transport stuff like the washing machine and dryer from Best Buy)!
This move was definitely the biggest thing I've ever undertaken (it was even harder than the move TO France, and that's saying something). From now on, whenever we have a lot going on and life seems just too hectic, we can always say "well, at least it's not as bad as leaving France!" There are, of course, some things that we miss about France (bread! cheese! wine!), but we're having a blast setting up the new house and becoming familiar with our new stomping ground. The girls are enjoying their new schools, and this is starting to feel like home. Raleigh is a really fun town, with lots to do, so I'm sure we have many adventures ahead of us!
Moving from America to France with two preteen girls, two dogs and a cat was an incredible adventure. After four years living just outside of Paris, the Family McLean headed back to the U.S. (minus the cat, but with a new baby boy). Four years later, we're leaving Raleigh, NC, and heading to Egypt (with another little boy in tow...)