A Mommy Abroad

April 7th, 2012

Today I’m starting something new.  Instead of just posting on my blog, I’m going to start also posting on a new site I’ve started (with a lot of help from Dan):  A Mommy Abroad.

For now, at least, it’s pretty much just going to be a new place for me to share my blog (although I’ve started outlining some other potential pages of information and resources) but my hope is that it will eventually be more than that — I hope it can be a resource for people who want to travel with their kids (whether that means a road trip, a flight to see Grandma, or moving and living abroad).  Certainly, it’ll be most helpful to anyone who happens to be moving to live for a few years in Vienna (because, obviously, that’s my area of expertise) but I’m hoping that it’ll find a wider audience than that.  I’m hoping the stuff I’ve discovered and the hard-won lessons can benefit others, too.

Really, I’ve learned a lot while living this adventure.  I’ve learned a lot about myself (and grown a lot).  I’ve gained a tremendous appreciation for how flexible my children are — how much they enjoy being on this adventure right along with me.  I’ve learned, through trial and error, a lot about what works and what doesn’t, what’s important and what isn’t, what to worry about and what to let go of.  I’ve learned which things are easier than I expected and which things I took for granted that can be completely frustrating (hello, grocery shopping).

I hope it’s useful.  Please feel free to share it with anyone you’d like.  I’m going to approach it as writing a resource that I would have found helpful when we were moving here.  And if it convinces some of you to come visit while we’re here, so much the better.

One year here

April 6th, 2012

April 6, one year ago, about 8:30 in the morning, we arrived in Vienna.  We dragged our amazingly patient kids and our exhausted selves off the plane and through the airport, loaded a cart down with approximately one ton of luggage, found our dog, wandered through customs and deposited ourselves on the sidewalk outside of the Vienna International Airport.  It was cloudy and drizzly.  It was cold.  It was completely overwhelming.

We were waiting for a friend of Dan’s (another American ex-pat who I had never met) who had, incredibly kindly and generously, offered to pick us and ALL of our stuff up at the airport.  Greg arrived and we managed to wrangle everything (and everyone) into his car.  He got us to our place, helped us communicate with the rental agent (who was very nice, but spoke only a little English).  I was worried about paying for our temporary place when we arrived — we had paid a deposit, but suspected we’d have to pay in full before we could check in, and we didn’t have an Austrian bank account and had only a few Euros.  I was having panicked moments imagining us stranded on the curb with two kids, a dog, a ton of stuff and nowhere to stay.  Greg was bemused by my concern.  He helped us in with our stuff (as did the rental agent — everyone was tremendously kind and helpful), and then went out and made a run to the market while we got ourselves situated.  Greg gave us his grocery bag, since they don’t supply them here, and we didn’t have one.  We still have it.  We use it every week.

One year after arriving, outside the entrance to our first Vienna apartment.

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One year gone

April 5th, 2012

One year ago today we went to Dulles airport, accompanied by most of our family.  We had 7 suitcases, a stroller, our dog and our little family.  When we departed, we had only arranged for a place to stay for 8 days.  We spoke no German.  We had only a little money saved, which had to cover our Austrian expenses as well as our home in Virginia.  We really had no idea what we were doing or what we were in for.

I am still surprised and impressed with myself that I got on that plane.  I’m even more surprised by what we’ve accomplished since we’ve been here.

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Everything looks painted

April 4th, 2012

One thing (among many) that I’ve had to get used to while living here is the sensation of looking at a very real sight and having to fight with my mind to convince myself that what I’m looking at is real.  I’d had this sensation from time to time before living in Vienna — I’d look at a sunset, or some clouds, or even a particularly picturesque pastoral scene, and have an instinctive reaction that I was looking at a painted backdrop, rather than real life.

But here, it happens all the time.  Showing the city to my sister last week, and having her react the same way, reminded me of how often I see things that way.

I mean, really, that could be a backdrop.

Vienna is strikingly beautiful, and it’s lovely in a different way than the rolling hills and bucolic scenery that I know so well from Maryland and Virginia.  It’s so common to see one of the beautiful buildings — a church, a palace, a museum, a library, a theater — and have to remind myself that it’s really real and I’m really here.  The views deceive me even more often than they did at home — I think it’s the fact that the hills and the mountains are unfamiliar to me, making them harder to believe.  Even the skies here are different than I’m used to and are more likely to look like painted scenes to me.  Just this evening, I was sitting outside, drinking coffee, looking up at the facade of the northeastern face of the Hofburg, with a blue sky and barely detectable gauzy white clouds.  It didn’t look believable — too grand, impressive and undeniably European to be part of my Wednesday evening.

I guess, after nearly a year, I’m still not really used to living here.  I enjoy seeing the beauty all around me and I love having to remind myself that I’m really experiencing what I see.

Looking home

April 3rd, 2012

Mina went home yesterday.  The boys and I escorted her to the airport, partly to make it easier for her to find her way, but mostly because I wanted to be able to be with her for as long as we could.  It was hard to say goodbye to her.  We had a wonderful time visiting with her.  I am so grateful that she came to see us, and I’m so glad that we got to share some of the things that we’re enjoying the most about living here.  I miss her.  I wish she was still here.

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A rough day

April 2nd, 2012

I know it’s going to happen before it does.  We had a busy week.  I’m exhausted, stressed and sad that Mina flew home today.  The kids are tired and completely off their schedules — and although they don’t know how to express it, I know they’re missing Mina, too.  It’s almost guaranteed to be a rough day all around.

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Mina’s last day

April 1st, 2012

I hate it, but of course it had to come — today was Mina’s last day in Vienna.  (Technically, she doesn’t leave until tomorrow, but we’ll leave for the airport before 7:30 in the morning, so that doesn’t really count.)  I don’t want to focus on the sadness of her leaving, but I am sad.  It has been wonderful and amazing having her here.  I don’t want her to go.

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Too early, too late

March 31st, 2012

We started our day early with breakfast out.  We wanted to be sure to introduce Mina to Cafe Landtmann — a place we’ve often enjoyed, especially for their decadent coffees and delectable desserts (even for breakfast), as well as their fantastic location and view of the Burgtheater and Rathaus.  We left the house early enough that on the way out, when B got a little too exuberant in the courtyard, we had to remind him that it was early on a Saturday.  And when we got to the restaurant, we were among the earliest diners.  We enjoyed an excellent breakfast, including breakfast dessert (strawberry tart, truffle cake and even ice cream).


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Rainbows, bunnies, cupcakes and free balloons

March 30th, 2012

It was another pretty quiet day in Mina’s adventure.  She joined me in taking B to school this morning, but before we left, as I was grabbing a bite to eat in the kitchen, she looked beyond me, out the window, and exclaimed, “What the heck is going on over at the Rathaus?!?”  Which is weird because we can only see the very top, and unnerving because anytime anyone exclaims about something behind you it triggers a little of a horror movie feeling.

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A quiet day

March 29th, 2012

We’ve had a couple of days so far during Mina’s visit where we didn’t do anything overly remarkable. Sunday, the day she arrived, we visited an Easter Market. Tuesday, we went to the park and on a long walking tour of Vienna in the dark. Wednesday, we explored the sights along the Ring, took a break in a cafe and went to see a movie (just me and Mina went to see the movie). So, actually, I guess even those days were pretty busy.

Today, we *really* took a break. Liam, Dan and Mina slept in. Dan, who is still sick with a bad cold, stayed home from work again today. I took Benjamin to school for his Easter party. (We were going to keep him home this entire week, but his teachers really didn’t want him to miss the Easter party, so they specifically asked us if it would be possible for him to attend today, which I think is fantastic.) Benjamin had an excellent time at his party — the Easter Bunny visited the school while they were out playing in the garden, he found an egg during the ensuing Easter Egg hunt, and then he came home laden down with a parcel full of treats.

And . . . that’s it. That’s what we did today. We hung out, introduced Mina to the Backyardigans, ate cookies, put puzzles together. We all took naps. We got to show Mina a little bit more of what a “normal” day here is like (although our typical days don’t include that much resting or the Easter Bunny visiting the school). This afternoon, Mina got to see what our apartment is like in the rain (Mina, like me, like my mom, thinks this is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, not a disappointment). It was a nice, quiet day. Back to adventure tomorrow. Maybe.