Another year

I know a lot of our friends have been wondering what’s up with our return to the States.  Our original plan had us finishing out Dan’s initial 2 year contract and returning to the US in late April or early May of this year.

Things have changed a little.

Back in the fall, Dan was offered, and accepted, a contract extension.  At the time, we weren’t entirely sure *what* we were going to do this spring, but we wanted to keep our options open.  Having the option, though, got us thinking.

Although we miss everyone at home terribly, and in some ways, I’m kind of ready to be done living at the level of exertion required to be an expat with small kids, we’re not quite done here yet.  There are still things we want to do and see.  We want to work more on our German.  We want to get to enjoy being settled — we’ve just really felt at home in the past 6 months, and the thought of turning around and packing up, now that we’re finally finding our way here, is disappointing and overwhelming.

Going home is just so . . . final.

Once we leave here, and move back to the US, that’s where we’ll be.  The kids will be in school, we’ll be back home with friends and family, and that’s where we intend to build our future.  The opportunity here is a brief one, and we want to take advantage of it while we can.  I think about it a lot.  And the comparison that seems the most apt is that of raising kids.

As a mom, I love what I do.  I love being home to raise my boys.  I love early morning snuggles, playing in the tent, kissing boo boos, building forts and story time.  I love watching my boys learn and grow.  But sometimes, I really wish I could put it all on pause for a minute and go be just me, not “me as a mom”.  I want to stay out late, or sleep in one morning.  I want to go out with my friends without worrying about when I need to be home, or go away with Dan for the weekend, spontaneously.  Sometimes I miss those things a lot.  But it’s always only for a minute.  Then I remember that my boys are only little for a brief moment.  These times will pass too quickly and it will never come again.  My time for living without responsibility, for self-indulgence and spontaneity has passed — for the moment.  I’ll get that chance again one day, too, if I want it.  But, for now, this is my season of being a mom, focusing on my kids, being here for them, and putting those other things aside.  And I love it.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.  So, why would I want to rush it?

That’s how I feel about living in Austria.  Sometimes — often — I miss being with my family and friends a tremendous amount.  I miss getting in the car and running an errand easily, or stopping by to see someone on a whim.  I miss being able to read the packages of everything at the drugstore or having an entire potato chip aisle to choose from.  I miss drive-thrus.  I miss my horses.  But then, I remember that this is a brief season in my life, too.  Soon, we won’t live here anymore, and I’ll miss it.  I’ll miss shopping at the market in my building every day, taking my kids to (free) preschool, and having perspective-altering adventures every other weekend.  I had a time to live the American life, and I will again, very soon, but this is not that time.  I don’t want to rush though what’s in front of me now just because I miss something I used to have.

So, for now, we’re staying.  B will do his kindergarten year here in the fall, and Liam will join him (at the same school) for preschool.  In the States, B would have to do full-day kindergarten, which I’m not sure he’s really ready for (I’m not sure I am either) so we would seriously be considering keeping him home another year.  And, that would have meant literally keeping him (and Liam) home — the cost of preschool in the US, especially for both boys, would probably have been prohibitively expensive on a single income.  They’ll both get the chance to learn German in an immersion environment (a chance they’re unlikely to have again for a while, if ever).  They’ll get to go to school together (which otherwise would have to wait several years) and I’ll get the chance to have some time at home, just me, for the first time in almost 5 years.

Our plan is to allow B to complete his kindergarten year here in June of 2014, and then return home next summer in time for him to start 1st grade in the US (or do kindergarten again, depending on how he does this year, and how prepared he is for a completely different type of schooling).  It’ll make for a short turn around next summer, since school gets out late here and starts early in the US, but we’ll manage.  (Remind me that I said that next July when I’m freaking out.)

None of this is set in stone, but this is our current plan.  It’s been a tough decision to make.  I’m personally going through one of the most acute periods of homesickness that I’ve experienced since our first Christmas here, and Benjamin has started asking about when we’ll be moving home.  For now, though, I think this is the right thing.  There will be uncomfortable moments over the next year or so, I’m certain, where I wonder whether we’ve made the right decision (or where I’m sure we’ve made the wrong one).  But I want to fully live this experience while we have it.  For the moment, that means extending our stay a while longer.

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