Wednesday, March 27, 2013

cows, chickens, pigs, and friends!

Tuesday was one of those unexpected days where you're just not sure how it's going to go . . . and lucky for me it turned out incredible! Our day started at Genneper Park on the south side of the city where we planned to meet some friends from the Toddler Massage class we took. It was a Mums & Tots event so there were several other women from our Baby Toddler Play group there as well. After driving around endlessly trying to figure out how to get there and where to park, we finally made it to the playground where our friends were. Except that we weren't too thrilled with the playground there because it was definitely big-kid oriented and there wasn't really anything fun for our little guys. That plus the fact that it was below freezing -- we were kinda miserable. 

We decided to walk to the nearby farm, which ended up being about a ten-minute walk away from the park (and now 15 minute walk from our car -- sans stroller). The farm ended up being really awesome and Liam was in heaven seeing all the animals! He got to feed hay to the cows . . .

. . . and then saw some very young baby calves . . . this one was born on March 23, just a couple days earlier!

a slate above each calf said their name, birthday, and gender

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

a two-party kind of day . . .

Last Saturday I had a very busy day trying to make it to two parties -- a baby shower for a friend followed by a birthday party for 4 year old twins! It also happened to be very windy and snowing that day . . . holy cow was it a crazy day!

I headed to my friend Sam's house that afternoon for the baby shower celebrating Meredith and her soon-to-arrive son. It was really fun seeing old friends and meeting new ones . . . unfortunately I did not take a single picture, so I will have to see if I can steal one from Sam sometime soon. We played a few games, got to know each other better, and oddly enough discussed more "how did you meet your husband?" stories than baby stories. It felt like a wedding shower instead of a baby shower, haha! But it was really interesting hearing marriage stories from the several different cultures that spanned our group -- from American to British to Croatian and Dutch, everyone's traditions were unique! It was so funny to compare engagements and ceremonies and ring-giving. It hadn't dawned on me that we all do these things differently!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Couples Night Out

This weekend we had the great opportunity to attend a Couples Night Out with 20 friends from the International Women's Club! Kelly planned the whole night and picked a beautiful restaurant in Riethoven called Vandeijck. The restaurant used to be a farmhouse and is located right across from the church in downtown Riethoven. The restaurant prepared a three-course menu for us to pick our meal from ahead of time, though other courses were included that everyone was served. The servers were extremely kind, helpful, and informative about all the food we ate that night . . . thank goodness, because there were plenty of times where we weren't quite sure what we were eating!

I will go ahead and apologize in advance for the quality of pictures in this post -- they were all taken with my iPhone in dim lighting, so they are by no means clear and crisp, but you will get the picture (ha! no pun intended!).

It all started off with a little (big) appetizer while we stood around chatting with our drinks . . .

. . . Liam lately (19 months)

Another month gone by, and Liam is growing mentally, physically, and developmentally right before our eyes. It truly is amazing watching this person grow . . .

Friday, March 8, 2013

All your questions answered!

I've been getting a lot of questions recently about our move back to the States, so I thought it might be easiest to answer them on here. Granted, the answer to some of these may change in the coming months, because as you know, things don't always go according to plan! As of right now, however, this is what we know . . .

Q:   When are you moving back to the States??

A:   As of right now, things are looking towards the end of April (!). That seems SO soon, considering we were contemplating staying through the summer. Keith's contract is up here on April 30th, so all signs point to that date. Can you believe that is in SEVEN WEEKS?!

Q:   What about Barcelona??

A:   Some of you know that our original plan was to have the movers come sometime in June, then spend 6 or so weeks in a furnished apartment in Barcelona while our belongings made the long trip home. We would then come back to Georgia sometime in July to meet our stuff. Now that Keith's job wants him in Georgia sooner rather than later, Barcelona is up in the air. If we do decide to go, it probably won't be for the full 6-8 weeks we were thinking, but rather a few at best. I'm kinda bummed about that part of it. We are still trying to decide what to do in this situation.

Q:   What about your dog?

A:   Our plan is to get Murphy back the same way he came here. There is actually a pet relocation service that will pick Murphy up at our home, take him to the airport and get him safely on a plane to travel back to Georgia. After arriving in Atlanta, they will then also drive him to wherever he will be staying until we arrive. It is much less stress on us to do it this way!

Q:   Will you move back into your old house?

A:   Yes. We have been lucky enough to have the same tenants in our home the entire time we've been in the Netherlands, and they have been fabulous. Keith and I actually talked about letting them continue to rent while we possibly look for another house. In the end, we decided to go back to our house, which also works out for our renters who need to leave in May anyway. God always has a plan!

However, since it takes our belongings anywhere from 6-8 weeks (or longer?!) to arrive, we will likely be in a furnished apartment until then (location: TBD). I'm hoping we can use that time that the house is empty to make a few improvements, like change the carpets, paint, etc. before we move all our things back in.

Q:   Will you go back to teaching?

A:   Not right now. I love staying at home with Liam and this opportunity has allowed me to do it a bit longer. Keith is supportive of whatever I want to do, so right now I plan to focus on my family, and feel so blessed that I have the option to do so. With as much as Liam is learning on a daily basis, it is so awesome that I can use my skills as a teacher to help him grow into the amazing little boy he is!

Q:   What will you miss about the Netherlands?

A:   A lot! One big thing I will miss is all the friends I've made. Joining the International Women's Club and the North American Women's Club have introduced to me to some incredible ladies. It's amazing what a small world it is once you begin talking to people!

I have been SO lucky to be a part of the Baby Toddler Playgroup through the IWCE, and have made some lifelong friends here. I can't say enough about these women. We are mostly all in the same boat -- some here for a short while, others for longer, others indefinitely, but all away from "home." We understand the frustrations and challenges that go along with that. We are all raising kids the same age and are each other's support and listening ear when needed. After meeting on a weekly basis with these women and their children for over a year now, I will definitely miss them when we move.

Besides the friends, there are other things I will miss as well. I love that we can walk or bike almost everywhere. It is not necessary to get Liam in and out of his carseat anytime I want to go to the store or the park or go shopping. I really love just popping him in the stroller and all of us walking somewhere for lunch on a weekday afternoon, getting some fresh air, and enjoying the scenery.

I will miss the slower paced lifestyle here . . . things just seem to be more relaxed and not so stressful for some reason. I will miss the fresh breads, delicious cheeses, and local produce -- groceries don't last as long because there are less (or no) preservatives, which means we eat less junk and processed foods here.

I will miss how close we are to other European cities and countries -- traveling here has been easy and cheap and such an experience. I will definitely miss going away for the weekend to find a completely different county, culture, language, etc.

I will also especially cherish the time that Keith, Liam, and I spent as a little family here . . . it is so bittersweet to think that we are leaving Liam's first home. For the last (almost) two years we have been spoiled by the amount of time the three of us have spent together. It is amazing how much we have grown through this experience.

I could fill up this post with more things, but I'll stop now!

Q:   What things are you looking forward to when you get back?

A:   I cannot wait to see my family and friends! It'll be a wonderful reunion that I am truly looking forward to. I can't wait to hold my nieces and hug my friends and spend some quality time with those I love. It will be awesome for Liam to be around his family and friends, whom he asks for all the time. This is without a doubt numero uno on my list.

I am also ecstatic about going back to our church! We definitely found a home at StoneCreek and I am beyond excited to get back there. I miss our small group, our wonderful pastor, and the many friends we've made there. I always looked forward to Sunday mornings, and that has been a huge part of our lives that we have missed while living here.

Otherwise, the "American" things I'm looking forward to are things like my favorite restaurants (hello Chick-fil-A and yummy Mexican food!), variety in the grocery store, Target, less expensive clothes (goodbye euro, hello dollar!), stores open in the evenings and on Sundays, etc. etc.

Although most Dutch people speak English, almost all written communication is in Dutch. I am excited to be able to clearly understand and communicate back home -- especially in regards to things like calling the doctor's office and understanding the menu options, or reading our mail, or reading labels in the grocery store. I can't wait to read a recipe and be certain I can find everything I need at the store!

Ok, I guess that's it for now! If you have any more questions, let me know and I will try to answer them for you. See everyone on the other side of the pond very soon!