Saturday, July 28, 2007

Coming Home

It's always a mix of emotions when we head back to the U.S. We are so happy to see our family and friends, of course. And every year I vow that we will not be running around all summer; that we will take a break and actually relax. ....And every year I fail! So now I am trying to embrace the chaos and make it my own.

The kids love seeing grandparents, aunts and uncles and playing with cousins. There are always cries of outrage when we have to leave. Darcy still has some friends from our days in the States - she was 4 1/2 when we left and had been in daycare and later preschool so we get together with some of her buddies every year. It's funny to see how they all change over the course of a year. It usually takes a few minutes for everyone to break through the shyness and get back into the swing but the magical power of "play" kicks in before too long.

Lucas, unfortunately, was only 18 months old when we left so his social network was not so fully developed. Plus, I had stopped working so he didn't benefit from daycare friends. We enrolled him in a camp for a week so he could get some fun of his own. Unfortunately, when I took him on the first day the camp location had moved. But there were other camps at the YMCA camp center so I asked what my options were. Kinddergarten enrichment or Mini Gym. Hmmmm, which would be better for a 5-year-old with a bundle of energy and two speeds, off and on???? Mini Gym it is! Of course, I ddn't process that this stood for Mini-Gym-nastics! So he hung out with 2 other boys and a room full of girls for the week. His new best friend is Abby and as she says "Hi Lucas!" each morning he greets her with a shoulder nudge and a smile.

I think Lucas also experienced his first crush this summer on our family friend Madison who is going into 7th grade. Her sister Danielle and Darcy are the same age and their mom Bonnie and I have been great friends for years. Matt and their husband/dad Bruce has similar senses of humor and we love getting together with them. Danielle and Darcy immediately picked up where they left off last summer and began playing at the pool. Madison spent loads of time throwing ball with Lucas in the pool and later playing Wii at their house and Lucas couldn't stop talking about "that girl with the long blond hair" for days after we left.

The kids also suffer a sort of culture shock as they don't always have the same frame of reference as other kids regarding all the things kids talk about. When they are asked if they watch this TV show or like that kind of cereal or have read a particular book, they sometimes look kind of confused. I fight back the urge to step in and explain that we don't have the access to some of the things there friends do and wait to see how they will work it out.

While vacationing in South Carolina with Matt's aunt and uncle, the kids spent some time at a local park with Aunt Maggie while Matt and I enjoyed our books, a quiet house, and their dogs. When they returned, Darcy was telling me about the kids they met who said "ain't" a lot. A southern word that I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to explain the derivation of. Why do they say "ain't"? Ummm, I don't know, they just do. Apparently, the kids asked where they were from, and when Darcy and Lucas told them Turkey, they said, "Turkey?! Is that near China?" Darcy spent the next few minutes trying to explain where Turkey was but the kids were uninterested in a geography lesson. Welcome to the world of the returning expat! We've all been there!
I'm Baaaack

Sorry for the month-long hiatus. Jetlag, remote locations with no discernable wireless access, and a few unexpected medical emergencies are to blame. More to say in a few days...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Day's Long Journey Into Night

I'm coming out of the jetlag fog that always clouds my brain for the first few days after traveling. Finally able to form a coherent thought. Our trip was chronologically short, only 3 hours to Germany, and then 8 1/2 to the U.S. Daytime flying the whole way. For us, compared to the days of 28 hours to Thailand, it wasn't bad. However, it was made worse by the fact that Lufthansa decided to serve the worst airline food every prepared on the trip (except for the kids' meal, which Matt and I looked at longingly while the kids ate), and the fact that the onboard entertainment video service was kaput. WHAT!!!??? As an airline traveler, don't I have the right to at least have my kids watch ONE cartoon movie over and over and over again?? We enjoyed the business show portion of the service, and then were treated to the instructions for foreigners entering the U.S. and directions on how to fill out customs forms OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. They actually tell you not to write the number "1" with a little flicky tail that some people use at the start. Never cross your "7" in the middle. And don't allow the top of the "4" to touch in a point. Seriously. I am not joking. There were instructions on how to write your numbers. Who makes these rules? The kids were pretty good, all things considered. It was, quite possibly, the most boring flight ever. We were all happy to leave.

We arrived around 6:30 p.m. -- our body clocks told us it was 1:30 a.m. We enjoyed the luxury that is the baggage claim area at Dulles airport as we waited over an hour for our luggage to come off the belt. They kept making announcements "We apologize for the delay in the arrival of luggage from flight LH414. The guys needed to take their dinner break so you poor suckers will just have to wait your turn." Finally, the last few pieces slowly appeared, one at a time, painstakingly spaced apart, and we were off to the Fairfield Inn. Just next door, we stopped at the local Bob Evans restaurant (for those of you not familiar with the chain, their specialties are pork sausage and all kinds of pie), and 2 kids meals and lemonades later, we were tucking into bed. The kids were in that "I'm so tired I'm bouncing off the wall like a monkey hyped up on heroin" mode but we persevered and as soon as the lights went off, they went to sleep. Well, at least I did so if they stayed awake I didn't hear them.

We did wake up a few hours later to the sound of our door opening, or closing. I noticed Darcy wasn't there. Panic. Matt checked the bathroom, thinking she was trapped. Not there. Increased Panic. He opened the front door to find Darcy walking down the hall toward our room. Not away, but toward. Keep in mind she's only wearing her pajama top and underwear. She was sleepwalking and managed to open all the locks on the door and leave. We resisted the urge to completely freak out, interrogated her to see if she had seen or talked to anyone, tucked her back into bed and put our heaviest suitcase in front of the door. We were on the ground floor and figured we could escape out the window if necessary in case of fire. Deep breathing to control the rising panic. Don't think about what could've happened. Turn off your brain. Don't even go there.

All this happened in about 2 1/2 minutes in the middle of the night. While our brains were drugged with the heavy sleep that you fall into when you are so tired you can't walk. Must be the adrenaline. And parenthood.

We've recovered, though the kids are still waking up around 6 a.m. But everyone is staying in their beds. Happy Fourth of July!