Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving: Feasting Far From Home

It's hard to believe that this was our fifth Thanksgiving in Luxembourg.  It's a strange feeling, this day, to be in a place where people go about business as usual, while everyone back home is warm and cozy, celebrating my favorite American holiday.

I brushed Hannah's hair and managed Finley's wriggly feet into his little shoes and Shawn kissed each of us goodbye.  He headed off for work and I took Hannah to school.

The other American moms wished one another a Happy Thanksgiving and I received a few texts from some British friends wishing us the same.  I smiled at their remembering, and also at the irony.

I often toggle between leaning into life abroad and twinges of guilt for choosing this childhood for our kids - away from family and the traditions that are so much a part of who I am.  And then I snapped back into the now and reminded myself that what we've got here is a gift.  Such a gift.

Earlier in the week, Finley at I shopped for a turkey and all the ingredients to make a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner.  Over the years I've learned to be industrious and resourceful, because making a Thanksgiving dinner in a country that doesn't have Thanksgiving isn't always easy.

As I placed our groceries on the conveyor, the cashier begins gushing over Finley, telling him how cute he is and commenting on his ginger hair.  He smiled at her, gave one of his big belly laughs and said, "My mommy fell down!"

I didn't fall down.
Not on this day, not on the day before, nor at any time in the recallable past, so I laughed to myself and made a mental note to write this down.
The cashier doesn't question or seem concerned; she either doesn't understand toddler talk or English.  Probably a little of both.

On Thursday morning, I stuffed, trussed and roasted the turkey in our tiny European oven.

Shawn left work early to pick Hannah up from school, a surprise that pretty much made her entire year.

Our perfectly imperfect Thanksgiving dinner

The Boxemännercher: we brought a bit of Luxembourg tradition to our American Thanksgiving

After the dishes were cleared, we had our first fire of the season.
"I'm gonna miss this fireplace when we move back to the US,"  Shawn told me when the kids were in bed and all that was left were embers.
Me, too.

On Saturday we celebrated again with some of our American and Canadian friends.
Hannah reminded me at the last minute to bring the Thanksgiving photo props.
They were a big hit two years ago.

Two-and-a-half Canadians and a little American

American: So, how is Thanksgiving different in Canada than in the States?
Canadian: Oh, it's pretty much the same.  Except we don't care as much.

Our fifth (and final) Thanksgiving in Luxembourg is in the books and it was wonderful.
It's almost time for our next big adventure: Christmas in America.
I haven't been home for an entire year, and I simply cannot wait.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

8 and 4

Today is Hannah's 8th birthday.
It also happens to be the 4 year anniversary of the day we boarded a plane, crossed the Atlantic and began our life in Luxembourg.

Today, my little girl has lived exactly half of her life in America and half in Europe.  In the expat world, we call that a "third culture kid."

We started her birthday weekend with brunch at one of our new favorite places.

Superman joined us, too.

Next we headed to Germany for an afternoon of sugar and overstimulation in the form of lights, sirens and indoor, inflatable climbing structures.

Oh, and friends.  So many good friends.

We sang "Happy Birthday" and Hannah blew out the flame on the "8" candle, but not before pausing to make a wish.  Her friends then erupted into a verse that went like this:

"What's your boyfriend's first name?  What's your boyfriend's first name?  What's your boyfriend's first naaaaaaaammmmeee?  What's your boyfriend's first name?"

"I don't have a boyfriend!" she shouted and nine little girls collapsed into a fit of giggles.
It may have been my favorite part of the entire day.

Our guests and their parents ate cupcakes from Kathy's Cupcakery.  If you're in Luxembourg and haven't tried Kathy's Saturday brunch or cupcakes, well, you are sorely missing out.

We celebrated big over the weekend because on Monday, Shawn left for the US for the next two weeks.  His travel schedule has been so heavy lately; two weeks in Luxembourg, two weeks in the US, two weeks in Luxembourg.  This transatlantic back and forth started in September and will continue, as far as we know, until Christmas.

Last night we drove to the service station at the Lux/Germany border to get Dunkin' Donuts to take to Hannah's class today.
Because AMERICA.
And since we won't all be together as a family on the day of her actual birthday, she requested a special dinner at El Campanero in the centre ville, which is exactly what I picked for my birthday dinner just a few weeks ago.

Like mother, like daughter.
What can I say? Mexican food is our love language.

Photo Credit: Biz Brent Photography

Happy, happy birthday to our sweet, giggly, smart and adventurous girl.
You are so precious to us.
Here's to many, many more.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's All Greek to Me

In our usual fashion, we booked our summer holiday at the last minute.
Well, that's not exactly true, but the holiday on which we actually went was booked just two weeks before we left.
Here's what happened:
Late last spring, we made reservations at an amazing resort in Turkey.  
We planned on spending a few days in Istabul.  
I planned to buy a really colorful hijab.  
We were all set.

And then there was a terrifying and horrific terrorist attack on the beach of a popular tourist destination.  The victims were unsuspecting civilians and tourists; people like you and I, who were just enjoying their vacation.
I received a phone call from a representative of the resort asking if we still wanted our reservation, and that it was okay if we did not; a travel alert had been placed for Americans in Turkey and we could get our money back.

So that's what we did.
And then we waited until the absolute last possible minute to book again.

Because if nothing else, we are spontaneous.

We set off for Brussels bright and early to catch our flight to Athens.

With only one minor mishap, we arrived in Athens that evening.
And by minor mishap, I mean WE MISSED OUR FLIGHT.  As in we didn't make it on time and the plane left without us.  But never mind that.  It was actually one of those things where we couldn't get mad, but rather, we laughed and made the most of a few hours set back.  Fortunately, there was another flight later that day and instead of sitting around the airport, we walked across the street and got a hotel room for the day.  Finn napped, Shawn worked and Hannah and I read books and watched movies.  (And as an aside, when Hannah returned to school and got an assignment to write about her summer holiday, she wrote that the most exciting thing that happened was that we missed our flight and that we had to stay in a hotel that cost 8 euros.  She makes us sound so classy.)

So, back to Athens.  We found a cat at our hotel.
He was a regular there and I think my kids would've been happy to just play with him all day.

The next morning, we hiked up to the Parthenon.

It was hot and dusty, but my goodness, what an experience.
Visiting places of such grandeur and historical significance, well, it takes my breath away.
I am so grateful to be able to show these things to my kids.

After spending a few days in Athens, we took a taxi and a boat to our resort.
There's no filter or editing on this photo; the water was that blue and clear.

Our home for the next 9 days:

Ya know, if I'm being honest, I was a little hesitant to go to Greece.  I mean, the country is pretty much in shambles and knowing that you could only take 60 euros out of the bank per week, well, I was worried that we were setting ourselves up to get mugged.
Greece really has everything - beaches, food, history, architecture, and the people are friendly and welcoming.  It was here that democracy was created, for crying out loud.  I hope they can sort their political and economic selves out.

I could spend an entire vacation doing nothing but sitting on the beach.  Shawn, however, can do that for just a short time and then he gets bored and needs to find something to do.

So he went sailing.
Aye-aye, Captain.

No matter where I travel in this world, my favorite part is always the translations.

 If there's an opportunity for Finley to be wet or dirty, he'll take it.

On our final day, we rented a boat and took our little crew out to sea.

The man at the rental place told me that I could hold open the hatch while Shawn got the anchor out.  "My wife likes to lift heavy things," Shawn told him, "She can be in charge of the anchor."

The water and the skies were so blue, so perfect.  We anchored the boat on a beach near a tiny little town.  I waded in to shore, flip flops in hand and went into a little shop to get us sandwiches.  The woman working there made conversation with me as best as she could in what little English she spoke.   I pointed to my family waiting for me in the boat and told her how we are American, living in Luxembourg and this was our first time in Greece.  I ordered a coffee and she asked how old our kids were.

"Our daughter is seven and our son is two," I told her.

"You have a two year old boy?  I make the coffee a double."

Ah, there he is.  Vacation Shawn.
Totally relaxed, unshaven and not a care in the world.

We retured to Luxembourg, relaxed and refreshed, having checked another country and European landmark off our bucket list.