Thursday, April 26, 2012

B.C. (Otherwise known as the time Before Children)

Now that we have successfully celebrated Christmas in April, let’s take a step back in time and discuss how and why it is that my happy family of two adults, two children (ages 1 ½ & 3 months at the time of departure), and two dogs, after a tornado, or rather, a hurricane of frenzy hurled ourselves across the big blue ocean and landed amongst spinning windmills and colorful tulips.  

The year was 2006 and I was an internal auditor for American Airlines.  It was my dream job, for an accountant.  I will never admit to loving accounting or any such other wild claims, but as far as the accounting world goes, I was paid to audit airports around the world, which is pretty much like being a Pan Am stewardess in the 1960’s, without all the glamour or chauvinistic comments.   I flew from Dallas to well, everywhere.  International & domestic – La Guardia, Nicaragua, Tyler, Brazil, Charleston, Curacao, and Zurich, just to name a few.  In addition to the interesting job, I also had flight benefits.  Now, total disclaimer – this means that I only paid taxes on the flight (sweet!) but flew stand-by.  If there was room on the flight, then I could go.  There were tools to determine how full a flight should be – but as we all know, not only are the flights extremely packed these days, but if there’s a delay, a mechanical difficulty, crew problems, etc. then, as an employee, I was put on the bottom, bottom, bottom, of the list.  But anyway, the point is, that I was able to tag along with my boyfriend, V (later to become my fiancĂ© and husband) on his business trips for fractions of the cost of a full-fare ticket. 
   V had a 2-week assignment in Rotterdam, The Netherlands that July.  I was super-pumped about this because he was actually born in The Netherlands (so he’s 100% Dutch) but his parents immigrated to the U.S. when he was 2, so he’s also 100% American, and a LSU-crazy-fan-Louisianan at that.   He still has family in The Netherlands – an aunt, uncle, and three cousins and they were getting together for one of his cousin’s 30th Birthday party, so I’d get to meet them all!  I read books in preparation for our trip – Girl with The Pearl Earring and Tulipmania, (so I could impress his family with my keen knowledge of the Dutch culture, of course.) 
  As part of our trip, I was determined to see Clusius Botanical Garden in Leiden and the pottery factory in Delft.  V went to work and I, along with my Lonely Planet Netherlands Guidebook and tattered copies of the novels that sparked the quest, stepped onto the train in Rotterdam and headed north.  I gazed out the window at the countryside.  The beautiful green fields around me were speckled with cows and windmills.  It was fresh, clean, and peaceful.  My first departure point was Leiden Centraal Station.  It’s funny to think about it now since we live a 5 minutes walk from there.  I stepped off the train, walked down the crowded stairs, and was greeted by a smell of French fries and fresh bread.  With a confused and curious look on my face, I exited the station and started walking towards town.  I admired the beautiful original architecture and canals of the city.  Unlike Rotterdam, which is a city sadly bombed heavily during the war and filled in its canals during the 60’s, Leiden has much of the traditional Dutch-style architecture still in place.  I fell in love with Leiden instantly.  I continued my walk down the brick sidewalks.  The town was coming alive for the day.  The canals reflected the morning sunlight, and to my surprise and relief, I easily found my way to the botanical garden.  I was almost to the entrance of the Botanical Garden and it hit me.  A bolt of energy enough to make my head snap back and stop my determined pace, and I knew. . . I repeated the message I had just received, in a whisper. “I’m going to live here someday.”  What in the world?  Are you serious?  I had received these energy-type things had before, but not often.   I had no reason to doubt the truth of the statement, but live here?!?  How likely is that really, and how in the world is that going to happen?  With a raised eyebrow, I was excited and anxious to see how it was all going to pan out.   

2008 – Big year.  V and I get married and apply for an international rotation with his work. THIS is it.  I just know it.  We’re going to move to The Netherlands this year.  I also had a dream that were going to have a baby girl.  Come to find out, neither one of these things were going to pan out for us this year.  The economy tanks after we happily say I do and well, let’s just say things just didn’t go well for us in the baby department, either.  I.  Was. Heartbroken.  Crushed.  Pretty much a complete, and total disaster.  A friend of mine (who was currently on a rotation in London) offered me unforgettable advice:  “Just because you didn’t get the rotation THIS TIME.  Just because you didn’t have a baby THIS TIME.  Doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.”  I read her e-mail through watery eyes, nodded, decided to breathe, and try again.    

My saddened heart told me I needed a change and to prepare our lives for the family we wanted.  I knew that flying around the world wasn’t exactly conducive to a family life, so I turned in my AA badge for an 8:30-5:30 extremely stable, predictable, and quiet job in a cube.  We bought a beautiful house that could host holidays for my family and provide shelter for V’s family during hurricane evacuations.  It has 4-bedrooms, so plenty of room for whoever else might come along during the years to come. 

July 2009 - V and I are back in The Netherlands for 4th of July weekend.  I had two very important missions for this trip (okay, three if you wanted to include finishing the novel, Twilight – gah!  I know – but I just had to know what all the kids were talking about).  I wanted to meet my husband’s grandmother – his mother’s mother.  V’s mother passed away just a few weeks after we started dating and although I never met her, I miss her terribly.  I know that there is symmetry in me entering his life, just as she exited, but still.  I felt that meeting her mother was important for the future of our family.  I also wanted to take V to Leiden.  I had explored the city on my own the previous visit and I wanted to show him the town. Luckily, he loved it, too.  We walked to the Botanical gardens then sat on a docked boat in a canal in the early afternoon and sipped Palm beers.  He took a few pictures of me as we sat there, with the Town Hall in the background.  At the time, I had let him in on my little ‘secret’, but I’m not sure he had the unwavering optimism, determination, or faith in my energy-flash-insight things, like I did. 

January 2011 – I sit staring out my window on the 9th floor of my office building.  It’s cold.  It’s gloomy.  I turn to the photos that cover my cube walls.  They provide a ray of sunshine in this otherwise extremely boring space.  My daughter’s adorable little face, a progression of her growth since she was born 9 months ago, smiles back at me.  I sigh and turn back to my computer.  I’m still desperately hanging onto the hopes of my vision from years and years ago.  My passion for traveling isn’t dead, but it has been caged between the baby and my whopping 10 days of vacation per year.  After months of consideration as to the practicality of it all, V applies for the rotation again.   A month after applying, we find out I’m prego again, but decide to put all the cards on the table.  We don’t know what’s going to stick, and what’s not.   Throughout the following months, we cautiously and excitedly come to the realization that the baby seems to be successfully on his way into our lives.  The further we get into the pregnancy, the more relieved, excited, and anxious I become.  I want to prepare, I want to put his name down at the daycare (if we need to do so) and I want to decorate his nursery.  He’s scheduled to arrive in mid-October but most of the rotations begin in September.  Will we be able to push the start date back IF we even get it?  My world is full of questions, uncertainty, and excitement of the possibilities of what the next year will bring.  Everyday I ask V, if he had heard anything about the rotation, and his answer, for months and months, was an agonizing, “No.  Not yet.”
  It’s 115 degrees outside, literally.  It’s July and I am hugely pregnant.  I’m tired of co-workers asking me if I’m sure that it’s not twins.  (The curse of being prego and 5 feet tall – there’s no where for the baby to go but OUT).  I just want to go somewhere far away from here to cool off and escape from the everyday, but there’s no hope.  The entire southern half of the US is covered in over 100 degree heat.   I’m irritated and anxious and am about to give up hope on EVER finding out about the rotation and have resigned myself to the fact that it’s ok if we just never get an answer.  V calls me at work on my cell phone.  He usually calls my desk phone.  Hum.  He wants a private conversation.  It’s a slow afternoon anyway, and I easily sneak into a glass conference room and shut the door.  “Well, honey,” he says to me with anxious anticipation. I hold my breath and stare out into the sunny atrium in the middle of the office building.  The sun is so bright I have to squint and I’m distractedly thankful for A/C.  I turn my back to the windows and now my eyes are wide, listening to what he’s going to say, “We’re moving to The Netherlands!” he says.   “What?  Are you serious?!?!” I reply.  I’m so happy and relieved to just KNOW, I’m about to cry.  “Yes, yes – and I told them you were pregnant and the baby is going to be born in October, and they said a start date of January would be just fine!  They want me to work out of the Rotterdam office.  They were doing some rearranging with the offices, so that’s why it took a while to get an answer.”  I am ecstatic and I am nervous and I am relieved and I am stressed.  “Rotterdam, hum?  Do you think we’ll still be able to live in Leiden?” I ask.  “I’m not sure, Honey,” he says to me.  “I think Leiden is kind of far from Rotterdam.  Let’s just see what we can find.” 
    After months and months of on-line searching, and a frustrating day of International House Hunting in January 2012, V calls me from The Netherlands.  I am still in Dallas, wrapping up my job and the move.  He is starting his job and searching for our new home.  He has toured through the houses in Rotterdam and Delft to no real answer.   He gets on the computer, one last time, and expands the search to include Leiden.  It’s about a 45 minute commute, but according to a fellow Expat he recently met, it’s totally doable.  We find it.  THE house.  It’s in Leiden and it’s perfect.  He tours it the next day and signs the lease papers by the end of the week.  
    So, that’s how we came to live in Leiden, The Netherlands, with two babies in tow.  It definitely would have been easier with just the two of us a few years ago.  It would have been easier to stay in Dallas as a family of 4.  But if neither of those options were what the plan was all along, and I guess who am I to argue?  Blessed and excited, I’m looking forward to what the next few years will bring.  


  1. Woo hoo, another post!! I assume you journal anyway or whatevs, but it will be so nice to have this online log of your time.

  2. Great to hear the story of you two ending up here in detail! I'm enjoying your blog and can relate;-) Erin