Saturday, December 6, 2014

Giving Thanks

When I first thought about writing my annual Thanksgiving entry, all I could think about was how thankful I am that 2014 is almost over.  It's been a tough year and there is no sugar coating how hard it was and how happy I am to see 2015 on the horizon.

But when I started to look back, trying to find the light amongst all the dark, I realized that while our lows were incredibly low, our highs were also extreme.

  • Josh changed jobs and while he loved his old job, he is enamored with his new one.  He is excited again about work which is so important!
  • While we were sad to leave Barcelona and all of our friends (and the weather!) there, we have been given the opportunity to expand our horizons and live outside our comfort zone again.  To not only have this for ourselves, but for our children is something we are very thankful for.
  • We went on some amazing trips since last Thanksgiving!  Skiing in Switzerland.  Seeing the aurora borealis, volcanos and glaciers in Iceland.  Visiting our cousins in England as well as getting to see where the Harry Potter movies were filmed!  Taking a cruise along the Baltic Sea which gave us the opportunity to see more places we'd missed over the last 5 years, but also to visit St. Petersburg, Russia!  And we went home to visit with friends and family - something we are thankful to be able to do each and every year!  
  • We also had a lot of visitors over the last year - something that meant the world to us as we know it's not only far, but also expensive to come and visit us.  Thank you to all that came to see us!
  • We have an amazing network of friends and family who have been nothing but the most wonderful support for us during this difficult year - we are so lucky to have people who stand by us thru thick and thin!  
  • We have moved from one of the most beautiful cities in the world to one of the most picturesque villages that I can imagine.  Walking, bike riding or driving around every day, I'm in awe of it's beauty.  And within 30 minutes we are in one of my favorite cities in the world.
  • And of course, I'm thankful for our (overall) health (Josh has not had a banner year with his knee but he's on the mend), having a roof over our heads, clothes to wear and food to eat.  We know there are many less fortunate out there and so we need to remind ourselves just how truly lucky we are and be thankful for the opportunities we have had over this past year.
As it was only the 4 of us celebrating this year for the first time... ever... there were times when it was hard to muster up the excitement over the holiday, but I was bound and determined to make this Thanksgiving just as special as previous ones.  Aidan was less than thrilled because since it was just the 4 of us, he felt it meant that we didn't have anyone to celebrate the holiday with.  In a sense this was true - we have made some friends, but very few are close enough to want to ask to celebrate this holiday with and actually, I debated asking a few people if they wanted to join us because in the end, I felt that being alone might not actually be a bad thing for us.

Of course, when we ordered our 5 kilo (11 lbs) turkey, which was a job in and of itself, we ordered it with the thought that perhaps it will be more than the 4 of us.  After all, you never know.  And in the end, we figured, well, we'll just have more leftovers that we originally planned.  Back to ordering the turkey though - I'm thankful that I've made a connection at school with someone who knows the ins and outs of where to find things here.  I happened to ask if she knew where to find a turkey and she gave me a guy in Almere that could do it.  A few days before this, I was at our local market in Bussum and asked the chicken guy if he could do it - his answer "for Christmas only".  Ok, I see that you have turkey parts here so why can't you just sell me the whole turkey????  But nope, no can do.  The rules are the rules.  So I was very glad to end up with this guy in Almere that could order the turkey for me.

I planned an easy menu for us and tried to keep things in check knowing that there are only 4 of us and a tiny European fridge which doesn't exactly give play to many leftovers.  The kids and I talked about what we should do to make Thanksgiving special this year and Liam couldn't understand why it was that we had to celebrate but none of his friends at school were celebrating.  Why, Liam, because it's an American holiday.  "No, it's not," he said.  "Liam, do you know why we celebrate Thanksgiving?" And he had no idea.  He didn't know anything about Plimouth Rock, Pilgrims, Native Americans... nothing.  My poor ex-pat American child knows nothing about his heritage and I can only blame myself.  He's in an international school where there are very few American children and so I don't even think it came up (in their old school they did talk about it but obviously he doesn't remember).  So we did a little American History 101 as we drove home from school that day.  And I obviously need to work on making sure these guys stay on top of these things - there will be more on that in another entry...

Anyways, since the kids and Josh have school and work on the actual holiday, we once again celebrated on Saturday.  As Liam has a 4 hour swim class on Sundays, I took Aidan to run some much needed errands mid morning on Saturday.  It felt a little anti climatic to be running errands on "Thanksgiving" but what needs to get done, needs to get done.  And he really wasn't into celebrating the holiday for a number of reasons, but the primary one being, he doesn't feel American. Again, going to get into that one soon.

Josh was home grilling up our turkey while we were out and about running errands.  Yup, grilling it. It's become a new Marcus family tradition that we started out of necessity in Barcelona when we had 20 people over and 2 - 5 kilo turkeys to cook and one tiny European oven.  

While things seemed to be on track, apparently things can't ever really go that smoothly for us.  Liam was a disaster and spilled multiple times before we even sat down to eat.  Not the end of the world, but to him it was an with the ensuing tantrums that occurred, it put a bit of a sour note to our celebrations. Sitting down as a family felt like a bit of an effort after that and I can't say that dinner lasted all that long. A bit anti climatic after all that preparation.

A bit of a forced picture after we sat down to eat.  A record of our first "thanksgiving" in the Netherlands...

We attempted to watch the (pre recorded) Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade but the kids weren't really into it.  I made them watch it anyways.  Crazy, mean mom that I am.  I was going to make this into a "perfect" Thanksgiving one way or another.  But in reality, there is no perfect Thanksgiving and my family is who they are... and for that... I'm thankful.

Happy Holidays to all!

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