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One year ago today we were still hibernating from the cold Montana winter, still reeling from the loss of my grandmother, and bracing ourselves for the impending loss of Husband’s grandfather. We’d made a total of six trips west to Oregon in 2016 and my sister had three times come east. I was homesick and lonely, and we began to pray about moving closer to family— perhaps cutting the distance in half so the trek would be less arduous.

What we didn’t know was that as Husband sacrificially agreed to sell our beautiful home in the countryside, and arranged to work remotely with the same company, God was going before us doing exceedingly abundantly more than we could ask or imagine…

Our house sold without ever going on the market— we showed it to one sweet family (friends of a neighbor whom we’d notified of our plans) thus avoiding the circus of showing the house and sharing in the savings with our buyers. My folks flew out to see us off (on dad’s birthday, no less), and we hauled two cats, two bunnies, two guinea pigs, two giddy grandparents, three crazy kids, our every earthly possession and our weary selves in two vehicles and a moving van over the Rockies. We set up camp in a small, urban apartment in Washington, about an hour north of family, and relished our time in the big city as we searched for homes there and in Central Oregon. Meanwhile, the modest rancher next door to my much older sister quietly popped up on the market. We all shared a chuckling “what if” before resuming our search in Portland, Washington, and Bend… and then I started losing sleep, unable to shake the vision.

The house was ugly. It seemed tiny. It was practically falling apart and wasn’t in our target area… but it was NEXT DOOR TO MY SISTER. Though the square footage was significantly less than our former home, it ticked all the requisite boxes including a private home office for Husband– who still technically works in Montana. Additionally, it was far cheaper than anything else we’d seen. We made an offer, had it inspected, and in Spring we bought ourselves a fixer-upper. Husband orchestrated a massive renovation, all the while working his 8-5 on Mountain Time– often atop the rubble, directing the endless parade of contractors and swinging a hammer on his breaks.

The very first night we spent officially “moved in” to our money pit I was needed next door to sleep on the couch while my sister & brother in law rushed to the hospital, their kids tucked in bed unawares. Tragically, that marked the beginning of the end for my brother-in-law’s younger brother who passed away weeks later. Because of proximity, Husband and I were able to walk alongside their family through unthinkable loss. Summer was a blur of sleepovers, hiking, biking, floating, breakfast cake and barbeque, endless rounds of Skipbo and Rummy, every night a pot-luck, punctuated by four birthdays and a funeral. We collectively co-parented our six kids as one unit, regularly swapping vehicles and childcare.

In fall we sent Little Man to Kindergarten with his “twin cousin,” and resumed homeschool with the girls. Husband made a couple trips for work but most days clocked in right under the same roof. We found a new rhythm, and in what has become the hardest parenting season of my tenure I’m especially grateful for strong circle of support. Our kids need their tribe. As they transition from childhood to adolescence it’s important they have more than just us fuddy-duddy parentals speaking into their lives. It’s crucial to enlist reinforcement that will “second voice” our efforts to impressionable offspring.

This Christmas was Little Man’s very fist with extended family– festivities mellow our five years in Montana, mail-carrier Ruth our only “visitor“. It’s not lost on me that he’d never have had cousins, aunts, or uncles in China, obsolescence a consequence of the nation’s one-child policy.

Though our social lives have exploded at a sometimes terrifying pace, we are grateful to have moved right into a village and are conspiring a takeover of our street with hopes of convincing others to join us in the compound. We never thought we’d move back to our hometown, and while we likely won’t stay forever it’s been proven time and again that it’s exactly where we ought to be. It’s busy, a barrel of laughs, and sometimes uproariously exhausting, like living on sorority row, but for now it’s good to live in a modern commune.

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