Hey, it's me, Meghan. You know, the one who wrote most of the blog posts here consistently for a few years. I've been absolutely terrible at keeping up with this thing for the last, oh, 18 months. So what have we been up to in that time? A whole hell of a lot. Some travel, some home stuff, and a whole lot of normal life in between. The stuff that's not all that exciting to read about. But, I want to fill you guys in on what our life as re-pats has been like since we stepped off a Lufthansa A380 into the hot and humid air of Houston on July 31, 2016. I'll try to keep this short and sweet, but let's be real, it'll probably get long. Longer than I intend.
Most obviously and importantly, we welcomed our second daughter, Julie Grace, on November 16. My pregnancy and her birth were vastly different experiences than Evelyn's. If you want to read her birth story, you can check it out here.
We have been busy with lots of home improvements. I forgot how much work home ownership was and is! Aaron's painted all the exterior trim and is almost done with the miles of trim on the inside. We've been updating the paint color in every room, worked on improving the landscaping, and debated the pros and cons of tearing up all the flooring - including over 1000 square feet of tile - and replacing it. Spoiler, we decided to just replace the current carpeting with new stuff. The cost and hassle of doing it all was just too much and if I'm being honest, I would rather use those funds to travel than have new floors. Aaron has also been able to get back into one of his hobbies - woodworking. He's built some beautiful stuff for our home, and even built Evelyn a play set this spring. If all this home stuff is something you're interested in reading about or seeing pictures, let us know and I'd be happy to share.
We've also done some traveling, but not nearly as much as we did while living in Germany. In February 2017 we went to Portugal with a friend of mine from college, took a city break to Seattle in March, spent a long weekend in San Antonio in April, headed back to Germany in September for a friend's wedding, another city break to San Francisco in January 2018, and then a few trips to Michigan to see family sprinkled in there. I'll try to write up a few posts about these trips for sure.
We also experienced our first major hurricane in August of 2017- Harvey. We watched from home as Harvey made his first landfall near Corpus Christi and then moved north towards, and stalled over, Houston. With a mixture of horror and awe, we watched as the flood waters quickly and catastrophically rose over the span of hours and days in Houston. We have friends who live there and worried about them, their families, and their homes. After a couple of days of torrential rain, Harvey moved back out over the Gulf briefly before making a second landfall directly over Beaumont/Port Arthur on Monday. That morning, we actually saw blue skies and sun and thought the worst was over. But we were wrong. The rain started falling again that afternoon and dumped a whopping 60+ inches of rain over the course of two and a half days. Tuesday morning, we woke up to a flooded street and front yard. I remember thinking to myself at that point, we couldn't leave even if we had to. Both of us were nervous to see what the next hours and days would bring. The rains continued to fall at an alarming rate - peaking at about 4 inches per hour early Wednesday morning. All the while, the flood waters rose higher and higher and crept closer and closer to our front door. Thankfully, the rain stopped and the waters stopped rising - for us at least, many others were not as fortunate. Overnight on Wednesday, heading in to Thursday, the level of the river nearby from which the city of Beaumont draws its drinking water, rose. It rose so high it flooded the pump house, causing the pumps to fail and the city to lose all running water. For a couple of days, our taps were dry and due to the extreme flooding surrounding us, semis carrying bottled water had difficulty getting in. Aaron MacGyver-ed our dehumidifier by putting it outside to run, and then collecting the condensate - which is basically distilled water - in a clean bucket. In this way, we were able to have clean drinking water and water to wash dishes and sponge bathe with. Once the flood waters receded enough for the highways to be clear, we headed over to Baton Rouge, LA for a few days. I had some work meetings and after being stuck home for over a week, the change of scenery - and running water - were welcome. By the time we got home, they had restored our water service, but we remained under a boil water advisory for a while
Months later, Harvey is but a distant memory for most of the country, and I have to admit, for us as well. While we were without running water for a few days, we were so incredibly fortunate to have remained high and dry during the storm. So many in our area were not nearly as lucky. In the days and weeks after the storm, it was quite a sight to see streets lined with piles taller than me of debris - wet and soggy drywall, ruined carpet, moldy possessions. Even now, people are still rebuilding and will be for some time yet. And now, every time it rains, we have flood warnings. The ground is still so saturated with water that areas that never flooded before, not often have standing water for days after a relatively mild rain storm. The mosquito situation this summer is going to be horrendous.
Which brings us to 2018. I started back at work on April 2 after having 4.5 months off. BASF has a fantastic parental leave policy now - 6 weeks of paid maternity/short term disability and 8 weeks of paid parental leave. I combined that with a week of vacation I had left, and also took 4 weeks under FMLA unpaid for a total of 19 weeks off. I'll admit that I had a hard time adjusting to being a stay at home mom for those months and adjusting to life with two kids, but we had settled into our new normal. Now, I have to figure out how to be a working mom of two kids!
So that's what we've been up to! If you've read this far - thanks for sticking with it! I'm finally feeling up to getting back to the blog. Moving back here was somewhat of a shock to my system and, if I'm being honest, I wasn't too excited about it. That translated to, among other things, no blog updates. But, we've settled in here, made some friends, and Texas is feeling less foreign to me. Of course, I think Aaron and I would both whole-heartedly agree that we miss Germany, but we are slowly starting to accept this place. Of course, just as this starts to feel like "home" we will probably be moving again, but that's life. That's not a hint at the future or anything, just an observation on how things have shaped up so far. With the time between moves averaging 2 years, we're coming up on that mark, so it'll be interesting to see what happens.