Dan’s parents will arrive tomorrow — they’ll be our first guests since we moved here. We’re all very excited to be able to show them around the fun stuff we’ve found in Vienna, and Benjamin is absolutely thrilled that his “Topes” are coming to see him. We are very happy that they’re coming.
Language is so profound. Without it, we have no way of categorizing or remembering what we experience. The words we have in our vocabulary literally shape our perception of the experiences we have. We can’t understand or process a concept we have no words for (part of why science, philosophy and art can be so difficult to understand — where concepts are created and discovered, words often have trouble keeping up).
And that’s not even to mention the value of being able to communicate with other people, which is another profound experience.
I feel like I’m living two separate lives.
In the evenings and on the weekends, I’m sightseeing around Europe, eating in lovely restaurants and enjoying more leisure time than I was used to at home. We are intentionally not spending as much of our “free” time cleaning/organizing/doing chores/running errands as we did at home — we’re trying to relax and enjoy as much of this experience as possible, so we’re giving ourselves a break on the minutiae of life in favor of getting out and experiencing Vienna. This part of my life is fabulous — exactly what you would imagine an extended European vacation to be.
But during the day, during the week, my life is pretty much exactly the same as it was at home, except harder. Dan’s hours are longer here, and I don’t have anyone to help me (my mom used to come over at least one afternoon each week so I could get a break). I also have a lot less social interaction than I’m used to. The day to day tasks are the same: diapers, meals, laundry, cleaning, doctor’s appointments, errands, just with a different location, a language I don’t speak and less support.
Pain is an effective teacher. No matter how many times you are warned that something will hurt, nothing will drive that message home like experiencing it for yourself.
Benjamin got one of those lessons this evening. He reached out a touched a light bulb at the restaurant where we were having dinner. I didn’t see it in time to warn him about this particular one (he climbed up onto the bench seat in the restaurant and the very first thing he did was reach out and touch the light in the shelf behind his seat) but I’ve warned him many, many times about that kind of thing before. (The light bulb was easily within his reach — it is a setup you would probably not see in the States particularly due to the litigation potential in exactly this kind of situation.)
I have a phenomenally good sense of direction. Some people are visual learners, some are auditory learners . . . I’m a spatial learner (there are other options, too). If I write something down, my best bet if I’m trying to recall it is to try to remember where on the page I wrote it down, or the shape of the words. I can pack the back of a car (or a closet, or a refrigerator) with a minimum of both effort and wasted space. This means, too, that I typically know exactly where I am — I have a rough sense of how far I’ve travelled (by foot or vehicle) and generally which direction. I can tell you, almost anytime, which direction is north and in which direction any other landmark is to where I am.
Yesterday was my & Dan’s 11th wedding anniversary, and we decided to divide the celebration into two pieces — one, because our plans included the kids and two, because then you get to celebrate on two days, and what’s the downside to that? I say “we” decided, but it was really me — Dan & I have had a tradition (now 8 years old) of taking turns planning our anniversary celebration. We mostly do it as a surprise for the other, and it really makes it a lot of fun — rather than compromising and collaborating every year, we take turns, so we alternately get the fun of making and executing the plans or enjoying the surprise.
11 years ago today, Dan & I got married. It really does not feel like it’s been that long, in that I don’t feel like the time Dan & I have been married encompasses nearly 1/3 of my life so far. If I look at what we’ve done in that time, though, I guess it does seem like 11 years.
Many things have changed in that time. Dan & I have each changed (I think, mostly, for the better and more mature), our jobs have changed (at least twice, each), our continent of residence has changed and we’ve had two children (not at all in that order). When we got married, we didn’t even know if we wanted to have kids — neither of us could imagine a time where we would feel like we were grown up, responsible enough or “ready” to have kids. We didn’t think there would ever be a time where we’d want to put our needs, desires and ambitions on the back burner for the sake of being the kind of parents we wanted to be if we ever had kids.
In the morning, I usually wake up to hugs and “Good morning, Mommy — how was your sleep?” from a groggy eyed Benjamin, or to cooing and a snuggle from Liam. As the day goes on, I feed my boys, I change diapers, I enforce nap time. I build roads from blocks for cars to drive on and I play ball in my living room. I try to juggle playing, being in charge, taking care of errands and trying to keep the house at least a little clean (Benjamin helps — really). I run races, put puzzles together, play games on the computer, answer lots of questions, share ice cream and wash sticky faces and fingers. I try to get my kids out so that we can see some of this fantastic city (because I know that all too soon this opportunity will have passed). I give baths, I cuddle, I read stories. The other day, I filled a wading pool using a 32 ounce plastic cup and countless trips back and forth from my kitchen to the terrace. Tonight, Benjamin fell asleep during story time — I looked over, halfway through our second book, and he was out.
This is the best job ever.
It is hard, the hours are endless, I am often exhausted and sometimes pushed past the limits of my strength (mental, physical and emotional), there are no sick days and a break is really hard to come by. But this is exactly the job I want to have. I am so grateful that I get to spend this time with my wonderful kids. I complain about it sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had millions of dollars in the bank, this is exactly what I’d do (although I’d hire someone to make sure the house stays clean). What a great feeling: I get to wake up every morning and do exactly what I would do if money were no object. I love it.
We were out, first thing this morning, to pick up some medicine for Liam’s (now infected) eye. It’s rare that I’m up and out with the kids before 9:30/10:00-ish without Dan, but we had been to the apothecary and were done with our errand before 9:00 this morning. We stopped by Benjamin’s favorite fountain, which is right outside the store, and then I asked him (because I had no other immediate plans) what he’d like to do next.
I woke up this morning, as I often do, to the sounds of one of my little ones awake, ready to start the day, and in need of liberation from his crib. Dan usually gets up with the boys in the morning, but he was groggy to the point of complete incomprehensibility, so I went for it. The sun was up, and I was ready to start my day — but why, oh why, was I so tired? Well, partly, because it was quarter of five in the morning. Quarter ’til five, and daylight. Crazy.