Sunday, October 23, 2011

Normal days

I know that my posting lately is irregular... at best.  And I'm sorry about that.  I would promise to get better, but let's face it, I probably won't.

And I could come up with some pretty good excuses, sickness, car troubles.... but when it comes down to it, these past few weeks were... well, boring.

I actually sat down to write two or three times, jotted down a sentence or two (can you say jotted when referring to typing?), then fell into something of a coma, staring off at the wall, recycling the monotony of this past week in my head.

Not that I minded.  It was actually something of a welcomed change.  Aiden was out of school for a whole week with belly aches and flus and ear infections... every time I took the kid to his class they bounced him right back to me.

But I enjoyed the lazy mornings.  Actually sitting down with a cup of coffee, wearing our pajamas till 10am, holing up inside, staring out at the damp, cold world while running my bare feet along our warm, tile floor.

Of course there were moments of near insanity.  But they were tempered by train races around the couch, soft pajama snuggles, and, let's be honest, inordinate amounts of television.

Come Friday I needed out of the house just as much as Aiden.  I found myself slipping into a hermit life, and I liked it a little too much.  So with Aiden's health much improved and after only a short internal battle against the lure of my couch, we set off for school, halloween costume in hand.

Aiden seemed to share my hesitance regarding our return to public life, sticking to my side through the Halloween carnival, literally sitting on the floor and picking his nose while children rushed from game to game around him.

But pretty soon he was waving across the room at his little friend, shyly responding to her inquiries about his health ("Are you okay?"), and moving on to things bigger and better than boring, old mommy.

Finn and I survived as well, enjoying some fresh air, socialization, and a large, McDonald's cappuccino.

But as the day commenced at the school's annual "Trunk or Treat" evening, we were ready to retreat once again to our warm, cozy home.  After only a few of many cars, Aiden announced that he was done trick or treating.  He had enough treats and it was time to go home.

No argument there.

So here we are, Sunday night, packed and waiting for our first adventure outside the city limits.  First to Slovenia then on to Venice.

It was a strange sort of deja vu, packing suitcases full or clothes and toiletries, and toys that will probably never emerge from their bags.

It brought me back to those terrifying weeks leading up the this adventure.  I remember laying on our bedroom floor, surrounded by suitcases and their spewed contents, muttering to Joel something about giving up.  That I just can't fit all our stuff in these bags, so, I'm sorry, but we can't go.  It's okay, though, we'll try again next year.

The day of our departure was marked with strange and inexplicable choices that we marvel at to this day.  People we talked to and people we didn't, structured timetables that ended in near sprints through the airport, important items left behind in favor of unusual and mostly useless objects.

And though I miss home in so many ways, those particular memories are best not revisited.

Perhaps if I knew then about this very normal week at home, tending to fevers and tantrums, burning grilled cheese and vacuuming countless crumbs, it wouldn't have seemed so very overwhelming.

But I guess that's the thing with fear of the unknown.

You just don't know.

So now we prepare for our next, small adventure.  And although my family may not know it from my numerous, packing meltdowns today, I think I've learned a little something since then.

First, it is never too early to start packing.  Or to start planning ways to remove the children from the house while you do so.

And second, we can never be totally prepared.  Or in control.  But even the most frightening choices still end in good, bad... and even normal days.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

To my Finn on his second birthday (or a few days later)

My sweet Finn,

If I am being completely honest, two years ago, I wasn't so sure about you. It was ten days past your due date and frankly I was getting mad. The bags were packed and induction scheduled for 8:00 that morning. I tried to wait, Finn, I really did. But I was huge and the doctor was starting to wonder how you would get out. I prayed and prayed you would come, but I was told I could wait no longer. So as much as I fought against it the alarm was set and like it or not, we were going to have a baby.

You had different plans, which I found out around five or so (though I will spare you the details of how). I would like to say I rushed right to the hospital, as the doctor instructed, but I needed a few more minutes with my first baby, just watching him sleep, knowing his whole world would change when he woke. And, if I'm being completely honest (which I guess I am), I stood in his bedroom doorway wondering how I could ever love another child as much as I loved him.

After some sentimental moments your dad pushed me out the door and I spent the next ten minutes scarfing a protein-packed breakfast, careful even in the height of pain to ensure a full belly. Two hours later, you were here. With my eyes still shut from the pain of it all, I heard the doctor calmly state, "Up with the sun!" Your dad told me later it was really an amazing moment in which the sun crept slowly over the hill, breaking the horizon at the exact moment of your birth. I supposed you and I were the only ones who didn't notice.

Two years later and, cheesy as it sounds, you are still bringing us sunshine. And not just with your blondie little head. You can light up an entire day with your soft snuggles, your quiet little voice, your belly laugh.

When we moved here, and even now, I must admit that I worried. I worried we wouldn't make friends, or feel at home, or function as the same happy family I knew in Indiana. But I never worried about you. Partly because you are so young and adaptable. But mostly because you are so darn easy to love. So while family and grandparents hold a special place for you, you're already working your way into hearts here. And let's face it, you're close to impossible not to fall for, what with that sly little smile and twinkle in your eye.

I should have known from that very first day. It was love at first sight with you. You know, the kind you're expected to feel from the moment you lay eyes on your newborn baby, but end up wondering why his nose is all flat, what that awful smell is, and how you will ever keep something so tiny and fragile alive. Now granted, you weren't so scary or intimidating, being the second child and all. But there was something sweet and baby about you that you carried all the way until now, your second birthday.

And I know one day that babyness will go away. Already it is slowly creeping out. Like when you squirm out of my arms in the morning, breaking our sacred snuggle time. Or when you chuck your spoon at your brother's face when he pulls away your cereal (you are very serious about food). Or when you ask me as I head to the steps, "Mommy, are you starting the washing machine?"

But from that first day until now, not one single moment did I ever again wonder how I would love you. And when you are not so little and baby, and when I am not laughing in private when you throw things at your brother or shout "no" at the top of your lungs, I can promise that love will remain. From me, from your dad, and regardless of the endless teasing and fighting, from your brother as well.

Happy second birthday Finn!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The bright side

I behave fairly well in public. Even in the worst of moods smiles and small talk flow easily.

But as certain family members can testify, I have been a real handful at home lately.

I suppose moody would cover it, with lists of complaints that could rival a whiny child.

So for the sake of my family (one member in particular) I will put aside my gripes and spend the next fifteen minutes or so looking on the bright side.

Cause while I long for the land of family and friends, peanut butter and full-sized bags of jalapeno-flavored Tostitos, there are things I love about life here.

1. I love how children ride bikes everywhere. If they are old enough to walk they are old enough to bike. Strollers retreat in favor of small, plastic push-bikes, on which even the tiniest children fly past you on the village sidewalks, parents trailing behind. Our boys quickly adapted to this favored mode of transportation, and spend some of their happiest moments pedaling and pushing through the square, joyfully cruising down hills and avoiding near collisions with quick, surprisingly skilled turns.

2. Public transportation. It doesn’t matter where we go, museums, restaurants, the bathroom… if our kids can ride the tram, or better yet, the underground train, that is all they need. Kid-friendly trips to the city are no more difficult than parking our car and utilizing Budapest’s easy (if not stroller-friendly) public transportation system.

3. School. The beautiful grounds, caring teachers, and most importantly, the large, well-equipped playground create a kind of haven for our family. A place we can send our son knowing he is treasured and nurtured by an exceptional teacher who displays more patience with ten three year-olds than I ever did with one. A place I can grab a cappuccino and connect with the world while we just barely survive month number two in our dark-age home. And of course a place where my language of choice does not place me in the small, annoying minority, but allows for free and successful communication.

4. I love that there are more sources of free, child-friendly entertainment than there is time to enjoy. Fantastical playgrounds, miles of bike paths, mini zoos, sprawling castles. And for a small price, a railroad manned entirely by children, year-round circus, world-renowned zoo, tropical aquarium… all within the city limits. For someone inclined to boredom, I must stifle complaints that there is, quite simply, too much to do.

5. Our family. It is hard to explain, because we are the same family that left Indiana, Pennsylvania just two months ago. But also, we’re not. This place is changing us. Aiden is more independent. Finn, more opinionated and strong-willed. Joel, more adventurous (if that is possible). And me. As Joel put it the other day, I am more brave. Not because I try for or even desire bravery, but simply because I am forced. I must drive my manual car through the steep, narrow streets of the Buda Hills. I must acquire food for my family, furniture for our home, shoes for the freakishly fast-growing feet of my children. So I venture into a foreign world, brave public transportation, butcher the language, and navigate a country and people that are not home. And as much as I may not want to, I have to, and that simple fact is shaping me, and it is shaping our family.

So while I long for this place to feel like home, I realize we are in transition. It is slow, and sometimes painful, but it is changing us.

And in the meantime, we keep moving, because we have to, but also because we want to. It might not be home yet, but it is a pretty cool place for the interim.