I haven't forgotten the blog!! This is honestly the first chance I have to sit down without interruption, and with the presence of mind needed to write down all that needs writing down. It's back to list form, baby. Ready?
1. We had some lovely farewells the week before we left. I feel we were able to see most people we care about in person. Of course the highlight was when I attempted to sing 'Where Can I Turn For Peace' in church, as my goodbye to the people that basically helped raise me. To any who didn't know any better I was simply the pianist's page turner, because two words into the song, I became too choked up to get another note out. Luckily it was a nice piano arrangement!
2. We had a really fun Sinterklaas celebration together with my dad, and my mother and brother in law. Sinterklaas really had his thinking cap on this year when he decided to gift all the kids wonderful personalised backpacks, filled with toys, coloring books, lunch boxes, pencils and treats. That's the kind of present that makes parents happy!
3. Our big day of travel was quite eventful. The first 'event' occurred during check-in, when Sander realised he had left the car seat we needed on the plane, in the car. The car was in long term parking, a good half hour away - time we didn't have. Thank heavens for taxis. Sander and his brother made it back with time to spare, after I finished checking in.
And off we went. There were teary goodbyes when we got in line for customs, aka 'the point of no return'. After that it was just us, and the real journey began.
The first flight was fine, except for two things. You're expecting at least one of those things to be the kids, aren't you? Well, you're wrong. The kids behaved so well, it was wonderful. Sure, they were still kids, and had the occasional whine, but mostly they were angels. It helped that the plane was fitted with individual movie screens, which featured a wide range of all sorts of movies, cartoons, interactive games, and flight information.
So if not the kids, then what could have been the proverbial wet sand in our underwear? The first source was to be expected: other passengers. The somewhat elderly couple in front of Elliot and I had a fit when Elliot got tired 3 hours into the flight, and had to cry himself to sleep for about 20 minutes. We got the whole deal: angry looks, audible sighs, elbow punches against their seat backs, loud complaints to eachother, and finally.... The Confrontation. The woman, who appeared to be the man of the two, turned around and hissed: "You should really try to settle him down!". To which i replied: "Wow thank you, I can't believe I didnt't think of that myself!". After Elliot's nap I decided to do a precautionary seat switch, but there were still sighs and looks pretty much every time one of us spoke, or got up to use the restroom.
The second source of weird should have been very unexpected, but unfortunately I have come to expect it on the longer, intercontinental flights. I am talking about rude and annoying flight attendants. We were assigned to Mike. Mike found out, within minutes of take off, that we are Mormons. He then made a point of laughing at our faith every single time he came by. Comments like "Catholics are strange, but you guys take the crown", or "So when are you having your next kid", and "How many wives you got there, buddy?" were the milder ones. Isn't it their job description to make the passengers as possible as comfortable as possible? His only redeeming quality was how complimentary he was of our kids. He called them his best travellers ever (though I get the feeling there is a long string of 'best travellers ever' before them) and kept giving them extra treats and Wings pins. I still think he was weird though. But then, I'm a Mormon.
Upon landing in Detroit the real fun began, or so we thought. We were beyond nervous to go through customs with our emigration packages and visas. We anticipated it would take forever, while we tried to keep our exhausted, unruly children in check. Nothing was less true. There was no line to wait in. We were helped by three customs officers at once, and the whole process was incredibly painless. A nice lady who had offered to carry our carseat off the plane for us (she took pity on us when she saw we had the kids, 3 backpacks, a diaper bag, a stroller, 5 huge carry-ons, a bag of important documents, and my purse to haul), also made sure all of our bags were taken off the luggage belt, and lined up neatly for us to collect after customs. Bless her soul. An airport employee grabbed all our bags for us and showed us where to go while we didn't have to lift a thing. Again no line at security, and before we knew it we were 'in', with a couple of hours to spare to get to our next flight.
Time to relax! The second flight was much, much friendlier. Poor little Julia got a horrible ear-ache that woke her up (all the kids fell asleep 10 minutes into the flight). This time many pasengers came to our aid with kind words, bubble gum and drinks. The flight attendants were also very helpful, and before we knew it, we got her back to sleep. After that it was a breeze. When we started descending into SLC it didn't matter that we were all so very tired. The city lit up so beautifully in the dark night, and excitement grew in all of us. The walk to baggage claim was almost delirious with the relief that it was over. We went around that last corner, down the stairs, and there we were reunited with my mom, Marissa, Benson, Ella, Kate, Mike, Kylee and Jace. There was a 'Welcome Home' banner and everything! It was a very happy moment. So happy that we didn't even care that one of our bags (the one containing Elliot's stuff, I may have cared more if it had been my things...) hadn't made it to SLC. It ended up being delivered to our doorstep that same night, so no harm done at all.
It was still a 45 minute drive to my parent's house, and it was in that sleepy quiet, wedged between two carseats, gazing at the beautiful mountains, that I had a little moment of panic. Of course my emotions were out of whack due to exhaustion, so I didn't let it worry me, but it suddenly hit me that we left behind everything, forever. I let the tears come, and then sleep took over. I hardly remember the last portion of our journey halfway around the world.
4. We have been adjusting amazingly! We hardly suffered from jetlag at all, especially the kids did so well. I got all of our bags unpacked the first day, and we quickly realised we were going to be very comfortable during our stay in my parent's basement. The girls share a room that has been decorated to meet any little girl's needs. The boys share the master bedroom - we figured we had best keep them behind closed doors - Elliot in a travel cot and Max all alone in the big bed. Sander and I spent the first week on the foldout bed in the playroom whch features plenty of toys and books (Sander and I have been having so much fun each night). We have our very own bathroom and the shared laundry room is down here too. We have everything we need acoomodation wise, and more.
The girls started school on Thursday, Dec. 15th. Lara in 1st grade and Julia in Kindergarten, until their English gets a little better. They love it there and come home every day with a backpack full of artwork/simple homework assigments, lots of stories about all their new friends, and a smile on their faces.
Everyone's English is improving by the day (mine included) and we are loving the Utah friendliness. We've had our first snow, and plenty of trips to Walmart and Taco Bell. Last night we drove around the nearby neighborhoods to look at all the beautifully decorated homes. Some will nearly blind you, or cause an epileptic fit, but most evoked a reverent 'woooooooow' from the kids. They're so pretty.
5. During the one week Sander was here he had an interview lined up at a great company situated only 20 minutes from our house. It offered an amazing salary, good benefits, and the opportunity to get settled in a challenging position with a bright future. Unfortunately he wasn't the only applicant and, as everyone knows, the economy is such that jobs can be very hard to come by. Let alone great jobs like this one.
But he kept progressing after each interview, and other candidates kept getting eliminated.
The recruiter took us out to lunch just two days before Sander had to fly back to Holland, and told us that they CEO wanted him to come in that afternoon to talk to their HR department. She said this was an incredibly good sign, and that we had reason to be carefully optimistic. After that meeting, the CEO wanted to ask Sander just one last question. We were told he would call us the next day, so Sander spent the day glued to the phone. Come 6pm, there had still been no phonecall, and Sander had turned into a nervous wreck. He was flying back to Holland the next morning, and the outcome of this job application dictated whether he was saying goodbye to all of us for a few weeks, or possibly months and months. Finally, at 8.30pm, the phone rang. He took it downstairs. Mom and I were upstairs, so we couldn't hear what how the conversation was going, so we anxiously waited. After what seemed like an eternity, Sander came up the stairs, his hands lifted high in the air. Grinning widely he proclaimed "I got it!!", and we all cheered. We then spent the evening calling friends and family and marvelling at out luck. Yet again we see a miracle, and get to feel the affirmation that we made the absolute right decision by coming here.
So, Sander went back home feeling great, we were left behind feeling on top of the world, and everyone is gearing up for the Holidays! Speaking of Holidays....
6. Some Holiday traditions over here will take some getting used to. I don't think you will ever see me drinking eggnog. I doubt I will be going as far as some in stapling twenty million lights to my house so we can be the shiniest ones on the block (is it just me or is there a competitive factor at play there?). However, I am learning of one tradition that I can really sink my teeth into. Literally.
People around here make and bring around Christmas treats and small gifts to all their neighbors, usually wrapped in the cheeriest of Holiday wrappings, and accompanied by an uplifting note.
They are often home-baked. See where this is going?
Yeah, I spent most of last Tuesday baking chocolate fudge cupcakes, topped with a sour cream and cream cheese vanilla frosting swirl, and crushed candy cane sprinkled on top. THAT's when I realised I was home, people. We took them around our neighborhood, which enabled the kids and I to introduce ourselves. It even started snowing while we were out.
7. We are having so many laughs! Like the time a fiddle arrangement of 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' came on the car radio, and mom said: "I really don't like this version of 'Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem'.". Or the day when mom had a melt down driving Marissa's kids home. I need to save that whole story for another blog post though, it's that good.
8. We got to see Lindsey and her mom! It was soooo good seeing that girl again, I have just missed her like crazy. We all went to Denny's for breakfast (where it apparently is a major faux-pas to order only waffles and sausages) and did some bigtime catching up. I can't stand that she' going back to Holland instead of staying here with/for me, but I try not to let that show. I guess I can understand my happiness isn't her top priority. Sort of.
9. Lara turned 8 last December 17th! We celebrated it the Sunday before so Sander could be there. We had the best time with all her cousins there to party with her. It really was very rewarding to see them all playing together while I was sat in the front room with my siblings, just hanging out and chatting. There was cake and balloons and a plethora of presents, and one very, very happy big little girl.
10. We miss everyone in Holland so much! This whole thing really is a bitter sweet deal. Though we will never regret coming here, I wouldn't dream of complaining when we have so much to be thankful for, and we face our future with positive attitudes, we really have to take a moment every day to come to terms with the part of us that is grieving. Lara misses Naomi and her oma most of all. Julia misses school the most. Max asks for opa Maarten regulary. And I am longing to sit down with my best friends, laugh, and go to the movies together. Not to mention how badly I miss my husband during this Christmas season!
Wow, I think that covers it. Please excuse the lack of photographic evidence of aforementioned adventures. I am typing all this on an iPad and haven't quite figured out how to attach pictures yet. Expect a photos-only blog next time. Which will be soon.