Friday, January 23, 2015

Vallée des Sept Châteaux

We decided to set off on an adventure right in our own backyard. Just minutes up the road from our house is the Valley of Seven Castles, or Vallée des Sept Châteaux. We fueled up at Dunkin Donuts, which just opened a few months ago. (Sidetone: After six months of drinking "boy coffee," I was so excited to buy some vanilla flavored grounds!). While all seven castles are within an hour of each other, we didn't want to be overambitious, since we're still learning the ropes with four kids.
Dunkin Donuts just opened in Belguim!
We set off. The 12th century ruins of a chateau in Koerich leapt out at us as we rounded a corner...we all gasped! It was so beautiful.... The snow fell and bells rang in the Baroque church behind the ruins.
We drove on in search of more. As we rolled along, I read the history of chateaux to the kids. Knights, ladies, battles, fires, coats of arms....they hung on every word. We took a detour looking for a lunch spot and accidentally happened upon the Grand Castle Ansembourg. (It's called the "new" castle since it's only from the 1600's). In the 1700's, its baroque gardens were laid out -- they looked so beautiful in the falling snow. I can't wait to go back in the spring when they're in bloom! On our way out of town, we saw the Old Castle of Ansembourg, dating from 1135, set a half mile up on a hill. The current Count of Ansembourg lives there! Since our minivan was slipping around in the snow, we decided to drive up the steep hill the next time we visit and save the other four castles for another day.

We finished our adventure with lunch at an Italian restaurant and went home to sit by the fire!

Monday, January 12, 2015

John John Interviews for Pre-K and goes to Playgroup

John is brimming with personality!
It's hard to believe it's almost time for John to go to school. With older siblings, it feels like he's growing up twice as fast. He was so excited to talk to Miss Tina, the admissions director at the International School of Luxembourg, for his entrance interview.

He charmed her socks off. He wore his bow tie and "pumped up kicks" (velcro New Balance sneakers), ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and jumped up out of his seat to show her how he can hop on one foot. Then, out of nowhere, he would run to her side of the room, sit on the arm of her chair, and whisper into her ear. We received his acceptance letter for Pre-K -- he'll begin in the fall. By law in Luxembourg, school is all day for 4-year-olds. Oh man, I'm going to miss our full days together.

John and I have been going to ISL's playgroup for parents and toddlers on Wednesday mornings. He absolutely loves it, and proudly tells the big kids around the breakfast table that he's going to ISL! The programming and resources are pretty amazing -- they bake scones, plant strawberries, eat healthy snacks, make art projects, paint, play and sing for 2 1/2 hours.

Driving to his interview. There is absolutely nothing inside his backpack, but he was so proud to carry it!
PB and J. He's fueling up to be charming.
Playgroup toys in a dedicated toddler classroom at ISL.
Baking scones in a kitchen built just for kids
The toddlers are enchanted with Elizabeth

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Touch of Homesickness

So today it finally got to me. The whole living-in-a-foreign-country-with-four-kids, one of which is a newborn. No family. No No Amazon Subscribe and Save. Empty fridge -- another weird dinner. I was so late waiting for one kid to get off the toilet and waking the other from his nap that I was late to pick Madeline up from school, so she was sent to the school office. Then she was so mad that she wouldn't hold my hand for our long walk back to the the rain (and it rains a lot). I sprinted to the school and made the last minute decision to leave Elizabeth, John and Charlie locked in the car; thank God for my expat friend Mary who saw my crazy sprint and waited at the van until I got back (then invited me to her house for tea and dark chocolate) -- no doubt she could see the tears about to spring behind my eyes.

I love my life here in Lux. We've wanted to live abroad for years! But today, I miss my life and creature comforts in the USA. I miss my dog. I miss my sisters. I miss knowing what people are saying to me. I'm planning two birthday parties with no Oriental Trading or Target dollar spot (I know. How is that even possible?). I miss country music on the car radio. I'd die for a sugar-free vanilla skim latte from Starbucks. And it would be nice to not feel like I'm wearing a donkey costume if I have on a ball cap or flip flops. I miss neighbors who drop in for coffee, and I miss the Bachelor/ette series. There, I said it. I miss the occasional hour of trashy TV.

Tomorrow I might be just fine; in fact, I probably will! But today? Today I'm overwhelmed by it all, and even though I've made lots of wonderful new friends, I feel kind of lonely. I'm acutely aware that I'm on the other side of a big ocean from the people I love. It's been six-months. The honeymoon's over. This isn't an extended vacation -- it's my life and I've got to charge forward and lead my family with a positive attitude. But that takes a lot of energy. I have to look things up on a translator and work up my courage to make a quick phone call; today, I feel like I've already drained my reserves. Writing is cathartic and it helps fill my tank.

Tomorrow's a brand new day....
Update: My funk lasted about three weeks. I felt grumpy and disenchanted with the very things I found charming when we first moved here. But I reached out to my family and several girlfriends, both here in Lux and back home. Care packages arrived (one with Starbucks!) and the love bombs worked (THANKS!). I turned a corner and life felt normal again, just in time to take our family's first vacation to Paris. More to come on that!