I’m almost exactly a month late with this one. While we were home in the US, we celebrated two years of living in the Netherlands. I felt much better “celebrating” this year compared to our first year which was an outright disaster. This past year felt more… normal.
When we arrived 2 years ago to the Netherlands, it was a bit of a clusterf*ck of a disaster. Aside from the constant rain and cold temperatures, two days in we had Josh’s dislocated knee and a call to the ambulance to content with. That about covered our first 6 months. Oh somewhere around month 4 we started to have issues related to school admissions that carried us through to the start of our second year. It wasn’t a good year. Not by a long shot. In fact, it was the first time since we had moved that at the end of the summer trip home that I did NOT want to come back. That’s how bad it was.
But it got better. This past year I could even go as far as saying was great. Sure we had our ups and downs. And there were some personal struggles in there both individually and as a couple. After over 20 years together, we know each other so well and so we sat down and talked about what we wanted for ourselves and our lives together and came up with a plan to achieve that. It’s amazing what a little communication can do ;).
Our lives got so much busier in year 2 as well. The kids started off here with just tennis and swimming. Aidan finished all his swim diplomas in the first year, but starting in year 2, we still had Liam taking lessons (and still do). We also added in two days of OT / PT for Liam taking our activities to 4 days a week. But then Aidan decided he wanted to play baseball which at first was 2 days a week but then in the spring became 3 days a week. And Liam started Krav Maga. What started off as more of a Spanish, relaxed lifestyle soon became very quickly the Americanized version of pressing forward full steam ahead 7 days a week. Though Aidan’s schedule changed and we soon knocked out a day of activities (making it some days with 2 activities), we were still really busy.
What I realized during this super busy time (I spent a lot of time in the car shuttling children around and therefore had a lot of time to think about all of this!) is that this is the kind of thing that makes a place home. No, it’s not about having activities 6 days a week, but the act of just doing the same things you would anywhere else that you live. Sure there were still challenges with the language, medical system and school, but slowly it all starts to come together and you just… live.
I read that once about living abroad. The first year you are just trying to get your bearings. The second year you started getting into your groove and the third year is when you really start to live and enjoy your surroundings. This held true for us in Barcelona and despite our very rough start in the Netherlands, it seems to be the case for us here as well. Though nothing will ever help me deal with weather here compared to that in Barcelona!!!
Year 2 was a great year for the kids. They really started to build some great friendships, though of course there are always some sad goodbyes along the way. That’s the life for an expat kid (TCK) and it never gets easier. Liam had a spectacular year in school and we could not have been more pleased with how hard he worked and how he kept his chin up through all the challenges he was presented with. He also got glasses at the end of the year so hopefully he can see better now that he’s started his third year here 😉
Aidan also had an amazing year. It was his first year of secondary school and like with everything else he deals with, he totally rose to the occasion. All those years of fighting with him over homework seemed to have been worth it (somehow) because this year he came home straight from school and got to it without me saying a word. He started projects well in advance and did a little every day. He was, in my mind, the ideal student. You know that Liam is not going to be anything like this because it’s not possible to have 2 kids who can manage their own schoolwork, right??? Anyways, Aidan didn’t just meet my expectations for what I’d hoped for in his first year of secondary school but blew them away. I’ve told him I’ve raised the bar for year 3 now because I know he can…and he will – of that I have no doubt!
Josh has continued to impress at work. There is never any doubt how committed he is to his job and how much he loves what he does. He constantly blows my mind with his brilliance and how he manages to fit in as much as he does in one day. I will admit that I need to take a few notes from him on productivity and efficiency – something I thought I was good at but clearly fall behind compared to him! He and I started to meet up once a week for lunch as a way to connect without the kids while we are still full of energy (because once they go to bed, we just stare vacantly at the tv or read). It’s been great for us and something we both look forward to each week.
As for me, I am starting to find my social groove – something that was a huge challenge in our first year. Sometimes I’m a little too social. I still haven’t had much as far as girls’ nights but at least I’m getting out to coffee dates with friends and the occassional lunch. It’s good progress and an important piece of living abroad since your social network also tends to be your support system. I sold my company back in April and saw a career coach for a few months in order to figure out my next steps (still working on that but I’ve got some progress there too). I’m still working on my exercise routine but I learn yoga last year and started to play (I use that term loosely as I’m horrible) tennis again towards the end of the year. I also took a few photography classes thanks to gifts from Josh. It was a year of making changes and challenging myself in new ways.
Best of all, I think I can safely say that by the end of our second year, we were all happy to be here. Sure, it’s not perfect and we have our bumps and frustrations along the way, but I think we’ve passed village of content and entered the city of happiness.
We still love to travel and while we didn’t get to as many places as we would have liked to, we managed to take a few fun and exciting trips. We started with Turkey where we spent time in Istanbul and Cappadocia. I know there are issues in Turkey these days but if you haven’t visited – you should (maybe when there isn’t so much conflict). I took the kids to Barcelona to visit their friends a few times as well as for a wedding (we go again next month!). We went to Prague over the Christmas holidays – such a beautiful city!!! The first part of the new year was busy with a trip with a friend of mine and all the kids to Venice. I’d been before but the kids had not and I loved getting to show them a city that is unique compared to any other than they have seen. We took the kids home to Boston for a quick long weekend (Liam was sound asleep before the plane took off back to the Netherlands, it was just that busy all weekend!) for my cousin’s wedding. And we went to the Algarve region (as well as Aveiro and Sintra) in Portugal for the kids May break. This is all before we headed home for the summer. Whew, it was more than I realized this year!!
So what’s up for our third year?
Well, school started right after we got back from the US so the kids are now almost a month into the year and getting settled into schedules, etc. Liam is being released from his OT / PT over the next few weeks because they say he’s ready – after 6 years of OT, I’m a little scared by this prospect but also excited because it not only frees up 2 afternoons (sort of because Aidan still has baseball one of those days – but less rushed at least) but because it justifies how hard Liam has worked and that he can now do this stuff on his own. It would be great if this helps us to slow down a bit (highly unlikely as Liam now wants to play baseball with his brother and they won’t be on the same team as of Nov) for at least a little while!
We are heading to Barcelona for the October break. We had talked about Montenegro, Cuba, the Maldives, Egypt and a few other places but we waited too long to plan and the flights everywhere were just insanely expensive and the kids are dying to go to Barcelona and for us, it will be a nice and relaxing time – we know the city inside and out and so it’s a no brainer to go and spend time with our “family” in Barcelona for a few days. We can’t wait!
There are no travel plans over Christmas this year. We had planned to go home but instead, we are getting a new addition to our family! We are getting a puppy! We are all insanely happy about this and can’t wait to welcome our new little chocolate lab to our family!! The little pup (Scout or Mookie – still to be determined) will affect our travel plans this year but in a good way so we’ll still do some but it may be more local (Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands) rather than longer distance so that she can come with us.
We also have some bigger things in the hopper (non travel related and yes, even bigger than puppy news) that I can’t write about yet, but stay tuned… it’s all good though, I promise!
Year 3 is looking to be not just a good year, but a great year if the start of it is any indication. I can’t wait to share it with you!!
Knuffels en kussen,