Six months

Six months ago today, just about now, actually, we were on our way to the airport.  Most of my family escorted us — everyone helped us prepare for our trip in some way.

We miss everyone, terribly.  We Skype, we email, we text, we call (occasionally), we even write real, actual cards and letters (on paper!) from time to time.  But it isn’t the same as being together.  It’s really hard being apart.  I’ve already started to plan our summer trip home next year — it’ll be the first time we’ll be able to see some of our family, and the first time we’ll all have been together since we left.  Liam has spent half of his life in Austria, away from the rest of our family.

I have a truly amazing family.  Even though my parents have been divorced for over 20 years, we all get together regularly.  For either Thanksgiving or Christmas, just about every year, we manage to get everyone together in the same place.  This will be the first time I’ve missed that in a long time.  And it’s not just me missing it — it’s painful for me that my boys are missing it, and I know Dan is going to miss being there (he loves holidays with my family).

(You can tell I’m homesick, because it’s the first week of October, and I’m already thinking about Christmas — and I’m not the type to not give Halloween it’s due).

It’s been 6 months since we’ve seen our friends — since we’ve been able to have dinner at one of their houses, meet up at a park, or have a play date.

I can’t believe I’ve been out of the US for 6 months.  Prior to coming here, I’d never been out of the US for longer than 4 days at a time.

We are enjoying our Viennese adventure, but that doesn’t make it painless.  I am so grateful for the loving family and friends we’ve left at home, and I miss them terribly.

It is (still) birthday!

I’m not sure exactly where it came from, but for years, in my family, we’ve said, “It is birthday!”  Well, here in our house, it is still birthday for Liam.

We still have cake, we still have ice cream, we still have balloons.  Tomorrow, we’re going to the Children’s Museum to celebrate Liam’s birthday even further.  And my lucky, loved little guy is still receiving birthday packages in the mail.  I don’t care who you are, it’s great fun to get presents in the mail . . . when you’re a little kid, it’s totally awesome.  Yesterday, he got a gift from Grandma, and today he got gifts from his Aunt Mina and from his Topes.


Benjamin hasn’t been left out of this birthday whirlwind, either — he’s been getting “happy big brother” gifts in the mail, too.  Benjamin is so thrilled every time we get a package — he wants to help Liam open it up and then “oohs” and “ahhs” about the gift (and then tries to run off with it or stash it away somewhere that Liam won’t easily discover it.)  They are both having the best time enjoying this whole birthday week.

I’d really been struggling with the fact that Liam spent his first birthday away from the rest of our family, away from our friends.  We’re having a great time here, but I know it would have been different and included a lot more people if we’d been at home.  I’m so happy to watch my boys experience the love of a birthday at home, even though we’re so far away.  I’m glad it’s still “birthday” here.



I have two amazing brothers, both younger than me (although in Peter’s case, not by much).  (I also have three sisters, but this post isn’t about them.)  Growing up, both Peter and Adam drove me crazy — they often terrorized my toys and took immense pleasure in destroying my overly particular way of doing just about everything.  But, even when we were little, and tormenting each other, we were always there for each other, and we all loved each other very much . . . and we all knew it, even when we didn’t want to admit it.

As adults, they are the best of friends (even though I suspect they still drive each other crazy from time to time).  They work together, they share hobbies, and even bought a house together.  They take care of each other, look out for each other, and set each other straight when necessary.  Although I love my brothers very much (and miss them terribly since I’ve been gone) there is a closeness that they share which I don’t.

I see my boys together, and, even as young as they are, I see the same type of bond forming.  Nothing brings more joy to Liam than seeing Benjamin.  When Benjamin walks into the room, Liam smiles and giggles and wrestles free in order to get down and crawl (at warp speed) to Benjamin’s side.  Even at just 10 months old, he wants to be with his big brother and wants to be doing what he’s doing (which is already getting him in trouble).  Benjamin gets frustrated with Liam, to be sure (“Don’t eat that!  Don’t touch that!  That’s MINE!”) but he is so kind and sensitive to his little brother.  He already watches him and supervises what he’s doing — and not just for self-centered reasons.  He lets me know when “Liam’s playing with a toy that’s not good for babies” and today even directed him away from playing with the oscillating fan in the living room.  If I need to do something Liam objects to (anything that requires he be restrained, like diaper changes) Benjamin will come and tell me, “Mommy, he doesn’t like that”.  He routinely tells me, “I love my brother!” and “I love my little Liam!”.  I suspect I will see this adoration/protection duet play out for many years to come.  It’s amazing to watch my children love each other the way that they do.

There is really something special about brothers.  I am so happy that my boys have each other.  I’ve always thought I had the best brothers ever . . . but I think they have some competition.

Gute Reise, Grandma

My mom left today to go back home.  I miss her already.  And, I’m a worrier, so I won’t really feel relaxed until she gets home tomorrow.

I really, really, really liked having her here and wish she was still here.  I love watching her with my kids — playing with Benjamin and getting to know Liam.  I love her company.  It is so great to be able to talk to her all day, about big and small things.  I feel like we did too many chores, too much cleaning, and not enough talking, playing and sightseeing — it’s a lesson learned for next time.  She was a great help, and a great comfort to me.  I wish she could have been here twice as long . . . or more.

In the past, we’ve sometimes had trouble getting along after a few days staying together (this has been true since I was a teenager, and although we’ve had greater degrees of success with it as the years have gone on, I thought it would always be at least a little true).  We love each other, but get on each other’s nerves after a while.  We didn’t have that problem this time.  Maybe we’ve both just grown as people and gotten past some of our issues, but I don’t really think that’s it.  I know, for myself, I was so happy to have her here, so grateful for each day, that I didn’t want to waste my energy on being irritable or particular or exasperated — I just wanted to be with my mom.

I am really grateful to have this perspective now — I feel like it’s another important lesson I’ve learned by being on this adventure.  Those little things just aren’t important compared with the time we have to spend together.  I’m so glad she was here.  I can’t wait to see her again.

Perfect moments

010Every so often, I’m fortunate enough to have a moment where the people, the place, the circumstances all come together in just the right way.  I try to hold on to the way these feel — it’s my goal to live my life such that I experience them more and more.  (I don’t know if it’s “reality” or my perspective, but I do feel like I’m having them more often.)  Today was a great day — I had more than one of these.

This morning, I went to the “big park” with my mom and the boys.  We watched B play on the trampoline, took the train ride around the park, played at the playground and watched B ride on a variety of large mechanical animals.  We had a wonderful time.  The boys enjoyed themselves so much, the weather was lovely and I could not have asked for better company.  At one point, my mom and I, together, were 015pushing both boys together on the swings.  Benjamin had waited while another girl had her turn because he really wanted to swing with Liam.  Liam just laughed and laughed on the swings.  And, I got to be there with my mom.  The sun was shining, there was a nice breeze — I just wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Shortly after that, Benjamin was riding on a large mechanical polar bear with his Grandma walking alongside.  I was holding a fussy Liam and I sought refuge from the mid-day sun under the umbrella of an unused mechanical dinosaur.  (There’s a sentence I never could have guessed I’d write.)  While watching B and Grandma enjoy steering the polar bear around the park, Liam curled up in my arms and dozed off.  Pure happiness.


055After a morning of fun at the park, we headed home and got on with our afternoon.  Then, this evening, Dan & I went out to a movie, just the two of us.  It was really nice to be out, as a couple, and we enjoyed our time.  Coming home, it was raining and chilly.  We walked cozily together under the umbrella and talked about the movie.  Vienna is so beautiful, and the rain and the mist and the evening light, along with the company of my husband, combined to make another perfect moment.

Then, I got to come home, snuggle my kids, and visit with my mom for one last evening before she heads home.  It was a good day.


Enjoying Sachertorte

After a relatively quiet day and a disastrous encounter between a glass Snapple bottle and our kitchen floor, we decided we had spent enough time in our kitchen and opted to eat dinner out.  We went to one of our favorite restaurants, which is in the next building over from ours and has a nice outside patio area, and enjoyed a lovely meal.

At the end, I decided to splurge on a dessert I’ve been eyeing for about a month and my mom wanted to try Austrian apple strudel.  Benjamin asked if they had chocolate cake — repeatedly.  He asked me, he asked my mom, he asked the waitress twice (although she didn’t hear him either time, but he was so very cute trying to ask).  When we looked at the menu, we saw that they did indeed have chocolate cake — Sachertorte, which is a famous Viennese treat.  We tried to get him to order it himself, but when the moment was upon him, he smiled and batted his eyelashes at the waitress and we ordered for him.  (Dan, who is on his strict, self-imposed diet, didn’t order anything.)

047Our desserts arrived, all lovely and delicious looking.  Benjamin’s was the most impressive — a slab of dark chocolate cake and a pile of whipped cream.  He took one look at it, picked up the cake in both hands, and started eating.  I tried to get him to use a fork, but gave up once he was about a third of the way through it.  Once I got over being mortified, it was really fun to watch him eat.  He was so enthusiastic about it — he paused only to take bites of the other desserts or to take the time to dunk his entire piece of cake into the whipped cream.  Even though he was obviously loving his chocolate cake, he shared with all of us — even Liam had a little whipped cream.

Benjamin is fully enjoying the experience of being in Vienna.  I am fully enjoying his experience.

Sleepover with Grandma

Benjamin is really getting in to the idea of camping.  For several practical reasons, starting with the fact that we have a 10 month old and ending with the fact that our tent is in storage somewhere in Virginia, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  However, he loves to play “tent”.  He climbs under the covers of a bed, or under any available blanket, sheet or towel, puts all of his stuffed animals or other precious toys inside and pretends he’s in a tent.  He always has to play tent with someone else — usually his Grandma.  This has provided hundreds of hours of enjoyment for Benjamin and various members of his family.

Last night, he and Grandma did one better — Benjamin actually had a sleepover with Grandma on the futon in the living room.  Benjamin hasn’t ever had such an intentional sleepover.  (There were a few times, as a baby, that I took him to bed with me out of desperation, and then there were the infamous times when we first moved here when he was sleeping on the couch or on a mattress on the floor which probably felt a lot like camping — they did to me, at least.)  He absolutely loved it.  Apparently, he fell asleep nearly instantly and slept all night.  He was so happy to wake up with his Grandma this morning, and he just asked me if he could have a sleepover with his Grandma again tonight (which I’ve vetoed, because I’m not sure how well he really did sleep, as he was a bit out of sorts all day).  Later this week, Grandma is going to “camp out” on the air mattress on Benjamin’s floor in his room, too.

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I think he’s really enjoying having his Grandma visit, and getting to go “camping”.  Other than being outside, and roasting marshmallows, the best part of camping is getting to have a sleepover, anyway.  I’m so happy that Grandma is here to visit — I love having her here, and I know how much this means to my boys.

Dance Party Osterreich

019On a whim this afternoon, my mom and I packed the boys into the double stroller and set out for a walk with no particular destination in mind.  We got a couple of eiskaffees and started walking down the Ringstrasse to look at some of Vienna’s sights:  the Rathaus, Parliament, the Volksgarten, the Hofburg.  We came upon a place I’d seen before but not visited:  the Burggarten behind the Hofburg.  Dan joined us there when he got off of work.

It was lovely, as most of the gardens in Vienna are, if a little less . . . orderly.  I have not yet seen a place where so many people disregard the “keep off the grass” signs.  But, it was beautiful, verdant and very popular.  Benjamin made friends with a little girl his own age by a fountain — they played chase and flirted until she ran off for an older, badder boy.  (He seems to have gotten over it.)  We really enjoyed it, and it was fun to make another discovery of a nice place to walk and enjoy Vienna.

033Then, on our way out, we joined into an impromptu swing dance party.  Right behind the Hofburg, at the base of the stone steps, on the wide marble walkway, people were dancing enthusiastic, American style triple swing and Lindy Hop.  Dan and I joined in, and Benjamin quickly added himself to the mix.  We all took turns — Liam and my mom danced, too.  It was great to dance again — it’s been a while.  We danced ourselves to exhaustion — even Benjamin just wanted to watch by the end.  And then, when we were done, Dan got up the courage to talk to the assembled dancers and ask whether they get together often (they apparently do, and we got their information).

We had a great day.  I am worn out.  Now I remember why I was in such great shape when I was dancing.


I want my mommy

If all goes well, my mom will arrive here in Vienna in a few hours.  I am so excited — this will be the first time I’ve seen her (or anyone in my family, aside from on Skype) since we came here in April.  This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my mom (and my family in general).

Her trip kind of came together at the last minute (thanks to a wonderful aunt who helped her get here) so we didn’t know for sure that she was coming until she got on the plane yesterday afternoon.

I can’t wait to see her.  I can’t wait to show her our place, my favorite things in Vienna, and to have her share in how wonderful Benjamin and Liam are right now.  Especially Liam — she hasn’t seen him for 40% of his life, so he’s basically a completely different creature than he was the last time she saw him.  She’s going to get to know him all over again.  And, I can’t wait just to talk to her.  I’ve missed her so much.

I’m so excited to have her visit!  Yay!

Absence makes the heart grow . . . sadder

I miss my family.  It was not completely unusual for me to go 4 or 6 or (on occasion) even 8 weeks without seeing some members of my immediate family (parents, brothers and sisters).  But, it rarely went beyond that.  I’d get to a point where I’d realize I hadn’t seen them in nearly 2 months, and pick up the phone . . . or a birthday or holiday would roll around and we’d all get together.  (I never went this long without seeing everyone at this time of year, though:  Easter, Mother’s Day, my brother Peter’s birthday have all passed since I’ve been here.)  We hit the 2 month mark today, and I’ve really noticed over the past few days that my longing for home (most particularly being with my family) has been growing.  I may be very fortunate, and get to see my mother very soon, but it will be months (or more) before I see the others.  I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around that.

I don’t wish for anything monumental, I just want to see everyone.  I want to talk and hang out and maybe have a meal.  Catch up on what’s been going on and joke about old stuff.  Just talk and be relaxed, and have everyone be amazed at how wonderful my kids are.  (Skype is a great invention, and I am really grateful for it, but it’s hard to carry on a decent conversation while wrangling both children, which is how most of my Skypes to home end up going.)

I guess it’s one of those things — you don’t really appreciate how good you have things until they change.  I can’t believe that I ever went 4 or 6 or 8 weeks at home without seeing my family.  They live 45 minutes from where I was living!  Why did we allow that?  Why did I live in Virginia when I could just as easily have lived in Maryland and been close to everyone?  (I know why, but the reasons don’t stand up to scrutiny right now.)

I don’t know how things will be when I move home.  Who knows where everyone will be?  But, I can say, I will make different choices.  I miss them all more than I thought I would after 2 short months.  It’s not just the amount of time that has passed, but the knowledge that I can’t do anything about it right now that is so frustrating.  I am so grateful that I’ve had my family so close to me (geographically and otherwise) my entire life up until now, and I’m disappointed at the way I have taken it for granted without even realizing it.

I’m not taking it for granted right now.  I love you guys, and I wish you were here (or I were there).  (Lesson learned.)