2021: A Very Belated Year in Review

So it’s been a minute. 

2021 came and went without an annual family recap- no Christmas cards, not even a social media post. After a blur of a month in which John returned from half a year overseas, we laid low for a couple weeks as covid ran its course through our family, we celebrated Christmas (two or three times!) and then caravanned across the other half the country to move to Washington D.C., I intended to write a New Year’s update. And then a Valentine’s update. And then it was March, and I figured we might as well wait for a Christmas update in July. Then we moved again, this time to the other side of the world. 

the nonexistent Christmas card of 2021

Let me back up a bit, for posterity’s sake. Here are a few highlights from 2021:

We welcomed our fourth child! Jane Ann Langley was born at home on February 26th. We praise God for her peaceful, incredible birth and smooth transition into our family life, despite the chaos of our circumstances. 

John finished his French program with high marks in May 2021. Our experience at the Defense Language School was anything but what we’d expected, but (*inserts first person singular voice for a wife brag*) I’m proud of him for excelling at a program from the confines of our tiny apartment bedroom, learning a language in nine months while the rest of us carried on with life and school in the other three rooms. 

By the end of May, we were saying our goodbyes to dear friends in Monterey, soaking up the last of our time together with a camping trip to Yosemite. In June, we packed up most of the apartment and drove cross country in two vehicles to celebrate a family wedding (congratulations, Anna and Luke!) and to resettle Kirsten and the kids in the Midwest.

We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on June 18th and on June 19th, John left for six months for his in-region training in Germany and Morocco. Kirsten, her mom, and Jane traveled back to Monterey briefly to meet the movers and close out the apartment, moving everything into storage. 

From July to December, we lived parallel lives, checking in with one another as time zones and internet connections and schedules allowed. Kirsten and the kids stayed with her parents, who thankfully live within 15 minutes of John’s parents. We soaked up precious time with family- walks on the shores of Lake Michigan, “Nana Camp” in the backyard, time at the pool, playing with cousins, attending Camp Zion for the first time as campers with Grandma and Grandpa, a wonderful September trip to Ocean City, NJ, and a thousand everyday sort of moments we don’t usually get to enjoy with our families. 

The kids had a busy fall! Daniel and Audrey began Classical Conversations (a classical homeschool co-op)  in Kenosha, WI and started piano lessons and swimming. We enjoyed our first true autumn season in many years! We visited Kirsten’s sister in Minnesota, snuck up to Door County for a weekend to appreciate the fall colors, and enjoyed our first Thanksgiving with family in 11 years.

While in Germany, John worked with the strategic engagements directorate at U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart. This was part of his training to certify as a Foreign Area Officer, a career field change within the Air Force in which he’ll be more focused on international relations, specifically in Africa. Working on the staff for a few months, he was able to learn about the perspective of U.S. military leadership in Africa. A highlight of his time there was a weekend train trip to Switzerland, revisiting some favorite hiking spots from our earlier assignment in Germany.

To balance the headquarters perspective with a “boots on the ground” perspective, John headed to Morocco. While there, the time was divided between language training (a polishing of his foundational French course earlier in the year) and working with the Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Rabat. The latter meant a lot of meetings with the Moroccan military, including planning efforts for U.S.-Morocco military cooperation over the next few years. He also got a sneak-peak at the embassy flight operations, a taste of the type of flying he’d be training for in the near future. Fortunately, John was also able to travel a fair amount within Morocco, as the training is intended to include some level of cultural immersion. When increasing lockdown measures threatened to trap him in Morocco, he was able to get out with a few hours to spare, coming home about a week sooner than expected. John surprised us on the front porch of my parents’ house on his birthday, November 30th.

Looking back, it’s amazing how much change can take place in the span of twelve months. Spending a good portion of the year apart made it feel like a bit of a time warp – John left when Jane was three months old and came back to a completely different baby. Though our separation was difficult, we are immensely grateful for the gift of family and a wealth of good memories to look back on during that time. December was a month of reintegration and rest, but also included a significant amount of packing and planning for our move to DC. After celebrating Christmas with our families, we left on December 31st, ready to start the new year with new everything – together.

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