Wish I knew!!
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But I never made it to Budapest. It was time to go. The countdown clock was slamming every second in my ear and each morning felt like a mad dash to plan out: Things to do, People to see, and Places to go. I barely ate, I barely slept, adrenaline coursed through me to the point I’d randomly start to shake. There wasn’t enough time.
In all the other places I had lived, saying goodbye was pretty easy. Hugs, a dinner, good lucks and wish we could have hung out mores. But saying goodbye here was gut wrenching and created a vacuumed-out hollow hole in the middle of my chest.
I aced my Psychology of Adjustment course in college so, (un?)fortunately I was conscientiously aware of every step taking place inside of me. Fear, Anger, Bartering, Denial, Acceptance, Remorse, Numbness…any thought that flew through my mind fit into a category and I systematically dealt with them. I should have paid myself.
But I took action. I tried to live every minute as fully as I could and just continue on being me. But visions of the present were already slipping into the past. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, wondering what to order from the non-existant waiter, among the symphony of the urban street, every moment felt like an art-house film noir.
Summer was in full swing, complete with the amazonian sized mosquitos that were plaguing our house. (poor girl) But school was out and we had to fill up the day. Honestly it was so I could avoid the 100 question repeat that I had to answer daily. (Where are we going, where’s my stuff, why did you give away the iron)
Around every turn, I took a second to look at what I was leaving behind. Not in an angry sense but in a mental photograph sort of way. Soon my daily views would turn into master planned communities and “old buildings” that were constructed in the 1990s.
During our vacation to Germany, I decided to go to Nice overnight. Friends had rented a house there for the month and I’m pretty sure everyone knows if you invite me to something, I’m going to show up.
When I returned back to Brussels the reality was really hitting. I remembered how I felt after I had been in Brussels for 5 months and still had not really found any friends and how all that had instantly changed the moment my kids started school in September. I wanted to scream WHERE HAVE YOU PEOPLE BEEN! The International School of Brussels introduced me to life long friends and for that I will always remain grateful.
As the days counted down we said goodbye to neighbors and friends. Exchanging small gifts and tokens with promises to visit in the future. I think they all know better that that is not just fluff talk for me. You should see what I have mentally planned for 2014. I didn’t see Athens.
The hardest part (when I was able to see outside my own sadness) was the kids. They are at an age now where they understand what it means to leave, to move. This was my day to day life. Jason was traveling on business and I was left to get the house in order, coordinate the packer/movers, and all the while help these two cope with what was going on. I was beyond mentally exhausted but had to establish the balance of letting them feel the real emotions of life, but also help them work through them.
We traded our house for room service and breakfast in bed. Not too awful.
But what was awful was checking into the hotel. We had to check in with Bailey. My cat hates travel and the poor thing has lived in 10 places in her 12 year life. You would think she’d be used to her carrier, airplane and car travel by now. She is not.
As we closed up our house, I loaded Bailey into the car. She started screaming like normal. But then as we are about to pull up to the hotel a horrific smell hits me and I realize that she has gone to the bathroom in her carrier. Not something solid and removable but nervous, sprayed, liquified devil potion. It was all over my front seat and the valet was walking up to open my door. The kids were yelling typical 5 year old comments and I was frozen with “what the hell do I do.”
I grabbed a plastic sack from the back and wrapped the bad end of the carrier, I threw a shirt down from my luggage onto the front seat and handed the keys to valet with an “I’m so sorry” look. My car was being sold the very next day but I couldn’t even think about that right now.
I entered the hotel lobby, with its beautiful marble and travertine floors while my kids continued to giggle and laugh loudly. My daughter informed me it was dripping on to the ground and I continued to walk as fast as possible. I checked into the front desk and apologized to the lady, explaining my cat had had an accident. You could instantly tell she was not only horrified, but not a cat-person.
We dove into the elevator, got into our hotel room and I dropped the cat in the carrier straight into the bathtub and slammed the door. The bellman brought in our bags and Zane proceeded to tell him in detail that they cat had pooped all over the place. I tipped heavily and got him out as soon as possible.
I spent the next hour cleaning up my cat, the soft sided fabric airline approved carrier and my embarrassment. Jason wasn’t even in the country but somehow dammit this was all his fault and I think crushed a few soap boxes with rage.
Even though we were in a hotel, goodbye’s continued and without my car or the house everyday echoed Mr. Norman’s words, the clock moves so slowly but time goes fast. I never made it to Madrid.
I had promised to take a shot of an infamous Australian Rum. It pretty much stripped my esophagus but didn’t taste half bad.
Yasmine, my first friend and the best language tutor on the planet. I stepped into her office on a freezing January day, probably still jet-lagged, and in less than 18 months regained a harness on the French language.
The next few days I met friends for lunch and with the added ability to walk to all my favorite places, I re-realized how in love I was with Brussels. Auschwitz was a two hour travel away, I didn’t get to visit.
I’m so fortunate to have had made such a great group of friends there. While I was busy trying to hold my family up during the move, I needed people to hold me up. They were there every step of the way.
This was our final dinner in Brussels. And of all places, The Hard Rock Cafe of Brussels located on The Grand Place. We had never been! But we got to share it with one of the loveliest families you will ever meet.
We hit the airport for an uneventful flight. Jason and the kids were up in Business class and I was in Coach. Cats aren’t allowed to fly Business. If it weren’t for FAA regulations I probably could have bribed someone to take the cat under their seat allowing me up front. It was probably better that I was by myself. I spent a lot of the flight time in a not so very good place.
Without a wink of sleep, we arrived in Texas and I drowned my sorrows. We were fortunate though to be taken in with family hospitality so that in the following weeks, while I searched for a house and cars we didn’t have to live in a temporary apartment.
I spent a large majority of my time sitting at these chairs on the back porch. I wasn’t used to air conditioning yet and sitting inside or going into Target caused my skin to prickle up and my arms to fold inward. I remember the swans walking across the frozen pond across from my house.
Day and night I sat searching for houses, cars, furniture, my new life. I tried to stay off of Facebook but could not. I selfishly didn’t want to see (my) life continuing on overseas. Yet anytime I felt my pity-party putting on the party-hat I tossed it aside and did something else, something more productive.
And I needed the time. Lily sneakily snapped this picture of me as I was sitting alone, on the beach, at dusk, staring at the ocean. Even typing that out sounds so melodramatic, but hey, it’s a process. I never made it to Scotland.
I’m closing it up there. I wish I would have made it to 104 weeks (and beyond) but you get what you get and don’t get upset. The process of separation is still ongoing, some doors need to close, some will always remain unlocked but luckily with fantastic inventions like, airplanes and the internet, no one is really ever that far away. This move hurt. It hurt a lot. It will hurt so many of my friends someday too but I’m thankful I got to go through it before a lot of them so I will know how to help them heal when their day comes.
I’m so happy about all who have kept up with this blog, your comments, emails and enthusiasm for it kept me going every week. This makes my 4th blog and the 5th will be starting up shortly. I hope that you will continue to stay tuned and find out what’s next in my life. I’d really like to know too but you can’t have everything when, how, and exactly how you want it, shucks.
Until then, thank you Brussels.
Remember when we moved there?
We decided to take a vacation right after school got out based on the recommendation of a friend. If an Austrian recommends some place for you to go near Austria…you go.
I’m so glad we did.
We went to Sonnenalp Resort in Bavaria Germany. It is one of those places where you have zero stress. Your meals are served right down stairs, there’s pools, spas, activities, golf, horses and a kids club. After our experience in Dubai at the kids club (things did not go well) I was a bit hesitant as how this would go. However, I was pleasantly surprised that they ran in there and the next morning I woke up to them asking WHEN are we going to class!?!
Pick up kids from kids club and chow down on dinner.
Such a relaxing and easy place to be.
And plenty of other activities to keep them busy.
While there we also drove down to Neuschwanstein Castle. As you may already know this is the castle that Walt Disney based the famous “Disney Castle” after. Mr. Disney had quite an obsession with Germany and in turn took a lot of “influencing ideas” from here.
Here’s a tip if you ever plan on going. Order your tickets ahead of time online. If you do you get to wait in this line (none)
And if not, you have to wait in this one (which snaked around outside too). If you don’t have the ability to get the tickets online, then show up around 4pm. There’s no one there.
There are 3 ways to get up to the castle. Horse, Bus or walking. We chose to take the horse. Which made for an uncomfortable and immature ride. The horses that were carrying our buggy had terrible stomach aches and were releasing all sorts of noxious fumes in our direct path. I was turning green while Zane and Lily couldn’t stop laughing hysterically.
The entry foyer was pretty packed full of people. However there isn’t really a line to go in. Your tickets have a tour time on them that runs every 5 minutes. You simply wait for your time to go up on the electronic board, your group lines up and you begin your tour of the castle.
After a week of relaxation and fun we had to head back to the in-between real-world of Brussels to prepare for our move. But first, we stopped by Strasbourg, France to help take a break from all the driving. It’s a great town and I wish we had more time to spend there.
It was a great trip and I’m so thankful for the recommendation. Although I had fun, the undertones of the bittersweet were ever present.
Zane and Lily enjoyed saying goodbye to many of their favorite friends. Sadly, for many friends, they didn’t realize this really was goodbye.
This week I had also discovered that we would be moving back to Houston as of August 1. Besides the move the hardest thing for me was that I was not allowed to share this news with anyone. I’m pretty sure people thought I was insane running around making desperate plans to find out who was going out of town and when during the summer. “NO, WHAT day will you be getting back, uh huh and what time does that flight land?…ok..can I see you that day?” crazy woman.
A few close friends I told (such the rule breaker am I) and they were holding me up all week with their friendship and support. (there’s tears under those glasses)
Don’t know what I’m going to do without them.
After school had let out for the year, the next day we and some school friends headed to “The Dinosaur Expo”. It sounded cool in theory but what it really was, was a “let’s scare the shit out of some little kids” loud-a-thon.
They had large animatronic dinosaurs, roaring and snapping at all who walked by. Zane did SO much better than he would have done a year ago. The just grabbed the nearest adult by the hand and politely asked “Can we walk faster!?!”.
At the end there was a dinosaur dig. But really, it was a sandbox. No one was monitoring anything to show them how to actually excavate something under earth. That’s when nerdy Val stepped in and demonstrated proper brushing technique. My poor kids, I’m always going to be that mom.
Lily and John seemed to keep themselves occupied at the dinosaur crayon rubbing station. As Lily put it, it is cleaner than that giant cat-box over there.
Our cute little dinosaurs.
Happy 5th Birthday! You blink and bam, those little wrapped bundles of scream turn 5 years old!
Just like each year let birthday ramadan begin. A full week of celebration begins now.
You probably don’t remember but last year we took Z&L out of school for their birthday and went to the Netherlands to Efteling. They had such a great time I decided to do it again. I asked them if they wanted to go but they said they only wanted to go with their favorite friends “kay-ton & john”. My friend Kate and I pulled all our kids out of school the day before their actual birthday and drove up north for a day of amusement park fun. Fortunately, it was not as packed as it would be on a weekend or during the summer. Unfortunately there were BUSLOADS of children that were pouring into the park when we got there. As the day wore on the crowds thinned out and we never had to wait longer than 10 minutes for anything so no complaining is really necessary.
Lily decided to ride next to Clayton half the day and John the other half. The girl keeps her options open…
This wooden roller coaster has two coasters racing at the same time side by side. Our coaster lost, which is a bummer but the ride was fantastic. It’s been a long time since I could get on a roller coaster but luckily I had two boys with me that were at the height minimum! Hopefully in a year or two, Zane and Lily will welcome their new addiction with me.
I can’t remember the last time I had a birthday party, let alone a week long celebration…this year, I think I need one.
Random shot but I detest driving next to these guys. I won’t even stop my car next to one at a red light. Those metal poles are held on with cloth cords that have slack in the them. That’s a lot of nope.
The week before the kids’ birthday was one of continual stress and temper control. Zane and Lily would be turning 5 and now fully understood all the aspects of what a birthday is and what it entails. Every morning I was met with at least an hour long discussion about “WHEN is it going to be my birthday!” “WHEN am I going to have my party!” “WHAT presents am I going to get!” “WHO of my friends are coming”. Every morning, same answers.
The weather had surely picked up and getting back to the outdoors seemed to be first on everyone’s priority list. With school winding down all “the moms” were finding our kids still had way too much energy when we got them home. So, we just kept the party going by leaving school and finding more activities to wear them out. This day we headed to Rouge Cloitre in the forest for a picnic and good time.
On Sunday we had dinner at Brasserie Maridal, which is one of my favorites. The food is decent and overpriced but they do have a huge playground. You can sit outside and dine in peace as the kids do monkey things in a monkey environment.
Poor Zane couldn’t take it anymore. He tried to lay down on the sidewalk. He played so hard that he couldn’t even get back to the car. Poor guy, he needs to save his energy for his birthday next week.
Well as you can see the sun is finally shining! It only took half the year for it to make an appearance but we are getting temperatures in the 70s that are making life a little brighter. The construction though…still remains a thorn in all our sides.
To celebrate our first warm weather weekend we packed up and headed to the beach with a few friends. We had been to the Belgian coast before but on the advice of a few of Jason’s co-workers we went just across the borders into The Netherlands to the Cadzand-Bad Beach. The dutch windmills signified we were close.
**Pictures of sand in them are courtesy of my friend Kate who was smart enough to remember to take pictures.
Upon arrival there was one small problem. It was so windy it was making it hard to have a good time and also it was pretty chilly. Probably around 50 degrees. But, with some windscreen rentals, the sun getting higher in the sky and food/drink being brought out, the fun-times commenced.
The best part about going on trips with other families is that the kids keep themselves pretty much entertained (We had 16 kids total). Sure you have to break up a few fights here and there and remind them to share their shovel instead of wielding it like an ax but it is much more relaxing than the whine that is obtained during solo family outings. (Where did Clayton’s body go! (don’t worry he’s hiding in the huge whole they dug)
Culinaria 2013! It’s basically a cafeteria full of Michelin Starred restaurants and chefs. We met up with some friends and devoured our way through this annual event. Each person is given 1 ticket for appetizers, 5 tickets for meals and 2 tickets for desserts (and of course plenty of drink tickets) and you get to peruse around deciding what you would like to eat for dinner. It is a hard decision because everything looks so tasty. We decided upon the fanciest hot dog we’ve ever had (trust me it was fancy and not a “hot dog”), raw wagyu beef filet with foie gras, a thai bowl (filled with all sorts of asian goodness) a salad with some kind of crazy cheese foam, and a crab/egg drop soup thingy. It was all delicious but there was one VERY annoying thing. A lot of chefs ran out of their dishes almost an hour before the event was supposed to be over. A couple that joined us arrived a little late and did not get a lot of the good stuff. To me, for the price that they sell these limited number of tickets at, there should be an over abundance of food for the event patrons. Not people standing around still with a half full ticket booklet.
Anyway. In child-land their school hosted its annual Scavenger Hunt. The kids are given an envelope filled with clues about people who are hiding all over the school and the school grounds. They have to figure the clue out, find the person (teachers) and get their signature.
Waffles were consumed but as the weather turned dark once again, we all headed home. The kids had a great time but mom was not feeling so great and truly toughed it out. I had been sick since Sunday. Four days of fever, a light rash and a headache that wouldn’t quit. I faked it for as long as I could, medicated up and got on with my days but ended up collapsed in bed by 6pm each night. Nothing is confirmed as to what it is but…..Something viral. Something not contagious. Something that slowly wanted me to feel what death is like.
I spent almost all of Saturday and Sunday in the dark, in bed, and curled in the fetal position. After sleeping a ridiculous number of hours I made myself get out of bed to go with the kids to a street carnival down the street from us.
And finally, I can’t leave out the goings-on of my other child. Each evening we are having a visitor at our back window. Bailey is not a fan. She puffs up like a toilet brush, hisses, spits and tries to attack through the glass. She’s a tad anti-social.
Soooo, this was the last time I played hockey. See me kneeling on the ice for the picture? That’s because I could barely stand up. I was going for the puck during scrimmage and another player couldn’t stop her forward progress into my body. It resulted in my hand getting cut by her skate and my knee going in a direction it probably shouldn’t have.
The wound on my finger developed a nasty staph infection (thanks to the quite dirty gloves I was dumb enough to put my hand back into) and my knee was in a lot of pain. BUT, as it often does, time, antibiotics and a brace healed the wounds and I’m almost back to normal. Normal for me anyway.
This month of ice hockey in Leuven was a lot of fun but maybe I should stick to basket weaving.
As many of you know we are shopping around for a new house here in Brussels. Our current house we are renting was sold and so we need to relocate since the new owners will be moving in. I’ve been looking and looking but still have not been able to find one that is a good fit for us. However, I have seen some pretty hilarious things. Take this for example. This was the 10 year old’s bed. yep.
During the weekend Jason and I went on “The Tram Experience” here in Brussels. They have converted a transportation tram into a dining car. You pre-buy your ticket on the internet when seats open up and are served dinner while traveling around the city. We had a lot of fun and a lot of food. The funnest part for us was communicating with the people who would either drive up along side of the tram or were walking by. Jason and I can be quite silly (really?) so we were doing all sorts of things in our window to make the on-lookers laugh or play along.
We had a lot of champagne and wine. I swear anytime you took a sip they came back by to replace the sip. Great news to have so much tasty wine! Bad news was the bathroom on the tram was broken. By the end of the evening you could see a lot of people uncomfortably shifting in their seats.
After we got off our early dinner tram, we met up with some friends who were getting on the late dinner tram and filled them in on what they were about to experience. Including the warning about the broken facilities.
This weekend was also the Brussels 20km. Last year we were in shorts and t-shirts and enjoyed sitting down at the end of our street to cheer on the runners. This year it was SO cold and damp that we only stayed down there for a short period of time.
May is the month of holidays so it is also a huge travel month for families. A lot of families I knew were packing up and taking long expensive crazy vacations to all parts of Europe but we decided to go a different route. We rented a house in the south of Belgium with another family who we are good friends with.
The house was so cute but…the weather was terrible. Cold, rainy, windy, muggy, and yes, cold. When we planned on renting this house near the end of May we had no idea we’d need to make fires each night and keep the radiators on.
We had a total of 6 kids and 5 adults in the house so it felt like we were buying out the grocery store just for a long weekend. I was quite surprised at how little food was left when we left!
But we made the most of it and braved the cold weather. We stopped at a few fun locations in the Meuse Valley. This one was the Castle Veves (aka Sleeping Beauty’s Castle). We brought clothes for the kids to dress up in but they also will supply kids with princess and knight gowns for free. A few of our other friends joined us at the castle and it was fun to watch all the kids try to kill each other with wooden swords.
Moving around as much as we do, I have read up on transitions, assimilations and stages of change. I remember one chapter that talked about when you start running into people, you are in the final stage of settling in. It has been happening a lot to us lately. Seems like no matter where we go (grocery store, market, different town) we will run into friends. While in Dinant, we ran into our friends the Christie’s and their son Jack who is in Zane and Lily’s class. Small country = Small world.
It was a nice way to spend a cold, rainy, Whit Monday holiday weekend and I felt even better about it when I heard the tales at school the next week of stressful, expensive far away vacations being ruined by this insane European weather.