Moving Abroad

How Is It Nearly July?

Jana, 6.5 monthsWe’ve been home for a few months now and it’s been a nearly seamless transition to life in the US.  It may have been a different story if we didn’t have our house to come home to, full of furniture and belongings we left behind.  The 3.25 years we spent abroad seems as if it were a bubble in our time line and we’ve slotted right back into place.  Only now as a tiny family.

I find I have days where I don’t even open up my laptop.  I’m not disconnected in any way, I have my trusty iPhone on me always.  My online time allocated to nap times when I’m not joining in on the napping.  Jana is not a sleeper, so I take advantage of those moments when I can steal a few winks for myself.  This also has meant the majority of photos I’ve been taking and posting are camera phone shots.  It’s easy, I have the phone on me always and I can instantly upload the photo or video on the spot.  I do now wish for a point and shoot camera that I can instantly upload from, just so the photos are of a better quality than the generally grainy phone shots.

We’re still not fully settled in since our belongings were delivered at the end of April.  We have a bottleneck for storage in our house.  It’s on the long list of projects Mark is working on during this “sabbatical” from working.  Once the workshop is finished, he has a kitchen to build, crib to fabricate, a dresser to finish, an attic to transform into a walk in closet (access from our room) and eventually a Lake House to build.  What is to be Jana’s room is still full of boxes and an extra two beds.  Our office is an impromtu clothes closet.  It will be nice to have a place for everything and everything in its place when all is said and done.

Here’s where this turn’s into a “Mommy Blog” where I go on and on about this tiny being that has consumed my time and who I clad in all manner of insect related baby clothes (pictured above, a 6.5 month old Jana who has two teeth and has been sitting up on her own for a month now).  As you might have inferred from above, Jana is sleeping in our room in a co-sleeper/bassinet next to my side of the bed.  Her clothes are taking up half of my dresser and the top of which is her changing table.  Mark has a design in mind for the crib, which she will be needing soon, being in the 90th percentile for length, she is outgrowing her current bed.  My dad started the work on the dresser that will be Jana’s.  It was my dresser when I was little and it belonged to my great grandmother.  Under the layers of paint, my dad discovered a gorgeous mahogany piece of furniture.  It will get a treatment to highlight it’s lovely qualities.

Jana at Deer LakesJana continues to delight.  I’ve been cooking up a storm for her as she’s started in on solids.  As people who love to cook and eat, Jana will not have a bland palate from the start.  Everything is new and exciting.  Her first solid was an avocado.  She loves her pears with ginger, her apples with cinnamon, cherries with yogurt, mangoes, blueberries; her peas with zucchini and leeks.  She likes leeks in her other veggies to which I add to make them a little more savory and flavorful.  I made a carrot, sweet potato, chicken curry for her (steamed carrots, sweet potato, chicken, onion and garlic, added cinnamon, ginger, coriander and cumin) which she devours (served with barley cereal and prunes on the side it’s more like a tagine and super tasty!) Today was batch of butternut squash, turkey, garlic and sage that she ate with gusto and ate a lot!  I also cooked up a carrot, beef, onion, garlic and tarragon dinner which is frozen in six portions in tiny cups to try in the coming days.  My freezer is full of these mini portions of fruits, veg and dinners.

I can’t say enough good things about gDiapers, both the disposable inserts and the cloth. We’ve been cloth diapering at home which complements our EC’ing efforts nicely. We go weeks without having to deal with a dirty diaper, as Jana is very good about communicating her need to use the toilet (we started this at six weeks).  The EC’ing has been so easy to do, no complaints here.

Now we just need to get this baby to sleep more consistently.   I’m going on well over seven months of broken sleep (I did not sleep well in the last few months of pregnancy).  This has me in a “zombie mom” sleep deprived state at times. I would love to have more than 2.5 hours of sleep at a time. I feel like Robert Duval in “Apocalypse Now” where adds, “Some day, this war’s gonna end,” in the middle of some unimaginable scene. As I hallucinate in a half awake dream state that Mark can share some hilarious dialogue from if I don’t get around to posting about it, I add, “Some day, this baby’s gonna sleep.”

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On To The Next Chapter

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” -Dr. Seuss

I know I’ve been quiet in this space lately. I’ve been enjoying life with Jana and noting that my newborn is getting big. I had her in her car seat yesterday and all I could think was how big she looks, that my new baby is not so new anymore! (She’s three months old and weighed in at 5.32kg!)

Anyway, the above quote sums up well how I’m feeling lately. Our adventure living and working abroad is coming to an end. I’ve been running the gambit of emotions. We are excited to get home and start on projects and plans we’ve been making for the long term. Our families and friends are just going to go bonkers over Jana, she is so sweet and cute. So, yes, I’m happy. But I’ve also had many wistful and even weepy moments. I was in Henley the other day and was reminded of our visit there on our first trip over to England looking for flats. We stopped in a tea house right on the Thames and had Cream Tea. It’s so picturesque it’s twee. I ended up wondering why we didn’t venture into Henley more often, it’s so close.

Although it is ending abruptly on a sour note making us both want to get back to the US as quickly as possible, we had a good run of it. We traveled to over a dozen countries and experienced so much while we were here. We both owned our dream cars. We enjoyed the company of family and friends who came to visit. We’ve both made a number of fantastic friends who we’ll miss dearly. And I ended up having an amazing job at the Natural History Museum when it was looking like I wasn’t employable.

There is plenty I’ll miss. Particularly the village life, having shops and restaurants to walk to, the footpaths right outside our door, being so close to the Thames and surrounded by fields of flowers, sheep and woodlands. We’ll miss out on the bluebells this year, it would have been sweet to have photos of Jana in them. We will be back for visits, for sure, Jana will need to see her home land.

For over three years we made England our home, we started our family here. This has been an experience of a lifetime and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Next week we leave sunny England for winter in Pittsburgh. We’re going home with incredible memories, but have a new adventure ahead of us with Jana. It’s time to start the next chapter in our lives.

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2009 Year in Review

(better late than never, belated posting)

What a year we have had! Most of which dominated by one event. At the beginning of January, we decided to “pull the pin on that grenade” and go ahead and have a baby. In what seemed to be the longest pregnancy ever, starting with the twenty two weeks of nausea and vomiting, I eventually really enjoyed being pregnant. Epsilon got to be a very well traveled fetus, starting in Barcelona and making three trips to France, not too mention the day to day mundanity of flitting about England. Jana arrived two weeks late in December, a fantastic way to end the year.

I participated in making a video for an exhibit in the new Darwin Center. Capping off my tour of duty at the NHM before going on maternity leave by meeting Prince William and participating in the opening of the Darwin Center.

Jana’s arrival completely overshadowed our three year anniversary of moving to England (December 1st). This will be our fourth winter here. It still feels like we’ve only just arrived. That first walk down the footpath behind our house is so fresh in my mind. But that may be because I/we walk on it so much.

Jana is the best souvenir we could be bringing home from our time spent living here.

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Maternity Leave

British Natural History Museum during half termToday was my official last day of work before I start maternity leave. Although I will be returning on the 14th and 15th of this month to take part in opening events for the new Darwin Center. I’ve made an exception to be a part of the VIP and public openings and it should be a lot of fun. Just you wait to see the posts I make from that week! Hopefully soon the website will go live that also features the preparation video I star in that will be an exhibit in the Darwin Center for years to come. A fantastic way to show friends and family who will probably never make to the museum in person to see it and a sampling of the odd job I have.

I chose to start my maternity leave at the earliest date allowable, eleven weeks before my due week. High on the deciding factor: the three and a half hours of commuting a day. It’s already uncomfortable for me. But other factors contributed too.

It was a bittersweet day as I was tying up loose ends and cleaning up my work space. It really has been an amazing experience to be a part of this museum and this department. I’ve learned so much, met some truly remarkable people and hopefully have left a positive contribution in my wake. Even though today I knew it wasn’t going to be the last time I would be there, I was sad as I walked away from the building today. I hope to return, even for a brief stint, before we return to the US sometime next year.

This has been a big part of an exciting chapter in my life. But soon, the next chapter will begin and the plot is taking a wildly unexpected turn.

Epsilon
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Go Steelers!

In my Steelers paraphernalia for the playoff game!I may be living and working nearly 4,000 miles away from home, but today, my heart is fully in Pittsburgh. I’ve been wearing my Steelers paraphernalia since waking, knowing full well the entire city back home is also clad in black and gold. The city must be a manic place to be right now given that this AFC championship game is a home game at Heinz Field. The game doesn’t start until 11:30 pm UK time, so in true Steeler fan fanaticism I am taking tomorrow off work so I can stay up to watch what is promising to be an exciting game i.e. an ass-kicking as the Steelers crushed the Ravens twice this season. For the benefit of my UK readers, this game is significant because if the Steelers win this game, they go on to the Superbowl. There’s a Terrible Towel waving in this fan’s heart from across the pond!

WOOT! STEELERS WON! 23-14! I’m joining in on the chorus of the goofy song, “here we go, Pittsburgh’s going to the Superbowl!”

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Happy New Years! (Eve)

Mark and Deb in the leavesIt’s the last day of the year already?  Well, here we are, 25 months into this adventure and it’s the end of 2008.

I know I’ve already reflected a bit on this already, but the year has flown by and has been as normal as it can be living abroad.  It’s been a year of settling into a routine for both of us working and living in England.   Mark commented recently, that it’s not camping anymore, we really live here.  This was after one of those moments where I look at him, and sounding genuinely surprised and in disbelief exclaim, “You know.  We live in England!” like it’s this brand new realization of someone who just walked off a plane.

There have been losses and gains this past year.  We lost our sweet Greenbean, which was difficult.  I miss my Bean and think of her everyday.  Her photos are everywhere, on my desktop background, in a locket around my neck and by my bedside.  She was our family.  She had a fantastic life, was well loved, and was so awesome she has turned two people into cat people.  In April, I gained a sister-in-law as my younger brother married a delightful woman.  Two of my cousins had babies this year and one also is newly married.  Our extended family is growing in leaps and bounds.

This has been a year of increased visitors, a pattern I imagine will ramp up in the coming third year of our residence here.  My parents and another brother visited in March, the first time trips abroad for all of them.  Friends visited us in May, September and October.  We made a second trip to Turkey for a holiday, which, I’m really digging the whole vacationing with friends idea.

So what will 2009 bring?  We’ll be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.  Living abroad for a third year.  Where will we travel?  Who will visit us?  What will our jobs bring? How much more will our family and circle of friends grow?  2008 was a good year, 2009 is shaping up to be spectuclar already and we’re still a few hours away from it beginning!

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Happy Boxing Day!

This has been a strange holiday for us this year, no doubt. It is weird not being home and surrounded by family. However, we ended up really enjoying ourselves with just each other for company. It helps that we are each others favorite people to be around. But, I’m sure the novelty of being abroad has a lot to do with it too.

We had a lovely Christmas Eve lounging in new jammies, exchanging our gifts and watching UK television show holiday specials (“Gavin and Stacey” and “Have I Got News For You”). Yesterday we went into London for an “Orphan’s Christmas” hosted by fellow Ex-pat friends for those of us not making the trip back across the pond. We enjoyed a fantastic ham dinner, the company and conversation; and even a bit of family time as our friends have a baby. The streets of London were strangely quiet as we drove in and out. Late in the evening we watched the new Doctor Who and Wallace and Gromit, also out for the holidays. Our US shows we watch go on hiatus in December, it’s nice to have something new to watch snuggled up on the couch.

I hope everyone had a holiday as enjoyable and stress free as ours! It’s back to snuggling under a blanket for me, happy Boxing Day!

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NHM at Christmas

NHM at Christmas

Ice rink and holiday fayre outside the museumThe Natural History Museum during the holidays is all decked out and looking lovely. I particularly love the fairy lights that are wrapped around the branches of the enormous Plane trees. Out front, there has been the Christmas Fayre and the ice rink set up since November (the other morning there was a Dalek on the ice!). I love working in this building. This is the view I walk by every evening leaving work. I haven’t been feeling terribly festive this year, but when I see this, I can’t help but smile and fill with warm holiday thoughts.

We are staying in the UK for the holidays this year and it really doesn’t feel like Christmas. We have been all Bah Humbugs. Since we went home the past two years, we don’t have many decorations to put up. So we haven’t decorated. The big thing though, that my brain is having a hard time processing: no snow. I look around and it really looks and feels like spring in Pittsburgh.

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Two Years

Two years! TWO! It’s our second anniversary of living abroad today. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were piling out of that giant rental car loaded down with luggage? It seems easy now, even after all the planning and paperwork, were we making the right decision? I wouldn’t change anything.

It’s almost hard to believe that we could have been heading home for good soon. The time has honestly flown by. Each year has had a distinctly different flavor.  Our first year was all about travel, how many days were we on the road? 140?  160?  I’ll have to look up the exact number, but it was A LOT.  Year two has been all about settling into a routine of living and working in England.  I never expected to find a job in my field, or work at all for that matter, so it’s been its own adventure commuting into London everyday.

There are so many adventures yet to be had. I wonder what flavor of life this third year will have.  Here’s to the start of year THREE!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Like so many Ex-pats, Mark and I celebrated our Turkey day the Saturday following  the actual holiday, as we were both working Thursday.  My parent’s asked me, “so when do they [the British] have their Thanksgiving?  Canada has one, what about over there?” to which I had to reply that this in not an English nor European phenomenon.  Which this also makes finding key ingredients a little tricky, not impossible, but it’s not like the grocery stores back home that are abundantly stocked with sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin for pies.

We roasted a chicken, as our small oven and refrigerator can not accommodate a turkey.  We had actually celebrated last Saturday too.  It is so easy to roast a small chicken.  Brined and stuffed simply with quartered shallots and cloves of smoked garlic, it comes out moist and flavorful in just over an hour and the juices from this concoction makes for perfectly seasoned and flavored gravy.

It is also surprisingly easy to scale down all the wonderful sides that we would normally make in industrial quantities when hosting our families.  Only mashing four potatoes instead of 5 lbs.  Candied two sweet potatoes instead of a huge casserole full.  A small serving of the last of my supply of Stove Top stuffing (hush, it’s tradition in my family to have this in addition to home made stuffing on the table and I honestly prefer this to stuffing from in the bird).  The batch of cranberry sauce I made was the normal portion, but I love home made cranberry sauce.   And of course a huge pile of sweet corn.  When cooking for our families, we would have several other options of veg, but for just the two of us, corn is all we need.   I have also outdone even myself and made the absolutely perfect pumpkin pie two weeks in a row.  This all just enough for the main meal and the requisite left overs the next day.  There is also enough meat left over for making chicken salad and the carcass is used to make stock for soup (currently simmering and filling our house with the most amazing aroma!).

I prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas by leaps and bounds.  It’s not a religious holiday and it doesn’t involve presents.  There is no pretense.  It’s all about the food (fall harvest) and family and enjoying each other’s company and reflecting on what you can be thankful for.  We’re both safe, healthy, have a roof over our heads, live comfortably and are loved by our family, friends and each other.  Even though we are far from home and our families, we carry out this tradition abroad and are with them in spirit.  For all of this I am truely thankful.

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It is teh awesome

After work I hopped on a fast train to Reading to meet Mark to go pick up my new-to-me Smart Car. Two years without a car and I’m pretty excited! We get there, take care of the paperwork and other sundry business. A few tutorial laps around the neighborhood as a passenger followed by some laps as the driver later, I was ready to hit the road. We equipped my car the with sat nav and Mark followed me out. I had one moment in my first big round-about where I became a little flustered, missed my exit and needed to go around again. But that’s the beauty of the round about.

Once on the highway, I could almost hear Mark yelling, “go faster!” If only he could hear me retorting, “I’m giving her all I got Scotty!” as the motorway had a slight incline to it. I didn’t have any problems with the semi-automatic up shifting, it felt completely natural despite not being a manual car driver. I was also much more comfortable following Mark than leading. I quickly got into the flow of traffic once up to speed and was passing and keeping up with him. It drives great. It feels great. I even think it sounds great.

In short: this car is the awesomest car that ever awesomed.

We head to the states tomorrow for a couple of weeks, so I’ll have to patiently (or not so patiently) wait to have my fun when we return.

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England: Smart Car!

Two years without a car and now this will be mine on Thursday! I always said that I couldn’t imagine driving in any other car over here, with these roads that are so narrow.  I love love love Smart Cars, now I get to put this one in my pocket and take it home to drive:

Deb's new car

Mark wants to find a “My other car is a Lotus” bumper sticker. Expect to see a photo series involving our dueling tiny blue cars.

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England: One More Year!

Our long December shadows with StonehengeWell, I suppose it’s officially official now. We are staying in England for another year. Mark’s original contract was for two years and those two years are just about up. That time has flown by! A blip! Now, after months of promises and waiting for contract negotiations, coming up with an offer we could live with, it finally happened. One more year.

Honestly, we were getting a bit frustrated and just mere weeks ago we were uttering the words to ourselves, “maybe it is time to go home.” Mentally, we were starting to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead at home. We have plans, big plans, that we have been dreaming about for years. Hell, we picked up and lived abroad for two years, anything is possible, it’s just a matter of acting on it and doing things sooner rather than later.

Our minds are switching gears again, knowing now that we are staying. We have plans, big plans, places to go, people to see. We went ahead and actually bought a coffee maker, something we had been putting off for two years because, well, it is silly really, we were only going to be here so briefly, the French press was fine to tide us over.

As for me, I am now able to remain and finish my own contract with my job at the museum and I’ll get to see the “big move” into the new Darwin Center. I am actually going to be part of the new exhibit in the public offer. I’m working with a film team to create a video about insect preparation. (This will go along side two other videos by other people on slide preparation and plant mounting outside one of the many windows looking into “the cocoon” where people will be working). I’m excited to be a part of the staff that’s going to be captured in snippets and snapshots for the world to see what goes on behind those doors. And I’m excited that I’ll be there to witness its start.

One more year. Yeah, we can do that, we can do that standing on our heads.

(the photo above is one of the first we took after moving here in 2006, our long December shadows on nearly the shortest day of the year)

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London, the first trip

Mark is in London and has started to post photos:

Parliment

Mark will return on the 31st, but he’ll have most of the week to himself to explore neighborhoods around the surrounding area of High Wycombe that we are interested in living, Uxbridge and Ruislip are on the list. Armed with this exploration info and tons of photos, hopefully we’ll find a place to rent when we return together mid August. How freaky is that going to be! We’ll have a place, an address, in England.

Slowly but surely, the move is starting to feel much more real. As well as it feels like the wheels that are in motion are starting to move much more quickly.

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