Overflowing Heart (and Belly)

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Hi, it’s been a while (*cough*understatement*cough*cough*)…

To be honest, life got pretty hectic and stressful for us this past year. Will finished and defended his thesis whilst watching Liam full-time. I worked full-time whilst pregnant (yes, I’m pregnant and due in early April!) and I struggled with this pregnancy more than the last. So. Tired. To top it all off, some last-minute changes in our visa situation made us switch roles in January. Now I’m the stay-at-home parent and Will is working full-time, first on his thesis corrections, then on job applications. Through all of that I kinda forgot about this blog.

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Well, not really. I thought about the blog a lot, but that was it. Part of me didn’t really feel like sharing what was going on. Honestly, it was not the easiest time for us and I just did not have the extra energy to figure out how to put my feelings into words. It felt like all of my energy was spent on being a good wife and a good mom and a good coworker. Everything else took a back seat.

Before Christmas, both my brother and my mom came to visit us! They gave us such a reprieve from the stress of our lives. For my brother’s trip in October, we took a little road trip out west to Islay, partly for the scenery and partly for the whisky. This also was just in time for Liam’s canines to come in. All of them. At the same time. My poor brother! My mom visited in November for Thanksgiving and for Edinburgh’s wonderful long Christmas season. She was so impressed with Will’s cooking! Yes, Will cooks now. And he’s soooo good (#blessed). Those two visits were medicine for our hearts! Both visits came before Will had his viva, basically his thesis defence, which was such a good break for us. By the way, he totally rocked his viva!

We spent all of our Christmas break in hibernation. We lounged as much as we could with an 18 month old. We ate, took walks, and lounged some more. It was exactly what we needed. Early in the new year, I took an early maternity leave so I could watch Liam full-time. I have been adjusting to the new schedule and adjusting to my ever-growing belly at the same time! Let me tell you, chasing a toddler with a full-term belly is no easy task. I don’t think being pregnant is very easy to begin with, but when your kid pushes you to your physicial/emotional limits all day, it makes it that much harder. Needless to say, I’m very, very ready not to be pregnant anymore.

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I never imagined myself as a stay-at-home mom, so it’s been quite an adjustment. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE hanging out with Liam, seeing his little personality grow, and being there for him. I also really enjoy having a little bit of a daily grind, with an office and coworkers and, dare I say it, a boss! A part of me misses that, but I know this is what my family needs right now. So that is what we’re doing.

I will also say that I’m enjoying this phase a lot more than I thought I would! Liam is so much fun! He loves to run and jump, and he responds to us in new ways all the time. He “tells jokes”, he climbs all over us and everything else, and he takes us by the hand to lead us wherever he wants to go. He knows what he wants and what he doesn’t like, and he tells us what he thinks. By the way, I have been working hard on my Spanish the past few years, and I try to speak only in Spanish with him. Between my Spanglish and his toddler-speak, our house is like the Tower of Babel. The struggle is real. Liam knows there’s a baby in my belly and he likes to pat it and give it kisses. He likes both to give and to get tickles. He inhales blueberries, bread, cheese, grapes, and salmon risotto, and he still only likes to drink water. He’s becoming more independent all the time, and I’m learning to be more excited than fearful about it.

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I’m learning so much about myself whilst watching him. Pre-kids, I had all of these pre-conceived notions of what type of parent I would be. Most of them have gone out the window! Hahaha! What has rung true, though, is my love for the toddler phase! I used to work in a nursery and my favourite age was the two-four year olds. They were so much fun to watch and play with. Of course, they’re a lot of work too. I thought I’d be eating my words when I had Liam, but I really am enjoying this phase and I’m still excited for all that comes with it — big emotions and all!

I’ve learned that I struggle with comparison a lot. I compare myself to other moms out there all the time. Their parenting style, their “mom style”, how their kid(s) behave,  etc. Comparison is the thief of joy. I have to work really hard to be more confident in myself, the way that I parent, and what’s best for our family. It helps to have Will around to tame my craziness. It also helps that I’ve made some pretty good mom-friends who have been vulnerable with me and allowed me to be vulnerable with them. Community, man, you need it.

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I have so many thoughts about welcoming a second kid into our life. I remember feeling protective of Will when I was pregnant with Liam. Like, I only have so much love and Liam was going to take some of it away from Will. Obviously, that’s not at all what happens. Your love just grows as a parent. But now I’m feeling myself get protective of Liam. I’m really trying to savour every moment with him because I know I won’t be able to give him as much undivided attention as I can now. It also makes me anxious to change our routine, because I’m really enjoying the one we have now.

With Liam, I had no choice and needed a caesarean because of placenta previa. With this pregnancy though, I have the option of a vaginal delivery, which means I’m feeling all of the typical first-time pregnancy anxieties! When will I go into labour? How will it feel? How long will it be? Will I be able to do it? Will I want an epidural? I don’t know. I’m not one to make too many plans, but I would like my delivery to be as natural as possible. I want to feel my body do it’s thing. Of course, I’m very ready to accept the fact that I will probably eat my words and scream for an epidural the minute I feel my first contraction! Hahaha! Ultimately, it won’t matter if I have a caesarean, VBAC, epidural, birthing pool, etc. What matters is that the baby and I are taken care of and that we both end up ok. That’s my birth plan.

We’ve decided not to find out the sex of the baby again, and we have really enjoyed not knowing! We both have a feeling this might be a girl. This pregnancy has been pretty different; I’ve been more sick, I’m more easily out of breath, and I’m eating waaaaaaaaaaay more sweets. But we know that pregnancies can differ from one time to the next for so many reasons, not just “boy pregnancies” from “girl pregnancies”. We just don’t know. Either way, s/he will have the sweetest older brother, and lots of hand-me-downs.

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Our family is now in this funny phase of limbo/transition between the PhD and the job. We don’t know how long this phase will last, but for now we have to learn to be ok with not having all the answers. All we know is that Will is casting a wide net and we will go wherever the job takes us. But we also have visas to think about, and we can’t stay in Edinburgh forever. This city has solidified its place in our hearts and the time we’ve spent here has meant so much to us. This is our home. Where Will and I have learned to be “us” and where our family went from two to three and soon to be four. The thought of leaving is tough, but we know it will happen. It’s inevitable. We’re just trying to figure out how we can prioritise our time and energy so that we can make the most of our life here.

While the academic/student life can feel limiting, it also comes with so many blessings! Will can be flexible with his time since he works from home, and having him here during the day has me feeling all of the feels! Instead of heading off to an office, he stays here so we get to see him throughout the day. He’ll take five minutes here and there to help me get Liam up the stairs when we come back from our outings, or to make me a cup of tea, or to help with lunch, or to be my relief when I’ve reached my emotional and physical limit. We haven’t had many chances for “date nights”, but we try to make the most of the time we do get to spend together, learning new games, reading, finding a new show to watch, chatting about life and its endless possibilities. Some days I’m sooooooo keen to feel more like an adult, maybe have our own place and a better pay check. But I try to remind myself that a lot of what I love about our life now is because of the current stage we’re in, and it will more than likely go away with that “big boy” job.

Anyway, I just wanted to say hi. We’re still here, figuring out the expat/academic/growing family life and we still want to share it with you. The updates just may be a little bit less frequent than before. Thank you for your patience and for sticking around!

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Note: these pictures are from a tickle-session yesterday afternoon that made my heart explode!

 

Our Weekend

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I look forward to celebrating it all year long!

Since it’s not recognized here in the UK we celebrate it on the Saturday. We make it a potluck meal where Will and I provide the turkey and a dessert (Will’s mom’s coconut pecan pie!) and everyone else provides the rest. I love how everyone really gets into it! We had friends this year that wanted to run a recipe by us to make sure it was a “proper” recipe! Stuff like that warms my heart – and my belly!

This year we had a “smaller” gathering – 16 people – and had it start earlier in the day than normal. It worked out better that way for Liam. Who, by the way, was an absolute gem the whole time! He’s such a little charmer!

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Photo Credit: Julian thanksgivingweekend2015-3_zpskvt0sgjw

We all ate waaaaaay too much, went around in a circle saying something we’re thankful for, ate dessert, had a little whisky tasting, and just hung out! It was such a great time; probably one of my favourite Thanksgivings.

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Of course, that night was not so great – as in Liam woke up crying at midnight and would not let me put him down. So I spent the rest of the night on the couch with Liam in my arms, sitting up and trying to rock him to sleep. I may have gotten about three hours of actual sleep that night. All three of us have been battling some sort of cold so this didn’t help. But luckily it was Sunday and we were able to abandon all responsibilities that whole day. Will did have to go lead worship in the morning service, but when he came back, with treats from the shop, we ate Thanksgiving leftovers, watched Florida State destroy Florida (as they do), got some extra baby snuggles in, Facetimed with family, and put up our Christmas tree!

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Will ended up putting up 95% of the ornaments while I was messing with the camera’s self-timer and posing for this picture – hahaha! #keepingitreal

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Oh man I love our crooked little tree!

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I’ve never been one to enjoy decorating the tree. We’d always wait until the last minute and I’d purposefully try to avoid helping my mom put it up. Now, I’m always so eager to do it. I think it’s a combination of bringing out our broken, fake tree with not enough branches that we bought our second year here in Edinburgh because we didn’t have a tree our first year; while trying to string up the too-small lights we bought with the tree in a way that make it seem more lit up, but doesn’t; and the process of going through our little box of ornaments that were either gifts from friends, tokens from our travels, pictures of memorable events, and/or handmedowns from our childhood. All of that combined makes me so keen to put up our tree and decorate it!

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It was a wonderful weekend! I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend too!

This weekend will be all about getting ready for our trip to Richmond AND celebrating Will’s birthday!!!!!

Expat to Expat: December

This past weekend was the Company’s Christmas party so some of us were flown down to London (yes, we were “flown down” just like last year’s party) for the party on Friday night and I stayed on an extra two days to spend some much needed quality time with my favorite engaged couple in Oxford! So, am I’m recovering from a whirlwind weekend here are December’s Expat to Expat questions. It’s about the holiday season and I figured I’d sprinkle in some iPhone photos from this year’s Christmas market.

Has your idea of the holiday season changed since becoming an expat?
It’s changed a little. I think that there are a few things here in Edinburgh that have morphed my idea of Christmas: like mulled wine and German Christmas markets! And Christmas in the UK isn’t that much different than in the States but it does feel almost more nostalgic in a way? And there’s no barrier holiday like Thanksgiving (i.e. my favourite holiday!) to keep all of the Christmas stuff at bay until December. New Year’s (aka: Hogmany) is really big here too and I like that.

How do you build new holiday traditions while keeping ones that remind you of “home”?
Our “home” traditions are pretty basic: eat and be merry! I do miss little things like my dad playing Salsa music or crowding on a couch to watch a movie or a Pernil roasting in the oven for a large Christmas dinner with our friends and family. The past two years have been much more… subdued, and that’s expected. I also feel like Will and I are still trying to figure out what our “traditions” are. I don’t know, ask me in five years!

What about you guys? Are there any family traditions you’ve started or have kept?

Expat to Expat: November

Will update: Visiting Will in Tubingen was absolutely amazing! We had the best weekend ever! I only took my Minolta so you’ll have to wait for the pictures ;) But, Will has made some good friends through his hallmates, is doing really well in his classes, and is gaining more and more confidence in his German!

Ok, it’s time for Expat to Expat: November…

Cafe Rouge, Frederick Street, Edinburgh (taken with my Minolta, June 2013)

What advice would you give to your pre-expat self?

To take more control over my money. If we had been more strict with ourselves earlier on, it wouldn’t have been as difficult as it was to adjust to such a drastic change in income. I know it’s not a battle that’s won overnight, but Will and I would both fess up to not keeping good track of the money we made. We did pay off our credit cards and save up some money, but it was a scramble and with having to pay for visas and airline tickets and everything else that comes with moving across an ocean.

I’d also tell myself to start learning how to cook. It’s more that I wish I had started building up my confidance earlier on in the kitchen seeing as I do it sooooo much more now. There’s a reason why this isn’t a food blog ;) I do love baking, though!

How do you reconcile what you thought life would be like in your new home and how it is in actuality?

I have no clue. Honestly, I didn’t have any expectations. I left my home of 25 years and my family and friends. I have never had to do this before; not even for college (I went to college in Richmond too). There are a few things I’ve impressed myself with (making wonderful friends) and other things that I need to work on (not feeling entirely settled). It’s all a work in progress.

 

How about you guys? And not just expats. Are there aspects of your life you need to reconcile with your expectations and things you wish you had told your previous self?

Expat to Expat: October

Ok, it’s that time again to link up with other expats for Expat to Expat: What I am holding back?

How do your family and friends back home perceive your new life and is it accurate?

I can only assume that if all you read are my blog posts and Facebook statuses (statii?) my “new life” is probably perceived with a bit of a skewed lense. When we told everyone that we were moving to Scotland, the number one comment we heard was, “Oh, how exciting!”. Well, yes, it is exciting, and still is some of the time, but it’s also pretty normal. Europe does happen to be super affordable to get to and between my six weeks of holiday and Will’s student-like schedule we actually have the time to go as well. So, the travel opportunities are very exciting!

Rue Mandar, Paris

Do you find the need to edit your life from friends and family?

Duh! Living here has brought on some really cool opportunities but it’s also made life a little bit harder. We’ve had to make new friends, learn a new city, find a new church, live off of one income, and most recently, do this while being apart. I want so badly for people to see we’ve made the right decision so of course I’ll highlight all of the good things (i.e. month-long holidays and weekend jaunts around Europe) and then glaze over the bad (i.e. living off of a budget better suited for a 19 year old and  battling loneliness while Will and I are apart). I try to be as transparent as I can but that’s a fine line to walk.

 

So, there you have it. That’s what I’m hiding. Is there anyone else out there, expat or non-expat, that feels as though they struggle to find the correct way of being transparent with their life?

Expat To Expat: August/September

Clarendon Crescent

I just discovered Expat to Expat from My Life In Scotland so I’m linking up with a couple other expats for the months of August and September. I’ll be doing these monthly to be able to give you a little more insight into my “expat” life.

What is your favourite food store?
I don’t go there often (and it’s more expensive) but I love going to Waitrose! The store is always clean and the food packaging is beautiful and they have everything – food wise. But I get my groceries delivered from Tesco and my veggies and eggs from East Coast Organics.

Is it OK to buy store brand items or do you pay more for name brand?
I haven’t had any issues with store brands (from either Waitrose or Tesco) so I tend to just stick with them.

What is the best way to go around my city?
Edinburgh is really “walkable” and the buses are amazing here. I’d love to say it’s easy to ride my bike but it’s really hilly… need I say more?
Also, Edinburgh’s new “shame” are the Tramworks and apparently they’re scheduled to be up and running by May 2014. I think they’re intended to make City Centre more accessible to those who live outside of the centre so we’ll see how it all ends up.

Where is the best place to get a cup of coffee {or beverage you prefer} and catch up with friends?
For all of you coffee lovers I hear Artisan Roast and Brew Lab are the places to go. But, for me and my tea-loving-self, I love going to Lovecrumbs and Loudon’s. Loudon’s is close by and clean and their massive windows allow for a lot of natural light in (and in a city where we get an average of 50 sunny days a year, that’s really important). Lovecrumbs is, well, bliss. I get really excited when I go to Lovecrumbs because of their cakes! They get their tea from Anteaques and make their own homemade cakes and desserts every morning. And what’s tea without a delicious cake to accompany it?

What was your eureka, “I’m practically a native” moment?
Anytime someone asks me for directions (and I actually know how to get them there) is a little victory for me. It makes me feel like I look like I know my way around this city (little do they know… just kidding!). As well as any time I look right first before crossing the street. It’s the little things.

Does your accent get in the way?
Well, I don’t think it does but I spend a lot of time on the phone at work and so that has caused more problem on my end than theirs. If I say the word , “Scottish”, people tend to understand me better when I pronounce it “Sco-ish” with a slight accent.
But, you have go to check this video out about weird Scottish words! I’ve heard (and seen) a lot of these in action.

How do you fit into your new culture without losing some of your identity?
There have been some moments where I feel like maybe I was a bit abrasive in my comments or intrusive in my questions but that’s just me. I have that problem anywhere I go with anyone I meet. I do feel that I’ve been pretty fortunate to have made some friends that don’t laugh at my questions about how to “properly” serve tea and how to say certain words or how in God’s beautiful earth do you turn on an old gas oven. No joke. Will and I called our friend Ben to come over and teach me how to turn on my gas oven… which we realized that the pilot light was broken and I had to practically crawl in it and light a match to get it on… Sylvia Plath anyone?!

What do you think your biggest trigger for homesickness is?
Birthdays. My family does birthdays perfectly. And because my birthday is this weekend (Saturday, to be exact!) I’ve noticed, much like last year, I’m homesick and really missing my family a lot. I’m constantly wishing that I would wake up on Saturday morning with the expected “HAAAAAAAPPYYYYYYYY BIIIIIIIIRTHDAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!!” and birthday songs (we sing two birthday songs to the birthday person: the traditional birthday song and a Puerto Rican happy birthday song… feliz, feliz en tu dia…!) and cake and balloons and presents and lots of morning breath! Oh I love my family so much and I love how much we love each other. 

A Few of My Favorite Things

When I was preparing to move here I had no clue what to bring. I scoured the internet for any insight as to what to pack and how to pack it. It wasn’t like any other move. I couldn’t jam it all in trash bags, stuff them in a car and then drive to my new home. Nope, my new home had to fit in a suitcase or two… or three.

While doing a little research I came across a blog that recommend I bring along little knick knacks that would make me feel more at home (i.e. pictures, measuring cups, favorite mug, etc.). So, I started thinking of what would make me feel more at home… and fit in a suitcase… and weigh less than 23kg. These are those things:

A clock, an elephant we bought in India, a dish my wonderful friend Leslie gave me for my wedding, my jewelry stand, an alarm clock I bought years ago with my best friend for our flat together, Will’s grandmother’s clock, my “J Mr. Mug” from Anthropologie.
Trader Joe’s cloth bags, my Anthropologie silverware, my measuring cups, a ceramic dish my mom gave me as a little girl, our Nalgene bottles.
A couple of oven mitts/potholders/trivets, the cutest s&p shakers from Anthro I’ve had for years, must-have Goya products for cooking, our favorite Teavana teas, and the mortar and pestle my mom gave me a few years ago.
Some of our favorite pictures (us as kids, our families, and one of RVA from Libby Hill!)
UR blanket, a tray I bought when I was in Thailand, and my apron.

 

I know this doesn’t seem like a lot but these things are what have linked my past homes together. The pictures are obvious but stuff like the tray and the cheap-looking alarm clock are comforting to have because I’ve had them for so long. The measuring cups were a genius recommendation because I had brought some of my American cookbooks and the UK doesn’t make American measuring cups. The silverware and apron were a must because I rarely used them in the States and I didn’t want to go four more years NOT using them. Now, I use them every day. A few things we brought as well are our bikes, Will’s guitar, a couple of books, my cameras, Will’s Florida State blanket (correction: Will’s dad’s Florida State blanket), and some sports stuff (an American football, our soccer cleats, and my climbing gear).
So, there you have it, some of my favorite things.

What about y’all. What are some of the things you’d bring if you had to pack your life in a few suitcases?

Asian Cajuns!

So, I had a friend of mine over to make the most delicious brownies I’ve ever had and she told me about this blog, AsianCajuns. Have you heard of it? Neither had I. But that doesn’t mean much because there are a TON of things I haven’t heard of. Anwho, I checked out the blog and fell in love! It’s two twins (gorgeous, btw) and they started their blog in Atlanta. But, the best thing (for me) is that one of them got married and moved with her super genius science man to EDINBURGH!!!!!!! I’m not joking. She actually lives 10 minutes away from me. Well, I did what I do best and imposed myself on her life. Yes, I do that so well, just ask Lauryn Galloway about it (love you Lauryn!). Anyway, we met up at my favorite cafe, Lovecrumbs, and chatted. It was a pleasant surprise at how easy it was hanging out. I get so nervous with these things and worry about first impressions. Not because I’m shy but because I don’t really know how to turn myself down. I can be a bit much sometimes. So, we had some laughs chatting about adjusting to living in the UK and apart from our families and marrying geniuses (genii?) and how blog-stalking is way better than Facebook-stalking (truth). Good times!
So, now I have a new blog to stalk and a new friend/neighbor to hang out with! Yay!
Have any of you made a new friend through the blog-o-sphere?!