Well, we've been back in Elmhurst for 2 1/2 months now and a lot has happened during that time. We moved back into our house, I spent a weekend in the hospital with a kidney stone, DD#3 turned 13, DD#1 moved to college at the University of Pennsylvania, and everyone's trying to get back into the swing of being "home."
It's great to be back in Elmhurst, seeing friends and neighbors again. It's also a little strange for me, as if the previous 2 years in Germany were more like a dream than a reality. It's hard to describe, given that we are back in our own house, with our own furniture and stuff, and the younger two girls are both back in Elmhurst schools. DD#2 is a sophomore at York High School. Although she didn't go to York before we moved, DD#1 did, so it's not unfamiliar to us. DD#3 is in 8th grade at Churchville Middle School. Again, although she hasn't gone to Churchville before, both of her sisters did. So, while things are familiar, it's not exactly the same.
Of course, the adjustment is difficult, both socially and scholastically, for both girls. DD#2 is finding new friends and making her way, but it's hard, especially when former friends appear to be less than friendly sometimes. For DD#3, she moved back to a large group of great girls, all of whom are friends and appear to have accepted her back, but things have changed enough in 2 years that DD#3 is still having to find her way within the group. Scholastically, the schools are much more demanding, with more homework, which is part of the reason we wanted to move back when we did. But, as much as that's a good thing in the long run, it's taking some adjustment for both girls.
DD#3 recently made the 8th grade basketball team, so she's very excited. Her year on the team in Frankfurt, working with her coach there, really helped and prepared her to make the team here, which has been a great boost for her self-confidence and social interactions. She's also in Girl Scouts, on student council, and planning to re-join the DI team she was part of before moving. DD#2 has joined both Empower and PRIDE, which meet before school, as well as trying out for the play. While she got a general cast member part, she decided it was too much of a time commitment given her school work and her plans to try out for the bowling team. She's also involved in Girl Scouts and has joined the Youth Group at a local church. We've all rejoined our church here and are hoping both girls can get confirmed this year.
As for me, I've slowly started revising my resume and have even applied for a half-dozen jobs that I've seen listed online. While I'm in no rush and am therefore being very picky about what I apply for, I wouldn't mind finding a part-time job both to help out with DD#1's tuition payments and to find some social interactions and meet people. Right now, it gets pretty lonely during the day. I've had lunch or breakfast with 4-5 friends at different times in the 6 weeks since school started again, but it appears that if I don't call and initiate the invitation, I'll spend all of my time alone. I'm helping co-lead DD#3's Girl Scout troop again, am doing all the new leader orientations for our service unit, am part of the product sales team for the service unit and have volunteered to take the required training to become a trainer for our council, as well as being the secretary for the York PTSA. But beyond that, I have a lot of time on my hands. Again, while my friends are mostly still here and it's great to see them again, life has gone on without me for the past 2 years and it's difficult for people to remember to include us in their lives again.
We all miss having DD#1 at home. I think it's a little easier because 1) she's so happy at school, 2) we can talk, email and text her all the time with our cell phone family package, and 3) we haven't lived with her in this house much for 2 years. DH just flew to Philadelphia and spent the weekend with her, which was nice even though I wasn't able to go with him. And we know we're all going for Thanksgiving, to see her and tour Philadelphia. But, it's hard to have her gone and there's definitely a hole in our home.
Everything I've heard and read about repatriation has said that it's harder than becoming an expat in the first place. I think, so far, that's basically true in that when we moved to Frankfurt, we met a lot of other expats who were anxious to get to know people and had time on their hands, given that they didn't have a lot else going on in their lives. We made friends, as did the kids. The move was hard in the long run in part because, when we weren't traveling to all the wonderful places we visited, we really missed our family and friends back in the U.S. and, at least for me, felt disconnected from reality. The girls made friends and did well in school, but they weren't being challenged academically, which has made it all the harder coming back.
I think it was even harder for us to repatriate when we did because we arrived in Elmhurst about a week before DD#3's 13th birthday. A birthday party was very important to her and it was a challenge to get it organized before we even arrived in town and be able to arrange it so enough of her friends were able to attend. Unfortuantely, I spent the actual day of her birthday in the hospital, so our family plans were significantly altered. Next was DH's birthday and it was lost a bit in the chaos of the move. Mine came in mid-September and I spent the entire day alone at home, with a quick dinner at Panera with the family before having to go alone to DD#3's Open House at school. Fortunately, DH did plan a fun night at an Eagles concert for the following week. Now we're facing DD#2's sweet 16 in another month. This is a big milestone, especially for a girl, and she's feeling a little paniced about whom she can even invite to whatever it is she wants to do, as she's still in the early stages of new friendships. All of these milestones just go to emphasize how far we have yet to go in our social repatriation.
It's good to be back in the U.S., even with the intense pressure at DH's job and the faultering US economy. It's great to be only 1 hour time zone different from the rest of our family. It's great to see familiar faces when we're at the movies, shopping, or at sporting events. It's great to be able to go to the movies and sporting events with the ease that we have here in Elmhurst and never developed in Frankfurt. I miss some of my friends from Frankfurt for sure. I miss the amount of vacation time both the girls and DH had in their calendars there and the low cost and unending options of places to visit in Europe. But, I don't miss much else about our lives there. It was a good experience, but I'm glad to be home. I just have to find a new life for myself here at home, and it's definitely still a work in progress.