Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Little Party Never Killed Nobody

A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (Fergie)

“Well I don’t care, he gives large parties and I like large parties, they’re so intimate. Small parties there isn’t any privacy.” Jordan Baker, The Great Gatsby.

 “Alone. . . and a little embarrassed. . . I decided to get roaring drunk,” Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby.

It had been a stressful few weeks.  A stressful few months, actually.  We had squeezed a month’s worth of work into two weeks before our departure to the states. The trip was hectic, the return was worse. Our daughter refused to go to bed before 2:00 a.m. for a week and a half. Our son was up at 6:00 a.m.  Their bodies were hungry at abnormal times.  Jet-lag as an adult is harsh. Jet-lag as an adult with two kids is just. . . well, there are few words. 

At the time, we’re still getting adjusted back to life in the Netherlands – piles of laundry are slowly getting washed. The empty cupboard is becoming filled with non-perishables.  The mountain of mail that greeted us on the floor of our foyer when we arrived is becoming more of a pile.  

V comes home and tells me his work is hosting a party. “Yeah, apparently, every employee of my company is invited.  All the branches in the Netherlands.  My co-workers at lunch said there’s only three places in the country that could hold that many people,” he’s leaning against the hutch in the kitchen, staring at the mess our backyard had become during our absence. 

I’m at the stove cooking dinner.  The kids are running around screaming.  I’m listening with half an ear. 

“What?  What does that even mean?  What kind of party is this?”  I strain over the screeches.  Drain the pasta. 

“I don’t know.  They’re being pretty secretive about it. They said the dress code is ‘colorful – it’s your party’.” He shrugs and takes a sip of his wine.  I’m becoming increasingly irritated.  My To Do list is long enough.  A party?  This does not fit into my agenda.  Plus, I hate walking into a social event not knowing what to expect. I like to know what I’m supposed to wear. I hate surprises. 

“So, is this when I finally meet the Tasmanian Devil?” I ask, pretending to look at the bright side.  V doesn’t catch the sarcasm. 

“Yes, he’ll be there, I’m sure.  He has to be.  It’s all. . . part of it, you know?” he shrugs. I spent 4 ½ years in public accounting.  I know the requirements of playing the game.  At least, in retrospect I do, after failing to learn them in the beginning. "You must attend all firm-sponsored social functions" is one of the more enjoyable rules.  I nod and start creating costume options in my head. 

Weeks later, we say goodbye to our sitter and apologize for our daughter’s increasingly ornery, uh, mischievous behavior.  “It’s just a work party. We may not even find anyone we know.” V shrugs.  I eye him suspiciously.  I hate surprises.    

“Yeah, we’ve been so tired. We’ll probably be back before midnight,” I chime in. Puzzle pieces are all over the floor.  My daughter, in footed pajamas refuses to give us a hug and kiss goodbye.  Until we pretend to leave.  Then she stops us and demands multiple hugs and kisses.  And again.  

I’m wearing shoes not made for walking.  I have flats-to-go in my purse purchased at a convenience store in New York City when I was pregnant with Little Man.  We board the train headed north to Schiphol airport.  We switch at AMS and take another train to our destination – Heineken Music Hall.   We exit the train and station, a little disillusioned, but follow another couple smartly dressed with expensive heels.  They know the way. 

Back in Dallas, V and I had attended a Christmas party hosted by his work at the American Airlines Center in December 2011, right before our move to the Netherlands.  It was a pleasant affair.  Cocktails and appetizers were served in a large, carpeted lobby under sparkling fixture lights.  Music softly twinkled from the speakers overhead.  There were a few tuxedoed waiters circling. We had a couple glasses of wine, chatted with many people about our upcoming move, and left with the other guests at a respectable hour of 10:00 p.m.  V and I closed the evening by sipping an overpriced cocktail at the quiet W Hotel Ghost Bar overlooking downtown Dallas as a farewell to our Dallas life.     

Heineken Music Hall - Amsterdam
We exit the drizzle into the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, blinded by fluorescent lighting bouncing off tiled floors.  Large, silent bouncers nod at the tickets and jerk their heads towards the stairs.  The walls pulsate with rhythmic activity.  My eyes are wide.  I hate surprises.  I grasp Vinny’s hand and we weave ourselves through the throngs of people on the concrete steps in search of the coat check.  We climb to the top of the venue and deposit our coats.  I take a deep breath and we edge towards the doors leading into the concert hall.  Vinny reaches for the handle, pauses, and shoots me a quizzical eyebrow.  The heavy metal doors unleash the madness within. The rush of sound came at us like a train.  We gingerly step up to landing and survey the scene racing before us.  From our birds eye perspective the rows of seats cascade to the floor.  Hoards of people mingle and gyrate between tall table tops which are illuminated by single jarred candles and the flashing lights of the stage.  My eyes shoot to the stage itself, which holds enough lights to host a U2 concert. A musical artist screams into the microphone while employees are whipped above the stage - a blinking, wild carnival ride is erected behind the band. 

Work Party

“It’s like an amusement park!” I whispered to Vinny.  My eyes are wide.  My chin is on the floor.  He tentatively reaches for my elbow.  “Are you okay?” he asks. 

“Um.  Yes.  I doubt we’ll find the Tasmanian Devil, huh?” I pause, blinking at the “office party” we are attending. “I doubt we’ll find anyone you know, huh?” I whisper with awe.  I pull my attention from the flashing lights and stare at him.  The last time we’d been to a party this big was the Bacchus Mardi Gras Ball in 2005.  “I think.  I think I’m going to just sit here for a second.” And I ease myself into a plastic seat in the nose-bleed section of the concert hall. “Can you get us a drink?” I ask.  “Of course!” and like an eager puppy (or an LSU alumni), he hot-foots it to the nearest concession stand.

With a little liquid courage we venture back out into the grand hall.  There is a lounge quartet singing.  The tamer crowd with luxurious smiles are mingling amongst the brush strokes of the jazz drummer.  V spotted a few men he recognizes and we meander over.  “Engles spreken! Engles spreken!” they announce playfully.  And thus, the conversation continues in a language we understand.  We talk about how much we’ve enjoyed the experience in the Netherlands and other general small talk.  The white-haired man on our right rolls his eyes and mumbles about the cost of the party.  The dark-haired man on our left starts asking about my career.  I explained that I had experience in public accounting, but am now I am a full-time mother (with a part-time job).  “Oh, yes. Yes.  My wife is also a full-time mother.  On some days, she calls me about 6:00, yes?  And she says ‘You need to be home now or else I am going to kill one of our two children!’” he laughs.  “Yes?” he says, asking for my approval.  “Yes, that’s very true.  Very funny.” (My English becomes worse as I speak – like my Texas accent coming out when talking to my Dad, but at the same time, I’m happy motherhood is a cross-cultural experience.)  We all smile, laugh and we say goodbye.  As we near the floor-level entrance of the concert hall Vinny explains, “Yes, those two men were Partners.” (In other words, the highest of the food chain.) 

“Partners?  Wait! What?  Why didn’t you tell me?”  I asked, smoothing my dress and reiterating our entire conversation at lightning speed through my head. What did I say?

“Nah, I didn’t want you to know.  I’d rather you just be you - your sparkling self.” And he kisses me on the cheek.  “Oh whatever,” I roll my eyes, but smile.     

With fresh plastic wine glasses, we head towards the back of the venue.  The invitation announced ‘snacks would be provided’ but as we traverse through the concession area, we encounter twenty food trucks parked at the back of the venue.  The wares they are peddling range from French delicacies, to sushi, to sliders. We already had dinner. The queues weave between each other like a loosely knit sweater.  The sight of them was enough.  We venture into the crowd.

We spot the couple we followed from the train. I compliment her on her shoes. We walk further to the depths, towards the lights, and into the claustrophobic mania.   We see no one V recognizes and come out the other side.  We’ve been to Dutch events before – Queen’s Day, Christmas Eve service at St. Pieterskerk, among others – but for the first time, we were actually invited to one!  THIS is my husband’s work party.  I relish a bit in the thought of being somewhere we’re supposed to be - amongst a crowd of Dutchies.  And for a few seconds, I realize – that we are somewhere – 5,000 miles away from Texas, that we belong.  I get really excited at this fact.  We re-group (grab another drink) and dive in again.  Second time around, we find them – his co-workers!  We scream greetings above the music.  I meet.  Finally.  The Tasmanian Devil and wife.  He’s wearing a frown and a plaid collared button-down shirt.  And everything else about him is just as unassuming.  

Humberto Tan
The music is loud, the crowd is wild, and we’re screaming above it all, trying to make conversation at the only chance I’ll ever have to meet some of these co-workers.  There’s the Dutch-equivalent of Sheryl Crow on stage singing along with the Dutch-equivalent of Jay-Z.  “Ja! So!  Let’s go!” one of the 7-foot tall co-workers grabs my arm and is ushering us towards the stage.  “What?!” I shout, confused.  “Ja! So! We must have a photo with Humberto Tan.” (Dutch-equivalent of David Letterman).   Hotsy-Totsy Paparazzi, Hold on while I take this pic

We dance more. V tells me we need to go, but I’m having the time of my life.  He easily acquiesces.  He loves parties.  We dance. We sing.  Everyone around us is carrying trays of Heineken to their parties.  Full glasses are left on the tall tables.  The floor is slick with beer.  As the musicians begin their encore, V and I head to the exit.  Between my heels-not-made-for-walking and dangerously slick floor, I slip, or rather – I drop.  I cover my lovely dress in beer funkiness.  I pop back up like a firecracker.  A little party never killed nobody.

We grab out coats and exit into the mist.  We race to the train platform with the others.  At this late hour, the regular trains have been cancelled and we take an annoying scenic tour through Amsterdam Centraal. We try to brag to our train mates about meeting Humberto Tan.  “Do you know this guy?!  Isn’t he famous?!” we challenge as we wave V’s iPhone in front of them.  “Uh. Yeah.” They shrug.  This country is so small.  I guess meeting the Dutch David-Letterman equivalent is like meeting a high school class president.  They do admire my American-imported flats-to-go, though.       

We enter our home and I spout apologies to our sitter.  “Don’t worry honey.” V interludes.  “I already texted her and she said it was fine.  I’m glad you had a good time.”  He ushers her out the door, and he kisses me again.  

Photo Credit: Heineken Music Hall, Sigur Ros

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Torn in Two

Alright, alright.  So.  Truth confession-time.  I’m behind on my blog.  Yup.  I said it.  I am.  Looking back on 2013 ‘aspirations’ my goals were to post at least three times per month, and you, dear readers, can see I fell short.  Accept the excuse or not. . . but my little job with Expatica takes precedent in the timeslot in which I cram my entire adult life into the hours post-kids-going-to-bed-pre-my-bedtime.  Even though, we stay up late .  I’m behind on my TV watching as well, if that makes you feel better.  (And for those of you who’d like a little courageous or crazy daily, please like Expatica, ExpaticaNL, ExpaticaBE, ExpaticaFR, etc. etc. on your FB page or follow Expatica, ExpaticaCH, ExpaticaDE, ExpaticaES on Twitter – add wink, smile and a little nudge in the ribs. I am. The guy, behind the guy, behind the guy.)  Just kidding. Enough of all that corporate promoting.  Back to real life.  Me. Family. And my continued journey in the Netherlands and all the fumbling and excitement that ensues.
  January 1, 2014.  The original contract my husband signed with his job expired December 31, 2013.  SO. That means, we’ve been given the gift of time here in the Netherlands.  Whoo hoo!  We’ll see. I know I’ll instinctively let my mind wander and wonder to what I would have been back in Texas. . . sun. Warmth. Friends. Family. Or continue on accessorizing my wardrobe with scarves and funky hats with “new” friends that are edging their way towards junior year-status. 
    But anyway.  Looking back, we survived our trip back to the States in November and endured the suffering aftermath.  Sounds dramatic.  It was.  Nah, but until you’ve done it. . . I can’t expect anyone to understand what traveling through time-zones with two toddlers does to them and you as a parent.  I’d love to go into it, but I’ll spare you the gory details.  Either you’ve done it and you know, or you haven’t and you don’t care.  Please suffice to say, if you were up for 10 days straight until 2 or 3:00 a.m. (ahem, with one child) and up again at 6:00 a.m. (with the other) you’d probably be a little insane and vow to never put yourself or your children through the agony again.   Just kidding.  Not really. 
  During my family's first trip back to the States in 2012, ten months after our move, we were crazy with happiness.  My husband, children, and I immersed ourselves in the American culture like a warm bath after trekking through a freezing winter rainstorm. We indulged ourselves on fast food, shopped as if we were out of style, and glued ourselves to the TV, connecting with our old pals – Kirk Herbstreit, Robin Roberts, and David Letterman. 
   Our second trip back, almost two years after we made the Netherlands our home, was quite different.  With the confidence I gained throughout the additional year – making friends, finding a job, establishing myself in the community, and finding my identity as an expat – I felt a little uneasy in America. I looked at old things with a curious perspective.   
Grocery Stores - in America
Orange Juice - in America
    Nikki and I park the car and are in the middle of a grocery store in America.  My college roommate and best friend squints her eyes and leans towards the refrigerated rows of plastic, cardboard, and glass containers.  Happy oranges, green fonts, and sunshiny citrus groves smile and wave back to her – begging for attention. I cock my head, observing this carefully calculated marketing exchange with amusement.  She stands upright and faces me with disbelief marked on her face.  “They are out of the Minute Maid medium pulp orange juice with the plastic handle in family size!” The thousands of orange juice jugs sigh with disappointment behind her.  I raise an eyebrow. She turns and grabs a jug off the middle shelf and throws it into the pick-up truck sized grocery cart.  She steers the 4-wheeled monster towards the impossibly long canned goods aisle.  I suppress a giggle. But not well enough.  With a friendship of fifteen years between us, nothing slips past. 
   “What?  What are you laughing at?” she pointedly asks me, a tug of a smile on her lips.
    “Do you know what kind of orange juice I’ve been drinking for two years?” I reflect her stance, hands on hips, as a playful challenge is dancing a jig on the shiny tiled floor between us.  Pop music is bouncing off the walls of this arena-sized store. 
     “Orange juice.  Just orange juice,” I say with a smile. 

     She shakes her head and returns to the task at hand. “There they are. We have dark red kidney beans at home.  I needed light red ones.  This will be perfect.”  She nods with satisfaction.  I roll my eyes. We both laugh.
     After our journey, I created a list to compare the conflicted feelings I had upon our second return home.  The familiar had become unfamiliar. Was I losing my American identity? Was I out of touch with my roots? Did I prefer Europe to the good ol’ USA?  Perhaps. But then, after dipping a toe in the water, I’d find my subconscious take over.  I’d fall in and redeem myself.

Top 10 Signs You’ve Embraced Your European Life (and 10 ways you know you’re still American!)

1.      All five of your senses are violently assaulted the moment you enter a Bath and Body Works.  Your eyes are blinded by sparkle and color. Your ears aren’t tuned to receive cheerful Christmas music. In November.  Like a mouse, you hide from the chipper store attendant who tactically approaches you with three different hand lotion samples. And a bag.  (Redemption:  After a deep breath and shooing the shop attendant away, you fall victim to the buy two get one free sale. You return back to Europe with enough body lotion, shower gel, and aromatherapy bubble bath to last a year.)
Sensory Explosion!

2.      You marvel at the size of American cars, the roads, the parking lots.  You are amazed parking lots even exist for free. (Redemption: You fly down the highway, at 80 MPH belting out the lyrics to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” because you’re in your private bubble of transport instead of sitting in the silent car on the NS train.)
3.      You absent-mindedly chirp a happy “Dank u wel!” to the Chick-Fil-A teenage employee as he hands you your number 1 combo meal.  His eyebrows furrow, you catch your mistake, but not before he’s already helping the next customer with conveyer-belt efficiency. (Redemption: You eat your Chick-Fil-A sandwich (with pickles!), fries and coke at a dawdling consumption rate, matching the painstakingly slow pace set by most Dutch restaurant employees.)  
4.      You double-check with your hostess to ensure you can both shower at the same time in two separate bathrooms without the hot water running out.  (Redemption: You take the longest, hottest, most exquisitely fabulous shower of your adult life.  Complete with shower gel from Bath and Body Works.)
5.      You become increasingly confused by new kids’ culture icons: Elf on the Shelf, Doc McStuffins, or Wreck-It Ralph?  (Redemption: You get excited when your three-year-old daughter finds and watches Aristocats, one of your childhood favorites, on the transatlantic flight.  You get really excited when she watches three times in a row so you can watch The Great Gatsby uninterrupted). 
6.      Your brain becomes confused at the bacon options at Kroger. You have trouble finding a loaf of bread that challenges the freshness you’re used to. Your jaw drops at the price of a golf-ball sized piece of Gouda cheese. (Redemption: You kiss the ground upon entering Target.)
7.      You step off the plane after your transatlantic flight sporting a jacket, boots, and jeans.  Everyone else around you is wearing shorts and sandals.  You sweat as you enter the rental car bus and make friends with the Hungarian driver.  (Redemption: You run to Old Navy, buy a cheap pair of flip flops, and head to the local (clean, licensed!) salon to get a mani-pedi.)
8.      Your primary news sources for your college football team are Facebook posts from your friends and e-mails from your Dad. (Redemption: You dress your kids in American-imported college t-shirts and stay up until the wee hours of the morning cheering your Alma mater to its first conference championship).   
9.      You find yourself subconsciously listening to every strangers’ conversation around you because it’s in English. (Redemption: You drive to Half Price Books and stock up on children’s stories in English, and a few for yourself.)
A Real Texas Truck
10.   You determinedly walk across the parking lot because you think it’s ridiculous to drive to a store you can see.  No matter if the parking is free.  (Redemption: You nearly get run over by an unsuspecting Ford F150 truck, sweat through your jeans in the Texas October heat, but you’ve got the bath and body works sweet pea splash to refresh yourself after your trip to Half Price Books.) 

Photo Credits (Kroger, Nicholas Eckhart, Flickr. Orange Juice, Manwithface, Flickr, Bath&Body Works, www.bargainmoose.ca)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

In My Life

My husband and I strategically set the alarm for 6:15 a.m.  The computer has been quietly humming throughout the evening, unaccustomed to its place of honor by our bedside.  We awake with unusual gusto.  Like small children on Christmas morning, Vinny and I are alight with excitement.  Before the sleep is rubbed out of our eyes, the computer is on the bed, glowing in the European morning darkness, and we await our debut.  Children still nestled snug in their beds, we are hoping our early morning efforts will result in an uninterrupted viewing we’ve been waiting months to see.  Our breath catches as we see the De Valk Windmill spinning, images of ourselves hand-in-hand walking on our street, and then. . . as the narrator starts to flash images of Vinny’s baby photos on the
Vinny as a baby in the Netherlands
screen, we hear him.  Holden.  Screaming.  Our breath exhales.  Shoulders deflate. Weary eyes meet each other’s, then pass to the clock.  6:18 a.m.  With a sigh and a shrug, Vinny flips his feet over the bed and pads to Holden’s tiny room. The stomach-bug circulating through the Netherlands has not escaped our household. Holden’s crib, sheets, pajamas, and teddy bear are covered in vomit. Cosette, upon hearing the commotion in her brother’s room, begins crying from the next room. Vinny and I divide and conquer. He attends to Holden and I enter Cosette’s pink-curtained room to comfort her. 
               I imagined my friends in Dallas, quietly putting their children to bed. Opening a chilled bottle of wine, and nestling with their spouses on their deep slip-covered sofas to watch our episode at 9:30 p.m. CST. 
               At 6:25 a.m., a bath is given. The washing machine is loaded.  The six of us (dogs included) pile into our bedroom.  The show begins again.  “Mama! Mama! Mama!” Cosette shouts as she sees me on the screen.  “DADDYDADDYDADDYDADDY” Holden chirps.  The dogs jump and place their front paws on the bed to compete for attention.  Our bedroom is pitch-black, the sun won’t rise for another two hours.  Vinny and I gaze at each other above the heads of our children as the unheard commentary and unseen images stream on the computer before us.  With a sigh and a shrug, we catch interrupted glimpses of ourselves on the internationally acclaimed television show House Hunters International. 
               Our incredibly journey lead to this.  How did I find myself, a native Texan, in a bedroom in Leiden, the Netherlands?  How were my small children, both born at Medical City at Forrest and 75, watching themselves on international television?  Credit must be given to an accounting degree (from Baylor University), our dogs (Tyler & Dash), and my husband (not a native Texan).       
               I graduated from Baylor University in 2001, a simple two-hour drive down I-35 from my hometown of Plano, Texas.  At the time, it was ‘far enough and close enough’ to home.  I brought my freshman welcome group home for a slumber party my first month. I attended my Mom’s Pampered Chef parties mid-week, and drove back to Waco as the sun rose.  After five years, I graduated with a handful of friends I’d keep a lifetime, memories of cheering for really bad football, and a Masters of Accountancy.  After four and a half years in public accounting, I landed my dream job as an internal audit position for American
AA Audit team in Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Airlines.  I basically flew around the world auditing the different locations the airline flew to.  It was a fun, eye-opening, and addictive job.    
               At the time, I lived in Addison Circle with my dog, Tyler.  I loved it – Addison, the community feel, the fact that there was a restaurant and bar downstairs from my apartment.  I was enjoying the single life, just me and my dog – then I saw them: Vinny and Dash.  Dash was just a puppy and I totally fell for the old trick.  Buying a puppy to meet girls?  Yup, I’m that girl.  Vinny and I dated for three years before we were engaged.  Tyler and Dash walked down the aisle at our wedding.      
Vinny grew up outside of New Orleans and graduated from LSU in Baton Rouge.  You’d think that was enough culture-clash, but there was more.  My husband was born in the Netherlands and his parents immigrated to the United States when he was two years old.  He can trace his Dutch family history back 300 years.  Although he bleeds purple and gold and makes a mean crawfish etouffee, he had always wondered what his life would be like if his parents had stayed.
We traveled to the Netherlands together before we were engaged. Vinny was on a short assignment for work, and I traveled along.  It was summer 2006 and he introduced me to his distant family.  I met his aunt, uncle, and three cousins at a birthday party.  We met his grandmother for breakfast and she showed us childhood photos of his mother.  We toured around the Netherlands – exploring Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague.  One day, when he was at the office, I traveled to Delft and Leiden alone.  I fell in love with the city of Leiden.  It was small and adorable.  It boasted a huge windmill just a few blocks from the central train station. The water shimmered in the canals, reflecting the gorgeous summer sun.  I strolled through the University of Leiden botanical garden and a mental seed was planted.  I hoped one day, we would live in the Netherlands – and Leiden was my ideal city. 
My husband applied for an international rotation with his work in 2008, but the U.S. economy fell apart and the program was cancelled. We returned to the Netherlands during the summer of 2009 after we were married.  I wanted to see Leiden, again.  I wanted to show Vinny the town I had explored on my own years
Vinny outside the DeValk windmill
in Leiden 2009 (our 'reunion' is filmed
outside it & we tour it during
 the HHI episode)
ago.  He fell in love as well and unwilling to let go of our dream, he applied again in 2011 when our daughter, Cosette, was 9 months old.  As we waited for an answer, we discovered we were expecting again.  Just a few months before Holden was born, we found out that we were accepted into the program.  Our dream of living in the Netherlands was about to come true. 
               Before we left, I was a full-time accountant for a well-known cosmetics company in Dallas.  I dropped my daughter and son off at day-care every morning.  My cube over-looked the Dallas North Tollway, I ran errands on my lunch break, and counted the hours until I could see my children again.  I wore suits, fishnet tights when it got ‘cold’ outside, and coordinated my eye shadow color with my blouse.  I drove fast, shopped for groceries once a week, and gardened. 
  Upon moving to the Netherlands, I knew things would be different, but I didn’t realize how much different they would be.  Sure – I was leaving my family, my career, my daycare, my friends, my house, and my language – but I was excited for the adventure.  In retrospect, my previous experience traveling for work and vacation had given me an inflated sense of confidence.  I quickly learned that traveling or even working in a foreign country was completely different than living. Few people cook or clean when on holiday, much less order internet, visit doctors, or register for residence permits.  My previous knowledge
Vacation 2009 - casually drinking a beer
on the Leiden canal where the market
vendors set up on Saturdays
(cheese vendor scene filmed in spot over my
right shoulder)
as an adult/employee/mom in America was seemingly inadequate. Day one, with shaking fingers and visions of singed eyebrows, I lit my gas stove with a match to cook my family’s dinner.  Day two, after finding our laundry room a humid mess, I stuck the dryer hose out the window, and embraced the new normal dry time of two hours.  Day three, I struggled to push the kids in the double stroller while dangling bags of groceries slipped from my shoulders.  For weeks, my mind involuntarily drifted over the ocean to parking lots, cars, and people to bag your groceries for you.  Daily, I climbed the steep stairs of our gorgeous home up and down, up and down. All. Day. Long. I cycled my children to the library, to preschool, to the playground.  I fell into bed exhausted every night.  But with time, I learned how to do these things.  I became stronger – physically and mentally.  I was no longer a tourist – although we frequent the museums and explore the cities and countries around us – I became an expat, and an expat Mom at that.

Our House Hunters International episode aired on December 3rd and will re-air on January 11th at 10:30 p.m.  Back in the U.S., Vinny and I spent many Saturday mornings addicted to the show.  One of the first questions everyone asked upon learning we were moving was, “So, are you going to be on House Hunters International?” and we just smiled.  It was a long process to filming - we first interviewed via Skype and then submitted multiple casting videos to audition for the show.  We waited months, but when I received the email announcing we had been selected for the show, I’ll admit, I was as excited as a West Texas Homecoming Queen.  The film crew came a few weeks later and we spent four long days filming and were up with Holden in the middle of every night.  We’re proud of the show – it’s a great documentation of our family, our home, and our journey.  It’s been a long road to get where we are today, but it has been a scenic one as well.