Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Toast to 2 Years in Barcelona

Wow!!  Where did that time go?  I remember the day we left our house in Attleboro.  I had tears streaming down my face as we left our home, my heart heavy with grief of what we were leaving behind rather than the adventure that lay ahead.  Two years seemed like an impossibly long time to be away from home.

At first everything felt a bit surreal.  Like an extended vacation with 110 boxes of our belongings with us.  Learning to navigate the city, finding the school, finding the dry cleaner, even finding a muffin pan – all presented me with new challenges.  I had to learn to appreciate the small successes and cut myself some slack when those small challenges sometimes took significantly longer than they should have, at least according to my “old” life. 

I cried… a lot.  I won’t ever forget the time when Josh and I were sitting in the living room and I was watching Ina Garten on the Food Network made a chicken sandwich.  Josh said something to me, I don’t remember what… I was too busy crying.  He asked why I was crying (again) and my response was “all I want is a decent chicken sandwich!”.  He kindly offered to go get something for me but at that point I was too far gone in my grief.  I missed home something awful and nothing was going to change that, at least for now.

Josh and I had our first date night about 6 weeks after we moved here.  I remember thinking that finding a babysitter took me absolutely forever, but really, 6 weeks is not all that bad, especially given the circumstances and my very limited network of contacts to utilize.  Apparently I was taking for granted some of those things I was accomplishing.  Anyways, when out for our date night at our now favorite restaurant, Specchio Magico, Josh said “they’d like me to extend beyond 2 years”.  Are you fucking kidding me???  I can barely function on a day to day basis and you want me to stay longer?  I cried at the table right then and there.  That’s now our regular table and not one more tear has been shed there (and we’ve become friends with the owners as well).

Around 3 months in to our 2 year stint we were out to lunch with some friends.  They commented on my state of mind and it was then that I realized that I could either take this opportunity for the adventure that it is or I could wallow in my self pity for the next year and nine months.  I chose the former.   It was a turning point for me in what was to come.  I was not going to waste my time here just because life has presented me with new challenges in the form of a new country, city life, new language and new culture.  I was going to take the bull by the horns and take this chance for all it was worth.  A new, improved, risk taking Julie emerged from the shadows and hasn’t looked back.  I still know a few people here whom every time I see them ask how I’m holding up… yet it’s been a year and nine months since I made the choice to live a more positive life.  I know they are concerned, but really, all is good!

We still had a few bumps along the first six months, but then life at home I’m sure would have had a few different bumps – life would not be life if there were not things that challenged us every now and again.  A random snowstorm, Aidan getting lost on his way home from school, just trying to function… But with each milestone, 3 months, 6 months, a year, things seemed to take on a note of normalcy again.  Those little challenges for the most part became little again.  And those that were still hard or just not as simple and easy as they should have been (god I still miss Target!) got an ahhhh Spain moment and we moved on.

Moving to Barcelona presented Josh and I with a chance to have a better quality of life with our family.  A time for us to slow down and smell the roses if you must.  For the first 9 months we were here, Liam was home with me full time, something that we did not do at home.  I’d always had the kids home at least part time up til Aidan had started kindergarten that fall.  I was anxious about sending him to daycare here when he would start full time in the fall anyways.  Why add more transition to his or even to my plate right?  And because there was no part time option at his nursery school that fall, he would be starting off full time from that day until his high school graduation.  So I decided to seize the moment with him while I could.

Having Liam home with me actually helped me to explore the city more.  I didn't feel like a random woman just roaming the streets aimlessly.  I was a mom out exploring the nooks and crannies of a new city with her two year old son.  It was a challenge to balance work and maintaining my connections at home during the 3 hour nap time window but I felt like I had come this far, what was one more thing to balance in my life. 

Josh has always worked a lot of hours but moving here presented him with a much shorter commute meaning that he could leave the house much later in the morning and be able to spend time with the kids which I know he has enjoyed.  It’s also nice to have someone on my team to help get these guys out the door in the morning!  He still gets home around bedtime but just that extra time in the morning means the world to the boys and me.  And because we have a much smaller group of friends here, the weekends are truly family time.  I miss time with our friends at home as I know we all do, but we are also enjoying our time to spend together just the four of us.

When we moved to Barcelona we decided that we would live here without a car.  This city has great public transit and it would save us some significant money that could be used towards travel.  I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy living car free though at times it has presented me with having to get creative about getting kids to and from destinations/playdates, etc.  However, Josh likes to be what he calls a taxi-slut.  Liam is in the same boat as his daddy and often asks, why can’t we just take a taxi?  In the times I’ve gone home to the States or have had vacations where we’ve driven a lot, in a matter of days I miss all the walking I do on a day to day basis.  It feels good to be out in the fresh air every day and walking at least 2-3 miles on an average day.

But the travel opportunity was worth it to get the chance to travel all over Europe.  I remember for Josh’s birthday, just over 3 months after we moved here, we took the train to Sitges, a town about 30 minutes south of Barcelona.  It was a “huge” adventure for us to leave the city and a significant moment for us – we could leave the city and…. Survive!!  I know, it seems silly in hindsight, but it was a big deal for us to navigate the train system beyond the city and figure out where we needed to go.  It would set the stage for future travels.

We decided our first real travel adventure would be in-country in order to make it relatively easy.  Why that would be easier, I’m not sure.  Flying is flying.  And a foreign language is still foreign.  We went to Valencia with our goal being La Ciudad de las Artes y Sciencias.  The City of Arts and Sciences, also home to Europe’s largest aquarium.  The kids were excited to fly again and to have yet another new adventure.   And the aquarium was most definitely the best we’ve ever seen!

The next week we flew to Paris to go to Disney Paris.  In no way did it appear any way like Paris.  It was like being in Orlando (only significantly smaller) but in France.  The weather was cold and rainy but the kids had an absolute blast.  This one was for them – they had been troopers for the last 4 months and it was time to give them a pretty cool reward.  Again, this was just the beginning of all the places we would go as a family and the travel is one of the things I will miss someday when we return home.

The rest of the school year passed without incident.  Aidan really liked his class and his teachers.  I really liked the school and was happy with all the culture he was absorbing on a daily basis, there are children from 40 different countries that attend their school.  Plus being in private school meant that he would be getting more academic extras than he was in public school at home.  At home he was slated to have art for one half of the school year and gym/PE for the second half of the year.  Here at BFIS (Benjamin Franklin International School) he has PE, art and music twice a week each.  He also takes Spanish on a daily basis.  The school day is about an hour and a half longer than it was at home so the boys don’t get home from school til 5, it’s a long day for them!

Our first summer came quickly – hard to believe it was already 6 months since we’d arrived.  The boys both celebrated their first birthdays in Barcelona – Liam turned 3 and Aidan turned 6.  This was a time when we found that the expat community is different from our community at home because the moment the last day of school comes around, most people pick up and travel or go to their home countries for the majority of the summer.  It meant that I would have the kids for 3 months with very little interaction with other children until we would go home in August. 

That first summer was another chance at adventure though.  We had our first guests – Josh’s parents arrived at the same time as my best friend, Michelle.  Michelle has always been the perfect person for me to have adventures with and this one was no different.  We immediately embarked on things that we had not done before, things as simple as going over to Montjuic on the other side of the city.  It was so much easier having a partner in crime with which to take some “risks”.  With Josh’s parents here I was able to spend some quality time with Michelle without the kids which was nice as well.  One day Josh was off and his parents said, the three of us will take the kids, you and Michelle go do something.  So we rented a car and drove to France! 

It was my first experience renting a car in Europe, something for some odd reason both Josh and I had been intimidated by.  And yet again, found that we were letting a new culture and language get in the way of something that in the end was very simple.  So we did a day trip to France, it would be the first of many in the coming year and a half.  While Michelle was visiting, Josh and I would also go to France, but for us it would be Paris.  A romantic weekend away while she watched the boys for us.  And a big thanks for doing that for us!! 

But that first summer wasn’t over by a long shot.  We still had a family trip up north to Costa Brava and then the kids and I were going home to the States for the first time in 8 months.  We loved l’Estartit in Costa Brava and it was a perfect beach vacation.  Sadly while we were there we got word from our kennel that Sailor was very sick.  When we got back to Barcelona we made a trip to the vet where she was staying and had to make the very painful decision to put her to sleep.  She was just 8 ½ years old and we still miss her very much.  It was strange having to make significant medical decisions in a foreign country but just one more adjustment that we would make in the last 2 years.  We will bring Sailor’s remains home with us when we move back to the States so that she can be home again too (until then she resides on the top of my closet). 

At the beginning of August, the Walkers came to visit us on their way to embark on the Disney European cruise.  The boys were thrilled to have friends from home visiting them.  It was a smile that I hadn’t seen on Aidan’s face in a long time and the visit was too short, but just enough to make him realize that everything is ok – his friends are still his friends. 

I was anxious about bringing the kids home that first summer.  Not only was I going to have to do a transatlantic flight by myself with them, but I was worried about how they would react to the fact that this was just a visit and not permanent, at least not now.  While Liam had adjusted right away to life in Barcelona, I was concerned about bringing Aidan back to the States and having him regress back when we returned to Barcelona.  He had overall appeared to have adjusted well to life in Barcelona but was still resistant at times and we knew how much he missed (and still does) home.  We stayed with my parents which I think was a good idea – it gave them a chance to be home without the actual ties to our house.  I think it made it a little easier when it was time to go back, home… yes, home to Barcelona.

While we were amid the chaos that is our travels home to the States, I realized that I missed Barcelona and I wanted to go “home”.  It was then that I was able to redefine what home is to me.   We had a great time visiting with our friends and family but at the same time I realized that I was missing the tranquility of our lives abroad.  I don’t know if it is because we have so many people to see and so much to do in such a short time at home, but life in the States now feels frenzied.  The pace is go go go.  It’s a pace of life that I’ve never had a problem with and will go back to some day and will readjust to.  But it was a significant moment for me to realize that I missed my life in Barcelona.

It was then that I feel like I made a decision that I was feeling pretty good about even though we didn’t have to make the decision for a few more months.  Seven months before Josh had asked about if we could extend our time in Barcelona by at least a year.  At that time, there was no way I felt comfortable making such a significant decision.  I knew he wanted to and I knew that Liam would be fine.  It was myself and Aidan I had been concerned with.  Aidan has always defined his time here by the grade he would be in when he leaves – our original timeframe had us leaving halfway thru second grade.  This extension would mean that he would leave at the end of third grade instead.  Wow, that seems so long!!  We sat Aidan down and while he wasn’t thrilled at the idea, he had a timeframe and was ok with it. 

But on a high from our trip home knowing that it was still there and that our friends and family were still our friends and family no matter where we lived.  Knowing that the kids would get extra time in an amazing school.  That we would have more opportunity to travel.  And of course, that Josh would have a chance to challenge himself for a longer time in a role that he absolutely loves at work.   So we made our decision.  We would stay an extra year and a half.  The extra half would allow the kids to complete their school year rather than leaving halfway which is what we did when we moved here. 

While there have been moments of doubt in my decision…and I say my decision because Josh has always wanted to do this so he made it clear that whatever I wanted to do, he would go along with…but I knew this meant a lot to him as well… anyways, there have been moments of doubt but absolutely no regrets in this decision.  As I write this on our two year anniversary I can’t imagine that we were supposed to be home already – that we would have gone back just before the holidays.  I feel like we aren’t there yet, we aren’t ready.  There is still so much for us to do and to see both from a travel and exploration standpoint but also from a work standpoint for Josh. 

But the longer we stay here, the harder it is going to be to go home.  I never thought I would be at a point where I have my doubts about what happens next.  But we’ll get to that… for now I’m recapping these two years!   That fall, September 2010, marked another milestone for us.  Liam started school.  My baby was no longer a baby.  Both kids got on that school bus that September 1st and suddenly I was “free” for the first time in over 6 years.  I had no children home with me any more during the school day.  I was free to work, I was free to have lunch with friends, to go to the gym (gym’s here don’t have daycares so I could not bring Liam with me therefore I didn’t belong to a gym til he went to school), to run errands at more than a snail’s pace. 

Suddenly the world was my oyster.  That sounds terrible in a way but it’s true.  I loved loved loved my time home with Liam and wouldn’t change a thing about it.  But it definitely stunted my ability to get out and socialize as an adult since my network of friends here either didn’t have kids or had kids that were school age.  To bring along my 3 year old to lunch was not something I enjoyed doing.  I know my friends didn’t care, but it wasn’t the same leisurely time and it certainly didn’t give me much opportunity to get to know people.  And here I was, in a beautiful foreign city but not really exploring all it had to offer.  This was yet another turning point in my time here and I will admit, I probably let my social life lead the way and did not do nearly as much work as I should have between September and June but you only live once right?

The Spanish love their holidays and the 2010-2011 school year was full of long weekends.  We did some significant travel during this time.  We went to Provence, France in October.   What a beautiful area, I’d say one of my top spots that we’ve been to.  Sadly while we were there we got word that a close friend of ours passed away of a heart attack.  He was too young and the world lost a wonderful man that day.  It was also a day where we realized just how far away we are from home in the case of an emergency.  It wouldn’t be the first time or the last time we had that feeling unfortunately.   I joined the gym the day after we got back from our trip knowing that while Shane and I were very different from a healthiness standpoint, it could happen to anyone and I would be as proactive as I could on my end.  Joining the gym was a challenge in itself but I was determined to do it on my own and at this point it had become essential to my mental well being as well to know that I had been able to accomplish what at home would be an easy task.

 I also went back home in October to visit friends and family – it was a whirlwind 5 days and I’m so glad I did it without the kids.  It was so nice to get to spend time with everyone without having to meet anyone else’s needs.  And once again, I was anxious to get back to Barcelona.  I missed Josh and the kids and while it was nice to be away for a few days, it was nice to come back as well.  But while things seemed to be taking on a normal way of life again, the holidays were just around the corner.  The holidays are my favorite time of year and full of traditions, especially within our neighborhood.  We moved to Barcelona just after the New Year and that last Thanksgiving and Christmas was really hard for me, it just felt final.  I know it wasn’t but it felt it.  So to have our first holidays away from home was no easier. 

However, in the end they worked out better than we expected.  We had friends and co-workers over for Thanksgiving.  It was actually really special because we were a bunch of expats with no home or family to speak of in a sense and we all came together to celebrate.  It actually gave more meaning to Thanksgiving to me for the first time in a long time.  We had a lot to celebrate in our lives in 2010 and this gave us the opportunity to do so with our newly formed family.  Christmas was very mellow.  We didn’t go anywhere.  The kids were excited that Santa would still be coming to Barcelona.  We made cookies, we wrote letters and instead of doing our traditional Chinese food dinner on Christmas eve, we had Irish pub food because that’s what we found that was open… We also made our own Christmas ornaments as a new tradition because our Charlie Brown IKEA tree needed any help it could get!!

Instead of going home for the holidays (I had been home in Oct and Josh in Nov for work), we decided to travel somewhere warm.  We headed to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands for the New Year.  It was here that we realized that Aidan was having some troubles.  He had been acting out for about 2 months at that time but things got out of control during that trip.  It wasn’t til the following late spring that we realized that he was still having trouble adjusting to life in Barcelona, yes a year later.  We had no idea he was still missing home so much and felt terrible for not realizing it. 

We had a very rough winter and spring with Aidan and it wasn’t til the end of this summer 2011 that we felt that things were back to “normal” with him.  It made us question the decision we had made to move here though we know in our hearts it was the best decision for our family.  But it has made us more attuned to his sensitive nature and to make sure we embrace home home for him as well. 

So while 2011 started off slightly rough, it would be a banner year for us, especially with travel.  We had either a visitor or travel planned at least every 6 weeks for 2011.  And because of it, the year absolutely flew by!  We were on Lanzarote thru the end of the first week of January.  We finally bit the bullet and signed Aidan up for tennis lessons again.  He has always loved tennis but Josh and I had wanted to take a break from sports when we first moved here.  And then there was the case of the fact that we (meaning I) would need to sign him up for lessons in Spanish which was intimidating.  In the end it took a matter of minutes and off he went to lessons.  Kindly, the instructors speak to him in English (and Liam started lessons this fall) and then the other students in Catalan. It’s a nice comfort for him and I appreciate their kindness.  Another turn for us was the timing of the lessons.  In the past, at home, we would aim for class at 8AM so it wouldn’t impact our plans for the day.  Here, with our more leisurely life and children who actually sleep in now, we barely make it to their 11AM class!  My how things have changed!!

Josh went back to the States the first week of February.  The kids had their Semana Blanca (Feb vacation) at the end of the month.  In March Aidan started to take jiu jitsu lessons down the street from us (Liam will start classes next week!).  March also brought us to Lisbon, Portugal for a long weekend that ended up being one of our best family trips to date.  Then Becky and Ray came to visit the following week for 2 weeks which took us thru early April.  The weekend after they left we headed to Amsterdam for 5 days during the kids April vacation.  I also started taking a Spanish class in March with my friend Jodi – it was time for me to step up my language skills and I wasn’t committing to my Rossetta Stone as I once had. 

In May the boys celebrated another birthday here in Barcelona – Liam is now 4 and Aidan is now 7.  How time flies!  Just today I was listening to music from when Liam was a baby and I could barely remember that time which made me sad.  My babies aren’t babies any more.  Right after their birthdays I managed a quick 2 day getaway with a friend to Ibiza (to the tune of 50€, a deal we couldn’t possibly pass up!).  Then more visitors came.   Kyle and Kelly came to visit in the middle of May and Josh and I took the opportunity to take them to France for a day while a sitter took care of the boys.  How often do you get to say that you went to France for just the day?  We do love that about life here.   It’s like going to New Hampshire distance-wise, but it’s FRANCE!!  We loved having Kyle and Kelly come to visit and hope they come back!  But right after they left Josh and I went away just the two of us to Venice for a long weekend.  What an amazing city – so peaceful and yet full of tourists.  But with no cars, you could meander the small windy streets and not come across anyone for ages.  And well, you can’t beat the food!! 

We had visitors in early June – the Holmes family.  It was great to see Billy, Jenn and Izzy and the kids all got along great.  We spent some time with them in Barcelona and in Sitges where the kids all enjoyed the beach.  The kids finished school in mid June.  The day after school finished we headed home to the States for a 2 ½ week vacation.  Once again Josh stayed behind to work (sorry Josh!).  This time we would be staying in our own house although the house would be in transition as we would be emptying it of all our belongings for our new tenants who would be moving in July 1st.  While I was excited to have new tenants in our house, people that I really like, it made my vacation a bit more hard work than I had anticipated.  And I think it was hard on Aidan to see our things being moved into a storage unit.  But overall he took it in stride because he was so happy to be back in the ‘hood.  And I’m so thankful to have such amazing friends that helped me with our move – I didn’t thank you nearly enough while I was there but I couldn’t have done it without you.  Again, it shows me that it doesn’t matter where you live, true friends are forever.

What was interesting this time around with our visit was Liam.  Keep in mind that Liam was 2 ½ when we moved.  A time when we start to have genuine memories.  And Liam had no memories of home other than from pictures.  He did not recognize our house when we went in.  I had to show him where his room was – he was ecstatic to see that he had his own room.  Our first night in our house we were across the street playing and I told him it was time to go home – he asked me where Papa was.  I told him Papa was home with Nana, why?  He said, but don’t we live with Papa?  That was a significant moment for me.   My child didn’t know where we lived.  In my mind, this is home… no matter where we live in the world, this is our home home.  And my son doesn't know it.  Several times on that trip, while he told me he really liked it in Attleboro, he asked me when we were going back home to Barcelona.  To Liam, Barcelona is his home home.  It was a very interesting realization.  And someday when we move back to the States, I will have one child with his suitcases packed and waiting by the door and another begging us not to leave. 

But there is no rest for the weary.  We arrived back in Barcelona on July 6th and on July 8th the kids and I headed out once again.  This time it was with Michelle (who was back again for another visit!) , her friend Kelly and Kelly’s two kids, Zach and Haley.  We did a road trip thru the south of France up to the Italian Riviera.  Stops included Aix-en-Provance (France), Monte Carlo, Rappalo (Italy - where we stayed for a week), Cinque Terre (Italy), Portofino and Santa Margarita (Italy), Pisa (Italy), Nice (France), Antibes (France) and Arles (France).  It was a trip full of fun, laughter and adventure. 

We got back the third week of July to welcome more visitors, our friend Roy and his daughter Presli, who were doing a European trip.  We enjoyed our long weekend showing them “our” city though at this point I was feeling pretty exhausted and we were only halfway through our summer!  The kids were taking the travel in stride but their old mom was tired! 

Michelle left at the end of the month and I’m working on getting her back for this summer (please let the flight costs come down!).  And 2 days after she left we were once again hitting the road, this time for Josh’s VistaBreak, otherwise known as a sabbatical.  For every 5 years of service, Vistaprint gives their employees an extra month of vacation to be taken at once.  So Josh took the month of August off.  The last time he had a VistaBreak was when Liam was born so this was a nice chance for us to do something as a family now that the kids are quite a bit older.  So August took us to both Ireland and Greece.  We spent the majority of our time in Ireland on the West Coast.  The weather was rainy and cold (60s) but the scenery was stunning – a country I would love to go back and explore more.  From there we hightailed it to Greece, from one extreme to the other – 60s to 90s!  We started off in Athens and ended in Paxos, an island paradise that we would go back to year after year if we could!  Thank you Alefiya for the recommendation!! 

We got back to Barcelona the week before school started again.  This year Liam started pre-k and Aidan is in 2nd grade.  Both kids have been in the school system here longer than they were at home.  By the time we leave Barcelona, Liam will actually have lived here longer than he will have lived in the States.  This year marked a turning point for Aidan academically.  School has always been a challenge and he’s always had to work hard, and though there is nothing wrong with having to work hard (I personally thing it is good for him), it has been something that has affected his self confidence which then also affects his mood.  This year seems to have been a breakthrough for him and school is clicking.  He’s doing really well and still has to work hard but he senses the progress and so do we and his mood reflects this.  It’s been a pleasure to have him around these days, a big change from last fall! 

This school year has less long weekends due to complaints from parents last year that there were too many (really, complaining about a day off????) so our travel will be less, but we’ve still managed some end of the year trips and are planning out our 2012 itinerary. 

Josh and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary in September and we each bought each other a trip and arranged for a sitter for the kids.  Given that normally we go out to dinner for our anniversary and skip gifts, this just shows how in tune we are to each other since we got each other the same type of gift.  I took Josh to Andorra in mid September and Josh took me to Formentera (off the coast of Ibiza) the first weekend of October.  Both were fabulous relaxing trips with the exception of our moto accidents on Formentera of which we each had one.  Despite Josh’s wishes, we will NOT be getting a moto in Barcelona.  If he can’t manage one on a deserted island, he isn’t going to get one in a bustling city!

At the end of October we flew down to Marbella for a long weekend which included a trip to Gibraltar to see the wild monkeys and dolphins.   It was especially cool to be out on the Rock of Gibraltar and look right out to Africa.  How often does one have that opportunity?  We are incredibly lucky!  The kids had a great time and enjoyed running around on Gibraltar, though Liam was a bit ambivalent about the monkeys being so close (I can’t say I blame him) and the fun things the hotel had to offer.  I also started to take another Spanish class this fall, working yet again on improving my skills. 

Josh went home in November for work, his second time this year.  He has travelled a bit this year but we are really lucky that he doesn’t travel as much as most people that we know have to.  I know several women who’s spouses travel weekly.  Josh’s travel seems to come in clusters and his European travel tends to be 2 to 3 days.  It’s only trips to the States that tend to be lengthy.  He got to be involved in an acquisition at work which meant travelling to Amsterdam quite a few times this year and we expect more in 2012. 

Once again in November we celebrated Thanksgiving with friends here.  I felt much more confident ordering our turkey this year though the chicken lady thought Thanksgiving was the week after – in Spain (and I think most of Europe), holidays fall on the same day year after year – they are not observed on a Monday or Friday or the 4th Thursday of November.  So I had to explain to her (in Spanish, go me!) that the holidays are done differently in the States.   

Before you know it, the holiday season was upon us – hard to believe it came so quickly but with all this adventure this year, it flew by!   The kids finished school in mid December for a 3 week Christmas break (which they are still on) and the following day we headed up to France to meet up with friends before exploring Christmas markets in France, Germany and Switzerland – yes, three countries in just 4 ½ days.  Thankfully they were all pretty close!  Some of these markets date back 500 years so it was really cool to see some history and I am absolutely in love with the Alsace – so spectacularly beautiful!! 

Christmas was once again celebrated in Barcelona and was low key.  The kids got itouches which are already coming in handy with travel.  I look forward to a nice easy trip home next summer with them!!  A few days after Christmas we headed up to France yet again, though this time just over the border to the Pyrenees to go skiing, the boys’ first time.  Both kids have taken to it and I’m “thrilled” to have yet another sport to add to their repertoire.  We are here for just a few more days before heading back home to Barcelona.

So now that we are up to date on the last 2 years, what do we have coming up?  Well, travel wise, I’m not 100% sure yet.  We haven’t booked anything though we have a few definite that we need to book.  Josh is going home this month for work again.  My cousin Meghan will be coming to visit in March.  We’re hoping to go to the Amalfi Coast in Italy in April.  In May I will fly to Minnesota for my brother’s wedding.  And the plan is to take the kids home in June for a few weeks.  We’d like to do 2 family trips in the summer with Josh as we are going with the assumption that this will be our last summer here since the plan is to return home for good next summer.  Where we will go is up in the air.

The kids and Josh go back to school and work on Monday and I will try to organize our lives again – work for me, Spanish class, the gym and catching up with friends both here and at home that I haven’t chatted with since the kids started their break.  Josh and I are once again faced with some major decisions to make.  Josh has the opportunity to continue working in Barcelona beyond our 3 ½ year commitment.  It’s something he would very much like to do, but like before, we are torn on our decision.  There are pros and cons to both staying and to going home.  Home will always be there – once we go back though the odds of us living in Europe again are low.  However, that being said, we miss home.  We miss our families, our friends and the routines to our lives.  I miss what now feels like the easiness of our lives – communication is significantly easier and that to me, is a big deal.  Though the communication is also a challenge here – will going home seem boring without that kind of a challenge? 

In a sense I’m afraid to make a decision because I’m afraid it will be the wrong one.  Life here has exceeded our expectations.  Will we go back too soon?  Or will staying longer make it harder to go back eventually?  How will staying longer impact the boys?  We love their school and all that it offers, but especially the opportunity for them to get to know kids from all walks of life – I love that when I mention to Aidan we are going to travel somewhere he often says, Oh, so and so is from there… like it’s no big deal.  The world has gotten smaller for them in a sense and I love that.  Travelling all over has become second nature and that will not be so easy to do when we are back home – it’s significantly more expensive to do this much travel there not to mention our schedules are much different back home.  Not to mention that Josh absolutely loves his job here which has also exceeded his expectations.  How do we know what the right decision is to make? 

We are looking forward to all that 2012 has to throw our way.  We know that it won’t be as crazy busy as 2011 was but that’s ok too.  We are settling into our lives here and still have at a minimum a year and a half to go so there is still plenty of time to try to do it all while trying to maintain some normalcy in our lives as well.  In the meantime, we will just try to enjoy our lives and take things a day at a time… poco a poco as they say, little by little. We’ve got to make our decisions by the end of the school year so at least we will know in a matter of months what our future will hold. 

In the meantime, I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive of our lives here.   Our parents, families and our friends.  Without you, we would not have been able to do this.  You have been our rock and knowing that no matter where we live that you are there for us (and us for you), means the world to us.  As we’ve always said, please please come visit us – there is always an open invitation for all of you!  Thanks for reading for the last 2 ½ years and especially for reading this very very long entry (if you’ve gotten this far!) – knowing that I have followers keeps me inspired to continue to write about our lives here and knowing that I’ll have a journal of our adventures for the boys someday continues to motivate me as well.  I look forward to writing about more of our adventures in 2012!!

Julie, Josh, Aidan and Liam

1 comment:

  1. WOW!! you are so lucky!!Congratulations all of you! 2 years oh.... we would celebrate 4 in Febr.))