Monday, September 1, 2014

State of Mind

So here we are, just 2 weeks into our new lives in the Netherlands.  I have to say, we're overall doing better than expected and definitely doing better than we did when we arrived in Spain.  That's not to say there aren't bumps in the road or bad days, because we most definitely do, but in the scheme of things, we're doing pretty good.

The kids are starting to make some friends.  Liam seems to be struggling a little more than Aidan but still seems to be hanging on and creating his new little pod.  Tonight as we were sitting around, one of the neighbor kids came over (with his mom because he didn't speak English) to see if Liam could come out to play.  I think it made his day to have a little buddy on our street.  And with play being universal, I don't see the language being a problem for him for long.

Aidan is basing his relationships on how long people will be here and where they will be going to school next year.  He's not sold on anyone in the neighborhood yet.  He met some kids at the neighborhood block party this weekend but they were a little older than him and he's still a bit guarded which is typical of him.  He doesn't let people in very easily but when he does, it's for life.

They met some kids at the block party but not all were nice to them.  Kids are not always kind unfortunately and with 2 foreign kids, they are "unique" which makes them a target for teasing.  But they both handled themselves well, though Liam did resort to his fists which I didn't like - however it was against a kid who was easily 15 so I admire the fact that he wasn't scared by his tormentor.

But while the kids are doing well overall, that doesn't mean we haven't had our fair share of tantrums. Given that I'm struggling on my own to "survive", dealing with their struggles is only making things more difficult for me.  Though at the same time, it's a welcome distraction from how I'm feeling about everything.

As always, Josh is fine.  It's annoying.  Like in Spain, he's had what appears to be zero learning curve and just takes to any new culture like it's normal life.  I'm envious of his ability to do this.  I also hate him a little bit because of it too.

For me, well, it depends on the day.  Today was not a good one.  Let's call it a bad Netherlands day. Yesterday was a good Netherlands day.  There have been pros and cons to each day and some times there are just too many cons.  I know it's early.  I know this is all to be expected.  But it's frustrating when all you want to do when you get up in the morning is go back to bed and wish that you were somewhere else, anywhere else, but here.  However, this is me we are talking about and while I want to go back to bed each morning, I push through and move on because it's all I can do.  If I slow down that is when I will break down.  And quite honestly, I have way too much on my plate to just go back to bed, the thoughts of what needs to be done would just stress me out more.

So each morning for the last 10 days I've been running again (with the weekend off).  I had stopped when the kids finished school in June and so need to work my time and distance back up but it's helping to clear my mind again.  And I need to clear my mind because it has not been in a good place.

I feel incredibly alone here.  It's reminiscent of Barcelona.  Only when I got to Barcelona, I already had one connection before I arrived and made another the day that I arrived.  Here, I have no one.  I've met a few people, maybe eventually they will become friends, who knows.  But as of now, they are people I've met and perhaps chatted with a bit - it's too early to define anyone as a friend.  But no one that I would call to ask if they can grab my kids because I have an emergency or to take the boys home with them because I need to get Josh to the doctor's for an appointment.  Zero support system.

I know it's early.  Like I said, it's only been 2 weeks.  But that's 2 long weeks when you are alone.  I focus on our daily needs.  Getting the house together.  Work (much needed to do!).  Errands to get things situated in the house - small appliances we didn't have, trying to plan sports for the kids, etc. Those things keep me focused on the here and now rather than on the fact that I'm feeling very isolated and alone.

The weather does not help.  In a word, it sucks.  It sucks bad.  It rains EVERY SINGLE DAY so far. It doesn't rain all day but it rains at least once every day from what I can tell and somedays it rains many times (I counted 10 times one day).  We're already in jeans and long sleeves, though I hear we may actually get short sleeve weather this week.

It's been nice weather for biking, that's a positive at least.  I've been trying to get out on my bike more since walking isn't as much an option here since things are more spread out.  And I have to say, there are bike paths EVERYWHERE.  I think you could actually bike the entire country.  And they are all well maintained that I've seen thus far.  I need to do some upgrades to my current bike or else get a "dutch" bike but I feel like I'm getting on the right track with it.  Plus I'm sick of being in the car.  I need to get out.

I'm chauffeuring the kids and Josh everywhere and that doesn't help.  Unfortunately, this is one thing I can't really do anything about.  In the city, I would walk around.  Here in the suburbs, there has just been no reason to do that.  So I will do my best to remain active - running and biking...and driving :(

The learning curve has been easier than the last time.  There will be more on that later.  And so as a result, I'm feeling better than I expected only 2 weeks in.  But I'm not happy.  Not by a long stretch. I'm angry.  I'm resentful.  I'm sad.  I'm depressed.  And then I look around where we are living and I feel guilty because it has to be one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen and we are so lucky to be here.  How can I have these feelings of sadness and depression when I'm somewhere so lovely and filled with people who are equally lovely so far.

Because I would give anything to be home right now.  But wait, I don't even know what or where home is any more.  I think it's a typical expat feeling of constantly being in limbo.  Of never feeling like you truly belong somewhere but no longer feeling like you belong home either.  I say I want to be back home in the US, but I don't necessarily know I want that either.  I feel like Jekyll and Hyde - constantly swinging on a pendulum of emotions.  Where do I belong?

I miss our lives in Spain.  I miss our friends.  But at the same time, we never fully integrated there either.  But it was the known - at least for the last 4 1/2 years.  It wasn't always that way, but at the end it was just where we lived and it was home for the time being.  I didn't cry when I left.  I cried when I left the US 4 1/2 years ago.  Does that mean something?  I don't know.

Our arrival in the Netherlands came at a good time, yet a bad time.  Good because the kids didn't have time to think before they jumped into our new lives here.  We arrived and they started school the following day.  But just 2 weeks in, Josh and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.  And to put it simply, I don't care.  That sounds horrible, I know.  And I feel horrible thinking it.  This is a man I've spent the last 20 years with, have shared my heart and soul with... and I just don't give a shit about our anniversary.

There was no time for me to plan anything and I feel caught off guard that way.  I found some cards at a market the other day but didn't have the heart to write anything in them.  Primarily because I have nothing nice to say.  Yes, I love Josh.  But I'm not liking him right now.  None of this is his fault - directly.  But someone has to take the blame for us being here.  And it's him.  We've been through it before when we got to Barcelona.  And eventually things went back to normal and I'm confident that they will again - we've been thru the ringer and this is just a small bump along the way.  But here we are at 10PM on our anniversary and I can't stop crying about the fact that I ruined our anniversary because of my anger that we have moved... again.  When I barely acknowledged his existence today and when I did, it was with short, curt words and an evil look in my eye.  When I don't even know what I want in the first place.

If anything, Josh has gone above and beyond this year trying to keep our family together.  And yet, I feel so much anger and resentment, I don't know what to do with myself.  It's not where I want to be - emotionally and physically.  I don't know where I want to physically be - I don't know that I would be happy in the US.  I think we were ready to leave Spain.  And I am not happy here.  I'm sure I will be given time, but at this moment in time, I'm not.

I'm exhausted.  I'm tired of living in another language. I feel weak just admitting that.  And I'm lucky that here many speak English but nothing else is in English - not the food, not a menu, not an item in a store, not the doctor's office website or voice mail, not the road signs, not the radio, not the sports, not even the school website.  I'm tired of the constant roller coaster of emotions, breakdowns, etc.  I'm tired of crying.  I'm tired of feeling alone.  I'm tired of being isolated.  Hell, I'm tired of not having a dryer for my clothes.

It feels selfish to say all of this because I know how lucky we are to have this opportunity and that I need to open my mind to the adventures ahead of us.  Especially for the kids and what all of this means for them.  And I have no regrets about any of this journey.  But I'm fucking exhausted.  I'm done. I'm toast.  And I'm angry that my wedding anniversary was tainted by this anger and frustration.

Like anything in life, I know that this too shall pass.  It happened when we moved to Barcelona and like anything in life, time heals all wounds.  Or at the very least, time covers the pain.  At some point, I will have less breakdowns.  I will have the realization that I can either wallow in my sorrow or put on my big girl panties and take charge of this life, no matter where we are located.  I know it will be the latter but for today, just for today, I need to let myself take the low road and cry it out.

Tomorrow is a new day... I hear there may be sun...


Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 2... Dial 112 for Emergency

Day 2 started off pretty well, at least much better than day 1 went.  We went to get our BSN numbers in the center of town which is a super cute area - those are our social security numbers.  Josh already has his but the kids and I needed ours.  We can't get health insurance or even a cell phone without one.  So we filled out all the forms and Josh updated his number to reflect our new address.  In a few weeks we'll be official residents of the Netherlands.

I dropped off Josh at the train (since he obviously didn't have his bike which he takes every day to/from the train - yes, he's now Dutch Josh... bye bye Spanish Josh) and the kids at school.  My mission was to find a hardware store looking for ceiling anchors.  But instead I found a huge grocery store.  They even had crescent rolls (they aren't Pillsbury, but I'll take them!)!  Yay!!  There was also a small electronics store so I got a new phone so that I could get our Vonage VOIP up and running again.  I can't find my drill but I did end up finding a commercial hardware store (on my list is to find the every day hardware store but that's for another day).  All in good time I suppose!

Overall, the day went well though.  I've learned to recognize that things take longer when you first move to a new country.  All things you know you have to relearn.  It's all for another entry - I'll get to it.  But let me tell you how our day ended instead.

Day 2 in the Netherlands ended with a call to 112 (Europe's answer to 911).  Yes, I had to call the ambulance, for the first time in my life.  And as luck would have it, I had to do it while living abroad. Yeah this is not how I expected day 2 to end, with a trip to the emergency room.

What happened?  Well most probably know at this point from our Facebook updates, but here's the long story.

Since this was a week of moving, the whole house has been a disaster.  Boxes everywhere.  Toys everywhere and the room that was the biggest disaster was Liam's.  This is partially my fault.  I was trying to get Aidan's room taken care of so that I could slowly move some things back into it but needed space to work.  I had the boys put everything in Liam's room as a holding "tank".  We had cleared some of it up, but Liam was enjoying the idea of having ALL the toys in his room and had taken out EVERY SINGLE TOY and they were on his floor.  It's a novelty as in our past 2 apartments we had playrooms so that there were very few toys in the bedrooms - primarily because the bedrooms were so small.

But in this house there is no playroom or extra bedroom.  The majority of toys will eventually reside in the kids' rooms once we get all our furniture from the US.  Anyways, I was yelling at Liam to clean things up and Josh intervened.  I wasn't in the room but I heard Liam upset and Josh getting upset as well (which is very rare for Josh).  Then I heard a scream and it wasn't from Liam.  It was from Josh.

It wasn't a scream of anger.  It was a scream of pain.  I ran to Liam's room and saw Josh laying on the floor in agony.  I could tell immediately something was wrong.  I asked him if he needed an ambulance. I honestly don't know why I asked this question - I've never asked it before.  But something about the way he was laying on the floor and the look on his face told me something was really wrong.  He said he did and that he thought that there was a bone protruding from his leg.

That was enough for me.  I'm not my mother's daughter for sure - things like this make me nauseous, even in an emergency situation.  I'm not proud of it.  The kids were screaming, beyond hysterical. They knew something was terribly wrong.  In order to stay focused I ran outside and called 112.  I'm beyond thankful that they spoke English.  While I could have navigated this in Spanish, I'm so thankful I did not have to do it.  It took a minute or two to be transferred to the right town and right emergency venue (fire, ambulance, police) and to take the information but finally they were on their way.

In the meantime, I had to take care of the kids... and Josh.  And to take care of Josh, I needed to remove the hysterical children from the scene.  Let me remind you, we've lived here for TWO DAYS.  We know NO ONE.  I met the next door neighbor briefly yesterday and he seemed like a nice guy.  So I crossed my fingers, grabbed the kids and ran next door.  His wife answered and went to introduce herself - barely giving her a moment to speak I said "my husband has fallen and thinks he has a bone protruding from his leg.  I've called an ambulance but I can't let the kids see what might happen next. Can I please leave them with you until I can better assess the situation?"  And I shoved the kids at her.

Thankfully she took them, asked their names and said to go take care of what I needed to take care of and she would watch them.  I'm forever in her debt on this one.  And what a way to meet the neighbor. First her husband when I couldn't open the front door yesterday and now this.  Welcome to the neighborhood, right???

I ran upstairs to check on Josh.  He was gray and he was cold.  He's never ever ever cold.  Ever.  That alone scared me.  I had texted my mom, a nurse, on my way up the stairs, to find out what I needed to do while I waited for the EMTs to arrive.  Admittedly, I felt nauseous when I was with Josh.  The ambulance couldn't get there soon enough.  The idea that he had a bone sticking out of his leg (I did not look close enough to confirm and he often wears baggy jeans so I couldn't see anything) was enough to make me want to pass out alongside him and then the EMTs would have their hands full.

Josh was in pain like nothing I had ever seen before.  I felt helpless.  I didn't know what to do.  So I just tried to calm him down.  I kept telling him it would be ok.  It reminded me of when I was having Aidan and he kept telling me the same thing over and over and over again - to the point of annoyance. Looking back, he was probably in the same boat, not knowing what to say or how to handle the situation.

The ambulance took forever.  I'm going to say it was at least 10 minutes before it got here.  Too long in my book.  If he'd had a heart attack he would have been dead.  He was likely going into shock right before the EMTs got here based on how I described him to my mom when I eventually spoke with her. That's not a good thing.

When the EMTs arrived, I have to say, they were amazing.  They were calming and even humorous at times.  They explained every single detail to me as they were working on Josh.  I went downstairs to not just give them room to work (Liam's room is not that big) but also because I couldn't stomach what they needed to do.  Again, feeling like I let Josh down in his time of need.  I could hear him screaming upstairs when they touched his leg.

I did what I do best.  I organized.  Stupid and silly I know.  But I needed to do something.  I grabbed all the ipads and jackets.  I grabbed some new pants for Josh (they cut his jeans off) as well as some sneakers.  I knew we were going to the hospital from here and I knew that it was going to be a late night for the kids.  I put everything in the car so we would be ready to go as soon as I knew what the situation was.  It was busy work, but it kept me going.

Eventually the EMT came downstairs and told me that there was not a bone protruding from his leg, but instead, he had dislocated his kneecap and they were going to relocate it before going to the hospital.  They were going to give Josh a sedative, essentially a horse tranquilizer, and some meds that were going to give him amnesia.  They said he was going to scream when they relocated it but that he would not remember it.  Just thinking back to this moment makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

And scream his did. A gut wrenching scream.  It brought tears to my eyes knowing he was in so much pain.  I'm so glad the kids were not here to witness any of this.  Eventually the EMT came downstairs and told me it was ok to be with Josh and that they were waiting on another EMT and police to come in order to help get Josh down the stairs to go to the hospital.  As is typical in the Netherlands, the staircases is incredibly steep, almost vertical and just two guys were not going to be able to get Josh on a stretcher down them.

I went to Josh and he was in tears.  He was drugged.  Oh was he drugged.  And as promised, he didn't remember any of what had just happened.  But he was so worried... about our anniversary.  Yes, that was at the forefront of his mind.  Not his knee or the kids or the move.  Our anniversary.  Even in sickness, he's still the most selfless person I know.  And I promised him I don't care about our anniversary, just him getting better (which is still the case).  I layed next to him and just held his hand as we waited for the police to come.

Our next door neighbor arrived to let us know that the kids were doing well and to check on Josh. She seems pretty easy going and very likable. I think we will get along great with them once we get ourselves situated.  She offered to hold on to the kids while Josh and I went to the hospital but I felt like we had asked enough of her.

Josh left for the hospital and seemed to be in much better spirits (thank you horse tranqs) which made me feel better.  And while I knew this likely wasn't over, I felt good knowing that there was no bone protruding from his leg and that his knee had been relocated.  The only thing we ha to hope for was that there were no broken bones.

The kids and I followed shortly thereafter.  Thankfully the EMT gave me good directions for once we arrived at the hospital, telling me to head towards the forest when I arrived and that was where the emergency room was.  This is where my lack of Dutch is really bad - in Spain, emergency is emergencia. Pretty easy to figure out.  In Dutch, it's noodgevallen.  Yeah, I would never have gotten that but he was right about the forest.

We made it into the hospital and we must have been the only Americans that night because they immediately knew who we belonged with and said Josh was out getting an x-ray and would be back shortly.  The kids were tired and impatient.  I can't blame them.  But they also needed to learn to buck up in an emergency and rise to the occasion when someone needs us.  The doctor came in to talk to us and said that based on the x-ray they saw a small fracture behind his knee and would need to do a CT scan to see in more detail how bad the damage was.

We didn't have to wait long, thankfully, and Josh was off for his scan.  We wouldn't get the results until Monday when he saw the orthopedist but at least we were able to complete more of the process of our end goal of getting Josh better.  He was given a soft cast / brace that goes the entire length of his leg and we were sent home.  The whole thing from start to finish was about 3 hours but I think it was one of the longest nights' of our lives.

Today Josh and I went to the orthopedist to get his results and long term prognosis.  Unfortunately it looks like there are bone fragments floating around behind his knee, the knee wasn't perfectly re-aligned and the tendons, as a result, are also not aligned.  So it looks like surgery is in his future.  Likely in the next few weeks.  He's to keep the brace on and limit his movements.

Of course, this wasn't the news we were hoping to hear.  But in the end, all that matters is that he's going to be ok.  It's going to take some time for his recovery and it certainly isn't the way we were hoping to start off our new lives in the Netherlands.  However, looking to the silver lining (and really, what else can we do), we've at least learned how to navigate the medical system here a whole lot earlier than we planned.

There will be more to come on this as we get closer to Josh's surgery.  But for now, all is ok and a week later, he's doing pretty well considering.  He's mobile though in spurts and he went back to work after taking just one day off to recover so I'd say he's feeling better.  I know he's bummed out about the surgery and I'm going to say there won't be any ski vacation this year (yay for me as I don't like to ski), but he is looking forward to just getting back on track again.  The selfish part of me looks forward to when he can put on his own socks, jeans and sneakers and can get himself to work on his own.  But to know he's going to be ok, I'd put his socks on him for the rest of his life - I'm just so thankful that it wasn't worse than what it could have been.

So that's day 2... I'm curious to see what the future holds here, hopefully all positives from here on out as I think we've already paid our dues!!!


Day 1...Into the Fire (Immersion 101)

As I mentioned in my last post, Josh went to work on day 1.  I could have killed him - angry doesn't even come close on that one.  I felt incredibly alone and abandoned.  There is nothing like being thrown into the fire and start our new lives by myself.  What could I do?  I couldn't stay home.  The kids had to go to school and I had to figure out how to function. And I had to unpack and get back to work.

Josh left at 7:15 - the kids and I didn't need to leave until after 8.  I suppose on a positive note, we get an extra 30 minutes in the morning that we didn't have in Barcelona.  It was raining off and on again like it did when we arrived.  An hour of sun, an hour of rain, an hour of sun, an hour of rain.  It goes on and on like that.  It's sunny one moment and pouring the next.

Aidan woke up and said we need to turn the heat on.  In August.  I can't say that I totally disagree (sadly it has since been turned on... in August I must reiterate).  Barcelona this is not.  Unfortunately I didn't anticipate it to be this cold in August and so hadn't located their cold weather clothes yet and shipped anything I had purchased.  In Barcelona they are normally in shorts until November.  Even in Boston, they would have been in them at least til mid September!

Breakfast in our new kitchen

In front of our house ready to go - notice the raincoats - good investment!

In front of their new school

Aidan's new classroom

Liam in his new class

Regardless, I had to send them to school in shorts.  Driving wasn't a big deal thanks to my GPS. Thankfully Josh had pre programmed pretty much anywhere I would need to go for the foreseeable future into it, including school.  Unfortunately the GPS got the school address wrong (the school was on the right and it told me to turn left - but at least it was the same street, though we were lost for a few minutes trying to figure it out) but thankfully had built in a few extra minutes into our trip to school not knowing what traffic would be like, etc.

I can honestly say that right off the bat, I felt better about getting the kids to school than I did in Barcelona.  I remember clearly the desperate feeling of not knowing how to navigate the public transportation to get Aidan to school his first day in Barcelona (the school had recommended he not take the bus the first few days but for me to bring him and pick him up).  In the end in Barcelona, I took a taxi.  On Monday, I drove and I felt pretty good about it.  We were there in 15 minutes even with getting lost.

Knowing that their school is also a Dutch school, I wasn't sure where we had to enter or where to go. We never received information on what to do upon arrival.  The good news is that it's a small school, only grades pre-k through grade 5 and only one section per grade.  So we couldn't get too lost.  But they had everything under control and very easily corralled all the new students into a lobby area - we must have all had that lost look on our faces.  Liam looked incredibly nervous and I don't blame him - this is his first new school.  Aidan looked in control, typical of him and maybe it's because it's the second time around he feels like he can handle it.  They then brought everyone upstairs to their classrooms where the other students and teachers were waiting.  Parents were allowed to go up with the kids - a challenge for me with 2 kids and only one of me.

There are 14 kids in Aidan's class, a switch from last year where he had around 20.  Liam, on the other hand, who had always been in the small class (last year was 14) was now the opposite, with the largest class in school of 20 kids.  And I thought Benjamin Franklin was small in Barcelona!  So there are 14 kids in grade 5 (year 7 at this school) and 20 kids in grade 2 (year 4).  That's it.  I'm going to say we will get to know everyone really well here.  The school doesn't feel like BFIS did but it's only day 1 so we'll give it time.  Apparently they have a ton of after school activities so that would be different from their old school in a positive way.

I met a very nice couple who had also just moved here as we were getting ready to leave.  Their son is in Liam's class and they have been living abroad for a while as well.  I chatted with them for about 45 minutes.  Lovely people and hopefully a connection made already.  It felt really good to meet people off the bat as I don't feel quite as alone and it's only day 1.

I was feeling pretty good considering the circumstances and the day before knowing that I successfully dropped off the kids to school and met a new family.  So far so good.  Then I got home.  And I couldn't open the front door.  Induce meltdown in 5, 4, 3...

I called Josh freaking out.  He offered to come home.  I told him I didn't want to see him now or any time soon.  I think he realized that he should not have gone to work on our first day.  He admitted as much.  Didn't make me any less angry though.  I spent a good 10 minutes trying to open the front door, practically in tears.  And of course, it was raining out.

Finally, I gave up trying to open the door and went next door hoping perhaps someone would be home that could help me.  I figured maybe there was something different about these Dutch doors as compared to any other door I've ever used?????  The benefit of being in a country where many people speak English is that I suspected that my neighbor would speak it and in fact, he did.  And coincidentally, he had also lived in Spain with his wife for 6 years and had just returned back about a year ago.

He helped me with the door - turns out that something is weird with our lock and you have to pull it towards you as you unlock it and then push it in.  Very strange but now I get it.  It seems that the door automatically locks when you close it too so I need to be conscious of making sure I always have a key when I leave the house.

I chatted with my neighbor for a bit.  Really nice guy and felt like perhaps I made a second connection for the day.  All in all, not bad for day 1.  But by now it's 10:30 and I had to leave at 11:30 to pick up the kids at noon since the first day was a half day.  I accomplished basically nothing on day 1.

I picked up the kids and they had a great first day, a huge relief for me.  I'm not sure what I would have done if they'd had a bad day though.  And don't get me wrong, we've still been having meltdowns about how sad they are that we are no longer in Barcelona - it's all a part of the grieving process for each of us.  And we went through the same thing when we left the US years ago as well.

I'm still not feeling great about everything but much better than I did yesterday.  I feel like we made a lot of progress in just one day and we're already more immersed than we were in Barcelona at this point.  It feels less scary than Barcelona did early on and so I need to take that as a positive.  There are still many things left on our to do list such as BSN numbers (social security), getting signed up for sports, converting my license, etc etc and so I don't think we will really feel settled for several more weeks but we are making progress.

On a random note, I found out that while some stores are open on Sundays here (nothing in Barcelona was open on Sunday other than restaurants), most places don't open til 1PM on Monday, everything closes by 6PM during the week except Thursday where they are open later.  So we'll have some new schedules to get used to here as well on top of everything else!  But on a positive note, I won't have siesta to contend with!!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Touchdown (and Breakdown) in Amsterdam!

I should have seen it coming, and yet I didn't.  Almost a year of extreme emotions and yet somehow I thought we would land in Amsterdam and we would start our new lives like it was no big deal.  I obviously haven't learned from our previous experience of moving to Barcelona.

But that's just it, I thought I had learned.  When we arrived in Barcelona a little less than 5 years ago, it was hard, but I don't remember having a meltdown on my FIRST DAY.  I feel like it was at least a few days in before those feelings of desperation and loneliness set in.  Of feeling completely helpless in a new place where you know no one, where everything is unfamiliar.

Sadly, I'm pretty sure I know what set this meltdown off.  And I'm embarrassed by it because I'm tough enough to handle these situations by now and this should not have been a trigger, but it was.  A few days before we arrived in Amsterdam, Josh told me he would be going to work on Monday, the day after we arrived.  My understanding was that he was going to be home on Monday and help me get the kids ready for school and help me to get situated, find the grocery store, that kind of thing.  But no, he was going to be going to work and I was on my own, on the first full day.  And for some reason (I suppose an understandable reason), that was completely freaking me out.  I was already angry of my impending situation and I wasn't even there yet.

And yet, when the kids and I were flying here overnight Saturday/Sunday, I was in complete control. Ready to face the world.  Ready for our new adventure in yet another unfamiliar place but yet excited at the prospects of what was to come.  While I was disappointed that we weren't moving back to the States as we had initially planned, I was also doing my best to fully embrace this new opportunity for us to once again live a life less ordinary.

We got off the plane and I just wanted to get there.  To get started.  I was actually feeling pretty good overall.  I knew we had a lot to do and very little time to do it in since the kids started school the next day.  It was raining, it should have been a sign.  As I write this, one week later, today is the first day where it hasn't rained the majority of the day. That's for another entry.  We found a taxi and headed towards "home".  The three of us were a little ambivalent, which was understandable, but also relieved to finally, after all these months, to be "there".

We had been to the house before so we had an idea of what to expect.  I had told Josh to only unpack the kitchen and the bedding - that's it.  Another set back there that threw me over the edge.  It was stupid but it was a trigger.  And to this day, I feel terrible because I know that he was trying his best and all I could do was tell him it was all wrong.  How horrible is that?  He was getting up at 6AM the past 2 days to try to unpack for us and all I could tell him was that it was wrong.  I'm a bitch and I feel ashamed of the way I acted.  He was so well meaning and I trashed it all and not in a nice way either.

But the damage was done at that moment.  I hated it.  I hated it here.  I hated the house.  With a passion. I hated everything about what was going on.  And I began to cry.  Not just a little crying but hysterical sobbing like someone I know had been murdered kind of crying.  I couldn't control it and I couldn't stop.  Every time Josh would approach me, I would lash out at him in intense anger that I could not control - I hated him too.  After all, if it weren't for him, we wouldn't be here.  I'm not saying it's right, but it's how I felt at that given moment.

Maybe it was the emotions of the last year finally coming out.  I had had a small breakdown here and there over the last (almost) year but this was the first time I was finally grieving for the loss of my opportunity to return back to the US, for us leaving Barcelona, for how sad I had been for the last year and for so much more.  It was also because I knew what was ahead - that moving to a new country is no easy feat and not for the weak of heart or mind.  And I knew that day 1 was going to be a full on immersion into my new home country.  In a nutshell, I was scared.

And I was overwhelmed.  Again, for some reason I didn't anticipate this despite having gone through it before.  Perhaps it was because I had been through it before that I thought it would be easier only to find that in fact, it wasn't.

In the end, it was a variety of factors that contributed this unbelievable breakdown.  It wasn't pretty but I'd like to think it's all a part of the transitional progress when moving to another country.  Given this is only my second time moving to another country, I don't have a routine or expectations surrounding the process and maybe that is what caught me off guard, thinking that since I did it once, it would be easier this time around.

I should note that the kids did fabulous - a thousand times better than me.  It was raining so they didn't get to be outside at all but they were excited with the unpacking process and were concerned when they saw me totally meltdown.  I'm sure it wasn't a good example for them to see - so much for keeping those emotions to myself in order to help them transition.  But they just focused on finding their things and getting themselves settled.

The good news is I'm feeling better.  It's been a week now but I've got a few other post to put up before I give my update on how the week went in a nutshell but know that we are here, we are doing ok, and while there is worse to come as far as entries go, we are getting settled with some bumps along the way, but we're getting there...


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer Camp

We decided last summer on the spur of the moment that the kids were ready for summer camp.  At that time, we had been planning to move back to the States after this school year ended and we figured the timing would be perfect - we would take a cruise thru the Baltics (which we did) as a goodbye Europe trip and then the kids would go to camp for 3 weeks while we got the house back into working order to move back in before school started in September.

Well the best laid plans... you know how it ends.  The Baltic Cruise ended up not being a "goodbye Europe" tour but instead was an "introduction to Northern Europe where you will be spending the next several years" tour.  And so camp instead became the "I need to pack the rest of our stuff and move it to Amsterdam" part of the summer.

I will admit I was a little nervous about sending the boys to 3 weeks of overnight summer camp.  As I kid, this is not something I could have ever done.  But these guys are so much stronger than I ever was. And both expressed a desire to go.  Though as the time grew closer I could tell they were ambivalent - I don't blame them!

If anything, we figured this would give them a chance to be closer to nature (after almost 5 years of city living, there was very little country boy in either of them - in fact, Aidan freaked out when he saw an ant at my parents' the day after we arrived in the US), gain some independence, meet some new kids and get to enjoy the freedom that goes with no one constantly saying "don't do that", "don't touch that", "stop hitting your brother", etc etc.

We did some research on camps but in the end we decided to send them to Camp Wekeela in Hartford, Maine.  Why?  Because it's the same camp Josh went to as a kid and to this day, he still tells stories about his times spent there.  And while it would cost us an arm and a leg, to hopefully give the kids those kinds of memories would be worth it.

My in laws came with me to drop the boys off and I'm glad they did as the expected 3 1/2 hour drive ended up taking 5 1/2 hours.  Yes, an extra 2 hours.  I was stressed because it was a one hour window drop off.  Turns out that the one hour window was really just a "guide", kind of like the mandatory must ship your bags up to camp to the tune of $200 so we can unpack your kids before you get here, kind of thing.  And no, their bags weren't unpacked, in fact, we couldn't even find Aidan's for a good half hour.

We got to camp and I just have to say wow... this place is amazing.  It was all we saw in the pictures and more.  I felt really good about leaving them here and knowing they would be in good hands.  And while I thought the drop off process could be a little better organized, I knew they would be having the time of their lives for the next 3 weeks.

Gymnastics building

A few of the cabins

Dining hall

Part of Little Bear Pond in the distance

Totem pole - it was there when Josh went here too!

Yes, I have made it!!!!

But despite the long drive and the bag issue, the moment the kids got to Camp Wekeela, they were so excited. We found Liam's cabin first and he immediately claimed his bunk.  Liam was the one I was most worried about - he still isn't the best at wiping his butt (he's going to love reading this years from now), he struggles getting dressed and he tends to be a bit of a wanderer.  He also embraces his inner baby and isn't the most independent.  Yes, I was worried about what this would be like for him.  But at the same time, I knew he needed this opportunity to see what he was capable of and to let him shine.

Liam's cabin - Navajo

Liam on his top bunk

Liam's bunkmates

We found Aidan's bunk which was on the other side of camp from Liam's.  He had fewer kids which I think worked for him.  Within moments of us finding his camp bag, he was ready for us to leave.  My little boy is all grown up.  I am so proud of how independent and confident he was as we left him there.

Aidan's cabin - Abnaki

Me and my big kid

Aidan's cabin crew

Thankfully I had signed up for a service that allowed us to download pictures that the camp posted on their secure site as well as send unlimited emails to the kids.  That didn't mean that they got to email us back.  The emails were printed out and put in their bunks and then they could handwrite a message back which was then scanned and emailed back to us.  It was NO technology for them for 3 weeks. It was good for them and they survived!

And so Josh and I looked daily at the pictures - the ones with Aidan were full of smiles.  The ones of Liam were iffy - some smiles and some moments where he looked... lost.  But overall,  he looked like he was having a good time.  We sent them messages but not too many.  Maybe 2 per week.  And they each sent a few back, short but sweet.  Aidan did send one that made me feel a little unsure about if he was having a good time or not, but in the end, he said he had a blast.  And while Liam looked lost in a few pictures, Aidan said he was actually quite popular, though he did often fall asleep in random places.  I'm sure that with all the constant stimulation, sports and late nights, the poor kid was just exhausted!!

As far as favorite things from camp - Aidan said his favorite sport was building fires.  I reminded him that building fires is not actually a sport.  Liam's was soccer.  They both loved the color wars which was made up of the green team (their team) and the white team and there were challenges over the course of several days.  Their team won!

Beautiful shot of Little Bear Pond from camp - how can you not want to spend 3 weeks here?

Final nights at Camp Wekeela

2014 season comes to a close

The kids loved camp so much that more than a week later, they are still talking about it, still singing the chants and still excited about the experience.  And so we've decided that they will go back again next year to which they are thrilled!  So while our flights are yet booked, it looks like we will be spending the boys' entire summer vacation at home (they only get 6 weeks of vacation) again.  And we can't wait - already something to look forward to!!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whirlwind Trip Home to the USA

Every year we come home to the US and every year I say that I won't over schedule.  Every year I totally fail in this capacity and as a result, by the time we leave I can barely keep my eyes open from exhaustion.  It's always worth it though.  It always feels so good to be back home.  And this year feels even better. For some reason, despite my inability to under-schedule myself, I'm not feeling so manic or overwhelmed with all that needs to be done and people to see.  I think I just finally know, it will all get done.  And if it doesn't... well, it doesn't.  Perhaps life in Barcelona rubbed off on me after all.

We made it home directly from our cruise vacation which made for an incredibly long day when you added in getting off the boat by 7 (which meant up around 5:30AM), then a 2 hour bus ride to the airport, 3 hours wait in the airport before our flight and then the 2 flights themselves.  But the cruise was yet another distraction to the disarray of our lives right now.  It was so nice being away for 2 weeks that it made us forget about the sadness of leaving Barcelona.  And now, being home in the US, it just reinforces those feelings of distraction and right now, distraction is good.  We're going to have so much going on in August and September that we might as well enjoy some good times while we can.

Since we were home for 5 weeks which is a lot of stuff to cover, I'll keep this short but sweet - a snapshot of our time.
  • I made 3 trips to NY - two of them were to Brooklyn for the boys, one to Albany for me to visit my two best college friends.  Unfortunately I wasn't so great about taking pictures of the three trips.

Liam and his friend, Henry... picked up right where they left off!
  • We spent some time in our neighborhood with our friends, though never enough time and we still missed a bunch of people.  There are times when it feels like we never left and other times when I feel like we are on the outside looking in.
Liam has become quite the swimmer (and jumper) this year!

Aidan and his BFF Nate

Double cannonball

All the boys - Aidan, Nate, Aaron and Liam

Liam, Aidan, Nate, Aaron

Aidan and Lindsey - this is what happens every single year - they won't even stand next to each other til the very end of the trip - this was day 1.  I think they are secretly in love ;)

The gang...
  • I got to visit with some of my Barcelona peeps that live stateside again (though sadly did not get to visit everyone).
  • I went through our storage unit with the help of my mom and dad and packed up things that were going to storage and those that were coming to Amsterdam (now I question where all of that is going to go!).
Josh's fishy pants... sadly they did not make it on the trip to the Netherlands

The shipping container - brought right to the house (last time it was a moving truck and they made the change over to the container).

Only a little bit of what I had to go through...

My 16' POD that had to be sorted through... good times.
  • We met up with various members of family for dinners, bbqs and to just hang out.
BBQ at Kyle and Kelly's which included a visit from the ice cream truck!!!

Some of the crew at Kyle an Kelly's

Liam and his new buddy Mike at Uncle Richard and Aunt Janice's house

All American treat - s'mores

Liam about to go on the slide for the first time - take a good look at his face (he loved it in the end).

Will he end up in the pool??  

Liam and his buddy Duke

Aunt Janice, me, Liam, Aidan, Meghan, Sarah and Uncle Richard
  • I had brunch with a bunch of my sorority sisters thanks to Tonia's coordination - many of them I hadn't seen in years!
After brunch trip back to Babson for a picture in front of our tower.

Tonia, Kate and myself
  • The kids went to summer camp in Maine for 3 weeks - more on that in another entry.
The boys as they arrived at Camp Wekeela - the same camp Josh went to as a kid.
  • The kids each spent time with Josh's parents on the Cape (while the other was in NY) plus our time driving to and from Maine (you can tell when you don't get enough time in with those you want when you have to count driving time together as quality time).
Aidan and Granny

Aidan and Papa - I didn't get any pictures of them with Liam :(
  • We spent time with my parents - more than we usually get (though as with my in-laws, it's never enough) and just enjoyed our mellow time with them.  
Nana, Aidan, Papa and Liam
  • We spent a lot of time at Target, much to Aidan's delight (he asked to go at 4:15AM the first morning and I had to explain to him that even in the US, regular stores are not open that early.)
  • Spent an ungodly amount of time at the Apple store trying to get my computer fixed.  I think if I hadn't spent so much time there I could have seen every single person on my list.  
  • I got to spend a bunch of time with my BFF - including going to the Red Sox / Yankees game (admittedly we left in the 5th inning out of boredom but since the tix were free we felt ok about doing that.  
As with each year, I find myself fine tuning my list - trying to spend more time with those I "want" to and less with those that I "have" to spend time with.  But even with that fine tuning, I still find that I don't get nearly enough time as I'd like with those people and then there are people I'm not able to see at all which means at least 2 years between visits.  Thank goodness for Skype (I'm terrible with it though), Facebook and VOIP for me to be able to stay in touch.

However, after 5 weeks of being on the go constantly, exhaustion has caught up and the desire for us to be back together as a cohesive family unit and so it's time for us to head back to Europe.  We're ready but can't wait to come back again next year!!