Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oud en Nieuw (Old and New)

OMG am I really almost a month late on this one?  I really wanted to get that anniversary entry up and it ended up being quite the bear, taking me a solid week to write and then of course, some shiny object distracted me and here we are, almost a month into the new year.

It's hard to believe that we are already into 2015.  There's no sugar coating that 2014 was a bad year. I'm glad it's over.  I know it's just a number and any day, month or year can be not so great, but 2014 was just terrible as far as years go.  But it was also eye opening to me.

I learned that my family is resilient.  And when faced with difficult situations, they will rise to the occasion and get the job done.  We have all changed over our last 5 years abroad, but none so much as this last year.  And so a bad year can't be all that bad if you gained something from it.  I think we all gained an inner strength that we didn't know that we had.  I've compiled a list of a few other things I want to (re) focus on:

  • For my kids to struggle less and find their niche here
  • For Josh to continue to love what he does like he has over the last year. 
  • For Josh to be able to ride his bike again so that I can stop playing chauffeur ;)
  • For us all to put more effort towards being physically fit - I have dropped the ball on that over the last 6 months since our move back in June - time to reprioritize that.  First step is the new treadmill that was just delivered this week...
  • To put more time and effort into my company. With all that happened last year, it suffered but it's time to refocus.
  • At the same time, I want to play more ... Laundry, dishes and other chores can wait. I want to engage more with my children.  Less "in a minute" responses to their requests. 
  • To be more patient. Patience is my nemesis and this year I will conquer it. 
  • For my kids to argue less and laugh more. Yesterday we started a happiness jar - I'm hoping that through that we can remember more of the things that make us smile and put aside the things that don't.
  • I vow to be a better friend, a better daughter, a better mother and a better wife. 
  • To be less moody. 2014 was the year of sulking and woo-is-me. Kicking both of them out the door and focusing on celebrating happiness. 
Speaking of celebrating happiness... A new blog is in the works for 2015 to focus on the good things in life. Yeah being an expat is tough but sometimes we need to remember all the good that comes out of this life too. I'm hoping this blog will keep sulking and woo-is-me at bay by refocusing my energy in a more positive light. 

So back to our New Years celebrations... Since we had only just returned from Tanzania a few days before Christmas, our plans for New Years was low key.  As in no plans at all.  With the kids only 7 and 10, they often don't really care if they are able to stay up for the new year and since it was just the 4 of us, it seemed like it was going to be like any other night.  We'd try to get them to stay up til midnight - play a few games, pick some movies... but if they didn't (or if we didn't!), it was no big deal.

During the day, the kids and I went into the city to run a few errands.  We'd heard that Amsterdam center is NOT the place to be on New Years as it's beyond insane with fireworks in the streets, a lot of drunks, etc - you get the picture.  We went over to Josh's office and he joined us for tapas for lunch. Yes, tapas in Amsterdam.  It's funny because in Barcelona, I was totally tapas'd out within weeks of us arriving in the city.  I'd have them here or there but not very often.  I bought Iberian jamon for the kids but I didn't really eat it.  It's funny the things you crave when it's no longer easily accessible or the options that are available are an inferior product.  So we all jumped at the chance to have some Spanish tapas and while they weren't totally up to par with being in Barcelona, it was a very close second.  And it made us yearn for "home".  The kids and I will be there next month and have already been talking about where we will eat ;)

While Josh went back to work, the kids and I headed over to our appointment at the Apple store to have my computer repaired (turns out that the water that's in my computer negates my warranty.... when asked, it turns out that one of our children had accidentally spilled some water near it...hmmmm) and then over to the American store.  Wandering around for a bit, we eventually made our way back to Josh's office and picked him up early to head home to start getting ready for our first Dutch New Years.

Now in Barcelona, there are firecrackers all year long.  Some events have kiosks that pop up a week before to buy harder core fireworks.  But regardless, they aren't illegal.  The Netherlands is a bit more like the US, or at least Massachusetts.  It is ONLY legal to buy fireworks for the few days leading up to New Years and they may be set off only between the hours of 6PM and 2AM.  That's it.  That's the Dutch rigidness right there - reminds me of the good old USA there (and makes me crave Barcelona's "do at your own risk" type of policy).

Anyways, I had picked up some sparklers and small firecracker type of explosives at our local Albert Heijn grocery store.  Yes, they were for sale at the grocery store.  Josh wasn't even really aware of the fireworks sales at pop up stores around the city or even in our village since he leaves for work so early and comes home after everything is closed.  I (stupidly) made mention to him about it so he insisted that we stop at the one just around the corner from our house.  We did.  It looked like it was about to close (after all it was almost 5PM!!!) and so he ran in.  He was in there for a long time.  I don't like Josh and fire.  It is kind of like Josh and driving.  But he was like a kid in a candy store and after a significant cash outlay, he was back in the car with a giant bag of fireworks.

Not knowing how long the kids were going to last, we headed out to the grassy field area in front of our house a little after 8 to set off our fireworks.  And wow were some of them huge.  Unfortunately the pictures don't come close to doing them justice but let's say that these are the types that I'm going to guess you'd see at a show set off by professionals.  Within about 15 minutes, they were done. Unfortunately I haven't mastered my DSLR camera and so most of the pictures are ones I took with Josh's iphone, also not super great in the dark.

Giant sparklers!

I even had my tripod ready, hoping to get some good shots... fail.

Jedi knights in training ;)

These do not even come close to showing how brilliant the fireworks that Josh bought actually were...

Slightly better, but still not close

Battle of the sparklers 2014

Best picture my camera took that night with the cool trailing as Josh used the sparkler - if only I had any idea how I actually managed to take that picture so I could recreate another time!

Anyways, back inside we went where we heard sporadic fireworks going off all night.  The night itself was non descript.  Liam threw up - par for the course with him.  And honestly I wasn't feeling 100% myself and almost called it a night early.  Around midnight we were all still (amazingly) awake and started to talk about getting everyone ready for bed when suddenly everyone started to light off fireworks.

Now I don't  mean one or two people.  I mean it was like the whole neighborhood came out and lit off their own professional kit of fireworks.  To the front of us was an amazing light display... and when we looked out our back door, the same could be said in the Vesting (center of town).  In every direction you could see the fireworks lighting up the night sky - one after another after another.  It was amazing and we were in total awe.  We knew the Dutch loved fireworks but this was an entirely different level of passion than we were expecting!!

It was downright magical and I wish that we had taken some pictures but we were so in the moment that it didn't even occur to us.  And we were a little saddened that we had acted so preemptively with setting ours off so early.  But alas, hindsight is always 20-20 and we had no idea the kids would make it this long.  We watched from Liam's room which had the best views for about 45 minutes and they were still going strong. Eventually we decided to call it a night but both kids had front row seats to get to keep watching with their upstairs bedrooms.

What we decided right there on the spot, though, was that we would most definitely up our game for next year, like Halloween.  The Dutch don't do anything half assed apparently when it comes to their holidays.  And we love that.  There are more traditions that I know we missed as well for ringing in the new year, so next year, come midnight, you can expect to see us out there with our massive array of incendiaries along with the rest of the neighborhood, eating our olliebollen with our neighbors.  We'll be ready this time!

And to all of our friends and family, I hope you had wonderful, happy new years celebrations filled with lots of laughter, made some great memories and that your 2015 is all you wished for!  Happy (belated) New Year!


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