Suddenly a soccer mom

I always swore that we wouldn’t get sucked into it.  I really thought that we wouldn’t end up revolving our lives around a massive list of sports and after school activities for the kids.  I’ve always believed that kids (well, at least my kids, at least) really need, and benefit from, unplanned, unstructured, downtime for them to unwind, rest, or play creatively, so we’ve always tried to make that a priority.  Benjamin had a daily nap until he was almost 6, too, and it was great for him.  I expected Liam to most likely do the same.

743But now, suddenly, I’m a “soccer mom”.  B is enrolled in three different after school activities, plus swimming lessons on Saturdays.  Each day’s plans for the whole family are worked around these activities, including meals, naps (or lack thereof) for Liam, and even Dan’s work schedule.  Regular followers of this blog might have noticed an unusually long hiatus over the past 4 weeks — we haven’t been sick, I’ve just been too busy to write at all.  (My post from late September for Liam’s birthday was written back before his birthday … but it took me a week to get it posted, and this is the first one I’ve written since then.)

Our days are a whirlwind.  Every moment from the time my alarm goes off until the boys are in bed is specifically planned.  Each minute has a purpose, and our schedule has very little flexibility.  If not for my bus and train trips, and the luxury of (sometimes) joining the family for meals, most days I would not sit down from 6:30 a.m. until at least 8:30 at night.

This whole thing kind of took me by surprise.  It happened kind of by accident.  I didn’t mean to sign us up for so much.  I didn’t expect B to get into so many of the activities he was interested in, and I wasn’t sure he’d enjoy them all as much as he is.  But, as it turns out, he’s having a great time, learning new stuff, and making new friends.  Liam, who can sometimes be inflexible and intractable in his own right, seems, surprisingly, to enjoy our daily trips to pick up B, and he is handling the loss of some of his naps much better than I expected.  For Dan & I, this new schedule means keeping a tighter rein on our own activities — meals have gotten less complex, we’re getting to bed earlier, and our regular TV times have entirely disappeared.  We’ve kind of gone from 0-60 on this whole school thing.

But, though it was unintentional and it is a bit overwhelming, in a way I’m kind of enjoying it.  It’s exhausting, both physically and mentally, to balance this many items on our schedule, but there’s a great deal of satisfaction in seeing B learn and enjoy so many things.  (Though I do have a tendency to look for the upside to any situation, so maybe I’m just finding the positives because I’m looking for them.)  Also, this is temporary — it’s for a semester, not forever.  B has already expressed a desire to drop swim lessons after he can swim across the pool unassisted (my own standard for him being “done” learning to swim), and we’ll see how many of the activities he may choose to continue with (and which he’ll be able to get into) next semester.  I’m still not sure that this packed-full schedule is really “us”, but it’s certainly another kind of adventure.

For now, we’re getting through it, enjoying it, and gaining a whole new appreciation for our precious few moments of free time.  I also have a newfound respect, and a bit of awe, for the families who keep up this kind of schedule for years and years.  Also, I have a huge backlog of planned and partially written blog posts, and I’ll get around to those eventually … but for now, this soccer mom will probably be commuting more and composing less.

Happy New Year (and thank you)!

We’re back!  We spent 2 weeks at home in the US, celebrated Christmas and the new year, spent time with family and a few friends (though there were many others we wish we’d seen, also) and rode on the world’s largest passenger airplane (twice!) to get there and back.  It was truly a great trip and a wonderful holiday.  We had a great time being home.  (And there will be more on all of that later.)

But before I delve into our further Stateside adventures, I want to update and thank everyone who supported this blog in the Expat Blog Awards contest for 2013.  I was on a plane for the last day of the contest, so I wasn’t able to keep up with the progress nor rally votes at the last minute.  Even so, I’m very pleased to say that my entry received second place out of the entries from Austria, which was purely due to the support of my friends and family.  Thank you all so much.

But there was an even bigger surprise in store for me when the contest results were revealed.  This blog was chosen (this time by the editors, not by votes) as the third best entry OVERALL out of 171 blogs that were entered this year.  That feels absolutely amazing (and it came with an Amazon credit, which counts as the first money I’ve ever made blogging!).  First and second place were won by expat bloggers in Asia, which actually makes mine the highest placing European blog, out of the plethora of entries from this part of the world.  I’m very pleasantly surprised to have been selected out of so many great entries.  I’m feeling rather proud of myself!

So, thanks for all the support in 2013, and here’s hoping that 2014 proves to be a great year, too.

Expat blog awards 2013

So, it’s that time of year again . . . time for the Expat Blog Awards!  Last year, I was very proud to bring home the 1st place award for an Austrian Expat blog — and I’d love to do it again this year!

If you enjoy my blog, and would be willing to show your support, please go here to read my entry for the 2013 contest (they’re doing it a little differently than last year) and leave a comment.  The contest is judged based on the number of positive comments left for the entry (to count, a comment must be at least 10 words long), and additional prizes are given for Facebook and Twitter shares and likes.  Entries are only open through Friday, December 20.  Thanks, in advance, for your support!

Expat Blog Awards 2013 Contest Entry

What are you doing?

Benjamin came out of the tub, just now, walked up to me sitting at the computer and asked, “What are you doing?”  “I’m writing my blog.”  (He has some sense of what that means — most days I write after he’s in bed, but some days, like today, I write when he’s in the tub and he gets to see me writing when he comes out.)

After nearly six months of religiously daily blog entries, I’ve struggled against writer’s block, I’ve struggled with figuring out which stories to share, where to draw the line at “too much information” and I’ve struggled with divulging some difficult times, in order to make this an honest description of this experience and not an overly optimistic, “everything is great all the time” tale.

I want this to be more than a journal — I try to avoid writing a log or a diary (“today we did this, then this, then this, ate this, went to bed”).  I want to capture the ups and the downs — not just of the huge adventure of moving a family of four, with two very small kids, to Europe — but the struggles and joys which make up daily life.

My hope is that writing this lets everyone at home share our journey with us.  I want everyone to know that this IS possible — travel with children, even moving abroad, isn’t as daunting or insurmountable as it seems.  My children are adaptable, enthusiastic travel companions, and I know their worldview, and mine, is forever broadened for having had this experience.  We miss everyone at home, and this adventure, sometimes, is incredibly hard.  But, we’re writing an exciting chapter in our lives, and for me, sharing it is an important part of the experience.