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!

 

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wuppertal-2-4_zpsacvwbfowPC: Andrea

To our beautiful boy.

You have brought us so much joy this year: so much love.

We didn’t think we could love like this; or this much. We didn’t know we could be this patient, this fun, this selfless, this disciplined. We thought being parents would highlight all of the areas we’re lacking in but instead, those areas have grown and flourished.

We have loved watching you grow and learn. Seeing your personality develop has made us laugh and get even more excited for what’s to come. Though, I can’t tell if you have your father’s determination or my stubbornness?? We’ll see.

Happy first birthday, mi hijo.

We love you very much!

Our Christmas Holiday in Richmond

Will and I (and Liam, of course) are heading back to Richmond for Christmas next month! We’re really looking forward to our families seeing Liam, some for the first time. I can’t believe how much he’s changed in these first six months so I know our parents are going to love seeing him again being more alert and interactive!

But, in getting excited about our trip back to Richmond, I realised that I forgot to share about our trip last year (oooops).

So, last year was great. I had JUST gotten over being sick and my belly was starting to show. It worked out really well. It was our first Christmas back in four years so there were a lot of things we were looking forward to: family dinners, family decorations, family christmas traditions – pretty much all things family!
 Will and I had spent the previous three Christmases just the two of us and albeit some of my favourite holiday memories with him, it was nice to spice things up a bit with being with our families. We consider ourselves pretty lucky that both sets of parents not only live in the same city BUT they’re friends and hang out all the time!!

We arrived on the 23rd and unfortunately jet lag kicked my butt and I could barely keep my eyes open past 8pm our whole time there. But we hit the ground running and managed to have joint dinners nearly every night, catch up with most everyone we wanted to, and got to see some FSU football together – go Noles! My brother came down from New York twice to be with us and that was really special – I legitimately can’t get enough of that guy.

I am blessed with two moms that really know how to make my belly happy! Between my mother-in-law’s southern comfort food and my mom’s puerto rican comfort food I pretty much had to be rolled out of Richmond. On top of that, I indulged in corned beef hash and eggs nearly every morning, with the occasional morning of waffles for breakfast. It was bliss! I joked that my bigger belly at the end of the trip was not entirely baby… maybe 75% of it was baby? ;)

One of the more exciting parts of this trip was that I would be spending New Year’s Eve dancing the night away with my closest friends! With three out of four of us not living in Richmond anymore (Tennessee, Oregon, and me in Scotland) it’s unlikely for us to find ourselves in the same place. BUT, this New Year’s Eve it happened. We put on our false eyelashes, curled our hair, applied our brightest red lipstick, and danced the night away! It was bliss! I think that was my most favorite New Year’s Eve EVER!

Deep down inside Will was looking forward to dancing ;)

“I’ve never felt more attractive” – Stacey
“Wow. Our faces move like that.” – Leslie

That night was only made better by dragging Will out of bed at 8am to go to Waffle House the next morning! Will might have hated me that morning, but it was for the baby ;) And it was Waffle House!! Note: I definitely plan on introducing Liam to Waffle House on this trip!

The last time we were back in RVA we didn’t take one family picture. This time we got the talented Amy Robinson to take our pictures. Aren’t we all so beautiful?!! I really do love my family!

Photo Cred: Amy Robinson

I also got my friend, Leslie to take some bump pictures for me. Oh my cute little baby bump!

All in all it was a wonderful trip back to Richmond and a wonderful Christmas! Will and I are looking forward to going back and having Liam with us – outside of my belly this time ;)

A Brain Dump (+ Photos!!)

Tomorrow Liam will be 20 weeks – TWENTY WEEKS!! I can’t believe it’s been that long… or that short? I can’t tell just yet ;) So much has happened within these last four plus months and at the same time nothing has happened. I mean, Liam is blowing my mind, and taking care of him is such a joy, but, I know it’s not as exciting to you as it is to me.

Or maybe it is? I don’t know.

So, if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna dump it all out and we’ll take it from there. Thanks.

I’ve started exercising again! A friend gifted me her Kayla Itsines’ BBG workout and  I’ve died about five times now; but it feels good to be exercising again. I can’t do her guides completely (my body is not ready for mountain climbers or burpees) but most of it is pretty doable. I’ve got a looooong way to go.

Will is working from home now and it’s been great. I wasn’t sure it was a good idea at first (I wasn’t sure I had the self-discipline to leave him alone all day), but after seeing how Will and Liam have grown closer because of the extra time Will is spending at home has made it worth it! I have nothing but heart eyes for these two!

I love catching Liam’s silly faces on camera!!

I will forever love Dean Bridge for this view.

I made goat’s milk soap with my friend, Aya, and love it. Everyone’s getting soap for Christmas!

Friends of ours moved back to the States so we bought their tv for dirt cheap. It’s made binging on Suits much more enjoyable. Though, I do have to share it with Will and Liam so they can watch their sports.

Our MC (Missional Community) spent a Sunday at the beach. I wish there were more days like this one during the summer.

I went to a breastfeeding clinic last week and Liam put on a show for the nurses – as in he did his new trick of feeding for only three minutes and crying for the better part of an hour. The midwives confirmed that he is teething and recommended Ashton & Parsons Infants’ Powder; it’s a game changer! He hasn’t put on much weight in the last month so this should help with that.

was using cloth diapers on Liam but then he started soiling his outfit every time so I went back to paper diapers. I’m hoping he’ll put on some more weight now that he’s eating better so we can go back to cloth. We’re using BumGenius diapers that we inherited from a sweet friend and it’s such a money saver! Honestly, I kinda don’t like using cloth, but I dislike spending the money on paper more – sooooo yeah.

I just bought River Cottage’s Baby & Toddler Cookbook and can’t wait to use it!

I’m on an organising spree so I’ve got Evernote and iBank on my phone – meal planning and budgeting FTW!

I just celebrated my 32nd birthday (woah!!) and it was such a pleasant day. Will was away in Sweden for the weekend so I was happy to have him home. We made a big breakfast, spent 90 minutes looking for a movie to watch on Netflix (as you do), gave Liam a bath, and did a little shopping. It wasn’t much but I loved every minute of it!

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: 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?

Left Overs

We’re baaaaaaaack! And exhausted!

Barcelona was amazing and I’m so glad we tacked that on to the end of our Paris trip!

So, as we’re adjusting to being back home here are some left over pictures from my last roll of film.

Oh man, these make me miss having Thomas around. Come back, Thomas! Please?

A Scottish Holiday: St. Andrews

I don’t golf. Nor do I get the appeal of it. BUT, Thomas, the littlest/biggest of my brothers-in-law is a golfer. Actually, he’s a really good golfer… and pianist and drummer and video gamer and tae kwon do-er. Yeah, I married into a family of guys that are good at  e v e r y t h i n g. Anyway, so, back to Thomas. Since we’re living in the motherland of this crazy “sport” Will and I wanted to take Thomas up to St. Andrews. While the boys went on their 50 hour tour of the Old Course I walked around and helped myself to the cuteness that is St. Andrews. 

One of the cooler parts of St. Andrews was the castle. Apparently, some people seized the castle and started building an underground tunnel and the tunnel is still there! I thought it was really neat.

When the boys were finished with their tour we met up for a quick bite to eat and then headed back out so Will could check out the city a bit. Thomas and I went to some shops instead and then made our way back to the bridge to get some pictures by it – Jackie-style!

Yeah, those are my shoes… flying through the air… landing in the water. Welcome to my life.

I really enjoyed St. Andrews. I loved the college-town feel with the old scottish charm. Good times!

Birthday Week Blues

I love birthdays. Absolutely love them. Especially my own birthday! This year, however, I was not loving my birthday. As a matter of fact I didn’t even really want to talk about it. I just wanted to skip right over it. What was happening to me? Well, 11 months into living here is when I get my first bout of homesickness. Yep, this was going to be my first birthday without my family (that I can remember). Growing up my family had, and still has, a tradition of waking up the birthday person with balloons, ice cream cake, and their present. It’s amazing! It’s wonderful! It’s the most perfect family tradition! I mean, who wouldn’t want to start their day with cake?
It was a great week nonetheless. We crammed 30 college students into our flat for some chili and we went to a Céilidh! I had fun. I genuinely laughed a lot. But, something was missing. Last year it was Will and San missing and now this year it was my mom and dad. Now I know what I want for my birthday next year: my family all in one place… with me!

Dear Family,

     I love you all so much! Thank you all for your love and support. It has meant the world to me.
Will, You are so wonderful and sweet and kind. I married up.
Mom, Dad, and San. Good Lord, you guys mean the world to me! I can’t mean it enough! Waking up to all of you singing “Happy Birthday” will never get old. Thank you for the best birthday tradition ever!

Forever grateful,

Jackie