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!