Tag Archives: moving

The Last of Everything

We’re back to school here and settling in to the lovely routine of fall and sports and activities.  The lazy days of summer stretched out for what seemed like ages, and we soaked up the slow mornings and relaxed schedules and late bedtimes and weekend trips.  But by the end of August we were all ready for the hustle and bustle to return; even relaxation gets old if you do too much of it. 

But even in it’s welcome familiarity, this school year is different.  It’s our last here in England.  I feel it more deeply than the kids, I think, for whom the last two years seem to have been a lifetime.  I know how quickly the next months will go by.

I’ve already started my morbid tendency to memorialize the “last time” we’re about to do anything.  And this year makes it so easy.  This is my last September in England.  I’m strolling around my garden, saying goodbye to September roses and apples on trees and conkers – those most British of garden friends, little spiky balls that kids pelt one another with and which supposedly keep the spiders out of your house.  Every school event is our last: the last autumn cross-country season, the last back to school night with a wine and cheese bar, the last hurrah for all of it.  Events and traditions that were so foreign to us just two short years ago have so quickly become near and dear; my heart is already sad to let it all go.

We don’t have to leave, really.  Matt’s job will still be here, we could keep on with the grand adventure.  But all good things must come to an end, and we’re choosing a new adventure, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

There are things we miss about home that will make returning worth it.  But we’re new people now, we’ve changed in ways I never anticipated, and our lives are better for having lived somewhere new and different and foreign.  We won’t be satisfied going back to the same old thing we left behind.  And so the challenge will be to create a whole new life, with equal parts America and England, to find the balance between what we missed while we lived away and what we learned to love even more than anything we’d known before coming.

But first, this last year.  I’ll fight my natural inclination to live in the future and do my best to be present.  I don’t want to take away the joys of actually being here, not from me or Matt or the kids. 

And we’ve got big plans to finish — the ever-growing and changing list of places to see remains a work in progress, but with a much more limited time frame in which to accomplish it all.  Plans are constantly in the works, reservations being made, suggestions added and reality ignored for the most part.  There’s no way to do everything we want, to be honest.  And so, we say, we’ll have good reasons to come back and visit.

With the autumn well upon us here, and football for the boys and hockey for Bridget and turning leaves and holidays and half-term trips, this beginning of the end is upon us, and it’s just up to us to make the most of it.

Adjusting to a New Kitchen

 

KelseyGerhard-15-1-rush-1After over eight years living in the same house in D.C., I got really used to cooking in my kitchen.  And I really LOVED that kitchen.

The new kitchen here in England had a lot to live up to — we left behind tons of cabinet space, tons of counter space, and a huge open eating area. 

We’ve found both pros and cons to the new space: we have far less cabinet space (not awesome), but we have a HUGE island that is amazingly convenient for cooking and baking and which everyone in the family completely gravitates to (so awesome).

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We have an electric stove top instead of gas.  Not my fave: gas stove tops give you far greater control of the heat.  And we have a teeny tiny European size fridge, which makes it hard to buy enough for six people for a week.

But we have huge windows with gorgeous views and amazing natural light.  We look out the back window at an 800-yr old church. 

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And we have a dance floor — a raised platform on one side of the kitchen — which I can assure you gets regular use.

The laundry room in this house is right off the kitchen, which means laundry gets washed and dried with far greater regularity here (it does not, however, get folded or put away in a timely manner).

And we have a formal dining room here, which I never had before.  Or ever thought I needed, in fact.  Now I kind of like it: although we usually eat breakfast and lunch at the kitchen island, we always use the dining room table for dinners, and we usually end up setting the table much more formally than we would if it was just the kitchen.  It’s kind of fun to use the place mats and chargers on a regular basis.

It’s been interesting adjusting to a new kitchen, but I’ve learned some things I like even more than what I had in D.C., and I really, really appreciate the amount of cabinet space we left behind and will probably never again take that for granted.

What do you love about your kitchen?  What would you change?

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Also, here’s my D.C. kitchen after the movers took all our stuff, and this is my UK kitchen when the movers delivered our furniture.


 

Six Months

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Six months ago today, we arrived in England. 

Time is a funny thing; depending on my perspective, I feel like the last six months have flown by OR I feel like that first day in London was practically a lifetime ago.

One thing remains true: I am so, so glad we took this chance. 

We expected to be forced outside our comfort zone when we moved to a new place; we had all the normal moving-related fears about making friends, finding our way around, starting at a new school.  I also worried about learning to drive on the other side of the car (on the other side of the road), about finding doctors and buying appliances and settling in to a new house and getting the kids ready for school.

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Looking at the last six months, I can see now that some of my concerns turned out to be not that big a deal — the driving, while certainly terrifying at first, became second nature so much more quickly than I expected.  We muddled through the first few weeks on absolute clueless determination, but we got it done.  What other option did we have?  We spent three days driving around in an enormous rental van from used car lot to used car lot with all four frustrated kids, not knowing where the hell we were, until we found two vehicles that worked for our family.  Every day we’d have to go out to find and purchase the million things we needed that we couldn’t bring: a washing machine, dryer, fridge, freezer, microwave, coffee maker, toaster.  We spent three weeks with no furniture, sleeping in sleeping bags on blow up mattresses and eating microwaveable food off of paper plates.  At the time, it just seemed like what we had to do.  Looking back now I feel pretty proud that we did it with no serious issues because it was a lot to handle. 

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And you guys, that first night when we got to sit down at a real table set with proper plates and silverware and eat a meal in this house that we were able to cook because we had pots and pans finally, that was a good night. 

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We did not anticipate other things that turned out to be some of our hardest challenges.  Grocery shopping, something I never anticipated being an issue, turned out to be one of my biggest obstacles.  I cried, literally cried, almost every time I had to go food shopping in a British store for the first three months.  It took me twice as long to shop as it did at home, at a minimum.  I’d wander the aisles for ages, confused and frustrated.  There were so many items I couldn’t identify and so many items I wanted that I couldn’t find, either because they don’t carry them here or they call them something different.  It took me weeks and weeks to figure out the proper check-out procedure.  And I felt every trip, for the entire time I’d be in the store, that I may as well have had a neon sign blinking above me that I DID NOT BELONG.  It was weirdly disconcerting.

Six months in, we have made new friends.  We’ve traveled a lot and we’re getting pretty good at it.  We’ve tried new foods and found new favorites.  We’ve adapted to a school system that could pretty much not be more different than what we were used to.  We’ve learned to speak British

In those first two or three months, when we didn’t truly know anyone, we were forced to get closer and stronger as a family.  The children relied on each other, completely and solely, for playmates.  We had no distractions, no friends calling one or two kids away, no baby-sitters to take the children for a night while Matt and I went out.  We had no one but each other and we all felt out of place, so we turned in and held it together, together.  I am grateful for that unexpected blessing. 

We have so much more to learn and look forward to while we’re here, but I know it’s also important to look back and realize how much we’ve already accomplished.  We’ve done it, we’re doing it, we’ll keep on doing it. 

Here’s to the grand adventure — long may it continue!

Finding Home

DSC_3963I wonder lately where my children will think of as home when they’re grown up.  My boys were all born and lived in the D.C. area their whole lives until two months ago.  Bridget was born in Boston and lived there for six months when she was a baby, but if you ask her where she’s “from”, she always says quite specifically that she was born in Boston and lives in D.C.

With my family in Massachusetts and Matt’s in D.C., we’re constantly leaving “home” to “go home”. And now we’re in England for at least two years, and we’ll make friends and memories that will tie us here as well. I hope we’re not confusing the children, making it harder for them to identify home. 

For all the years we lived in D.C., I missed my people in Massachusetts: my family and the friends I’ve known my entire life.  No matter how long I live somewhere else, no matter how many friends I make or how much I love wherever we are, that will always be home.  I’ve lived in state of perpetual homesickness for over a decade.  

I still miss everyone in Massachusetts, but now I also miss my friends and neighbors and the family we left behind in D.C.  Living here in England, far away from all my people– my Boston people and my D.C. people– is just another phase of missing the ones I love and the places that feel familiar.  It’s nothing new, but it’s just not easy to have your heart split among so many places. 

Sometimes I think it would have been so much simpler if I’d never left Massachusetts, had just stayed there and lived there my whole life, because then all the people I love would be in one place and I’d never miss anyone.  But leaving home brought me to Matt, and that was a step well worth taking.  Joy and sorrow are intertwined in this life, and you can’t have one without the other. 

Eventually we’ll go back to the States and then I’ll miss England.  My heart will forever be divided among the places I’ve lived and loved and the people I wish I could just gather together and put in one place so I can have them all at once. 

It’s hard leaving pieces of yourself behind everywhere you go.

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