I'd also like to believe this blog is about truth. So, let me write the truths for you, friends! The beautiful truths and the hard truths about our first four months as ex-pats...
Let's begin with the hard.
In February I started off super brave (my 'word for the year') and cast aside all my fears and moved here to the Netherlands, with Hubby and three little kiddos. We lived in temporary hotel housing until our belongings arrived several weeks later on a ship and were delivered to our rental home. The kids started a brand new school during that time, Finola's first time doing full-day. It was exciting to ditch our huge 'Merican SUV and navigate the public transportation, stare out of our high-rise apartment at the Amsterdam skyline and sunrises, walk through the parks and get mauled by overly aggressive pigeons. It all felt so cool and new!
Then we moved into our new house, a rental in the 'burbs.
Surrounded by boxes and blank walls, reality set in.
Welcome to starting your life over! This isn't a vacation - this is your new normal. (PS There is no family or friends around to help. And your baby is teething like whoa and waking up every two hours.)
Immediately upon moving in we all got the flu. Bad. As in I personally was more sick than I'd been since childhood. I lost eight pounds (of baby weight, mind you...so I wasn't wasting away) and didn't leave our house at all for two weeks. Five days of it Paul was in China on business and I was alone with the kids, in a depressed fog, trying to stay afloat in all areas of life while battling that virus. The worst.
Finally the fog lifted and I set about trying to get our house in order and feeling like home. We had chosen a fine rental house with plenty of space in a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood. But I soon started to miss our beautiful Victorian back in Kentucky. Lots. (Right now three bachelors are living in it and enjoying all our renovations. I think about it and die a bit inside. Okay, I'm being dramatic...but also kinda truthful.)
There was a lot of thought put into our renovation...and time spent. Maybe too much? I believe God wanted us away from that for a while.
Yes, this move has made me question all aspects of life. I have had moments of extreme loneliness., missing friends and relatives. I have had moments of feeling isolated and without purpose. I will flip-flop between confidence and shyness, bravery and fear. There are days of anger and wondering God's purpose in bringing us here -- and then other days the "why" is so obvious it is shocking.
I really do believe He has perfect timing, and from what I can tell this experience is meant to be both enriching and utterly humbling for me. To grow us as a family and in our marriage. To stretch us. To show us what is important. To open our eyes to that which we took for granted.
We have had plenty of stressful moments where I have literally said, in tears, "I don't think I can stay here. It is too hard." Then the next day I look out at the canals, or I take a run by the flower farms, or I get a text from a new friend, and I think, Maybe I'll make it through this after all.
I think many ex-pats experience the same thing -- a hard first few months. All of a sudden all you have is each other. Which is so beautiful...and humbling. And sometimes painfully hard.
Then you grow, and adjust, and begin to adapt to your new home. Your heart opens enough to start breathing fully again and enjoying things. And that is where I am at in this moment, four months in - finally breathing normally again.
Okay, so now let's talk about the beautiful truths, because there have been plenty of those, too!
- Riding a bike again for the first time since eighth grade! I love, love, love cruising around on our bikes, both solo and as a family! Paul and I have gone on several dates biking around to different locales and it was the most exhilarated I've felt in years! I seriously feel like a kid again every time I am on my bike, zooming along the bike paths with the wind whipping through my hair. We even biked to church on Sunday! It's my favorite thing.
- We've been able to travel as a family to Paris and Morocco. Both trips were so different and complete treasures. Paul and I have traveled internationally together before, and I've no doubt our romantic getaways would have continued. But without this move I honestly don't think I'd have taken on Paris with three littles, or Morocco with a tiny baby. (That's a hard no, honestly.) Definitely looking forward to more family adventures here!
- I started running consistently again! It is so nice running along the road beside beautiful canals, farms and fields. Currently looking for a half marathon to register for, as I honestly believe being registered for a race is mental health necessity for me. 100% serious.
- The kids go to an awesome international school, have made some friends, and are adjusting just just fine. Cormac does, however, miss all the rules and order of Catholic school. (Not kidding.) Finola, on the other hand, is thriving in the more Montessori-style of classroom.
- Whitman is growing like a little weed, sprouting teeth, crawling to everything he shouldn't, yelling loudly to get attention, making giant messes and all with a sweet grin that will make you forgive him in a heartbeat. He might be my loudest and most persistent child yet. God help us.
- The weather has been lovely! Springtime here, which may be an anomaly, has been warm and sunny and breezy.
- We live within an hour of the sea! You don't know how good this is for my soul. I've gone twice, and can't wait to visit more beachy spots this summer!
A lot to be thankful for, amidst the tough stuff and the heart work.
So I'll grow with the hard, and cling to the beautiful.
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Some random moments from our first four months...
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Some random moments from our first four months...
|bikes + canals forever and ever.|
|Riding the metro with Whit right after we arrived. It was February and very, very cold + windy.|
|our temporary high-rise view in the land of tulips. sunset and sunrise every day.|
|the metro stop near our house goes all the way to centraal station!|
|This date night back in late March has been our only venture to the actual city center, thus far. #reality|
|red light district - post-flu. I remember how sick I had been just looking at this pic.|
|ducked into a random sushi place during our rainy date night.|
|a walk in the nearby forest in early spring.|
|I'm still trying to decorate our quirky home built in the 1970s.|
|Twice a week I pick the kids up from school and we all ride the Metro home. We are quite a crew!|
|Dutch beach vibes.|
|Enjoying a tapas fest in Amsterdam on Mother's Day.|
|Brothers on a beach day!|
|hanging out on the grassy knoll with some neighbor friends.|
|beautiful spring canals.|
|Celebrated our very first 'King's Day'|
|Whit hanging on King's Day at the home of some new friends!|
|I never tire of the wildflowers in our 'hood.|
|Finola getting artsy at school. One of her art teachers is our landlord and she sends me pics!|
|a windmill on our drive to the seaside.|
|red poppies at the metro stop near our house.|
|IKEA with the three kids is an adventure in itself!|
|Cormac and his unending search for shells.|
|winter on the metro.|
|at one of the many parks near our house. playground and duck pond around every corner.|
|After four months, the blondies are adjusting, too - and dare I say, thriving.|
|we have experienced a LOT of wiggly teeth, sprouting teeth and losing teeth since our arrival here.|
|Finola and I found our new date spot (to replace Target.) Hello Hema!|
|We eat a lot of sweets here. #coping #dutchlovesweets|
|We have embraced the bike life. Paul even takes all three at once! #superdad|
|These two are now only one year apart in school instead of two. It is as fun and full of drama as you'd imagine.|
|Family picnic at the Amsterdamse Bos (the forest).|
|Mostly our lives are just everyday stuff like this, though.|
|Fresh flowers every week! My little splurge since moving here.|
|Yep, this kid is as happy as he seems in pics.|
|Finola celebrating birthday #5 with her class at school!|
|Date night on bikes! My favorite thing now.|
|Walking trails along the neighborhood canals.|
|"Home is wherever I am with you."|