Expat-iversary Lucky Number 7

Seven years ago on January 5th, we arrived in Barcelona with no idea the adventure we were about to embark on.  Two years felt like it was going to be forever!  Who would have known that 2 years would end up 7 and still counting?  One country would end up being two?  And that we’d end up buying a house with plans to settle down in Europe for the foreseeable future?I can’t believe that it has been 7 years now since we said goodbye to life in the United States.  What was supposed to be 2 years clearly has ended up as much, much more.  And now that we have closed on our house in the Netherlands, it looks like we’ll be sticking around for a bit.  In a sense, the adventure is just beginning and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

This year was an interesting one for us all.  I think we all had some growing pains in our own individual ways.  It’s said that for an expat, year one is a year of adjustment, year two is a year where you are getting into your groove and year three is where you really start to LIVE and enjoy life in a new country.  I think I can comfortably say that has been us in the Netherlands.  It was a good year, but not without it’s challenges.  But then, what’s life without a few obstacles to learn from?

Josh is continuing to love his work.  There’s not much more to say about it beyond that.  A happy Josh is a happy family.  He gets a ton of satisfaction from what he does and in a career and job, you really can’t ask for more than that.  He’s looking forward to our new house and new boat in this next year.  I think it will give him a chance to decompress in ways he hasn’t been able to in our limbo lifestyle that has been expat life thus far.

The kids are growing quickly and are now 9 and 12.  Given that they were 2 and 5 when we first left the US for Spain and 7 and 10 when we left Spain for the Netherlands, it’s a huge difference.  They are third culture kids through and through. Every single day I’m thankful for this opportunity that we’ve been given for them to grow up as global citizens in ways that most people will never experience.  Knowing that most of their formative years will be split between 3 very different countries will give them a perspective that will serve them well for a lifetime.

Aidan is a young man who makes me so proud every single day.  He also finds a way to get on my last nerve every single day.  It’s a balancing act and he’s great at it 😉  I think it’s a pre-teen thing!  No really, he is an amazing kid who has the work ethic of some one much older than he is.  He’s an old soul. He’s my responsible kid whom I never worry about making the right choices (I’ve probably now totally jinxed myself) or if he’s done his homework – he’s on top of everything.

Liam is still my snuggly kid.  He’s a mama’s boy through and through.  He’s become quite the voracious reader in the last year though we still enjoy reading aloud books like the Percy Jackson series and currently Dorothy Must Die – his comprehension and interest far surpassing his 9 years.  Responsibility isn’t his strong suit unlike his brother, but he makes up for it in spades with his imagination and the worlds he’s able to create.  He is focused when he needs to be and a big stickler to rules.

Here are some highlights of our 6th year abroad:

  • Our travel has dwindled down a bit since moving to the Netherlands.  The Dutch don’t have holidays every other week like the Spanish and our travel has reflected that accordingly.  However, that being said, we still made it to Venice, Portugal (the Algarve, Sintra and Aveiro), home to Boston (twice – once for a weekend for a wedding and 6 weeks for summer), and home to Barcelona (also twice – once for a wedding and once for vacation).  Ok, when I look at it that way, it’s not all that bad 🙂
  • Aidan started to play baseball this year as did Liam (though he only started in the last few weeks).
  • I sold my business and took some much needed time off to reflect on what my next steps are, including seeing a career coach.  Happily, I think I’m on the right track. Sadly, I don’t think I made good use of my time off – I really need to work on making better use of my time – work smart, not hard – my motto for this year.  Hopefully 2017 will be a good year for that.
  • I started a bucket list.  One of those things included riding my bike to Amsterdam. Glad that one is checked off and I don’t have to do it again 😉  I also learned to knit… ok, I’m in the process of learning.  But it’s a start!
  • Liam got glasses.  He also passed his swim B diploma exam.  He’s finishing up his C this month and we will finally be done with swimming class!  Hooray!!!!
  • Josh decided it was a good idea to jump out of a plane!
  • I participated in NaNoWriMo and can proudly say that I’ve written a book!  It still need a LOT of editing, but it’s still a book!
  • We got a puppy!!  Scout joined our family in December!  She’s been a wonderful handful and we’ve realized just how much we missed having a dog in our lives.  She’s been such a great addition to our family!

This new year is already filled with some new and exciting adventures coming up.  We will be moving into our new house late in January.  I have started my new part time job this month as well, an exciting new change for me that I’m hoping will evolve into another adventure to add to our ever growing list.

While it’s unlike us, we will be holding off on any big travel due to lots of house stuff (renovations) until likely summer.  That means almost 9 months with no travel. We haven’t done that since we left the US. But I’m actually looking forward to just taking the time to enjoy being where we are NOW. And it can’t hurt to take some time and really think about where we really want to explore in the coming year(s) and start to plan those in advance (something we aren’t great at doing).

But what we won’t do in travel, we will make up for in visitors.  Aidan has two friends coming over the next two months.  My parents and Josh’s parents will both be visiting in May.  And hopefully Michelle will make it over here after her school year ends in June (ours doesn’t finish til the end of JULY!).  Will any of you be on our list of visitors this year???

I expect that this is a year where emotionally we will become even more settled.  Each year in a new place gets “easier” and easier, but every year we’ve always said “one more year and then we’ll go home,” leaving in this constant state of limbo.  Now that we have bought a house, I expect this coming year to be one where we lose that feeling and move on to more of living in the now.  Josh and Liam have been doing this all along, but it’s been a struggle for Aidan and I to do, so I’m looking forward to being more present in the moment rather than constantly looking towards the end of the school year and that “what now?” feeling.

Now that we are planning to stay here longer, the “plan” is that I’ll start working on my Dutch more.  I’ve been able to get by with English so far (unlike in Spain), google translate and my decoding skills.  I’ve learned to read enough Dutch to get by, but I really need to take it up a notch. I’m not sure where I’m going to fit it in to my already busy schedule, but then, I tend to work my best when my schedule is crammed with stuff.

Josh’s plan is to get his boating license and “maybe” his driving license.  We’ll see what happens there but I’m not holding my breath on the car license (and he doesn’t drive that often so hasn’t been a huge issue).

In the world, I expect to see interesting things happening between events like Brexit and the Trump presidency and how they will affect the rest of the world.  I hope to see a resolution to the war in Syria and less acts of terrorism (one can hope) on innocent civilians.

But most of all, I’m hoping for a year filled with a lot more smiles, a lot less struggles and stress and in general, a happy, settled expat family embracing the next steps to our adventures abroad!

Knuffels en kussen,



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