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!

Out of rhythm

Having house guests can be stressful.  It isn’t anyone’s fault — it’s just that adding on to an already busy “to do” list, while disrupting the rhythm and schedule of life, can cause chaos.  We’ve just had 10 days of house guests.  Our schedule was a disaster, the boundaries and rules with the kids were bent all over the place, we all shared a bathroom, we gave up our bedroom and slept in the living room, we stayed up too late every night.  I’m really glad they came to see us, but we are all exhausted now.

In addition to the logistics, it’s hard to live with anyone for 10 days.  I don’t think 10 consecutive days have ever passed between Dan & I where one of us hasn’t gotten a little frustrated, irritable or snippy with the other.  In a marriage, you learn which battles to fight and which to leave, and you develop a give and take of how to handle these routine frustrations.  With guests, it’s harder.  There is, of course, still plenty of reason to get frustrated, irritable or snippy with each other, but you try really, really, really hard not to.  It’s rude, it seems petty (especially when you’re only spending a few days with each other), the damage done is disproportionally severe when compared to the impact of whatever little irritation caused the situation in the first place and, of course, you’re trying to be on your best behavior.  (I have a tendency to be irritable, especially when I’m stressed out — which is often — so this kind of “letting go” of little things is something I’ve been working on in myself for years.)

Our guests left this afternoon, after 10 days of, truly, a very nice visit.  But now, we’re all exhausted, and we’re out of sync with the way we usually do things.  Since they left (about 8 hours ago) Dan & I have snapped at each other at least twice, Benjamin has been in “time out” twice (up until today he had been in time out only twice since we’ve been in Austria), Dan has slammed a door, I’ve slapped my hand on the kitchen counter in frustration (ouch), Benjamin is currently crying in his room because he doesn’t want to go to sleep, Liam took three tries to get down to bed and he was even tricky to feed at dinner.  Basically, we’re a mess.  We’re trying to get back to normal, but we’re tired and we’re all at our limits, so we take it out on each other, a little bit, which I wish I could prevent.

Although this all sounds awful, I actually think we’re handling this level of stress better than we ever have before.  Our moments of frustration have been fleeting.  Benjamin sat quietly in his time outs and went right back to being his happy, playful (and mischievous!) self.  Liam is now sleeping peacefully . . . and I think Benjamin may be (finally) too.  We’re still tired.  I have a mountain of laundry to do (including the sheets for our bed, which are currently wet in the drier . . . sigh) and tomorrow, life goes back to normal.

First prayer

It was cold here today — not cool, cold.  Our high was 14 Celcius, it varied between rainy and drizzly all day, and the wind went from a strong breeze to “Oh dear, what was that?!?”  If you had been plopped down in Vienna today, you would absolutely have believed it was April if that’s what you’d been told.  (I was thrilled, actually — I think it’s beautiful weather, and a real treat to have in July, especially after the heat we’ve had lately . . . but I think it may have been a bit too much for our fair-weather-dwelling houseguests.)

Today was, however, our first planned day of sightseeing with our visitors.  They arrived Friday, we did our “chores” yesterday, and today our plan was to see two of the most essential sights of Vienna:  St. Stephen’s and the Hofburg.  Well, it rained and it was cold.  We went anyway.

We went to St. Stephen’s.  We had planned to perhaps do a tour or climb one of the towers, but Dan’s parents weren’t really interesed in the tour and the weather didn’t make the climb in the tower sound too inviting, so we were just going to explore the cathedral on our own.  Of course, when we got there, the cathedreal wasn’t available to visit, but we still were able to wander around in the entry area and get to experience the beautiful church a bit.

It is amazing inside.  It’s huge, and beautiful, full of statues and stained glass.  It smells like incense and it’s just the right amount of dark and mysterious.  There are basins of holy water in the entrance and there are prayer candles in the nooks and alcoves — Benjamin was fascinated (as he was the first time we went, on Easter).  He really wanted to see the candles, so I took him to look.  He asked about them and I did my best to explain.  He asked if a prayer was like making a wish, and I told him that it was — that it was making a wish for good things to happen for people that you love, and that you tell it to God so that he can help you make it happen.  He wanted to make a wish, so we purchased a candle and lit it.  He wished for, “All the people that I love to be happy”.  (I am amazed by him — by his kindness and his understanding.)

And then he asked me if he could blow the candle out, and I had to explain the difference between a prayer candle and a birthday candle.  He seemed ok with it.

On the way home we walked past the Hofburg, through the Volksgarten, past the Parliament and the Rathaus and back to home, where we stayed for the rest of our rainy and cold afternoon.  To me, it was a lovely Sunday, but I’m not sure we did a very good job as hosts and tour guides.  That’s ok — we have 7 more days.

No more suitcases

It’s official:  no more suitcases.  We spent a few hours working around the house this morning (thanks, in part, to Dan’s parents who watched B while Liam slept and we cleaned and organized) and got the suitcases unpacked.  We still have a lot to do, in terms of getting things organized, unpacked and cleaned up, but being out of suitcases is a major milestone (besides, there’s something kind of lame about having guests who are living out of their suitcases while the hosts are still doing the same).

It’s another reminder of something I realize periodically:  we live here.  Our perspective is vastly different than it would be if we were just visiting . . . and it’s also different than it would be if we were living here permanently (with no end date looming).  We’re getting the feel of being here as tourists, a little, with Dan’s parents visting — our heads are spinning with the effort of trying to cram into just 10 days everything we love about Vienna (and trying to maintain a little of “normal” life at the same time).  It reminds us that we have been spoiled by time — we’ve had the benefit of what feels like infinite opportunity to explore, discover and enjoy Vienna.  But, at the same time, our 2 year deadline hangs over us:  it’s a reminder to make the most of our experience here, without creating too much pressure to fit everything in to too short a time.

It’s good to continue to get these reminders:  I want to seize this experience and get everything out of it that I can.  We are so very fortunate to not just be here, but to live here.

Playing host

So far, so good:  I made it to the arrival of my guests without having my head explode.  Success!  (Although, the last minute getting together of stuff and random cleaning did almost send me over the edge.)

Dan’s parents arrived safe and sound (and without getting lost) right at the end of nap time today.  We hung out here for the afternoon, and went to dinner.  Benjamin is having an awesome time playing with them, and Liam is loving all of the attention and activity, as well.


In addition to enjoying having them, we’re really looking forward to getting to be the relative experts for a few days — after nearly 3 months of always being the least informed person in a conversation, it’s an exciting prospect to be the ones who know what’s going on, where things are, and even a little of the local language.  (I’m kind of used to being a smarty pants, and I’ve grown unaccustomed to that feeling.)  We already experienced a little of this at dinner tonight:  it’s inevitable, because we live here, that we’d know where to go and what was good on the menu (which would be true anytime anyone visited in a new city) but we got to add to that knowing a little German (at least enough to order and ask for the check).

We have sightseeing plans for the weekend, as well as normal errand running (we still have things that have to get done, after all).  I’m looking forward to getting to revisit some of our favorite locations around Vienna.  And, I won’t lie, it’s going to be fun to show off a little of what we’ve learned and figured out.

Preparing for guests

Dan’s parents will arrive tomorrow — they’ll be our first guests since we moved here.  We’re all very excited to be able to show them around the fun stuff we’ve found in Vienna, and Benjamin is absolutely thrilled that his “Topes” are coming to see him.  We are very happy that they’re coming.

I’ve been busy over the past week or so preparing to have them visit:  we still have lots of unpacked boxes (which is not going to be completely addressed by the time of their arrival), cleaning the house as best we can (the moutons are putting up a good fight) and rearranging things so that everyone will have a place to sleep that is relatively comfortable.

All enthusiasm aside, I’m a little stressed out.  I think that a minimum of stress is unavoidable in my situation:  I’m dangerously close to the limit of my capabilities every day, so adding the work required to prepare for guests is asking a lot.  (In addition to that, this relationship is not the easiest or most comfortable one that I have, and that raises the stress levels, too.)  I woke up this morning irritable, with my nails chewed and my back aching — and our guests have yet to arrive.

We’ll see how things go.  We are excited to have them visit, and I am doing everything I can to prepare things to be as nice and hospitable as possible while still maintaining my sanity.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . .