Life has been busy and unpredictable since the last time I posted. I’ve started numerous posts over the last 2 months but finding time to sit and finish one has proved challenging. We left in England in early July with heavy hearts. I really underestimated how at home we felt there and saying goodbye to friends was difficult. There were multiple times when we asked ourselves whether or not we had made the right decision to go and over the last 2 months I have felt times of homesickness, surprisingly as I’m trying to figure out new brands at the local grocery store I find myself homesick for Waitrose and not Top Foods. But I was so excited to have time in Seattle and not just a quick week where you see everyone for an hour and then you’re off but a full 3 weeks to spend with Grandparents and cousins.
Seattle was wonderful. Getting real time with family, the convenience of actually getting things done quickly, going to Target and Starbucks, it felt like a real vacation. After being away for 2 years I also noticed things that I don’t think I ever did before. First of all the parking lots, instead of a town being made up of buildings or store fronts the bulk of the space is giant parking lots with stores set way back. I had to run some errands the first day and went into Woodinville with my Mom. Instead of driving to one store then driving to another I suggested we just walk. We had to cut through a giant parking lot with no clear path for walking and nearly got hit by multiple cars. So not only is the town not set up to actually be walkable but it was downright dangerous as I cut through with a 4 year old and a stroller. No wonder we never walked anywhere. The second thing would be the cars. Seriously people unless you are responsible for feeding an NFL team you do not need an Escalade at the grocery store. You just don’t. There are actually some really interesting options out there for seating a large family that don’t double your grocery bill when you factor in the cost of gas to get to and from the store. The general size of the cars is shocking. I get the need for a bigger car, we really like having the option of 3rd row pop up seats so poor Patrick isn’t crammed between 2 car seats on long drives, and I understand some people need more space. I’m not antiSUV but there are so many that are big just for the purpose of being bigger than all the others. There were also things I missed and never fully appreciated before leaving the US. In England we were trying to work through getting some documents certified so we could open our Australian bank account. I had been to our bank twice, had an appointment with a solicitor’s office (attorney) and no one was able to certify the documents. The bureaucracy can be suffocating at times in the UK, we heard that it doesn’t specifically say UK solicitor, the bank didn’t want to do it due to anti money laundering precautions, then they said they would do it, etc. It was painful, frustrating and time consuming. I got to our First Tech branch, walked in with the documents; a woman notarized them within 15 minutes. I was then able to drive to the FedEx store and have them on their way to Australia all within about 45 minutes. It was amazing.
Most importantly we got to spend time with family. Jamie’s grandparents and 2 of his cousins were in town. We were able to go out to Ocean Shores for a relaxed weekend. We were able to sit around with my parents and just talk, have breakfast out on the deck. Good time with uncles, aunts, and cousins. It really was so nice. I also made a point to go visit Abuelito a few times with the kids. My Dad had been keeping me up to date on his health and how he was doing. I knew they had been working with hospice for a while before I got there so even before arriving I understood that this would most likely be my last chance to spend time with Abuelito. When we saw him it was so nice to be around him but also bittersweet. He was obviously not doing well and had lost a lot of weight. He recognized me and I think understood that these were my kids. We had lunch with him one day and just visited another. I feel so thankful that I had that time with my Dad and Abuelito together. It was a few days after we arrived in Australia that my parents called to tell me Abuelito had passed away. It is sad and of course emotional but it is also comforting to know he is no longer forced to live a reduced quality of life. He was 92 years old and his health was failing. There are times when someone’s passing is sad but also makes sense and it feels like a natural cycle so there is comfort in that. I’m just so grateful I had that time in Seattle to spend with him. For me when someone passes away I find myself thinking of memories I hadn’t thought about in a long time. With Abuelito I find myself thinking of Abuelito as he was before his stroke. Picking us up from school each day, singing Cachito, sneaking us to McDonalds, all of the little things both he and Abuelita did for us everyday and I just feel so lucky we were able to be so close to them. I’ve always loved Skype but especially in a time like that being able to Skype with Mia and Andy and my parents has been a great way to feel connected and feel like I might not be there but hopefully provide them with some support.
So we found ourselves in a new country and trying to get settled while at the same time wishing we could be closer to our family during such a difficult time. It was all the more shocking when I got another phone call early in the morning my time to hear that Pepe had passed away. This one is different, he wasn’t in his 90s it doesn’t feel like a sense of comfort it feels too soon and too painful. I don’t understand why things work the way they do but it feels like too much at once for one family. To lose a brother on the same day you bury your dad isn’t fair. This has been a totally different experience and a different type of grief. I have my own sense of loss and memories, Jamie always talks about the first time he met my family and what an impression Don Pepe made. I can hear his voice calling me Nicole P. and double trouble. Then even more frustrating is seeing what my dad is going through and hearing the emotion when I talk to Mia. Talking to Amy and only being able to imagine everything she must be feeling. It’s just too much sometimes. We’ve lived away from family for 2 years now and will have missed friend’s weddings, 2 funerals and who knows how many more important moments in the lives of people we care about. I don’t know at what point the cost of being away is too high. I mentioned this to Mia and she told me the alternative is never going anywhere in case you miss something and I know we don’t want to do that either. I guess this is one of those questions you won’t know the answer to until you are looking back in hindsight. One day I’m sure we’ll be back in Seattle and be able to really weigh the benefits of all of the experiences we’ve gained against the things we’ve missed.
Now here in Australia we are almost settled. We move into our house on Monday and our things should be delivered the following Monday as long as there are no major delays in customs. Everyone had said that it is a mix of the UK and the US and I would say that is pretty accurate although I would say it is much more like the US than I anticipated. You do drive on the left and a lot of the terms they use are closer to the British but the stores and so far efficiency seems closer to the US. It is amazingly expensive. The first time I went to the store I looked at Diet Coke and nearly fell over, for a 30 pack of Diet Coke it was $33! So we will no longer be stocked on Diet Coke instead it will be a once in a while indulgence when it’s on special, that’s probably better for us anyways. Before we arrived we had tried to do research and look online at areas and it turns out we weren’t far off, we really loved the Northern Beaches and ended up renting a house in Bilgola. There is a great little village within walking distance, multiple beaches and an awesome view. That’s the big trade off it is so beautiful here that I can’t quite process the fact we live here and it’s not vacation. The price of rent is high but on a nice winter day I just let the kids play on the beach for a few hours and they are tired and happy. The weather is kind of bizarre; it is just about the same every day. Maybe one day it drops to 70 and one day it goes up to 80 but really it’s been mid 70s since we got here and this is winter. Someone told Jamie that we are actually in early spring now so I’ve very curious to see what summer is like. There is rain on the forecast for Sunday so that should be interesting.
So far we’ve seen little lizards and the birds just around the neighbourhood are really different to anything I’m used to. The cockatoos seem to be like pigeons here; they are everywhere and can be loud. Luckily we haven’t seen the dreaded huntsman spider, I’ve heard it’s as big as your hand but harmless, the challenge is that it’s fast and gets in the house and it’s hard to get it out. We’ve been warned that the deadly spiders are actually normally much smaller so that gives me something new to worry about. We’ll see how it goes. Up until now we’ve been in a temp housing townhouse in the city and been lucky as far as animals, reptiles and bugs. We’ve heard that usually you see less of those things the closer to the coast you are and then if you live inland near the bush that’s when you get the real surprises so I’m hoping in the new house we’re ok.
That’s where we are as of now. We’ve been in a weird state of limbo for the last month. In temp housing, can’t enrol in school, getting settle and learning things but not really in the place we are going to be yet. Then all of our thoughts and emotions have been back in Seattle. So next week feels like the real start of getting things in order. We are in the house, Patrick starts school, hopefully I can get Kellen going in Little Kickers and we move forward. Then come December 26th my parents should get here and get a chance to step away from the high emotions and get a real vacation.