This is incredible. In just a few days (Feb 11th), we will have lived in this house, in Georgia, in the UNITED STATES for whole year! I can hardly believe it. One year ago we had packed up all of our belongings, at Crossways Farm (Chepstow, Wales, UK), put them in a 40 foot seagoing container, and were saying our last good byes to dear friends and neighbours. I was traveling to London to the U.S. embassy to get my visa into the States, and Shelley and Jenny had a few trips to the vet, to get their ‘pet passports’! Poor Jenny even had to have an operation before they could give her a clean bill of health!
What are some of the highlights of our first year here? Well, we love that it does not rain as much! We love that we don’t have to wash Shelley’s paws every time she comes indoors! We are not so crazy about living through so many tornado watches every spring – although we survived our first spring here and got a whole new roof out of it!
Several other highlights of the year are:
1. We LOVE our new church – Midway Community Church – Wyatt is getting involved, as much as possible, with the men in the church. I have been playing piano in the Praise Team (and sometimes singing) since last September ( 2008 ) and LOVING it! This is such a great space to be in for me!!!!! I love our worship leader and his wife (Bill & Bridget Massey), and am starting to feel like the whole team is like an extension of our family. Anne has done a lot of child care at the church, and runs the powerpoint on Sundays. Frank loves the youth group, is being discipled by the youth leader, Marc Lilge, and now has a drum set in his room to practise every day. Elizabeth also loves the youth group, and has just started singing in the youth praise team. The church sponsored Elizabeth, Anne & I and we were able to attend a Worship for Youth Seminar – besides the day being fabulous, Elizabeth won a fender guitar that day!! Heather is in 6th grade, and that is YOUTH here in Georgia, which she is excited about. Heather helps out in the 4 year old Sunday School Class. Both Heather and Frank were baptized two weeks ago, on Sunday, 25th January 2009. They both gave testimony of their faith in Christ, and then were baptized by their Dad. One of the songs we sang was ‘We Will Remember’ – it was a great day!
2. We live on a wonderful street with friendly neighbours. Several of them came to welcome us, that first month, with baskets of cookies, brownies and fruit! The Millwood family are believers and also homeschool their four children! What a blessing to have them close by! We had one street party in the next door neighbours driveway in the summer and a lot of our street turned up – it was great. We love the trails in Orange Shoals (the name of our neighbourhood) – a lot of people have moved here from all over the States, Canada and even Britain – I think the attraction has been the ‘GREEN SPACE’ – all the houses have at least 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre of land, and behind each home there are woods which we can walk through. It’s lovely! Our neigbourhood has a pool, which we enjoyed greatly last summer. Also there are tennis courts – which Frank has used when he had two terms of tennis lessons. We meet lots of people when we walk around Orange Shoals – a lot of other people walking their dogs, too. Through the Orange Shoals, Yahoo site, we have found odd jobs, to earn a little extra money. Heather & I have looked after Xena (a black lab/chow mix) many, many times over the past year. We have watered plants, Anne & Eliza have babysat, and Frank helped an expectant mother get ready to move.
3. School wise, we changed our curriculum to ABEKA, but after doing ACE for 14 years, it was a discouraging transition for us all. Just in January, we have returned to doing several subjects in ACE and are more comfortable with the fit. Anne is still doing school at home, although she’s 18, but has taken the ACT and SAT tests. We went to ‘North Georgia College’ in November and liked it so much, that she has applied, and is hoping to get in for September 2009. We also got involved with Timothy Ministry (at Woodstock Baptist Church) on a Tuesday, which we are LOVING. Elizabeth has taken Science, Jazz Dance, Tap Dance, Choir, French, and helped as a teacher’s assistant. Heather has taken Physics, Beyond Beautiful Girlhood, Home Economics, Photography, and also has been an assistant. Frank love Auto Mechanics so much that he has taken it again this term! He also has taken Driver’s Education, American Gov’t, Economics and Strength Training. He was top of the class by Christmas, in strength training, and was awarded a $25.00 gift certificate to the Christian book store. Yeah F.W! I just love going to Timothy because we have a group of women who meet together (mostly friends I have met through Terri Millwood) to encourage and bless one another. I have learned from Mary & Melissa how to COUPON, which has become my new hobby, and is saving us a lot of money!
4. Health wise, Wyatt had to have a hernia operation in May. Other than that we have all been quite healthy until this past week, when we all got colds. Oh, yes, and I had a bout of vertigo. Thankfully, Anne had just passed her driving test, and could drive me around, seeing as Wyatt was in the U.K. Oh, I should add that 2008 was the year that Frank became officially taller than his mother!
5. Family wise, Frank Jr. came to visit us in the summer – Wyatt was painting, and he was a super supervisor! At Thanksgiving we went to Tchula and had dinner with Frank Jr. & Reggie. That was the children’s first American Thanksgiving in America. We stayed in Curtis & Rita’s house, in Oxford, and got to have supper with Jane Hart and Bayard too. The boys went to a Mississippi State / Ole Miss GAME and us girls went shopping. We did not know that Rita was allergic to cats – We took Birdie (our new american kitten), Jenny and Shelley with us – and I think they probably had to fumigate the house after we left – we did try our best to clean well – HONEST! We also spent a lovely afternoon at Aunt Malie’s house, drinking coffee, and visiting. More recently Mom and Wendy (my sister) came to stay with us for a week – what a great time of coffee drinking and game playing! We are so blessed to have families that we wish we could spend MORE time with (I’ve heard too many stories of families who just don’t even like each other – I can’t imagine!!)!
6. House wise, being first time house owners, we are learning SO much. Like I am learning how to be my own ‘bug man’, cause I don’t want to pay to have a bug man come in to spray! Wyatt has become an expert painter. We now feel much more at home in our house because our kitchen is no longer lime green!
7. Travel wise, Wyatt went to the U.K. 4 times between March and November. I went to Canada twice in May and December. We went to Florida for the American board meeting, and then again in March for Jane Hart’s wedding. Curtis & Rita provided a beautiful condo for us to stay in. It was so fun. We can’t wait to head back to Destin in just over one week and do it all again!!!! Once we drove up to north georgia to visit with Rebecca Whisnant in her home. She had come to welcome us, before our shipment even arrived, and to help us clean. (It’s comforting to know that there are no more socks hiding in the valances.) We returned things we had borrowed and had a great visit. In May we went to Mountain Lakes Resort with the Millwood family for a few nights. We stayed in a cute little cabin, went swimming everyday, enjoyed visiting around the campfire, and I got to play a game of pool with my husband – that was a highlight!! In July Elizabeth flew to St. Louis to be with her best friend, Mary Snapp. What a fantastic birthday that was for her!! In August, Tara Theyagaraj came to see us with the Baskarins, and we all went up to the Creation Museum in Tennessee together. That was definitely one of the highlights of our year. Ken Ham arranged it so we could all be guests for the day. Thanks Ken! I should also state that our dear friends, the Greg Snapps, gave us a Garmin navigation system when we first moved, and it has helped me EVERY DAY, to find my way around Canton, Cumming, Woodstock and many other places. I have thanked the Lord for it again and again.
8. Extracurricular activites – We visited the Atlanta history museum with new friends, Terri & Michelle and their children. Elizabeth got involved in Towne Lake Idol and got into the finals! Anne played ‘Nana’ in the Velveteen Rabbit at Towne Lake Arts Center. That is where I learned more about Georgia women and how to best establish friendships. (Heather & I ran the snack bar along side several of the other mothers there.)
9. As far as staying in touch with our friends in the U.K., Paddy and Bill (our wonderful neighbours from Crossways Farm) actually came and stayed a week with us in September. That was fabulous. Wyatt also got a Vonage phone connection, through the internet, so we can call our British friends as much as we like – we thought it was important for the kids to be able to phone whenever they wanted. That was rather a HUGE move that we made!
I’m sure there are a thousand more memories we could record here about our first year in the states. I would like to document that I think it took about 6 months to begin feeling comfortable in another culture and a whole year to feel at home. Yes, my heart is in Britain still, and I am British between my ears, but after a year, I am happy to say that I don’t feel quite so ‘foreign’ and am very happy here. God is good and we can trust Him!