Thursday, February 2, 2017

The not-so expat life {3 months in}

I started these posts shortly after we moved to the Netherlands in 2010. And while I know we are technically no longer expats, re-entry has been *interesting* and it sometimes feels like we're living in a foreign country, so why not hash out one last post :)

So, life down under - 3 months in.

The good...

- The supermarket. Yes, the good old supermarket. While I might miss Sprouts and TJs, they were not a one stop shop. I couldn't get nappies and regular old toilet paper and toothpaste there (unless I wanted some random organic weird natural herbed flavor). And Safeway... I despised that shop. Coles and Woolies though, woo hoo! Love going in (minus the tiny humans) and love the home delivery service. Someone dropping my groceries on my kitchen bench, yes please - we live in an old Queenslander and have a zillion stairs.

- UBER EATS! It's like DoorDash all over again. In other words: take away for lazy people. Like me :) $5 delivery with so many choices around us, it's been a great service so far.

- So many of my fav shops are finally not only down under, but in Brisbane! Zara & H&M are already here and Sephora is opening at Chermside this year. Woo!

- COFFEE!!!!!! Finally, we have access to an abundance of proper coffee again! And fun coffee shops! In fact, just fun little food places in general. Apparently, there's even a food truck scene here though we're yet to go check it out.

- Kmart! It's like USA Target, but minus the decent clothes and groceries and Starbucks. But the homewares are so fun and cheap, it's kind of addictive going there.

- The beaches. I'm ashamed to say we've only been twice since getting back... three times if you count the Noosa river. But - nothing compares to a Queensland beach. Nothing. Not even Hawaii, Fiji, the mediterranean... Aussie beaches are special, although I wouldn't mind if there were a few less jellyfish. Got my first sting of the season at Coolum and even though it wasn't particularly bad, it still hurt!

- Shopping centres. Firstly, they have air conditioning. Secondly, they have everything. When I used to do groceries, I'd just go to the grocery store in the states. Here, the supermarkets are all inside shopping centres and there's obviously other shops and food and well, it gives us an outing and things to look at on days with not much else to do. I like that I can cross a bunch of things off my list in one place.

- Our closest Ikea is in a shopping centre. Right next to Kmart. Best idea ever!

The bad...

- EVERYTHING IS SO FREAKISHLY TINY. Now, don't tell me that I just got used to American sized things. I swear, the roads here (in Brisbane, Gympie was fine) are barely the width of my car and don't get me started on the carparks. It can take me an embarrassing number of turns to get in and out of a straightforward park in my car which is the exact same car I was driving in the states. The spaces are narrow, there's hardly any reverse room and I feel like it takes forever to find a spot because everywhere is so busy with everyone wanting to be indoors in a/c comfort not to mention that everyone (myself included) wants the undercover or shaded parks because - crazy heat. I'm starting to understand why Mums like minivans so much.... Having sliding doors in these tiny narrow parking spaces would be kind of amazing.

- The petrol stations where you can pay by credit card at the pump seem to be either non existent or few and far between. Which means dragging 3 tiny humans into the store to pay. I've been able to avoid it so far by making sure we fill up when we're both in the car, but I know this is going to be a nuisance long term.

- You have to pay for parking at Westfield shopping centres (after 3hrs) nowadays. Booooooooo.

- HUNTSMEN SPIDERS. Particularly, the ones that LIVE IN MY HOUSE. I feel like we're throwing thongs at one every day. Every time I go to turn on the light in the storage room, I feel like there is going to be one just waiting on the light switch. I'm paranoid.

- Heat and humidity. Oh. my. It's AWFUL. I'm re-thinking summer as my "favourite" season. Winter is sounding pretty good right about now, especially as winter in Qld = summer temps in CA. And the worst part is that the heat starts early. I've been going for walks around 6.30am and even then it's just too hot already.

- Not being able to buy wine with my groceries. Or with my useless but fun purchases at Target. Now I actually have to go into a bottle shop (like Bev-mo). Yes, they're everywhere and always beside a supermarket but still... I miss the convenience.

The hmmmmmm moments...

- The first time I encountered a roundabout again. I kinda missed those good old 4 way stop signs for a moment.

- Seeing all the American things that have made it to the shops in the time we've been gone with their crazy high prices. You can now buy Reece's peanut butter chips and Ben & Jerry's icecream (at $12 a tub!!!! Holy!!!! Given it always used to be on special in Target for what, $3.75?, I'm kind of appalled at the markup).

- Coffee shops (not chains) all seem to close by 3pm?! I guess this is because it's not Silicon Valley with all the techies working out of coffee shops all day/night? Still, I feel like it's kind of early. Mitch starts work at the crack of dawn and finishes mid afternoon to keep on USA hours, and it would be nice to have a coffee shop nearby to go have a little outing to after he's done for the day.

- The first time I took the kids the library. I was sitting on a bench outside at the park after reading the boys a book in the shade (because, it was way too hot to play - 'straya) when the older lady sitting next to me told me I had a lovely accent... What country do I come from?


We're still in a period of adjustment, but - it's nice to be home.

post signature

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Christmas 2016

It feels like Christmas was an eternity ago. Where did the past month go? Honestly though, I was NOT excited about this last Christmas. Normally I love the holiday season but having just moved house, it felt like a nuisance. I would've been quite happy to delay it for a couple more months. Despite my grinch-ish mood, we did try to get into the spirit - we took the kids into the city one night to meet Santa (best photo to date ;-) although I do miss Stanford mall Santa, that guy was legit!), go to Myers Santaland, see the Myers Christmas windows, the DJs parade and the lights show on city hall. We headed back to the Gympie house to join the rest of the family for Christmas, a few days filled with lots of delicious food (as always - the perks of coming from a foodie family), gifts and family time.












The dreary weather cleared on Boxing Day and so we headed to the river at Noosa before coming home. What a glorious day! I tried stand up paddle boarding for the first time, the kids swam and played with their cousins and we all enjoyed a fish & chip lunch. I'm loving getting back to all our favourite spots that we've missed these past few years!

post signature

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The countdown is on.

I knew this day would come, but still - I'm not ready. My baby; my big boy; my little buddy - he's starting school in a weeks time. Real school. Had we moved any later than what we did, he would have started kindergarten (prep) in the USA last August. I was even less ready to send him then than I am right now, so when we booked our flights for October I breathed a huge sigh of relief and joyfully un-enrolled him from kinder.

This has meant that I've had three children - aged 5, 2 and a new baby underfoot 24/7 since May and honestly? It's been exhausting. When school went back in August, all of Ollie's little friends started kindergarten and it was hard for him having no-one to play with during school hours. However, I'm SO glad I had the extra time with him at home as it's been really beneficial for he & I both during this drawn out period of change.

Part of me is excited about the prospect of only having the two littlest between 9-3. We can do playgroups, storytime, Mummy & me classes - all the things that I used to love doing with my big boy when he was a toddler. But mostly, I'm nervous. I love an adventure but the older I get, I don't like change. And this move, well, it's been harder on my nerves than I like to admit. I miss familiar places and spaces, and now we're venturing into even more of an unknown. The school life.

It's going to be a transition, for both of us. My big boy is a mixture of excitement - other kids his age! Playgrounds! Art! His mind is eager to learn; a little sponge ready to absorb everything school has to offer. But he also expresses concern - he misses his old friends, he wants to go to his old (pre)school in California.

And while I'm excited for a new routine, I'm already mourning the loss of the freedom we've had together these past 5.5 years. Being able to have lazy mornings in our PJs just because. Going to the shops together. Just having my little sidekick for company and crazy faces. I'm going to miss him! We're venturing into new territory now - strict timetables and homework and packed lunches. Not to mention now holidaying during school holidays... Going to have to start planning our trips in advance!

It's an exciting time nonetheless. Just like with any change, I know with time we'll find our rhythm and this new stage of life will feel old hat. Still, I'm still not sure how we got to this point already. Wasn't it just yesterday we were welcoming this squishy little bubba into the world?


Bring on Monday. We've still got to get uniforms and a bag and cover books, but I've at least got a packet of Kleenex ready and waiting in my handbag!

post signature

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Life lately {the early weeks of life down under}

For so many reasons, moving "home" to Australia has felt like moving to an entirely new country. 6.5 years (and 3 children) is a LONG time to be away. Cities change; familiar places disappear or develop into something different; roads seem foreign. Friends move. However, the one really familiar thing we had coming to Australia was family. I honestly can't imagine what it would be like moving to a new country, alone, with kids. We needed the support of family those early days and weeks, constantly. Practical help with the kids for one as we had a lot to do, but just company after such a hectic time preparing and packing and culling and selling and - mopping up vomit. That last week in California was a nightmare. I would say I don't know how I kept it together but the fact was, I didn't keep it together. I lost it. And without the support of the wonderful community we built during our time there, we would not have made it home to Australia, believe me.

Our game plan for moving back was to stay with my parents who live in the country, 2 hours north of the city in which we (now) reside. We didn't know if we'd be living with them for a week or a month, and it ended up being 6 weeks - thanks Mum and Dad!!!! Although I was initially really anxious to just get set up in our own house, those weeks were a real blessing. Family time is so precious, especially after such a lack of it these past years and it was great for the boys to finally get to know their Grandparents. It also gave us time to do all the legal bits n pieces, get our accounts sorted, buy a car and research all the things we needed to buy for our house. Given the difference in voltage, we couldn't send our appliances and because of the high cost of shipping, we chose to Craigslist the majority of our furniture and start afresh down under. This sounded so fun in theory! My mind was all - woo hoo!!!! SHOPPING!!! But (sorry, total first world problem) the reality wasn't that fun. Having one, maybe two rooms to do would've been a great project, but we essentially had to furnish an entire house including whitegoods in the weeks leading up to Christmas when so many stores had nothing in stock because of the silly season. Ugh.

The time flew by. We made an awful lot of day trips between Gympie and Brisbane (looking at houses, furniture etc etc), but also enjoyed just relaxing at the Gympie house...



Family time...




We watched a lot of sunsets...




Made use of the pool...


We also did a little kayaking...


Spotted many, many kangaroos in the yard - dawn and dusk, they're out there grazing...


Enjoyed variations in weather once again (sunshine day in and day out for years gets a little old) including some summer storms...




Visited one of my favourite beaches...


Freaked out at the local wildlife...


And boy oh boy, we sampled a lot of coffee! Jetlagged kiddos make for some extremely tired parents.


post signature

Friday, January 6, 2017

Life lately {The final Cali days}

So, looking back at these pics is bringing on alllllllll the feels. Too many feels to put into words right now; I guess there's a reason I've been avoiding going through all these pics. I don't do tears well. One thing I will say though, life in California already feels like it was an eternity ago. We'd been living in limbo since our belongings were packed up into the shipping container in September, and those final weeks in the states were bittersweet. Excited for things to come, but dealing with so many goodbyes; some extremely hard to say. Brutal, in fact.

We made the most of our final days there though - getting out and about to all our favourite parks & restaurants (and food trucks), going on walks in the neighborhood to our fav coffee shop (with my fav neighbor - I miss you Marlene!), putting that white rug to good use with a million Anneke photoshoots, playdates and MNO, and even getting into some fall activities - apple picking and the pumpkin patch.


























Our final week in Sunnyvale however, did NOT go according to plan. Only a few nights before we flew out, Ollie came down with the dreaded "vomit bug" that had been making the rounds in the bay area. To say I freaked out is an understatement. I'm so thankful though for all our friends who went above and beyond during that period and stepped in to help us out. From dropping lysol and towels on my doorstep at 8pm to bringing meals, watching my kids, dropping all my leftover junk to Goodwill (a minivan full!), packing and re-packing my bags and weighing my bags, cleaning my shoes for customs, and just providing so much emotional support.... Well, our move was a team effort. Girls, I miss you. I couldn't have done it without you. I hate that my last week in Cali was such a stressful one, but we made it through - AND the flight was vomit free, although Austin succumbed on day 2 down under....  More to come :-)






post signature

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails