Saturday, July 16, 2011

Settling in... sort of

When I thought of starting a blog, I honestly had visions of posting quirky little stories or snippets that are always attributed to a large move.  Having moved many times since our college days, each move has had its unique stress points.  In college, your main concerns center around who your roommate is going to be - will you get along and how are you possibly going to survive sharing a room the size of a closet with someone you have never met before.  When you get married, your concerns shift to wanting to make things work, despite the inevitable disagreements that come with learning to live in such close proximity to someone you love.  In other words, learning to suppress the urge to strangle your new spouse for leaving the cap off the toothpaste or his wet towel on the bathroom floor.  Then, you make the upgrade from sharing an apartment to buying your first house.  That's when the real stress begins as you try to make a house a home.  If you are anything like me, that meant painting every room, replacing the college Ikea purchases with "grown up" furniture, and learning to become a true cook by investing in lots of kitchen gadgets and cookbooks.  Then, you start a family.  The dining room that you had once hoped to fill with the lovely dining room furniture you've had your eye on for that once-a-year meal that you dream of hosting, and using your still-packed china and silver you received for your wedding five years earlier, is suddenly put on hold and quickly filled with every imaginable piece of plastic Playskool toy available.  Why does this happen? Because, of course, you need the kids to have a playroom in vicinity of the kitchen and on the first floor, and the dining room is the last room for which anyone ever buys furniture.  As the kids get older, THEY become the source of your stress during a move.  How are the schools in the new neighborhood?  Will I find a good babysitter? How quickly can I find a house?  Why is finding a house quickly a concern? Because the idea of sharing a small apartment with two toddlers and a golden retriever has very limited appeal to any young mom.  Finally, as those kids reach school age, their concerns become yours.  Will they make friends?  Will they get bullied at their new school?  Can I find a good baseball/swim/tennis/etc. team for them to join?  In each case, certain things get easier while others get much harder.  I used to think that finding a house would be the hardest decision, especially since it is the most expensive decision you make.  Now, especially with the benefit of the internet, finding a house is a piece of cake - especially when you can start jumping on as soon as you get that first inkling that your spouse is entertaining a new job in a new city.  In the last year, and through our last move, I learned that how the kids accept the idea of the move far surpasses any concern I have had with any other previous move.  So, imagine the level of concern Joe and I had when the idea of moving to a new country presented itself.  Not only were we entertaining a move to a new city just one year after the first real move they had ever experienced, but a move to a country they had never heard of nor ever visited.  Surprisingly, since we had been in Dallas for only a short period of time, neither of our boys had had much of a chance to make really close friends like they had in Richmond.  They were okay with a move, but there was definitely some anxiety around the idea of moving to a country where, although English is widely spoken, most folks speak either French or German.  The locals actually speak Luxembourgish, a blend of French and German that was only a few  decades or so ago written down and documented.  Thankfully, despite our hispanic upbringing, Joe and I both took high school French, so the idea of tackling this new experience did not come off as too daunting.  Besides, after years of being asked "Why French?  When will you ever use it?," it was wonderful to finally be able to validate our choice!  Our oldest son actually took 3 years of French in Richmond, but our youngest took a couple of years of Spanish and was a bit daunted by the prospect.

So, what have been the biggest stress points on this move?  Honestly, the preparation and packing for the move, hands down.  We knew a move to Europe would entail a downsize for us.  Houses in Texas are big and we had just bought the biggest house we had ever had and will ever have. Honestly, the idea of downsizing was appealing after spending a year cleaning 7 bathrooms.  What we didn't anticipate was what all we would have to relinquish.  Two weeks into the preparation we were told not to pack anything with an electrical cord.  That meant ANYTHING.  So, think about that for a second.  Look around your kitchen, your family room, and count how many cords are conveniently attached to a favorite lamp, big screen TV, kitchen appliance... The list will grow amazingly fast.  Of all the preparations, this one sent me over the edge.  Joe and I are admittedly gadget geeks.  Most presents exchanged in our house involved something with a cord, including most of the Christmas presents exchanged just a few short months ago.  Gone were the new panini maker, high end toaster, hairdryer, TV's (and we had many of those!), lamps, pencil sharpener... the list goes on.  Even when the packers came to pack us we would spot check rooms as they were packing the boxes and grimace over the Waterpik that had been pulled aside or the random toy that we had forgotten that required a jolt of electricity to make noise.  And then, the other packing no-nos - candles, batteries, chemicals and food products.  Every room had the random tea light or taper that somehow missed my inspection and collection prior to the garage sale we held just a week prior of our moving date.  I knew they were just "things," but those things had been collected over 18 years of marriage and I knew that the majority of them would never be replaced.  It was just daunting.  I'm over it now - sort of.

Despite the enormity of the situation, I quickly embraced the idea of a move overseas.  Joe and I had talked about it many times and had assumed that if the opportunity would ever present itself, it would be London or Sydney, and it would be for the typical 2-3 year Expat term.  But this opportunity was different.  Not only would we be moving to one of the smallest countries in Europe (which, by the way, it seemed everyone we told where we were moving to assumed we meant some small town in Germany), it was not an English speaking country and it was for an indefinite period of time.  This meant, when considering moving the kids, we would have to assume that they would be graduating from high school there.  Thankfully, the International School of Luxembourg, at least through the various visits and experiences I have had with them thus far, has been terrific.  The boys will be entering 6th and 8th grades in the fall and both have received preliminary acceptances.  Although this started off as a high stress point (the admission counselors weren't sure if they were going to have room for J in the 8th grade), everything has worked out fine.

So, here I am, at 2:16 a.m. on our third night in Luxembourg, documenting just the beginning of what I imagine will be an exciting adventure for our family.  So, you may ask, what is your next task at hand?  Well, it appears that getting on this time zone is!  Therefore, I bid adieu for tonight!


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