Travel Traumas

Lockdown: British Edition

Posted on Mar 4, 2021 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

Lockdown: British Edition 7

I’ve written and re-written this post many times, vacillating between total dejectedness and flickering hope. We recently passed the six-month mark of living in Oxford. Half of that time we’ve been in lockdown. While the government recently released a plan for gradually (very gradually) easing lockdown restrictions, the reality is that the magical year abroad I had envisioned for my family is largely going to be spent within the confines of our home. I’m sad. And I’m weary. And no matter how hard I try to cultivate gratitude for our healthy family and stable jobs, I just can’t shake the small, persistent ache in my gut for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, lost to the pandemic.

Lockdown – regardless of where you live – is demoralizing. Last summer when my husband and I were debating if we should proceed with the move in the midst of a pandemic, I told him, “If there’s another lockdown I don’t want to be stuck in our small British house, with three kids, in the middle of winter.” After the first lockdown, I didn’t know if I could handle another in those conditions. And here we are. Another lockdown (our third). Three kids. Small British house. Dark, dreary winter. 

Accurate representation of life in lockdown.

I’m constantly fatigued, despite rarely leaving the house. I’m lonely, living in a new place where I’ve barely had an opportunity to form anything more than superficial relationships. I’ve not so much as seen the other school parents’ faces, let alone talk to them. It’s so absurd it’s almost funny. And though I’m lonely, I’m never alone, constantly supervising virtual learning for two older children while trying to keep a toddler entertained inside a cramped house. I can’t believe I actually miss the days of lockdown with a baby! And of course, it’s winter, the cold and dark exasperating an already dispiriting situation. I know I’m not alone in feeling disheartened. We’ve all been there at some point in this past year.

The Toddler Terror

And really, who am I to complain when so many people have it so much worse? Our kids have been out of school since January, but how many children haven’t been in school in a year? Yes, I don’t have many close friends here, but I live in a lovely neighborhood whose residents make a great deal of Covid-safe effort to keep spirits lifted. And thank God I was connected with a few women before we moved, who have been a lifeline these past few months. The rare days the sun chooses to appear are absolutely glorious. We have our health! Oh, and my husband took pity on me and surprised me with a Peloton.

Peloton. Ugh, I know. I KNOW. I’ve turned into such a cliché. But the walk across our garden to a finished shed where the bike is set up is often my only chance to leave the house. Working out has been my sole source of sanity. I suppose – because there is nothing else to do – I am getting fit-ish. But here’s the thing. I don’t really care about being fit while I’m living in Europe. I would trade being Peloton Fit in a heartbeat to be European Soft – like, I eat pastries and cheese and gelato all day but still walk a lot, you know? I can be Peloton Fit in America! I can only be European Soft in Europe!

Speaking of Europe: When we got orders to Oxford, I was ecstatic. Uprooting our family to move overseas for less than a year would be difficult, but it would be worth it. A chance to live in the City of Dreaming Spires? Yes, please! High Table dinners, exploring the Bod, vespers at New College, Harry Potter tours – for the kids, of course. I couldn’t wait to do it all. (I should clarify that we are here because my husband is a visiting fellow at Oxford, but I totally planned on mooching off of his University privileges. I should also clarify that I only learned that students call the Bodleian Library, “the Bod,” from a cheesy rom-com audiobook, but doesn’t it make me sound in the know?) We have had some lovely strolls around the city, admiring the gorgeous, iconic architecture – but it would be nice to actually step inside one of those iconic buildings at some point. I had so hoped to make Oxford my home, a place I really knew, rather than just a city I lived in for a brief time. But it’s difficult to learn a place in lockdown.

Beautiful Oxford

And naturally I was thrilled for the opportunities to travel. Meeting up with friends stationed in Germany, Spain, Italy! Weekend trips to Paris! Driving around the Continent in our beat-up 2005 Honda CRV, which previous owners affectionately dubbed the WSB (Whistling Shit Box). It would be a grand adventure! While the reality of traveling around Europe with three kids crammed into the WSB would likely be less romantic than my imaginings, I couldn’t help but be excited about all the history and culture and food – oh, the food! –  we’d get to experience as a family.

Then Covid happened. So I can’t jet off to Paris on a whim. Boo-hoo. Poor me. I know that compared to a lot of people right now, our diminished year abroad is pretty insignificant. I would never, ever trivialize the real heartache and devastation that Covid has wreaked on millions of people all over the globe. But still, this feels like a loss. A small loss in the grand scheme of things, but a loss nonetheless. I’ve finally decided it’s okay to acknowledge that.

Spring is coming. We’ve had some sun and warmth the past few days which has buoyed my spirits. The kids go back to in-person school in four days (but who’s counting?). My husband and I have been vaccinated. We had some great experiences traveling around the UK last fall that I treasure, and I’m hopeful we’ll have more this spring. I know that despite my disappointment I have much to be thankful for. The lockdown has cast a shadow over our year abroad, but the year ain’t over yet. In the meantime, at least I have Peloton.  

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New Year, New You… Not Happening

Posted on Jan 6, 2018 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, The Kids Are Actually Cute, Travel Traumas

New Year, New You… Not Happening 1

Happy New Year, Friends! How is 2018 going for you so far? Getting fit? Eating healthy? Meditating daily? Good for you! I have spent the first days of 2018 stuffing my face with muffins and watching old episodes of Downton Abbey. Meanwhile there is a massive pile of boxes sitting in my family room, a not-so-subtle reminder that I still have to put away all the Christmas decorations. While most people seem to relish the New Year as an opportunity to reset and strive to be a better version of themselves, I just want it to be March already. You know, when nobody cares about that stuff anymore. I rang in the New Year with my parents and a bottle of Nyquil. (I was in California for a quick trip with the kids while Damon stayed back East.) On New Year’s Day, instead of kickstarting a healthy diet, I munched on day-old donuts and In-N-Out. (So good, by the way.) On the second day of the New Year, I endured a 15-hour travel day with my darling children. After a several hour delay in Dallas, including deplaning our first aircraft due to a mechanical problem, we landed home at 2:00am and waited an hour for luggage that – oops! – never actually made it on the plane. We got home at 3:30AM. Elisabeth talked at me for about 14.5 out of those 15 hours. On the third day of the New Year I went to Trader Joe’s with the rest of Hampton Roads in preparation of BOMB CYCLONE 2018. Then I slept because, again, I traveled 15 hours the day before with both my kids. Oh, and I probably have an upper respiratory virus. Whatever. On the fourth day of the New Year it SNOWED. Gosh, I love being a Virginia resident when it snows. People lose their damn minds. Every. Freaking. Year. For all you folks making vegetable soups from scratch and working out in your home gyms – New Year! New You! – you won’t shame me into being healthy! If I’m stuck in my house with...

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A Look Back at 2015

Posted on Jan 1, 2016 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, The Kids Are Actually Cute, Travel Traumas

A Look Back at 2015 1

Hello, Friends. This blog has not seen much action this year.  Mainly, because of this rascal: I’d love to write more, and hopefully will in the upcoming months. In the meantime, this post is my attempt to recap everything I would have blogged about this past year had I had the mental capacity to do so. Here it is, 2015 in one blog post: January: The stressful end of 2014 – unending remodel, constantly sick kids, overworked husband, extreme lack of sleep, etc. – continued on into January, but things slowly turned up. The remodel wrapped up, we sort-of sleep-trained James (though it didn’t quite take), we began to settle into a routine. Now that James is a walking, running, climbing little boy, it’s hard to imagine that just a year ago he was still a baby, but it’s true, and this month saw him teething and cruising (or, the beginning of the end for me.) February: Snow, snow, snow. School closures, school closures, school closures. I don’t know if Elisabeth saw the inside of her classroom that month. Instead, she watched a lot of Frozen. I’m a good parent.  I also had an unfortunate incident in a Trader Joe’s parking lot involving my Toyota Highlander, a pole, and a personal injury lawyer’s BMW. Can we talk for a second about how it’s like a requirement that every Trader Joe’s has the worst parking lot in the city? Seriously. Every. Single. One. Anyway, moral of the story is don’t go to a Trader Joe’s on a holiday the day before a massive snowstorm.     Oh, we did have an exceptionally beautifully warm and sunny day in the early month that happened to coincide with our wildly successful housewarming party. Win! March: March was a good month. Mainly because I stopped nursing James. If you read my blog last year, you may remember I basically ate birdseed for the majority of his infancy due to his allergic colitis. Well, that sucked, and he and I were both hungry all the time. So I began eating cheese again and he...

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The Day I Went Dog Sledding

Posted on Aug 17, 2015 in Travel Traumas

The Day I Went Dog Sledding 0

Normally if you were to ask me if I’d like to vacation in Alaska, I’d tell you, “Hellz no.” I think of Alaska and I think of: Cold. Snow. Bears. Salmon. Sarah Palin.  I don’t think: Vacation! But then if you were tell me that Alaska is actually stunningly beautiful and you can enjoy it from a swanky cruise ship and your parents are going so you won’t even have to really take care of your kids, I’d say, “Let’s leave immediately.” So that actually happened. Damon, the kids, and I had an opportunity to go on an Alaskan cruise with my parents and we obviously took it. While Alaska was never one of my must-sees, it has been on Damon’s bucket list for years. He envisioned bear sightings, salmon fishing, kayaking through fjords… Meanwhile I envisioned enjoying the scenic views while sipping the cruise line’s unlimited free wine. It was a win-win. (In reality, we were traveling with two small children so none of the above happened.) On our first night on the ship, my dad announced he had a surprise for Damon and me. A surprise? My interest was piqued.  What kind of surprise could he possibly have planned on a cruise ship? “I’ve booked you two on the helicopter ride/dog sledding excursion when we’re in Juneau. Mom and I will babysit!” Um… Say what? Damon was excited. I was terrified. And confused.  I’m not a huge fan of heights. Or animals, for that matter. So going up in a winged death-mobile to hang out with hundreds of dogs on a glacier is not really my thing. “Are you excited?” my dad asked. “DAD! DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME?” “Your husband will enjoy it.” “BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER?” “You used to be adventurous,” he said. “I have children now. Children who need their mother not to die in a catastrophic dog sledding accident.” My dad just laughed at me. “It’ll be good for you,” he said. A massage would be good for me. An uninterrupted nap would be good for me.  A treacherous expedition* to the...

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Disneyland During Spring Break: I Went So You Don’t Have To

Posted on May 8, 2014 in My Kid Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

Disneyland During Spring Break: I Went So You Don’t Have To 4

Spring break season is over. As Elisabeth is not yet school-aged, I don’t think in terms of break schedules.  So when Damon visited last March and we decided to take Elisabeth to Disneyland, we didn’t consider that half the state of California (and the entire U.S.) would be on spring break and visiting Disneyland with us. While we lived in Japan, Damon routinely brought up the idea of visiting Tokyo Disney.  I routinely shot down that idea.  It was too crowded, too expensive, and Elisabeth was too young to enjoy or remember it.  I am a cold, heartless woman, I know. But things were different now.*  Despite my efforts at shielding Elisabeth from the more annoying of Disney characters, she is enamored of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  She’s old enough to have fun on rides.  Though she would not remember the trip, she’d enjoy it in the moment.  Plus, this was going to be our last time together as a family of three.  Why not do something special?  Disneyland is magical! It’s the Happiest Place on Earth! What could be more special than that? Well, unless you think “special” entails pushing your way through hoards of tourists and waiting in endless lines while trying to keep your impatient child (or children) entertained, DON’T go to Disneyland during spring break.  Just don’t. Because this is what your visit will be like: -Take 30 minutes to find parking. -Wait 20 minutes for a shuttle to the park, or walk the 20 minutes to the entrance. -Wait another 30 minutes in line for exorbitantly priced tickets. (Note to military spouses – Disneyland does not offer military discounts for single day passes. You have to waste three days of your life there if you want a discount.) -Decide to take your daughter out of line and let her run around the courtyard that separates Disneyland and California Adventure. Marvel at her excitement at recognizing the characters that decorate the flagpoles.  “Hot dog!” she will squeal with glee, because for some inexplicable reason she will think Goofy’s name is “Hot Dog.”  Wonder why you...

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New Zealand, Part 1: Bananagate.

Posted on Mar 11, 2014 in Pregnancy Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

New Zealand, Part 1: Bananagate. 4

New Zealand.  I have to blog about my trip to New Zealand, even though it was two months ago.  My memory seems to be diminishing with each passing day of this pregnancy, so it’s imperative I document this trip now.  You know, so when I make our travel scrapbook 10 years from now I’ll actually have a record of where we went and what we did. You guys, New Zealand is stunning.  Gorgeous beyond belief.  I knew NZ was one of those places Damon and I had to visit while we were living in Japan, but I wasn’t all that sure why.  Because it’s pretty?  Because Lord of the Rings was filmed there?  I mean, a lot of places are pretty, and I don’t really care about Lord of the Rings.  But still, for no particular reason other than vague praise from fellow travelers, NZ was on our travel bucket-list.  And thank goodness it was. Perhaps we didn’t really know what to expect from our trip because it’s probably hard for most people – including myself – to articulate how incredible this place is.  Damon, Elisabeth, and I flew into Christchurch and spent 11 days traveling the South Island by car, spending one or two nights in a town before moving on to our next destination.  Even with 11 days, we only traversed the southern half of the South Island, but every day brought a different experience.  By no means am I a nature girl, yet I was rendered speechless by each beach, lake, mountain, glacier, waterfall, what-have-you we saw.  It was all magnificent. We’d be driving along, admiring one landscape – say,  rolling green hills dotted with sheep – turn a corner and be struck by a completely different, but equally stunning view, perhaps a glassy lake in the most brilliant turquoise color you’ve ever seen, or snow-capped mountains against a perfectly blue sky.  Even when it rained (which it did, a lot) it was still crazy beautiful.     We took our trip in early January, summer in NZ and therefore the tourism high season, yet there...

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