Posts Tagged ‘kids’
Some “old” friends at the bus stop
So this past week, the kids started back to school. Just like all parents worldwide, I was MORE than ready for school to start. Even though they had an abbreviated summer because of the different school calendars in Ireland and the US, they were well ready too. Ready to see old friends, ready to buy fresh supplies and ready, as the 8yr old said, “to maybe even make some new friends”. One of the joys of being a kid is that the same person can actually be an old friend AND a new friend. Three months is a long time when you are a kid. It’s almost like dog years. I’m not even sure why we don’t count it this way. “How old is little Jimmy?”, “Why, he’s 4. But that’s in human years. In kid years, he’s 37, of course.” And the other parent would nod knowingly. Because they change that much in a very small space of time. If 3 months is a long time to a kid, imagine what 2 years is like. This is the amount of time we have been gone from the States and from our neighbourhood school. As we started the school year up and the kids began meeting their teachers and seeing their classmates for this year, I realized that we were having a totally different time experience. To me, 2 years flew by and it’s almost like we never left. I see the same parents in the classroom, the same teachers in the hallways, and to me the same kids, albeit bigger than they were when we left. But to the kids, they all seem like strangers for the most part. If not all together strangers, then distant acquaintances that they maybe met at party a while back and just can’t place. Two years is a HUGE percentage of their life and the younger they are, obviously, the bigger it is. For the 6 year old, it was 1/3 of his life so far. He was four when we left. And even though he has a girl in his class this year that he spent ages 0-4 with in daycare, he can’t even remember her name each day. I’ll say, “How was SoandSo? Was she at school today?”. He looks at me blankly and says, “I don’t even know who that is, Mom. ” He might was well add “Duh!” in there at the end, because he is clearly thinking it. For the older two, they do remember a few key friends, but even those have changed and aged and seem new and exciting. Which is a good thing, I guess. I was worried about it all being a let-down for them after the excitement of being expat kids. But so far it’s been great. And weirdly familiar. Kind of like an cocktail party for Alzheimer patients. “You’re a handsome devil. What’s your name?”…….
1st Day of school 2013-2014 (Look how dark it is! It’s EARLY!)
Since we had not really spent much time in London itself the last time we took the kids to the UK (8 hours?), I decided to do a proper London trip for Feb midterm break. Also, Sophie is in the throes of a serious Harry Potter obsession. I had heard that the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios tour, just outside London, was great. It’s where they filmed all the movies and they’ve turned it into an “experience”. It’s not a theme park, as it is not that big and there are no rides. But it was worth checking out. Plus, I wanted to take them to a show, ride the Tube, maybe see Tower of London.
For the first night we were there, I had bought tickets to the Lion King. The kids had no idea what it would be like and kept asking me if there were going to be real lions. Since I had seen it years before (before kids) back in L.A. I knew enough to get good seats, right on an aisle, so that when they come down the aisles from the back of the theater in the opening number we would be right there, up in the lions’ grills. The kids were blown away. And the London theater was fairly small compared to where I saw it in L.A., so we were even closer than I had imagined.
We stayed just off Piccadilly Circus, which was a big hit with the kids, day and night, and made it easier to get around. It was especially convenient to get up the second day and catch the tube to head out to Harry Potter World, as we started calling it. You have to take the tube to a certain station, where you can connect with the Midlands regional train. On the tube, we sit down and Lincoln loudly professes that he loves this train and he doesn’t want to get on the second train when the time comes. I say, “oh, so this is the best train in the world, huh?”. “No. Because this train doesn’t have a buffet.” “No trains have buffets.” “Yep. Yes they do.” “what train?” “The one with Daddy in Switzerland had an awesome buffet. THAT is the best train in the world.” All the people around us started cracking up. Harry Potter World was well worth a visit and even a big hit with the boys who haven’t read the books yet and only seen the first two movies. It was well organized and full of interesting movie and Harry info. Definitely a must for kids of a certain age.
The next day, we hit the Tower of London. It really is impressive, with all the buildings from various ages and its proximity to the Tower Bridge (which most people wrongly thing is the London Bridge). There were lots of guns and armor for the boys and the jewels were a hit with everyone. As we were passing through the umpteenth room of treasure in the crown jewels section, which has the aura of a library, John leans over and stages whispers, “think these people had enough gold??” On the way home , coming up the Tube escalator, Linc didn’t get off at the top and the man behind him sort of had to push/pull him. I really fussed at him about the dangers of not walking off an escalator, especially a crowded on. Then he says, “I was STUCK!!”. Sophie exclaims a few minutes later,” look at Lincoln’s shoe!”. He really was stuck: the escalator had taken in the front of his shoe and eaten it.
Our final night, we bought some last minute tickets at one of those brokers around Piccadilly. Since it was Valentines, the pickings were slim. But there were tickets to Stomp. I had never seen it and I thought that the kids would really be into it. If I had thought the Lion King theater was smaller than expected, I was in for a shock when we got to Stomp. We were in the next to last row in the balcony and I still felt like we were on top of the performers. The funny thing was the kids’ reactions. It wasn’t at all what I expected. Ten minutes in, Linc layed across my lap and fell dead asleep. I mean, mouth open, circle of drool on my skirt, dead asleep. And this has got to be the world’s loudest show. Sophie was mildly interested, but nothing like how she was into Lion King. John John couldn’t sit still he was so excited and loved it so much. Every time I looked over at him, he was grinning ear to ear and drumming in the air and bobbing up and down in his seat. He LOVED it. Half an hour before the end, Linc woke up and was like, “Can we go? Stomp is WEIRD. I do NOT like it”.
The final day we only really had a half day, so we hung around the hotel and went to the pool that they had inside. On the way up, I got a text from Big John that I had been expecting: he was in the lobby. Today he was whisking John John away on his Dad-trip. Since January, he had been taking each of the older kids on a trip with him alone. Sophie was first, heading to Rome. A few weeks after, Linc went to Switzerland to learn how to ski. John John had known he was going to be next, but not when. His wish list for location had been “somewhere I’ve never been before, warm, adventure, and soon!”. So….they were headed to EGYPT!! I knew John John was going to flip. I told him that we had to stop in the lobby on the way up from the pool since I needed to ask the front desk a question. He kept trying to convince me to let him go onto the room alone. Finally, he sees Daddy in the lobby and it clicks in that this just might have to do with his surprise! The grin on his face was classic.
I am coming to the bittersweet end of my month long “annual home visit”. This is what it is called in the big firm/expat package lingo. Basically it’s a trip home half-way through your stint overseas. In our case, this means one year in, with one year to go. So, it’s been an interesting visit. We left Dublin in mid-June, just before school had officially let out for the kids. We will be heading back for the second half of the summer. I need to order books, sports (PE) uniforms, and basically come to grips with the crappy Irish summer. The great thing is that it’s light out until about 11pm. But when it’s chilly and probably rainy, it’s harder to enjoy this perk. That’s great weather for November. It sucks in July. Everyone in Dublin keeps saying how it never used to be like this. Back in some undefined “good old days” the summer was truly warm and mostly sunny. Even the Irish seem perturbed by the bad weather of the past few summers and that’s saying something. I had also heard varying theories as to why it has been so bad the past few summers. Some people say the jet stream has changed and that has affected the climate. Other say it’s just bad luck. Either way, it does make you appreciate the sun when it does come out. And when it does, Dublin actually reminds me of San Francisco a bit: a city on a bay, never too warm, but never cold in the winter. Clear, clean air. Beautiful views if you happen to be on the coast.
I don’t remember if I read this or someone told me, but the idea is not mine: when you leave a place, you leave a hole in the lives of the people you leave behind. However, over time that hole starts to close up, filled with time, other people, just life moving on. I was so excited to come home. I was anxious to see family and friends, to have some summer, real summer. But to also see if I still had my space, my hole, as it were. It seems to all be in place. But I am still nervous. Will it be there in six months? Another year?
People at home want to mostly know the surface things. The question I get asked most often is “Do you like it over there?” I have realized that, for most people, the question is actually just a polite function of conversation, much like “how are you?” and that they don’t really want a full, honest answer. Just as someone who asks “how are you?” usually doesn’t want a litany of your highs and lows. Unless they are your therapist. And that’s because you are paying THEM. Not because they really want to hear your shit. The truth is that the answer is really complicated. I can’t say that I love it. But I certainly don’t hate it. There are some really great things about living here. Things that I will most certainly miss when I leave. But there are also other things that I wouldn’t miss tomorrow if they were gone or changed. But all places are like this, aren’t they? And living in a place is very, very different from visiting a place. I know full well that there are lots of places I love to visit, but if I were to live there I might have a whole other opinion. Paris is a good example. I love, love, love to go to Paris. The city, the museums, the food! But I don’t live there and don’t have to worry about making friends or finding a dentist that doesn’t exclaim “You Americans! You floss too much,” (as my one friend was told by her French dentist).
I have decided that loving where you live (or not) is much like falling in love. You can list on paper all the reasons that something (or someone) is perfect for you. But that paper goes out the window in real life. Someone with all those qualities can leave you as cold as an old sandwich in the back of the fridge. And someone who’s nothing like the “ideal list” can make your head swirl and swim. That’s how it is with places too. You can say to yourself, “I really should love living here in Sometown. It’s safe, clean, has great public school, a burgeoning art scene, amazing restaurants. “ etc. But it doesn’t always translate into you loving that place. Matters of the heart are much, much more complicated. And where you live and how you feel about it is a matter of the heart. I personally have come to regard Dublin as my arranged marriage husband: I can see and full appreciate all of the good qualities and Lord knows, it could certainly be a lot worse. But he doesn’t make my heart sing. It’s not his fault. We just don’t have that……thing. But, that being said I do want to take full advantage of being here while I am here. Some of that means travelling away from Ireland, because there are so many amazing places within a 2-hour flight and well within budget. But it also means taking advantage of all that life in Dublin and in Ireland has to offer.
Talking about travel brings me to that second thing people most often ask me about being here: “Where have you travelled to while you’ve been over there?” When I give them the list, quickly to avoid being a bore, they seem disappointed. Like we haven’t met their expectations for number of places visited in one year. What they are forgetting is that we LIVE here. We aren’t on a year-around-the-world trip, jobs and school be damned. We have many of the same obligations here as we do at home. John and I both have work. The three older kids have school. The toddler is a great sport about being schlepped everywhere, but still, he has his limits. We haven’t had 365 days of vacation to do with as we wish. Plus, we moved here with an 8-week old baby. The fact that I even made it from the US to Dublin to begin with is a feat in itself. We do get a nice series of breaks, with bank holidays, a week for midterm break in Nov and another in Feb, three weeks at Christmas and two weeks at spring break. So far, we have been to Wales, London, Nerja (Spain), Westport, Galway, Paris, Barcelona, Valencia, & El Vendrell. Plus throw in two trips back to the States. These were the ones we did as a family. There was also Rome for just me and John. Plus several day trips around Ireland. So, I think that’s quite a bit, especially for a family of six.
Right now, it looks like this is my last time in Atlanta until summer of 2013, at the earliest. So, as the annual home visit winds up, I am trying to take full advantage. Time with family, time with friends, and maybe a few more runs through Chik-fil-A, just for good measure.