Monday, July 22, 2013

Finding Home Sweet Home

Eight years and ten months ago, I moved to Scotland. I believed it was a permanent move; I planned to live the rest of my life there and be buried on Scottish soil. (Then I later decided not to be buried on Scottish soil but to donate my remains to medicine, but you know, it would’ve been Scottish medicine.) I immediately started planting firm and lasting roots in that country with my husband, and a few years later, my children. I started my own businesses, helped run a few charities, and chose the best school I possibly could for my children, while Scott worked tirelessly to provide for all of us and advance his career.

From time to time, people would ask if I ever thought I’d move back to the US. It was always a firm ‘no way’ in response. Yet, despite all this, about a year and a half ago, the tide started turning, and Scott and I began considering a different life for ourselves and our family... in the USA.

From that moment, we were certain that if it happened, there would be no other place for us to move to other than Northwest Arkansas – Fayetteville, or thereabouts. There was no other option. If we were going to leave our Scottish home, we would only leave it for that place. And that’s what we planned. We looked at houses there, jobs, schools, churches. We left Scotland with NWA as our destination. I would not have left for any other place.

Then we arrived in Arkansas and moved in temporarily with my mom and step-dad in the temporary town in which I grew up. And my whole life plan once again started spinning, with the arrow pointing who knows where.

Seeing our kids absolutely thrive in the presence of so much family was beautiful. They were used to being close to family in Scotland, with Scott’s parents and sister’s family so close. Scott knew almost right away that the real direction our lives were headed was right here, close to family. He felt at home almost immediately. I, however, took longer.

I could not face living in central Arkansas. I could not stand the idea of being somewhere so ‘boring’ and so, well, far from where my heart longed to be. I didn’t move to Arkansas to stay here! But I couldn’t deny the fact that being close to family was best for our kids either, and I started to accept that this is, in fact, where we’ll be living. BUT. Only on one condition. We DO NOT live in my hometown. That was my final offer.

And somewhere up in heaven God sat laughing or maybe pitying, because it seems that’s the worst thing you can ever say – ‘I will NEVER.’ It’s almost like a jinx, or a dare.

NEVER did I EVER intend to come back to live in my hometown. I left for college with the determination never to come back, except for holidays and homecoming weekend. Then I left for Scotland which was even further than I’d expected.

Then somehow, I ended up right back here where I NEVER thought I’d end up.

We discussed living in Little Rock, or Sherwood, or some place in that direction, but I knew deep down that this wasn’t the answer. Still, I pushed that niggling feeling out as we pursued the options. I was still upset over not being in NWA, particularly because Fifi had gotten a space in a great charter school, which is hard to get. As I considered all the schools in the central area, I still knew that the answer was precisely where I did not want it to be: right here.

We’ve made our decision now. Beyond anything I ever believed, we are going to stay in my hometown. And after a good long cry about it, I am at peace with this. My kids will thrive here, in a good school system, with family all around, and lots of wide, open spaces to play in. It will be safe here, and they will get to experience a simplified way of life (which fits in with my intended theme for 2013 - "Simplicity"), out here in the country. Once we have our jobs secure, we will start looking for our own house, right here, in this town I know all too well, haunted by so many memories, but I’m happy with this decision. I know in my heart it’s the right one.

But I’m still planning on retiring somewhere else.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Little Man Moustache Party

Last Saturday was Jaguar’s first birthday party. I’d been planning this party for a long time; it gave me something fun to put my mind to while going through the difficult months of clearing out and getting rid of everything in my house. I decided to throw a ‘Little Man’ party for him. I had all kinds of cute ideas, from blogs and Pinterest, but in the end, it was just a little ‘moustache’ party.

I was a feeling a bit sad about his party. Since we just moved here, Jaguar didn’t have any children to invite except for his two cousins and two sisters. In Scotland, I’d have invited his little friends like Tamzin, Eilidh, Logan, Adam, Rosie, Aria, Bethany and others. It was a bit sad for me thinking of all the children he would’ve grown up with, but there you go. As people kept reminding me, his second birthday will likely be full of new friends.

Because I don’t have a house yet, I didn’t have a readily available place for a party. I looked into some local play places, but they were extortionate. The idea of the local park, which is really clean and well-maintained kept coming back to me, but we’re talking mid-July... hot!! Yet as no other places presented themselves as suitable for a small birthday party, we decided on the park in the end. The park only allows birthday parties at certain times, morning or lunch time. Lunch would’ve been too hot, so morning it was. Mom suggested we turn the party into a breakfast, and there came the idea full circle: a Little Man Brunch.

I made up little invitations that read “Jaguar ‘moustache’ you to attend his birthday brunch at Kohen’s Park.” I made up little party favours which consisted of a little metal bucket with a moustache bottlecap attached (and dry erase names) filled with moustache goodies: a moustache straw, a stick-on moustache, a moustache chocolate lollipop, and a bib or a little handbag (depending on age) with a moustache appliqué. And a bottle of bubbles for good measure. I made an enormous chocolate moustache cake. I stuck moustache stickers on helium balloons. The park has a rule of no decorations so as not to mess up the park area, so I was kind of let off the hook in that department. We brought coffee in carafes and orange juice, and ordered donuts and breakfast sandwiches from Shipley’s Donuts. And that was all the preparations needed!

I invited Jaguar’s cousins Ava (almost 2) and PaisLee (2 ½), as well as my step-dad David’s nieces and nephews. Only Ava and one niece attended (as well as Fifi and Lolly of course), but most of the grown-ups in my family were there: my brother Dan and his girlfriend Christy, my brother and sis-in-law Matt and Charity, my aunt Phyllis, my dad and Denise, my mom and David, David’s sister Doris, and me and Scott. Though there weren’t many children, it was actually a great party. Definitely the most relaxed birthday party Scott and I have ever thrown (or attended!)

The weather was most accommodating that day too, only 80 degrees (which for Scotland would’ve been unbearable but after weeks of 98-100 degrees, felt positively cool). The older kids had fun playing on the playground, Jaguar and Ava played at the Pavilion with the toys we’d brought, the men played Frisbee, the women sat around chatting in the shade. It was perfect.

It’s not what it would have been if we’d stayed in Scotland, but that’s not to say it was worse or better. It was new, it was wonderful. I missed my friends, and I missed my Scottish family even more; I’d have given anything to have Granny and Grampa and Adam, Katie and Faisal there. But I had family members there who’d never been to a single one of our children’s birthday parties before, and that made this one very, very special. It was a great first birthday, one I won’t forget.

Happy birthday, little man. You have a lot of love surrounding you, from all over the world.

Click to view the Flickr Photo Gallery.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Baby Jaguar's First Birthday

It hardly seems believable that it's been a whole year since Master Jaguar was born. I remember the day so clearly; it could have been last month. But here we are, an entire world away from where we were then, on Jaguar's birthday.

There hasn't been much time for blogging since we moved here. Scott needs the computer most of the time for job hunting, and when he's not using it, we are usually busy doing other settling-in things. As much as I'd like to write a long, heart-felt post (and I do intend to later if at all possible), right now I'm busy making lunch, getting the girls dried off and dressed after playing in the pool, baking a birthday cake, and tidying the house before an old high school friend of mine and her little boy get here. Scott is busy cleaning out the pool. The Birthday Boy is busy playing with his new toy (and the poor kid has been relegated to the play pen while I do all the hot oven stuff). It's all go around here, all the time, despite my not having a job!

But I'll give you a quick birthday up-date. The wee man slept in (which meant I slept in!) until nearly 9. He opened his present from us, an elephant that blows baubles out his trunk. We all went to breakfast at Waffle House to celebrate. My aforementioned friend is coming over soon to play. The girls are going to Vacation Bible School tonight. Jaguar's actual birthday party will be on Saturday, which I will make a tremendous effort to blog about. He's been all smiles all day, and even took a wonderful nap earlier, allowing me to do paperwork while he slept. He's my perfect little ray of sunshine, that boy.

Happy birthday, Jaguar. You made this little family complete.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Arrivals and Departures

It's been two weeks now since we arrived in the Good Ole USA. We had a horrendous time getting over here; our international flight to Philadelphia was disrupted by a storm over Philadelphia airport, so after circling for a while, we were rerouted to Baltimore to refuel. We had to sit on the plane for an hour and a half, with no air conditioning and no drinks, until they flew us back to Philly. Because of the three hours this added to our flight, everyone missed all their connections. We were given hotel and meal vouchers and sent to stay overnight in hotel. This wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the fact we had twelve suitcases among us! Between us three adults (Scott, his mum Marion and I), we had to manage the three children while unloading twelve 50lb suitcases out of baggage claim, out the airport, onto a hotel shuttle, into the hotel and then up the lifts to our rooms. And then a few hours later (we had to leave the hotel at 4.30 to catch our new 6am flights), we had to do it all again in reverse. It was awful. We finally arrived in Arkansas at half-ten Wednesday morning.

Since then, it's been great. The kids are positively LOVING it out here. They love being able to go in and out all day long, playing in the garden, playing in the pool, playing with the dog. The heat is a bit oppressive, but already we are all starting to acclimatize (see the z?). Except for Jaguar. It's still too hot for him, so he has been a really fussy baby for the past couple of weeks. The new surroundings and the heat combined with typical one-year-old separation anxiety makes for one difficult, clingy baby. But he'll adjust soon too.

We've had lots of fun (though the fun has been mingled with sad moments here and there as we remember Scotland and all those people and things we've had to leave behind). We have done loads of shopping, toured some caverns, gone swimming, visited the cinema to see Monsters University in 3D, and meet up with old friends and family.

There's not much to report yet in the way of official stuff. Marion only left yesterday, so today is the first real official day of what will from now on be considered 'normal' for us. Or at least, as normal as it can be right now, while living in my mother's house! We are all doing well. The last two weeks were spent as 'holidays' with Scott's mum here, and we had such a good time with her. I'm so glad she came out with us. Saying goodbye was no fun though... yesterday was a really emotional day for everyone. But now it's time to get going on all the really boring stuff, like looking for cars, a house, and all that sort of stuff.

More updates will come!

We miss you already, Mum and Dad, Kate and Faisal and Adam!!!