We have this beautiful sandy field behind our unit (and the concrete/barbed wire fence of course). I wake up every morning to the lovely sound of birds, not unlike our home in Houston. It is a nice taste of home but also serves as a stark reminder of the lack of freedom I have here. The last few days have been hard, the kids are bored, the husband is busy with work and nothing is really available on the compound for entertainment purposes.
Normally, I would take the kids to the park or let them run in the sandy field behind the unit but the field is off limits and the park involves a driver and is easier to do with a man than without. It is hard to describe the mental and physical adjustment required to exist in this country. You have to suspend your individual freedom of free movement and plan for every movement you will need to make, hours or days before you need to make them.
The trips we take off compound are exciting, not because of the destination – grocery stores, panda, etc, but because we are not confined by these small concrete walls. The irony that grocery shopping with two kids represents a relative taste of freedom here is not lost on me. I have tried to explain the internal turmoil to the husband but my words fall short. The only imaginary I have available that comes close is a birdcage. I can only hope that as time marches on I find ways to see past the bars. Today is not one of those days though.
I knew that eventually it would all catch up with me. A month home with two bored kids and now in a compound to boot, let us just stay that we are all growing a bit weary of each other’s company. Husband is busy with work which means kid entertainment rests on me. Let us just say I am tired. Even with new Legos, gobs of Christmas toys and new playgrounds in less time than you think I am bombarded by entertainment requests. In their defense, they are used to going to school 6.5 hours a day, five days a week. Hanging out at home with mom and each other pales in comparison to the constant engagement that they are used to.
And, because of jet lag we are on a strict no nap policy (if not the kids are wide awake at 2:00 AM) and that leaves no breathing room for me. Thankfully we go in for Isabella’s evaluation in four days and hopefully they will begin school in the next two weeks. After that, I hope some rest and routine will set us all on the right path. At the moment though, I am regretting not taking a moment for myself before I left.
Anyone who knows me well knows I love to pack. It is an art form that I have mastered and relish the opportunity to use it. My OCD nature treats it like a game and others stand by in bemused bewilderment. Anywho, my traditional approach to packing is to bring as little luggage as possible while maximizing the options in the case. The husband and I went on a two week European vacation with only a carry on. Enough said 🙂
But, with this move I was confronted with a 4-6 week delay between us arriving and receiving our crates in kingdom. So, I couldn’t just send everything in the crates and stick to my usual method, although in hindsight I probably should have. Added to this equation too, was my desire as a mom to make the compound feel like home as soon as we arrived. Knowing that the kids would be confronting newness around every corner, I wanted them to feel familiarity at home. So, that meant I turned to the more is better approach. And I mean way more. Two checked bags per person, plus our allowed carry ons and a cat. It was a bit of overkill admittedly, and while we had to deal with the rubbish that is united for baggage check in I must admit it is nice to have full closets, lots of pictures and things from home to decorate the place, and fun stuff to add to the cupboards.
If I ever do something this epic in scale again though, I think I will edit more carefully and stick with my tried and true approach. I know the husband would endorse this wholeheartedly!
In Louisiana, lagniappe is defined as something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure. When we awoke in the morning we had a choice to make. We could either continue pouting that our plan went awry of we could see this as lagniappe. We chose lagniappe. And the glorious thing about lagniappe is that it is always an unexpected blessing. We caught up on sleep, we spent relaxed time with friends and family, and enjoyed being in our house for a few more days. Stress dissolved, the bags were left untouched in the living room, and we all enjoyed accepted contentment.
But, the situation on the 4th had left one critical part of this move in limbo. My kitty. On paper now, she could not come. Her export permit would expire on 1/6. Now, I know many folks would not try to bring an animal with them on this trip, God knows it would certainly be easier and cheaper too. You all would be in my husband’s camp. In my defense though, I was moving halfway around the world to the land of abayas, permission notes from my husband, and restricted mobility so any arguments to the contrary fell on deaf ears.
So, I embarked on a campaign to make this happen. Either an extension of the government form expiring on 1/6 or a reissue of the form to cover the few days it was needed. And, when I tell you I had an army help me do this it is no exaggeration. Even now, I cry thinking of the the kindness friends, family and strangers showed me through this process. And, in the end I had reassurance from the Saudi consulate, along with an additional usda endorsed aphis form just in case, and airline approval. All five of us would be going at last.
The past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. From picking the husband up from the airport and all of the ensuing merriment, to holiday travel and boisterous visiting, combined with illness and a mile long to do list January 4th was both fast approaching and a long time coming. I spent the week prior fretting about bags and what I forgot, how much they weighed (should have taken more out for the record) and just general nervousness. So, when two days before we left we received a notice from Lufthansa that our second leg of the journey to Saudi had been cancelled and we had been rebooked on an earlier flight, thus shortening our layover in Germany by two hours, I tried to roll with it. We finished my random to do lists and settled in for a good night’s sleep Friday night. All was well.
Saturday morning we all awoke excited, nervous and stressed. The kids were bouncing off of the walls in anticipation of finally moving. I was stressed and nervous because that is what I do and the husband was relatively calm and collected because, let’s face it, someone has to be. And then, I got an email…from United…saying our flight was delayed by two hours…
Which had us arriving and departing at the same time in Germany. We are good but we are not that good. Commence panic mode. I took over breakfast and kids. Husband got on the phone and stayed there for 5 hours trying to find a way to make the trip still happen that day. We got as far as loading the cars and getting the kids strapped in. And, as we were getting ready to head to the airport he got a call. We would not be leaving that day, or the next, or the next. I cried. There was nothing that could be done. Just shitty timing of a northeastern storm and limited flights to saudi on our carriers.
Everyone gave hugs and left. We retreated into the house to put the kids down for quiet time and lick our wounds. The act of packing and saying goodbye left us both emotionally and physically raw. I finally understood what Paul Simon meant when he said weary to the bone.
So, with everything else going on I decided taking the GMAT would be a smart idea. While in Saudi I would like to get my MBA (online) and I have to take the GMAT to do that and I would like to enroll in Fall 2014. Best intentions and all of that. Seemed logical. Except when it came time to actually study for the darn thing.
In the past I have know to pick up a huge pile of greens (either from my garden or the farmer’s market) when it suits my fancy with grand intentions of making kale chips or canning it all, blah blah blah. Drives the husband crazy. But then, life takes over and while I know it is hanging out in the fridge needing to be processed life and family become a whirlwind and before I know it, it is 10:00 PM on a weeknight and I am frantically trying to salvage what I can of the sad pile of greens all while making no noise and getting side-eyes from the husband. It is a sickness really.
Well, studying for the GMAT was exactly like that! I knew I needed to study but crates and packing and health exams and new roofs and life just took over. My brain was mush by the time the kids were in bed so studying math was out of the question. So, I found myself 4 days before the test wondering what the hell was I thinking and trying to salvage the sad pile of greens I had gotten myself into. I threw myself into studying, decided that there was just some math I wouldn’t even try to remember how to do it, logged into Kahn Academy and kicked it into high gear. For four days……. Would not recommend this method btw. And, while I could have gotten a higher score with a more traditional study practice I surprised myself with how well I did. It is not going to get me into Harvard but that was never my intention. So, that will do pig, that will do.
As I was assembling stuff for the crates today and listening to classical music it felt almost movie-like. One of those still photos stitched together to form a moving pictorial of the march of time. I wish I would have been clever and creative enough to document our life and our move in still pictures so that we would have our own time quilt.
In a lot of ways this move has felt very much like that, a series of frenetic action followed by moments of pure stillness. It is a bit hard to exist in this world without going mildly insane. There is no moment of balance. At least the music track for this movie has been equally quirky. As much as I long for consistency in daily actions right now I have to remind myself to embrace the frenetic moments because I fear Saudi will provide me with much stillness.
We are both suffering from lack of sleep. Him on his side of the world and me on mine. I’d like to say I use this opportunity to be hyper productive but alas that is not the case. By the end of the day I just want to be a sloth. It is interesting how my energy levels ebb and flow. Right now is an ebb period I guess. Trying to help the kids regulate their own emotions and find our new normal, our new groove, all while shouldering the responsibilities of the house and pets finds me pretty tapped out by days end.
I am trying to be kind to myself too. But at the end of the day that looks a lot like watching PBS. I am still accomplishing my to-do lists and so very thankful for all of our friends and family here but I think a big piece of me wants to hibernate for the next 8 weeks. I am resisting this urge and keeping us all busy though which is much healthier in the long run, if exhausting in the short term.
Thankfully the kids are starting to regulate emotionally and the paper chain is working nicely. I just wish sleep was not so elusive.
So, the hardest part of the journey has begun. I drove him to the airport yesterday. Now begins our 65 days without daddy. The kids and I made a paper chain to mark the 65 days. Each evening before bed we will get to rip one more link off of the chain. I also had him do a recordable story book, and the kids LOVED that. So, now we wait.
My to-do list is immense but thankfully I have an incredible support network here to help. My wonderful in-laws had us over for dinner last night, mom drives in for the weekend, and I’m grabbing lunch with friends. I couldn’t do this without them. I am terrible about asking for help or accepting it freely but that is something that is changing by sheer necessity. I think that is a good thing. At the end of all of this, if I end up a little less type A and a little more willing to lean on the support of others it would be a good thing. My mom sweetly reminded me that I don’t need to be Atlas on this journey. I have an army of folks to help carry the world with me and for that I am deeply grateful.
Now off for some retail therapy!
I have been plagued with thoughts on this theme. It has woken me up at night and followed me around like a gnarly dog. It has begun to infect my head too. Making me question my own strength, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Do I really have what it takes to do this? What if I don’t? What if I crumble while there? The impact of that would be horrific for all of us. And yet, this infection is growing. I’m not doubting the decision. We came to it in a reasoned fashion and it is the best choice for us now. But, as I sit here on the eve of his leaving I feel every ounce of weight on my shoulders.
Can I carry the emotional load of my family for two years in a place that affords me no rights, that will present us daily with challenges, that will test all of our limits? I have no ability to say no. Failure is not an option. I need to quell this nagging thought of not being strong enough, of the terrible price of failure, of the situations I cannot control but will have to navigate my children through. Hell, the situations I will have to navigate myself through. But I can’t, I can merely make them be quiet for a short while. Let go and let God, right? I guess I am needing a hefty does of God right about now.