We tend to immediately see where we are lacking rather than where we have succeeded. It would be much easier for me to name the things that I continue to struggle with rather than the things that I’ve grown in somewhat since our move. A long, long time ago, a friend told me, “Just be kind to yourself.” I don’t even remember what I was going through at the time but sometimes a person’s words really stick with you and your brain brings them up again and again in different situations. I think it’s interesting that people’s words can have such an impact on you over the course of your life and they never even know how much they’ve affected you. So, I’m going to be kind to myself right now and think of the things that are going well – or have improved at least. Thank you, Jessica, for the instructions on how to treat myself. I pass those words on to people often.
This past week I had coffee with a group of lovely women from all over the world that have ended up in Aberdeen for one reason or another: trailing spouses, came for a masters and ended up staying, came for college and then fell in love and got married, serial expats and first timers like myself. Some of them, like myself, have been here just a few weeks and others have been here a few years. A question that I was asked often was, “Do you drive?” “Yes, I do,” I replied. As much as I was responded to with “Great!” followed by a list of things I could do with the group, I also received, “Wow! I can’t believe you’re driving already! That’s awesome!”
It hadn’t ever occurred to me that I wouldn’t drive. When I think of myself driving here it is usually in the negative: I need to get better about staying in the middle of the lane; I need to get better at realizing when it’s my turn at the round-a-bout; I need to figure out how to tell when a road is two lane and one way versus two lane and two way (there are white dashes both ways here versus in America where white dashes indicate same way traffic and yellow dashes or lines represent two way traffic); I need to figure out where the hell I’m going, etc. I never gave myself a pat on the back for jumping into the deep end. I didn’t even realize it was the deep end I suppose. I was more concerned about preserving my sanity and getting my two hooligans out of the house than I was about driving. But now, I can get to a few places without the use of Apple maps and even know of some alternate routes! I can also typically find my way home from places I visit often. I have figured out how to park in the mall’s surface AND covered parking lots as well as the Trinity Centre which I did get lost in but found my way out of!
Having kids here helps me get out and about during the day. I’m sure that if I was here solo I would have finished upwards of 10 books by now. However, it also offers some interesting cultural experiences/expectations that I’ve had to navigate. Brooks and Mia together all day is a hot freaking mess. Mia almost bullies poor Brooks! She climbs on him, rolls on top of him, tries to take his food, takes is iPad, hits him, laughs and then hits him again, knocks down his magnetic structures after he builds them, etc. It’s straight out of Judy Blume’s The Pain and the Great One. I had to get my poor Brooks out of the house and away from his sister! Most of the holiday camps are booked but we stumbled upon a tennis camp that still had spots available and signed him up for a couple of days.
When we arrived, (after much turmoil because the tennis center is in the middle of a park and maps were giving me no indication of that fact and we were driving around and around trying to find it while Mia screamed “OUT” from the back seat and Brooks reminded me over and over how embarrassed he would be if we were late) I walked in and was suddenly very unsure of what to do. Did parents watch for a while? Did they drop their kids and leave? Had I packed the right kind of things? Was he wearing the right kind of clothes? Was I wearing the right kind of clothes for the drop off? What was the protocol for kids with asthma, allergies and other special needs? Should I talk to someone? Is it weird that I talk to someone since I’d already filled out a form with this information? I stood there awkwardly for a moment with those and a million other questions racing through my head at high speed.
It didn’t end up mattering too much in that moment as they were having trouble finding our information since we’d been late to register and one of the young tennis coaches whisked Brooks away with his overflowing lunchbox and brand new water bottle. Another employee gave Mia a sponge type ball for her to play with so that she would stop crawling all over me and I could fill out his emergency contact form. Eventually, everything was settled and Mia and I found our way back to the car (which was parked in a restricted residential area far, far away from the tennis camp location and I’d left Mia’s stroller at home). I worried about him all day.
At pick up time I was 30 minutes early. I’d left our house way in advance to ensure that I would park in the correct spot this time and not have to tote my 30 lb toddler a mile both ways. This time I arrived in the park with zero problems and planned to take a walk with Mia around the park in her stroller, which I’d remembered to put in the car this time! In doing so, we stumbled upon Brooks and his young group of tennis players. There were no other parents around. No other people watching. Was it weird that I was watching my son? Why weren’t there any other parents there early? Would I embarrass him? Distract him? Is this a thing that’s done here? I wouldn’t have felt weird watching him or being there early in America but I didn’t know what the right thing to was here. I realize that this is a small thing but it made me start thinking of the million little times that this would happen throughout our time here. It also made me feel for the parents at my former school that drove us crazy with questions or wanting impromptu conferences. Maybe they just didn’t know what to do either.
Brooks LOVED tennis camp. He went back another day that week and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the next week!
Going to the store has gotten easier as well. I’ve learned that they just don’t have some things that are taken for granted in America. There’s no applesauce. Instead there’s sauce made out of apples that you put on roast pork. There’s no Pam, either. There’s spray olive oil but it doesn’t work nearly as well. I can access Pam through Amazon but it is $10.70 USD PER BOTTLE! I’m not that desperate. Yet.
I’ve gotten to make several recipes that we used to make at home with the limited number of cooking tools we have with us right now. With the exception of Cracklin’ Chicken they haven’t turned out exactly the same but I’m continuing to tinker! I can operate the oven, microwave, stove, dishwasher, washer and dryer! I have figured out how to time our water heater so that we don’t have to take ice cold showers in the morning! I’m not yet sure why the water heaters are on a timer though. I can convert C to F and back again much more quickly although won’t attempt spelling of either word.
Credit also has to be given to Brett who has been putting both kids to bed – no easy feat these days – so that I can have 5 damn minutes of peace! He’s also been juggling his new job with my constant stream of questions and requests!
So, excuse my big pat on the back but I’m trying to follow directions from my good friend, Jessica. 🙂 As always, here are some quasi decent pics of the kids this week that I took while trying out different settings on my camera: