Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's Our Spain-iversary #4

Just reading that title kind of blows my mind.  Whenever I think about how long we've been here, I can't help but think back to those first months when I didn't think I was even going to make it through year one.  And yet, here we are, on our 4th anniversary of living in Spain!  From what was supposed to be a quick 2 years abroad, we have now doubled the time we expected to be living here.

The boys have grown tremendously.  Liam is 6 1/2 and Aidan is 9 1/2 and has entered the tween years. Liam is now older than Aidan was when we moved here and has lived here almost twice as long as he did in the States.  How in the world did that happen?  We've been watching them grow and develop and turn into global citizens that we are proud of.  They don't even realize how global they are. Though Aidan has begun to point out differences between life here and at home which is interesting to hear.

Both kids got more involved in sports this year.  I love that there is no pressure like there is at home - at least in the bubble that we live in there is no pressure.  Aidan has taken up soccer and Liam is doing a multi sports class that touches upon different sports over the course of the school year.  And as with previous years, they are continuing with their tennis classes on the weekends.  Aidan is amazing to watch and a total natural.  Liam like to think that his racket is an air guitar, but he's making progress too :)

This year has been a good one overall.  We've done some great travel (more about that later).  We've had some big changes, especially towards the end of the year.  Emotionally we've felt more settled. The tough part of being settled though is that when new changes potentially come into play, it's harder to make decisions related to next steps which is a crossroads we are at now.  This year has tested our patience.  It has provided us with new challenges.

It has improved our linguistic skills, at least until I stopped taking Spanish lessons back in September (perhaps 2014 is the year I start up again).  I gained a lot of confidence with my ability to speak (though now finding myself a bit out of practice) in Spanish.  However, the kids have become more and more proficient in their Spanish, even having little mini conversations in Spanish with each other that I love to listen to.  Their grammar isn't totally there but I love that they are trying and the best part, having fun with it.

This year has taught us how to come together as a family no matter what happens around us.  That no matter where we live, home is where the 4 of us are together.  This year we've had to make some decisions regarding our future with many more still to come in 2014.  We've had to say goodbye to "old" friends again and say hello to new ones.  We've watched our home be attacked from far away and had to explain to our children how such an atrocity could happen not just there but all over the world these days.

I wrote 95 posts in 2013.  That's 37 less than I did in 2012 but that doesn't mean I didn't have a lot on my mind.  I actually have about 20 posts in the hopper that I haven't finished.  There were also those moments of, do I share this?  Is this TMI for my readers?  Can I share this information or is it too soon regarding Josh's work status?  Things like that where I postponed entries and then felt the moment had passed and just moved on.  So there was a lot of behind the scenes stuff that I never shared in the end.

I found that this year I spent the majority of time in a funk and really am not 100% sure why that is. Perhaps too much change over the previous year put me over the edge?  I spent a lot of time on my own this year with fewer friends here and those that were here had different commitments that affected their ability to get together regularly - kids, jobs, etc.  Regardless, I had a hard time coming out of it though I still functioned as normal, just felt blah a lot and not super motivated to get out and about with friends like I normally would regardless of their availability.  This year, already I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders and feel more motivated to get things done and do more things, especially if this ends up being our last 6 months in Europe. There is something about the New Year that makes me feel freer from those doldrums.  I don't know what it is.  It's a new start or something like that.  Regardless, I've already committed to putting the past behind me and moving forward with an exciting new future and am excited to see how the new year progresses.

Some highlights of our 4th year include...
  • This past January, 3 years into this adventure we call ex-pat life, Aidan approached me.  He said "Mom, I like it here.  I'm over my friends at home."  Now, those at home that are reading, please don't take that literally.  Aidan had been struggling for THREE years with the guilt of having friends at home and here.  He didn't understand that it was ok to have both - or for that matter, to have friends all over the world.  This was his moment of comprehension - his ah ha moment where he realized it's ok to have friends in both locations.  And he was accepting of it and has blossomed so much since this moment.  
  • Josh and Aidan got to swim with dolphins in Malta - an experience that doesn't happen often!
  • Having a car has been huge for us.  While we said we would never have one here, I'm so glad we did it.  Aside from the kids having more after school activities, it's enabled us to leave the city on a more regular basis without having to plan ahead.  Something as simple as going for a nature hike in Sant Cugat (just outside the city) has become infinitely easier.
  • I had my first car accident in France with a bus taking out the side of my car.  Everyone was ok, but it was an adventure trying to figure out the insurance system in not only Spain, but France too, not to mention getting the car repaired!  I also managed to get said car towed in Spain once too.
  • We all did some ziplining / tree / obstacle course thing this year.  Aidan went to a birthday party and was hooked.  Then Liam.  Then when Michelle was here we all did it.  It's not my cup of tea but I'm glad I got out of my comfort zone to do something new.
  • In August, our sweet Jake passed away at the age of 12 1/2.  It was probably the worst day of our year even though we knew it was coming.  We still miss him every day and our home just doesn't feel the same without him!
  • Our renters in both houses gave their notice - so the hunt is on for new tenants!  A process not easily done when living 4000 miles away!
  • I'm still hitting the gym 5 days a week or at least exercising (if I run outside instead) 5 days a week.  I was out of commission with my running for several months due to an injury but back on track since the fall and it feels good!  Josh has fallen off the running wagon since his transfer to Amsterdam but I have no doubt he'll get back on again once life settles down a bit.
  • Speaking of Amsterdam, as you likely know, Josh got a new job, and I'm proud to say that he is now the interim CTO (that's Chief Technology Officer for those not in the know) of Albumprinter, a subsidiary of Vistaprint.  He LOVES his new job and is very happy.  The only downside is he's doing the weekly commute back and forth to Amsterdam.  And he thought the 128 commute was bad!
  • Aidan got glasses this year.  And he looks super cool in them.  Bonus - they help him see!
Sweet Jake passed away this year, our first baby :(


This was the year of the visitors.  We had so many and it made our year!  Thank you to all of you that came to visit us this year - it really meant the world to us!

Dec/Jan - Josh's parents were here for a month at the end of 2012/start of 2013.  Being away from family is incredibly hard for us and it was awesome having them here for an extended period of time, especially at the holidays!

The whole family (except Josh who is taking the photo)... 

June - Our college friends Caryn and Ursula were here to visit!!  I know it was hard for them to leave their families behind for a week but it was such an amazing reunion filled with lots of laughter, non stop talking and perhaps an adventure or two in France!  After they left, my friend Gina was here for a few weeks visiting all her BCN peeps and I got to have a few days with her - so much fun!

Caryn, Urs, me, Aidan and Liam

July - Michelle came to visit for her third time.  It was a shorter visit than the previous two but the great thing was that the kids were in camp so we actually had a lot of great quality time during her visit (and then I got to see her the next week when I came home to the States).  My friend Lori was also here for a few days before heading off to a cruise.  It was so great to see her, especially as the last 2 times I'd been pregnant with both boys, so it had been a LONG time!

September - My cousin Meghan made her second trip over to visit us.  This time it was for La Merce where she got a taste of the local traditions, including Correfoc (the fire run)!

Meghan and I at Montserrat

October  - My parents finally made it over to BCN after almost 4 years.  This was a huge moment because up til now, my mom was terrified to fly.  Who knew she'd get off that plane all smiles and as a result of this trip, have a desire to explore more of the world??  And showing my parents that we are, in fact, not just surviving but thriving was so important to me.
The boys with my parents

November - My Aunt Janice and Uncle Richard made the long trek here and it was so wonderful to have them.  It was a great opportunity to show them "my" city as well as to have some quality time getting to know them better.

My aunt and uncle at Sagrada Familia

Adventurous travel:

In a way I felt like this year was a bit more low key than the last few.  I think it's because we took a little time off in the spring though we made up for that with our visitors.  That sounds like such a first world issue and I feel spoiled even saying, "oh we took a month off of our world travels", but given the inexpensive rates for travel, how can we not go somewhere at every opportunity?  Here's where 2013 took us:

January - no where!  And it was fabulous!  After a super filled end of 2012, we were happy to stay home in January!

February - London!  This was our third attempt in 3 years and it was a first for the kids and I but not for Josh who had been here a few times over the years.  We LOVED it!  Yes, it was cold and a bit grey but aside from them speaking English (a bonus), it was a city filled with so many fun things to do!

Liam at the Tower Bridge in his royal robe

March - Malta!  This was not our favorite destination over the last few years but we had a great time nonetheless.  It was way more crowded than we expected and the weather was not as nice as we had hoped given that Barcelona is further north and was having a nicer March than Malta was down near Africa!
The best part of Malta was Josh and Aidan swimming with the dolphins!

April - Amsterdam for Josh... the rest of us were home in April.  He had a conference there for a week.

May - No where!!  But both boys celebrated their birthdays in May!

June - I went to France (Provence and Collioure) with Caryn and Urs while they were visiting.  Josh was in England during most of their visit unfortunately.  

Collioure, France

July - Michelle and I took a quick trip to Andorra while she was visiting.  Then at the very end of the month the kids and I headed home to Boston for vacation.

August - The kids and I were home for the first 3 weeks of August.  We returned back and within 36 hours we were on a plane again, this time with Josh, to Croatia!  This was a top 5 trip for us over the last four years and we absolutely loved everything about this country!

The boys with some of their closest friends at home

Aidan and Liam in Dubrovnik, Croatia

September - Somehow we were all here in Barcelona this month!

October - Josh met up with his mom in Ireland for a bit of a family reunion.  Then after my parents went back to the US, Josh and I did a belated anniversary trip to Florence.  We loved Florence and look forward to seeing more of Tuscany one of these days!

Josh's favorite part of Florence - the double iced cappuccino!

November - We took the kids to Scotland and stayed in a haunted castle one night, then headed to Stirling Castle (one of Josh's dreams) before meeting up with our British cousins!  Then 2 weeks later we took them to Paris and DisneyParis - such a fun, though cold, time!  It was in November that Josh changed jobs and started spending his weekdays in Amsterdam.  And he thought the commute to Lexington was tough!

All the cousins together!

Playing with big guns in Scotland


December - Again, Josh has been spending the majority of his time in Amsterdam while the kids and I are in Barcelona.  But he was home for Christmas and we all headed to Lucerne, Switzerland for skiing and New years!  Lucerne was one of the most beautiful cities we've been too, nestled in between the Swiss Alps and the skiing (at least for the kids and Josh) was amazing!
Lucerne, Switzerland

Our plans for the upcoming year:

  • We have a few visitors on the calendar for the early part of the year.  Our friend Andy will be visiting BCN and staying with us.  And then Kyle and Kelly will be making another trip out to see us in May!!  We're very excited for both visits!
  • Travel - while we only have 3 trips booked at the moment, we have several ideas for the others that just need to be booked.  But the kids and I are heading to Amsterdam in January to visit with Josh so he doesn't have to come home that weekend.  Then we are going to Iceland in February during the school break - we're hoping to see the Northern Lights and the Blue Lagoon while we are there.  And then we've got an awesome cruise in July that will kick off the next phase of our lives (whatever that may be).  It's 12 nights and hits several places in the Baltic Sea including St. Petersburg, Russia - we're super excited about this trip!!
  • I want to focus more on our family this year.  With Josh gone 5 days a week, I want to really put the focus on the kids when they get home and put work second.  I always say I'm going to do this but when they get home it's my peak work hours.  I'm going to do my best to put that aside for the few hours they have with me each day and do that work in the evenings when I'm home alone anyways.
  • And of course, this year we will find out what the next "few" years holds in store for us.  Will it be a move back to the US this summer?  Will we find a way to stay in BCN for one more year?  Or will we end up in Amsterdam?  We're hoping / need to know by March so fingers crossed all goes smoothly with that end of things, but expect a few blog entries to be coming about those!
All in all, year 4 was a good one.  It wasn't as overwhelming as the previous 3 and started to feel a little bit ho hum home.  This is a good thing, don't get me wrong.  It means that the challenges that came with the first 3 years didn't bother us or didn't stop us like they had before.  Life was ... normal.  And that reminds me of life at home.  We don't know what this coming year holds for us and we're excited to find out!!


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