My Path to Dual Nationality

Flash back to 6 years ago and I was a girl with a dream of going to England and a 10 year plan to make it happen. I needed that time to save up for the fabulous, extravagant, dream vacation in London that I’d always fantasized about.

Now skip forward to present day and I am officially a BRITISH CITIZEN!! What? Someone pinch me, that surely can’t be real. Okay, don’t pinch me, it’s real. I have the certificate to prove it!

Officially, I am a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Unofficially, I am a very lucky girl! One country was my home for 23 years, it’s where I was born, where my family lives, all of my childhood and teenage memories belong to that country, it’s the place I can always call home, where I love to visit and am happy to claim as my heritage. The other country is the place where I found my first and true love, my new and future home, where I was married, where I gave birth to my beautiful babies, and where I learned things about myself, both good and bad, that I hadn’t known before.

I’ve had a very love/hate relationship with England. I’ve learned from my newly found fellow expat friends that my experience is a fairly common one. I started out with a very romantic and fanciful love of England; it felt like a permanent vacation. That love quickly turned into despair and bitterness that unfortunately lasted for quite awhile as I was missing home and all the things familiar to me. There was this moment of awakening for me where I realized that I had been living as a visitor the whole time I’d been here, rather than a resident. Changing that behavior was the key to happiness for me. And I’m pleased to now be at a place in my heart where I once again love this country, but this time it’s a realistic love. I love it for all of its beauty and its grit. I’m in the unique position of calling two countries home. For the rest of my life, no matter where I live or where I call home, I will always be missing another place. How blessed am I to have such a problem as that!

Fiancee visa: $860
Visa extension FLR (Stands for Further Leave to Remain): $952
Life in the UK test: $82
Visa extension ILR (Stands for Indefinite Leave to Remain): $1,769
2 Consular reports of births abroad: $200
2 UK minor passports: $151
2 US minor passports: $210
Citizenship application: $1,440
British adult passport: $120
Total: $5,784 (£3,510)

Security of knowing you won’t be separated from your spouse and forced to leave the country: PRICELESS!

In my entire journey to dual nationality, the final step of obtaining citizenship (not counting the cost) was probably the easiest one. In order to qualify for citizenship, I needed to be legally living in the country for 3 years (they have since changed that to 5 years) and I had to take a Life in the UK test, which I had previously completed as part of my ILR.  After then it was just a matter of filling out some paperwork and making a (very large) payment.

I got a letter about a month after my application to say that it had been approved. Next step was my citizenship ceremony! There was quite a large group of people obtaining citizenship at the ceremony. We all had to either swear an oath or make an affirmation of allegiance (difference being that an oath is swearing by God and an affirmation isn’t) and also say a pledge of loyalty. Then we were presented with our certificates of citizenship. Afterward they had cake and drinks for us and we had the opportunity to take photos.

The oath of allegiance I swore:

“I, Ashley Nicole Rayford, swear by almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.

The pledge of loyalty:

“I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”

I’ve been asked why it was important to me to become a British citizen. Honestly, it’s important to me because it’s the closest I can get to a guarantee that I won’t be separated from my husband. That’s the number one reason. Another reason is because my children are dual citizens of the US and the UK. None of us have any idea what the future holds, this whole experience has been great proof of that, and I want to have options and be able to live where my children settle if that’s my desire. The final reason? Because it’s awesome and I love this country!

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Chris and I after the ceremony. It’s hard to tell because it’s a selfie, but we took this photo in front of the fountain in Leicester ‘s Town Hall Square. This is the same fountain we posed in front of after our wedding. This town hall has seen our marriage, it’s where we registered the births of our babies, and it’s where I became a British citizen. It’s played a large part in our life together!

Being presented with my certificate of naturalisation by a local alderman.

Being presented with my certificate of naturalisation by a local alderman.

My certificate and the folder it was presented in, which includes the words for the oath and affirmation of allegiance as well as the pledge of loyalty. There's also a photo of the iconic water fountain in Town Hall Square.

My certificate (with important information blacked out) and the folder it was presented in, which includes the words for the oath and affirmation of allegiance as well as the pledge of loyalty. There’s also a photo of the iconic water fountain in Town Hall Square.

This feels a bit like I’m accepting an award, but I feel like I need to give thanks to some people here. Thank you to fellow Three Ladies author, Stephany, for coming to take care of our kids while we attended the ceremony and also getting a cake to celebrate with us when we got home!

Thank you to my parents, not only for all the financial assistance you’ve provided in this journey and for spending so much time and money to come see us since I’ve moved so far away, but also for being amazingly supportive and essentially being the ones to make this dream of meeting my “friend,” Chris, a reality. If it weren’t for you two, I fear we’d still be Skyping each day for hours on end, and instead we’ve got a wonderful life together!

And finally, thank you to Chris. He has dealt with more tears and heartache from me than any person should ever have to deal with. He has had to hear me say awful things about his home country when I’ve been down in the dumps. He had to fill out all the visa paperwork with the exception of the first fiancee visa because it was just too much of a headache for me. And he has never showed the slightest bit of annoyance at any of that and has always been my number one source of comfort when I’ve been down. You are amazingly supportive, loving, and caring and I’m so glad to be a British citizen and spend my life with you, wherever it may be! Love you baby! 🙂

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Wier Family Update: We Made It!

Hi everybody!  We three ladies have been gone for a while with Christmas, New Years, and all the travelling we’ve done.  I hope you had the merriest and happiest of holiday seasons!  Here in the Wier family, we are definitely ringing in our new year with a bang.   We have made our move to England and are currently all set up in our furnished apartment in Oxford.  A lot of people have been asking how things are going for us, so today’s post is just an update on everything in our family.

Where to begin?  It’s been a crazy few weeks.  We moved out of our house in Texas in the middle of December and it was much more bittersweet than I had expected.  We had wonderful neighbors (seriously…the kind you get once in a lifetime) and after 2 ½ years, we had started to become part of the community.  After the movers came and took all of our things away, we loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies and headed to my Mom and Dad’s in Kentucky for a couple of weeks to celebrate Christmas and New Years.  It was the perfect stopping point.  We were able to spend time with our friends and family and it was incredibly relaxing after the weeks and weeks of move prep we had been doing.

January 1st was move day.  Declan woke us up at 5:30 that morning and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise since that’s when we got the notification that our first flight from Lexington to Chicago had been cancelled.  Colin quickly got on the phone and we were able to rebook flights from Charleston, WV to Washington DC to Heathrow.  It was a very long travel day, but I have to say that the boys both did great, considering how exhausted we all were.  Colin and I didn’t get much sleep on the flight over, but the boys slept the whole way.

We were picked up by a driver and arrived at our apartment in Oxford around 1:00 PM on the 2nd and spent the evening unpacking our eight suitcases and four carry-on bags.  We got more than a few odd stares in the airport, but were able to bring all of the boys’ Christmas gifts with us so that they would have plenty of toys to play with until all of our other things arrive at the end of January.

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All of our luggage. 🙂

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Colin squeezed in with all of the luggage on the way to our apartment.

After we all slept between 12-14 hours Thursday night, we woke up on Friday and the real fun started!  Colin picked up the rental car and successfully drove back to the apartment on the “wrong” side to pick us up.  Then it was off to the grocery store.  That was quite the experience.  Did you know that the shopping carts go sideways here?  In the US when you’re pushing your cart it goes forward and backward.  Here, the wheels pivot and you can push it sideways, even spinning it in circles if you’d like.  This is incredibly convenient, but it also means that it can get a little out of control if you aren’t careful.  I almost lost the cart twice on our first trip out.  It was difficult to find anything in the store as I’m not used to where things would be found on the shelves.  The eggs, for example, were not refrigerated.  This threw me, as I was looking for them in the refrigerated section.  When you’re checking out here, there is a cashier sitting behind the register.  She scans the food, but then you have to bag it yourself.  I had been warned of this in advance, but I wasn’t prepared to find only three bags on the counter.  I had $300 worth of groceries and three bags!  I had to act like the American that I am and ask the cashier what to do about the bags.  It turns out that as you use the bags on the counter, she reaches underneath and pulls out a few more for you.  Good to know!

After finishing up at the grocery store, we drove out to meet our estate agent (realtor) and view a house.  We were so pleasantly surprised.  The house was amazing. It was very large, with plenty of space and exactly what we needed.   However, it was 23 miles away from Colin’s work.  With gas prices being so expensive here ($9.58 per gallon as of this morning), that’s a long haul for Colin to drive everyday.  It is also a good possibility that there will be more houses built just behind the house while we’re living there, meaning lots of noise to contend with during construction.

Following that, we drove back to Headington, the part of Oxford where our apartment is located, and were able to set up our bank accounts.  I’ve heard over and over that this would be difficult since we don’t yet have a permanent address, but thankfully, it was not.  Within an hour, we were all set up and the boys had charmed all the ladies at the bank.

Saturday morning, Ashley came over with her family and we finally got to meet Chris!  That was really nice as we’ve felt like we’ve known him forever already.  They watched the boys for us while we went with the estate agent and viewed six more houses.  We found our number one pick and immediately put an offer on it.  It’s less than two miles from Colin’s work , a mile and a half from any shopping we could want, and two miles from what will hopefully be Ian’s school.  We are hoping to know something definite by this evening.  When we came home, the kids were all happily playing and Chris and Ashley didn’t seem to be pulling their hair out, so we all ordered pizza and hung out for a few hours.  It is so wonderful to have family nearby and was like bringing a piece of home to us.

Me and Ashley on Saturday.

Me and Ashley on Saturday.

On Sunday we drove into Oxford.  It is a beautiful, old city that dates back to 900 AD and is home to the world-renowned Oxford University.  We walked around the city for a bit and took some pictures and then headed back to the car to head off for a few more grocery items.  When we got home, we had a much needed lazy afternoon and I cooked a real supper for the first time in what seems like ages.

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One of the many beautiful buildings in Oxford.

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And another. Forgive the poor quality. A photographer I am not. 🙂

So here we are.  We’re all settled in and starting our new life in the UK.  Colin is back at work this morning and me and the boys are settled back into our daily routine.  It has been an exhausting month, really, and the relative normalcy is actually very welcome.  It will get crazy again when all of our belongings arrive and we move into a house, but for now, we are enjoying learning our way around and just being together.

Below are a few fun items I’ll throw at you from the perspective of a brand new expat.  🙂

Things I Have Found Funny/Didn’t Expect.

The thermostats in our apartment are found in every room.  Each room has a door, including the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, etc. so that you can set the heat for the rooms that you are using and you don’t have to worry as much about the other rooms.  The oddest thing, though, is that our thermostats range from 1 to 10.  We still aren’t sure what our “number” is.  I thought these numbers might be the temperature in Celsius, but that’s not it because the range would only be from about 34 to 50 degrees.  We’ve ended up turning them on about 2 in the main rooms and then sometimes opening a window to let more cool air in.  It’s so hard to get the temperature right!

Weird thermostat.

Weird thermostat.

Outlets

The boys are completely enthralled with the outlets here.  Not only do they look different than what they’re used to, but they also have on/off switches on them.  Once you plug something in, you have to turn the outlet on.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught Declan playing with these switches.  I’m not sure if they are like that everywhere, or just in our apartment, but it’s a bit maddening!

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The outlets.

Bathrooms

A few notes on the bathrooms as we’ve been house hunting.  The master bathrooms are usually not very big and they have no storage in them.  I’m talking not even a medicine cabinet.  And a double vanity, which is standard in most new houses in my area of the US, is extremely rare.  The light switches to all of the bathrooms are outside the room and there are no electrical outlets in there either.  All of our toiletries and hair products are currently parked in a set of plastic drawers right outside the bathroom.  This is fine, but was definitely a bit of a shock when we got here!

Speed limits

Colin has been doing a great job with the driving.  He’s even gotten really good at the notorious round-abouts that are so difficult to figure out.  As we were driving home from viewing the house on Friday, however, we realized that we had a problem.  We had no clue what the speed limit was!  In the US, if you’re not sure, you can typically just keep driving and soon you’ll find a sign.  Not here!  We drove for miles and miles on what  we would consider a highway and never saw the speed limit!  We’ve since had Chris explain to us how it works.  Apparently, there are “national speed limits” on certain types of roads and if nothing is posted, that’s what you follow.  Good to know!

Most Annoying Thing

Laundry.  Hands down.  We have a very small washer/dryer in the kitchen.  I expected this and immediately started washing when we got here.  The dryer is kind of a joke and we have resorted to air drying everything.  It’s working, but it means that I am going to be ironing Colin’s clothes every day until we move into a new house and can figure out a different solution.  This is annoying, but I really expected it, and we’re living with it; just a minor inconvenience.  🙂

Best Thing So Far

The food!  I’m not talking about restaurant food.  Aside from ordering pizza (which was delicious), we haven’t eaten out yet.  I’m just talking about the groceries.  Plain old sandwich bread is SO much better here.  It tastes like someone baked a loaf of bread, sliced it, and just put it in a bag.  I love it to the point that I’m going to have to watch my intake.  The meats and cheeses are just as good.  It has all just been regular grocery store items that I would buy every week, but it tastes so fresh!

Okay.  That’s a very long post.  If you’ve stayed with me, I’m glad!  Next week’s post will be less rambling and a more fun topic, I’m sure.  I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Wier Family Update: The Mile Long To-Do List

To Do List

Hi everyone!  Sorry I didn’t post last week.  Things are getting a little nuts around here!  Colin was in Europe for work, so I took the boys to Kentucky for an 11 day visit.  We had a great time and other than the two hours that Declan screamed on the flight home (sorry fellow passengers!), we enjoyed every minute of our trip.  Now that we’re home, the craziness with the England move is in high gear, so I thought I’d take a minute to update those of you who might be interested or have been asking how things are going.   🙂

We landed Wednesday afternoon and were all exhausted.  Colin flew back from Germany, so by the time he met us at baggage claim, he had already been up for 18 hours.  As previously mentioned, I had been dealing with a crying baby for hours.  We were all excited to be reunited, but just really needed sleep.  We grabbed a pizza on the way home, ate dinner as soon as we stepped inside, and all four of us were asleep by 7:45.  It was glorious.  The next morning, the moving company was here to survey our belongings and determine how long it will take them to pack us up and to give us a pack/move date.  They will be packing up our house on December 17th and loading everything into the container on the 18th.  We will fly to Kentucky for Christmas on the 19th.  From there, we’ll leave for England on January 1st.  It’s going to be a crazy holiday season for us!

I spent 6 1/2 hours on Friday filling out the online visa applications for all four of us.  Let me tell you, filling out a visa application is extremely time consuming and stressful.  Filling it out four times with the same information is pure torture.  I’m pretty sure I now have all four of our passport numbers memorized.  But at least that part is done!  Colin and I will attend our biometrics appointment (where they take our fingerprints and a digital photo of our faces) on Wednesday morning.  Luckily, the boys don’t have to do this as they’re too young.  After that, we have to mail hard copies of everything to the consulate in New York and then we wait.  Passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates, oh my!  Let me tell you folks, keep those important documents on hand.  You never know when a government authority might want them!

We're getting there.  Hoping to mail these bad boys out Wednesday afternoon.

We’re getting there. Hoping to mail these bad boys out Wednesday afternoon.

Aside from the movers and getting the visa applications finished, we are also in the process of opening UK bank accounts.  This is also tons of fun (sarcasm).  If you really want to feel stupid, try figuring how to fill a US address into the supplied blanks on a UK form.  Note:  They do not write their home addresses the same way we do. 🙂 Colin said he thinks that it’s all a test to ensure that we are smart enough to live in their country.  If we can properly wade through all of the paperwork, we pass.  I’m starting to think  he’s right!

We’ve also started making our to-do list.  I’m a very typical Type A person, so lists and organization are a part of my everyday existence, but when my fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants husband said, “Are you writing all of this stuff down somewhere?” I knew it was time to start consolidating my lists and getting more organized.  We sat down on Saturday night and spent an hour thinking of everything that needs to be done between now and December 17th.  There are currently 70 items on the list, much of which will be annoying and time consuming (medical records, vaccinations, selling stuff, moving things to storage…blah).  I’m making myself feel better by putting dates beside each item in hopes that it won’t all be last minute.  Let’s just say November is looking crazy and I’m pretty sure we won’t have another relaxing weekend until March.  Today, around having the boys pictures taken and grocery shopping, we did manage to organize the garage into four sections:  Store, Sell, Ship, and Trash.  Item number 1 has been checked off the list.  I’m feeling accomplished!

I’ve decided that I’m going to have to live with the fact that my laundry will not be caught up again before we leave.  And the chances of my house being spotless again are slim to none.  But that’s okay.  Things will all work out.  We’re looking forward to a fun holiday season and we’re still super excited for our European adventure.  Let’s all repeat:  I will be organized.  I will be on top of things.  I will not be stressed.

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Language Barrier (part 3)

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“A ladybird just flew into the house!” A ladybird? You mean…a female bird? Nope. It turns out that what is known to Americans as a ladybug, is known to Brits as a ladybird. One recently flew into our open front door and I took a video of my son searching for it and posted it to Facebook. You can hear us calling it a ladybird on the video, and since then I’ve been asked a few times why they call them ladybirds here. I have no idea. I’d guess because they fly, but so do a variety of other insects that weren’t given the distinction of “bird.”

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The ladybird flew into our front door, which is located on the ground floor of our house. In England, what Americans would call the first floor is actually called the ground floor. Subsequently, what Americans know as the second floor then becomes the first floor. That confused me a bit when I first moved here and we were in the ground floor flat of our building. Ground floor isn’t so confusing, but calling the second floor the first floor threw me for a loop.

Flat-for-let-Signboard

Oh whoops. I said flat. Generally when I’m speaking to an American audience (which statistics show makes up the majority of our readers here at Three Ladies & Their Babies), I’ll stick to American words/phrases/spellings/pronunciations. After living here for 4 years, that becomes harder and harder to do and I often say things the “British” way without giving it a second thought. I think an apartment being called a flat is probably a widely known Brit vs. American language difference, but just in case you didn’t know, now you do. Speaking of flats, houses, or any other type of building which can be rented, did you know that instead of, “For rent,” they actually say something is, “To let,” here in England?

Recently while out on a drive, we were diverted because they were setting up for a celebration of the Diwali lights switch on at the Golden Mile (Leicester has the third largest Hindu population in England and the stretch of Belgrave Road known as the Golden Mile is one of the best places to discover Indian culture and food outside of India itself.) and the flyover was closed. A flyover is what we Americans know of as an overpass. The word flyover amused me when I first moved here, but like most of these different words, I’m used to it now and use it myself.

Hopefully you enjoyed this installment of Language Barrier. Hope you aren’t too gutted (disappointed, upset) by the differences. Cheers (thanks) for reading! 🙂

You can find part one of Language Barrier here and part two here.

* Any differences in language that I discuss only pertain to the area that I live in, Leicester. I don’t know if other areas of the country use the same words, though I would assume that in much the same way that different states in the US have different accents and slang words, different counties in England have as well. Also, from time to time I may mention a word that my in-laws use. Let me say now that although my in-laws in particular may say these words, that doesn’t mean they are used in all parts of England (they might be, I wouldn’t know!). Let me also add that I do know England came before America and that these posts are meant to be a lighthearted bit of fun. Thank you.

A Brave New World: Overcoming My Social Anxiety

(Note: Normally Lisa would post on Monday, but as she’s out of town I’m posting today.)

When I first moved to England, every day felt a bit like a vacation. I was in this new country which felt like a whole new world and I was with the man I loved. It was perfect. I couldn’t work in those first few months until my second visa was approved so I was happy to just go wherever my new husband Chris went.

Chris reads gas and electric meters for a living and works his own hours so I would go with him and be the DJ in the car and while he was out of the car going to read a meter at the next house, I would sit in the car with the windows down and read a book. We would go to a local park for picnics on his lunch break. At the end of the day we’d come home and make dinner together and many times we’d go for a walk afterward. By the time I was allowed to work, I was pregnant with our first child and since we both decided it would be better for me to be a stay at home mom, I didn’t see the point in starting a new job that I would be quitting in a few months.

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One of many days out while Chris was working and I was playing the role of DJ.

We found out that my American driving license would be good here for a year and then I would have to take a driving test and get an English license. Well, that scared me. I’ve never been fond of tests, but I especially remember how nervous I was when I took my driving test in America. The thought of taking one here was not appealing in the slightest. So I was determined to be happy as a passenger. That worked for a couple of years, but eventually going to work with the husband wasn’t as exciting as it used to be. I don’t travel well when pregnant, every time we were in the car I was overwhelmingly car sick, so I decided I needed to start staying home instead.

I was still happy at this point because I had thoughts of my unborn child filling my head. I was anxious to meet him and I just knew once he got here he’d fill up my days and I’d be completely content. I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I love him to pieces and I love staying home with him. I wouldn’t trade my status as a stay at home mom for anything, I feel incredibly lucky to stay home with the kids, but staying home all the time is boring! Contrary to what I had thought, he was not very time consuming in those early days.

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Picnic in the countryside on a particularly sunny day (Hence the squinty eyes!)

It was after having Jude that I started to realize what a hermit I’d become. When Chris was at work, I was at home sitting in front of the TV or the computer and doing little else. When Jude came along, like all newborns, he slept most of the time. I was bored out of my mind. That, coupled with postpartum depression, meant that I was pretty miserable. I would sit here and get so down and feel so sorry for myself. I had myself convinced that I had the worst life because of financial struggles and not having any friends in the area. I was also convinced that all my family and friends in America either hated me, were forgetting me, or both. Whenever there was a family event I didn’t get to be a part of, I would be angry and bitterly jealous of those who did get to attend and convince myself everyone was happier for my absence. Those were dark days.

Eventually the postpartum depression went away. It took about a year after Jude was born before I started feeling like myself again, but I was still living like a hermit and feeling miserable about that part of my life. I kept telling myself that eventually I’d get out there and start doing things. I always had a reason to wait. There was no good reason, but I made them up in my mind. I would think something like, “Oh well, we’re going to be visiting Michigan in a few months and when we get home from there I’ll finally go check out the local children’s center.” Why? There was no reason for waiting, other than my own fear.

When Jude was one and a half we took a trip to Michigan for Thanksgiving. Leaving my family on that trip was the worst leaving experience I’d had at that point because Jude was starting to understand it a little more. My dad obtained a gate pass so he could help us get through security and find our gate. Once it was time for him to leave us at our gate, he gave us hugs and kisses and went on his way. Jude was in his stroller and I’ll never forget the way he kept craning his head around trying to find out where his Papa went and the look of confusion on his little face when he couldn’t find him. I felt awful for him and I’ll tell you now that I sat there in that airport, crying and not caring who saw me because I felt helpless, hopeless, and depressed. These were odd feelings for me to process because at the same time I was really anxious and excited to get home and see Chris again. It was definitely bittersweet. We’d been in Michigan for three weeks and I missed him terribly.

Jude on the plane after it landed in Michigan.

Jude on the plane after it landed in Michigan.

When we got back home I had a chat with Chris about our lives and told him that I felt in my heart we needed to be living in Michigan. He’s always been willing to do whatever I wanted when it comes to where we live so he was on board pretty much right away. We talked to my parents about it that night and they were thrilled and promised to help us out on the journey. We applied for a spousal visa for Chris in January of 2012 and we didn’t learn the final decision until November of the same year. I spent the better part of that year feeling depressed because I just wanted it to be over and I wanted to be living in Michigan with my husband and our son and the little baby we had on the way. We kept putting things off in our lives because we were in this limbo where we felt that we would be moving to Michigan soon so we shouldn’t spend a great deal of time or money on anything here. If we needed to replace something, we’d buy the cheapest version of it we could find. If I wanted to get involved in something locally, I would resist because I didn’t want to get invested in it and then have to leave. If there was someone I wanted to be friends with or try to get to know better, I wouldn’t because I was afraid I’d grow attached and then when I moved to America it would just be someone else to miss.

Well as I said, we heard the final decision about the visa in November and that final decision was a big fat NO. Chris’ visa got denied, quite unjustly in my opinion, and we learned that with our situation the best time to reapply would be 2016 and even then our chances of approval are only 50/50. Four years?! FOUR years?! Now what? Putting things off for almost one year was hard enough, how will I manage it for four? And what will I do if after that four years we’re denied again??

Then it dawned on me. I needed to stop living with my head in the future and live in the now. Who cares if we move and I miss things here? Surely it’s better to live an awesome life and miss things if I move than to live miserably for fear of missing it too much. I miss lots of things about America, but I don’t regret experiencing them in the first place. The people and events in my life have shaped the person I am today. More for the kids than myself, I need to start living here so they can see all that life has to offer. We’d take them out on the weekends when Chris would be home from work and sometimes we’d go out in the evening during the week to the park or shopping. The kids weren’t neglected, but all they knew about going places was that they went with Daddy or they went with Mommy and Daddy, but never with just Mommy. That needed to change.

One of our many trips to the park with Jude.

One of our many trips to the park with Jude.

You might be reading this and thinking, “Duh! I can’t believe it took you that long to realize that.” All I can say to that is you’re right. I’d also have to say that if you’ve never lived far away from everyone and everything familiar to you, and especially if you’ve never lived in another country, you can’t fully understand what it’s like. I’d heard similar things said before I moved and I thought people were wrong, I had a pretty good idea what it would be like. Turns out I was the one who was wrong. I had no idea. If I had known, I still wouldn’t change a thing, but I didn’t know.

It took me a month or so to finally build up the courage I needed to fight my shyness and just do things. The first thing I did was tackle public transportation. I decided it was time that Jude and I got out on our own for a mommy and son day. He’s obsessed with buses and since we have a car we rarely take him on one. There is a bus stop right down the road, so I took him out one Saturday and we rode the bus into the city center. We went to a bookstore and I let him pick out a book, we walked around and chased pigeons. We went to McDonald’s and had fruit, juice, and he got a balloon. It was so much fun! He loved it. We were sitting in a booth at McDonald’s and he leaned his head on my arm and said, “I love you, Mummy!” And I was so happy I finally took that step and braved public transportation.

Jude chasing pigeons in the City Center on our Mommy & Son day.

Jude chasing pigeons in the City Center on our Mommy & Son day.

The second thing I did was go to the local leisure center and attend a water aerobics class. We moved to our current home in January of 2009 and it’s so close to the leisure center that when I look out the front door I can see it quite clearly. I learned early on that they had a women’s only water aerobics class and I’ve always loved swimming so I was very interested in that. However, I was terrified of going by myself to experience this new thing where there would be who knows how many people that I didn’t know, and worst of all, I’d have to wear a bathing suit to do it! I felt extra courageous one day and I told Chris I wanted to do it and he really encouraged me to go, it was in the evening during the kids bath and pre-bed time routine. He assured me that he would handle it and I’d still be home in time to read the bed time story and tell them goodnight, so I went. I loved it. It was so much fun. I am overweight and out of shape and I have never enjoyed working out, but I enjoyed this. It was definitely a work out. It was more strenuous than I imagined it would be, but it was fun. I laughed a lot, I talked to the other women, they were all very friendly. The third week of class I forced myself to introduce myself to another woman that I had talked to a few times, but never learned her name. I’ve gone five times now and I’m not stopping anytime soon. It’s something I get to go out on my own and do and I feel good about myself afterwards. I needed that.

The third thing I did was ride the bus completely on my own. Jude wasn’t with me this time. I’ll tell you a secret, when I went by myself for the first time I let two buses pass me before I remembered that I need to hold my hand out so the driver knows I want him to stop. I took the bus into town again so I could go to the market and get some fruit and veggies. They’re so much cheaper at the market, but we never go because we have to pay to park and it’s just a big hassle taking the kids to the market because it’s so busy. So I decided to take the bus and go on my own. Even with the bus fare we save a lot of money doing it this way and I’ve started doing it weekly. It’s more time to myself and I feel good about the money we’re saving and the food we’re getting for the kids. Since this lets us afford more fruit and vegetables, I’ve also started buying more than usual and making Melody’s food myself. It’s fun, cheap, and I feel great about it afterwards.

The market on a Saturday afternoon.

The market on a Saturday afternoon.

The fourth thing I did, and probably the hardest for me, was to knock on a neighbor’s door and invite her and her son (who was born just two days before Melody) to go to the local children’s center with me. She invited me to her house the next afternoon. The kids and I went to her house for two hours and had a great time. We made plans to go to the children’s center when she gets back from her vacation next week.

The fifth thing I did was take the kids to the children’s center by myself. They had a special stay and play day last week for Easter and I took them both. Melody is still too young to care, but Jude loved it. He didn’t want to leave when it was time to go. It was a lot of work to take both of them without any help, but it was worth it and I’m hoping to take them more often.

One of my friends told me that when I took the plunge and went to water aerobics it inspired her to try kickboxing even though she was nervous about it. Someone I don’t know told me on a message board that she was inspired by my story to go try a class she’d been putting off for fear of growing too attached and then having to move away. I love hearing these things!

I know this was a long story, but it’s a topic I feel very passionate about. If you’re in a similar situation and you keep putting something off that you really want to do, I urge you to stop. It’s hard to put ourselves out there and try something new, but that feeling of it being a new thing only lasts for a short time and I promise you it gets progressively easier. I feel so much better these days for actually doing things for myself and for the kids. I look forward to things now where I used to dread getting up on certain days. I’ll soon be taking driving lessons from my husband so I can learn to drive here as well. I have to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road. I also have to learn how to drive a manual! I’ll get there though. I’m looking forward to it. I feel like I’m finally getting my independence back and making this place a home for myself and my children and that’s what’s most important to me.

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